Friday, June 25, 2010


It was an exciting day on Wednesday when I got to drive out to my boss' house to drop off some payroll stuff. She lives well off my beaten path between work, daycare, grocery store, and home, way out past Centerville (pronounced "Sinnervul").

Centerville is more of a crossroads with a gas station than a "-ville." It's a "spot in the road." There's the gas station and there's what I imagine to be a long-forgotten boot emporium, based on the fading sign with the picture of boots on it out front. That's the town. There are two signs at the crossroads, one that points to Mt. George on the right and one that points to Ola on the left. Centerville is really a town whose only function is to supply better directions to other towns. "Take a left when you get to Centerville."

There are towns like this on back roads all over the United States. Places where people just end up due to circumstances beyond their control and they're just as bewildered at being there as you are at anybody being there. They're not far enough out for true nature lovers to enjoy the countryside, and they're not close enough in for real professionals to get to work in a reasonable amount of time. They're just there, with their low property values and land that your great-grandparents bought on the advice of a misguided city planner, with their non-descript houses that all look exactly the same in your memory even though they're very different in actuality, places where nobody wants to live except those looking to be forgotten, people who just stay there on the crossroads functioning only to give better directions to other people. "Take a left when you start looking like me."

Although I was still excited about getting paid to drive my car and listen to music it was kind of a long trip back to work. I thought about my problems with making decisions, riding the fence on things, never getting off dead-center, turning in circles at the crossroads. After all, if you don't know where you're going how will you know when you get there? You'll know when you wake up in (aptly-named) Centerville.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monsters Inside Me

Every year around this time I start getting chest pain, some respiratory problem flares up and I spend the rest of the year trying to get it under control, and I do a good job of it until about this time the next year when something goes a little bit wrong, gets a little unbalanced and my fragile tower of respiratory health comes crashing down in a raspy, painful, phelgmatic mess. Every year it gets worse too. Last year it was bronchitis. I've not been to a doctor yet this year, but everyone I've mentioned my symptoms to starts throwing around this word: "Pleurisy." It's an inflamation of the lining between your lungs and your chest cavity, as I understand it, and the pain I feel with every breath is the two rubbing together and tearing. There can be many causes for this condition but I'm pretty sure that in my case it's some sort of parasite, or menengitis.

Does anyone else watch Animal Planet? I think they're trying to get their fair share of the TruTV, A&E, and Discovery Channel audience, that demographic comprised of people who want be too scared to sleep with their back to the door when they turn off the TV for the night, who can't fall asleep anymore without hearing the theme song to Forensic Files, who think they they would probably make a pretty good detective right now even without formal training, or at least they'd do a better job than the local police who really botched that last murder case, who like to, sometimes, when they're at work and it's slow, read transcripts of old Dateline episodes. Like me. Well Animal Planet has made it into my 54-31-39 channel rotation with such shows as "I Shouldn't Be Alive" and that one about animals who see ghosts or something like that, and most recently "Monsters Inside Me." It's about microorganisims (which should thank Animal Planet's poor ratings with their non-horrifying childrens programing for letting them eek by as actual animals) that attack their hosts from the inside, worms, parasites, terrible-looking little microscopic things that seem to be in everyone's drinking water, salad, and pork. That's what I've got, monsters inside me. That's exactly what it feels like. That and menengitis, the bad kind that virtually guarantees that everyone I've had contact with in the past month has it too. I haven't seen a show about menengitis in years, but the one I saw sticks with me. How could I not have it? It's so contagious.

I guess I ought to schedule a doctors appointment and quit watching terrible shows on TV. Garbage in, garbage out. You know.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dover Dollar General, Sunday

Not much happens in my life, I mean, nothing very fun or exciting. I really don't do anything I don't want to do, though. Which is not to say that I don't cook or clean or pay bills or bathe, I guess I just mentally prepare myself for these types of activities and make myself want to do them. If I cook, I get to eat, and I like to eat. If I clean I get to walk across the floor without getting all kinds of dirt and dog hair and what I can only guess is bits of mortar or gravel stuck to my feet. Bills? TV. Bathing? People not thinking I don't bathe. Last Sunday I had to go out for some soda, juice, and milk, which no matter how much I buy I cannot keep stocked. I don't like leaving the house, not on any day but especially not on a Sunday afternoon. But I made myself want to do it because I wanted to not drink water anymore.

