Thursday, August 14, 2008

I STILL aten't dead.

Even though it's been long enough to realize that absolutely nobody is still checking this blog (I double-checked the stats, flatlined at zero for at least a month), that's no excuse not to use it.  I have, of course, had many other excuses not to use it in the past few months but it's nearing four in the morning, I've nothing planned in the morning and I'm unable to sleep anyway.

It hasn't been the greatest week for sleep.  After several months of professionally and personally preparing for an extended stay overseas, packing up every bit of my life in Oklahoma and sending it to the boat, dragging that furry bastard on a plane ride to Pennsylvania so that my sister can feed him (I can't bring myself to trust anyone in Oklahoma City to care for a cat, there are too many stray cats wandering around.  Someone is letting them loose), I came home to discover that my mother has decided to drown me in the best aspects of American Culture before I cross the Atlantic and forget everything here.

Or perhaps she's trying to make me feel better about leaving the country.

You need to understand what I mean by American Culture to truly get what sort of week this has been.  When people ask where I'm from, I like to say "Scranton."  I say that so that it'll sound like I'm actually from somewhere.  I'm not.  I'm not even from a town.  I grew up in a township.  I could never name the mayor of this township, because I wasn't sure (and still aren't sure) that there was one.  The most well-known person in the township seemed to be my father.  I suspect this was because he was a policeman.  Near as I can figure, there were only five policemen in the entire county, and they worked part time for the different municipalities.  There are a lot of trees here.  And some hills.  And on certain nights growing up all of my father's relatives (who lived within two miles of the house) would gather together at dinner and it would end with my parents strumming old country hymns such as "Green Green Grass of Home" and "In the Garden" on ukuleles and forcing the kids to sing along.  I went to a school district where, if you were late for school one morning and went to sign in with your excuse it wasn't uncommon to see "Horses got loose" in a previous spot on the sheet.  My coworkers at my first job asked if I rode a donkey to school when they found out where I was being taught.

The woods all around where I lived where posted "No Trespassing" signs, and I used to sneak lightly around them worried about some old hillbilly with a shotgun aiming for anyone who crosses his land.  I thought I was lucky to not be under fire when I wandered those woods.  It was my mother's comparatively upscale upstate New York relatives who finally clued me in that the old hillbilly with the shotgun was my own father, and that the "No Trespassing" signs were to keep hunters from wandering in and mistaking the little brown-haired girl in the brown coat for a deer wandering those woods.

Now, I suppose you could attribute my reluctance to name my home"town" right off when someone asks where I'm from to shame, but really it's just weariness.  After so many times of explaining what a township is and just where in the larger-than-it-seems state of Pennsylvania mine might be I just settled on the nearest city as a workable location.  I couldn't honestly say I was from Philadelphia or New York, but if asked I could say that Scranton was somewhere in between and leave it at that without too many people trying to find out what a township is.

On the contrary, rather than shame I've encountered more often a strain of that irritating hillbilly pride--irritating because the hillbilly/redneck/hic/yokel/etc pride turns out to be just as judgmental and snobbish as the upper class city stereotype it rails against for being snobbish and judgmental and hypocrisy is just fucking annoying no matter where you find it--in me.  This is due to the exact position of where I'm from.  With Philadelphia to the south and New York to the north, I never labored under the impression that Scranton was the proverbial "Big City."  I knew exactly what a big city looked like and San Antonio, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Chicago, St Louis--none of them impressed me like people figured they would a sheltered hillbilly girl who just joined the military.  Indeed, my friend Liz from Wyoming insisted that I was from a city and just didn't know what real country looked like when I wasn't impressed by San Antonio.

But on the other hand, San Antonio is no slouch.  Neither are any of the other cities I've seen New Yorker and Los Angelino Airmen turn their noses up at.  The idea that San Antonio is a small town or has a small town feel is fucking ridiculous and the expression of that idea only proved to me that a certain Airman's Chicago apartment was just as sheltered as any Wyoming ranch.  After the fourth of fifth idiotic Airman from either side, I realized that growing up in the wilderness meat of a megalopolis sandwich had given me a sense of perspective that many people lacked.  And to this day I use that sense of perspective to feel superior to country folk and city folk alike.

