No Beale Street, Nor Second Avenue North

(I promise— it takes a while but this column eventually gets furry.)

About a month prior to this article’s release I suffered some serious heart troubles. Little permanent damage was done, and the timely high-tech treatment I received was so successful that I actually feel better now than I have for years. It wasn’t nearly as a big a deal as it sounds when spelled out here. But, I have to admit, such a life-event can get a man to thinking. Another major life event is also looming up close for me— in roughly twelve weeks I’ll retire at last from my much-disliked factory job and be able to write or do whatever else I please full-time. I’ve worked very hard for this for a very long time, and saved money when it would’ve been much easier to spend it. In fact, I’ve been counting down the weeks for almost two years. Between the two, well, for the last few days I’ve been downright philosophical.

As a result of my upcoming retirement, I’m also free for the first time ever to relocate anywhere I darned well please, so long as I can afford it. For months now I’ve been studying real estate sites and recalling my travels to various places. I’ve many good friends in Seattle and a couple other writers have offered to make me feel at home there artistically, but as beautiful as the place is it might as well be made of pure unaffordium so far as my budget is concerned. The same goes for the entire West Coast. I’ve actively driven around the St. Augustine, Florida area looking for a new home, and found the region in some ways enormously attractive. But I know very few people there and once again it’s far away from the center of everything. Tennessee River cabins with boat docks for frequent fishing trips—something else I enjoy— tend to be far too remote, and while I’m very fond of Texas on many levels and have good friends there I loathe the eternal flatness of the more populated regions and the shortage of really good angling opportunities.

Since my heart issues developed I’ve re-evaluated my priorities a little. While I for most part loathe even short visits in big cities, perhaps I ought to try to put up with annoying and costly urban life anyway in the interests of quick ambulance response times? A little web-searching revealed that most towns located on large rivers, nearby Nashville included, tend to have a very few small condominiums available downtown right on the water, with a beautiful view of the barge trains trooping by. They’re at least marginally affordable in towns that don’t carry outrageous real estate premiums like, say, Chicago. I found a promising example in Nashville that claimed to be a hundred and fifty feet from the water at a price I could afford. Well, I thought to myself. Perhaps this is worth looking at! The riverbank itself is a city park; I could fish from the bank there just as if I had a cabin on the shoreline out in the middle of nowhere— the Cumberland is one of the finest fishing waterways in the USA. Except during rush hour I’d have an incredible highway network at my disposal, and according to the sales materials I’d able to look practically right into the bridges of passing tugboats. What a deal, eh?

I drove up to look the neighborhood over last Friday night, and that was all it took to put the kibosh on the whole thing. It was difficult to get within blocks of my potential new home, and would continue to be difficult practically every Friday and Saturday night from then until eternity. For, not being at all a country and western fan, I’d forgotten entirely that the famous Second Avenue North, home to the very finest country-western themed music and bars in the universe, was just a block away from my would-be abode. The crowds were happy, peaceful and content as I steered my convertible between the horse-drawn taxis on a deliciously warm weekend evening. A large passenger-carrying riverboat— the Delta Queen, perhaps?— was anchored in the river’s channel busily shuttling her revelers back and forth to have a good time ashore. It was a great night— a perfect night, even. The stars shone and there were no visible drunks, just tourists half of whom smiled and waved at me as I eased slowly through the masses with the top down. They were nice people; well-dressed, well-mannered, massed humanity at its absolute best. And yet, even though I of course smiled and waved back and genuinely wished them all a pleasant evening I knew that I was forever an outsider here, someone who in ten thousand years would never fit in. So even before I located the condo I’d come to see I turned around and enjoyed a nice, peaceful drive home in the dark.

Why would I never fit in? Because no matter how hard I try, I’ll never, ever be able to socialize and enjoy the company of “ordinary” people who like to chat about the local sports teams and what happened at church last Sunday. I like them well enough and mean them no harm, but have almost nothing in common with them on so many levels that at times it’s frightening. Nor, to make things worse, will I ever come to to either love or even understand country music. I mean no disrespect for those who enjoy what I recognize as a vibrant, relevant and deeply-rooted art form— far from it! It’s just… Not for me. In fact, even though I find some bluegrass to be downright listenable I have to struggle to even remain in the room when modern-style country is played. It’s my anathema. Were I superhero, it’d be my kryptonite. And that makes Second Avenue North the central node of all kryptonite for me, the very last place on earth I’d ever want to go for pleasure or joy. Why pay premium prices for a home whose prime virtue is to be near that?

