Friday, October 28, 2005

Rules for Visiting the South

I just got this from Lynne R., the same wonderful person who sent me You Know You Live on the Gulf Coast...:

As a "Northerner" living in the South this is what I have noticed that there are 4 seasons: Hunting Season, Fishing Season, Mosquito Season and Hurricane Season.

If you are going to live or visit in the South, you need to know these rules:

  • That farm boy you see at the gas station did more work before breakfast than you do all week at the gym.

  • It's called a "gravel road." No matter how slow you drive you're going to get dust on your Navigator.

  • The red dirt -- it's called clay. Red clay. If you like the color don't wash your car for a couple weeks -- it'll be permanent.

  • We all started hunting and fishing when we were seven years old. Yeah, we saw Bambi. We got over it.

  • Go ahead and bring your $600 Orvis Fly Rod. Don't cry to us if a flathead breaks it off at the handle. We have a name for those little 13-inch trout you fish for -- bait.

  • Pull your pants up. You look like an idiot.

  • If that cell phone rings while a bunch of mallards are making their final approach, we will shoot it. You might want to ensure it's not up to your ear at the time.

  • No, there's no "Vegetarian Special" on the menu. Order steak. Order it rare. Or, you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the two pounds of ham and turkey.

  • Tea - yeah, we have tea. It comes in a glass over ice and is sweet. You want it hot -- sit it in the sun. You want it unsweetened -- add a lot of water.

  • You bring Coke into my house, it better be brown, wet, and served over ice.

  • So you have a sixty thousand-dollar car. We're real impressed. We have a quarter of a million-dollar combine that we only use two weeks a year.

  • Let's get this straight. We have one stoplight in town. We stop when it's red. We may even stop when it's yellow.

  • We eat dinner together with our families. We pray before we eat (yeah,even breakfast). We go to church on Wednesdays and Sundays and we go to high school football games on Friday nights. We still address our seniors with "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am," and we sometimes still take Sunday drives around town to see friends and neighbors.

  • We don't do "hurry up" well.

  • Greens - yeah, we have greens, but you don't putt on them. You boil them with salty fatback, bacon or a ham hock.

  • Yeah, we eat catfish, bass, bream and carp. You really want sushi and caviar? It's available at the bait shop.

  • They are pigs. That's what they smell like. Get over it. Don't like it? Interstate 85 goes two ways Interstate 40 goes the other two. Pick one.

  • Grits are corn. You put butter, salt, and maybe even some pepper on them. If you want to put milk and sugar on them, then you want cream of wheat- go to Kansas. That would be I-40 west.

  • The "Opener" refers to the first day of deer season or dove season. Both are holidays. You can get pancakes, cane syrup, and sausage before daylight at the church on either day.

  • So every person in every pickup waves? Yeah, it's called being friendly. Understand the concept?

  • Yeah, we have golf courses. Don't hit in the water hazards. It spooks the fish and bothers the gators -and if you hit it in the rough, we have these things called diamondbacks, and they're not baseball players.

  • That Highway Patrol Officer that just pulled you over for driving like an idiot -- his name is "Sir," no matter how young he is.

  • We have lots of pine trees. They have sap. It drips from them. You park your Navigator under them, and they'll leave a logo on your hood.

  • You burn an American flag in our state, you get beat up. No questions. The liberal contingent of our state legislature -- all four of them -- enacted a measure to stop this. There is now a $2.50 fine for beating up the flag burner.

  • No, we don't care how you do things up North. If it is so great up there why not visit a Northern state or stay there. And no, down here, we don't have an accent, you do.

  • And, for Northerners moving South:

  • In the South: If you run your car into a ditch, don't panic. Four men in a four-wheel drive pickup truck with a tow chain will be along shortly. Don't try to help them, just stay out of their way. This is what they live for.

  • Don't be surprised to find movie rentals and bait in the same store. Do not buy food at this store.

  • Remember, "y'all" is singular, "all y'all" is plural, and "all y'all's" is plural possessive.

  • Get used to hearing "You ain't from round here, are ya"

  • Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed later on how to use it.

  • Don't be worried at not understanding what people are saying. They can't understand you either.

  • The first Southern statement to creep into a transplanted Northerner's vocabulary is the adjective "big'ol," truck or big'ol" boy.

  • Most Northerners begin their Southern-influenced dialect this way. All of them are in denial about it.

