Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So I've been in Oklahoma for a few days. The original plan was to fly into town and take my precocious niece to a concert featuring popular country music boy band The Rascal Flatts. Coincidentally, my father required some minor surgery, so I extended my trip a couple of days to stick around and read all the magazines in the hospital waiting room. And in between these two big events, I played with the kids, chatted with the folks, read the local paper and tried to ignore the Fox News Channel that seems to be broadcast to every TV in the state at all times.

I have a complicated relationship with Oklahoma, and especially my hometown. I always say that the best thing about visiting my hometown is leaving my hometown. But it's where my family insists upon living, so it's like they live on Main Street in Hell and I have to go there a couple of times a year. My tiny hometown was dying when I was a kid, done in by the disappearing oil industry and the insidious Wal-Mart takeover. Tired of seeing my hometown turn into a new dust bowl, I gathered some civic-minded kids together in high school and we asked the Chamber of Commerce if we could plant flowers and trees on main street, to help beautify the town. We offered to raise the money, plant the flowers and take care of them. The Chamber of Commerce said no. So I gave up. Giving up is all there is to do there.

If my hometown was dying in the 80s, now it's a moldering corpse of a place, full of junk stores and houses rotting into the ground right where they stand. It is depressing. My niece just loves it and never wants to leave. She has a horse, after all. I have long believed the whole town should be bulldozed and paved over, or ritualistically burned to the ground. But that's just me.

The Rascal Flatts put on a pretty good show at the new BOK Center in Tulsa. And it was kind of funny to hear them tell the crowd they'd just been in Los Angeles and to hear the crowd actually boo. I recalled a few times I'd heard performers tell crowds in Los Angeles they'd just come from Oklahoma or Texas, and the crowd just laughed. Anyway, the Rascals played up to the crowd quite a bit, assuring them that Tulsa had the best parties, the prettiest women and the most sensible, down-to-earth, yet fun-at-parties group of people in the world. The crowd believed them, never dreaming they probably tell every town that. And I suddenly had a major realization. Like, major.

I suddenly realized that people like to be talked down to. Enjoy being patronized. Love being condescended to. People want "aw shucks" celebrities and politicians to tell them what they want to hear, instead of the truth. It's bizarre, but I suddenly understood a lot more about human nature than I did before. People are comforted by familiarity, lies and country music philosophy. Anything more complex is viewed with suspicion. People not only want to be ignorant, they want their leaders and idols to just presume they're ignorant. We live in a world where there's no hope for truth or rational thought.

Aw shucks.

P.S. Sorry this was so depressing. I'm always like this after a trip to Oklahoma. It'll wear off in a couple of days.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Weekend in Virginia

Alan has been cutting our hair in Los Angeles for years. Michael's been going to him for 14-15 years, then I hopped on the Alan bandwagon about 9 years ago. One of the hardest parts about leaving Los Angeles was the prospect of being without a fantastic hair stylist for a year. So when Alan told us he'd be visiting his family in Lynchburg, Virginia for a month, we agreed that 5 hours was not too long to drive to get a haircut. So this weekend, we hopped in the car, bought the last drop of gas in Asheville, and headed to Lynchburg.

We had been warned that Lynchburg is Jerry Falwell territory. His university is there, plus there's a highway named after him. But since he's dead, I wasn't too worried about it. Conservative scariness aside, Lynchburg is a beautiful little community. We found Alan, he performed his magic on our shaggy noggins, then we went out to dinner at a fabulous wine and cheese restaurant called Dish. It's very gratifying knowing that I can get a nice Pinot Noir and some manchego cheese, even in Falwell land.

If you are a straight person reading this, you may not realize that gay people are everywhere. No matter how oppressive or conservative an environment, we're there. And everywhere. There are no gay bars in Lynchburg, but that doesn't mean there aren't gay people there. We saw them. We nodded, and with a smile let each other know that no matter where we travel in the world, we're not alone. Family is close by. It's a nice feeling.

The other nice surprise was what a historical place Virginia is. Appomattox, Colonial Williamsburg, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. You hear about these places and file them away in your memory and never think you're going to be driving by them one day. We've definitely decided to return for a longer visit, so we can get a big dose of history and culture.

The drive home was gorgeous, as we headed down through Roanoke, then east towards North Carolina and Asheville. Lush, green forests and mountainsides dotted with little red barns and small herds of cattle. The whole weekend was a lovely reminder of what this whole year-long experiment is about. Seeing new things, exploring a different part of America and a different way of life. Oh, and driving 300 miles for a haircut.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Long Time Ago, In a Bedroom Far, Far Away

Whenever Michael returns from a trip, he looks around to see what I've changed. When I'm alone and the OCD kicks in, I tend to clean out closets or cabinets, throw away or donate stuff, move furniture around or re-organize everything. This time, I really only made three changes:

1. I bought a new fall-themed welcome mat.
2. I moved a side chair from one side of the room to the other.

And what was the third thing? Oh yeah!

3. I put Star Wars sheets on the bed.

When Michael saw the sheets, he confessed that he'd never slept on Star Wars sheets before, which is crazy, since I spent much of my childhood in bed with Darth Vader and Chewbacca. So when I saw that Pottery Barn was offering queen-sized Star Wars sheets, how could I resist?

May the force be with you!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Night Terrors

In a funny bit of irony, Michael has gone back to Los Angeles, leaving me here in Asheville. Well, it's only for a few days. Still, it's enough time to remind me of what single life was like. Namely, lots of solitude and bad eating habits. While Michael has been away, I've been bad. And by "bad" I mean that I've been reading comic books, playing video games and drinking...Wild Cherry Pepsi. I'm not even supposed to have caffeine! I'm out of control!

