Opinion » Bill Cope

Ghost and Go Town

Meridian? Meridian? Wherefore art thou, Meridian?

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For the life of me, I cannot remember when I last wrote about my hometown. That being, Meridian. I once wrote a feature article about it, but that was almost 18 years ago. I remember the piece quite clearly, mostly for the title--"Gawd, I Hate This Town!"

However, between then and now, I'm drawing a blank--which I consider odd. Basically, I write two kinds of opinions--No. 1: about things I like very much, and No. 2: about things I very much don't like. And when you're nudging up to 1,000 separate opinions, believe me, you are in a constant search mode for either one.

So you would think, wouldn't you, that the subject of Meridian would have turned up in one or two of the intervening columns between "Gawd, I Hate This Town!" and whatever I end up titling this one? But no, if there's another one (or two, or three) over the years, I don't remember them. All of which says to me that either No. 1: I don't like Meridian enough to write about it, or No. 2: I don't dislike Meridian enough to write about it. And that seems pretty impossible, when you think about it, seeing as the conditions that prompted me to declare my disdain for Meridian as it was 18 years ago have, if anything, just gotten worse.

(I should tell you that the title "Gawd, I Hate This Town!" was a tad exaggerated. Were I a less hyperbolic writer, I might have called that article "Gawd, I Hate This Traffic!" or maybe "Jeez-us, Where Did All These Gawd-Damn People Come From?!" But as you've probably noticed, I prefer to paint my pictures with the broadest of strokes.)

I've been thinking a lot about this lately because I've been thinking a lot about Meridian lately. Specifically, I've been thinking about whether Meridian is the place in which I want to grow old and die. It was a fine place in which to be born and grow up. Ask any old Meridian native 50 years old or older. He or she will tell you, I'm confident, that the worst thing about growing up in Meridian in the '30s, '40, '50s and even the '60s was that it could be a bit boring. But "boring" isn't such a bad thing to be for a place you're growing up in, is it? Sure beats, say, "tectonically hyper-active." Or "rich in pedophile-related opportunities."

Trouble is, it's not so boring any more. Not to say it's now competing with New York City (or even Boise) in the scintillation department. But compared to Meridian circa 1955, it's like living in the middle of a mall food court. And I don't mean that like it's a good thing.

It's particularly crappy right now, as the Ada County Highway District (everybody's favorite construction management team) has opened up the old town center and spread her innards out like a roadkill raccoon. But look, I don't hold ACHD responsible for turning my town into a pestilence of clogged arteries, open road sores and shifting detours. They're only doing what they have always done, which is to try to figure out how to move a burgeoning body of drivers--at least half of whom insist on driving bigger and ever bigger vehicles--into, out of and around town without someone inadvertently careening their Tahoe into a yawning pit or a road crew. (It must be a bit like making plans to get an increasingly obese crowd out the same exits that were perfectly sufficient back when people weren't eating themselves to death.)

Nor can I blame the city's administration. Sure, we have a mayor who seems to administer the city on the principle If it means that another picture of me appears in another newspaper article, on another television interview or on another public building wall, then it's just gotta be good for Meridian. (Mayor Tammy de Weerd contributes a regular column for another weekly newspaper. She calls it "Tammy's Musings." That alone should tell us all we need to know about Mayor de Weerd.)

We also have a city council that, first, approved a new, $20 million city hall big enough to throw a rodeo in, then botched a lawsuit against the company that built it to the tune of an additional $4 million, and then claimed they were only trying to save taxpayers money.

But we mustn't hold de Weerd and her posse responsible for what Meridian has become, either. Were more citizens to vote in municipal elections, we might get better municipal leaders. (Ms. de Weerd was re-elected--in 2011, well after the city hall fiasco became known--with less than one-tenth of the 50,000 eligible voters in Meridian. And with voter turnout being what it is, all the other city council members need to do is remember to vote for themselves, and it's likely they'll remain in office in perpetuity.)

No, there's no one thing to blame for Meridian being what it has become. In just over a generation, we have gone from a place with a character of its own, a personality (even if it was a boring personality), to an amorphous blob of a squat where even the city limits seem to fluctuate and flow like the membrane of some undulating California amoeba creature. I can't love Meridian, I can't hate it. I don't even know what it is anymore--a long-gone cow-town memory, represented by some century-old sepia photos no one pays attention to anymore on a sterile city hall wall? Or just a meaningless smear on the map?

(Incidentally, a "meridian" is a full or half circle that transects both poles. It is an entirely imaginary invention, existing only in the imagination of surveyors and map makers. Meridian's meridian is just over 116 degrees west, for whatever that's worth.)

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