But I'm rambling again, the point was to illustrate what my mother meant by "American Culture."  In the past week and a half I have been to the Pocono Speedway (I got to watch the cars go round and round and round), Gettysburg (which was actually pretty fucking cool and I would advise anyone who sets foot in the United States to visit that town), New York (People where I grew up tend to consider this city something of a large shopping center with a good theater attached, so we made a conscious effort to sightsee this time), Hershey (where we forgot to buy chocolate for my father), and a Toby Keith/Montgomery Gentry concert and I haven't gotten my comics for a few weeks.  I've had some fun in all that but I'm pretty fucking tired and I've been pretty fucking busy, and I still have a transatlantic flight to look forward to.  And a foreign country.  Which I strongly suspect will throw that finely tuned sense of perspective out of whack.

I'm going to Germany, and while I've been both excited and freaked out I find myself with just two main thoughts:

1) I'm so glad my high school didn't offer German lessons.  Four years of sleeping through Spanish left me with the embarrassing tendency to nod off whenever I heard the language, which was just plain awkward in San Antonio.

2) The scene in Frankenstein with all the villagers carrying torches and pitchforks.  But I'm not sure if that's a sign of prejudice or anxiety.

So, if anyone was wondering why this and my other online projects are so dead this summer, it's because I had bigger and more annoying things going on and it might continue for a bit.


  1. Long time lurker. Just wanted to wish you well on your trip.

  2. Hooray for still not dead!

    Good luck in Germany! How long will you be there?

    (Oh, and your stats may be higher than you think - many folks are using that newfangled fancy-schmancy RSS feed thingy so that we don't actually have to check for new posts every day. Ah computers - what would we do without you.)

  3. Yup, you've still got readership like ler said. If you want to track your RSS people, Feedburner does the job pretty well.

    I rather like San Antonio, the downtown with the canals is fun to wander around in. Anyways, I grew up in D.C.s suburbs and I've got to say New York did impress me with sheer scale, as did Tokyo and Hong Kong when I visited them. Maybe I'm just more easily impressed.

    Good luck in Germany.

  4. I used to use Scranton as a catchall for "Northeastern PA", too, but I stopped doing it around the time when everybody I met started asking me about The Office.

    Were you at Gettysburg over the 4th of July?

  5. I read your blog via LJ feed so that's sort of like checking, right? :D

    I am so with you on the hillbilly pride thing. Not that I can claim to have it, living in a medium-sized city, but I've definitely encountered the sentiment.

    Also have lots of fun in Germany!

  6. I still click over live and in person, just to make sure that Robert Downey Jr. is still set to play Sherlock Holmes. :)

    I have to use my RSS feeder for work stuff, so I try not to get personal stuff mixed in with work stuff.

    Hope you enjoy Germany. Bring us all back some beer and wurst. :)

  7. Where-ish are you going in Germany? I lived in the SW portion (Stuttgart) for a year, and I met some folks who were (and, for some, still are) stationed there.

  8. But...but I've been checking your site every day! And WFA too!

    Scranton eh? I do know that Harry Chapin wrote a really great song about Scranton. And bananas. And I've always lived in small towns that were reasonably close to large cities.

    Going to German sounds amazing. I'm glad that it wasn't Iraq, which was my first worry. Germany is awfully pretty, and full of my relatives, apparently. Well, Bavaria, anyway.

  9. Methinks the advent of RSS feeds renders any blog inert until new posts are made. hence, here we are now, entertain us.

    I misread "Scranton" as "Scantron" the first time. I was ready to pull out my #2 pencil.

    Good luck, The Foul.

  10. Have fun in Germany. Don't forget about all of us still stuck in OK.

  11. I, too, have been stopping in often seeking new posts.

    I am another who was raised mostly with an address that start with Rural Route. I love small towns, and have lived mostly in a small town for the last 27 years.

    Best wishes while overseas. Be well.

  12. I've popped by on several occasions! I dunno why your site didn't log me, except that everyone else in the universe ignores me and I can't see why the Internet should be any different.

  13. Just let me correct a factual error or two, dearie.

    Don't forget, I'm going to pet him, too, AND he will amuse me with the furry non-death matches against the other one.

    Your township doesn't have a mayor, it has supervisors. For which I'm pretty sure HAVE cast votes.

    They weren't forcing all of us to sing. Just you and PJ.

    The woods behind you are actually the Beagle club hunting grounds. So, yeah, the wrong time of year it's very bad to be in there.

    Hope you were found by that person who was looking for you at the airport.

  14. I think your counter is off. I've been checking the site fairly regularly.

  15. Hi Ragnell,
    Best of luck in Germany! We all wish you well!

  16. I've ordered a dictionary of alternative adjectives for you to use, since you don't know too many.