Sunday, February 26, 2017
Your Face Sounds Familiar Like Soup
Having just spent four whole days in North Carolina, I think it's safe to say that I have gained a certain expert insight concerning the unique culture of this state.
My visit took me to the Winston-Salem Greensborough area, which I was given to believe is just as South as South can be, so naturally I was excited to visit a plantation to watch the cotton being harvested as I reclined in the shade of the veranda, sipping a julep, listening to someone play 'Nearer My God To Thee' on a spinet somewhere in the cool depths of the manor house, my willowy form caressed by a silken gown worn over a corset laced to the 'near death' setting.
Unfortunately that was not to be the case. Only very silly persons believe in that outdated stereotype. What I found was a generic urban culture nuked to the subsoil by Big Tobacco and chain restaurants. There were evergreen trees, everyones' speech was perfectly intelligible, no burning crucifixes that I noticed, and nobody brandishing a straight razor even once chased me for lookin' at her wrong.
Don't let the signs fool you. Yes, there are 32,456 Chick-Fil-A's in a 25 mile area, 4,501 Biscuitvilles, and untold numbers of drive-through variations on the chicken waffle/biscuit/fried catfish/ food groups. Yes, they are all decorated with delightful pictures of yesteryear and outdated agricultural implements; but once inside you find yourself in the same kind of neutral America that's spread all over the continent like margarine.
-with the following exceptions.
1. You can't get there from here.
The roads of the Winston Salem - Greensborough area were designed by the famous highway designer Sawyer Cormier, a Canadian acidhead whose medium was cooked spaghetti flicked at the wall until no more would stick. It really is that bad. Worse than downtown Seattle. And that's really bad.
For reasons unknown, those who decide decided to take a bowl shaped chunk of played-out tobacco farmland between Winston Salem and Greensborough and pave it over with - no shit - vast looping 12 - lane highways that don't really go anywhere in a great big hurry. In this same area are 87,500,986 shopping malls. Huuuuuuuge shopping malls. Three story multi-acre shopping malls. (And you can't find your way around in them either! They have maps...they just don't have the little 'you are here' indicator. Yay!) The state mascot is the majestic Traffic Berm. Fuckers are everywhere.
Now as for malls... Each mall contains the same retail theme, adjusted for budget. Seven giant jewelry stores, 565 womens' clothing stores, 65 shoe stores, 400 mens' clothes and furnishings outlets, and at least one regal Romanian woman selling exfoliant and moisturizer at 175.00 the pop. (One of these gorgeous women grabbed me by the arm and exfoliated me, in fact. It was a shock and awe exfoliation. Being covered in a fine layer of brick-orange dust as everyone and everything is in this area, I was 7 shades lighter after she'd finished which was kind of embarrassing. Still, during her spiel, as she scoured my arm to get rid of all the gravel and old tires and loose, dead skin and stale lunch meat, I realized that her magic elixir was merely a mixture of Purel and ground walnut shells. Talk about brass balls.)
The next mall down the line will have the same profile, only it's stores will be genuine upscale brand outlets and not filled with Chinese knockoffs. And no matter what, there will be at least two beauty supply superstores. Not outlets. Not storefronts. Stores the size of an airport parking lot. In addition there will be 56,709 different kinds of salon and specialty purveyors of things like feather eyelashes, threading parlors, foot spas, and nail artists offering the most exquisitely baroque treatments imaginable; straight, short, long and downcurved, rounded, stilleto sharp, stick-on, ultraviolet - hardened, dangly charms, your kids' pictures, money nails crafted out of actual currency, diamond studding, and other stuff I had no idea people did to their fingernails.
2. This one fucked with me bad. Random wads of human hair litter the stores, parks, roadsides and sidewalks. Scared the crap out of me.
3. A meal is not a meal unless it's a uniform light tan.
Typical breakfast/lunch/dinner: a biscuit, a meat, grits, toast, a flubby waffle, 'regular' syrup (maple, but you have a choice of butter pecan, Karo and some kind of mystery berry) over all and your choice of sides which threw me for a loop since didn't you already have three sides going on there on your plate? But no. You have to choose from a list of more grits, another biscuit, hush puppies (breaded and fried witchety grubs as far as I could tell) eggs, bacon, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes with your choice of toppings, white gravy, brown gravy, several variations of the fried potato, and occasionally tomato slices. This is way too many choices to make when you have low blood sugar. Tell you what, though, once you've finished this homage to starch, that situation WILL change like a punch to the sternum.
