Fourth of July 2011

Yes, even though I post misanthropic things about government and politics at times, I still celebrate the Fourth of July. Well, sort of. I mean, I go to celebrations, and I enjoy them. I don’t feel particularly patriotic about it, and never have, with the exception of July 4, 2002, when everyone was still feeling patriotic on a daily basis after the events of 9/11/01. I bought a Boston Pops CD then, and the music made me cry. It was a good release. I still have it on my iPod, and I listen to it every Fourth of July, but it hasn’t stirred the same emotion since then.

This year was my first Fourth of July in Alabama. One of my friends’ coworkers invited us out to her house at Lake Martin for a get-together involving grilled meats, tossed footballs in the driveway, and jubilant children passing out tiny flags for waving. As it turned out, the husband of said coworker has family and roots in North Carolina, although they came here via Michigan most recently. We had a great time talking about differences in barbecue and between the Deep South and the “regular” South. How people are mistaken when they call a cookout a “barbecue,” how we both get challenged on whether North Carolina is even “the South” on a regular basis. (Seriously, have you people never heard of the Mason-Dixon Line? Can you not hear the way I speak?) There were some other coworkers of theirs present with their families and some neighbors from the street passing in and out.

I am a big fan of being near any body of water, no matter how large or small. So, I was very excited when we decided to caravan from their house on a small peninsula down to the neighborhood docks. What a beautiful spot of Earth! We sat out over the water, drinking beers, watching the sunset, craning our necks up at amateur fireworks being set off all around us, and watching kids and dogs swim merrily in the lake nearby. It was breezy and balmy and felt amazing. I can totally see why people dig living out there in the heat of an Alabama summer.

Lake Martin is about 40 minutes from where we live in Auburn, mostly two-lane back roads with nary a house in sight. It always sort of amazes me at how rural everything is here as soon as we get out of the city limits, particularly going west. I don’t feel like I live in the middle of nowhere, but it only takes driving for fifteen minutes to discover that in fact, I do.

According to my research, Lake Martin is actually a lot bigger than I thought it was when I was there. It’s about 40,000 acres and is actually one of the largest artificial lakes in the United States. I’m guessing I thought it was smaller because of the way it’s shaped, dipping in and out of many small peninsulas. I kept thinking I was looking across to the other side of the lake, but I think I was just looking across to other peninsulas. In a way, it reminded me of Lake Lure, which I grew up near in North Carolina, but without the mountains. Only Lake Lure is about 800 acres. Okay, so really not at all the same except they’re both lakes with houses and boats and docks.

Very interestingly, both Lake Lure and Lake Martin feature a rock formation called “Chimney Rock.” Here’s where I get to brag about mine. Alabama’s Chimney Rock is about 60 feet tall, and people jump off it into the water. Which sounds really frickin’ fun. But our Chimney Rock, in North Carolina, is 315 feet, and sits at a mountain-top elevation of 2,280 feet. You do not jump off that. You stand at the top and survey your 75-mile panoramic view. And yes, while a couple people have died jumping off Alabama’s Chimney Rock over the years, and it’s always possible because shit happens, I guarantee you if you jump off our Chimney Rock in North Carolina, you will absolutely die. No two ways about it.

Here’s a pic of Chimney Rock in Alabama:

Here’s the Chimney Rock I grew up with in North Carolina:

Incidentally, I think the North Carolina one looks a lot more like a chimney than Alabama’s. Although for years I’ve thought it looked more like a penis than anything else. Juuuuuuust sayin’!

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name…and They’re Always Glad You Came

There is a couple in our friend circle that everyone wants to be like: Sean and Kalli. They live in a communal house with a few other roommates. Kalli is an artist, and Sean is in a band. When you arrive, everyone hugs you. When you leave, everyone tells you they love you, just in case you A) didn’t know or B) die on the way home. There are big dogs to jump and kiss you when you walk in the back door, which is always unlocked in case anyone they know needs anything. Kalli’s artwork hangs in the hallway, and Sean has a music room with concert posters and carpet tiles arranged creatively on the walls.

They have turned a potentially awful back yard right beside the interstate into a weekend oasis for friends, drinks, and grilling, complete with twinkle lights, hammocks, and a water feature they made from an old trombone. Sean’s special secret recipe mojitos line the fridge in Sprite bottles, and you are to help yourself to that, as well as the honey mustard chicken he’s been grilling for two hours with his brother-in-law. Kalli will be wearing a piece of jewelry she has made, probably involving an owl and feathers, and telling an incredible story about ghosts in one of their childhood homes, or about Sean’s mom yelling at them through the door about condoms while they had sex in his room in high school.

There is much drinking and smoking, eating and talking, and laughing. Sean’s mom or brother-in-law or sister or some of Kalli’s brothers may be present. There is an iPod on the table playing the product of Sean’s band’s latest recording session of reggae. Someone with a generic name shows up, and you realize you know them, but you didn’t know Sean and Kalli knew them. Then you remember that Sean and Kalli know everyone. And maybe you keep randomly meeting people they know because it’s a sign that you both know good people.You may meet their friends from high school, because the group never really split up, even though they live in various places. Or you may meet someone who can eat a corn cob in 22 seconds, or someone who owns the local independent bookstore slash coffee shop. You will “know” them all, already.

I always say, “They’re good people” about those I really respect, admire, or connect with. But I think it’s just as much about being “real” as it is being “good.” So maybe I should say “They’re real good people.” Sean and Kalli are good people. They would be reliable emergency contacts in the event of a dead battery or your one phone call for bail. But they’re also real people. What you see is what you get. Take it or leave it. (But they love you anyway.)

We all talk about how we would someday like to have the Sean and Kalli house, where there is always something going on, everyone is always welcome, food and drink abound, love and kindness permeate, there is always music and laughter, and you are accepted — no, welcomed —  just as you are. We know they won’t be around forever — once Kalli finishes her program this fall, they may move away. And we want to continue their tradition of real hospitality on our own. I feel so fortunate to know people like this, who make you feel like you do when you listen to your favorite song.

Time to Move All Our Bad Habits Outside

I feel like I’ve really been neglecting my blog lately. I have a lot of updates, but I never remember to blog about stuff anymore. I know hardly anyone reads this anyway, and so it serves as more of a diary with pictures for my own purposes. But even diaries need updating now and then.

