[because I was riding past it when I pulled out my notebook]
Write about Greenville, Illinois…
Greenville, Illinois, is one of those middling little places in the middle of america, one of those places that is inconsequential by itself, but if every one of the Greenville’s and Dubuque’s and Florences and Albions across the country were to fall, the entire economy would come to a screeching halt. Greenville is lubrication in the bearings; it is oil in the crankshaft, it is the spit-and-shine of the modern economy.
It is one of those places in between the agricultural rurality and the intellectual city. It is a straddle, a middle, an in-between in which you don’t have the full commitment to farming of the plains, nor the devotion and history of industrialization like the factories back east, nor the intellectual / commoditization / technological of the big cities of St. Louis, Chicago, Austin. It is a hybrid, but not the cool kind. It is a chimera of things, some good from a few different disparate parts, and yet without the flaws of each of these places the aggregation of “good only” smacks so false that nobody believes it, nobody that trusts it, nobody really tries to help it succeed.
So Greenville sits, squats, waits, behind Highway I-70, waiting for the passing travelers and transporters to almost run out of gas, and then be there to resupply them, and, oh, by the way, while you’re here, why don’t you also fill up your stomach with overpriced chips and hotdogs, or satisfy that sweet tooth craving with a candy bar or a slushie, or even get ready for that long, lonely alone night coming up by lubricating yourself with a convenient 12-pack of beer, or a fifth of distilled spirits, perhaps even pick up a couple of smokes along the way.
Because that’s what Greenville is. It doesn’t make anything itself. It doesn’t grow the food, or process the cotton, or assemble the automobile, or develop the software that everyone else uses and consumes and lives in and with and appreciates and, even, needs. But it is strategically placed, carefully, precariously, dependent on the multifaceted nature of our economy which says “live local” but acts completely different. They are dependent in Greenville on the transportation industry and yet, too, the industry is dependent on the network of Greenvilles and Peorias and Waynesburgs around the country, for without them, without this quantum-connected network, this “cut out one you’re okay, cut out one too many and everything falls”, everything would be different.
Used to be. And then the transition started. May come again, too. But for now, Greenville and its ilk remain, waiting, supporting, remora-like, providing a small benefit for a small cost, skimming just enough off the top to keep their host alive, like a good vampire, who doesn’t drink too deeply from any one victim, for if you do that, everything falls.