Friday, October 15, 2010

The Most Southern Place I Know

A left, a right, another left, a slow bounce over a pair of railroad tracks and a careful turn into a parking lot gets me to Wright’s Restaurant on 26th Avenue, a little capsule of Southern essence 1.6 miles from my apartment in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I’m a newcomer, a transplant from the West, and I have lived here for just one month, which isn’t nearly enough time to explore the South given the merciless heat. Before moving here, I certainly had a hearsay-and-media-driven idea of the American South. My idea was romantic: All buildings would either be colossal Greek revival or decrepit little shanties, lush greenery would be growing at every street corner and in every driveway, large folks dressed in white would be on their patios drinking mint juleps uttering racist comments and calling each other “y’all” while Scarlett O’Hara or maybe Foghorn Leghorn hollered from the television inside. A visit to Wright’s squashed all that. Well, almost all.

Wright’s is a strip mall diner. There are no dramatic columns or any elaborate design elements; just a brick rectangle prism with doors on the façade, facing a massive treeless parking lot. The doors expose a post office, a grocery store, and, of course, Wright’s. Across the street, a custom furniture store displays sofas wrapped in plastic under a tent outside. Judging by the exterior, this place could be found anywhere: Las Vegas, Springfield, perhaps Toronto, but once the door to Wright’s swings open, the place becomes the most Southern place I have ever known. Sometimes “place” isn’t contained within some politically-bounded solid line on a map. Sometimes it’s through a door in a strip mall.

The first meal I had at Wright’s was a Saturday morning breakfast and it holds my first memory of being in the South. It was the list: bacon, sausage, bologna, streak of lean, red hots. I had never seen bologna on a breakfast menu and I had never, ever heard “streak of lean” or “red hots.” I wanted a Southern breakfast, but wasn’t brave enough for the meat of indeterminable source. I went with the grits, the smooth, sticky whitish blob that didn’t taste like much of anything until I stirred everything on my plate together and gave the grits a purpose. The waitresses (they still call themselves “waitresses” here) strangely looked like relatives of mine: The plump and sturdy dark-haired woman with speed and authority seemed very much like my mother and the shuffling blond was definitely my aunt.

Water dripped from the ceiling and onto the floor in the walkway between the first and second booths, which alarmed me a bit (“It’s just condensation, it does that”). Pale yellow coated the walls and the only décor was the blend of people sitting at the tables and the counter. The clanging utensils and mix of conversations made such a noise that it drowned out the child two booths over banging his spoon on his highchair.

Today was my second visit to Wright’s. The parking lot had that musty smell of diesel on asphalt, which somehow ended up smelling more like dogshit on Velveeta. Nothing at all like the pine forest-after-rain smell I had always imagined. I was meeting a friend, so I waited outside. It was only 10:30; the temperature hadn’t had a chance to get up to 425˚F yet. The humidity, however, had already formed a layer of slick on my forehead and upper lip.

“For a white woman, you pretty.” A compliment thrown in my direction, I suppose, from the man sitting on the bench near the door to Wright’s. I held back a response that would have included a sarcastic review of how physically hideous my race is, but thank goodness someone with average looks like myself can attain a level of loveliness. I held back for I am not in Nevada anymore. I simply said “I guess I’ll take that as a compliment since I am white” and I sat next to him on the bench. I opted for conversation instead of confrontation: “My friend tells me this place has the best burgers in town.”

He took a slow, seeping drag off his cigarette, shifted his weight towards me—which showed off his bony knees through his grey work pants—and said, “No they don’t.” I nervously scratched the bug bites I’ve collected this month. “They don’t? Well then, who does?”

“My son” he said. “He got a place down 69 called Rachel’s. They name it after his daughter. I tell you, have a burger there one time…” He closed his eyes and sucked in his lips “…and you’ll go there all the time. “ Then he confirmed himself with the word “yes,” but drew out the‘s’ at the end like he was a hissing snake. The South is sitting on a bench outside of Wright’s.

Inside, my friend and I slid into a booth and the waitress—the version of my mom—came over to us and said, “What can I get y’all?”

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Writing my "Statement of Purpose" for grad school. I am supposed to include strength(s) and weakness(es).


Considering my love of Burt, ca. 1972, I'm writing down

Chest hair.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Still works.

Is it so wrong? I'm only human!

Over the summer, I had a bad case of bronchitis which led to losing my sense of smell entirely. Most of the sense has returned and I went to a follow-up appointment today. Plus, I thought I was growing a sty. Little did I know, the lovely time I would have.

The doctor comes in and starts chatting with me about things. As he was writing, I couldn't help but stare at his petite feet in suede lace-ups. Then I looked at his face and it held such a prominent nose. Nothing of the attraction sort, just observations. I don't know that I've ever seen a man with dainty feet and a brick-breaker of a schnoz. After a bit, he directed me to sit up on the bed for a look around, you know, the eyes-ears-heart sort of thing. He was asking me about how I felt about going back to school, blablabla, and doing a fine job of concerned, interested, bedside manner. Then he looked at my chart for more info. That's when the tone completely changed.

About 8 years ago, I had half my thyroid removed. Along with a nasty little malignant vascular tumor. Apparently, he needed to check that.

He slid his sterile office temperature hands under my hair and gently wrapped them around my neck. My neck happens to be a spot that, if handled correctly, renders me defenseless. I could feel my air vibrate at the back of my throat as I attempted to restrict the speed. My breath was quickening, I could feel my chest heaving. I'm sure my pupils were dilating as he thumbed his way across the front of my neck. Then he stood behind me, thumbs at the base of my skull, fingertips softly moving over my clavicle. Oh lord! I'm sure he could feel my jugular swelling with hot, fast blood. I could feel the heat moving down from my throat, through my chest, into my organs. Just as it was about to move further south, and just before I felt a whimper come out, he let go.

