Things You Can Try In A Small Town
A gift for Jason Aldean
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This is Jason Aldean
Jason is a country music superstar, which is great work if you can get it. I am a Dad in Milwaukee. His music is not for me, which is fine. There’s a lot of other music that is for me. I chose that particular picture of him because I like his Dale Earnhardt shirt. If Jason Aldean and I were ever in a room together, I’d tell him about the truck I saw in Richmond, Indiana with a full back window tribute to Dale. It featured an extremely large decal of the stock car champ with wings and the sentence “God’s Most Intimidating Angel.” What a great truck.
Jason Aldean ís currently in the news because he likes being in the news. He is the kind of guy who tells it like it is and who doesn’t mind being cancelled (except for all the times when he’s really mad that he was cancelled). He’s willing to go head to head with the woke mob and speak for forgotten Americans. Again, great work if you can get it. Speaking as a member of the woke mob, the benefits are terrible.
Back in May, Jason Aldean released a song called “Try That In A Small Town.” It is about the kind of things that people do in big cities, and how they would not be able to do those things in small towns. What kind of things, you ask? Oh, you know, typical big city things like sucker punching people on the sidewalk, spitting in cops’ faces, and generally thinking that we’re tough. Classic city stuff!
[This is the part of the essay where all of my big city readers are nodding their heads vigorously. “Oh man, Aldean, you GET US” you all are most likely saying, “YOU EVEN KNOW ABOUT SIDEWALK PUNCH TUESDAY! WE LOVE DOING THAT! AND THEN WE GRAB SOME SWEETGREEN!”].
The point of “Try That In A Small Town” is that there is a lot of anti-social behavior that happens in big cities that would not fly in a small town, both because small towns are the kind of places where people look out for one another and also because small towns are the kind of places whose residents will enact vigilante justice on you if you “cross the line.” Small towns are a land of contrast, per Mr. Aldean.
The reason why “Try That In A Small Town” is currently in the news is because Jason Aldean released an accompanying music video. It’s a pretty edgy video, in that it captures Aldean and his band making a lot of faces like this:
[Fun fact: Those are two different guys!].
Because myself and my fellow members of the woke mob can’t deal with tough guys making tough faces, this week both the video and Jason Aldean as a human being were cancelled. You heard that correctly. Jason Aldean no longer exists as a living entity. CMT pulled his song from rotation and *poof* he ceased to be. He is now a spirit of real Americanness, floating in the ether.
Oh, also, the video has been criticized because Aldean chose to juxtapose images of Black Lives Matter protests with shots of his band in front of a Tennessee courthouse that once was the site of a lynching (in a town that was once a sundown town). Plus, both the song and video give off a barely concealed “small towns are where good (read: White) people live and cities are where bad (Black) people live and if any ‘city people’ come to our small towns we reserve the right to do what we need to do” vibes.
Now, I’m not here to criticize American hero Jason Aldean. This isn’t a space for fancy pants pontificating about “the stories that Whiteness tells itself” and the role of tropes like the idyllic, Rockwellian small town in replicating White hegemony. I’m not here for any discussion about dog whistles or coded language, nor about what power structures actually benefit when we’re all distracted with faux culture war controversies. I am also not here to point out any flaws in Mr. Aldean’s logic, nor to question his small town bonafides. Far be it from me to sully the name of a proud native son of Macon, Georgia (population 150,000; metropolitan population 400,000), particularly an alumnus one of that community’s premier private schools.
No, I’m here, in the spirit of America’s most insufferable improv comedy troupes, to offer a “yes and” to Jason Aldean. You see, I have a hunch as to one of the real reasons why “Try That In a Small Town” has been so misunderstood. It isn’t that it’s an abhorrent pile of Birth of A Nation-aping Lost Cause nonsense. It’s that it promised something it didn't deliver. The title teased a comprehensive list of activities that we could try in a small town, and instead it primarily presented a list of things that we apparently aren't allowed to do in those communities. It was the bait and switch that got us! We had our kids all packed up and ready to go to a small town to sucker punch cops, then mid-way through the bridge we had to unload everything and reconsider. It was embarrassing.
Fortunately, I’m here to help. Like Jason Aldean, my own small town bonafides are beyond reproach: I grew up outside Clancy, Montana, population 1,964. Clancy: A small town! May family then moved from Clancy to the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Fun fact about Washington D.C.: It is home to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a Federal Agency that is aware of the existence of small towns. We then moved back to Montana, to Missoula (population 80,000), a city that is in THE VERY SAME STATE AS SMALL TOWNS. Later, I attended college in Indiana, a state that was literally founded by John Mellencamp, America’s foremost pre-Aldean chronicler of small towns. And that wasn’t the end of my time in small towns: As an adult, I lived in Crownpoint, NM (population 2500) and Chicago (not as large as New York!). Nothing but small towns all the way down.
Given that I am an expert on small towns, I offer the following peace offering, across the Maginot Line of America’s Culture War.
AN INCOMPLETE LIST OF ACTIVITIES THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY TRY IN A SMALL TOWN (for Jason, with love):
Sales of propane and propane accessories
Watching Youtube videos of crew members on cruise ships explaining what their daily life is like (note: this is more likely to occur in a small town if you have the same Youtube algorithm as me; and no, I don’t know how this happened because I have expressed no interest ever in going on a cruise but now I can’t stop watching these videos).
Loitering because the skatepark is closed
Banning dancing in a futile attempt to protect the teens in your town from Kevin Bacon’s undeniable sexiness.
Saying that you’ll start a podcast but never getting around to starting a podcast
Building your economy around homey Christmas-oriented activities, with the long term hope that at some point an ambitious career-oriented woman from the big city will stumble upon your town and finally realize what they’ve been missing in life.
Living your whole life in a small Christmas-themed bubble, content with being a humble but incredibly hunky lumberjack, not knowing that your life too will be changed the day you first set eyes on that ambitious career woman from the big city.
Plowing over your corn because you miss your Dad and the mysterious voice tells you that if you do plow over your corn the baseball ghosts will come out and one of them will save your daughter from choking on a hot dog. (hat tip tofor that one).
Filing your taxes.
Gossiping about the small town a few small towns over from yours. You know which one. The uppity one.
Teaching all your fellow teens to dance, TO HELL WITH WHAT JOHN LITHGOW SAYS!
That’s the list! As far as I know, that’s a full compendium of small town activities. Try them! That’s right, try them! In a small town!
You know what else we do in small towns? Support writers!