Every year, the Big Event in Nexusville is the traditional town festival: Onamia Days! Having lived here for thirty years, you can imagine that I've been to a few of these, even participating upon occassion. I've ridden my horse in the Sunday parade down Main Street. (Of course, after some joker in the crowd thought it would be amusing to throw firecrackers at the horses, I never rode in the parade again.) Then of course, there's the beer gardens, midway, and all the fair food. I remember one year (long ago) being asked to dance - by a guy with a wooden leg. Really. Only in Onamia.
As an artist, I've sold some of my miniature paintings in a booth on the sidewalk. I bet you didn't know that I painted. Mostly oils. I used to paint a lot. A couple of my acrylic miniatures are in a museum in Alabama. Yep. There's more to Hannabelle than just a nasty vocabulary. Hannabelle was a different person before Nexus... Actually, Hannabelle hibernated until Nexus set off the alarm which woke her up.$
The last time I attended the city celebration was five years ago. My illness makes it hard for me to get out and about, but that year I just had to have a corndog. You know? Fair food is good food that is bad for you. It's the only part of the event I miss though. Onamia Days does put on a pretty good fireworks display. But guess what? We can watch the show from the comforts of our own home, (whether we want to or not) right above the horizon where the sex offender facility is being built.$
Last year we boycotted Onamia Days because of Nexus and the city council. I know, I know... Since we rarely go anyway, nobody noticed that we weren't there. But still, there was a sense of personal satisfaction. A private little "fuck you", if you will.
This year I had a bit of a dilemma though. I actually wanted to go. It's the Big Centennial Celebration!!! Onamia: 100 Years! 100 Sex Offenders! Larry Milton and the city council have made it their cause to make the town look good for the event. They made everyone mow their lawns. Whoop-di-do. Someone even mowed all the vacant buildings overgrown plots. I haven't looked lately, but I wonder if Larry did anything about the house nextdoor to his, which was boarded up after a fire several years ago, abandoned, looking like crap. Or did he make Bill Hill clean up around his grocery store? It's the first thing people see when they approach Onamia (Nexusville) - Councilman Bill Hill's mess. Probably not. I'm pretty sure that the council operates on an uncontested "Do as we say, not as we do" system. But I'll leave that discussion - bullying the citizens about the appearances of their homes - for another day.$
So, yes... the activist in me wanted to print up flyers and posters to distribute to all of the happy, drunken, brat-stuffed (and corndogged) folks at the festival to educate them to what really goes on in Nexusville. What a horrible place it has become. And no... I didn't bother.$
The real reason I wanted to go to Onamia Days was to see my old painting teacher - Ken Zylla, who was commissioned to paint the town portrait for the big 1-0-0 and was in town this weekend to sign and sell prints. Mom and I studied oil painting with Ken in his basement studio of his house in Hamel, Minnesota (long before I moved here). He is an incredible artist, a wonderful teacher, and a very nice guy. I haven't seen him in forty years. Wow!$
I decided not to go. What would I say to him? Would I tell him about how my terrific career as a performing musician, orchestra conductor, and college instructor had been tragically cut short by rare disease? How depressing is that? Would I thank him for teaching me the skills which at times really helped to supplement my meager income while I was going to school? And he'd ask if I still paint and I'd say no - all I do now is fight sex offenders and their handlers. How awkward. Could I compliment him on the fine job he did painting a beautiful portrait of Nexusville? Well, I could easily praise his work. It's a fine painting. But then, could I refrain from spewing forth about how much I hate this town and the people who chose to be bamboozled by the Pronexus rather than stand up for our rights as American citizens. You, dear readers, know how I can go off on a tangent. We may have been "Sacrificial Lambs", but it was the community that threw us to the wolves. I don't want to rain on Ken's parade, even if he isn't riding a horse.$
So no. I decided that the past is the past. Ken won't miss me at Onamia Days. Nobody will. But it makes me sad that I don't feel like I can just go there and talk with my former teacher and be cheerful and happy and tell him how proud I am of the town I've spent over half of my life and nearly 1/3 of the town's life. I'm ashamed of Onamia and its people who throw firecrackers at horses for entertainment and support forcing sex offenders next to day cares and vulnerable little old ladies. I'm ashamed of myself for living in such a place where the mayor is overly concerned with outward appearances - like short grass - but underly concerned about internal character and integrity - like protecting citizens.$
BUT, you say.... Hannabelle - you said "100 sex offenders" when there are only 94 convicted juvenile sex offenders at the Mille Lacs Academy! Why are you exaggerating?$
I'm not. Not at all. If anything, I'm underestimating. I'm counting the Nexus 94, and conservatively figuring in local adults. I'm pretty sure there are several more that I missed.
So, if you happen to see Ken Zylla in Nexusville today, could you do me a big favor? Please tell him I appreciate everything he did for me. He had a very positive impact on my young life, and I'll never forget him. Who know, maybe some day I'll look him up and thank him myself. But not today... Not in Nexusville.