Saturday, July 22, 2006

Chautauqua Impressions: Words


This is a picture of the practice shacks up near the gate, visible from the main highway that passes in front of the Institution. I've always loved the image of them. They are sort of emblematic of the Chautauqua experience -- individual but together.
. . . .
Chautauqua is a place where you very rarely see a piece of litter. You seldom hear anyone use foul language.
. . . .
It is a pedestrian community where people make eye contact, smile, and say good morning. That being said, for us, it has not been a place to make friendships, meet people that we would long to meet again. We sometimes chat with folks at the Amphitheatre, but don't make follow-up plans. This is fine with us.
. . . .
It is very beautiful. The period architecture, the landscaping, the lake, the gardens, the formal buildings that belong to the institution itself. All so easy on the eye. No billboards.
. . . .
The second year that we came to Chautauqua, Roberta asked me, "Doesn't it bother you? Living in a gated community that the poor have no access to?" I offhandedly replied to Roberta that she'd always been nicer than I was and no, it didn't bother me at all.
. . . .
It has come to bother me. This year the presence of wealth is more obvious than in any of the previous years. The new construction of immense, luxurious houses. The closing of the one decent-but-affordable restaurant on campus.
. . . .
I think I saw five African-American Chautauquans. Three Asians. No Hispanics or Latinos. Of course I didn't see everybody.
. . . .
The grounds are huge; they could very easily set aside an area for tent camping so that a more diverse population could attend.
. . . .
Or perhaps they have thought of that idea. And rejected it. Roberta, it bothers me.

3 comments:

Susan said...

Playing devil's advocate . . . what's wrong with the wealthy having some place where the poor can't go? Does it bother you because the poor don't have access to the experience you are having? Would it be the same experience if they did?

I don't have any answers to those questions, I haven't had the experience, probably couldn't afford the experience. It doesn't bother me that you can, and are shut away from the likes of me, and worse. =)

I never think of you as wealthy, Nancy. Nor poor. Just somewhere in the middle.

Nancy, Near Philadelphia said...

I guess what's wrong is that excluding the less-than-wealthy seems so counter to the principles that the Institution was founded on. It was started initially as a place for the training of Sunday School teachers!

One doesn't have to be wealthy to be at Chautauqua -- as surely we are not! -- but there are more and more evidences of wealth.

And the wealthy have plenty of places already that they can go without the likes of EITHER you or me!

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