Monday, September 06, 2004

I’m Baaa-aack!

Before I get going, let me say a little about karma. I’m not talking about the theories espoused by Hindus and Buddhists, but I’m beginning to believe in (or at least, wonder about) a force of poetic justice best described as “what goes around, comes around.” I think of this any time I have to deal with my mother. In addition to being a religious zealot (read: hypocrite), she is an extremely negative person, the type who can’t open her mouth except to complain and criticize. Before, I always believed the majority of bad things that supposedly happened to her were just due to her pessimistic take on life, but recently I’ve been paying closer attention when I’m around. I have to admit she faces a greater than normal number of petty torments, which is just as she would have it. Her goal in life is not to be happy, but to have things to gripe about. It sounds strange, but it’s her comfort zone.

Anyway, the dilly-dally deluge of daily doings follows. I’ll try to keep them succinct and entertaining.


I loaded the car and started the trip, making a pit stop at Harry’s Farmers Market (a subsidiary of Whole Foods, an organic/health food supermarket chain). I bought her some things she wanted but couldn’t get in the rural armpit where she lives – garnet yams from California, Valencia oranges from Florida, a couple of free range ground chuck patties, a pecan encrusted fillet of orange roughy, and a Cajun blackened fillet of tilapia. I hopped on the Interstate and zoomed North, putting in a John Grisham audiobook called The Summons. The first tape wouldn’t play, so I went to the second, thinking I could still pick up the story. The second tape wouldn’t play, so I cursed and swore off all ancient technology. No more cassettes and VHS for me. CD’s are as old school as I’ll get. The experience made me think of karma, and cringe at the thought of what would go wrong this weekend.

I arrived in good time, weaving past several yard sales, and gave her the food and other things I had bought her that she couldn’t buy there (rice cooker/vegetable steamer, a book, and vegetable seasonings). We watched Spinal Tap, which she liked (she likes the movies made by that troupe) and sat around. First days are always boring. For lunch we grabbed a burger, onion rings and potato salad at a convenience store. They overcharged us 99 cents, but for some reason she didn’t pitch her usual fit. The burger was edible, but we tossed the rest after a couple of bites. Our conversation turned to her fears of getting old, and I realized why she was being uncharacteristically nice – the time when she won’t be able to live on her own was weighing on her mind, and I’m her only remaining relative that maintains ties.

We sat around some more, then dined at the only Chinese buffet-style restaurant in town, a little place run by a friendly group of Asians and patronized by a herd of cows that made me feel anorexic by comparison. The restaurant had a decidedly small town Southern bend, with fried fish and yeast rolls next to the pot-stickers. They had a large jug of catsup next to the steamed rice. We returned and she went to bed, so I read awhile before doing the same.


I awoke early, turned on her TV and found the only two channels she received featured religious programming, so I turned it back off and read some more. We later had a light breakfast (Cheerios for me, a couple of oranges for her) and drove to Chattanooga, mostly sitting in silence since we had little to discuss and the only radio stations we could find featured gospel shows. We arrived and followed our directions to the Chattanooga Zoo.

The Chattanooga Zoo can best be described as a ghetto zoo. It sits in a poor neighborhood, surrounded by government housing, pawn shops, liquor stores, and is overshadowed by a rail depot. We paid our four dollar entry fee, marveling at the habitats containing bobcats, deer, owls, goats, turtles, and some fat raccoons. They also had a jaguar and a few chimpanzees, but that was as exotic as it got. The only giraffes, elephants, and rhinos they had lived in the gift shop. I stopped and read all the plaques, which irked her but I ignored that. She read one sign about Marco Polo – of course it was his description of how subservient the Asian women were at the time, which she found offensive.

BTW, don't think the preceding experience is representative of Chattanooga. On my last trip, we visited the Chattanooga Aquarium and Imax Theatre. Both kicked ass.

We went for lunch, stopping at a Cracker Barrel (neither of us had ever eaten at one) and were told we had to wait a half hour for a table. We decided to go to a restaurant we liked a few towns over from hers, but when we passed another Cracker Barrel sign she decided the experience would be worth the wait. We had another thirty minute delay for an open table which we spent in the gift shop. It was filled with the kind of overpriced junk only a tourist would buy and then haul home to show what ignorant rednecks lived below the Manson-Nixon line – clothes, crockery, and timepieces festooned with logos from Coca-Cola, John Deere, and UT (go Vols). The whole place seemed like corporate America meets Deliverance. The wait staff wore rustic denim-like apparel and secret service wires. Service was slow, but only because of the customer to waitress ratio. We ordered and received our comfort food, way too much for me – the standard plate had one meat, three vegetables, and biscuits or cornbread. They forgot my fried apples, but fixed the problem amicably enough. The food was okay, but we both decided the experience wasn’t worth the wait.

We drove to her home, renting Lord of the Rings 3 on the way. She enjoyed it, except for the second tape which was too badly damaged to watch completely. While I fiddled with the second tape, the channel blasted a news report claiming that Americans watched more pornography than sports programming. That brought out the old her, and she began ranting about how the country is overrun with child pornography (neither of us has ever actually seen any, but god tells her it’s there). We gave up on the movie, and returned it for a refund (I filled in the gaps for her on the way to Blockbuster). When we arrived she started to pitch one of her fits, but management appeased her too quickly for her to really get rolling. We stopped by the park and walked on the trails for awhile, then returned and repeated the previous night’s events (reading and sleeping).


Escape day. I read a few chapters, then loaded my car before she awoke. For breakfast, she made bacon, eggs, biscuits, and gravy, all while (again) trying to convince me that I need to stop eating rice since it’s so unhealthy. She put O Brother, Where Art Thou in her VCR to keep me there a little longer. I acquiesced since I didn’t want to hit the road before seeing what that heavy breakfast would do to my stomach. When it was over, we said our good-byes and I left.

As I drove away, I reflected that it had been a good visit, especially by our standards. I had read a lot from Wolves of the Calla (Stephen King novel) and she had actually made an effort not to publicly embarrass me. I felt a bit nostalgic, thinking about how I grew up in Tennessee without anything remotely digital, then decided that was a stupid feeling since computers, the Internet, ranch Doritos, CD’s and DVD’s weren’t available back then. Besides, she had never been nice when she didn’t have the fear of old age hanging over her like grim death, which may not be far away.

So, I put on a little light Slayer and got the fuck out of Dodge. The drive home was uneventful, even pleasant, and I arrived home to find everything as it should be, my apartment a little cooler than I expected after three days without air conditioning. Ha ha ha, I kiss my sweet DSL connection. Bleah. Maybe I should have wiped it off first. No matter – it’s good to be back in civilization.

Back, out


Jef said...

ok spending time in rural TN and couldnt even give me a shout? Fuck you then

Jef said...

Wish you would have let me know, asshole. It would have been good to see your sorry ass

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