1. I got my hair cut! For normal people, this is not a big deal, but when you are like me, and you don’t pay attention to things like hair, this is huge. I got five inches chopped off and a new style. The new style is nothing major — just sort of an update with a side part and long layers — but I feel like a new person. My standard routine for the past many years has been getting three inches cut off the bottom when it got long enough to get stuck in my armpits. Which is annoying. But I now look like I am actually sort of trying to look hip and decent, which is cool. LOL! To be honest, I look more like I did in high school than I have since 1996. But getting carded regularly for cigarettes at my current unmentionable age has convinced me this is, in fact, awesome. Here is a pic:

2. Camping awesomeness. We went camping a few weeks ago right when it started to be warm and springy, with a group of friends in Tuskegee, which I always try to refer to as “Tuckasegee” until someonei reminds me that’s in North Carolina. Weird random fact: Lionel Richie was born in Tuskegee. I’m not sure what other claims to fame it has except that there is a pretty cool national forest there, and it’s only about 20 minutes from here. Every schoolkid growing up in North Carolina learns that the state has three distinct regions: mountains, piedmont, and coastal. Here in Alabama, there are four or five, and all I know so far is that we live in the river region, although learning more about Alabama geography has definitely been on my to-do list for some time now. Apparently it’s called that because there are a lot of rivers here. If you can imagine that logic. The place we went camping in Tuskegee National Forest was by a river, although I have no idea which one. We went with a group of friends to a secluded spot they love and refer to as “Rock Beach” although it doesn’t officially have a name, and the road you take off the main highway to get close to it has no name either, and you just have to know to look for it in the dip in the four-lane, off to the side. This is my kind of camping. The beach is by one of the lower parts of the river with a wide pebble shore, backed by pine forest for about a mile in between the river and the nearest road. But it’s an easy hike in, with just a few hills and valleys and nothing too strenuous. A good thing, since we were carrying gallons of mojitos in Sprite bottles along with us. It will definitely be a place I go back to repeatedly, especially when it gets so hot this summer. Which reminds me, I need to get the rattlesnake vaccine. And no, I didn’t know there was such a thing either until I moved here and started hanging out with outdoorsy people. Evidently, it is only minimally effective — maybe like 4 out of 10 people bitten still die — but better safe than sorry, right?

“Rock Beach.”

All our tents.

Friends by the camp fire.

3. Birdy discovered she can swim!  There is a pretty awesome city park just down the street from us where I take Birdy to hike around. This park has a small lake, which is home to two very pretty mallard ducks. I have named them Ethel and Frances, because they are always together, and they always appear to be chatting as they skim around the lake side by side. Birdy has always been a big fan of creeks, where she enjoys plopping her belly down and just sitting in the cool water while her tail floats. And she has been to the beach once, where she discovered the joys of running on the sand but was a little frightened and perplexed by the water trying to chase her. But I had never seen her try to swim before, until she spied Ethel and Frances one day in the lake at the park, and plunged in to chase them halfway across it. Alas, even slowpoke ducks are still too fast for Birdy to catch them while swimming. So she ends up trailing about two feet behind them and following them around in figure-eights. They don’t seem to pay much attention to her. On days when we don’t see Ethel and Frances, I throw big sticks in the lake from a little sandy beach. While Bird won’t dive in after the sticks, she will wade in carefully and then swim out to retrieve them for me, sometimes returning with bigger ones than what I tossed in. Evidently this is yet another way she has adopted some of my personality traits.

Birdy with Ethel and Frances.

4. My first Deep South music festival!  Last weekend, we drove about 20 minutes away, out to Waverly (population 184) for the 280 Boogie music festival, an annual event held to commemorate the celebration that occurred when the state decided NOT to send the big highway straight through the middle of a tiny little town. This year was the 11th annual Boogie, and it was well worth the ten bucks we paid to spend the day there. (This was also the first year they’ve ever charged admission, so I heard a lot of hemming and hawing about that from people who had been before.) For ten bucks, we spent a glorious spring day, warm and breezy, sitting on a blanket under enormous black walnut trees, drinking mojitos, eating crawfish and barbecue, and listening to several really good bands while chatting with our friends. I wouldn’t really call it a hippie festival, although there were some people wearing slightly hippie-ish clothing there. It was a pretty good cross-section of the population, I think. All ages, all walks of life. At one point, my friend wandered off in search of lunch, and came back with a new pottery coffee mug for me (I collect them) and Nag Champa soap, which I had been looking for recently without his knowledge. Afterward we headed over to Sean and Kalli’s house for more socializing and a cook-out.

The music stage at the Old 280 Boogie.

Gold Shoes, Chicken Salad, and Stingrays

Life in Auburn continues to be pretty entertaining. I am still doing a lot of unpacking and arranging, running errands, and doing laundry. A lot of laundry. But in between the mundane aspects of getting settled into a new place (like needing to go buy something ridiculous like a dust pan, because I expressly remember choosing not to pack something that costs one dollar to save space), I’ve found a few fun things to do as well.

A couple weekends ago, I went to a Valentine’s Masquerade Ball, which was a benefit for a local nonprofit arts group. It was held at a local historic property called Pebble Hill — an antebellum cottage with great Civil War history that is now owned by the university and houses their Center for Arts and Humanities. We went with a big group of friends, and it was so much fun to get dressed up for something for the first time in a long time. I generally don’t enjoy being dressed up and prefer my tattered hemp pants and long-sleeve t-shirts to hose and heels. But every once in a while, it is kinda nice to feel all pretty and feminine and dare I say hot, to get dolled up and accessorize and play that role for an evening.

Adding to the excitement was the fact that this event required an arts-and-crafts session AND thrift store shopping. Carter and I spent an afternoon making our masks together. We bought parts at Hobby Lobby, like the eye covering, handles, and decorations like feathers, flowers, berries, and ribbon. And glorious things like glitter, paint, and glue. Putting the parts together required a little elbow grease. I got to bust out my jewelry making supplies to wire things together. I also got to wield my Dremel (one of my favorite things in life) to cut some of Carter’s metal flower stems and to drill holes in her mask for wiring. I really wish we had filmed it — Carter holding a stem of fake flowers as far away from her face as possible, and me slicing into it with my diamond-chip Dremel bit, sparks flying, trying to shield my eyes. Both of us laughing hysterically at the scene. It was like freaking light-saber action! I felt so powerful! God, I love my Dremel.

