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.
I enjoyed that one. A little bit of self reflection is always nice, and there is nothing like a bunch of tweakers at the local park to make one say “How the F— did I end up living here?” It seems that all of us who grew up in California especially the costal part and have left for greener pastures. (The definition of green being real-estate that costs less than $1000 per square foot.) We have longings for some of the social norms of a more affluent lifestyle. In my case neighbors who are willing to mow and weed their yards more than once a year or the expectation that everyone wears a shirt in the grocery store. These and a few other pointed behavioral shortcomings help me to understand why the California I grew up in can never be returned. It has regulated it self out of existence in an effort to control such offensive behavior. After the soul crushing Political Correctness of California in the 1990’s I try to embrace the Northwest’s white trash diversity. Shirt, shoes and teeth are optional.
I maintain my statement to the locals “California is a great place to live if it weren’t for all of the people that live there.”
Dirtbag, you are spot on, as ever. I say “screw it” let’s just buy a tugboat and make our way as captains on the Columbia. It’d be a hell of a ride!
Having just returned from a trip to my most recent home state of Florida, I can relate to this conundrum. When deciding where to raise the boys we chose this area for many reasons including the great schools and the smallest amount of outlaw family members. Normally when choosing between two evils I pick the one I have not tried before. Although I had lived here in my college days I have to say there is no better place to raise the fam. The great cost of living provides us the opportunity to go back to all the places we would rather be. Those seasons you speak of sound familiar but I would rather be someplace where there is one season all year.
How I miss the days when we wore the trucker hats and turned the local hipster hangouts into “damn truck stops.” I’m sure your spanish skills have a wonderful midwestern twang at least as much as your english. I know that it takes you more than a few days to readjust to the left coast when you visit these days. Culture shock indeed. Say “Hi” to Awesome for me the next time you see ’em.
hard to argue with constant 72 degree temps, ain’t it?
I, too, miss the halcyon days of our squandered youth, when a career as a truck driver seemed like such a brilliant idea. And yes, coming home is always a shock, if for no other reason than to serve as a reminder of all that I’ve left behind.
Don is with you on the bacon. Another plus is the nature preserve walk, even though relatively flat. The folks are a real plus but one might wonder how that relates to the Good Ol’ Boys.
bacon truly is the fruit of the pig, er, Gods, and despite it’s desire to kill me, I can’t turn away from it! And yes, the Good Ol’ Boys are a blemish on the canvas of the Ozark Mountains.
Aren’t you supposed to keep your enemies closer? Nothin’ like good ol’ midwestern pork.
Ro, there comes a point where “knowing” them becomes “saturated with idiocy”. I think that line may have been blurred already….
I agree with it all, even having only lived in Missouri my entire existance, but when does the Truck crew get up in the night? All I seem to notice is you stumbling out into the hallway with a glazed over look and me telling yopu to go back to bed, its for the Engine.
As you may or may not be aware, we live by the motto “Truck Work Is Never Done”. While you Engine sissies get all the credit, it is the unappreciated efforts of the Truckies that make the station and fireground run like well-oiled machines.
I’m a little behind. When exactly are these six weeks of unbearable heat?
that would have been in the month of June with some slight spillover into July……being from Texas, I don’t know if you can feel my pain. Everything’s hotter in Tejas, si?
I love the “fornication invitation” part! lmao