Saturday night, and no better time for a conundrum. Normally I really enjoy a good argument with myself, because I always win. But this morning I had a “jump the shark” experience on my way home from the firehouse which has led me to this point. Let’s fill in some blanks: I normally stop at a drive thru coffee shop on the way home from work, because there’s a fair to middling chance that I’ve been up and down through the night running typically bogus calls. This is an aggravation, but lessened by the promise of wrapping my hands around four dollars of liquid heat and caffeine. From time to time the boys from different stations will meet-up post-shift, actually go inside and tell a few tall ones over a cup or three of mud, thereby pissing off the hipster baristas. Apparently, they would rather ignore other people wearing square eyeglasses and ironic trucker hats and avoid us like the plague. No big.
So, while whipping through the drive-thru at a high rate of speed, I order a drink for myself, and one for The Wife, because I need to keep her caffeinated lest we all suffer. I also happen to be on the phone with The Lyrical Jackass, who is telling me his latest feats of Lotharian prowess. As I am entranced by the tale he’s weaving, I absent-mindedly mumble my order into the squawk-box only to have LJ burst into laughter and yell “WHAT did you just order?” I told him grande something or other for Her. Only too late did I realize I had pronounced it not “grahn-dey” but “grand-day” coffee. As in “Gimme one of them thar grand-day coffees Sissy, I got me a mess o’ work waitin’ on me down at the Kwik Kash Payday Loan joint.” Oh, Lordy. What have I done? What HAVE I done?
To quote the Jackass, when the inbred Arkansas hillbilly has to correct my pronunciation of things, it’s time to ask the hard questions. What just happened? When did it begin happening? And more precisely, WHY, in the name of Dale Earnhardt, rest his soul, did it happen? Am I but a few steps away from considering fried chicken in brown gravy with cashews and onions “Chinese” food? Is it too late, or will I soon start considering Bass Pro to be some sort of Mecca and Jim Bakker a “pretty good guy” who just got a bum deal? These are, indeed, troubling times.
As I worry the Maker’s Mark out of my evening cocktail here on the front porch and the fireflies do their visual fornication-invitation dance all around me, I thought it prudent to list the pros and cons of life here in these Ozarks. I kept the list short, as mandated by my attention span.
- Cheap housing. And I don’t just mean the vinyl siding, either. I bought my first home for the price of a decent luxury car, a fact my family in California considers a minor miracle. That may well be because it is common fact that on the West Coast, one must be willing to shell out darn near a million bones to purchase a 900 square foot crack den in a decidedly shady neighborhood.
- Seasons. We have two weeks of awesome weather in the spring (minus the tornadoes), six months of unbearable heat and humidity followed by two weeks of incredibly idyllic fall colors, wrapped up with five more months of winter weather with winds icy enough to freeze bone marrow, little snow and A LOT of ice and slush. Seasons.
- The folks. With the exception of those who’ve made my List, the people of the Ozarks tend to be genuine, real folks. They work hard, they seem to care for their neighbors (there are exceptions, of course. Like when you got a good meth deal about to be busted by that no-good nosy neighbor. I’ve heard that one on a call. True story. Almost like Scooby-Doo), and will do things out of sheer sense of good will that would baffle residents of the coasts.
- Bacon. Still a food group out here.
- No ocean. No mountains. I mean real mountains. It is decidedly difficult to come out to the middle of the middle of the middle without much to see above 1000′ except for blue skies. We ARE, however, tidal wave free for the last six million years. Go us!
- Holy Rolling. It’s infectious and apparently gets in the blood. This past three months alone, I’ve had more than a few people trying to save my soul and recruit me for Jesus Christ Supercenter Of The Ozarks (aka Six Flags Over Jesus). It would seem that my chaotic lifestyle presents something of a challenge to which they are drawn, in a rescue-me-kinda way. Plus, when I say that the only difference between a cult and religion is about 1000 years, that gets ’em all stirred up. Damn me. Straight to hell, apparently.
- Just the Good Ol’ Boys. Whether we’re talking city politics (police and fire pension, anyone?), neighbors who utilize the N-word with an alarming frequency (try explaining THAT ignorance to your six year old) or the fact that some would consider the ONE billboard in town that’s in Spanish to be a herald of the Mexican invasion, it gets old. We need to grow out of 1956, folks.
- Meth. It is a problem, and apparently we can’t make enough of it out here. I mean, besides the whole losing teeth thing, there are some heinous consequences to the whole lifestyle. I know; we see ’em more than just occasionally.
It’s a hell of a thing, multiple choice.