Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Friendliest Place on Earth

My poor solitary nature is in tatters.

We’ve had to be SOCIAL! Aaaack. A very lovely neighbor across the street has made it her mission to introduce us to everyone in the area. This isn’t hard since everyone is so friendly. However, meeting everyone at once at a golf and country club is Waaayyyy more than a solitary, shy, meditative person like me can handle. As far as I can remember from that fateful and stormy night we met 12 blond and perky Karens and 10 hardy and hale Dennises. There were also a few suntanned and perky children, but mainly folks whose children have moved out on their own.

It was hot, it was dribbly and the girls kept wandering away into the deep end. My eyes were caught constantly by the glistening of sweat-drops as they formed on everyone’s faces and eventually swept down into a river at the base of the neck to disappear either into the shirt collar or down the cleavage of the human fountain from which they came. My own sweat glands were in over-drive, washing away the non-waterproof tinted sunscreen I had applied minutes before, making me look like I was actually melting.

The young woman with the task of filling drink and food orders for the club was looking bewildered to start with, and when faced with 10 people all on one ticket ordering from BOTH menus resorted to simply saying politely, “I’m sure the bartender or chef will know…,” to pretty much everything. This is where I realized that my education was not complete and I was introduced to an ‘Arnold Palmer’, a mix of lemonade and Iced tea. This mix was insanely popular when I was a kid, but we never knew its name. Dennis, the one who ordered it, said he thought it was a clubhouse thing, and that if you were at a pool, perhaps it could be called a ‘Mark Spitz’.

The General Manager of the club did pop by every once in while to make sure we were comfortable and enjoying the club, just in case we suddenly had the urge to join right then and there

By evening the air cooled down a bit and the Dennises and Jeanies mainly drifted off either home if they had children or to the huge motorcycle party/concert/bar that takes place each Friday night at a club downtown. (Who knew?) One marvelous couple we met were on their way down on their Harleys. Theirs is one name that sort of stuck with me because I haven’t heard many Polish names in the South. It was something like Orgsvensnvki but with more letters.

Eventually we headed home, showered and retired, my mind whirling with faces of tanned blond people and cups of ice water. I do know, though, that if we ever need an orthodontist, a chemical engineer, a cardiac surgeon, a chiropractor, or any of several other useful and interesting professions whose practitioners we met, I will have to look in the phonebook, because I will never remember who went with what.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Settling In

July 11, 2006, Trying to Settle in to the new homestead.

We are still waiting on Robb’s car and a wagonload of our belongings that did not leave Madison when we did. In fact, they haven’t left Madison at all. The car should be loaded today, and will make its way here via Oregon. Everyone close your eyes and imagine this route, Madison, Oregon, Chattanooga. Somebody is enjoying a little too much of something I suspect. How long will they keep our boxes? I’m trying not to think about that right now since I’m still trying to figure out which utilities I’ve started and cancelled at which house.

The ‘New South’ is an absolute picture of contrasts. Take our newspaper. It is the Chattanooga Times Free press. Its actually two papers in one, liberal (sort of) and conservative (definitely). In the last couple of days half the editorials are in support of Al Gore’s new movie and half are ranting about the lack of Americanism by those liberals. Everyone is trying really hard to at least give lip-service to being racially and progressive and then some guys shoot up a Koran and throw it at a Mosque and the police are trying to decide if this act violated anyone,s right to feel safe and unharassed for their beliefs. The library contains more books on Christianity than the Vatican and they reside beside all of David Sedaris’ books and ‘Zen in the Workplace’. Feng Shui books are proudly displayed in the devil worship section. (no, not books on how TO worship the devil, how NOT to) In the words of my favorite ex-columnist,
“I am not making this up!”

I’ve discovered too, that class distinction is healthy and well. Northerners and Floridians have mainly instituted any of the socially responsible programs and some people live here precisely because they can get away with things that offend the social and societal morals of the North. For example there is none of this ‘Liberal building of housing for all levels of income right next to each other’. “And shoot, why would anyone NOT want to carry a loaded pistol in their car, it’s just un-American!”

Signal Mountain does have a recycling center, but you have to want to recycle. None of this babying by picking up recycling for you people. One of the more tragic failings in the area is the complete lack of financial funding for education. When you listen to the rhetoric it sounds as though some high placed government officials out there as well as some religious leaders want to keep everyone as stupid and ignorant as possible so that they are easier to control and take advantage of.

OK, enough of the ranting. Let’s rave for the friendliness, helpfulness and community warmth in the South, and the slower, mostly more calm pace of life. I notice this especially with the women. Everyone jumps in to help even if a person is simply asking for directions and the process takes the time it takes to get it right, or at least to an acceptable conclusion. This process includes trading of as many phone numbers as possible and making several lunch dates.
Me: “I’m looking for Pleasant Lane?”

Women: “Oh, let me see, oh dear, it’s the opposite direction, Emma, what do you suppose is the best way to get to Pleasant?”

