Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Coat of Many Colors

I'm about to write a sentence that I'm sure I've never written before: We went to Gay Day at Dollywood today. The annual event is similar to the unofficial gay days at other parks, like Disneyland, Disney World and such. It's an unofficial, word-of-mouth event where gays and lesbians show up en masse to a park, wear red shirts and spend the day having a blast and raising visibility of the gay community in a fun environment.

We've been to gay days at Disneyland and Disney World. Both are huge events bringing in thousands of attendees. Dollywood's crowd was quite a bit smaller, which made it seem all the more important for us to be there. This is Pigeon Forge, Tennessee we're talking about here. Being out and visible here is very different from being out in Orlando or Anaheim. We went with a couple of new friends, rode rides, enjoyed junk food and basked in the down-home glam of Dolly Parton's world.

We had just finished up lunch and were chatting about what to do next, when all of a sudden, an employee was standing next to our table. I only noticed him out of the corner of my eye. Then he spoke, "You gonna be a hairdresser?" We are four gay men from wildly different backgrounds and experiences, but we all had the same reaction. Eyes narrowed. Fists clenched. Backs straightened. It's the gay "fight or flight" reaction. What was this guy trying to pull? Was this lame attempt to bully a group of gay guys really all he could come up with? We all focused on him. There was safety in numbers. We had each other's backs. Plus, we had brothers and sisters all around us. He picked the wrong day to make some Archie Bunker era joke about gay hairdressers.

That's when we noticed the little girl at the table next to us...braiding her friend's hair. She smiled at the employee and shrugged, and he went on his way. We all exchanged glances and broke up, laughing.

"I thought he was talking to you!"
"No, he was talking to you!"

It never goes away, that survival instinct we develop as gay children, then pretend we don't need as out and proud gay adults. But it's there, just beneath the surface, waiting to make fists, put shields up or tell us to run, run as fast as you can. A shared moment among comrades, each willing to take on the perceived enemy, willing to raise holy hell in the middle of the food court in Dollywood.

We decided to ride the roller coaster again.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Are You There, Vodka? It's me, Chance

I don't know where to begin. Let me try to explain I understand the folks back in Los Angeles. In North Carolina, you can buy beer and wine at grocery stores and specialty stores, except on Sundays before noon. Hard alcohol is only available at government-run stores called ABC. That's the only place you can buy the hard alcohol. The government sets the price and that's that. You have to pay what they ask and buy it where they tell you, or you're out of luck.

Okay, okay, so try to wrap your head around this. In Los Angeles, you can go to any number of liquor stores and grocery stores and get any kind of booze you want any time of day. So how is this affecting me, exactly? I'm used to going and getting my Ruby Red Absolut any time and any place I want. Sometimes it's cheaper at BevMo, sometimes it's cheaper at the Russian Jon's down the street. The point is that it's the perfect summer beverage and I love it in lemonade, iced tea, orange juice, 7-Up, cereal, tooth paste, you name it.

So's summer...temperatures are climbing...I'm throwing lemons into the Lemonator and I need some Ruby Red! Well, sorry kids, I have only one choice as dictated by the government. This must be how the Russians felt in the Soviet Union, standing in line for their government-issued vodka.

We may live in a red state, but it's not a ruby red state. It's going to be a long summer.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Culture Shock: Part 3

Except for the smoking, I've really enjoyed all of my Asheville dining experiences. And we're learning which of the smoking restaurants to avoid. I'm looking at you, Flying Frog. The other night, we went to yummy Rosetta's Kitchen for dinner. We sat on the patio, which was really more of a balcony overlooking the street below. There were "No Smoking" signs up everywhere, so I thought we were probably safe. Then, lo and behold, an employee sat down and pulled out a pack of Camels. Luckily, we were almost through with our meal, but I still felt a surge of annoyance as he spent about five minutes tapping first one end of the pack, then the other on the table. Smoking rituals are so bizarre to me. Can anyone tell me what that's supposed to accomplish exactly?

Finally, he pulled out a cigarette, lit it and took a long drag. Then, miraculously, he carefully stamped out the cigarette and placed it back in the pack, before heading back to work. I don't think I ever even saw him exhale. Very bizarre, but better than sitting in a cloud of tar all night.