3. This area is where the video game 'Grand Theft Auto' was rehearsed before it went to the storyboard, which is a lie but should be true.
There is no speed limit. I am telling you the Gods' truth. You can drive past a cop on two wheels with gurning children packed in the back package tray and all it merits is a lazy wave. Naturally it didn't take us long to test this, and it's true as shit: you can pretty much do whatever you want at whatever speed you want as long as nothing catches fire. Like stopping in the middle of the road, turning off your engine, putting on your emergency blinkers and proceeding to text at length. Yes, we really saw this. Several times.
The roads themselves are just as awful as those in Oregon, and that's pretty awful. Apparently level macadam is for the weak. Everyone seems to take this in stride; life is short and cars are made to get from point a. to point b.
If the car is making loud blubbadubbaduh noises, or parts of the car are missing, or are held on with zip ties, pop rivets, colored duct tape, nylon rope or clear cargo wrap, drive on. As far as the police are concerned, as long as said car can move down the road it's all good.
And yes - people actually do take residential air conditioners and mount them in car windows with butyl caulk and plywood.
4. It is perfectly legal to whip a bitch. State law.
We took advantage of this every time we went out just because it felt so dirty. For those of you who don't know what whipping a bitch is, it means if the road is wide enough, you can go ahead and rip that steering wheel 'round like Dukes of Hazzard, at speed, and head back where you came from. It is a GAS. (And totally illegal in Washington.) Traffic berms mean nothing. Hell, if you find yourself headed in the wrong direction and think you can make it over a traffic berm, godspeed. If you get high centered, put it in neutral, get out and push until your car drifts into the opposite lane, then run like hell and dive into the front seat.
Yup. Saw it.
5. Women driving fully accessorized luxury cars are the queens of the road.
You give way. It's simple self-preservation. These ladies do what they want. They want to drive up onto wide traffic berms, shut off their car and text. They want to drive as fast as they feel like going, which is usually really really fast. The turning lane is the lane they want to make a turn from. They do NOT want to wait at a stop light because stop lights do not apply to them so they romp on the gas and 4-wheel it through the decorative roadside plantings to go around the line. Mall parking lots are made deadly by these ladies, many of whom haven't been able to see over the dashboard for 30 years.
6. The dirt is pumpkin orange. Honest to snot pumpkin orange.
All the topsoil got scraped off by the developers, leaving only the red clay substrate, which turns bright orange as it dries out. I kept wondering where everyone was getting all the colorful bark mulch but no, it was just dirt. And since it is clay dirt...
7. Nearly everything is built out of brick. It's like being on a huge military base.
8. Do not expect the bathrooms to have been cleaned below knee level.
I go to the bathroom a lot. I'm 57. It's what I do. I know when shit has been cleaned and this shit hadn't been cleaned. Anywhere. Anyplace. Like, not even in the Museum of History. The crud on the bathroom floor was historic but I don't think that's an excuse.
9. Old Salem Village is awesome. Read about it's awesomeness here: http://www.oldsalem.org/
Yes, people who work there dress in period costume, but you are not required to interact with them as though they were ghosts out of the past. I even heard one say 'fuck'. It was cool.
10. Housing is super inexpensive.
For what we paid for The Rancho 20 years ago, the kids were able to purchase a residence in the tony district of town with a full daylight basement, a Wolf gas stove, a marble bath, and pecan hardwood floors.
11. Most people answer to no standard of taste but their own.
Roseann Roseannadanna, Cleopatra, Patti Smith, Lady Gaga, Billy Preston, Lil' Mama, Clint Eastwood, Jay Z, Landro Calrissian, that Mexican guy in Men In Black who turned out to be an alien holding a head on a stick - anything you can imagine; everyone colorful like birds of paradise, all sparkling with diamonds and jangling with 'notice me' jewelry. The only cultural uniform I saw was worn by older men of a certain political bent: small check shirts with pearl buttons, high waist slacks, pointy boots, and a spankin' new bill cap.
That's about all I have to say about that. We were thinking about moving there to be closer to the grandkids, but after having visited we realized that there was no way in hell we wanted to live there. The flight itself was unpleasant in the extreme (fuck you and your seats of stone, Delta Airlines) much less the thought of hauling all our crap across the continent to live near a woman who, God love her, still goes off like a human stomp rocket because some utterly random thing tickled her crack.
The grandkids are fine.
They are fine.
So be it.