[The 90’s raw: Generations: Rural risks]

Raw footage for the award-winning series THE 90's. Eddie Tape #89. Gary Caruso and Eddie Becker tour the Georgetown University campus on Columbus Day, early 1990s. He walks the campus with two students from rural America. At the The Tombs bar he records a conversation among students about the differences between the generations. The videomakers also attend a Gay and Lesbian Student Alliance meeting.

00:00Copy video clip URL On the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, DC, Gary Caruso interviews Steven Wall from a Mennonite community in Montana and Shane Larson from a farm in South Dakota about leaving a rural town for a big city. When asked to describe their hometowns, Wall notes that he is from Lustre. There’s no main street, there is a strong religious background. It’s a farming community. It’s an hour away from the nearest town. His family farm is about 3,000 acres. It’s dryland farming. They don’t have to irrigate. They plant one crop a year: wheat. Some raise beef or pigs.He describes how his family plants and combines wheat.

02:01Copy video clip URL Larson says that he grew up on a farm 10-miles from a town called Clark. There’s about 1,200 or 1,500 people in the town. It has a main street, a grocery store, a couple hardware stores, a clothing store and a bunch of gas stations and convenience stores. They raise small grain and sell it as seed. They have no livestock. He describes his community as close-knit.

02:59Copy video clip URL Wall talks about life at Georgetown University and in Washington, DC. “You have to look out for yourself.” People are nice and friendly, but you need to have something else to bring you together. He’s fascinated by the diversity of the people. You walk down the street and hear different languages. You see homeless people. We don’t have homeless people in Luster. The street musicians are fascinating. The shop keepers are the most friendly.

04:29Copy video clip URL Larson says he and his family spent a week in DC last summer. “I toured Georgetown and checked out the city. My parents didn’t enjoy it. It was too uptight and fast paced for them.” Larson notes walking down Wisconsin Avenue along all the shops and feeling overwhelmed by the congestion of people. “It’s something I’m not used to. I’m used to walking down a street in a town where there’s maybe 20 other people on the street instead of 200.”

05:33Copy video clip URL Larson says the thing he misses most about South Dakota is the open space. “Back home you can see for 10 miles.” Wall agrees and says he misses the freedom to be yourself. “You don’t have to work to impress others. I miss the people. In my community,” Wall notes, “everyone is related. It’s like one big family. Everyone goes to church together. Back home people get together and talk about politics, but not religion. It’s too close a subject and you can hurt someone’s feelings or get into an argument. But here it’s the exact opposite. Talking politics is what leads to the arguments.”

07:22Copy video clip URL Larson adds that he misses being able to see so many stars in the sky at night. “At night it feels like you are the only one there.” Wall notes that he misses the land, laying on the grass looking up at the sky. “Looking at the stars. It gives you time to reflect. Here it seems we’re always on a schedule. Rushing. Back home you can unwind. Nature calms you.”

08:46Copy video clip URL Change of location. Caruso and the videographer walk with Wall and Larson through the campus. Wall notes this is one of his favorite walks because it reminds him of home. “It makes me feel a little home sick. I also like the trees overhead. We don’t have trees where I come from.”

09:56Copy video clip URL Wall admits that when he leaves college he’s not sure if he wants to return home or stay in the big city. Wall notes that he doesn’t think someone raised in a rural area can ever leave it, “at least in their heart. But if you’ve trained for a career there’s really isn’t an opportunity to go home.” Even in the whole state of Montana he says he’d have a hard time finding a job. A city like Portland, he notes, offers the best of both worlds.

10:41Copy video clip URL Wall’s sentence is interrupted by the cameraman cutting. Larson notes that a year ago he would have said he preferred staying in the city. Now, he says, he’d probably elect to go back to rural South Dakota after college. “Now that I’ve gotten away from home I appreciate it even more.” Ultimately, he thinks he’ll live in a city, but he wants his retirement to be back home in South Dakota. Wall says he’ll keep going home for visits.

11:42Copy video clip URL When asked about the differences in fashion and attitude in the rural west compared to an Eastern city, Wall notes that people in DC are always in a hurry and they always seem to want to go some place, even just to relax. “Instead of simply staying home, they’ll want to go out to restaurant.” He says back home rural people try to look like city people. People in the city try look like country fashion. He says that the big fashion now is flannel and overalls. “We would not be caught dead wearing overalls to school or a flannel shirt!” He says it’s mind boggling that people would pay so much money to dress up like that. Larson agrees with the overalls being a faux pas back home.