The other big dining culture shock here is the check ritual. In Los Angeles, part of the glittering Hollywood culture is the big grab for the check at the end of the meal. Michael and I have even made elaborate plans prior to a meal for the best way to get and pay the check to avoid any debate.

"They paid last time, but they won't remember. So we have to get that check!"
"I know. I'll create a diversion and you grab it."
"Better yet, I'll pretend to go to the bathroom and head the waiter off."

So imagine our surprise here, where everywhere we go, they offer separate checks. They even ask you prior to ordering or at the end of the meal if you want separate checks! Even when it's just me and Michael, waiters and waitresses always ask. It's totally bizarre! In Los Angeles, it was very, very rare to get separate checks. Most restaurants put it in their menus: "No separate checks. Don't even ask." And the rare occasions that you do get separate checks in Los Angeles, they're always wrong. So I end up paying for my salad, your steak and someone else's wine. So you learn not to even ask.

Here, it sort of forces you to announce to someone up front if you're planning to treat them to dinner. It completely ruins the grab for the check and the "Please let me, it's your birthday, after all!" surprise of the dining ritual. Plus, if people know you're paying for them up front, will they still order what they want? Or will Southern manners dictate they follow your lead in terms of entree price range. It's a world gone mad, I tell you!

I suppose this will simply force us to come up with brand new elaborate plans for dining.

"Okay, when the waitress asks about the separate checks, just tell her, 'No, we're paying.'"
"Better yet, call ahead and tell her not to ask, just bring it to me. Tell her I'm the blonde wearing the blue shirt."
"Shut up!"

Okay, that could work.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Decade

Yesterday Michael and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary! Tin or aluminum is the traditional gift for the tenth anniversary, so we bought some patio furniture. I know I've been putting a lot of focus on our shopping lately. I don't want to sound obnoxious and ostentatious, so let me explain. In Los Angeles, we were in desperate need of new furniture and furnishings for the house. But about four years ago, we decided not to buy or replace anything, because we were planning to move. Of course at the time, we thought we'd just be moving down the street. So for four long years, we waited patiently while the curtains faded, the rugs became thread-bare and the furniture slowly fell apart. We really didn't bring much with us in terms of furniture. We either sold it for scrap or threw it away.

So hopefully you'll forgive me for being a little giddy about getting new stuff after all those years of waiting. It's so nice to have a couch that doesn't stab you when you sit on it.

The past ten years have flown by. I never imagined I would be able to stick to anything for ten years, considering all my hobbies and kooky projects that have fallen by the wayside, like the guitar and glass-blowing and the whole Wicca thing. But somehow, we made it to this landmark anniversary. We met in the idyllic decade known as the 90s. Gas was cheap, the economy was booming and you could see a movie and get popcorn for a nickel. It was a simpler time. I was working in a factory and Michael was an officer in the Navy.

I was a fiery redhead and he was a Cuban bongo-player.

We were both sheep-herders, spending the summer up on the mountain.

Close enough.

However we met, times have certainly changed. One of the first movies we saw together was the re-make of The Parent Trap, featuring a precocious ten-year-old newcomer named Lindsey Lohan. That pretty much sums up what ten years can do to a person, a country, a couple. But here we are. On our first date, Michael told me he had never seen Star Wars. It was almost a deal-breaker, since I can't go a day without talking about Star Wars. But I thought maybe he had been in prison or a sanitarium all those years, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But if he had told me, "You know, in ten years we'll still be together, living and laughing it up 3,000 miles away in North Carolina" I might have given the second date a little more thought. Because that just sounds crazy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gayberry, USA

Asheville is a very social town. I'm trying to figure out how it got that way, and if that's typical of smaller towns in the South, or if it's specific to Asheville. I grew up in a small town, and about once a year the townsfolk would come together, smile and nod, then go back to minding their own business for another year. Too many town gatherings usually meant some sort of fight would undoubtedly break out. Or a stoning.