So, I got to thinking as I drove home— it’s about a forty minute drive there from downtown. Maybe the urban living concept could still be made to work, but in a different city? I fired up my trusty desktop and used another real estate program to search the affordable South’s navigable waterways for condos for sale along the shorelines. And I hit paydirt almost right away, too, in nearby Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi! Happily I began to click about…

…only to almost immediately note the presence of something else I’d forgotten— Beale Street, the Rhythm and Blues equivalent of Second Avenue North. Immediately I abandoned my search there. I’ve actually been to Beale Street at least once or perhaps twice— I forget which. It was an amazing spectacle, and the music was far more to my taste than in Nashville. But again, the very idea of trying to fit in there, of spending my time in the little cafes and blues clubs, even though they’re among the world’s finest, made my skin crawl. Who, after all, would I talk to there?

That’s when the truth of it all finally came crashing through. The place I really want to live doesn’t even come close to existing today, and probably never will. It’s a place where people talk about genetic engineering and make elaborate puns over breakfast and discuss interesting new strategy games over lunch. It’s where people are bright and creative in their own rights, as opposed to merely basking in the reflected glow of a handful of star performers, and people accept each other as they are instead of demanding mindless conformity. I want to live among furs, in short— to spend as many of the rest of my days as possible among my own kind, and the shorter those days grow the more important this becomes. I want to buy a riverfront condo in a furry neighborhood full of good humor and lighthearted art, with a riverboat out in the channel disgorging tourists come to see our little Mecca where we put our best and brightest on display.

I wouldn’t even mind the traffic jams!

But we as yet have no Mecca, of course. No neighborhood or even block to call our own. If anyone anywhere is operating a furry night club or selling furry art out of a brick-and-mortar storefront, it’s news to me. We’re too few, too scattered, too lacking in vision and commercial appeal (though in my mind we haven’t really tried very hard yet) to make something like Beale Street or Second Avenue North happen for ourselves yet. Perhaps we never shall; perhaps the internet will provide enough “furry immersion” to make most of us entirely happy. The science fiction fandom never generated a geographic center, at least so far as I know, and they’re much further along culturally than we are.

And yet… And yet…

I’m fifty-three, and though I’ve saved well and have a reasonable amount to spend I have no homeland to join in any meaningful sense of the word. I live as part of a fragmentary underculture, among but not one with a sea of smilingsports fans who don’t understand why I’m not as happy as they are. My life is gray, gray, gray save for the hours in which I write and those rare days when I’m able to attend a con and be among my own kind.

Surely others share my yearning for home?

About Rabbit

Rabbit Is the author of over thirty published furry novels and novellas as well as numerous columns and articles in other furry venues. He's a retired Tennessee auto worker.

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11 thoughts on “No Beale Street, Nor Second Avenue North

  1. This morning at breakfast, Keet and I briefly toured through some of our roleplaying characters, discussed a bit of finance, and then reminisced about past cons we’d run together. The community here is small, but it’s vibrant and I’d like to think it’s welcoming and, even though we don’t always agree, we have ways to negotiate around the areas of contention without coming to blows. There are — were and will be again — regular gathers to discuss genetic engineering, the potential for magic, and other dreams. There are cons to run, cons to attend, and other chances to socialize about things that I think would mean a great deal to you.

    If it’s cost that’s the issue, there’s only so much I can do; my own plans for retirement are underway and I’m struggling to keep them moving in the directions that I want to go. That said, there are options not far from us that would be comparatively inexpensive, far enough from the city to not feel like urban areas but close enough to have access to the little luxuries of life. Most importantly, access to people, the sort that are willing to drive when an ambulance can’t be there fast enough.

    We do miss you.

    1. Buni, you and Keet are among my favorite people. Your hearts are true, and while we disagree about many things in the end they’re all to me pretty trivial. Who someone is, to me, is what’s really important and your kind and generous actions over a period of many years have spoken volumes about you. I’d be thrilled to live in your neighborhood, and have a few other people I’m pretty close to in Seattle as well. Plus… Rainfurrest is indeed a wonderful con.

      I frankly like many things about Seattle– it’s no coincidence at all that it made my “short list” above. Of these reasons the people are the most important, but I also like the majestic scenery, the architecture and the nearness of Mt. Rainier, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. But there are factors against it as well– for example, I love driving cross-country to events like cons, and despise both flying and rail travel. Being tucked so far up into the Northwest makes it very hard for me to drive, say, to Anthrocon in July and then Mephit in September. This becomes doubly difficult when I’ve sunk far too much (keep in mind that I’m accustomed to Tennessee real estate prices and am therefore somewhat spoiled) of my limited funds into housing due to (from my prejudiced point of view) grossly inflated prices. There are other negative factors as well which I skip for brevity.

