Sunday, September 23, 2012
It has arrived. We celebrated Daddy’s one year anniversary in California with the purchase of a new recliner. He also celebrated with a bag of iced animal crackers he stole from my shelf in the pantry and he thinks I don't know, but I do. This new recliner is leather because that particular material is less prone to retaining smells and subsequently my monthly Febreze supply can be at least halved. This will free up significant cash reserves to be used for all manner of fun things like SusieCakes salted caramel apple cupcakes and thrift store sweaters, as the fall season is upon us. Well, not so much ‘us’ here in the sorta-western-central-just-south-of-Napa-Valley part of CA, but for the rest of you people who have to suffer through extreme weather outside of the 55-80 degree year-round range. Apparently, money can buy happiness.
Now I’m not saying that anyone out here in Silicon Valley used their significant brain power to harness the weather and make it as wonderful as it is. I’m simply positing that the Steves, Jobs and Wozniak, had to have spent their youth doing something besides playing three dimensional chess, paintball and inventing computers, if I am to believe the hobbies and interests portrayed by the nerdy geniuses on the Big Bang Theory. If Sheldon built a CT Scan in the wilds of Texas, one of the Steves could have built a weather-controlling device at the behest of a golf-loving father.
The unnervingly nice weather is one of the things that delights and confounds my father, who has spent all but three of his 71 years in locations where the presence of any moisture, like saliva, is a sign one is from elsewhere. The one three month stretch he spent in California, during the summer before my senior year in high school, was as a welder in Boron, which is reportedly as fun as you would imagine a town named after an element in that section of the periodical table would be.
As my Daddy has a shoulder injury from long ago, I was able to talk him in to getting a remote controlled chair that will recline the back and lift the feet with the push of a button. As persnicketiness is apparently hereditary, he was adamant that he ‘tryout’ the chair prior to purchase. This required a sojourn to the La-Z-Boy showroom in Santa Clara, about 15 miles from our house. He is a lifelong customer of this particular merchant as their name is his retirement mantra. And they are sole producer of what is known as a ‘Big Boy’ recliner. To the uninitiated that pretty much means a loveseat with elevated leg supports. This recliner, while just a smidge smaller than his previous chair, is still wide enough to necessitate full size sheets were one to outfit it properly for sleep, which is the activity most enjoyed in this particular piece of furniture.
You can only imagine the circumstances that arose when he, not unlike a dog, felt the need to ‘mark’ his territory by subsequently farting in each chair. He ambled his way around the showroom and sat in every chair including those I knew he would never buy, like ones with floral chintz or wooden legs. This was while he was still using his wound vac for the “lower back” surgery. The vac is housed in a shoulder harness that looks like a tiny messenger bag. He was very self-conscious about tha bag when anyone of any level of brain power could see there were tubes running from his “man purse” to his body and deduce it as a medical device.
However, to ensure that all and sundry knew of his macho-ness, he, very loudly, stated that he was “not carrying a man purse”. He was but a simple macho paratrooper forced to wear a “contraption” because of my “a-double-s surgery”. My face turned the color of my orange chinos and I immediately took up with an Asian family standing nearby, convinced them I was an in-store designer and helped them find the perfect sectional sofa.
He was looking forward to getting his chair that day but it had to be special ordered because he wanted one that had an extra-long leg rest for reasons known only to him. His inseam is 27” but his patented way of sitting (a series of leg hikes, contortions and scooting) and his need for 100% of his feet and shoes to be supported by the chair make it almost impossible to find the perfect chair. And the perfection of the chair is important because he spends all day and all night in this de facto bed.
Lately, however, due to his increased pain from his back he has been spending an inordinate amount of time in an actual bed. He has a hospital bed from the VA but he says the mattress is “too hard”. I put an egg crate mattress topper but he is adamant that it is still too hard, like an overweight Gingerlocks as his hair is still red, despite the copious amounts of white in his beard. He is forced, he says, to sleep in the guest bedroom, which is the most attractively decorated room in my home.
When I first moved into this house, I chose this bedroom for its central location and it became an art deco haven filled with my favorite furniture like a cream linen headboard and mirrored dresser, nightstand and lamp. The boldness of the purple accent wall is tempered by the pewter comforter and occasional chair with pops of pink and lime green found in the wall art, throw pillows and vases. It is an amazing room from which I was summarily roused by the nightly brouhaha that emanates from his bedroom due to his and apparently Lulu’s sleep apnea.
