About twenty five years ago I was living in a little coastal New England town called Rowayton. Set on a peninsula it started out as a fishing village with tiny seasonal cottages constructed primarily by the fishermen themselves. But, as all things in Connecticut go… “the money” found it and now the cottages are gone. Now, McMansions crowd the postage stamp sized lots and it’s very chic to say that you live in Rowayton.
Back in those days – when I had money, and a job where I didn’t come home smelling like a camel’s backside – I was still heavily involved in my first love; the theatre. From the time I was very young I had a love affair going on with the stage. I was an awkward kid; very shy and kind of dorky and the only place I really felt comfortable was on the stage. See, on the stage I wasn’t me, I was a character. I’d immerse myself completely in the character and there wouldn’t be a shred left of me on that stage. I continued with my acting throughout school and into my twenties.
While residing in Rowayton, I met a young man named Dave. He was a friend of a friend and we hit it off straight away. Dave ran a theatre program close by, primarily for kids and teens and I jumped on board. We went to the local cable TV provider and were given lessons in how to run cameras and editing machines and got some time on Public Access for the kids. We decided that we’d write a “trailer park soap opera” and called it Crystal Cutthroat.
Our writing sessions included many bottles of wine, and doing interpretive dance in the living room to the soundtrack from Hair, and then we would write. We’d laugh ourselves silly, living in Fairfield County, Connecticut (one of the wealthiest places in the country to live), imagining the lives of people in trailer parks and writing dialogue such as, “Shet your pie-hole!”
The community I live in has about 65 trailers in it. But they’re not all crammed in together and have pretty generous yards. There’s a great big field across from me, so all I see when I look out my sliding glass door in the living room is field and trees beyond. And it’s very quiet here. On a Saturday night you can sit out on the deck and not hear anything but crickets. 90% of the residents here have jobs. They go to work. Some of them have been here quite a while, long enough to have paid off the mobile home they’re in, so now they just have to pay a lot fee each month. It’s kind of like owning a condo – you own the dwelling but not the land. The only difference is that a condo has a foundation. Here’s a picture of the view from my living room window – and yes, that is snow on the ground. Much to my dismay, having moved SOUTH, it snowed today. And yes, I have a yard.
I had a lot of preconceived notions about people who lived in trailer parks before I actually came to live in one. I thought trailer people were uneducated. One of my best friends here in the park just got her nursing license. She was at the top of her class all through school and although she can be ridiculously dopey at times she’s one of the brightest people I know.
I thought trailer people were lazy. But every day, starting before the sun comes up, many of my neighbors drive out of here, heading to their jobs. Some of those same people don’t come back until after it gets dark in the evenings. Sure, there are some folks here don’t work, but many of those people are stay-at-home moms or they’re retired. Trailer parks are great for retired people. They’re inexpensive, easy to keep up and you can just let the park take care of the yard if you don’t have the inclination to do it yourself.
I thought a lot of wrong things about “trailer people”. But what I’ve found is that they’re pretty much the same as “foundation people”, and I’m pretty sure that if I was cleaning rental properties with foundations I’d still have similar experiences. People are people, whether or not they live in something with a foundation. I don’t want to give the impression that all trailers are inhabited by roaches. They’re not. People get roaches by being slobs. Slobs happen. They happen everywhere. You leave dirty dishes in a sink of standing water with food still on them and you’re gonna see Kenny, sooner than you might think.
And if you leave fish in the freezer in the summer without the power being on… you’re gonna have maggots. Yes.
I think God probably took note right about the time I was dancing on my friend’s couch, laughing my butt off about people in trailer parks… and He decided to show me who had the real sense of humor.
Stay tuned for How Tracy Lost Her Lunch.