I found the perfect red belt to go with my outfit for a dollar at Goodwill and selected an awesome retro-fabulous 1960s-esque dress at Sears for $25 — black brocade, with a knee-length full skirt and cinched waist. Black alone is a little boring to me, so I found a cute pair of red patent-leather peep toe pumps, and accessorized further with a black-white-red chunky bangle bracelet and a white scarf, which I only sort of carried around but did not wear. It did come in handy when taking smoke breaks in the chilly night air, so I wrapped it around my shoulders and felt good that I had an actual practical accessory to my outfit. I have an awesome black beaded clutch that is very turn- of- the-(20th)-century that went perfectly. So the red belt I found at Goodwill actually was from the 1960s — geometric resin buckle on wide elastic — and it accentuated the cinched waist of my dress and complemented the red of my shoes and in my bracelet. When I was completely dressed, with smoky eye-makeup finished, my date said, “You look hot. Is that supposed to be an ‘Alice in Wonder-ho’ look?” I could have died, I laughed so hard! Leave it to a man to equate “retro” with “fairy tale.” Actually, I could totally see why it reminded him of the dress Alice wore, white with the blue sash. And why my red-and-black motif seemed to say “reminiscent of sweet and innocent, but actually fierce and sexy.” I think I’m okay with that! Truth be told, it probably sums up my mojo pretty well. We all had an awesome time enjoying the performance art, music, open bar, and extensive buffet, and afterward we ended up at the Olde Auburn Ale House, a cool bar downtown with live music, not wanting to take off our finery too early.

I’ve decided that so far my favorite restaurant here is Chappy’s Deli. They have a lot of Southern charm, complete with an explanation for being closed on Sundays on the door (“Resting and being with family”). The reason it’s my favorite is that they have the best chicken salad I’ve ever tasted. I’m a connoisseur of chicken salad, among a few other things, like French onion soup, french fries, salmon, grilled chicken sandwiches, guacamole, and fried oysters. These are things I will order over and over again, at various restaurants around the globe in hopes of finding the perfect and best one in each category. It’s like my own private Food Network program that I’m living out, and no one cares but me. Chappy’s chicken salad is perfectly Southern — creamy, smooth (not chunky), without too many additional ingredients to add interest. Essentially mayonnaise, shredded chicken, maybe some finely diced celery and onion, salt, pepper, and a dash of lemon juice. This is served on a kaiser roll, with lettuce, tomato, smoked cheddar, and bacon. Oh, my lord. Best. Chicken salad. Ever.

One day last week, I drove up to Atlanta to meet a friend who was in town interviewing for a fellowship. We spent a really awesome day at the Georgia Aquarium. I absolutely LOVE aquariums. I’ve written here before about my water fascination, and I really think I must have been an ocean dwelling creature in another life because I just connect with it so much. As a kid, I always really loved interactive museums, and as an adult, they’re still one of my favorite things. Museums of any kind, really. I can remember visiting Disney World as a kid and being somewhat disappointed that it was mainly entertainment and not so much educational. And their educational exhibits are kinda boring. I was that nerdy kid who wanted more “Hall of Presidents” type things and less “Tea Cups.”

Anyway, the Georgia Aquarium was amazing. Usually the otters are my favorite, and I was a little disappointed that two of the three otter installations were on hiatus at the time of my visit. The Charleston aquarium has great otters, full of personality. The only ones we saw were trying to nap while their pack leader pranced around preening atop rocks and looking cute for the onlookers. I was very happy to get to go down the kids’ whale slide, as the children waiting in line in front of me kept looking back at me like, “What’s she doing here?” And I got to pet a stingray, which came to me when I beckoned it with fingers underwater and spewed a stream of water at me as I stroked its fins. Who knew stingrays were somewhat intelligent? Not me. We saw beluga whales desperately trying to engage in coitus as if on cue when the exhibit’s lecturer began his spiel. Who knew whale dicks were enormous,, and seem to come out of nowhere, like a dog’s lipstick unrolling? Not me. Although it seems appropriate. I mean, they are whales. Observing the reactions of the people around us at the time was priceless, though. We saw whale sharks that were bigger than the beluga whales, and stingrays that I couldn’t have wrapped my arms around, giant grouper, dragon fish (they look like really colorful and really lazy seahorses), sea turtles (love them!), lion fish, and a whole hall of Amazonian fish and reptiles. It seems like every time I go to an aquarium they’re doing an Amazon installation. Which is cool, because I get to relive my trip to Brazil. There were lots of other exhibits going on that you had to pay extra to go into, but sometime I’d like to do all the rest of it. I’d particularly like to see the dolphins after watching “The Cove.” I have a new respect and admiration for them now, even beyond what I did previously.

It was also great wandering around and catching up with my old friend from high school, who I only see on rare occasions nowadays. It reminded me that some friends are forever, even after things change immensely for both parties in life. There are some people you just connect with, feel at home with, and enjoy every second with. No explanations necessary. No buffering of the true self needed. Birds of some sort of feather…perhaps a spiritual sort. My soul wants to connect with everyone, but it only gets to experience the real connection every few years or so. As a result, I spend a lot of time feeling a sense of loss for the ones who didn’t qualify. But there are few better feelings than seeing one of those old soul connections again, and being reminded that it does happen sometimes if we let it, and we’re looking. I cherish all of mine…the special, the few.

Sweet Home Alabama

As a lifelong resident of North Carolina, I always thought of myself as being from “the South.” My friend, who was born in Alabama, and grew up in North Carolina, but came back to Alabama via a brief stint in Florida, has always tried to explain to me how “the South” is not just “the South.” He has always said the “Deep South” is different, and I always blew that off as nonsense stereotyping. He said that to people in Alabama, North Carolina might as well be “the North.” And I thought, “Oh, please.”

After just a week in Alabama, I can safely say that I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. Things are different down here. Probably in some ways not for the best, but in many ways, better, at least in my mind. Here’s a brief list of things I’ve noticed in just one week.

1) Everyone is so friendly. Now, most people who visit anywhere in the South from anywhere else would say this. But I would say that it is all very dependent on the specific area. In Asheville, I found that people were much more ready to have a conversation with a stranger than in Winston. And certainly in Rutherfordton you will get someone’s life story (as well as that of their son-in-law) while standing in line at the Walmart pharmacy. One of the first things I noticed here was that everyone makes eye contact, smiles, and says hello. Retail clerks genuinely wish you a blessed day or confide something personal in you for the two minutes you stand before them. People are also very nosy. If you go to the post office, you should be prepared to report the purpose of your business in front of everyone else in the post office, before you get to the counter. Someone comes around and asks. One of the first things friends told me was to get ready to be asked insanely inappropriate questions in public on a regular basis and figure out how to deal with that. Their approach is to basically make shit up all the time, so that they appear to be cooperating but never divulge any real information. The people they work with know next to nothing about them, but they all think they do, and they all have a different idea as to what it is. This is because they never confirm or deny anything and let people make their own assumptions. They find this very entertaining. They enjoy testing the philosophical concept of “It doesn’t matter what the truth is; it only matters what you can make someone believe is the truth.”

