Don't get me wrong: I love the town where I reside. Too bad this town and its community, by and large, don't share the love for me.
When I lived in impersonal, giant Astoria, Queens, I got the love. Oh my! When my first book was published, journalists, videographers, radio announcers and readers couldn't wait to promote me. That was extraordinary, considering Astoria's filled with successful writers, artists, musicians and performers.
So, imagine my dismay and shock when I moved back full-time to my rural town. It's a small agri-resort community that always looks for hooks to promote local products and services. Or so they say. My first summer as a full-time resident, I approached the person in charge of the Third Quarter Festival, a six-weekend outdoor event to promote farmers, merchants and vendors living and working in the 25 mile radius.
"I heard you're looking for authors to promote," I said to The Promoter who doubles as a town elected official. "It's all over the place that you want a local established and credentialed writer."
"Yes. Just send me all your info."
I emailed and snail mailed all my info: bios, newspaper articles, online links, critics reviews and awards. And followed up with emails and voice mails. Two months passed and no response.
Finally, during the Third Quarter Festival, I bumped into The Promoter. "WTF? Why didn't you respond to my emails and voice mails?"
She sniffed in derision. "We didn't consider your entry because you're not local!"
I reeled back. My family lived in this town for 120 years. We paid taxes and voted here for 120 years. I paid taxes and voted here for 20 years! WTF?
"So, tell me, Promoter, how many local denizens are literary writers with book awards up the wazoo?" I couldn't make that claim in Astoria which is chock-full of talented authors, but here, in the tiny community, I could.
"Well, there is one guy..." and she high-tailed it.
So, I went to the Third Quarter Festival and saw my 'competition,' highly touted in all the local newspapers, on local radio and on community boards for months. It was a hog farmer from 120 miles away who mimeographed communist tracts in his barn.
Friends and neighbors in my community approached me. "WTF? A HOG FARMER? Who MIMEOGRAPHS COMMUNIST MANIFESTOS?"
"I'm more bent outta shape that he's from another state," I murmured.
"Why aren't you there?" they asked.
"According to The Promoter, I'm not local."
"WTF? She's only here for thirty years. Your family has been here for 120 years."
"I don't count," I let them know. "Besides, my literary acclaim means nothing in face of a hog farmer from another state who mimeographs Communist tracts in his barn."
That's when I saw the doors close to me. I got a giant kick in the teeth from this community in Western New York State, something I never anticipated.
For the three years I resided here 12 months out of the year as opposed to 9 months, this community has made sure to do nothing to support me despite all their newspapers articles, town meetings and posters saying how they support local artists and merchants. That's all bullshit. I've seen them do it to others, screwing them over as well. This is a closed community and no way will they let me enter. NEVER.
Even worse, my recent awards has literally been spat upon in this wonderful community. I don't get it, but I'll chalk it up to jealousy.
We have several large institutions that advertises heavily for professional writers, teachers, bankers. Not only did I submit my bells and whistles resume, several community leaders ENDORSED me in emails to these institutions (with a bcc so I knew what was going on.) Yes, there are some who stand up for me. That's the beauty of having ties that go back 120 years.
Well, those ties weren't strong enough for there was never any response from any of these institutions. They did hire people from hundreds of miles away, paying for relocation and offering triple the salary I could command, a very wise strategic move in today's economic decline. I guess, not being a local and only 3 miles away was an impediment to my hiring despite the endorsement of several community leaders.
Recently, I sat down at the local cafe and one of the denizens wryly laughed at me. "Don't expect anything from this community. They want to destroy anyone of character, talent and merit."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"It's no secret you've applied for all these local jobs. Good jobs where you're amply qualified. But no fucking way would they ever hire you."
"What do you mean?" I asked again.
"Don't you get it? You'll be reporting to people who barely got their GEDs. This is their revenge to you. How dare you be talented. How dare you succeed. They want to squash you like a bug. They've done it to others, they'll do it to you."
Now, this is not an entitlement post, dear Reader, for I support the community. I buy local produce from farmers, purchase from local merchants, support local clubs, attend local community meetings, hire local for repairs and renovations. I requested ONCE to participate in a local event. And was under the belief that being local with extensive work experience in advertised jobs, I'd have a slight competitive advantage. Oh well...
Even though I extol the beauty and virtue of this community where I live, where I have strong ties with a few people, I want to go on the record that the only community which has openly supported me, embraced me where I wasn't even a local is: Astoria, Queens.
Viva Astoria, Queens!
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