Leave Elvis - and Lima - alone


Guest columnist o Aug. 22, 2002 -

There are a few things a man should know by the time he's my age: Don't talk politics with libertarians. Avoid hot wings after 10 p.m. And never, no mater what your friends say, attempt "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in a karaoke bar.

Add to those one more. Leave Elvis alone.

In this space last week, I presented a slight narrative exploring the hypothetical of what Elvis would be like if he were alive and working as a short-route driver in Lima. It was a lightweight little ramble about what lessons Elvis might have learned with time and the opportunity to live a more traditional life. No attacks on The King or his fans. No mean-spirited jokes. It was by most accounts a gentle, inoffensive column.

Unless you happen to be an Elvis fan.

As earnest as my intentions may have been, some folks still managed to take offense. Most of the people who responded to my column failed to point out actual statements that bothered them. They just didn't like me mentioning Elvis in a space typically populated by booger jokes.

One writer accused me of using The King's name just to sell papers. Another assured me that Elvis was in heaven, not Lima, and that I would likely not be meeting him upon my demise. One particularly confused writer, apparently not realizing my column had been a work of fiction, chastised me for printing the ramblings of a "crazy loon person who thinks he's Elvis."

Like I said, leave Elvis alone.

I dealt with these missives in the way I always do. If there was a signature and return address, I composed a letter thanking the writer for reading my column and assuring them that next week I would almost certainly aggravate someone else.

Unsigned letters are the work of cowards and idiots and are stored away in my guest bathroom in preparation for the day toilet paper prices soar.

But one unsigned e-mail did bother me, not because it was particularly angry or threatening, but because it spoke to a bigger issue that seems to come up too often. The writer seemed less incited by my mention of Elvis than by my suggestion that anyone, let alone the King of Rock 'n' Roll, would chose to live in Lima.

"I just finished reading your article in today's paper. I just don't know what to say. I have been living here in Lima for a little over a year now and I think everybody that lives here is in a fantasy world. ... I don't understand what people in this town think. ... I have heard people call this town 'Little Chicago.' ... This little town is nothing like Chicago. And now you are writing a article about seeing Elvis. Why would Elvis move to Lima, there is nothing fun or exciting about Lima. This town has got to be the most boring town I have ever been in. The only thing that keeps me living here is my job. I think there are a lot of people in this town including yourself that need to wake up and realize that this town is not what you people try to make it out to be."

The e-mail goes on to say the paper is wasting precious space by printing my column when they could fill that slot with news - an argument not worthy of retort. But the rest of the letter did need an answer. So I fired back an e-mail explaining why I - and others like me - live here. And since the writer is probably not alone in this question, I figured I'd share it with the rest of you.

Dear Reader, I understand better than most the frustration with living in this area. I grew up in this town and was first in line to leave when I hit college age. But after years of living and working in more exotic locales, I hit that stage where family and friends and the ability to drive to the office in under 10 minutes took precedence over pretty much everything else. I'm not blind to the things we're missing.

I would love to have a few more good restaurants, some decent movie options and a place to see good live music once in awhile. But like most of the folks around here, I decided at some point to trade that off for an affordable mortgage and the knowledge that whenever I go to the grocery, I'll see a familiar face. I realize this sounds like a soul-squashing trade out to someone longing for the urban clamor. I would have thought the same thing just 10 years ago. But what can I say, it's my story. Thanks for writing. I hope you find either great love here or a good job somewhere more alluring.

Sincerely, Bart Mills

P.S. Leave Elvis alone.

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