Twitchin’ Like A Finger On The Trigger Of A Gun

For the past month, I’ve had this Paul Simon song rolling through my head. As with many of us, a tune or song will get in my head and stay there for a day or so. This song is more persistent, calling to me several times a day, and I could not figure out why… until this morning.

The song is called “My Little Town” and given all the great songs Paul has written, I expect many might argue with me, but I believe it may be his best. Every line is perfectly crafted and essential for the narrative about a young boy’s experience growing up in a small east coast industrial community. He has grown weary of the small minds ‘lacking imagination’ and dismissing him as “only his father’s son”.

Without over analysing the song here, I realized I have been unconsciously identifying with the protagonist of the song. One verse capsulizes the empathy I feel for the young boy:

In my little town
I never meant nothin’
I was just my father’s son
Saving my money
Dreaming of glory
Twitching like a finger
On the trigger of a gun
Leaving nothing but the dead and dying
Back in my little town

This is me right now! For more than the past year I’ve been preparing my childhood home for sale with plans to adopt a vagabond lifestyle (for a while), travelling North America in my tiny RV, meeting new birds and people, taking pictures as I go. The remodeling process has taken twice as long as I first believed it would, and now that the process is reaching its final phase, I find myself “Twitching like a finger“.

There’s another line in the song:

Coming home after school
Flying my bike past the gates
Of the factories

In my life, the “Little Town” has been Poway. People have called Poway a “Bedroom Community” because there is no classic industry to employ its residents. Rather, the people commute to jobs in nearby San Diego. In reality, “the gates of the factory” has been the housing industry. In 1960 the census records show the population as 1,921. My grandfather built here in 1957 and we moved here in 1961. Census records show as follows:

1960 population   1,921
1970 population   9,422
1980 population 32,439
1990 population 43,516
2000 population 48,044
2017 population 50,041

The only reason there has been a slowdown on growth is because the ravenous building industry has run out of places to grind the blades of their bulldozers. When Poway incorporated as a city in 1980 they coined the phrase “City In The Country”. Today it is the 178th largest city in California and there is very little ‘country’ left here, and those remnant areas of open space are under pressure from a developer friendly local government to demolish in the name of ‘progress’ (that’s spin-doctor speak for profit).

I try to keep my blinders on when I drive through Poway now, taking side roads and traversing the valley’s edges. The “gates of the factories” for me are the suburban sprawl consuming all the beautiful outback I grew up with.

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