  • The proper pronunciation you learned in school is no longer proper.

  • Be advised that "He needed killin' " is a valid defense here.

  • If you hear a Southerner exclaim, "Hey, y'all, watch this," you should stay out of the way. These are likely to be the last words he'll ever say.

  • If there is the prediction of the slightest chance of even the smallest accumulation of snow, your presence is required at the local grocery store. It doesn't matter whether you need anything or not. You just have to go there.

  • Do not be surprised to find that 10-year-olds own their own shotguns, they are proficient marksmen, and their mommas taught them how to aim.

  • In the South, we have found that the best way to grow a lush green lawn is to pour gravel on it and call it a driveway

  • The North has coffee houses, the South has Waffle Houses.

  • The North has dating services, the South has family reunions.

  • The North has double last names, the South has double first names.

  • The North has Cream of Wheat, the South has grits.

  • The North has green salads, the South has collard greens.

  • The North has lobsters, the South has crawdads.

  • Y'all have a lovely weekend.


    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    George Takei out of the closet

    I logged on to AOL this evening only to see in the news that George Takei has come out. I can't honestly say that I ever thought about it one way or t'other, but I guess it doesn't really surprise me in retrospect.

    Years ago, my ex was producing Star Trek conventions, an interesting and frequently bizarre occupation. I had the pleasure of seeing George frequently. He was always accommodating and easy to deal with. George had (and still has, as far as I know) a reputation for being polite, calm, and extraordinarily gracious even under trying circumstances. Perhaps the most amazing tribute is that George has never been rude to a fan, which elevates him to "patience of a saint" level by definition. :)

    George is a thoughtful, urbane man who is an exceptional conversationalist and a pleasure to be around. My favorite memory of George is when my ex was putting on a Star Trek convention at the Anaheim Convention Center. I didn't have anything to do on Saturday evening after the con closed for the day, so I went to the hotel's sauna to relax and try and get the Anaheim smog out of my lungs. The sauna was already occupied by George, his nephew (who he'd brought with him to the convention), a couple of the vendors from the con, and a random hotel guest. We sat in the sauna, sweated, and talked LA politics--George was in the middle of a (sadly unsuccessful) run for LA City Council. I'm sad he didn't make it; George would have made an exceptional public servant.

    I am pleased that George feels good enough to come out and that he's been in a solid relationship for 18 years. He's a wonderful man, a talented actor, and a pleasure to know.


    Tuesday, October 25, 2005


    I have always enjoyed Voltaire. His observations on life and the world have been deliciously apt and quite germane. I just ran into a wonderful quote of Voltaire's I'd not read before:
    I only ever made one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it.


    Oktoberfest in Leavenworth

    An annual event in this silly and wonderful family I've married into is attending Oktoberfest in Leavenworth. I feel a bit of background about Leavenworth is in order for those of you who aren't familiar with it.

    Leavenworth was a little timber and rail town in central Washington. It survived for decades on the Great Northern Railroad and a local sawmill, but things changed in the 30s when the Great Northern pulled out of Leavenworth and the sawmill closed and the logging industry went away. There wasn't a lot left and the town hovered on extinction for years.

    Finally, in the early 60s, the town remade itself into a little Bavarian village in hopes of making itself a tourist town. It worked pretty darned well. They had a lot going for them: the hills surrounding parts of the town look fairly Alpine and the entire town has been redone with Bavarian gingerbread on pretty much everything that'll stand still.

    There are always something going on in Leavenworth: Christkindlmarkt, Yule lighting, and an Ice Fest in winter, Polka-Rama and Maifest in spring, and lots and lots of art fests, choral and music concerts, speakers on all kinds of topics, and, of course, Oktoberfest. All of these are a draw and the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce is working hard to expand the tourist potential; currently, they're raising money for a Leavenworth Civic Center (a good idea in my opinion, too).

    Oktoberfest in Leavenworth is always held the first weekend in October (unlike Oktoberfest in Germany, which starts in September and runs for about two and a half weeks). They bring in a bunch of German oom-pah bands, truckloads of beer, and lots and lots and lots of food. The tourist crowds are pretty thick, but it's a very friendly event and people are there to have a good time, so there's very little rowdiness. (It also doesn't hurt, with all that alcohol, that there's not much driving in a town that small and there are loads of on-duty officers keeping an eye on things. It all works out.)

