Tuesday, February 28, 2012
When last we spoke, we had discussed language, stemming from my father’s use of the term “haint”. That post lead to a conversation with my sister where she reminded me another word we pronounce incorrectly was “mont-ner”; meaning monster.
Being a naturally jouvous person, I normally make an effort to avoid all mention of scary things lest I conjure up some creature in my head which will cause me to lose precious sleep. I don’t know what happened to me during childhood but I have been afraid of the dark since somewhere in the neighborhood of birth and lasting up to and including last night. I don’t know what makes me skittish in the darkness but if someone were to scare me with, say, a chainsaw, I could outrun any Olympic sprinter regardless if they used steroids or not. Once, as a teen, I just about outran a car when I thought the Blue Lady of Humble Lake was trying to “git” me. The unfortunate situation occurred when I attended my first teen bonfire, wearing my best corduroy pants. I mention the wardrobe choice simply because, during my flight, said pantalones eventually started to smoke from the friction of my chubby legs pistoning me toward safety. Now where I thought I was going to find safety in the boonies of East Texas with ‘Flock of Seagulls’ bangs and 3 Swatches was beyond me. All I knew was I wanted to be elsewhere.
And elsewhere was where I wanted to be recently when The Dad told me he had seen a ghost in my house. Now, I realize I am a big strong man (well, a man anyway) but I did not need to hear this. Before he could describe this recently sighted apparition, he turned to me and said, “All this talkin’ ‘bout spirits ‘n’ stuff had put me to mind the stories my mama told me.”
While he reminisced and I pretended to listen, I thought of several occasions of my own where I lost any shred of coolness I, or my friends, imagined I had by possessing a lack of bravery which would have gotten me banished from most any Disney movie. While my friends never abandoned me, per se, most certainly my date to the Junior Prom was less than thrilled when I abandoned her, faster than a celebrity breaks their wedding vows, at the breakfast afterwards. The brother (I won’t tell you his name but it rhymes with Scott Holliday) of the hostess decided to dress as Freddy Krueger and casually tap-tap-tap, on the French doors to my immediate right in the den while I was actively pretending to watch “A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part XVXVIII” along with 7-8 of my closest personal friends and their dates.
When I ever so jouvously turned my head to the doors and saw this particular face, I screamed like a peacock set on fire, shoved past my date (I apologize again, Denise) and ran down the hall to the bedroom of the slumbering parents due, I can only imagine, to the overwhelming belief Mr. and/or Mrs. Holliday would save me through the use of gunfire or fisticuffs. I don’t believe either of them were the same after experiencing the invasion of their inner sanctum by a chubby tuxedoed youth and a full 1/3 of the remaining guests alert enough to have noticed my flight, quickly following suit. Now, I may be exaggerating these points; this was, after all, 1987 and it's a bit hazy, not due to alcohol or drug, mind you. I was a good Baptist youth, although I will cop to an addiction to Aqua Net; something had to keep that hairdo in place, people. All I know is the the following year, the Prom breakfast was held in a well-lit hotel suite with suitable chaperones and, for me, a mild sedative.
The most recent event I will share happened in Alaska, while camping. Now, anyone who knows me is aware while I am not a ardent fan of the outdoors at night, I can be shamed into complying with the requests of the nature loving pseudo-hippies I have collected as friends.
This particular outing was Memorial Day weekend in 2003 and, being Alaska, it was a balmy 40 degrees. As I was much larger then, the lack of heat was a plus. Precious I may be, but most persons, places and things are not improved by the addition of moisture. And underarm sweat stains large enough to effect local weather patterns are not a good look for anyone.
I had watched the movie The Ring just prior to this trip. Suffice it to say it was not a romantic comedy about a wedding. Yes, I know, why on earth do I watch scary movies when they actually scare me? I have no answer other than peer pressure. What? I have peers, in theory.
We get to the campground and as there were 6 of us, I felt my odds of surviving the weekend without being murdered were fair to middlin'. I wasn’t the slowest, did not have the largest breasts and was never interested enough to investigate the source of random snapping twigs . I felt pretty sure I wouldn’t be one of the first to die, per the typical plots of axe-murderer movies. Once we scouted out the restrooms, however, I discovered the source of my pain for the weekend. Even though they advertised toilets, they were actually toilet seats attached to the top of very deep wells. Like “Journey to the Center of the Earth” deep. And if you’ve seen The Ring you know that the girl mont-ner, at one point, climbs out of a deep well and comes to git the people. Well, I can assure you I don’t need someone to git me whilst I am conducting my business. The psychological repercussions I don’t want to imagine. Needless to say I spent the weekend avoiding the bathroom which became increasingly difficult while trying to digest elk cooked in a skillet over an open fire. TGI Friday’s this was not.