Walmart is my nightmare, plus it's all the way in Russellville. The Dover Supermarket is great, but not a cheap as the Dover Dollar General, so I loaded my two-year-old into the car. My eleven-year-old came along too which was great because I could leave the Story, the two-year-old, in the car with Hayden, the eleven-year-old. When I walked in I was really glad that I left the boys in the car. It was late in the afternoon so all the church-shoppers had already headed home and apparently after them comes a wave of meth addicts, buying their sugary drinks and salty dinners in cans.

When I leave the house each day, what usually happens is see how pale my skin is in the sunlight in my rearview mirror and realize that normal people probably would have done something with their hair, or my pants really don't fit quite the way they did when they came out of the dryer and I feel kind of bad or embarrassed about how I look. That day in Dollar General I felt very well-put-together and confident about my pale skin. In front of me was a girl with some other people roughly her age who had paler skin but with little scratches all over it and un-filled-in prison tattoos of a cross and a little fairy with a Confederate flag for wings. She was wearing black fuzzy slippers, mens' boxer shorts, and a Jeff Gordon t-shirt. Behind me was a woman (apparently meth-addict or not, people in the South still adhere to the unwritten rule that women do the shopping) in short-alls with the sides completely unbuttoned, a pink too-small tank top and also some slippers, although hers were pink. She had some kids with her. That's about all there is to the story. Nothing amazing happened and no matter how hard I tried to eavesdrop out could not make out what they were saying to the people with them. That would have made a better story...

I don't know if they did meth, and I don't know that they weren't really great people. Maybe they just really like those fuzzy slippers and the kind of life that allows them to forego shoes altogether. I hope that whatever they were doing that day that they enjoyed their canned red beans and rice and Kool-Aid. They made me, for those few minutes while I was sandwiched between them in line while the overly-friendly cashier chatted the first one up, feel very lucky and very blessed and a little bit sad.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Remember back in the '90's when the internet was vilified because it was eliminating the need for real human interaction? It was about the time online grocery shopping was introduced, and I was in high school so I may not be remembering this right. People were terrified that we would become a country of shut-ins and recluses. And look what we've done. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, how many more are there? Hundreds? Thousands? We have the capability to never see another live human being again and yet what most people choose to do when they're online is contact other people, people they've not seen in years. I've got more friends on Facebook than I ever had in my whole life, people who I thought hated me, people who I loved but didn't know I existed. Every time I get a friend request I think "Wow! That person noticed me?!" All the missed opportunities! I could have been the most popular person in high school, if only I'd known that so many people knew my name. I guess the rule pretty much is that if you went to the same high school or college, you were friends. Which is really pretty interesting. Even the people I remember as being enemies (not mine, of course, I didn't have any enemies, and if I did I was unaware of it and still am because we're facebook friends now) in high school are friends. Take all these gang-related shootings, for instance. I've always thought that gang members would have way more similarities than differences, they ought to get along. They would probably be facebook friends. After all, you have to know someone to hate them, you have to be alike, to care about them in some way, otherwise you just wouldn't care about them, they'd just be someone you didn't know. Thanks, facebook, for demonstrating that.

Which brings me to glassware. Tomorrow my father-in-law, Richard - founder, owner, and auctioneer at Spear Auctioneers - is going to be holding his first live online auction, a first for the state of Arkansas as well, and it's going to be all glassware. Hours and hours worth of what I'm told is a magnificent collection. Tomorrow, what began as small gatherings in chicken houses and cattle ranches will be broadcast at the speed of information around the world. Don, who wears suspenders and a cowboy hat daily, who does something like 300 push-ups and sit-ups every morning, who once punched a horse when it got out of control and knocked IT to the ground, is worried to death about his voice being heard across the nation. I'll be there clerking, along with my sister-in-law and one other clerk, who sat through hours of training on Proxibid, the online auction service. Only Richard, the auctioneer and my father-in-law, seems stoically calm.

This is where we are now. Some people may still fear a world where people can hide in their dusty apartments and still collect really nice glassware, but I think this is going to go the way of everything else. I think friends will be made, I think people at home can now take part in the excitement that an auction generates, be a part of that energy even from far away, because isn't that what we do best, being people?