12:48Copy video clip URL Wall says back home the movie theater was an hour away and you couldn’t go to concerts anytime you wanted. Out here if you want to go to a football game, you go to a football game. “Back home the high school teams and rivalries are supported well by the communities. People live basketball in the winter.” “Also,” he adds, “in the winter you are shut up in the house. People spend money on satellite dishes and AV equipment. A lot of older people read, or we have get togethers at each other’s houses.”

13:56Copy video clip URL Wall says that he and his peers in the country would get city fashion ideas from popular culture, television shows like Beverly Hills 90210,” but we would change them to suit our needs. My sister reads Seventeen magazine, but in order to get a lot of those clothes we have to go to a larger town which would be at least a 6-hour drive. So our fashion depends a lot on availability.” When asked what he had to go through to get from Lustre, Montana to Washington, DC, Wall notes that it took longer to get to the airport from his house than it did to fly to DC. “It was a 4-hour plane ride, but it took 6-hours to drive to the airport. We had to drive to Billings, Montana, and that’s 300 miles.” He says the family made a holiday of it. “My sisters got to go shopping.” He says Christmas will be hard because once back in Montana he has to make the 300-mile trip from Billings to his home only to make another 600-mile trip across the state to his grandmother’s home.

15:33Copy video clip URL Wall says that the television shows that were popular in his home town were: sports, Beverly Hills 90210, MacGyver, “…shows that show a lot of inventiveness. We would choose shows like MacGyver over some shows where people are shooting each other. And I wonder if that comes from growing up in a place where you have to depend on using duct tape and baling wire to keep your car going sometimes.”

16:35Copy video clip URL When asked if the relationships on those pop culture TV shows seem real, Wall response is that they seem superficial. In his community, he notes, divorce is rare. “It’s frowned upon. When we see a soap opera we wonder how someone can be happy living these lives. Where is the true relationship? What foundation are they building on?” He adds that his school back home had 40 kids. His graduating class had 8 students. “Almost all of us were related to each other.” “There wasn’t a lot of dating because we were too close, really, to date.”

18:09Copy video clip URL When asked how people find mates, Wall says that many find a mate when they went away to college. “That’s having a profound effect on the community right now. In some families the mother is from a big city and the father is from the community. These people who are coming in from outside environments are bringing with them an involvement in issues the community once considered an outside issue, like abortion.” He adds that those who are coming in from the outside aren’t always satisfied with “what we’ve always depended on, like having the church as the center of our social life. They want concerts and more of a cultural development. And I think that’s a good thing but only if it happens in harmony with what we have.”

22:50Copy video clip URL They discuss woman’s role in society. Wall notes that a lot of the women in his community are getting outside jobs. “It’s the only way families can survive. Here in the city you can drop your kid off at daycare. You can’t do that in Lustre. A lot of women make extra money by baby sitting. A lot of younger women are staying at home to raise their kids.” He says that there’s not a lot of jobs available. “Farming is the economy. But after their kids are grown the moms are going back to school. One moved out and is now a legal secretary. My mom is working on her Masters in music education. She’s a teacher. A lot of people have jobs that are more about fulfillment, like working with the ambulance squad or helping out at school watching kids during recess. One woman, after she raised her kids, started traveling, she went to Australia and was teaching us the art of photography. One danger of living a rural life is that people become limited by their background. We elevate the urban life so much we feel inferior. My dad is a clerk at the school, doing payroll. He finds fulfillment in that.”

27:25Copy video clip URL Larson says that in his community women are going back to school. He notes that in his generation women are more career oriented. He says his mother went to school to become a beautician, but left that work to raise her family. He says what irritates his mother are the women who have 9 to 5 jobs who think being a housewife isn’t real work. He notes that being a housewife is a “seven in the morning to ten o’clock at night job.”

28:39Copy video clip URL Change of location. Caruso is now at the top of stairs. He notes he is entering The Tombs bar and restaurant near Georgetown University, “one of the favorite watering holes for seniors.” His goal is to find out what it’s like to be twenty-one years old and in the bar.

28:59Copy video clip URL Caruso enters the bar and approaches a table of senior students. Caruso records several takes of his introduction. He notes the bar in the movie St. Elmo’s Fire is based on this bar. He has the students introduce themselves: John, Scott, Lisa, Catherine, Izzy, Peter.

32:09Copy video clip URL Recording nautical paraphernalia around the bar. The group orders two pitchers of beer. Everyone presents their ID. Idle chit chat. Scott says all the bars around the college card and they are good at detecting fake IDs. Izzy says she gets carded less since turning 21.

40:12Copy video clip URL The drinks arrive. The waiter pours the beers.

41:20Copy video clip URL The videographer notes to the students that they are the first class that couldn’t drink when they were 18 years-old. “You’re the first class to have to deal with the current economic situation. What’s your future like?” Izzy says “Bleak.”  Lisa says the university has been holding seminars called “How to Find Jobs in Tough Times.” Catherine says she’s concerned with opportunities for blacks.

