Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Goodies, or not

So, 2007 was intended to be the "Body as a Temple" year. Towards that end, I started walking several miles a day, took yoga (to which I am an undying convert). I decided that vegetarianism was the thing to do. Since then, while I haven't lost dramatic amounts of weight or anything like that, but the weight has stayed down and the sciatica is cured. Best of all, for the first time my insides just feel *clean.* I don't have a better way of putting it--everything just feels clean. On the inside, everything feels ordered and not jumbly or stuffed up under other things. I dare you to try it for a couple of months and see what happens.

Well...then the holidays arrived. As part of a university community, every possible division, department, building, office, school, etc. has to have a holiday party. I have now been to 6 in as many days. (People like to take Sundays off to rest up for the partying that goes on the rest of the week.) The staff has a party separate from the faculty party, and then there's one big get-together for faculty and staff! What an idea. And of course, I have to bring food and a gift to each--What this means is that there is food everywhere all the time!! There have been few vegetarian choices so I become the weird new archivist eating at least half of the spinach dip all by herself, but except for one significant lapse in judgement, I have been able to cope and still enjoy goodies.

What does this have to do with the Interior/Exterior debate? In the Exterior, people don't celebrate the holidays in the same way. At the museum, the volunteers brought in plates of cookies or bowls of candy, but that was about the extent of it. (We also have Jewish volunteers, so we didn't want to flaunt Christmas all over the place.) Plenty of parties are being had by individual people, lobbyists and the American Beer Association, but as far as whole offices doing it, it wasn't that common.

In the Interior our social capital is signed, sealed, and delivered with food, piled with more food and served up with a side It's our way of meeting each other's needs while indulging their tastes and wants. And I have a strong emotional attachment to this feeding. THEY SUCCEEDED! But today, after party number 10, I just want a good ol' fashioned hearty slap on the back, and a resounding "Merry Christmas". A celebratory candy cane and cup of hot chocolate works just fine!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

For Jack

Today I found out that a dear friend and colleague of mine in Virginia passed away. Jack has been suffering for three years now with inoperable liver cancer. He responded well to chemotherapy. While Jack has been ill, his wife has suffered a number of broken bones from falls, and his son has been suffering from a THIRD bout with lung cancer. Jack died yesterday from a massive heart attack when he went out to get in the newspaper. Dying this way was very unexpected, and not what the family wanted to spend their holidays dealing with.

Let me tell you a little about him. If could choose another grandfather, I'd like to have Jack. He was with the Department of Labor for over thirty years, and had a number of witty and wry observations to make on the state of national affairs. His beautiful blue eyes sparkled with jokes, and he gave me pats on the back whenever he came in. He was gentle and very kind. He cared about doing his job and doing it well, and bending over backwards to make our visitors at the museum welcome and accomodated. Despite his discomfort from his illness and the toll it was taking on his overall health, he never once complained. If you asked him how we was, the answer was a hearty "just fine." If you knew he wasn't just fine, and he couldn't quite bring himself to say it, he would say "oh, good." That, for Jack, was complaining.

I miss him very, very much. I wish I could go to his funeral, but with the holidays coming, that will be hard to arrange. I miss all the people who will gather today at the museum to remember him and console each other. They were my family-away-from-home, and like any family the life cycle will shift and roles will change, and we will have to say long, long goodbyes. Since we can none of us evade death, I am glad that Jack died of a quick heart attack at home, and that neighbors were outside leaving for work and saw it happen. I am glad he didn't spend more years suffering from liver cancer.

So this song is for Jack, someone who I will always miss, with a hope that we won't quite be parted for eternity.

Follow the Lights, Ryan Adams

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Imaginary Dead Boyfriends

Imaginary Dead Boyfriends (aka IDBs)--those wonderful, always-available fantasy-makers that are A) dead and B) imaginary. That's what Merriam-Webster says. Seriously, go look it up. OH, your copy doesn't have an entry for that...I sometimes forget that only mine does. Well, mine and my sister's. One of mine is particularly on my mind today--Elvis Presley. Not only do we (sort-of) have the same middle name, but I just bought my first boxed set, and wow. "Suspicious Minds" just isn't the same when someone else sings it. (Although Pete Yorn did a pretty smokin' job. He is also an imaginary boyfriend, but living, and therefore outside the scope of this post.)

I'm relying a lot on my IDBs lately. In Erinland, Elvis is waiting at the end of a long day, to tell me that I did a good job and that the people in my life making me absolutely crazy shouldn't be allowed to dominate my thoughts. Of course, he learned this lesson the hard way what with the drugs and all. Some days, instead of Elvis, George Washington welcomes me home, or perhaps Michelangelo. They each tell me that I can deal with stress and other "adjustment issues" by marching armies across the enemies or taking a chisel and hammer and rearranging their faces. I especially like it when Jean Lafitte welcomes me home and tells me that life is one big swashbuckling adventure complete with intrigue and romance.

