Twitter rocks! Thanks to whoever put up the tweet that I saw on my feed a few days ago, directing me to this link -- where I read the info below.
[Note: it's too late to take part in this research, so don't all excited about what you'll do with your $100.]
Salem Community Interviews
To be considered for this study, you must be at least 21 years old who lives or works in Salem, OR. Share your opinions, ideas, and experiences with us!
Interviews will last about 60 minutes and participants will be compensated $100 for their time.
If you are interested in taking part in our research study, please fill out the information and questions below. Your completed responses will be sent to Maria Porta at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are the types of people we are looking for:
Salem is my epicenter
I live and work in Salem, it’s the center of world. I know there are other places I could go, but I have everything I need right here in my own backyard. I don’t see myself living or working anywhere else. Salem is home.
When the whistle blows, I’m gone
My job has me working in Salem, but I’ve never lived here. I almost never linger in town once the workday is done. Even though I spend a lot of time in Salem, I do very little outside of work hours in town.
Living in Salem has made me lame
Is Salem really this boring? Is nothing ever going on? How do I find things to do? People told me Salem was a great place to be, but I’m not sure how long Salem will be home since it’s turning me into a lame person. I’m finding it hard to do the things I love.
Salem is the cat's meow
Salem is the best place to live and I'm not shy about letting people know. Whether it's championing a city improvement team or helping people know what's going on in Salem, I'm the go-to person. I enjoy being a familiar, friendly face for Salem always rooting for its success.
Keeping the pride in Salem's musicians
I play a critical role in creating an environment for budding musicians in our area. Fundraising, organizing events and parents, and sewing uniforms have become the center of my world. Taking my responsibilities seriously is important in maintaining Salem's reputation as a place for raising great musicians.
Ultimate weekend warrior
Salem provides easy access to the things I like to do on the weekends. I love the outdoors and wanted to live in a town where every weekend I can enjoy nature - fishing, hiking, skiing, mountain biking, etc. - all are a quick drive.
I’m always a step behind
I am always missing out on the fun. I hear about great Salem events after they’ve already happened, but can’t seem to catch them beforehand to make plans. It’s frustrating that I can’t find a publication or source for all town activities. Word of mouth doesn’t cut it either.
Adjusting to life in Salem
Being new in town has been an adjustment. It’s hard to get a feel for what Salem is really like or how to get things done. I’m hoping Salem can become a great place to live, but right now it just feels so different than where I came from.
Salem is the right size for me
I came to Salem from either a larger city or smaller town and found the perfect sized place to call home. Everything I was missing before I am now able to do in Salem like build a family, raise my kids, find new friends, or meet a future spouse. Salem is the perfect fit for me.
Barely making it by
Living in Salem has been a constant struggle. It’s hard to find a job to make ends meet and life events have left me living paycheck to paycheck. I can no longer afford basic things like my mortgage, my car, or utilities. I am desperately trying to stay afloat.
Devoted Salem civil servant
Serving the Salem community has been my dream and vocation for many years. I devote my life to making Salem and/or Oregon a better place to live and work. Working for the government isn’t an easy life either - salary cuts, long hours, and frustrations that I’m not making an impact. Regardless I won’t give up on my civic commitment.
In pursuit of the next big thing
I am an outdoor hobby junkie. I’m always searching for the next fun thing. Diving intensely into my passions gives me the adrenaline I crave, so I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping my ear to the ground on the next hot outdoor sport or secret spot. It’s also made me the go-to person, I love trying out everything so I can pass my intel to others.
Regular readers of my rants about Salem won't find it hard to guess which type of person I chose: Living in Salem has made me lame.
This isn't really true, of course. But that description struck me as coming closest to how I feel about the town that I both love and hate passionately.
I wrote back to the research group, offering up samples of my many blog posts about Salem's lameness. This got me a phone pre-interview checkover. I passed, which earned me close to ninety pleasurable minutes with main interviewer Maria and two other people who mostly listened and took notes.
Kudos to whoever at the Salem Statesman Journal is supporting this consumer research effort (the research is being carried out by a group that does market research for Gannett, which owns the SJ and many other newspapers, including USA Today).
I've rarely experienced such rapt attention to what I said. Maria started off by telling me that I'd feel like I was doing most of the talking, which for sure I did. Also, that there were no right or wrong answers, which I'd already assumed.
It was like having a very non-directive psychotherapy session where I got to free-associate at length. Except at the beginning I was handed an envelope with money in it, so I was being paid to vent my feelings instead of being charged for this privilege.
I felt great afterwards.
There really is a lot of positive power involved with genuine listening. These guys clearly were interested in what I had to say, because they came to my house, sat in my living room for almost an hour and a half, and handed me an envelope with cash in it.
I'm not a very good listener, I must admit.
Often I'm thinking of what I want to say in reply while someone is still talking. Hopefully this experience taught me something about how to attentively pay attention to another person. Maria knew how to do that. (Of course, it's her job.)
By letting me ramble beyond the point where I normally would have stopped talking -- because usually even verbose me eventually feels, "Dude, you've got to shut up and let the other person get a word in" -- researcher Maria drew me into answering her questions in some subtle in-depth ways that surprised even me.
I guess this is sort of akin to brainstorming. Or again, non-directive psychotherapy. I felt so accepted, so un-judged, that even when I had a tinge of This is going to sound stupid; maybe I shouldn't say it, I'd end up feeling Oh, what the hell; blurt it out.
So actually the title of this post isn't true.
I ended up saying a lot of positive things about Salem, including the people and places here that give me a lot of meaningful pleasure. I went into the interview anticipating that I'd mostly complain about Salem's lameness. At the end, I felt considerably better about the town I've called home for thirty-six years.
I have no idea how this consumer research will be used. I don't know if what I told the interviewers will make any difference to anybody at Gannett or the Statesman Journal.
But I do know that the interview experience had an effect on me. So thanks to Maria and the other two guys (whose names I've forgotten) for that. I learned something about effective listening, and the creative power of letting someone feel that whatever they say and think is OK.
In a sense what happened in my living room today is what I hope Salem can steadily move toward: being a place where people with diverse ways of looking upon the world can blend into a supportive community that values openness, eccentricity, quirkiness, blue-sky thinking/feeling, and an optimistic whatever attitude toward the future.
Maria ended up with some appealingly philosophical questions that I can't remember exactly (mostly I remember saying to her questions, "Wow, good question). I do recall semi-mangling a quote from a book that I'd read this morning.
Here's the unmangled passage from a book sent to me by the publisher for a pre-publication review. In his "God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age," Galen Guengerich writes:
Nomi goes on to explain that, by denying themselves the pleasures of this world, Mennonites believe they'll be first inline to enjoy the pleasures of the next world. As a teenager, however, Nomi says her concern isn't what happens after she dies, but rather how to endure the absence of life before death.
The absence of life before death.
I'm a senior citizen, not a teenager, but that's what I'm concerned about also. More life! That's what I want from Salem; that's what I want from me (not that there is any difference between I and me... and with that pseudo-Zen thought I shut up).