Another problem I have with single life is sleeping alone. I'm prone to little nighttime anxiety attacks and nightmares, and when I met Michael I warned him that I wake up screaming with some regularity. Luckily, I also wake up at almost every noise, which is helpful at times, like when Henry was sick. The downside is that every noise makes me think we're under attack. The night is not my friend.

Anyway, despite having absolutely no talent in sports, I do swing a pretty mean baseball bat thanks to years of light saber practice. I told Michael that I was going to write about my anxiety in my blog, but then changed my mind because I didn't want the general public to know that I was alone, thus inviting them to come attack me in the middle of the night. Michael told me to be sure to include that reasoning in the blog, so people understand what he puts up with. In my defense, a friend of ours here recently informed me that we actually live in a bad part of town with a high crime rate. Oy.

But I have Henry. And I have my bat. And, if necessary, I have a very expensive light saber prop replica that I'm willing to take out of its box in the event of an emergency. Or if I consume enough Wild Cherry Pepsis, I'll just stay up all night until Michael gets back or I go to Wal-Mart and buy a machine gun.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

All's Fair

I can hear my mother's response to this post now. "Why can't you just go and have a good time?" Well, I did go. To the North Carolina Mountain State Fair. And I did have a good time. But because I'm never able to fully turn off the analytical part of my brain, I couldn't help but go into the experience with an anthropologist's eye. Hey, I took two courses of Anthro in college, so I think I'm qualified.

We had been warned beforehand that there would be a larger religious presence at the fair than we're used to. We're used to the Los Angeles and Orange Country state fairs, which are pretty secular as fairs go. I didn't give the warning much thought until we entered the vendor exhibit tent, innocently looking for a new veggie chopper. (Tangent: We bought a veggie chopper thing a few years ago at the L.A. fair and used it constantly. It broke recently, and since we bought it at a fair, we thought every fair would have them.)

Sadly, we didn't find our veggie chopper. Instead, in between the homemade soap and the Ginsu knives, we found the anti-abortion people. Then the various churches and ministries. Then the Sons of the Confederacy. Then the Republicans. I lump them all together, because they all find justification for their extreme behavior in the Bible. I've reached the point in my life where I physically cringe and shudder when I see any depictions of Jesus or see any religious icons. It's like I've become a vampire and recoil at the sign of the cross. Though it would be easy to blame my reaction on my demonic bloodthirst, it's actually much more simple. When you're bludgeoned with a hammer all your life, you tend to cringe when you see a hammer. You avoid trips to hammer conventions. You stay away from Home Depot.

As if the vendor/revival tent wasn't enough, there were scriptures dotted around the fairgrounds. Scriptures don't bother me so much. I'm usually sort of interested in how people quote them. I quote Shakespeare and The Simpsons all the time, so I am a student of context/quotation strategies. But I'm still puzzled by John 3:16 posted at the pony rides. It's like saying, "Hey kid. Hope you're enjoying your ride, because Jesus died for your sins." It seems a little drastic, when the Golden Rule would have sufficed.

In most all aspects, it was like any other fair. Animals, food, rides, games, etc. The religious and racist elements were jarring, to say the least. Like the attendees are dreamily eating their cotton candy and thinking, "This would have tasted better if it had been made by a slave. Ah, the good old days." I don't know. I was heartened by the surprisingly mixed crowd. People were there of all colors, origins, sexualities, economic backgrounds. It was the perfect picture of a melting pot society. Much more diverse than, say, the Orange Country fair, which can be blindingly white. So in the midst of all this diversity and seemingly harmonious co-existence, a family walks by all sporting Confederate flags and the Jesus people hand me a stack of mini-Bibles that promise comfort on the cover, but deliver the dreaded "God is angry" on the inside.

Admittedly, everyone we were with had a great time, laughing, eating and screaming on the rides. I seemed to be the only one looking over my shoulder and wondering if I could use a corn cob as a weapon if suddenly attacked by the Christian puppet show people.

"Why can't you just go and have a good time?"

Okay, okay. I will try.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Not Quite a Year in Asheville

Before we left Los Angeles and moved to Asheville, we were warned about the struggling economy here and the lack of industry and job opportunities. But we're adventurers, so we decided to take the risk, hoping we'd find some way to support ourselves. Luckily, Michael has been able to retain his clients in Los Angeles and has carried on with business as usual since the move.

I'm a freelance writer and editor, so jobs, especially consistent jobs, are always a challenge to find no matter where I am. Here, it's been especially difficult. Asheville seems to be the land of opportunity for engineers and medical professionals, but I'm afraid I'm too old to go back to school now. We knew the risks, and I have no regrets about coming here. I'm going to give it a few more weeks and see what happens. Then I'll be heading back to Los Angeles to drum up some short-term contract work there. The plan would be to come back to Asheville for Christmas, then again next spring to help pack up.

I certainly haven't given up, and I'm not through with my Asheville experience just yet. If only I had kept up with my guitar lessons, I could be a street performer. Or maybe it's time to put all those years of theatrical training to the test and be a mime. There's nothing people love more than mimes. Plus, I hear they laugh silently all the way to the bank (when not trapped in a box or walking against the wind).

Next week we're going to the North Carolina Mountain State Fair! I've been promised the splendor of a genuine Christian puppet show, so I wouldn't miss that for anything! Stay tuned.