    This year as last year, the Babe and I headed up to Tacoma and joined up with a bunch of the Babe's siblings, spouses, in-laws, and a couple of old and dear family friends, and we all caravanned over to Leavenworth (about a 2-1/2 hour drive). The trek east on I-90 is worth the trip on its own, as you go through the mountain passes, which are quite scenic. We stayed at the same hotel again this year and even had the same rooms (which we'd rented in March just to be sure we'd have them). When we got there, we unloaded our goods and chattels into our various rooms, after which, the Babe (who had a bit of a cold that we'd been passing back and forth) took a nap while the rest of us went out for beer and nosh to start the weekend off.

    Our group this year was as follows (in no particular order other than the pictures):

    Steve, one of the Babe's two brothers. Steve is a cop and has a big, broad sense of humor. He's very easy to talk to and (as you can see from the picture) tells stories well.

    Andy, Steve's wife (we went out river rafting in September with Steve and Andy). Andy works as a bookkeeper/office manager (and probably should have "Goddess of Organization" title on her card, too). She and Steve frequently host family gatherings. Andy's a good cook, too, which I have always appreciated.

    Karen, one of the Babe's many sisters, who is married to Russ. Karen teaches school and she and Russ have amazing children.

    Mary (on the left) with Karen. (Mary's not actually related but she and her husband Mike are such fine people that they ought to be.)

    Darris (on the right), Andy's sister, about whom I don't know nearly enough except that, like everyone else in the group, she's good company and is great to spend time with.

    Russ (on the left) with Mike (who, like Mary, is also a wonderful person). Russ, an engineer, has a very dry sense of humor and tends to be on the quiet side (which can get you steamrolled conversationally in this family at times), but he is a force to be reckoned with: every so often, he'll open his mouth and say something completely devastating that you didn't even see coming. His eyes twinkle when they do it.

    What can I say? It's a wonderful family to be part of.

    We spent some time sitting around and having a pitcher of a tasty amber microbrew and nibbley food (outstanding French fries and onion rings). The weather was cool but not biting and the breeze had great fall smells on it. We got the waitress to take a shot of the entire table, so here's the whole motley crew (including yours truly):

    It's the general tradition to spend the first day doing some shopping (Leavenworth has an awful lot of shopping to offer) and then have a large dinner together. After discussing it, we decided to do Italian food Friday night and then a huge German dinner Saturday. There are Italian restaurants in town and we had a good dinner together. Some of the guys decided to go to the beer hall that evening, for beer, for music, and to pick up Oktoberfest beer mugs while they still had them to sell. We were also collectively on a mission to pick up a beer mug for a missing comrade: Barb (another of the Babe's sisters) and Dan weren't able to make it because one of their daughters was expecting her third child that weekend and they wanted to be there, but Dan didn't want to miss out getting that year's beer stein. I was still short of sleep--I hadn't slept the night before we came up to Tacoma in the course of getting ready and was still a few hours behind, so I turned in early, as did the Babe, who wasn't entirely up to par herself.

    Shopping on Saturday

    Saturday, we met each other in the hotel's breakfast room. They always have a nice light breakfast although it's short on protein and long on sugars. But there is enough coffee to get one primed to face the day. We headed out through the town to do some serious shopping during the day. The general pattern was that we'd move in a general clump, but there were invariably shops that some weren't as interested in as others, so there were frequent pauses outside or in the shops to either side, then we'd reclump and continue down the street.

    One of the discussion points that weekend had been about getting Karen a dirndl, so at one of the shops that sells authentic clothes (right next to a fudge shop that's also worth a stop at for a free sample), we paused and looked at the wares. As the shopkeeper explained, it was hard getting a really good selection reliably as she had to order them from Germany and the turnaround was anywhere from 4-6 weeks to several months and no telling which.

    Fortunately, there were a couple of dirndls in Karen's size. They looked pretty good. Karen tried one of them on.

    We had our large Saturday meal at King Ludwig's, a popular German restaurant there. They have large platters of food for up to 8 people at a go: lots of food. There were several kinds of sausages, roasted chicken, schnitzels, krauts, pickled beets, German potato salad. . . yum! We got a couple pitches of dark beer and a pitcher of soda and plowed in (belch!). Leavenworth's food is quite memorable.