2) It is much, much warmer here. The day I left Winston, I was bundled to the hilt in a down parka, fleece hat, gloves, and coffee for added warmth. There was still snow on the ground from the last storm. Since I’ve been in Alabama, I’ve been completely comfortable in a light fleece jacket. During the day, one could conceivably wear shorts right now. It’s only when the sun goes down that I need anything for additional warmth, and even then it feels like one of North Carolina’s chilly spring days right before it bursts into summer. I’ve been here in the summer, and I know this is not going to be a good thing when the humidity hits and all the gum and chap stick in my car melts into mush, and when you step outside and can hardly inhale because the air is so heavy and wet. But right now, it’s very nice.

3) Corn fritters. I had never in my life even heard of a corn fritter before. I thought it was something like a hush puppy. But no, it is a ball of creamy corn — whole kernels of yellow corn floating in the creamed corn soup — then breaded and deep fried, and it is heavenly. We had this as an appetizer at Niffer’s Place, an Auburn institution, and I thought it was specific to the restaurant. Then, I saw frozen corn fritters at the grocery store alongside the mozzarella sticks and pizza bites. Whaaaaat?

4) Alabama-style barbecue. North Carolina is pretty famous for its barbecue, and there are several different styles depending on the region. I like the vinegary Eastern NC barbecue the best, as opposed to the tomato-based Western style of my home region. There’s also a mustard sauce particular to the low country of South Carolina that I like a lot. Alabama has a couple different types of barbecue sauce — a smoky-sweet hickory that is reddish brown but still involves no tomatoes, and a mustardy-vinegar, like a cross between Eastern NC and low country SC, but thicker and creamier. As much as I like NC barbecue, I would have to say that at this point in time, Alabama barbecue is the best I’ve ever tasted. That mustardy-vinegar cream sauce that was ladled on my plate of sliced pork at Mike and Ed’s was divine.

5) Crazy rain/storms. It rains here quite a bit, maybe because it’s close to the coast. But it can be a torrential downpour one minute, and half an hour later, it will have stopped, and it’s fairly dry. Also, this place brings new meaning to “severe thunderstorm.” Wind, hail, rain, so powerful you can’t see through it, like a warm, wet blizzard. Approximately six hours and a few downed trees later, it looks like a blue-sky paradise again.

6) Alcohol. Alcohol costs more here because there is something called a “sin tax” on things like booze and cigarettes and other sinful indulgences. And yet, there is more alcohol being consumed here than anywhere I’ve ever lived. Yes, it’s a college town, but I’ve lived in college towns before, and never have I encountered the level of picked-over beer that I have seen here. If you go to buy alcohol after 5 pm, be prepared to settle for crap, because that’s what’s left. Party preparation has to begin early.

7) Ladies and Gentlemen. Gender roles are apparently much more strict here than elsewhere in the South. Much to my surprise, I like it very much. Whereas my independent self once would have taken offense at someone’s insinuation that I was less capable as a female in the world, I now actually appreciate it when multiple men vie for the opportunity to open doors for me, let me go ahead of them in line, pump my gas, or even tip their hat. Because I am a lady, and apparently that’s how gentlemen are supposed to treat ladies. It’s a little like being in the 19th century. But maybe I had a past life during that era that really suited me, because I am totally down with it. No, please, go ahead and dote on me just because I’m a girl. I enjoy being catered to, and I have never experienced that before. I believe that the men see this behavior not as a slight to my inferior gender, but as a sign of respect and safekeeping. Something akin to the respect for the divine “goddess,” the sacred female, that primitive peoples enjoyed. At least, that’s how I prefer to look at it, and I don’t think it’s far off the mark. I am woman, hear me roar? That’s good, but “You are woman, and beautiful, and sacred,” is a little better. Respect is actually a concept that people talk about. I was at a party last weekend and mentioned that I have one male neighbor who will only talk to me when he knows my male roommate is home. A number of the guys at the party responded very quickly in saying, “That’s being respectful.” I agree, I suppose, but it still struck me as strange until they explained it. And now that I know people actually think about stuff like that here, I appreciate it.

8) Central Time Zone. It’s a little weird to be living in a different time zone from most of my friends and family. At this point, my body is still on Eastern time, so I am staying up later and sleeping later than I think I should be, but then when I realize what time I physically feel like it is, it all makes sense. We are very close (about 20 minutes) to the Eastern/Central border, so depending on where you are, sometimes cell phones have a nasty habit of resetting themselves to what they perceive to be correct. This proves to be problematic for detecting when exactly you may have missed that last text message or if you rely on your phone as an alarm clock, which I have done for a long time. I may actually need to buy a real alarm clock now that plugs into the wall. The main weird thing is the light. The light is the same as in Eastern zone, but just at different times of the day. That’s been a bit weird to get used to. Three pm doesn’t look like it’s “supposed to” outside.

9) Slow driving. Although some people like to say I drive like a bat out of hell, I maintain that I drive no more crazily than anyone else. I am not a speed demon, particularly. But if I am in a hurry, I will punch the gas maybe a little too hard trying not to be late. Around here, everyone drives so slow. I consistently go five over the speed limit, and I am flying past people at that speed. I’m lucky if I get behind someone actually doing the speed limit, instead of a few miles per hour under the limit. I keep wondering why this is. A different type of respect for the law? An attitude towards life that allows one to slow down and enjoy being alive instead of rushing to the next thing/place as quickly as possibly? I have to say, even though I have been known to talk about wanting to live in a big city and do enjoy that fast pace of everything when visiting them, I kinda like living in a place where life goes a little slower. I never really noticed that slowness growing up in a very small Southern town. I don’t think we had that, particularly.

Other great things so far…Auburn is an awesome little college town that reminds me a lot of Chapel Hill, and seems to be pretty cultural and diverse and open-minded so far. There are actually hippies here, and places that remind me of Asheville (like little bookstores and coffee shops and bead/yarn shops with creaky wood floors), tons of cool bars and restaurants, good places for walking dogs (parks), tons of old houses with character, and lots of people up for hanging out. Auburn has a preeminent veterinary school, so there are tons of animal lovers and vet offices, and anywhere that has an abundance of animal lovers is all right with me. Politically, I was a little worried about being in the middle of red-state America, but today I drove by a local mechanic’s shop whose sign bore the words “infowars.com” on one side and something about a sale on the other side. As someone who knows that website well, I was pretty happy to see them promoting their support publicly, and to know that there are people everyone who are seeking out their own information instead of relying on mainstream whatever to guide them. You never can tell where you’re going to encounter an open mind. I probably wouldn’t have thought south Alabama would be the place that would come closest in my experience to the liberal bastion that is Asheville.

