Small Town Values Not about Size

Article excerpt

We've heard much these past few years about "small town values," most recently iterated and personified by Sarah Palin.

When politicians speak of small town values, we know what they mean. Generally, they are invoking family, faith and flag -- coincidentally the subtitle of Palin's next book, "America By Heart." In the politician's world, small towns are where "real Americans" live, as opposed to all those other people -- the vast majority of Americans -- who live in urban areas.

As someone who grew up in a small town (and left as soon as possible) and who recently has chosen to live in a small town (though lately in absentia), I've given this a lot of thought. Despite all my implicit exposure to small town values, I never really understood what they were until I moved to Olive Street, a three-block-long street in the nation's capital.

Lots of familiar people have lived on Olive Street. Mary Jo Kopechne lived across the street and down a few doors. Julia Child lived two blocks down. Olive Street made brief appearances in the movies "Burn After Reading" and "Wedding Crashers."

One could say that my arrival here four years ago was providential. I was a day away from moving into an apartment in Dupont Circle when, passing through Georgetown, I decided to take one quick turn around the nearest block -- just to see. And, voila. A small townhouse was for rent, and the people who were to become my neighbors and extended family were on the sidewalk. It was cocktail hour.

Who could resist?

Thus I came to be wedged between Jack and Craig on one side and Meaghan on the other. Jack and Craig have lived on Olive Street the longest -- the span of their 25 years together in what can only be described as the most small-town-values union I've ever witnessed. …