    Traditionally after our late Saturday lunch, the men take off to play golf and the women go shopping. However, I don't play golf. I like golf jokes, I find golf rather interesting, but the couple of times I've tried to hit golf balls, I have been truly ghastly at it. I would have to practice for months to get up to being merely abysmal. I didn't have to play, they suggested, I could always join them and carry clubs. Um, well, noooooo, I didn't feel like I'd come all the way to Leavenworth just so I could caddy, but, uh, thanks all the same, guys. I then got a little ribbing about not spending time with the guys playing golf, but I was able to point out that while they were out playing golf, I was wandering through town shopping with five great-looking women, which, I felt, gave me the win (insert enormous smug grin here). In fact, though, I didn’t do nearly as much shopping as last year on Saturday afternoon. After lunch, I really felt like napping a bit (still catching up on sleep). I went back to the hotel and slept for an hour or so, then walked down main street and caught up with the shopping party.

    Addendum, October 30: Steve points out that they didn't say I could carry the clubs, but that I could drive the cart (which they'd rent if I came along). True enough; I had misremembered. However, I still demurred for the same reason: as much as I enjoy Steve, Russ, & Mike, hanging out with the women and shopping seemed like a lot more fun. On the other hand, the ladies have said that next year, they're likely to spend the afternoon at the Solstice Spa getting (are you ready for this?)

    a Chocolate Therapy Spa Event!
    This includes things like a Chocolate Fondue Body Wrap and Hot Chocolate Foot Therapy. (Sidenote: There are advantages to living in a society in its decline and the ability to combine certain types of hedonism is one of the best.) So I will probably go golfing next year with the guys (and drive the cart, which really will be kinda fun) and we shall all look forward to spending the rest of the day with a bunch of good-looking, relaxed women who are, basically, chocolate-dipped.

    The men came back from golf a few hours later and we wandered through the outdoor art show for a while, after which we went over to the beer hall. This year, the beer hall was not being held in the big hall where it was held last year. Instead, there were two smaller beer halls: one in the hall across the way (with about half the capacity of the big hall) and the other in a large tent further down. It was okay, but it wasn't quite as much fun because it was a good deal more crowded and seating was at a premium. But it was still fun: the band was fun and there were several rounds of men and women from the audience trying to yodel along (most were awful but one was almost good), there were lots of really great silly hats, and the band would play the Chicken Dance every so often and we'd all get up and do the chicken dance.

    After a couple hours of beer and sausage, we decided to head back to the hotel and play a card game together, something we've done at family events before. We spent a few hours whapping each other at the card table and laughing a lot, then we all went to bed.

    Sunday Morning and Home Again

    We got up and all headed out for a large family breakfast together (another Leavenworth tradition). The wait at the restaurant was about 35 minutes (well, we were after a table for 9), so several of us walked up the hill to check out the wait at the waffle house and also to get Starbuck's. The waffle house didn't appear to be any better and we all kinda liked the place we'd planned on, so the sortie walked over to Starbuck's, endured another line, and then walked to the restaurant just in time to walk in with Starbuck's cups hidden.

    Breakfast was scrumptious. Afterwards, we stopped at a butcher to get sausages and a candy store to pick up some nibbly things for the road, then we went back to the hotel and packed up. We bundled into cars and headed West top Tacoma and home.

    Postscript: Barb and Dan became grandparents again late the following week. Babies show up when they're darned good and ready and not a moment before.


    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Quote du jour

    "A pun is to wordplay what dominatrix sex is to foreplay - a stinging whip that elicits groans of guilty pleasure."
    William Safire


    Larry & Topaz's 25th Anniversary

    The Babe and I drove up to Portland on Saturday, October 1st, for Larry and Topaz's 25th wedding anniversary (an occasion that I hope to be celebrating myself with the Babe in 22 years).

    I've known Topaz since 1975. I met her through the Society for Creative Anachronism, which I was heavily involved with for some years. She and Larry have been married since 1980 and were having a big open house at their place in Portland to celebrate the event. Topaz is a joy and I have always thought of her as a point of stability and a person who always provided great advice and had an aura of calm that extended to everyone around her. I didn't see her for a number of years and then reconnected with her about 7 years ago. I'm happy to have her back in my life.