But all this sums up to…I love it here so far! And I am very happy with it as a landing spot for the time being. Never know what the future will hold, but so far this is just what I needed. I feel like the universe leads us to things/experiences/places/situations/people. I feel like I was led here. Maybe the reason(s) are not yet clear, but I’m listening. And enjoying the ride.

Adventure in the Heart of Dixie

The big news in my life at the moment is that I just moved to…wait for it…Alabama! Everything happened so quickly, and has been so consuming for the last two or three weeks, I have not had time to sit down or process, much less blog about it. But I have some down time tonight, so I thought it was time to catch up my limited readership on my life.

One day about three weeks ago, I realized I needed to make a decision about my living situation. Since being laid off in September and surviving on unemployment benefits, I got to the point where it was no longer very realistic for me to continue living in my house in Winston, paying high rent. I could have moved back to Rutherfordton to live in my grandmother’s now-empty house rent-free. But that idea didn’t really appeal to me, and the thought of feeling isolated there was seriously bringing me down. Around that same time I got four good job prospects dropped in my lap that all happened to be in Auburn. Which just also happens to be where some of my friends are.

Upon hearing this news, they said, “Why don’t you just move down here now? You’d be paying a third of what you pay now. If you get one of those jobs, awesome, and if not, you can keep looking for stuff in this area, or Atlanta.” Atlanta is only about an hour and a half away, so interviewing would be much easier, and commuting an actual possibility if a job was offered to me there. At the time of that conversation, I was dreamily saying, “Yeah, that would be great,” while refraining from seriously entertaining the notion of a move that big. A couple days  later, after thinking it over, I decided that was exactly what I would do. What I wanted to do.

Two days later I found an amazing, perfect apartment just a few blocks from campus, on Craigslist.

Two weeks after that, I had cleaned out my entire house, taken six carloads of stuff to Goodwill, disposed of 5 bags of garbage, sent my large furniture to storage, and had my car packed to the brim. One Alabama friend came up to get me and help with cleaning and last minute things, and we packed his car full as well and drove back down together last weekend. It was a ridiculously miserable trip, 8+ hours in the rain at night. What I have previously described as an easy trip was made longer by heavy, slowed cars, an inability to see out my rear-view mirror, and lack of sleep in recent weeks catching up to me on I-85 at 2:00 in the morning.

We stopped halfway for Starbucks, and I got my standard double shot, and even that was not enough to prevent me from having to slap myself awake a few times. We were trying to text each other about songs on the radio or telling jokes or proclaiming joyously each state line or landmark “checkpoint” we’d established, and eventually we both had brain meltdown and couldn’t even do that. We stopped just over the state line in Alabama at a Welcome Center to pee sometime in the middle of the night, and when I walked in, I was cheerily greeted by an old black security guard and a chipper white lady with long fingernails and big hair, with “Sweet Home Alabama” playing on the speaker system. Like I had walked into a FREAKING HOLLYWOOD MOVIE. At 3:30 am. Twilight Zone. Doo-doo-doo-doo!

So I’ve officially been in Auburn for a week now, and it’s pretty awesome. Obviously, every place has its ups and downs, and the trick is to find a place where the balance of those is one you can tolerate, where you don’t feel the scale tipping too far over on the down end. So far, I like the balance here. I also think there is something deep inside me that responds to living closer to the ocean. We’re still a couple hours away from the Gulf, but there is a feeling I like about being that close. I love water.

We still haven’t finished unpacking boxes or putting furniture together. We’re basically living out of the kitchen, bathroom, and one bedroom until we can find the time to finish unpacking everything and get organized. With my roommate’s work and school schedule this is not as easy as one might hope. His life occurs in odd increments and at crazy hours.

The first week was a bit of an adjustment period for both of us. I have lived by myself for several years, and it takes a little getting used to living with someone again. Luckily, we’re both very laid back, and it takes a lot to ruffle our feathers. I really enjoyed living alone…but I feel like I need someone watching to keep me in check on things like keeping the sink from piling with dishes or neglecting to vacuum up dog hair for a week or two too long. As an only child, I value and enjoy my alone time, and should I ever be left as the only person on earth, I am very certain I would be able to entertain myself alone just fine and not lose my mind because of the solitude.

I love spending time with other people, having great conversations with friends, and connecting with people on a personal level. But if I get out of the habit of socializing, I forget to begin again, and honestly don’t feel a lot of need for it. I can be rather guarded and hermit-y, and sometimes I think I avoid too much socializing because of how I feel when friendships change and wane, like they always do. I dislike surface-y encounters, even if it’s a surface-y encounter with a good friend, and I almost feel like it’s a waste of time to spend time talking to someone if we can’t have what I consider a “real” conversation. I really dislike the amount of “real” conversations that happen in life. I want to know what you’re thinking and feeling, and to understand your experience as a person in this world, not hear platitudes you are mindlessly vocalizing because it’s what we call “polite conversation.” So, it is definitely good for me to have someone around who socializes more easily and frequently than I, who encourages me to get out of the house and do something fun, even when I don’t feel like I need to. I need to stay in practice, because I feel more balanced when I do it regularly and also make room for my own alone time. Everything in moderation…

So thus begins my new adventure. It was time! My restless soul needed to move, and so far, so good. I never expected to end up in Alabama of all places, or to have antlers on the wall of my apartment. It is funny how life takes you places you don’t expect. I’m glad that’s one of the things I like most about living.

Aging Family Ties

Lately I’ve been pretty consumed by driving back and forth from Winston to Rutherfordton (and a few trips to Auburn in between). I’ve been cleaning out my grandmother’s house for my mom, because my grandmother has gone into a nursing home and will never live there  again. My parents own the house because of legal arrangements made before my grandfather died 11 years ago.

So, the nursing home arrangement has resulted in a family response that is almost like dealing with a death in the family. Simply because my grandmother’s life in that house is over now, and now my parents are left with the reality of processing the remnants physically. And its fate remains undetermined at this point, although we, as a family, bat around a lot of ideas — renting, selling, remodeling, etc.

It’s been very hard on my mom, as it basically means the dissolution of her childhood home. She has cried a lot, seeing a lot of memories vanish out the door into a truck bound for Goodwill, rooms empty out, and her childhood swept clean. She is the first generation in her family to put anyone in a nursing home. When she was growing up, she never had to go through any type of situation like this, because when a great-grandparent or grandparent became infirm, they came to live with their children, in the family home. She grew up with multiple generations living in a house at a time, as did her parents and grandparents. I don’t know if it was because of a lack of facilities at those times, or a lack of money for paying for said facilities, or a deep-rooted idea that family was to care for family until their dying day in whatever way possible. Whichever reason, that’s just the way things were back then.