I'm told we arrived in the middle of the busiest social season here, and that things calm down considerably in the winter. I'm starting to understand how we've been to so many fundraisers so far. People here like to drink and socialize and have a good time. At some point, someone must have realized that since people were going to be getting together to do these things anyway, they might as well throw some money in a pot for a good cause.

Last night we went to Downtown After Five, which is a monthly street festival with live music, food and beer. It was packed! But I was heartened to find that we've met enough people now that we see familiar faces everywhere we go. It's such a novelty when you run into someone you know in Los Angeles. Here, we see people we know every day. Too sophisticated to be classified as Mayberry, yet small enough to allow for this kind of social scene, Asheville seems to have the right size, climate and elements to make this sort of interaction possible. Like the planet Earth is uniquely situated to sustain life in the solar system, so is Asheville.

Speaking of Mayberry, I was informed last night that Andy Griffith is gay. This I did not know. Internet research has turned up no hard evidence, only speculation. So I will hold onto my skepticism until Jim Nabors writes a tell-all.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The List is Life

Moving across the country is hard. Well, let me clarify that. Moving across the country is easy if you don't have anything and don't need anything or don't want anything. I have four boxes of books that I haven't unpacked yet. They are sitting in the corner of my office-type space. I would release them from their cardboard prison, but I have no bookcase for them. Since I've lived a whole month without what I had designated as the very most important books I own and couldn't live without, I'm tempted to push the whole lot into a closet. Or the lake.

But what did I put my books on in Los Angeles, you ask? Well, we lived in a tiny village called Valley Village, and just a hop, skip and a jump away was a little hamlet called Burbank, where there resides a big general store called IKEA. If you've ever had IKEA furniture, you know there's more structural stability in the box that the furniture comes in than in the actual furniture. So after many years, my IKEA bookshelves were a big mess and really depended on the books for support. Sort of like how I depend on Michael. IKEA furniture can barely move across the room, let alone across the continent. It disintegrated and we left it behind.

So a new bookcase goes on the List. In case you didn't know this about me, I am a list maker. This goes way, way back. I've always made lists. Sometimes I make a list of the lists I need to make. Since Michael and I have been together, I now separate every list into two parts: Normal List and Crazy List. My Crazy List is fabulous! For instance, if we're getting ready for a party, I will put "beer" on the Normal List. Then on the Crazy List, I'll write, "Make our own beer from scratch; take a class and learn Friday." I blame the Crazy List in equal parts on Martha Stewart and my best friend Andrea, who taught me that no amount of crazy is too crazy. Usually, everything from the Normal List gets done and then Michael lets me choose one or two things from the Crazy List to throw in. That system has worked pretty well for us thus far.

Since I've been in Asheville, I haven't made any lists. That's a whole month of being list-less. And listless is a pretty accurate description of what's become of me after a month of unpacking. I've never moved on this scale before. I've never needed (or thought I needed) so much stuff just so I can put other stuff on it, in it or underneath it. So last night we had dinner at Chorizo, a local Latin restaurant that was very tasty except for the woman next to us who decided to smoke throughout her entire meal and ours. Come on, Asheville! Ban smoking in restaurants and bars already!

Anyway, at Chorizo, I got out pen and paper and made a List. My first official list in Asheville. Surprisingly, almost everything was on the Normal List: bookcase, rug, lamp. At this point, I'm not going to bother with "smelt copper; make antique lamp." I just want to go get one, so I can read at night. So this weekend, we are going to finish unpacking, move the furniture around for the last time, and really settle in and start to feel at home.

Michael is going to bake cookies. I'm going to make a list of things to do next.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Moonlight and Magnolias

Okay, I have this problem. Maybe it's because I was in speech therapy for so many years, or maybe it's because I tend to be a little dramatic, but I'm a pretty good mimic when it comes to accents and voices. Though Michael would argue that my Tim Gunn impersonation still needs a lot of work. So what's the problem?

You know how Madonna moved to England and suddenly started speaking with a Michigan/British accent? And how people hate her for it? Well, when I'm around accents I tend to pick them up really quickly. I mean, really quickly. I can go from zero to Scarlett in about five seconds. This has been a benefit before, like when I lived in the Northeast and needed to hide my Oklahoma accent. To this day, traces of the clipped tones of New England mingle in with the surfer dude drawl of Southern California.

