Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Broken cameras and small towns

I went to the Rockies-Giants game yesterday, but there’s not much to mention. Barry Bonds did not play, but I did see a number of people with homemade asterisk shirts, which was cool. It was hotter than hell on earth, and I was sitting in the second row of section 106, which is on the ground, right behind the right fielder. There was no shade whatsoever, and although the view was different than usual and very close to Brad Hawpe, you can’t really see pitches or what the hitter’s doing. I did, however, have this crazy fan next to me who was yelling at the top of his lungs at each play. He was heckling the pitcher right as he slipped in the third and allowed Jeff Francis to hit a double and start off a seven-run bitch-slapping from which the Giants never recovered.

The worst part of it is that my fucking camera broke. It may have happened on the way back from Indiana, I’m not sure. It let me sporadically take a picture or two, but when you shake it, you can hear a part rattling around. I’ve hated this camera ever since I got it in 2005, but it’s taken some decent pictures. It has also been all over the place with me: Hawaii, Vegas, Berlin, Amsterdam, Alaska, and a bunch of states in between. But it’s also one of those mini-pseudo-SLR sized cameras, which doesn’t fit in a bag or a pocket well. And it is horrible as far as low-light situations. The internal battery is also dead, so if I take out the AAs for more than a minute, it forgets the date and all of my settings. So I jumped online last night and bought a Canon PowerShot A570IS. It’s a lot smaller, more pixels, also uses AAs, but uses SD, so I had to get another card. (Anyone in the market for a 1G xD card?) It also has image stabilization, which might be cool or might just be a gimmick. Anyway, I hope to have it for Friday’s game against the Padres.

If you’re wondering about the zine, it’s getting there. The cover and the interior are done; I just bought the ISBN and I have to wait 3 or 4 business days for them to get back to me with the actual number, then I order a proof. The art is all in and looks awesome – each story has a title page that has fucked up art on it, and the cover is awesome, too. Anyway, stay tuned on that.

I just finished reading Population: 485 by Michael Perry. It’s the tale of a writer who lives in a tiny farm town in Wisconsin, so it’s fitting that I bought it in Milwaukee at this weird planned community slash mall that’s designed like a tiny town, except in the EPCOT center. Anyway, Perry’s story is interlaced with his duty as a volunteer fireman for the town’s emergency services. There are two things going on here: one is the macho ER adrenaline junkie stories of fire and death, which is interesting. The other is an attempt to take the small-town mix of deer-hunting, Packers, and pickup trucks and validate it somehow.

I thought about this a lot, since I read this book right after spending some time in my old childhood home town of Edwardsburg, Michigan. Edwardsburg was maybe pushing a thousand people when I lived there in the 70s, maybe less than that. There was a lot more fishing than hunting, due to all of the lakes. And the main strip of downtown was probably bigger, although they didn’t get their first fast-food restaurant until maybe the late 90s. Edwardsburg was also close enough to Elkhart and South Bend that people could survive without a Kroger or a mall or a movie theater, since they could jump in a car and drive a few minutes south. But the village always had a certain feel to me, a place where the tallest building was an abandoned feed mill, and even if there were only a few hundred people in the high school, they still had three strings of football teams.

Perry spent a lot of time trying to justify the life of his small town to the folks on the coasts that think that the great red plain is cultureless and lifeless. I appreciate that he went this way with it, because so many books in this space tend to be demeaning, or look down at rural culture from an ivory tower and frame it in such a way that the NPR crowd can look at it and moan about how horrible red states are. Perry did an honest job of describing the small-towners, and it made for a good read. The ending got a little weird, and the death and injury angle also got a little overwhelming, but I still liked it overall.

I have a million zine-related tasks to pull together, and I just can’t get rolling. Maybe I need more caffeine.