I now reside in the former guest bedroom which while it is well decorated with a leather wrapped sleigh bed and a color scheme of coral, aqua and off-white, is not a room to make one ‘feel fancy’ which was one of the main purposes of the art deco world I attempted to create. If one cannot make up for childlessness with fabulous décor, what is the point of celibacy? I would have ridiculously fabulous children were I to ever find a woman brave, forgiving and fantastical enough (like, say, a former Miss America) to undertake a life filled with more pizzazz than is warranted outside of a theatre. I am the physical manifestation of jazz hands, dear readers, and I am aware that I am a bit much, at times.
My father protests that there is too much “fancy” in this house, but I think it interesting that he chose the best bedroom with little fanfare. I came home from work one day and there he lay, like a dead sea lion oddly placed in the housewares section of better department stores nationwide. Don’t look at me like that; Tractor Supply hats and suspenders do not scream art deco people. What it does scream is, “Help Me!” a point that is, by now, moot. He looked so out of place I almost thought there had been an attempted burgle from a narcoleptic criminal. What? I prefer burgle to burglary.
He has insisted that the mattress, a pillow top from Serta, is “too squishy” but it seems that it is more than “just right” as he has slept in that bed for the last two weeks, on a blanket on top of the comforter lest his ‘old man smell’ ruin the ice-pink 800 thread-count sheets from the people who brought you the pyramids. What? I’m not being mean, it’s not like the man sleeps in pajamas; he sleeps in the same clothes he wears all day. The only difference between his ‘awake and going to Wal-Mart’ outfit and his ‘dozing/sleeping’ outfit is that the latter doesn’t include the hat, glasses or teeth, but does include the phone.
So it has fallen to me to break in the recliner, if you will. I spent most of Saturday afternoon watching a Big Bang Theory marathon while he slept away the effects of his medicines and it was a revelation. You would imagine something that large would seemingly envelop you and you would be right. I was so comfortable curled up in that chair, I chose to skip my snack as it was all the way in the other room and my body said, “Seriously dude, do not get up”. Apparently my body’s inner voice has assimilated to California-speak much more quickly than the rest of me.
With the level of comfort in was experiencing, I made the decision to watch the latest Dr. Who episode without the added delight of Snapple or Garden Salsa Sun Chips, my latest favorite thing, when Daddy chose the stroke of 6:00, the start time of said BBC sci-fi selection, to arise and request assistance with medicine, food, etc.
No worries, I told myself, it will re-run at 9:00. You can already guess that he arose again at the stroke of 9:00, demonstrating that timing is everything. And the timing in the future shall be that of a move to the nursing home nearest Shreveport, LA and his sister, if he makes me miss another episode of one of only four shows I watch in any given week. What? It’s not like I haven’t admitted to being downright persnickety.
Y’all need to pay attention…and buy my book (www.authorhouse.com). And that is all I’m saying.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
I received my e-mail notification from AT&T that my monthly bill was ready to be reviewed. As I have multiple phones on my account (Daddy, me, Payton) I always double check to make sure no one is going over their minutes or whatever. It’s really somewhat of a joke as everybody and their mother in my family is on AT&T and therefore we do not get charged for calls betwixt ourselves. This has granted us a roll-over account balance akin to the money held in the Cayman Island accounts of unscrupulous politicians.
I do, however, have a limit on data usage each month and my niece Payton and her never-ending search for “awesome stuff” leave us precariously close to overage charges in that area. Much to my surprise, however, this month it seems that the majority user of minutes that caused us to dip into our rollover account was my Daddy. Yes, dear readers, I am as surprised as you.
My father’s usual contributions to conversation are a complex series of grunts, burps, protestations of ill treatment and demands for fried things. And that is only because I am seated directly in his visual path and am the purveyor of things, both ill and fried. When someone visits our home, he beats a hasty retreat unless there is food. Then, and only then, will he begrudgingly entertain people with jokes at my expense while scarfing as much food as possible to allow social hibernation for the remainder of the entertaining activity.