My parents married during a recessed economy much like the one we have now, and they lived with my grandparents for a time until they were able to purchase a house cheaply from my great-grandfather, Phin. Phin also lived in my grandparents’ house for the last years of his life, after my parents had married and had a child. He died when I was eight, still living with my grandparents. He never lived in a nursing home or facility. He never lost his mind, either.

There has been familial and other opposition to my mother’s decision to seek professional care for my grandmother. But there is no way either of them would have been able to tolerate living in the same house at this point. And what we’ve all seen since she has moved is that she is much better off in terms of personal safety. Before, when she lived alone, she fell twice, and was not able to take care of normal household maintenance in the way she needed to. Since moving, she’s fallen once and reluctantly uses a walker now. She also spends most days staring out the window in her room, going to bed at 2:00 pm, and declining to participate in any of the social activities provided by the home where she lives now.

It’s not a typical nursing home. It doesn’t smell of urine and despondency. It’s more active than most, more upbeat. There is a live-in dog who makes the rounds visiting and getting love. He is a brindle boxer named Sam. My grandmother calls him Sam-Bo. She tries to introduce us to him every time we visit as if we’ve never seen him before. And she calls to her neighbors passing in the hall, as if this is the first visit, the first opportunity to show off her family. Every visit is like the first visit. Her mind doesn’t retain recent events. She lives internally. She often mentions people who died before I was born, as if I ought to know them. She doesn’t care about making friends or taking part in Everybody Wins Bingo or Banana Split Night or painting Christmas stockings. She doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, as far as anyone can tell. Just dementia. But she has forgotten a lot. And it makes me wonder if that is just what happens.

I keep scrapbooks. I save movie ticket stubs, concert programs, pictures, thank you notes, invitations even to events I don’t attend, any kind of physical reminder of the life I have lived. I do this mainly because I envision a time when I will be in a place like where my grandmother lives now, when I will want to reflect on younger, happier times. The times when I was able to go and do and live. I imagine wanting to pore over those albums, touching ticket stubs and remembering wonderful times I had when I was young, boys I kissed, and trips I took. But my grandmother has no desire for those things, because they are happening in her mind all the time, and she doesn’t need the physical reminders. It’s as if, with time, she regresses farther into the past. I’m not sure this is a bad thing. To want to reflect on young, vibrant years. I imagine I will do the same, while fingering my scrapbooks.

What’s concerning about it is her tendency to discard recent years and recent memories for old ones. Her focus on the distant past has clouded her memory of the recent past. She didn’t know one of my cousins at Christmas Eve until after two explanations. This person married into my family when I was nine. But to my grandmother’s physiology, that’s too recent to merit memory cells. She has introduced me to my own cousins I’ve known since birth, as if we were new acquaintances. She has, at least once, questioned my mother’s explanation of how the two of them are related. How does the brain  become so clouded that someone wouldn’t recognize their own child? How is this evolutionarily beneficial? Is it the brain’s method of severing ties to earthly concerns as a person nears death? Is it allowing them to let go, like the first step in the exit-journey, when they have all but forgotten what ties they still have to an earthly existence? Is it the blessing of old age? Because younger people with terminal illness don’t receive the same “luxury.” They know who is at their bedside, and who they are leaving behind.

What concerns me most is that I don’t know which is better. The situation has made my family have a lot of conversations about death and end-of-life experiences. I know now that both my parents would prefer to be cremated, and that they do not want extraordinary life-saving measures performed on them. Even if I don’t have power of attorney over such things yet, because both are still in good health, these are good things to know. Good things to talk about, however unlikely it seems that it will be relevant any time soon.

I know I want to be cremated, although I don’t think I expressed that to them. I’d like my ashes scattered into some body of water. Whether lake, ocean, or creek, it doesn’t matter to me. I feel equally at home at all of those places. But water is where I feel most naturally calm and peaceful. So if y’all don’t want me haunting your asses, you better dump my silt into some beautiful watery place for all eternity! LOL! I think my spirit would feel trapped if interred either bodily or ashily in one permanent spot.

I’m a wanderer, so I’m probably gonna wander between dimensions after death as much as possible. Don’t be surprised if I show up again on this side now and again. And if there is any way to communicate from the other side, you can bet I’m gonna be seeking out John Edward or whoever in hopes of getting a message across. You know how I am about imparting information.

With all the departed spirits who have connections to my grandmother’s house, the only ones I felt strongly while working there were my grandfather and great-grandfather. My great-grandfather, Phin — pretty sure he was looking over my shoulder while I was cleaning out his dresser in the bedroom he lived during the last years of his life. I found his old harmonica, some brass knuckles, and legal papers. Among other things. But I’ve never felt so plainly like someone was in the room with me, standing behind me, watching me. At one point, I said out loud, “Don’t worry, Grandpa, I’m not getting rid of anything good!” After that point, it eased.

I felt my grandfather more when going through household things, like a bottom shelf of tile and primer, or an old china cup full of dusty nails and screws, rather than his cherished belongings. Since he died 11 years ago, there wasn’t that much of his left, but I did save a bottle of his aftershave, which I think is no longer in production, and which is probably why my grandmother had kept it in his shaving cabinet for so many years. It is amazing how one whiff of something like that can absolutely flood your senses with memories that seem so much more concrete than what you had tried to hazily conjure after a length of time. I found one of his favorite belts with buckle that I’ve adopted as my own. A worn brown leather belt with a large brass buckle that reads, “Old truckers never die, they just get a new Peterbilt.” I’m wearing it now. 🙂 That, and his WWII dog tags are all I have from him. But I think of him every time I see a neatly kept red tip bush, or a particularly pretty bird hanging out near me or a hawk gliding overhead like it’s checking me out. He loved birds, particularly hawks. I saw a red-tailed hawk fly over the house the last time I was down there, surveying the domain. Maybe reassuring me that this is all perfectly okay. What is supposed to happen will happen. We are always exactly where we are meant to be in this moment.

All They Do Is Win!

Here’s to the Auburn Tigers, for winning the BCS National Championship!

Here’s to Gene Chizik for leading that team to the title, and for emphasizing the concept of Auburn Family. The buttons say it all: “AU Family: ALL IN!” And Cam Newton for being an outstanding player and quarterback, even if he is ditching Auburn early for the NFL big bucks. He was still beautiful to watch in motion.