Yes, I was turned on by princess-toed, soft-handed, average man. So what.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I made the snacks, b@#%hes!!!

All this and I still can't land a husband!!! Um, what?

Monday, September 15, 2008

I haven’t felt much like dicking around with this blog thing lately, but I was purging some files and came across a blog I wrote, on another site, awhile back. It was about seeing a band (one of my favorites) from Denver that scheduled a show in San Francisco.  I love strange, live music in small clubs.  Here it is:

Leading With My Shoulder

The place is freaking crowded. I need to get to get to the bar but people are clustering all the way. The greasy-haired cool guys leaning against the cigarette machine with their big feet in the walkway, the pretty girls having a conversation but never looking at eachother. So I lead with my shoulder. I wave my 20 and ah, a drink is in my hand.

The band is about to start. Not THE band, but the band before the band before THE band. San Francisco.  At home it’s 25 degrees, but here - here I am in a tanktop. It’s a good night, even if it does smell like tires in here. 

The first band has me for a while. I like the idea of an accordion as part of the four, but they’re a bit mopey. I’m going to go make eye-contact back at the bar. Saw a few handsome fellas earlier. Lead with my shoulder.

Second band up. The guitarist is wild. He’s playing a red Epiphone with a bow. Alright, kudos to you then. Do something wacky, but he does have soul. I think about my violin lessons and note to myself to take them up again.

I’m not leaving the front. The band is setting up. I like that I don’t see a bunch of pretend roadies setting up their gear for them...Rock and Roll, man. Carry that f-ing amp! That’s what I’d do. Maybe.

The band, yes THE band. 

I’m glad I drove this far to see them. They’re going to haunt me like bearded phantoms for a while. I will talk about how great the show was to everyone. I will replay the 1st song of the 1st set through my head over and over. Show’s over. All I can do is lead with my shoulder and wonder why I am not a rock star.

(France and
 I at the Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots show at the Hemlock 11/09/06)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Nadji and I...heading to the KISS concert in Lake Tahoe. Oh my god, I can't believe I have lived this full of a life without ever seeing KISS. I was never much a KISS Army kindof gal, but 'Strutter' happens to be on my life soundtrack. Oh, and Love Gun.

Nadji and I were having a very serious conversation. Not about McCain or Obama, Pakistan or Afghanistan, or the impacts of globalization on the LDCs. We were concerned, that day, with WHAT TO WEAR, as a couple 30-somethings should. When she dropped it on me: We're painting our faces for the concert.


It took very little nudging, actually. I think I heard myself say, "that's a great idea" before actually considering whether it was or not. We made a plan. I'd get Detroit Rock City as my next home-delivered DVD and go over to her house to practice painting stars or kitties.

Here it is. My girly-version of 'the Starchild.' And yes, the concert turned out to be one of the best productions, ever. Say what you want about the arrogant assholes...they're worth it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Wednesday mornings, I work for a farmer out of Northern California, selling fruit. Today was an especially fine day. I learned a couple extra things:

1. Blenheim apricots: The way to pick them is to go for the ugliest ones. This idea can have so many other applications, but it is interesting when trying to sell the damn things. We are so convinced that the best must be perfect-looking (I'll keep it to fruit before I start waxing philosphic on life!), but really, the ones that are pushed aside are the most satisfying.

2. The difference between the old folks, the children, and the rest of us in-between: First, when the children, the ones where their eyes can just barely be seen over the table while they are up on tippie-toes, are standing in front of these big bins of fresh fruit, they are amazing. Their eyes are big, nearly glazed, and they seem as though this is the first time they've ever seen anything like this. They are silent, but their expressions seem to be squealing. When a mommy gives them one of their very own peaches, or cherries, or apricots, they eat it like it was birthday cake.

Secondly, the old folks. I hear the stories about how the stuff in the store isn't nearly as good and how they were raised with apricot trees and would pick them right off the tree themselves. But today was different. Today an old man came to the table. The farmer, who runs the fruit stand, took a piece of fruit, tore it in half and gave a piece to the man. After one bite, he lowered his head and said "I feel like I'm back in the 50s."

In that moment I cherished him. The nostalgia he was experiencing was overwhelming and I wanted a piece of that. I told him we aren't just a fruit stand, we are a time machine. We talked for a few more minutes - about life, and getting through it by laughing.

A bit later an old woman came up. Didn't tell the usual story I've heard, instead she leaned in (didn't have to lean too far, she was hankered down from osteoporosis) and gave the peaches a big sniff. She kept her eyes close and a slight smile appeared on her face. I wish I knew what she was thinking exactly. She opened her eyes, looked at me for a quick second, still holding that smile and said, "I'll take a pound."

I could tell she was not going to rush through any of it. She was going to hold each piece in her hand, roll it around gently to see every color and dent, smell it, and savor each and every bite.

Lastly, the in-betweeners: overall, not much to say. I told my co-fruit-seller-guy that I noticed how the old and the very young are most affected by the farmer's markets and the in-betweens don't have the same reaction. The in-betweens hurry through it, with a few conversations going on with a few people. The co-seller-guy said "maybe they are too busy living too much life." Well-put. Maybe they have too many worries and distractions that they've lost the glazed-eyes of childhood and haven't quite reached the point where a little nostalgia gives a quiet grin.

I need to remember this. I'm one of those in-betweeners and I want to be glazed and I want a simple smile to easily appear and I DON'T want to get good at multi-tasking. But I wonder, 50 years from now, will there be something that makes me say "oh, that takes me to the 80s" and dear god, what will it be.