Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington, IN by Ghost Mice

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There's lots of good people here
That make it a nice place to call home
The first verse of "Bloomington, IN" by the midwest folk-punk legends Ghost Mice is filled with dualities - lyricist and singer Chris Clavin (alternatively called Chris Johnston) describes the small university town in southern Indiana both as an island "that's full of hungry sharks that like to eat people like me" as well as "Utopia" and a "punk rock paradise." Finally, the contrasts are resolved with the lines "my island isn't perfect but my island's pretty nice." Ghost Mice formed in Bloomington in 2002, both members having moved from various locales in the midwest to attend Indiana University (want to rile up someone who went there, call it The University of Indiana). Neither got a diploma but instead devoted their time to riding bikes, cooking vegan food, and writing the most epic love songs and odes to the road and Dungeons & Dragons.

Vintage post card of Bloomington, Indiana<br><a href="" target="_blank">Steve Shook</a>, via Flickr, CC 2.0Vintage post card of Bloomington, Indiana
Steve Shook, via Flickr, CC 2.0
Many of us have felt the peculiar love and hate for a place expressed in this song, the topographic beauty contrasted by the idiot populace, the people we want to know and all the people we wish we didn't bump into so frequently. Bloomington is a small town inhabited by equal parts radical free thinking anarchist artists and, as is eloquently stated in the song, "future yuppies" driving SUVs. We have all felt out of place in the towns we find ourselves in at some point or another and have longed for the other side where the grass is always greener, but the Ghost Mice advocate sticking it out, fighting the good fight, recognizing the hostile, inhospitable assaults on culture and love and building your home in the place you have chosen. Easier said than done.

Many Ghost Mice songs are about building community, especially within a radical context, and that is the key to "Bloomington, IN." A place is often truly defined by the people that inhabit it and what you are able to build together:

I know I'm not alone
There's lots of good people here
That make it a nice place to call home

It is by collaborating with, advocating for, and sticking close to like-minded individuals that we are able to come out ahead and deal with the affronts to our ideals that we are confronted with daily. And this is what many Ghost Mice songs are about: the struggle to keep one's head over the emotional waters while faced with yuppies, cultural pirates, ecological terrorists, and lovers that don't love us anymore. Most people can find something here that they relate to, particularly if they are picking up a folk punk record in the first place.

Navigating the troubling waters of the world, unable to stay cloistered within the friendly circle of one's comrades, the Ghost Mice offer this simple sentiment: if the worst thing that you have to worry about is a stupid SUV trying to run you off the street while you ride your bike, you're doing pretty good. Every city in the world, regardless of where it is or what it calls itself, has a few angry drivers, people interested in exploiting its beauty or resources, scumbag yuppies and metaphorical sharks. But in the middle of that sea, there are others struggling to keep their heads above the water, and together you can make something: music, dinner or a conscientious, creative and sustainable community.

Maggie Grimason
August 9, 2012
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