      In all truth I haven’t given up on Seattle as a final destination yet– my decision is far from made and the arguments in favor there are indeed compelling. I _do_ very much like the place and, as stated above, I have good friends there with the potential I suspect of making many more. It’s just so…. Expensive, and out of the way. Worth it anyway? Maybe. We’ll see. In any event, know that I love Seattle enough that I’m carefully budgeting a road trip there every year for Rain Furrest into my budget regardless. I don’t intend to be a stranger, no matter what. Indeed, my current plan for 2015 is to spend a few extra days up that way before or after the con further investigating the idea of relocating despite the thorns in the rose.

      One last note….

      I don’t wish to convey the impression that I’m in any way hurting for money. I’m retiring at 53, which is a dream come true for me and an unreachable goal for many less fortunate people. I have what _should_ be sufficient funds to carry me for a good twenty-five years or so, and frankly I don’t expect to live that long. (Even if I do, being who I am I bet I’ll have squirreled away a _second_ retirement fund by then via not spending excessively in the meantime.) Or at least I’ll have enough _if_ I stick with a less-expensive home here in Tennessee or elsewhere. Your offer was very kind, but in truth I’m far more likely to give assistance than need it, financially. (An emergency ambulance trip sadly may prove to be another story…)

  2. I have the opposite problem in a way. I’m so used to living in a big city, I don’t know if I could actually settle for a small town, even though there a couple I love to visit on vacation. Life in the country? Now *that* is out of the question for me. :P

    Maybe all you need after all is living *closer* to an urban center, rather than *in* it?

    1. Hai, Claude!

      I actually live about half an hour out a fairly big city, and over the twenty-five years I’ve lived here the city creeps ever closer. Soon it’ll surround me!

      Yes, I too have limits as to how far “rural” I can go. About two months ago I went to look at a river cabin that was ten miles down a deeply rutted and very steep gravel road. Errr…. No thanks! Not for the best fishing in the world, and this isn’t!

  3. I think part of it is the nature of how furries gather and socialize. (The following is Conjecture) If you want to be a musician or an actor, lots of people go to live where famous examples of their profession already live. That’s probably how Beale Street, Second Ave N, Bourbon Street, and Hollywood come to be what they are; a gathering of professionals gains momentum and that place becomes “the place to be”.

    Furries don’t have that as much, but we have that more in our websites. People join a gallery site because all of their favorite artists hang out there, or join a forum so they can talk to cool people about stuff that they like. But this doesn’t cause us to decide to live close together.

    But we do gather at conventions, so the obvious answer is that all furries need to move to Pittsburg.

    1. Seeing as I choose not to go to that convention in Pittsburgh, you’ll not find me relocating there, like, ever. d;

    1. Actually, for the last month or two I’ve been trying to come up with an article on that very subject, but this is as close as I came. (Everything else I attempted ended up sounding far too self-pitying two paragraphs in, and I consider even this piece borderline in that regard.) So, while I’m just a contributor here and not an editor, and I may not contribute further because (as stated above) I’ve already taken on the topic and largely come up empty, I personally would welcome the heck out of such a series. I’d love to see what other people have to say.

  4. I have some ideas regarding aging in the Furry community, but first I’d like to address your concern about a future living place.
    I don’t know what your beliefs are regarding higher education, but I thought you might find this fact interesting. In your neighbor state of Virginia, there is a provision in the law for free tuition to colleges and universities for citizens 60 and over. It’s contained in the Virginia Senior Citizens Act of 1974.

    “The Virginia Senior Citizens Higher Education Act of 1974 and amendments allow senior citizens to take classes at no charge under certain circumstances. Before the beginning of the semester in which enrollment is desired, the senior citizen must have (1) reached the age of sixty and (2) had legal domicile in Virginia for at least one year.”

    For people whose interest is in the realm of art, finding people who share these interests is more likely if we actually go to programs where other art-interested people congregate. Even if they have never heard of Furry, I believe people within a college or university arts community will be more open to your artistic contributions than you will find almost anywhere else. Perhaps, too, along the way you will find something that people there have to share that you will want to accept into your own life. Hopefully for you as you age, your social circle will expand with accepting, nurturing, artistic people.

    1. Thank you for the very kind thoughts!

      I used to dream of retiring to a small university town. High tuition costs pretty much made me give up on the idea. Perhaps I ought to reconsider. =:)

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