Now I'm in the South and I'm a big old mess. I am not mocking anyone with this little "talent" of mine. It just happens. Plus, I've read too much Tennessee Williams and watched too much Designing Women in my lifetime. Just the other day, I accidentally found myself offering someone a nickel to help bust up a chifferobe. Plus, I'm always shaking my fist at the dawn and vowing never to be hungry again. But then, I did that in Los Angeles, too.

I'm going to do my best to keep my accent in check while I'm here. I'll have to listen to "Valley Girl" on a loop while I sleep, so I don't lose my dulcet Valley Boy tones. Like, oh my God, y'all.

Damn it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"I'm at the mall on a diet pill!"

So much to catch up on. Saturday night we went to the Purple Ball, which was five parties in a row, raising money for the Arts Council. It was loads of fun! Then last night we went to Atlanta for the True Colors Tour 2008, featuring the B-52s and Cyndi Lauper. It, too, was loads of fun, and I can't wait to get back to Atlanta when we have a little more time to explore the city.

In fact, I've been having so much fun that people are beginning to question my fun authenticity. As an odd byproduct of the "you're so quiet" puzzle, I'm finding that the more demonstrative I am in having fun, the more people become concerned about my state of being. For instance, during the five parties on Saturday night, I was drinking, laughing and dancing, but found that people would take me aside or tap me on the shoulder and say, "Are you okay? You look so unhappy. Are you not having a good time?"

I guess when I'm just talking and being social, people think I'm quiet. And when I'm in the throws of a party, people think I'm miserable. Of course, it could have been the purple polyester jacket I was wearing all night. Michael says that my beady, rat-like eyes make people uncomfortable. Well, I can't help my beady, rat-like eyes. It's so unfair, because both my parents have lovely, open, Disney movie eyes. When I was in college, I could get away with putting a dot of white stage makeup in the corner of my eyes to make them look wider and more open. But, then, I could get away with a lot in college, like wearing Capezios, a beret and a denim the same time!

Or I wonder if after all those years in L.A., when I thought I was railing against the superficial culture, I accidentally became phony. And now non-L.A. people are picking up on my phoniness. But I don't think I'm being phony. I think I'm being as genuine as I know how to be. I mean, I'm trying really, really hard to pretend to be effortlessly genuine.

When you're dancing to "Rock Lobster" by the B-52s, and you've just jumped up from the crouching position you've gotten into during the "Down! Down! Down!" part of the song, and the little Brazilian woman next to you says, "Why you have no fun?" Well, gentle readers, something is amiss.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Me First

Today brought a relief from the heat and a list of firsts for this new life in Asheville. First on the list of firsts was my first haircut here. I was a little nervous about this. As most of you know, I have curly hair and have been on the receiving end of many a clueless stylist. Trust me, it's no fun having big, frizzy Bozo hair. Alan, my hair guru in Los Angeles, did such a competent job, I was considering holding off on the haircut until my first visit back to Los Angeles. But we're going to a ball on Saturday night, so I felt I was overdue for a little trim. I was sent to a salon downtown and met with a really sweet (and young) hair stylist. The result was not so bad. While taming my unruly locks, she told me stories about life in Asheville, the arts scene and the jack-o-lantern skills I would need to acquire to take part in my neighborhood's annual Halloween event.

Next, it was off to the comic book store. I've been searching for a friendly place where I can get my weekly stash of comic books. Of course, nothing could replace House of Secrets in Burbank, but Pastimes in Asheville comes pretty close. If you've ever seen the Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons, you have a pretty good idea of the characters one encounters at comic book stores. Luckily, the proprietor of Pastimes was delightful and extremely helpful. I'm setting up an account, so I won't miss a single issue of Thor or Wonder Woman. So you can all rest a little easier now, knowing I'm getting my fix.

In the evening, we met friends at a local pub for cocktails and pitchers of tater tots. Really. Then it was off to see our first Asheville drag show. I don't know if anyone has ever used the word homespun to describe a drag show, but there was a fun, down-to-earth quality to it that was thoroughly enjoyable. The writing was crisp, the jokes hilarious and the music choices delightful. You just can't beat a drag queen crooning "Memory" while doing her best impersonation of a cat. Plus, the bartender made a really tasty cosmo, which is my litmus test for any bar or venue.