When someone calls him on the phone and it’s not his home health aide telling him she will be late again or a Pizza Hut delivery person needing more specific directions to our home located on the grounds of the hospital, he is less than thrilled, to say the least. He looks at the phone with the same of revulsion I have for any article of clothing that has snap-closures (i.e., western shirts, coveralls, et al).
However, it seems that he will talk to his sister Gladys on a weekly basis for up to 40 minutes. Now, I have never witnessed one of these marathon conversations so I can only deduce that there are a lot of ‘mhmms’ and ‘a-yeahs’ and more likely than not, several periods of the phone being placed on the table while he attends to his business of eating, abluting and crocheting, in that order. Not being overly fond of phone conversations myself, I can understand his aversion. However, his lack of engagement in simply the discussion of his lack of engagement is almost humorous.
There are many interesting and useful things you can glean from a simple phone call. For instance, my sister just enlightened me to a heretofore unknown three-pronged approach for housing money in one’s unmentionables; brassieres to be exact. Mind you, my sister is not the person for whom that is a means of insuring her money is safe. I prefer FDIC backed security; however, my maternal grandmother, the sainted Mama Dot, has recently embraced this method of safekeeping for her net worth. Off shore bank accounts are just not done by good Christians from the South.
It seems that my sister was visiting Mama Dot when she was made privy to her new idea (the first prong) on how to keep her money safe from “those people”. Who those particular people were was never really revealed as my sister solemnly agreed that she “knew” who those people were when Mama Dot’s revelation was transferred sotto voce (which is Italian for whisper). After slipping the dinero (Spanish) into her brassiere (French?), which is, as you may have guessed, the second prong, Mama Dot rose to journey to wherever it a grandmother will travel when they leave the room and are gone for seemingly months on end. It is unseemly to ponder the destination.
After she left on this sojourn, my sister noticed the money lying on the floor. Apparently the third and final prong in this approach is to have actually donned said foundation garment, which was invented in 16something or other by some guy who then had the idea stolen from him by a patent thief, if I am to believe the song from the musical Bette Midler stars in, inside the movie “Beaches”; a movie that makes me weep unashamedly and without reservation, not unlike one does when one hears “The Christmas Shoes” for the first time. Seriously, I had to pull over to the side of the road as I could not see and the wipers on my eyes couldn’t keep up.
And I am happy that my Daddy will listen to the stories that his sister tells as they give great insight into the human condition. Case in point, recently there has been a bit of drama in their tiny not-even-a-town. Now, as one who has lived in the boonies for the first 24 or so of my 41 7/8 years, I can assure you there is typically drama afoot in these particular necks-of-the-wood but this latest incident is worthy of a repeat, which he gladly did over morning coffee.
It seems that his older sister, Gladys, has a neighbor who had two of her children visiting; one of them for the day, the other for roughly 32 (of 48) years, so far. Anyway, there was some melodrama about cigarettes or beer or something and someone had a seizure or a wrestling match or a really impassioned game of Twister (there were people on the floor, fully clothed – I’ve learned not to ask for details) and in the midst of the thrashing about, one of the tiny dogs, named Tootsie Muffins or Mitsie BooBoo or something equally cutesy, was frightened and fled through the doggie door to a place held no one screaming or writhing, at least in the context of the rightful ownership of things that can and have been procured at a truck stop.
And while she is not feeble by anyone’s definition, her friend is close enough to 80 to read over its shoulder, so it was with great exertion that she raced after Tootsie BooBoo to ensure that she would not be kidnapped by a hawk. That she moved so quickly out front door caused great alarm in those involved in the imbroglio in the living room. Well not enough for them to actually follow her and assist, but enough to give them pause for a moment or two before resuming previously mentioned activities.
Apparently her fear was valid as one of her previous teacup dogs, which I believe was a Poodle as it was named Poodle, was abruptly and involuntarily removed from her ownership by a hawk or a hawk-like creature. Additionally, you don’t want your almost-octogenarian mother coming to fisticuffs with anything winged, unless it’s fried on a platter or in a bucket if you’re too lazy to cook.