Here’s to my friends in Auburn who were on Toomer’s Corner immediately to roll the oaks and scream “WAR DAMN EAGLE!” Unfortunately the city’s webcam was offline when I was trying to watch the celebration from NC.

But thanks to Facebook, I got the final record from friends:

And then the next morning, they couldn’t power wash the toilet paper away like normal because it was too cold! So this beautiful sight was left for them to enjoy a little longer.

And the Auburn Family yelled “War Damn Eagle!” to each other from car to car, stranger to stranger, celebrating for the next few days. I even got War Damn Eagle texts that seemed out of nowhere to me, but to my Auburn friends, it was far from random. One said, “We’ve all been screaming it for 24 hours!” Folks, that’s what you call “School Spirit!”

Good Song: Beautiful

This song hits home for me in a lot of ways. I feel close to the message, and I know it has meant something to someone I’m close to as well in their personal experiences. Although I’m not depressed right now, I’ve had my share of struggle with that issue, but I’m relating to this song today for the theme of empathy. But in darker days it is also relevant for me. I think a lot of people don’t take the time to listen to Eminem’s lyrics enough to realize that he is not all offensive and crude. His music has a positive message more often than not, and he uses crudity like most people sprinkle their language with obscenities. I know when I am feeling heightened emotionally (good or bad) my potty mouth gets worse, so I getcha, Em. LOL.

Beautiful
by Eminem

Lately I’ve been hard to reach
I’ve been too long on my own
Everybody has their private world
Where they can be alone

Are you calling me?
Are you trying to get through?
Are you reaching out for me?
I’m reaching out for you

I’m just so fucking depressed
I just can’t seem to get out this slump
If I could just get over this hump
But I need something to pull me out this dump

I took my bruises, took my lumps
Fell down and I got right back up
But I need that spark to get psyched back up
And in order for me to pick the mic back up

I don’t know how or why or when
I ended up this position I’m in
I’m starting to feel dissin’ again
So I decided just to pick this pen

Up and try to make an attempt to vent
But I just can’t admit
Or come to grips with the fact that I may be done with rap
I need a new outlet

And I know some shit’s so hard to swallow
But I can’t just sit back and wallow
In my own sorrow but I know one fact
I’ll be one tough act to follow

One tough act to follow
I’ll be one tough act to follow
Here today, gone tomorrow
But you’d have to walk a thousand miles

In my shoes, just to see
What it’s like, to be me
I’ll be you, let’s trade shoes
Just to see what it’d be like

To feel your pain, you feel mine
Go inside each others’ minds
Just to see what we’d find
Look at shit through each others’ eyes

Don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you
So don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you

I think I’m starting to lose my sense of humor
Everything’s so tense and gloom
I almost feel like I gotta check
The temperature of the room

Just as soon as I walk in, it’s like all eyes on me
And so I try to avoid any eye contact
‘Cause if I do that then it opens the door
For conversation, like I want that

I’m not looking for extra attention
I just wanna be just like you
Blend in with the rest of the room
Maybe just point me to the closest restroom

I don’t need no fucking man servant
Trying to follow me around and wipe my ass
Laugh at every single joke I crack
And half of ’em ain’t even funny like

Ha! Marshall you’re so funny man
You should be a comedian, god damn!”
Unfortunately I am
I just hide behind the tears of a clown

So why don’t you all sit down
Listen to the tale I’m about to tell
Hell, we don’t gotta trade our shoes
And you ain’t gotta walk no thousand miles

In my shoes, just to see
What it’s like, to be me
I’ll be you, let’s trade shoes
Just to see what it’d be like

To feel your pain, you feel mine
Go inside each others minds
Just to see what we’d find
Look at shit through each others eyes

Don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you
So don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you

Nobody asked for life to deal us
With these bullshit hands we’re dealt
We gotta take these cards ourselves
And flip ’em, don’t expect no help

Now I could’ve either just sat on my ass
And pissed and moaned
Or take this situation in which I’m placed in
And get up and get my own

I was never the type of kid
To wait by the door and pack his bags
I sat on the porch and hoped and prayed
For a dad to show up who never did

I just wanted to fit in
Every single place, every school I went
I dreamed of being that cool kid
Even if it meant acting stupid

And Edna always told me
Keep making that face and it’ll get stuck like that
Meanwhile I’m just standing there
Holding my tongue tryna talk like that

‘Til I stuck my tongue on that frozen stop sign pole
At 8 years old
I learned my lesson then
‘Cause I wasn’t trying to impress my friends no more

But I already told you my whole life story
Not just based on my description
‘Cause where you see it, from where you’re sittin
It’s probably 110% different

I guess we would have to walk a mile
In each others shoes at least
What size you wear? I wear 10’s
Let’s see if you can fit your feet

In my shoes, just to see
What it’s like, to be me
I’ll be you, let’s trade shoes
Just to see what it’d be like

To feel your pain, you feel mine
Go inside each others minds
Just to see what we’d find
Look at shit through each others eyes

Don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked just stay true to you
So don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked just stay true to you

So don’t let ’em say you ain’t beautiful
They can all get fucked just stay true to you
So

Lately I’ve been hard to reach
I’ve been too long on my own
Everybody has their private world
Where they can be alone

Are you calling me?
Are you trying to get through?
Are you reaching out for me?
I’m reaching out for you

Yeah, to my babies
Stay strong, daddy will be home soon

And to the rest of the world
God gave you shoes to fit you
So put ’em on and wear ’em
Be yourself man, be proud of who you are
Even if it sounds corny
Don’t ever let anyone tell you you ain’t beautiful

Thanksgiving Recap

My Thanksgiving was awesome. I got to spend a few days at home with my family before heading up to Asheville to visit with a friend and his family. While at home, I got to spend a lot of time cleaning out my grandmother’s house, since she has just gone into a nursing home.

The people who live next door to her house have a dog that they keep in a lot in their back yard. His name is Sandy. He never gets fed or loved or brought in out of the cold. I fed him while I was there and put blankets in his little house to shield him from some of the cold air.

Sandy is slowing dying. He is starving. You can see each one of his ribs. He has frostbite from the cold. The tips of his ears are black. He may have cancer or some other terrible health thing going on. He has a growth on his stomach and some sores on his hips. When I take him food, he practically rips it out of my hands. He is a sweet, loving dog. He presses himself against the chicken wire of his lot to be petted and loved while shivering against the cold.

