Small town life has its advantages

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By Ned Cantwell

Maybe it is a matter of just being spoiled by small town New Mexico that makes the head bobble in pure amazement when running across stories about what is apparently considered normal behavior in other places.

Two stories jumped off the page last week, the first an alarming piece of you’ve-got-to- be-kidding-me hypocrisy, the second a reminder of how lucky we are to live in the Land of Enchantment.

First, hypocrisy. Tiger Woods, as you know, made a dramatic statement by teeing off in the prestigious Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. which is getting underway as this is written. It was a bold re-entry to the golf world he abandoned when his prodigious peccadilloes captured world attention.

The god of golf turned overnight into the devil of debauchery. He was vilified, disdained, prayed for, psychologically treated and, finally, remorseful. What he really didn’t need was another pointless lecture, but that is exactly what he got from Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne.

Less than 24 hours before Tiger was scheduled to show up on the first tee box, Payne conducted a chest-thumping press conference where he redundantly found Tiger’s behavior egregious and disappointing. Interestingly, the Masters benefited hugely from Tiger’s decision to play.

 How much more convincing Payne’s scolding might have been had it occurred weeks before and had Payne, for instance, warned the marquee golfer he was not welcome. Berating Tiger was as gracious as if the chairman of a Tea Party Weekend scolded star guest speaker Sarah Palin for poor grammar.

Neither the timing nor the propriety of the tongue-lashing from the committee chairman of this uppity, all-male country club enclave rings true. It was showboating at the highest level.

If you think that was wild, consider this next story.

Look at the police blotter of newspapers in any of our smaller to medium markets, Deming, Clovis, Los Alamos, or wherever, and you read about the occasional horrific event, the murder, the mugging.  But mostly you get, “Police called to the corner of Main and Elm to investigate spray painted stop sign.”

My sister Janis, a Cleveland nurse, used to take the police report from the Carlsbad Current-Argus to her friends who staffed the emergency room at Cleveland Metropolitan Hospital. Handling a parade of shooting and stabbing victims, the notion of a beer shoplifting incident at a convenience store being listed in the newspaper was the comedy relief that got them through the night.

In small town New Mexico, when our kids are on a real bender, they drive around the neighborhood bashing mailboxes, a particularly ignorant form of vandalism whose participants were obviously not gifted with much wit or imagination. Once apprehended, they should be placed in a small room and made to listen at full volume, six straight hours to the tragic music from the boom boxes that provided background noise for their wanton escapade.

Other youngsters, perhaps on college break and feeling particularly clever and sophisticated, may run through the local Ford sales lot stealing balloons from car antennas. Such a crime wave is most likely to be followed by a statement from the local police chief promising a crackdown on the balloon thievery.

Still undetermined is whether mailbox smashing and balloon hoarding might be included as behavior the New York City mayor describes as “wilding.” The dictionary defines “wilding” as a wild apple tree, which would not seem to fit, or a wild animal, which might come closer.

Small town hijinks carried on by kids bored after hours of hanging around the Taco Bell parking lot are tame stuff, indeed, when compared to the antics of their big city cousins. Check this news item:

NEW YORK – Hundreds of young people spilled into midtown Manhattan near Times Square early Monday, brawling and shooting guns after the New York International Auto Show in an annual night of mayhem the mayor called “wilding.”    

Four people were shot. Shot! Shot, apparently, by young folks whipped into frenzy by an auto show. What possibly could so agitate car show enthusiasts except maybe a roomful of runaway Toyotas?

If the Masters guy is still in the stern lecture mode, maybe he should turn his attention to New York thugs.

Ned Cantwell spent his youth sitting bolt upright in a straight-back wooden chair.  Send e-mail to ncantwell@windstream.net.