So I guess what all of this suggests is that we're slowly, but surely being absorbed into daily life in Asheville. I'm particularly looking forward to the aforementioned ball. I've never been to a ball. But I do like saying the word a lot. I intend to slip into full Cinderella mode as I get ready for said ball. Hopefully, my fairy godmother will show up and perform a little magic on my wardrobe. Or maybe turn Henry into a horse-drawn carriage or stretch limo.

So as my day of firsts ends, I realize we're also coming up on our first month here. Time flies, even in relaxing, slow-moving Asheville.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"They Keep the Yuppies Out"

One of my primary concerns about moving to the South shall I put this? I was concerned about a certain element of the population... Basically, I was worried about rednecks.

It's an unfair stereotype, I know. And it's a difficult distinction to make. Some would classify anyone living in the South as a redneck. But I don't believe that's true. I grew up in Oklahoma, so I know a thing or two about rural life. There are good people everywhere. Honest, hard-working, God-fearing, country music-listening people who may not know anything about me or my life, but also wouldn't join in a posse to hunt me down.

Before we moved here, I asked everyone we spoke to about living as an openly gay couple in the South. One fellow told us that neighbors help and look out for each other and don't care about anything else. But there was a caveat, and it's one gay people hear all the time: "as long as you're not throwing it in their faces." This is also often expressed as "as long as you're not flaunting your lifestyle." And therein lies the fear and panic. Because it's just normal behavior to me, so how do I know what will set someone off? I don't want to be helping Michael carry in the groceries one day and suddenly have angry mobs and burning crosses on my lawn.

So I guess I define a redneck as being intolerant and violent. And really, that could describe any bigot anywhere, not just in the South.

Michael and I had dinner last night with a terrific couple of guys we met way back during our karaoke bowling experience. They made some joke about "the rednecks coming down from the mountains," so I thought I would get their take on the subject and whether it was a geographical phenomenon or not. One of the guys explained that, just like in Los Angeles, there are probably some neighborhoods where you don't want to go for a walk by yourself. "You have gangs. We have rednecks," he said. His partner had a different take. "I'm glad we have rednecks," he said. "I'm glad there's a ring of them all around us. They keep the yuppies out."

I used to think it was easy to identify gang members in Los Angeles, but that was before it became fashionable for everyone to wear their jeans around their knees.
Plus, I'm not willing to try to categorize possibly hostile residents by what they're wearing. However, if someone who lived in another part of the country told me they wouldn't live in Los Angeles because of gang violence, I would probably laugh, because for the most part, you really have to go look for it. We lived in the Valley for God's sake.

None of the gay people we've talked to here have had any violent encounters with local residents. So maybe the Southern redneck is more myth than reality. Plus, I'd like to believe that as long as you're polite and friendly with people, no matter who they are or what they're wearing or where they live, you're going to be okay. They may turn around and tell a friend about the crazy fag they met that day, but they're not going to kill me.

Politics and religion are definitely big parts of it, too. Over the past eight years, people have been whipped into a frenzy and told by their own government that they need to fear and subjugate gays at all costs. So at this point, there's really no telling who might snap and try to hurt us. It could be anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Well...have a nice day!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Asheville Arts

When it comes to theatre, I do like spectacle. I have been known to cheer and applaud when a big, crazy set piece rolls on stage or a particularly brilliant light cue comes up. But my favorite kind of theatre is a little more organic. You really only need three pieces to make theatre of any kind: space, performer and audience. So the plays or performances I see that stick most closely to those three elements, yet still manage to create a world and move an audience, are my favorite experiences. I particularly like seeing performances that feel like Mickey and Judy decided to round up their friends and put on a show in the barn in order to save the farm.

