‘Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?’

To the Editor:
So, I have a new book. I want you to have it. It’s kind of me, a kid from Westmere, coming back to whisper to you that, basically, I found something good.

Let me start at the beginning. Altamont is “Our Town.” We all know that, but I’m saying it’s the “Our Town” from the famous play by Thornton Wilder who as far as I know never wrote anything else but scored immortality in that one play. (Actually, he wrote other stuff, too. Whatever.)

I got to thinking last week about the policeman in Altamont when I used to hang around town in the sixties. Howard Diehl. I always thought of him, unfairly (and, remember, I was 17 the one night I met him) as Barney from The Andy Griffith Show.

But he was the old-fashioned, down-home police officer, the only cop in the village. Altamont is especially “Our Town” because it’s this self-contained entity, and, end-to-end, it has its colorful, authentic Americana.

People move there just for that Our-Town experience. They pass on the New England Brahmin life in Boston or Providence for the simple, sentimental, it’s-a-wonderful-life world of an honest, small town in upstate New York.

Our class in high school staged “Our Town.” The play has a narrator who knows all and tells all. Life imitates art.

Know where the Stage Manager lived? Of course. He was Roger Keenholts, and he lived in Altamont. Lived there his whole life. Collected town memorabilia and was memorabilia himself and cherished the town so deeply that when he died at the too-young age of 49, they hung a banner across the entrance to the village that said “The village of Altamont mourns the passing of Roger Keenholts.”

Altamont has its own wonderful newspaper, almost an anachronism in the social media world we live in. It has a main street that really is a main street. It has, I suppose, a modest shopping area with a nice place to get coffee. It has its mayor, and, when I lived in town, the mayor’s wife was on the school board, and his daughter caught my eye in history class.

I guess even in the sixties Altamont didn’t have milk delivery any more like they did in the Grover’s Corners of “Our Town,” and even the newspaper delivery boy is endangered and likely gone. But Altamont had atmosphere.

My Cit Ed teacher lived in a farmhouse outside town. Robert Babcock. He lived there because he was educated and intelligent and knew how to live.

Families. Things must have broken down from when I was around, but in Grover’s Corners everyone married and lived in Grover’s Corners their whole lives. Altamont sure could boast its families.

There was a certain shadow of death over Grover’s Corners, the commentators rightly tell us, and there now is for me over Altamont, too. Cherished friends who passed. Stevie Chalmers, whom I wrote up here. Carol Roemer, likewise written up. Roger. Bryce Butler, who wrote a book about dying from cancer. And not long ago that seemingly invincible icon, Mr. Ciaccio, the longtime principal of Guilderland High School.

Fine, so Altamont is “Our Town” and I have a new book.

How does my new book, and my life for that matter, relate to Altamont and the way that our Norman-Rockwell community embodies “Our Town.” The book is “End Anxiety!: Proven Benefits of the Transcendental Meditation Program.”

I’m thinking about a quote from the play. “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? — every, every minute?”

The answer in the world embodied by Grover’s Corners is “no” and everyone is comfortable with that. It’s kind of a solemn pact. “No, you don’t realize life while you live it, but, no worries, neither do I.”

And you know what I’m offering the town in my book and in my life? That. The way to realize life while you live it. I left town looking for that, eventually desperately looking for that. Fair enough. What isn’t fair in the eyes of some everyday people who live good lives and die good lives and never find it and think nobody can find it anyway?

I found it!

So, that’s the book. Live life fully all the time. Dive into a timeless field and realize yourself. Don’t worry any more. When you realize what you truly are, by experience and not from just words, you’re good.

If you’re curious, read the book, or read sample chapters on my webpage :www.endanxietybook.com. I mean, that’s Our-Town American, too. Local boy rides a covered wagon over the mountains, finds gold, and comes back to tell you where to find it.

“Impossible?” “Nobody does that.” Fine, at least read the book, then decide. I’ll even come back to town and teach you. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Hey, you guys. Miss you.

James G. Meade, Ph.D.

Class of 1962

Guilderland High School

Editor’s note: Jim Meade writes that, as a 1962 Guilderland graduate, he was, “in true Our-Town fashion, winner of the American Legion Award at graduation, for Courage, Honor, Scholarship, and Leadership.”

More Letters to the Editor

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.