I am happy to report that the lady and the dog are fine but the various family members, who had been otherwise occupied at the beginning of the story, met their karmic fates once they decided to help. I won't get into details but I can report there were multiple falls into a single mud puddle, an accidental (we hope) mooning, the loss of someone's underwear (off their person or off the clothesline was not specified) and a back porch shower by water hose (due to the previously mentioned mud puddle). As someone who has previous experience with mud (voluntary or otherwise) a back porch shower is embarrassing enough when you're 8 years-old. I can only imagine it happening at 48.
So, they next time someone calls and you don’t want to talk, go ahead and answer your phone anyway. Odds are the other person doesn’t want you to interrupt them as they instigated the call and obviously have something to say. As you can see, some stories simply can’t be relayed properly in a text message. And that is all I’m saying.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
I recently read an article on CNN.com that listed the most diverse cities in America. The top 5 are all within an hour’s drive of my current home, which, as you know, is about 25 miles south of San Francisco. And diverse it is. You wouldn't know it by my church (Menlo Park Presbyterian) but the vast majority of the citizens in this area are Asian and Hispanic. And I have learned all manner of things about other cultures that I never knew. Like how there are differences between northern and southern Chinese and not just in relation to height. And how even though you have no way of distinguishing from which South and Central American country someone hails but woe be unto you if you mistakenly insinuate they are from the wrong one. And to all you politically correct people out there, I have been assured in more than one dialect that there is no place called Hispania, so the catch all ‘Hispanic’ is not any more popular than my Daddy’s designation of “brown people”.This discussion of differences and accents and all reminded me of the previous post and some of the more colorful language that my, and to my horror, Honey Boo-Boo’s, family use more often than we should. I refuse to watch that show, but grudgingly admit I have heard or used every sentence printed in those publications found by the gum, batteries and candy bars at your local grocery emporiums. I know they recently were quoted as saying 'beautimous'. I hope against hope that they do not use the term that I am loathe to admit I used at work recently.
Several of my managers and I were discussing something and I meant to use the term ‘tiny’ but instead, in a rare moment of letting my guard down, probably due to my mild Diet Snapple Peach Iced Tea addiction, I let fly a term that my family uses when referring to someone short of stature. We say ‘tee-niney’, instead of tiny. There is no way to recover from that phrase, dear friends. You can’t simply un-say it. You just have to “stop that train” so to speak, and redirect the conversation. And while I was able to steer the discourse in another direction, I feel quite sure there were tongues just a wagging when I stepped out of the room.Recently, my new management trainee stopped by to talk and asked me about my colorful language. (Hi Susan!) It seems that due to my dress, accent and sometimes folksy vernacular, she finds me intriguing, “like something out of Tennessee Williams”. As she is from the Midwest, she isn’t used to Southerners outside of their native habitat or, really, inside their native habitat. She moved here from Michigan to start her new job, not expecting to be getting such a big dose of Mississippi right here in the land of the, apparently, multi-culti heathen.
I have visited Michigan only once but I am a big fan due to Michigan being one of the most competitive Miss America states. They have had five winners including the lady who was the catalyst for the social platforms that are now required for all contestants. Kaye Lani Rae Rafko was an Oncology Nurse when she hula-danced her way to victory in 1988 and spent her year as Miss America touring the country speaking about AIDS and hospice care. I got to meet her in 2011 in Las Vegas. I know another Michiganian (I looked it up) named Jason Morgan, from when I lived in DC. He will one day be President. You heard it here first.
And I know precisely where each of these Michiganders (also acceptable) live(d) on “the mitten”. If you don’t know what that means, you have never met someone from Michigan as they will hold their hand up as if they are stopping you in the name of love and show you where they reside. If you look at a map, go ahead I’ll wait, you can see that the regular part of Michigan looks like a mitten; a giant Mrs. Field’s cookie cake of a mitten (What? I’m hungry), but a mitten nonetheless.
The other part of Michigan, called, I believe, the Upper Peninsula is part of their state although no one seems to know how or why. It may have been stolen from Canada or Wisconsin. I am imagining a frontier politician desperate for re-election, sizing up a “vacant lot” across the water and paddling over to stake claim for Michigan and using the votes of the indigenous peoples of Canada (who were kind and quiet and fond of socialized medicine and crappy music) to remain in the Senate or House or whichever one wastes taxpayer dollars.
