Recently, I was at one of our thriving ports of libation, partaking in one of my favorite vices, which includes two ice cubes and ample nectar of the cactus plant. The bartender slinging drinks was new, or at least I had not seen him before. Being a friendly type of fella, I introduced myself and as he told me his name, it began with the honorific prefix, “I’m a local.”
Now placing myself on the other side of the bar, a while back in time spent here in the county, I was engaged in my second favorite vice, flamboyantly bartending at a small five-stool bar. A traveling guest asked me if I was a local. As I smiled and began preparing my answer, the small wooden bar gave way to a true bona fide local as he said, “Hell no he’s not a local. I remember when he moved here.”
Even though I moved here in 1980, I cannot, nor will I, claim any local residence until the last person that knew me, when I moved here, is no longer upright in Sublette County. This little moment of bar chatter has not only has given me a great answer to the “are you a local” question, it reconfirms that, “I am a man that can’t and won’t fit in.”
When calling yourself local, are you looking for a local status, or are you just proclaiming that you’re living locally? “I am a local,” you're using the word “local” as a noun to state you're a local person. “I am local,” you're using the word “local” to describe yourself as belonging to a particular area.
How long until you're considered a local? From a social point of view, you are a local when you are part of the local community. But, the answer to this question truly depends on whom you are asking. There is no set time, but then again to the locals, there is. Perhaps it depends upon where you have chosen to live.
You must integrate and make it clear to the locals that you are one of them. You cannot call yourself a local until the locals designate you thus. This might even include a 1-percent outlaw biker club beat-in to get your local patch. So until then you may just be a hopeful prospect.
From a subjective cerebral point of view, you might be considered a local of some area when you’ve spent the important stages of your life or events which influenced you, shaped your values, your personality or your mentality there.
Then you may also include another side of the possibilities, the subjective cerebral point of view. Have you lived in the area long enough to influence someone else’s values, personality and mentality?
And yet, another consideration of being a local and truly part of the community is when you forget and remember the same things that everyone else does. Doing so means to know the present and the past of the place at least as much as the people who were born there.
You might hear from the news and travel literature about big events and happenings in an area, but if you don’t hear it from the people there, or don’t experience it yourself, you won’t have the local perception of it. Locals remember different things and images from events, according to their relevance and as they are viewed through their own social, ideological filters.
Then there is the aspect of local gossip, the buzzing lifeline of small local communities. Gossip is especially prevalent in rural towns because of the low population, closeness and connectivity between individuals. Gossip is mostly exaggerated and colorful talk about others while not in their presence. So, to be local, you must know or quickly learn the players in the tormented ring of gossip.
From another point of view and a good source to learn about gossip, being a local might start when you are an active part of the community, when you have a direct contact and impact, big or small, on some of the people, when you leave your footprint in some way, contributing or volunteering and becoming part of an organization. All of these aspects build on each other, contributing to both your inclusion in the community and to appropriating the place within you.
The truth is that you can find a lot of explanations and points of view on the topic of being a local but, after all, being a local is something very personal, which we experience differently. In the end, what really matters is that it’s not important to be a local, but to feel like a local, to make yourself at home. Which brings us to the next big question. What is home? - dbA
You can find more of the unfiltered insight of Dan Abernathy at www.contributechaos.com and please SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube Channel, The Intrepid Explorer.