    Side note: The SCA was a grand time for me. I met a lot of fine people that I've remained friends with to this day. I even achieved some pretty decent rank in the SCA, becoming a Court Baron with a Grant of Arms. My SCA name, in case anyone should ever Google me, was/is Gandharva Candra Gehe Candrasya. I'd hoped to get Susan and Sarah interested, but it's not really them.

    The point of bringing the SCA up in this regard is that there were likely going to be people at the party that I'd known Way Back When. I was keen to be there and to introduce the Babe to a lot of my old friends.

    One of the first people the Babe and I saw at the party was Tori, Topaz's daughter. She'd had a very close call with a heart condition a few years ago requiring surgery and treatment. She's doing well now. Tori decided to shave her head recently, which made her look a bit different from the last time I saw her.

    I'd just sold a couple new buttons to the button company I write for and I had them and the latest catalog along. Tori and a bunch of folks on the porch ended up passing the catalog back and forth and howling. (It's always nice to hang out with other cheap, sensation-seeking people with low taste; I always feel like I've found my level of entertainment.)

    Topaz was the consummate hostess (that air of charm and grace is the very thing for that kind of work) and swept graciously through the crowd periodically, talking to people. Larry was also visibly happy with everything and having a grand time.

    Chuck, one of the people I'd known way back when I was first living in Eugene, was there. I was enormously flattered that he remembered me as soon as he heard me (the Man of a Thousand Voice, that's what I am). We talked about old times and this and that.

    Chuck lofted an idea that we kicked around a bit, that being a gathering of all of us old SCA farts who were years and years and years ago. A get-together like that would give us all a chance to hear the old stories again and be reminded about things that had happened, sometimes to us, that we'd forgotten about. And life is fleeting after all; seeing everyone yet again would be something.

    We bounced the idea off of Topaz. She's really interested, too. We talked about having someone actually videotape this "live-documentary" style (visions of Antiques Roadshow come to mind). I don't know where this is going to end up, but it sounds like something you're going to hear more about.

    The Babe and I bade our goodbyes and headed back home. Another grand day out together with old friends. Life's good.


    Horn of America, Airlifts, and sewing machine tables

    I was writing a blog entry a few days ago when the session accidentally closed and poof it was all gone.


    Okay, so I've spent the day catching up on mailing this and that, cleaning my desk off (some, anyway), and generating an uncommon amount of paper trash for the garbage tomorrow, and I'm ready to retype everything that got lost.

    So what I was going to tell y'all was about the Airlift for the Babe's sewing table. The Airlift is a cool gadget made by Horn of America. It smoothly raises and lowers a sewing machine. Very smoothly. It's truly feather-light: you just press the surface and it lowers to where you want it and then it stops. The action is wonderful. (Here's a picture of a table with an Airlift in it.)

    Well, the Babe's Airlift sewing table worked beautifully for a number of years and then about two years ago, it stopped. Froze up tighter than the Indiana winter we were stuck in. I lubed it up, pressed on it, pulled it, but no good. It was stuck.

    Fortunately, Horn of America has a lifetime warranty on the Airlift. (It's considered the gold standard for sewing machine tables, honestly; they're really scrumptious.) All we needed to do, they said, was take it in to a sewing machine dealer in the area who dealt with their products and get another. That seemed easy enough.

    Ah, but I wasn't thinking of the problems with dealing with people in Indiana. I brought it in and asked them to do something (silly me). After six months, nothing had happened and they had no idea of what I'd been asking them to do in the first place. I figured that it was Indiana and this was about par, but there was still no Airlift, which made using the sewing table very difficult. The Babe was disappointed.

    There's a sewing center very near our house and we stopped in there last Saturday while we were romping around doing errands. It's a great place, too: they sell Berninas, including some slicko high-end models like the Bernina 440, which costs about $5000 and does all sorts of things that make quilting that much easier. There's a computer library of stitches and lots of relatively standard gewgaws, but the coolest feature is a free-stitch regulator, which regulates the length of free stitches no matter how fast you're moving the fabric. In other words, the machine does what you traditionally have had to do by getting the right blend of needle speed and fabric speed. (The Babe's eyes were like saucers when she saw those.) As it also happens, the store also sells Airlift products. And they handle warranty problems. And they offered to take care of the problem for us.

    They did, too. We got a phone call today to say that our new unit was en route and would be here in a week or two. We might not even have to pay for shipping if it all works out! Heckuva deal!! The Babe is going to have her sewing table back fairly soon, it looks like.