And I said all that to say this: it’s no wonder Flint, MI (which is on the peninsula according to Michael Moore and it’s up to your political leanings whether or not you believe him) died a slow, tragic death as some towns do when the main employer (car factory) closes its doors. There was nowhere to go for fun except Wisconsin and how many times can one wear a hat made of cheese before the reality of shame seeps into your unconscious? That’s actually a bad example as I have seen these Cheeseheads (and who would voluntarily call themselves such?) each and every year in the stands at football games in the snow, bare-chested whether they should be or not.
That just doesn’t seem to happen as regularly in the South. Of course I’m talking about towns dying, not people who are inappropriately semi-nude in public. The resilience of Southern towns is admirable. These hamlets, most of which are too small to warrant inclusion on most maps, can weather any storm, literal or figurative. They will survive when there is nothing left except a store, a church and three houses. There may only be 5 people and two cows but they retain their identity and always with a sign. Even if that sign states your simultaneous entrance and exit.
Transylvania, LA is where my Mother’s people are from. Yes I know I just ended that sentence in a preposition. That one, too. Based on my last visit there in the late 1990s, there was a gas station, what used to be a cotton gin, a tiny elementary school and some houses. But they still have a post office and a bait shop and I dare you to suggest they are too tiny to be considered a town. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Cities up north lose one store and the rest of the town is immediately shuttered, all citizens fleeing as if from a natural disaster. In the South, you close the one factory in town, someone will immediately open a business making t-shirts proclaiming “Tater Junction – Useta be the home of the Sand Road Sawmill” and selling them to Yankees who are lost on vacation trying to find the Mississippi River. Of course those Yankees and the citizens of Tater Junction and surrounding communities will be in need of all and sundry, well, sundries. So they will add purveyors of drinks, food and other accoutrement (like pecan logs and pralines) and the next thing you know the Sand Road Sawmill is a flourishing mini mall full of items that would have previously been donated to the White Elephant Sale at the Tater Junction Baptist Church, but are now advertised as antiquities of Southern heritage. The manager of this antique mall is also the agent/MeeMaw of noted regional artist Lee Ellen Battenfield, who is in reality an 11-year old who placed 3rd in watercolors at the 4-H Crafts Fair.
You may be asking yourself, why someone would stay in a place like that? My answer is there is only so far most Southerners will move before they plant their feet and say, “That’s it. We’re home.” As someone who was informed by his parents (when he asked why they were re-locating to Mississippi) “because we said so”, I can attest to the fact that Southerners are not leaving God’s Country and that particular designation stops not too far north of Mississippi and not much further west than Dallas. Most of Tennessee we will take; Kentucky, we’re not so sure about. And the only thing West Virginia is good for is keeping Mississippi from being last place in education rankings. I know, I know, that’s just downright Un-Christian. Not untrue, but definitely un-Christian.
And as my Mother always said, “When you start acting like that, you know it’s time to just hush and go to bed.” And with that, I bid you good night. Well, good night in the sense that I’m stopping this post; I’ve had more than a tee-niney bit of Snapple and shall be up way past the time decent people have called it a day.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
In the last month or so I have been thinking a lot about moving. Not me actually moving but those who I’ve come into contact recently who are on the move, so to speak. I spent a wonderful day with a high school friend, Stacy O’Quin Kidd – she of the eleventy-hundred daily Facebook posts – as she was en route from Phoenix, AZ to her new home in Tacoma, WA. As someone who has moved multiple times throughout my life (unwillingly as a child, knowingly as an adult), I understand the excitement and trepidation of a new move.
My nomadic Southern Baptist parents moved us for a variety of reasons throughout my formative years. From birth through high school graduation, we lived in 18 houses in 10 cities in five states. It’s a lot, I know. I don’t remember feeling as if we were running from something. From what I could tell, with my frame of reference for reasons to move, we were chasing a good paying job for my Daddy. As my parents were of the generation that did not include children in adult conversations, we were not privy to any information prior to the general announcement of, “get in the care, we are moving to Mississippi.”
Since I have been in charge of my own life, from 1988 through today, I have lived in 25 apartments/houses in 17 cities in 12 states (including college and graduate school). Again, a lot, I know. I am also not running from anything. I used to use the excuse that I was chasing “a grade” to use government employee-ese. It’s not unlike chasing a promotion and I have moved each time for a position with increasing responsibility or more meaningful work.