If you want to be friends with Spear Auctioneers, Inc. they're there on facebook. If you want to take part in the auction, to exercise that human instinct to interact with other people go to and look for Spear Auctioneers under auction houses. It's going to be epic.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Crossing the Street

It got a little slow at work today so to avoid sitting at my desk pretending to be busy when people walked by the door, and because we were thirsty, Trish sent me to the PDQ to get some drinks. I walked out the door with keys in hand and stopped in the parking lot. PDQ is just across the street - literally across the street. And although we send our drivers there all the time on errands I decided to risk it and just walk.

It started out alright. I made it all the way to the end of our street uneventfully and then waited for the opportunity to cross to the other side which only came when the light that allows the parade of summer Walmart shoppers to file into the packed football-stadium-sized parking lot. As I was reaching the other side I heard what might have been a whistle.

I got our drinks and headed back, this time facing traffic for a distance of maybe 50 feet. In that time I got whistled at (definitely), "hollered" at, honked at, and then an 18-wheeler drove by, looked me directly in the eye, and blew that massive horn that 18-wheelers have that require that "honk-honk" motion with the entire forearm to execute (every kid who's ever been on a road trip knows this motion). By the time I got back to work I felt like a million bucks.

When asked what took so long I admitted that instead of driving I just walked across the street. I was met with these shocked looks that meant "You did WHAT???" Rhonda even said it aloud. "Yeah, I just, I mean, it's literally RIGHT there, guys," I said pointing to the PDQ outside our front window. They were amazed.

Crossing the street in a small town is very, VERY different from crossing the street in a city. For one thing, nobody does it in a small town. I said my decision to walk across the street was a risk, and that was no joke. The only people who walk anywhere in this town are people who can't afford cars, people whose cars have broken down on the side of the road, and people looking to get picked up in other people's cars. If you're not in a car you obviously can't afford a car. If someone drives by and honks, they assume that since you've clearly made some bad decisions in your life, why not make one more? If someone honks in the city it just means you're about to get nudged onto the sidewalk by their bumper, or you dropped something in the middle of the street. It never occurs to anyone to walk anywhere here because parking is readily available. In the city I would walk miles just to avoid trying to find a parking spot, not to mention paying $25 to park the car. Here there are fields of parking lots. Which, then, is why we're all overweight down here. If you put a gas-station sized parking lot outside of Walmart, or one of those confusing multi-tiered things like they have in the city more people would walk, who can get a diesel truck into a parking garage anyway? We would all get more exercise, lose those extra pounds, and then, like me, feel deserving when we get honked at while walking down the road.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Why I'm Blessed

It's getting really hot here, which means that I'm not comfortable anywhere. Outside it's sweltering, so hot you can't breathe. Even the wind is hot. Inside, no matter where I am, the person who must not pay the electricity bill keeps the thermostat down around 70 degrees, which is much too cold. I don't like to use the air conditioner in my car, not because it doesn't work right or anything but because to turn it on makes me feel like a wimp, like putting the visor down does (one day you will all recognize my zen-like inner strength and it will all be due to my years of driving around in a 100+ degree car with sun streaming directly into my eyeballs). I know, it makes no real sense. Incidentally my zen-like inner strength only goes so far when it's actually 100+ degrees out side the car and thus about 500+ degrees inside the car and I finally had to cave and turn on the air the other day. I was chastising myself for my weakness, but I think Story was relieved, he does not have the self-control issues that I have. Whereas I practice way too much, he, in my opinion, practices way too little.

I say all that to say that I'm thankful to have a job. In an economy that I can't make sense of, that for the first time in my life has directly affected me, requiring me to spend long terrifying months going to interviews for jobs that I wouldn't get, jobs that instead went to people who were way over qualified for the positions, people who were just as disappointed with themselves for getting that job as I was for not getting it, not to mention gas prices, interest rates, the rising cost of food, and endless newscasts about things I don't understand. Despite all of that I have a job, in an office, where I don't have to answer phones or look at customers or take care of anyone, and what's even better is it's not outside. I don't know how laborers and construction workers and equipment operators get through a day. All of you out there reading this, carry a thermos of cold lemonade in your car to give to those guys standing in the hot sun with the "STOP" and "SLOW" signs that hold up traffic for hours while they lay hot asphalt on the hot road, making you late for your nice office job. I think they would appreciate it. Their job would be unbearable. That's got to be the worst. That or stump grinding.