I have laid awake many a night worrying about this dog, but my mother forbid my from kidnapping him, which is what I really wanted to do when I found out that calling animal control would only result in him being left there or taken and put down quickly. The legal options suck. Many people have encouraged me to just take him. But what’s holding me back is the possibility that I may end up living in that house (rent-free since I’m unemployed), and I can’t very well steal the next-door neighbor’s dog and then show back up living with it next door. Particularly in a place where you are liable to get shot for being on someone else’s property — never mind taking their property.

Animal control either hasn’t done anything or hasn’t been able to find the people at home, because Sandy is still out there starving in the cold. My mom says she might try to talk to the owners to see if they’ll agree to give him up. I can’t understand why someone would want to own a dog they don’t care about and don’t want to take care of. I can’t understand why they wouldn’t want someone else to have it who would give it love and food and a warm place to sleep.

I didn’t grow up with dogs, but since I have owned one, I have not been able to accept animal cruelty or abuse in any way. My mom says things like, “You don’t just kidnap a child you know is being abused — you have to go through the proper legal channels.” And I think things like, “But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you do have to take matters into your own hands.” It’s not like someone who is leaving their dog outside in the winter to starve, freeze, and die is going to hunt me down and press charges if I take it and give it something better. Right?

Anyways. I saw them feed him exactly once, by throwing a plate of scraps over the fence to him. His water bowls are all full of leaves and dirt. When I’m not there, my dad goes down and feeds him. Animal control has been called by several parties, but so far nothing has happened. The rescue agencies there say the only way they can foster a dog is if the owner willingly relinquishes it. And I’m also afraid that Sandy needs more medical attention and care than I would be able to pay for. So for now, he is still stuck out there, and we are doing what we can here and there. When he hears our cars pull into the driveway, he peeps his head around the corner of his little house to see if we’re coming with food and gentle stroking and soothing words. When we do, he looks up at us with huge, sad eyes and shakes.

After spending Thanksgiving dinner with my own family on the farm in Mount Vernon, I headed up to Asheville to hang out with my friend and his family for a few days.

The night I arrived, I met some of his relatives on their way out, and ended up with a glass of wine in my hand and sitting in the den watching Punkin Chunkin with my friend and his stepdad on the Discovery Channel.

Apparently watching Punkin Chunkin is a holiday tradition for them that I had never heard of. It’s some contest in Delaware where teams drunkenly compete to see how far they can launch a pumpkin, using various apparatuses. I can totally see why people get into this based on the engineering involved. But the whole time I was thinking, “I have family in Delaware, and there is no way they know about this type of redneck shit going down in their state.” It was pretty durn fun to watch, though.

After more pie and more wine and more Punkin Chunkin, the evening found my friend and I in his childhood basement bedroom, where I used to read the homework reading assignments from his history book to him, playing Candy Land Bingo and drinking Cold Mountain Ale (local brew provided by his mom, because she is awesome like that). And watching Friday Night Lights, which is a TV show we’re addicted to about high school football in Texas.

The next day we drove around town reminiscing about when we both used to live there, and marveling at the new things that have been built since we left, and dreaming about a time when we’ll be able to afford to live there again. Had to get back home for the Auburn/Alabama football game, which his mom made like a Superbowl Party, complete with our favorite beers and buffet of chili cheese dip and all kinds of other good things to eat. We all had our Auburn game day shirts on and were completely psyched when Auburn won. War Eagle!

That evening, my friend’s mom took us out for a night on the town. We went on a tour of local microbreweries just to check them out since we hadn’t seen them. We went to the Biltmore Estate for a little while to see the new village there. It’s called Antler something and there are all these little shops and a museum, where we watched a short video on the history of the estate. After that we went to the winery.

And from there we went to a restaurant on the square called Cedric’s, where we warmed ourselves up, had some beers and decided what to do next. Cedric’s is named after the Vanderbilts’ beloved Saint Bernard, and there are pictures of him all over. There was a pretty good live blues guitarist playing that night, so that was fun. But we wanted to go downtown. So we didn’t stay too long.

Once downtown, it was a tough call as to where to go. We ended up having dinner at the Lexington Avenue Brewery, because it was a new addition to the scene since we’d both lived there. It was very cool, and crowded, so we sat outside on the patio under the heaters to eat, and that was kinda fun. The waitress asked me and my friend if we were family because we both ordered the same beer and red meat dishes, medium rare. Had to correct her that in fact no, we are not related. This helped my friend’s efforts to look down her shirt when she was leaning over the table, and I will admit, her boobs were worth staring at. So no grief was given. She was one of those Asheville girls who you know can’t possibly be FROM Asheville but whose sexy hippieness is  keeping her employed with good tips anyway. What? I’m not jealous.

The food there was good but the beer wasn’t that great, so we decided to go elsewhere before heading home. We wanted to go to Asheville Pizza on Merrimon to relive old times, but my friend’s mom said the bar they just opened downtown was cool. So we went there instead to check out the new place and scenery. It was cool. They have some new beers on tap which were good, and some new t-shirts, but they were sold out of those. It’s very industrial, but I liked it. We had some great conversation there, and some good beer. I got to have my old favorite — Shiva — which I had not tasted in years, and it was delightful.

Afterwards we stopped by the huge new Ingles on Tunnel Road (I can’t believe there’s a huge new Ingles on Tunnel Road) so my friend’s mom could pick up a potato to put in the homemade vegetable soup she was making for him to be able to take back with him. Then we went home and got ready to go back out.

My friend and I decided we had to go to Scandals to see what it was like now. We used to spend almost every Friday and Saturday night there at one or more of their bars, and we wanted to at least see a drag show for old times’ sake while we were there. It turned out that the multiple clubs we used to visit are all separate entrances now, so we just went to Scandals. We saw the drag show, and although it was not as fun as when we knew all the performers, it was still pretty fun. We still knew one of them.

It was a far cry from the days of sneaking underage shots through the mouths of friends and sneaking off to make out in various bathrooms and chain smoking in the pool room, but it was a fun night. We felt kinda old, though. We sat on the sidelines watching the dance floor, while saying things like, “Can you believe we used to come here and dance like that?”

Afterward, we went to Denny’s on Patton, which was always our old refueling station after a night at the club. We were going to get breakfast like we always used to, but there was a table full of redneck kids behind us making foul and hateful comments about some kids at the table next to us, and we had to leave so my friend didn’t beat the shit out of them. So we retreated back to Kenilworth Lake, to his parents’ house, for more Friday Night Lights and eating our take-out bacon and eggs on the water bed that I hate because it’s so hard to get in and out of. Seriously, you shouldn’t need abs of steel just for getting in and out of bed, for fuck’s sake.

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