42:50Copy video clip URL Caruso asks “What do you think it’s like out there (in the working world)?” Catherine says twenty percent of the students in her program have jobs waiting for them and that percentage is considered good compared to other colleges. Lisa is in the business school so “for us it’s a little easier” than other majors on campus. They toast to the future.

44:20Copy video clip URL The students chit chat among each other. John playfully recites a PBS-style pledge to camera. The table talks about old children’s TV shows. When asked what differences they see between themselves as seniors and the freshman class, Izzy jokes “they look a lot younger!” Scott says that when he was 17, 21 seemed so much older, but now that he is 21 it doesn’t seem that much older. Izzy notes that she wishes she could start over again because she’s learned so much in the last three years: “I know what I want to study and actually do my homework. I’d do a lot of things differently.” She says if she could change it she would have taken a lot more Women’s Studies courses. “I would have done more of my reading. I was very politically and socially apathetic my first year and I feel that I’ve changed somewhat while I was away last year.” She explains she dropped out last year for acting school and then a move to Oakland.

52:37Copy video clip URL They dialogue about growing up in the Me Generation of the 1980s, the change of priorities in their generation compared to past generations. While their parents were getting married in their early twenties, they don’t feel that rushed and prefer to stay single as long as possible. The present economic and employment struggles add to that decision. Scott notes that he feels so much older than those in the freshman class now that he’s a college senior. John adds, “You see these little kids walking around and they look really young.” Izzy asks the group if they’ve seen the movie ‘Slackers.’ She recommends it because it captures the essence of their generation.

59:50Copy video clip URL Caruso wants to know how St. Elmo’s Fire relates to the reality of being a  Georgetown University senior at the bar the movie is based on. Izzy thinks the movie is a lie. The apartments they lived in, the money they had: it was unrealistic. Lisa notes the relationships among the characters. She admires how they were close and notes that so many people in the lives of today’s college students go in different directions.

01:01:15Copy video clip URL They talk about heroes. Lisa notes that she never grew up saying “I had a hero.” John said for a time he turned to the President Jimmy Carter as a hero. Otherwise, he never really had one. Catherine saw Jesse Jackson as a hero for a while. Izzy had Harrison Ford as a hero. Peter says the closest thing for a hero to him is his father. Their food is delivered. The conversation turns political about the President and Ollie North, but they don’t see them as heroes. Lisa thinks maybe a hero is simply a set of ideals as opposed to one individual. Scott suggests there are multiple heroes. He notes that in the sixties, astronauts and JFK were the popular heroes. Lisa thinks the upcoming generation may look to the environmentalists as heroes, but they don’t see anyone in their generation as a hero. John says his hero is David Brower, President of the Sierra Club, involved in environmental groups.

01:09:45Copy video clip URL They note that today is Columbus Day. This turns to discussion over whether or not Christopher Columbus was a hero. The group notes that their parents are older than the Sixties hippie generation. Lisa notes that her parents lived near Woodstock in 1969 and never considered going to the music festival that summer. They didn’t have hippie parents but were socially conscious. They advocate the ideology but did not engage in the lifestyle. The conversation includes discussion on racism.

01:18:30Copy video clip URL John talks about being “dissed by the older generation.” They note that their generation is inheriting a lot of societal problems. Izzy notes that theirs is the first generation to make less than their parents’ generation.

01:22:38Copy video clip URL The conversation turns to the idea that the previous generation didn’t know they were causing economic and environmental problems, but now the new generation has to grow up fast to deal with it all. They think life will not be as good as previous generations experienced it. They note that their generation is not gearing up to fight the causes.

01:26:13Copy video clip URL Waiter delivers the check. Caruso records a tag out.

01:27:13Copy video clip URL Change of location. Outside on campus at Georgetown University, Caruso is talking with John Crabtree, one of the seniors from the above interviews at The Toombs. Crabtree notes he is President of the Gay & Lesbian Student Alliance. They walk and talk about the organization, the issues it addresses, and its structure. Crabtree notes they meet once a week. They have an office on campus. One of their meetings encouraged members to bring a straight friend as a chance to open a dialogue between the two orientations. He also notes they recently were involved in Coming Out Day.