Saturday night, Michael and I attended a performance benefiting the Asheville Community Theatre (ACT). The show was called Divalicious and featured eight local Asheville personalities competing for the title of ACT Diva 2008. The contestants ranged from seasoned performers to a local restaurateur and a city councilwoman. It was loads of fun, with a wide variety of wild, campy, touching performances from each of the participants. It was a well-produced show, but still managed to feel like a bunch of friends who got together to save the farm.

Seeing all the talent Asheville has to offer, I wonder why anyone who can sing and act and dance would be in the mountains instead of in Hollywood or New York. Then again, Asheville is developing a reputation as a music and cultural arts center. The guy who is fixing our fence told me that musicians from all over the country are coming to Asheville to play the club and festival scenes as a career starting point. And if the fence guy knows that, there must be something to it. There are lots of street musicians and performers on the weekends, which also follows the three basic elements of theatre: space, performer, audience. A sidewalk is just as viable a stage as the Staples Center. You can get better seats on the street, too, and don't always have to go through a broker just to get a floor seat. Stupid Ticketmaster.

I'm looking forward to seeing more theatre here. The Montford Park Players are having their annual Shakespeare festival this summer, rain or shine. And ACT's next offering is I Hate Hamlet, which is one of my favorite Paul Rudnick plays. Next weekend, we'll be attending another fundraiser for the arts, which brings our tally up to:

Arts Fundraisers Attended: 2
Arts Performances Attended: 0

So we need to get some tickets to stuff soon, before all our money goes to fundraisers and we can't afford to see the arts we're supporting.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mommie Dearest

I thought I would take a moment and tell anyone who happens to be reading this that I have a good mother. She's concerned that my blog entries could be construed as a daily treatise on her failings. Nothing could be further from the truth. If I am philosophical or self-critical or overly analytical, it's because that's part of what this whole year is about.

I'm taking a good look at my life and trying to decide what to do next, and that includes examining where I've been and the mistakes I've made along the way. This is a rare opportunity to stop, take a breath, get out the microscope and really look at things and figure out what I need to learn and do to be happy and fulfilled in the next chapter of my life.

So please keep in mind that if I start droning on about areas I'd like to improve in my head or body or life, it's NOT my mother's fault. More likely it's all my father's fault.

Speaking of my father, he'll be happy to know that I went to a sporting event last night. I believe they call it "the base ball game." The Asheville Tourists were playing the Hickory Crawdads. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. I'm told that people enjoy the base ball game along with their moms and apple pie. Though I didn't see any apple pie last night. Luckily, the Asheville Tourists won, 5-4! Funny story, during the game, I had a long conversation with another attendee, and had to fairly shout to be heard. After our conversation, she turned to me and said, "You're so quiet." So I'm learning that volume isn't really a piece of that puzzle. The enigma continues.

Incidentally, I do know what baseball is. I was kidding about that. In fact, just to bring this thing full circle, when I was a kid, my mother made me sign up for little league in a last-ditch attempt to impress my father. I threw away the practice and game schedule and made up alternative times, so that when she took me to practice or a game, no one else would be there. She finally figured out that ruse and I was forced to play in an actual game. Where I promptly broke my little finger, disfiguring it for life and ending my dreams of being a hand model.

So, I guess in this case, I do blame my mother (and by extension my father) for this particular shortcoming. I can't wear a ring on my ring finger next to my broken pinkie, and I can't do any sign language with my right hand that involves that finger. In fact, now that I think about it, my deformed pinkie could be the root of all my problems. Hmmm.

You can see photos from the game here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thoreau It Away

Still unpacking. My joy at finally receiving all our stuff has quickly turned to despair. As I predicted while packing back in Los Angeles, I'm now opening boxes and thinking, "I can't believe I moved this across the country. Now what am I going to do with it?" Thoreau said, "Simplify, simplify." So now I'm faced with the prospect of downsizing after the move, when I should have done it before and saved about a thousand pounds.

With Thoreau shaking his head at me, I decided to stroll down to the lake, our own little Walden Pond, and cool off a little bit. I've always had a huge respect for nature. I'm a card-carrying tree-hugger from way back. But I've always kept nature at a distance. I don't hike. I don't camp. I love viewing fall foliage, especially from inside a car. Maybe I'm rebelling against my rural Oklahoma upbringing, or maybe I just like things to be neat and tidy, and nature has a tendency to be a big old mess. Either way, I'm now completely surrounded by nature and would very much like to organize it a little.