Emma: “Why I think it’s over the ridge. You know, it’s by the Pumpkin Patch. Do you have children dear?”

Me: “Yes, two girls.”

Emma: “Oh you have to take them to the Pumpkin Patch. It’s just wonderful.”

Woman 1: “Here’s my number in case you need anything, I’m Sandy and all my children are grown but I’ve lived here all my life.”

Emma: "Now here are the directions to Pleasant, what school are your girls going to? Thrasher? It’s just so good. Have you gone to Ayala yet? Wonderful Mexican food.”

Woman 1: “Now don’t forget to call if you need absolutely anything! We’re always around and you are sure welcome to the Mountain. Where did you move from?”

Me: “Madison, Wisconsin via Seattle, Washington.”

Them: “My Goodness that is quite a move, you must be so much happier to be in a warmer place, isn’t it just so cold up there?! Well you will just love it here! Bye dear!”
So far I've collected 4 phone numbers from strangers and an invitation to dinner a 'The Club'. On Friday night. I'm not sure which club. I didn't even know there was a club.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Several Days Later

Sometime later….

We lost contact with the web sometime after Illinois. We are alive and well and living on Signal Mountain in our new home. All the animals and children arrived just fine. Robb and I are now bald but otherwise well.

We are sharing our home with boxes and flies and repairmen of all shapes and sizes coming in and out on a regular basis. Not only do we have the normal new house set-up, we have the new-new house set-ups. We’ve had a couple of doorknobs come off in our hands, a shelf fell down, the lawn tried to drown itself, one sad plant died and several rooms were missing various connections to one thing or another. We’ve had UPS deliveries, mattress deliveries, and strange neighborhood dog deliveries (and you KNOW what that means…).

The dishwasher was a huge mystery since it comes in two parts, we have no idea how to work the sprinkler system or what days garbage is picked up. Our telephone line is not buried yet and stretches across the lawn and then across the street. So far the folks who put in the lawn have mowed the phone line and the phone line folks accidentally cut the sprinkler line trying to bury the phone line. The washer hookups were reversed, surprise! We now have some very small items of clothing.

Even though there are plenty of bathrooms upstairs, the master bathroom has become the family bathroom. We’re hoping to have some guests soon so that the other bathrooms get used and the kids can’t seem to find toilets when they need them.

Robb’s auto and our second truck of belongings are still missing, as are, for some very strange reason, all of our knives. We’ve found all other kitchen objects, but no knives. Admittedly our cast iron pots were packed with sandbox toys so the knives could be anywhere.

Bindi has used my yoga mat as a bathroom, so needless to say there will be no downward pointing dogs on my part any longer. Why was the mat out in the first place? Cedar was doing yoga from Cedarland. (Cedarland is the place where all imaginary or wishful thinking things happen or live. For instance there are no stinging bugs in Cedarland, but there are lots of flying mammals.) There is also chocolate pudding land; use your imagination.

We are thrilled to have so much more room for normal things. For instance, in our condo we had all our pots and pans in about 3 sq. feet of space. Here we have an actual full cabinet for them. They look small and humble in the space, as do we, I’m sure. All in all we are very happy to be here and take the strange happenings with humor. I’ll be starting work on the garden as soon as I can figure out how to re-attach the doorknob to let me out of my room.

More soon,

Whipper ‘E’

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Day 5

Day 5

We finally left town, first to meet kin just south and then onto the main trails south. We tried to fill up on protein at breakfast, which would last us for a long while. We now have all of the animals loaded on the wagon, that’s two birds, one guinea pig and one dog. We are sure the dog will make it, however the guinea and the birds ore suspect. The guinea has gone into prey mode and remains frozen in his little hiding house. The birds are generally nervous but are calming down. We’re not sure if they’ve eaten.

We are at a rest stop located somewhere in central Illinois, the great West. I’m in the wagon with the animals. The wind is severe and every time I go outside, I start sneezing violently. Robb is pacing with Bindi in tow. This is his ‘on the phone’ pace, so he is probably speaking to parents. (In case some of you don’t recognize ‘phone’, it’s a small device that allows people to speak very loudly to themselves in public places without others thinking they have lost their mind.)

Ceili is reading a very large book and is keeping us posted on character development, even though we have no idea what she is talking about,

“Now Eregon is fleeing with the Urgal armies!!!” (giggle giggle)

and Cedar is reading the names of trucks and reflections as they pass.

“Fed Ex!”
“Fed Ex!”
“Fed Ex!”
“Mom, what’s SALTA?”
“Fed Ex!”

Robb’s friends are calling from las Vegas and, while on the speaker phone, announcing,

“Wow! I’m getting whiplash from looking at all these hot babes!” Thanks HL.

Meanwhile, I think I just saw a swarm of bees get blown by. And look, there goes a German Shepard and a cow. Better go collect everyone.

An update: Those bees, that you thought I was joking about, were actually a swarm of beetles that have been attacking trees in the area. The wind was blowing them so hard they were splatting on Robb and the kids. I’m really glad I stayed in the wagon.