Mayberry as a Slow City

The thing about the Slow Cities movement, which I generally support, as I approve of anything that values slowness over haste, is that I am not sure that cities ever were slow. They’ve always promised dynamism, and there’s part of the Slow Cities idea that smacks of a commercial gimmick to me–a “getaway lifestyle resort inland” tourist mentality. I think the people who generated the idea and the movement are more sincere than that, but it’s a bit precious in the contemporary global order.

That said, I still hope they take over the world and cell phones can’t ring in public.

The passing of Andy Griffith last week had me reflecting on the Andy Griffith Show. To refer to something as “Mayberry” has become a slur, don’t you think? A symbol of 50s and 60s white America which had convinced itself of the virtues of its own perverse social ordering. The show was on reruns forever, and I just don’t remember much of it from my childhood–what I do remember centers mostly on the music in the show, and the idea that people might sit on a porch with a guitar rather than watch television all night every night.

Since Griffith’s death, I’ve watched a few episodes in the show, and in my random sampling, I’m not sure the critique of the show as white America pablum isn’t rather a reaction to what people think was on the show more than what was actually on the show. In some respects, watching these few scattered episodes, it strikes me more as a better-intentioned, less cynical version of Seinfeld, in which not very much happens. Griffith is a kindly sheriff who is genuinely decent to everybody he encounters, who values peace and quiet. Aunt Bea is a lovely woman who seems to enjoy taking care of other people, which can be, in fact, an enjoyable thing when people are grateful for the work you do.

Here’s a lovely meditation on how to spend a Sunday, how to run an economy, how to piddle around on your porch with a guitar, how to peel an apple, and how to demonstrate hospitality.