The sign reads: “Welcome to Newtown*, the best town in the world.”
We are driving cross-country, moving from one small town out west to New York. We pass this little town in the middle of the Wyoming landscape and I have to read it twice. Or I don’t because a few minutes later there’s another sign on the water tower: “Newtown, the best town in the world.” Just to make sure we noticed.
Really? The best?
Now how did the Chamber of Commerce come up with that? The best in the world?? It wasn’t even making that claim for, oh say, the state, which was perhaps believable. What’s the goal here, people? To make the community there have pride? To get new people to move there where there really is no obvious economic incentive? Or just to get motorists to stop and spend money at the world’s best Exxon?
The world’s best pizza. The world’s best cherry pie. The world’s best coffee. These we take as cute, maybe, or buy the tee shirt cuz it really was the best pie we’d ever had. But best town – and we’re talking out of all the small towns in France with the best croissants and 100% employment, or the best tidy town in Ireland with that incredible pub overlooking the bay where Mick and Sean play music every Friday from 10pm til drunk-driving-home time.
And here we are, after 17 years of living in “The Last Best Place,” moving to New York, “The City.” No need to say which one. We all know.
So what is this obsession with competition? Why do we only feel proud of something if it’s the best? How about if it’s unique, quirky, or simply ours?
But, I have to admit, I’m a sucker too. I am completely convinced Montana is just that, truly the last best place. (Although Wyoming and even Newtown are pretty damn beautiful, too.) Our new life will be split between our work in The Last Best Place and our work in The City. The implication being that a city can’t be the last best place, though it can be the greatest city in the world. And the last best place implies that it’s still unspoiled, though reading between the lines it means we’d better enjoy that while it lasts.
So in a few minutes I’ll check out of my room at the “Best” Western in Wyoming whose slogan is “Like No Place On Earth,” and drive away while keeping one foot in The Last Best Place, and head to New York where we will be performing our show in the city whose new slogan is, appropriately for us, “The World’s Second Home.”
And yup, I’m already starting to blindly believe, it’s the greatest city on earth.
*(Okay, I changed the name because I don’t want to be an asshole to this cute little town.)