01:29:11Copy video clip URL Caruso and Crabtree and in a classroom on campus attending  a Gay & Lesbian Student Alliance meeting. Crabtree notes that the members are at various stages of coming out to loved ones. The members introduce themselves: Steve Ferguson, Tina Alexander, Ian Saran, Christi De Larco. They talk about Coming Out Day and their personal experience. Alexander says the day was exciting because she was new to the city. Her family and friends home in New York knew, but she had to decide if she wanted to come out in Washington, DC. It was empowering for her. Crabtree says that GLSA organized the event to let people know there was a support network available. They set up a table in a prominent place on campus promoting GLSA. “We passed out fliers, put up posters notifying people that we are your classmates, your friends and family.” The idea was to let people know that they acknowledged their sexual orientation and were happy about it, not sad. They wanted to let people know what the organization was all about and what they can do.

01:33:00Copy video clip URL Crabtree says that because he’s president of GLSA everyone assumes he is really out, but as far as his family is concerned, the idea of going on television and talking about it is new. He says his mother knows he’s gay, but the others in his family don’t really know. He doesn’t know how to gauge their response. He says his mother at first was concerned for his safety.  She asked him if he was sure. It was a difficult conversation to have. He says now, a year-and-a-half later, she’s come around and is comfortable with it.

01:35:17Copy video clip URL Saran says that his mother takes the news harder than his father and doesn’t like to engage in discussion with him about the issue. Saran notes he discovered his sexual orientation while in Europe for one year. Living closeted back home was stressful, he says, until he came out, though only his parents know. He hasn’t told his brother yet. There’s no way you can prepare yourself for such a moment. He attended a few support groups and read about the subject.

01:37:19Copy video clip URL De Larco says that she is very comfortable being out. She wasn’t a few years ago, but she agrees with Crabtree that the more you come out the easier it gets. She says before attending Georgetown University as a graduate student, she attended a Catholic university in New England .She had no positive role models there. Coming out was difficult and she realized there are no positive role models for gay and lesbian men and women in modern pop culture. It’s an isolating feeling. She thinks it’s great that Georgetown has GLSA to help others looking for support.

01:40:07Copy video clip URL Ferguson thought Coming Out Day was important because of the positive message it gave to the student body.  Saran says when he was a freshman GLSA was not as visible on campus. People now are getting used to it now.

01:41:34Copy video clip URL The footage cuts abruptly to an interview with a member who arrived late. He is talking about his coming out experience. The student paper wrote an article on him last year and that’s how his family found out he was gay. He says his brother was devastated at first but everyone “was cool about it.”

01:42:25Copy video clip URL When asked what  the risks are in coming out, Ferguson says your family could not talk with you, but he knew his parents would not shut him out. Before you come out to your parents, he advises, one should think about what the parents’ values are and think what they might do. Crabtree says many of his extended family do not know he’s gay and he can only guess they wouldn’t deal with it well… “but maybe they would. There’s a fear caught up in that.” Fear of being an outcast. He rationalizes that if a friend reacts that way they aren’t really a friend. You have to take it person by person based on your relationship with them. One aspect that’s stressful is the temptation to bring it up at a family gathering.

01:44:35Copy video clip URL Alexander says she came out in high school which is very difficult given the age. The more she did, though, the more she became comfortable and confident she became. But having to come out again in a new city was risky because all the fear comes back.

01:45:51Copy video clip URL Saran notes that he’s reached a point that he doesn’t care who knows. But he deals with his parent’s fear of not wanting anyone to know.

01:47:30Copy video clip URL When asked about personal safety (are women more at risk than men?) the guy who arrived late said recently he was victim of a hate crime, assaulted in a student bar. He thinks men are at risk as well as women. Alcohol plays a big part in these crimes.

01:51:01Copy video clip URL The discussion turns to earring placement. One member has an earring in the right ear, another has one in the left. Ferguson says, “what they say is the right ear means you’re gay and the left ear means that you’re not, but to me it doesn’t matter.” When asked if he feels it makes him a target for gay bashing, Ferguson notes that he doesn’t feel uncomfortable. He thinks it’s important for other students to see that there are gay people on campus. De Larco says at one point she was dating a woman who was uncomfortable showing public displays of affection. At some point you realize you can’t live in fear. She feels hate crimes arise out of ignorance. The public must be educated.

01:51:02Copy video clip URL When asked how can you get someone to come out of the closet, the group answers “you can’t.” De Larco says people coming out is the only way to stop prejudice. People who are oppressed by family and friends won’t come out of the closet. Alexander says coming out in high school is harder then coming out in college because there’s less support available. But, being in New York City made it a little easier for her to come out as opposed to living in a small town. The new arrival says one way to help people come out is to change the environment they are in. The issues of adapting to the environment are difficult. He says he is from San Francisco and attended a homophobic Catholic school. Ferguson says he came from a small town near Pittsburgh. He says there’s no way he could have come out in high school. There were no open gay people he ever saw. Saran says it took getting fed up with living a lie that allowed him to come out.

01:55:30Copy video clip URL END.



You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment