Hometown

Writing Assignment: “I am from…”

Sitting in the heavy, big city traffic, I look off to the remarkably un-mountainous horizon in the direction of Carrowinds, a theme park I often visited as a child. The colossal DNA of skyscrapers, draped carelessly across the landscape, are stark against the late afternoon sky. Great metal strands support impossibly high and bizarre hills and loops. They are otherworldly, space age Jetson-like, especially compared to how I remember rollercoasters. I lumber along this strange territory in an automobile heard comprised mostly of the inaccurately named ‘mini’ vans that dwarf my tiny, ancient four door car. En masse, we turn a curve and I see the rollercoaster of my childhood: Thunder Road. A dinosaur, big and dense by comparison to the soaring arches of 21st century coasterdom. It is an old wooden lady with soft curves, once fierce and intimidating, now almost nostalgic.

I feel old and alien and I do not think I belong here anymore.

This is my home town, though town seems a small, cramped word for this place now. I grew up here, in the walkways of Carrowinds, in the front lawn of the Presbyterian Church under the great Magnolia tree, by the enormous honeysuckle bush where I waited for the school bus. In the hallway of this school I sat and read Ray Bradbury short stories to my friend and fell in love with science fiction. In this grocery store I learned a lifetime’s worth of gossip and tall tales. Here is where there was once a Chinese restaurant where I would go to dinner with my mother at least once a week. Here, next door, is where the drug store was. I worked there when I was in college and I remember the day my mom’s best friend came to pick me up from work just after my father died. I was shelving shampoo.

There is the place that used to be a nightclub with big plate glass windows. Once, someone’s bull got loose and ended up in that parking lot, convinced another arrogant bull was taunting and staring at him from inside the club. We listened to the whole thing on the scanner and heard the police shout out, “ride ‘em cowboy!” and laugh at one another until they couldn’t breathe.

This was once a field and that was always just the woods along this road. A farmer used to plant corn over there on the corner and you always knew it was summer when you couldn’t see the cars at the intersection for their great, tasseled stalks.

Up on that hill there was a huge tree, probably one of the biggest I’ve ever seen, at least as I look up into it now inside my memory and it seems a giant green universe unto itself. It was in front of my 5th grade math teacher’s house. She was also the Sunday school teacher who taught me the Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed and Ten Commandments.

I do not belong here anymore. As I look at new apartments and housing developments, I remember great grass fields, trees, less traffic, air that was easier to breathe. I walk through a bookstore that stands right about where that bull and his reflective adversary once challenged each other and later, I will push a grocery cart through what was once the dense, dark woods filled with pine and oak and soft earth made from the uncountable seasons’ shedding of needle and leaf that began long before white people stepped into this county for the first time. It is all different. There are new people here. There is new life, new feet running through Carrowinds, and new faces gawking at rollercoasters scraping the sky. New families, new shops. It is all alive in a new way.

It is not bad, this new alive in the place that was once my home town. But it is not the place where I belong anymore and that’s ok because my home town, the place to which I once belonged, is still alive in my heart. So I leave behind the heard of ‘mini’ vans, put their exhaust haze and all the strange newness in my rear view mirror, and turn to where the land rolls like Thunder Road. It will be good to be home.

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I blame the local weather

Why is everyone so angry all the time? I have come to the ‘big city’ to visit my mother and I am, all over again, struck by how angry everyone is. If they are not angry, they are at the very least anxiety filled and on edge. Grocery cart road rage at the Bi-Lo. Tense, frowning faces everywhere. Defensive body language. Genuine road rage in the car. Rude behavior everywhere. Pushy, grabby, you’re-not-getting-the-best-of-me attitudes.

I blame the local weather.

 Storm Track, Storm Center, Storm Central, Stormy Monday, Stormin Norman. (Ok, maybe not the last two) Whatever they are called, they are urgently pleading with us to be aware that it might RAIN today! They shout at us about how sunny it is and how we need rain, or how we might not get rain, or the impending apocalyptic doom of a thunderstorm. They dazzle and hypnotize us with their bright, colorful and flashing maps. They leap toward the camera like Pekinese puppies in fancy suits and dresses, emphasizing the dire need for us to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE WEATHER! They promise us that They are going to try to get nice, mild temperatures for us for the weekend. Oh What Power They Must Have! We are impressed and believe in them!

 Then there is the Five Day Forecast, the Seven Day Forecast, the Ten Day Forecast The Hour-By Hour Three Day Forecast. Tomorrow’s weather is not good enough for us because we must know that it is going to be HOT in SEVEN DAYS so that we can PLAN AHEAD!! Oh, and don’t forget the Micro Climate Forecast, which explains why they can tell us the oh so very needed rain shower our lawn desperately demands was not in our area but was all over the rest of the city. This way we can even feel left out, slighted and insulted by CLOUDS!

 After the weather forecast is over–be it in the news program itself or in the commercial/teaser for the upcoming news–we always feel a bit like the desperate girl a week before the prom with no prom date and no dress. Will I be left out? Will I find the dress I need? Should I buy it? What if it doesn’t work out? What if we don’t get the rain? WHAT IF THE WEEKEND IS RUINED BY A THUNDERSTORM!!!!??? WHAT. WILL. I. DO?

 And just as we begin to calm ourselves with the consolation that it might all be ok, here it comes again. It seems that in a five hour period of time the average local station delivers two million sound bites about the weather–all at TOP VOLUME AND MAXIMUM URGENCY!

 I’m sure that whatever ‘local weather’ is in every small town has the same kind of approach, but in a ‘big city’, there are multiple local tv stations shoving the weather down our throats at all times and competing for our attention by constantly upping the volume. The weather does matter and I will admit that I love the animated maps of weather.com and believe that good information in times of severe weather can and DOES save lives! But on a daily basis, this is just too much. It leads to feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and frustration as we gulp down yet another heaping bowl full. I wonder just how many incidences of violence in the checkout line or road rage might actually be linked to the helpless, panicky feeling generated by some Storm Center report declaring that it might not rain for the NEXT TEN DAYS!

 It’s the weather. We cannot change it.

stormy weather

Afternoon in the ‘big city’

There are two kinds of lonely, at least two with which I am familiar: the lonely-because-no-one-else-is-around kind and the lonely-even-though-I’m-in-the-middle-of-a-big-crowd kind. Sometimes, it’s good to switch it up a bit.

 

Went to Asheville today to visit a parishioner and just decided afterward that I wasn’t going home. Well, obviously, I came home eventually, but I opted to stay in town for a while. Went to Barnes and Noble, read books I had no intention of buying and drank highly overpriced fancy coffee that actually isn’t very good but the mediocreness of which is masked by all the extras, and in general, pretended that I still lived in a big(er) city. Or at least suburbia. It was nice to slip into invisible anonymity for just a little while. However, that ended when I noticed that people were looking at me funny and I realized I had on my cleric. A uniform of any kind does not blend into the background.

 

I will confess to buying a journal because it is difficult for me to find the spiral bound kind that I like these days and a jigsaw puzzle for my mother’s birthday, but on the whole, if I’m going to purchase books from a bookstore, I’d rather give my money to the little independent dealer in this small town.

 

It was nice to spend the day there but, in the end, I am really happier here. Below is a picture of some of the produce another parishioner gave me last month. Lettuce and giant green onions and absolutely delicious asparagus are barely peeking out from under the lettuce. Fresh asparagus is an entirely different species from that which one acquires in the grocery store. So good. In the freezer are trout and in the fridge are blueberries. It’s not that people don’t share their produce and catch of the day in the ‘big city’, it’s just that frequency of such gifts is higher in a smaller place. They also seem to be more treasured, too.

garden goodies

garden goodies