Tobey Mac, a Christian artist, has a song called “Me without You” and the chorus strikes a little too close to home for me. The words are something like “(without you) I’d be packing my bags when I need to stay…” And prior to this current living situation, I really didn’t give much thought to moving. Of course, I prayed about all the moves and opportunities and it wasn’t that I made the decisions with a cavalier attitude. There were definite career-enhancing reasons. Moving from New England back to DC was for the opportunity to do good things in the education realm, which is and remains a passion of mine.
The move to CA from DC last year was the opportunity to get back to the field and make a tangible difference on a local scale, instead of theoretically on a national scale. Some of my more skeptical friends have asked me if I’m antsy since I’ve surpassed the year mark out here in the land of the heathen, but my answer is, somewhat surprising even to me, a big ‘No’. And it’s not just because I really love CA.
Before, I was always able to make a moving decision fairly quickly as I had only to gather the opinions of myself and Jesus. And I was typically already on the same page as me and Jesus responds fairly quickly, sometimes. However, now that I have an aging teenager sharing my home, I can’t be so quick to entertain ideas about moving. I can’t even entertain ideas about entertaining in my home as my Daddy is, well not exactly anti-social, but the mere thought of persons invading his space without an express invitation, medically necessary task or delivered foodstuff, puts him in a panic.
When I casually I mentioned that I might want to invite my Singles Bible Study group over for a game night. The sharp intake of breath and look on his face made me immediately reach for his inhaler. When he questioned why I was handing him his “li’l breathin’ thang” I said, “I thought you were having an episode. What’s with the face?”
When I answered in the negative to his panicky query of, “Am I gonna have to talk to all them people?” he visibly relaxed and went back to playing his electronic solitaire game. Can you come up with a more anti-social game than Solitaire? Even the name alludes to a figurative traffic cop ‘stop’ motion, keeping others at a distance. I truly feel in my heart of hearts that if he didn’t have to hang out with me due to it being my house and all, he wouldn’t miss me too much.
Well, that’s not necessarily true. He constantly complains that he feels as if he lives alone, I’m supposedly gone so much. Other than dinner with friends on Tuesdays, other than running errands for him, I am at home much more than I care to be due to the noise that emanates from his general direction. Although, in the last week or so, I have had reasonable peace and quiet at home.
His back has been bothering him and the muscle relaxers he takes (only when offered, never on his own) make him sleepy. I simply do not understand having to remind someone to take a pill that is expressly prescribed for pain when one is in pain. I came home yesterday at 3:00. He was sitting at the dining room table eating my chips and drinking his weekly Coke Zero. When I announced myself upon entering the house, as I always do, I assumed he realized that I was, in fact, in the house. As I rounded the corner between the kitchen and dining room and said, “Hey!” he jumped like he had been kicked and said, “Lord, boy, you scared the mess outta me!” Then he grabbed his back and groaned that it was killing him. When I asked, “When was the last time you took a muscle relaxer?” he said, “Yes’tidy”.
How on earth can someone not remember to take a pill that will theoretically alleviate the pain they profess to be more than they can handle? Is it me? I situate the bottle of pain pills on his placemat, next to his Solitaire game so when he has a spasm and wonders, “is there something around here to stop this pain? Perhaps a pill?” they will be directly in his eye line. Yet, he still does not remember to take them. And he’s not lying, I’ve counted them. He only takes the ones I place into his hand, wordlessly encouraging him to take it. And that works. Maybe I should do the same with clean underwear?
And he has been stating for the past couple of days that he feels too “poorly” to eat. However, upon just a round of very rudimentary snooping and questioning, he admits to having eaten the same amount of food as a normal day, just not at the scheduled meal times of 5 am, 11 am and 5 pm.
All that said, I brought him into the conversation because I now have to take into consideration what I will do with The Dad-ster were I to move in the future. Now, I am truly happy with my current job and my current location and I have no plans to leave, but as I am a mere lad of 41 and 7/8ths (birthday in one month, buy my book as a present to yourself. If you’ve already purchased my book, then buy yourself something fabulous from a thrift store in my honor) I figure I will move again at some point in the next 20 years, which is right about the time I anticipate retiring and starting my second career as the President of Southwest Mississippi Community College. I figure, by the time I am 61 and 7/8ths, I will be cold-natured enough to deal with that lovely Land Mass heat (you know I couldn’t just leave that particular stone unturned).