Hey--you have your adjustment techniques and I have mine.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Nearest Thing We Have to Heaven...

in this town is actually not the Christian college I work at. Rather, it is a little-known spot of wonderfulness known as Besso's. During my student days we often lamented over the lack of a coffee shop in town. There was Jammin' Juice and Java, directly across the street from my freshman dorm that had great smoothies and where some cute boys used to play guitar. People spilled out the doors. It wasn't the kind of place to go an read quietly or study. It was the place to hang out and have great smoothies and watch cute boys strum their guitars "slow and soulful." Or fast and loud, whatever. Holly, Molly and I used to sit and play songs on the jukebox--I'm Sensitive by Jewel, Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and something else (maybe Sarah Maclachlan!?!) were our anthemic choices. Good times. But one thing we noticed was that this JJ&J did not seem to draw much of an audience from the local populace. And once the price of my smoothie hit $4.99 (in 1997), the writing was on the wall. One day, JJ&J was no more.

Then there was...well. By the time I was a junior they had installed a Chinese place. Now, they clearly did not serve coffee there, but it served to distract most people from the fact that there was no place to get coffee. The simmering bright pink sauces and unnaturally green broccoli were enough for the moment.

After I finished my friends opened a Bubba's Bagels franchise in town, which quickly met the same fate as JJ&J. (But not China King, which is still going strong.)

Driving into town on Day One, I saw a large, unattractive sign glowing up at me from Main Street--CREAMERY--it spells out in massive white Arial font. Not allowing the ugly sign to distract me, I walked through the door to discover a delightful coffee shop. Renovated from an old building in this Reconstruction-era community, the owners added attractive lighting and flower baskets. Placed little cafe tables outside. Inside--yummy leather chairs with tall backs. Vintage wine barrels for tables. Even a chess set or two. Wow. And not only is the coffee great, but they also serve Junior's cheesecakes. In NY, I lived across from the famous deli with its world-renowned cheesecake.

Because of Besso's, I have a haven to go to from my apartment which smells like smoke and pickles, looks like a glorified dorm room and has all the charm of a prison cell. Because of Besso's, the community has a place to sit down for a cup of coffee, or get ice cream for the kids after a ballgame or scout meeting. Because of Besso's, the community also gets a lesson in adaptive re-use for historic buildings. Most importantly, I think in the community's eyes, is that the cafe is clearly designed to meet the needs of all people who come in, and not just the members of the FHU community. Its owners are two doctors who happen to run a coffeeshop because they like having one around. Read: It's not going to fold anytime soon.

So, tonight, I'd like to give props to this little spot of heaven on earth. If you're ever around, I'll treat you to a cup.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"A Love Song for NPR", Or: A Dedication for Delilah

One drawback to living in this very small town I quickly noticed, is that I only receive one television channel and one radio station. The radio station is an easy listening station from Jackson (about 20 miles north). I don't even get the local university station on my radio! Just 107.7 Star FM. It seems like no matter where I move the dial, 107.7 is the only station coming through. 107.7 streams "Delilah" every night, so consequently, she's everywhere coming out of every bandwidth at once! I have never listened to so much Delilah in my life. I realize that many people like Delilah and what she represents on-air. Many people call her and write in with the details of their worst heartbreak, or their happiest moments. How their mothers handled single-parenthood or how their rehab is finally going to stick because they found the Mr. Right or Miss Right that will help them through.

Tonight, I have a dedication for Delilah. (Maybe all this listening is making me a softer person.)

Dear Delilah~Four weeks ago, I moved from Washington, DC to a small town in West Tennessee. Tonight, as I flip stations vainly hoping to find something more my style, it is your voice I hear coming at me on a rainy, lonely night. I turn the dial, listening to your voice fading and rebounding, encouraging people, laughing with them, playing music you think will help them capitalize on the mood they're in. One minute you're laughing, one minute your whispering, and then the next minute...wait...just's. Can it be? Is it? NPR is coming through loud and clear on 90.1, WKNP Jackson? Hell's bells, it is. Finally, finally, I have found my way back through the Interior to the Outer World. I can now wake up to the news of GM and UAW reaching the unthinkable compromise. Of monks burning themselves in the streets of Burma to protest the military junta. To the President vowing to veto a health-insurance-for-children initiative. It fires me up for my day, reminds me that important global and national happenings are out there and making an impact on my life. And at night, I can be soothed to sleep with the sweet strains of "Music through the Night." So, Delilah, I'd like for you play a song for that. A song that capitalizes on my mood--one of relief that I do indeed have options for radio entertainment. I'd like you to play a song for a girl who is a big city girl at heart, trying to be happy with small town life. But if it's by Celine Dion, Nick Lachey, Martina McBride, or Shania Twain, I just don't know if you and I can be friends anymore. I'll try, but I don't know.

Goodnight, Delilah. Goodnight.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Before I get much farther, maybe I should define what I mean by Interior and Exterior so that I have set the standard against which I can be judged.

