Saturday, January 10, 2009

Take Me Home

Be warned - this is a long-ass post. And I'm leaving most of the pics for Raechelle to include in her welcome back post.

Well, I'm back.

Oh, I could joke about Deliverance not being a work of fiction, but that would do grave injustice to the folks I met in West Virginia. By and large, they are a friendly and helpful group of folks, and the pace of life is what one would expect from a trip to the country.

To say it was culture shock would be an understatement, and yet I think I “passed for redneck” pretty well, with my WVU cap and size 13 muddin' boots. I also started twangin' almost as soon as we were across the Pennsylvania/West Virginia border. It's just so easy.

What made it easiest, of course, was having grown up around the farm people in my family. Country is country, to a certain degree. I drove an ATV around my cousin's rice farm in Artois, California. I rode horses around the Almaden Valley. I lived in trailers in Felton and Watsonville, and on the side of a hill with a dirt road for access in Aptos. I've seen a muddy hill pour through my sister's bedroom window and shoveled the same muck out of my carport in Seattle. All of that experience turns out to have been good training for the West Virginia experience. Who knew?

And in a case of life imitating art, every time a waitress would ask, "y'all want some sweet tea?" I would think of Gary Valentine's "Atlanta Sweet Tea" stand-up bit...

I know that's a lot of preamble to get to the juicy part: the in-laws-to-be. They are wonderful, warm, caring and earthy people, and we took to each other right away. Unfortunately the moving truck was delayed in Tennessee due to foul weather, so I didn't get to help with the big move-in, but I did make myself useful by hanging medicine cabinets and towel rods and the like. I even bought a small laser level for Rae's dad as a housewarming gift, and had to go all over God's Green Earth to find adhesive putty to stick it to the wall with (which we finally found in an office supply shop in Phillippi).

We laughed, we drank, we swore like sailors – often all at once. We played full-contact Uno. We slept on air mattresses on the floor. I tried to help the Dish Network guy (read: idiot) get his truck out of the mud.

Hint: Dude. Seriously. Repeating "all's it'll take is but a little tug" eleventy thousand times really doesn't do much - trust me, I've tried.

Alcohol, tobacco and/or firearms may have been involved, in a general sense. Welcome to the country. It was a good first meeting under unusually stressful circumstances, and everybody did spectacularly well.

I especially want to give a big shout out to Rae's cousin Diane and her hubby Jeff, who at one time or another fed us, sheltered us, did our laundry, and/or ran errands and brought supplies. You guys seriously rock on toast.

As with any family convergence, some things get made into in-jokes and shtick. One of the main shticks became me punching various things in the face. “Man, I just want to punch this dirt road IN THE FACE!” And so forth. It's a pretty common silly phrase several of my friends and I have used for years, but it kinda took on a life of its own on this trip. For instance:

Me punching the West Virginia mud in the face.

Me punching Uno in the face.

Raechelle punching morning in the face.

We planned out many more shots that we ended up forgetting about for one reason or another, but time ran out on us. By Thursday morning, as much fun as I'd had, I missed my kids and the salt air of the West Coast. Of course it started snowing Wednesday night, making the drive to Pittsburgh in the early morning somewhat of a Stephen King horror novel. The roads cleared some after the sun came out and we made decent time to the airport, sleep-deprived and pissy – but how else are you gonna end a week in the West Virginia winter?

To add to the “grrr” factor, I hate traveling alone. I also hate idiots and bigots, and happened to meet both rolled into one in the security line at Pittsburgh. This sixtyish "gentleman" (and that's being generous) with a belly and a walrus mustache tried to strike up a conversation. Maybe I was passing a bit too well as a redneck, because he did so in the worst possible way to get on my good side. Here's what he said:

Don't this just piss you off? I mean, my grandson
Just got back from killin' a bunch o' them tally-ban,
so you'd think they could lighten this [security] up some.

(blank stare)

Fucking Muslims.

(internal monologue)
Gee, mister. I'm awful sorry you've been so inconvenienced
by our current security measures, and I sure am glad your
grandson came home in one piece. But I'd wager that a whole
generation of kids who have had arms and legs blown off
simply as a result of having been born in the wrong country
are a bit more inconvenienced than either of us. So why
don't you climb down off your big white horse and have a
heapin' helpin' of shut-the-hell-up, and we can get to our
respective gates so I don't have to look at the face
of ignorance anymore.

Yeah, had I actually said that, it would've gone clear over his head and into the next county, so I simply leveled a nut-withering stare at him. And when I'm in a grouchy mood to start with, and someone wants to cozy up to me by offering a display of abject douchebaggery, those stares can be mighty nut-withering indeed.

I managed to get WiFi at the gate, and downloaded all 500+ emails that had been collecting over the past week, made some phone calls, and settled in for a long day of travel. My flight from Chicago was delayed by an hour, and despite being moved to a bulkhead seat, I was pretty uncomfortable on the trip back to Seattle. I caught a taxi home from the airport and nearly kissed the ground when I arrived home. Gavin & Michelle had really done a marvelous job in my absence, and deserve a huge shout-out too. I slept like a rock in my bed (albeit not more than five hours, but still – beats the heck out of an air mattress on the floor, right?).

Got Tyler to his sleep study consult at Children's Hospital on Friday morning, then spent some father-son bonding time (lunch, haircuts, etc). Got caught up on email, opened the pile of snail mail, all the usual catch-up stuff one does after a week away from the homestead. Last night we ordered our pizza and watched The Wedding Singer.

I'm doing more catch-up today. Paying bills, doing finances, getting Sportacus washed, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, blah blah blah. And Kayleigh is having a friend sleep over. But I'm still gonna carve out some time for a little CoH with the boys.

Come tomorrow night, my sweetie will be home, and life can return to its normal state of crazy.

1 comment:

Gary Burlingame said...

Todd, This walrus guy has been bothering me for days, now. For one, I'm heartened by your position, and glad to be warned that there are actually people out there like that. Now I can be more prepared. I think the guy needs better friends. The cost to my sanity might be too high, but I can at least now, at this distance, conceive of the possibility of saying, "You want to get some coffee and tell me more?" Surely there's some good in there somewhere?