In the days leading up both the landfall of Hurricane Isaac and the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Weather Channel allegedly designated my home state as the “Land Mass between New Orleans and Mobile”. Whether they did or not I don’t know. What I do know is that Mississippians didn’t curl up in a ball and cry. Oh no, that is not the way we do things. We took to the web because we actually have internet in the South, and computer literacy, too, contrary to what some people seem to believe. There are, at this very minute, a good many of my fellow Southerners, wringing every last dollar they can selling the t-shirts they printed with all manner of logos and plays on the phrase “Land Mass” and using any remaining pent-up energy to drink, overeat and/or relentlessly post updates on Facebook after watching their SEC teams dominate the various sporting events this weekend.
And for that I am truly indebted. Now I don’t have to suffer through ESPN with my Daddy. I can just wait to see their posts about what ref made a terrible call or what coach is poorly attired and my water cooler chat is primed and ready for the next work day, although with the holiday, I will have to wait until Tuesday. The programs I watched so far this weekend, the season premiere of Dr. Who and the Miss Venezuela pageant, aren’t typical subjects for water cooler topics as I do not work at a Silicon Valley tech start-up or a beauty shop in Venezuela. And while Dr. Who talk is seemingly popular with my Facebook crowd, my Daddy thinks it’s because I have nerdier friends. From him, consider it a compliment, dear readers. I do.
And I understand the need for the media to find “real” people for interviews on TV. And, yes, there are those Southerners who are at present sitting between two double-named men at a bar that used to be a single-wide trailer. And there is probably a woman named after an alcoholic beverage or soap opera character on her way there once she puts the final coat of shellac on her teased hair and smokes one more Marlboro Light 100. However, to designate them as the spokespersons for all Southerners is mean-spirited and un-Christian. You can rest assured that we are as horrified at the prospect of these people talking for us, even if they are related much more closely than we will admit without somebody pulling out that big old Bible with the family tree in the front that sits on top of the piano in Aunt Maudie’s front room.
And that begs the question, why on earth would anyone want to ask the opinion of someone who hasn’t been sober or employed since Carter was in the White House other than to poke fun? Those involved in TV production love, love, love to take the person with the least amount of teeth and the most questionable DNA and parade them around for the rest of the country as a typical Southerner. And that just chaps my hide, do you hear me? Especially if you’ve ever seen an episode of the recently, and thankfully, cancelled ‘Jersey Shore’, all you have to do is change the designation of double-named men to those whose names end in ‘io’ or ‘ie’ and who have more hair gel-based products on their person than felonious Johnson & Johnson lab tech and you have the same level of ignorance on parade.
And you can think what you want about us. We know who we are; we of the literate South. Of gentility and respect and rules about the wearing of white. Of charming accents and biting wit. Of "yes, ma'ams" and "no, sirs" and other manners that seem to escape our fellow Americans. If CNN and TWC and other media outlets had to navigate a section of the country where toothless hillbillies were truly as ubiquitous as they’d have everyone believe, then they wouldn’t have had access to satellite feeds, comfortable bed and breakfasts and good food.
However, most Southerners (apparently not me) don’t let that sort of thing bother us. They simply smile and shake their heads and maybe even roll their eyes just when someone named Catfish, Cornbread or other foodstuff makes a statement that is too inane for comment. And it’s because we know they don’t know any better because they weren’t raised right. And you can’t blame Tater Red or Biscuit for wanting to be the center of attention. He’s been trying to figure out how to get on TV since half of his family was on ‘America's Funniest Home Videos’ for the tape of that incident with a backhoe, four dozen Roman candles and a Shetland Pony. The other half was on ‘Cops’ for the same incident.
As someone who has lived all over America, I can assure you that there are stupid people everywhere and my New Jersey example was but one geographical simile. Unfortunately, these other states don’t get as much press as our characters do because, I guess, we’re just so darn colorful. One day when they option my book for a TV movie and I get a big fat check and I cash that check and it clears the bank and I spend that money, I assure you I will go all Julia Sugarbaker on them. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?