I had yet to feel uncomfortable in my new home even when living alone for almost 4 months, but when he told me he had seen a ghost, my first instinct was to flee. The high cost of real estate in the Bay area held me in place, however, and I asked him to describe this ghost. When he stated it was a woman with a large hat and veil and a parasol, I was both delighted she seemed fashionable and suspicious of the accuracy of the fashion as my house was built in 1929 and parasols haven’t been used in any manner since My Fair Lady.
As I left to cleanse the house of evil through the recitation of any song I could remember with the most Jesuses in it, I noticed a figure alarmingly like the woman he described! Right in my face! It was the lovely lady in the painting I have over the buffet in my dining room; my first real piece of art. My Daddy was either all out of conversational topics not involving bodily functions or he was trying to scare me. Rude. I told him if the phantom was well-dressed, then we could co-exist quite happily and I strode off to bed with the full knowledge he had simply fabricated the story and I had nothing to worry about. Dustin does mean “strong hearted leader” according to the book of baby names. My parents had chosen well.
Full disclosure: I left the light on in the den for a couple of nights. You know, just in case.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I was reminded again just the other day how my family has a folksy vernacular; an odd combination of country, redneck and Southern that is peppered with words that I believe we may have invented. I was sitting at the dining table talking to my friend Adam and The Dad was looking at my magazine. It was the latest edition of Vanity Fair and it was, unfortunately, turned to the page which features photos of some of the contributors. As a rule, writers are not an overly attractive subset of humanity. There are exceptions, of course. John Grisham and I are among those who are considered attractive. Well, more attractive than, say, J.R.R. Tolkien (I imagine) or Truman Capote (I am certain).
When he saw the photo of one particularly unfortunate-looking individual he said, “Woo, she’s so ugly, she’d make a haint take a thorn thicket!” Now, I’m not sure if he has regressed since my Mother’s passing or if he always talked this way and I chose to ignore it.
Adam, who is a graduate of Northwestern (in Chicago) seemed confused and very quietly asked if The Dad were having a stroke. I laughed and explained the definitions of both haint (ghost) and thorn thicket (something akin to a flowerless rose garden, all thorns). While I am not certain of the accuracy of his statement (why would it concern a ghost to run into the brambles seeing as how they really aren’t wearing sheets?) I found it interesting I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Once The Dad retired to his room to sleep, Adam asked me why he used such odd phrases but I didn’t. Well, I could fill up a book about the inherent differences between my father and me but I’ll leave this task to the actual book I’m hoping to create from these blogs. Prepare your wallets people; I have expectations of support (buy my first book A Gone Pecan at Authorhouse.com or Amazon.com right now!) from my readers/friends/family/well-wishers/those easily manipulated by guilt, etc. This question caused me to review words and phrases my family uses fairly regularly, some of which may be familiar.
Jouvous – Nervous.
Tooky – Persnickety.
Rernt – Ruined. Could be in reference to a person, place or thing.
I swonny – An exclamation like “My goodness!” or "I swear!".
Wompy-jawed – Askew. See also catty-wampus.
Chicken Doody – Any spot on your dress, car, shoe, sidewalk, etc. Typically does not refer to actual poultry excrement.
“Fine as frog hair” – Said in response to “How are you?” The joke being frog hair is so fine you can’t even see it. It’s not as funny as The Dad thinks it is.
“Ain’t fit to shoot” – Not even good enough to bother with wasting good bullets. See also triflin’, low-down, no-good.
“In a toot” – In a bad mood.
“Going to town” – leaving your home, regardless of whether you reside within the city limits or not. Stemming from a youth spent in the boonies.
Boonies – Living so far outside of the city limits, even wild animals question your presence.
Coke – any flavor of carbonated beverage. Yankees refer to it as soda or pop. We mock those Yankees, sometimes to their faces.
Beautimous – Very attractive. See also Linda Evangelista, Jaclyn Smith or my niece Payton.
Hooty-tooty – Extra fancy. See also hoity-toity or foo-foo.
Uppity – Extra fancy but in a condescending manner.
Nassy – Nasty. This one seems to stem from sheer laziness.
Feel free to use these words and phrases in casual conversation to confuse or intimidate frenemies, future in-laws or people eavesdropping at Starbucks. I would caution against using in the workplace as you may demoted. I’m not ashamed of my upbringing, but I know enough not to say “I reckon” beyond the comfort of a Tractor Supply store or a conversation with someone named Herschel or Oda Lee. How else do you think I got to be so hooty-tooty?
As much as I put on, I am glad I grew up in the South and I am, in the deepest recesses of my heart, a good ol’ boy. I just prefer to show my Southern pride through the wearing of seersucker.
And that's all I'm saying for now.
And that's all I'm saying for now.