Even though I'm not a purchaser, I read the mag rags while waiting in the check out aisles. I mostly focus on them to keep from grabbing a bag of peanut M & M's. Sadly they are the extent of my pop culture. This past week I noticed that Andy Griffith's death secured a small photo caption in a sidebar of the full cover spread ~How Katie beat Tom~ pertaining to the divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Some would argue their divorce is reality and actually newsworthy in comparison to Andy Griffith who was merely an acclaimed actor for more than half a century, whose name symbolized the fictitious town of Mayberry, NC and it's colorful characters, all of which became the Nirvana of Main Street America living.
There is such a little town. Mt. Airy, NC has all the allure of Mayberry RFD, and not by accident. It was Andy Griffith's hometown. One of my favorite fall weekends in NC was spent at the Mayberry Festival. Some of the tributes to Mayberry are; Floyd's City Barber Shop, The Mayberry Inn, Mayberry Bed & Breakfast, Andy's Homeplace Bed & Breakfast, The Andy Griffith Museum, The Andy Griffith Theater, Aunt Bea's Barbeque (intentionally misspelled), Aunt Bee's Room, Wally's Service Station, Bluebird Diner, Old Mayberry Jail, a true to life Barney impersonator, paddy wagon to haul off the town drunk Otis, replica of the police car that Andy drove and a life-sized bronze statue of Andy and Opie headed off for their fishing trip. The Mayberry parade kicks off Mayberry Days honoring it's reigning Pickle Queen, symbolizing Aunt Bee's quest for the elusive Blue Ribbon for her canning, cooking and baking abilities.
Despite all it's charms, Andy Griffith dismissed any ties between The Andy Griffith Show and his home town of Mt. Airy for decades. Andy didn't publicly return to his home until 45 years later for a dedication of his namesake highway, where he finally gave the town the validation it deserved.
But to me the best part of this story is that Mt. Airy NC didn't wait for his validation to turn into what it was meant to be. The economy of this area was in textiles and furniture, it's commerce dried up and rolled out of town like tumbleweed. Waiting wasn't an option. Mt. Airy, NC could be a ghost town today, if on the map at all weren't it for someone picking up a fragment of hope and building on it. We are always going to be waiting for something aren't we? The shoe to drop, the bottom to fall out, the car to reach 100K miles, the kids to move out, the alarm to go off, the sun to go down, the sun to come up, the fish to get on my line, the phone to ring, , the Mayan calendar to expire, Jesus to come.
What kept this town alive was the hope of being that sleepy little fictitious town, where men and boys whistle while they walk with cane poles to fishing holes, life slows down and everyone lives in the moment.
Mayberry had it's problems, maybe things weren't all that good. Aunt Bee's pickles were terrible, Goober spouted a few expletives while busting his knuckles in his garage. Andy lost his wife and was a single dad, Aunt Bee was a widow living with her son, Floyd lost at love, Barney was insubordinate at best. Yet we loved everything about all of them. What the show did focus on all that was good. I remember days after 9/11, I found solace in this show. The whistling at the beginning of the Andy Griffith show was a soothing salve on frazzled nerves. A half hour with Andy, Barney and Opie and I am ready to unplug that phone that isn't ringing with the job offer, make that peanut butter sandwich and walk down a dirt road barefoot. I can't imagine screenwriters fabricating a documentary on Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise that would be comparable.