Sitting on the dock, enjoying the cool breezes and watching the ripples in the water, I kind of got it. You know, got it. Like, I see why people love nature. I see why people want to spend time in it. It's refreshing...but more than that, I can see how it holds a promise to make you cleanse your soul somehow. Since I have more than a drop or two of Cherokee blood in my veins, I tried to look at the surrounding mountains and imagine them devoid of human life. What must it have been like for the Cherokees who decided to flee the Trail of Tears and hide out in the North Carolina mountains? You don't get much closer to nature than that.

Thoreau also said, "Still, we live meanly like ants." Man's true nature may not be so far removed from the wilds he tries to conquer after all. That Thoreau, he said a lot of stuff.

The problem with nature is that once you become part of it, you're fair game. And by game, I mean food. Nature is always waiting for you to fall in a lake or stop to tie your shoe, so it can pounce. Which is probably why rolling over it all with concrete and steel probably gives us a feeling of safety and victory. We've conquered nature. We won't be eaten by bears or moose today.

As I sat on the dock, I looked up at the house and saw Henry step out on the porch. He looked and me, so I patted my leg for him to come down and join me. He stayed where he was, surveyed the scene, then turned around and went back inside. He's a city dog, after all. So I packed up my thoughts and my Thoreau and joined him.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Something Good

I know I quote show tunes a lot. But besides English, it's really the only other language I know. So today we're quoting from The Sound of Music. "Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good." It's easy to look at my life as a long series of failures. Career, weight, personal relationships, that whole Debbie Gibson era. I've made a lot of mistakes, a lot of crazy choices and failed. A lot. But somewhere, somehow, I got Michael. Completely undeserved and unexpected. A shining, gleaming success.

Admittedly, I've been enthusiastic, but skeptical about this whole adventure. I'm a skeptical person. Pessimistically, reservedly skeptical. And it's just in my nature to expect disaster around every corner. Somehow, Michael is optimistic, open-minded and expects the best outcome in any situation. I suppose there's a lesson to be learned there, self-fulfilling prophesy and how we make our own luck and good fortune and all that. To be fair, I do bring a little helpful pragmatism to the relationship. Like when Michael's standing in a puddle of water and about to stick a fork in the toaster, I tend to say, "Please don't do that."

So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done some little thing, some act of kindness that the universe noted and said, "We'll give him Michael later on, that'll shut up all his complaining for the rest of his life." Whatever it was, I'm glad I did it. Though if it was nice, I'm sure I probably did it by mistake. But I'm not complaining.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Culture Shock: Part 2

I never thought I lived life in the fast lane back in Los Angeles. In fact, I often became annoyed with people who exhibited impatient behavior, whether on the freeway or in line at the grocery store. Really, does the five seconds you save by barking at the cashier really make that much of a difference in your day?

So I didn't think I would have any problem adapting to a slower pace. We were warned, after all. On one of our initial trips to Asheville, we met a woman who had moved here from a big city and ominously told us not to expect a quick meal at any restaurants in the South.

People here aren't in any hurry, it seems. And apparently, I am so used to rushing around, part of the big Los Angeles machine, always set to high speed, that I didn't even realize it. So now the wait in any line seems interminable to me. Oh my God, when someone asks "How are you?" here, they really want to know! And people will respond and tell them! At length!

Restaurants in Los Angeles want you in and out as soon as possible. No time to dilly-dally! But here, they seem to expect you're going to take your time and stay a while. The other night, our dinner of wine and cheese took two-and-a-half hours! No one seems in any hurry to bring or take your check, either. It's as if they think dinner should be relished and enjoyed and that conversation is more important than turn-over. What the hell?

I'm doing my best to take a deep breath and relax when I start to feel like blowing a whistle and hustling people along. "Move it! Move it! I don't have all day, people!" We came here for a change of pace, so I know I need to try to fit in and enjoy that. Maybe more wine will help. I'll start having an extra glass or two with breakfast. Don't worry, it'll be 5:00 by the time the check comes.