After the last presidential election, I sat down and cried. My friends, with whom I had been watching the evening's coverage, had created a drinking game to help ease their pain. (It's a similar game to the State of the Union drinking game: . Disclaimer: Drink responsibly as your conscience dictates.) Since each red state represented two shots, by the end of the night the sorrow in the room had reached literary proportions. Cries of "Oh, the humanity" were quickly replaced by howls of "Oh, the Interior." Once everyone had recovered from their respective sorrow or alcohol, we were all of a mind that the interior of the country had sold us out. (Note: at the time, I did not live in W.Tenn.)

This was my first try at assigning geographical boundaries to the differences I perceived. Things are different once you move away from the coast--Atlantic or Pacific. Cultural diversity, a broader world-view, simply an awareness of other things beyond your own immediate geography seemed to prevail on the perimeter of things. Maybe it's environmental influence--the meeting of land and water. Maybe it's the sense of expansion that comes with "where could I go from here". If I was in DC, I could go to Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, France, or any points West. From West Tennessee, I could go a long way before I emerged from the Interior.

Characteristics of the Interior: continuity; tradition; lacksidaisical attention to politics, global OR national affairs; gas-guzzlers; disdainful of people who follow a diet that isn't a meat & three; loud where I don't like loud and quiet where I am not quiet; limited resources; limited influence on the rest of society; not interested in the rest of society; essentially segregated; provincial; lacking in cultural opportunities; less accepting of alternative lifestyles. You see where this is going.

So in making the decision to move back to TN, I had to grapple with what this means. By moving back, am I going to be the girl at whom everyone will roll their eyes when I start talking politics? Am I going to get the Stone Dead Conversation Killer (great phrase from my friend Emily) face because I order a salad at the local greasy spoon? Will people feel the need to pray for my soul when I don't vote Republican? It's what happened when I moved back to TN from the Exterior. Why wouldn't it happen again? And selfishly, am I going to meet Mr. Almost-Right-Except-for-the-Addiction-to-NASCAR-And-Mirror-Sunglasses-And-Gun-Rack-On-His-Ford F150, or am I going to meet Mr. Right?

Three weeks into the move and it has not turned out as frightening as anticipated. (Except for the banking error.) I've noticed some interesting (to me) differences between this move back to the Interior and the last one.

This is very long--Exterior for another time. Thanks to Newscoma, Emily, Holly, and others for the kind welcome into the blogosphere.

Currently listening to Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On the Road Again

Okay, so having committed a banking error, somewhat along the same lines as my dear Emily, my day is bad. September 11 has a way of being bad everytime it has rolled around since 2001. "Let's roll right on over to September 12," is always my first thought on this auspicious day. But back to the banking error. For many of us, this problem would be solved by simply stopping by the nearest branch and depositing more funds, or claiming our online banking privileges and transferring some funds around. Since I live in the really-Interior, a few more steps are involved.

For me, it involves leaving work early (in a library where the love of my life is looking intense as he studies away, accumulating facts to impress me with), getting a steaming cup of coffee, going home to pick up the last paycheck from my old job, grabbing my CD case, filling up the gas tank and heading on down the road to Memphis and actually depositing funds into the night depository, making a u-turn on Highway 64, and then driving right back here. A round trip total of 3 hours, and that doesn't include bathroom breaks (small bladder and all). You see, I bank with a national--nay, an international--financial institution that I could access from Zimbabwe, but not West Tennessee. (My other option was Nashville, but that makes the trip 5 hours. Seriously.)

Some luxuries of Exterior living I can do without, but not this one. NOT this one. Surely in the internet age, I can rely on deposits and withdrawals to go through as scheduled. Surely I can rely on the direct deposit to do its thing. But when things go wrong...well, then I have to leave work early (away from Beautiful Dream Boy), get a cup of coffee, go home to grab the funds, grab the CD case, fill up the gas tank, head on down the road to Memphis, deposit funds in the night depository, make a u-turn on Hwy 64, and drive home again.

I want to go home.

Currently NOT listening to Happy Woman Blues.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hello and how are you?

Welcome to the most self-conscious attempt at blogging life in the Interior. Ahhh...the Interior. Land of Parched Corn, as my dear friend at For Lack of a Better Word would say. These are the musings of a native Interion who moved from the mid-Interior to the really-Interior to the Exterior, back to the mid-Interior, back to the Exterior. And finally, yup, back to the Interior.

What is the Interior? What is the Exterior? Despite 28 years of living and experiencing life on many levels and in many places...I find that these two terms are beginning to define my attitude, my perspective on life, and sadly my future and opinion of other people. My life, like my blog, is a rough draft of something more significant.

I put American into the title because I've been reading Hector DeCrevecoeur's "Letters from an American Farmer" recently. I'm a dork. And since I've not lived in any other Interior, you see it is fitting. Or, please don't think I claimed "American" gratuitously like a bad Dave Matthews song.

A vegetarian, non-Republican, architecture-loving history geek in a state of limbo...that's me and I'm trying to find my way to something more significant.

Currently listening to Happy Woman Blues by Lucinda Williams