Monday, November 22, 2010

what's for dinner?

first off, happy thanksgiving to everyone. at least everyone reading this who's of the american persuasion. should you be from suriname or bosnia-herzegovina, i hope you've enjoyed celebrating your countries on this, your day of independence. and to those from moquegua, peru, i bid a happy anniversary to your city.

i learned something else this week that has nothing to do with holidays. i live in one of 803 food deserts in the united states. i can't think of a better fact to learn during the week of thanksgiving when all that's on many of our minds is, well, food.

so what exactly is a food desert, you ask?

a food desert, according to lois morton and troy blanchard, is a county or parish (don't want to leave the louisianans out) in which more than 50% of the residents live 10 or more miles from a full-service grocery store. you may not have believed me when i said that we live god knows where, but here is scientific proof. the closest full-service grocery store to me is 21.9 miles away.

within those 21.9 miles are the following "food" outlets:

- bennie's food mart and chinese/fast food take out
it sometimes results in barbecue chicken lo mein, but the egg rolls are out of this world.

- the webb diner
ms. vera cooks up delicious breakfasts and lunches six days a week.

- the bayou bend country club
morgan freeman's a member, the fried chicken's good, but alas i am not a member.

- three gas stations with plate lunch options
probably delicious, but i've seen too much horrible gas station cuisine to dive in.

- the lunchbox
think all your favorite fried foods, served with your favorite sides, and sweet tea.

- dollar general
good for dried goods, notebook paper, and the occasional gag gift, but not a lot else.

there you have it. the culinary options of west tallahatchie and east coahoma counties outside my kitchen.

sure i can get great egg rolls, grits, fried chicken, and catfish whenever i want - provided that whenever i want takes place between 7am and 6pm - but there are only so many combinations you can make from those ingredients before you end up 37 pounds the wider and in much need of those things called vitamins that often show up in vegetables. plus, who wants to live like man v. food everyday?

learning about the sheer absence of full-service grocery store is one thing when you're just living it. sure, it's been a hassle to make the 40+ mile round trip to go to the store, but it's what everyone around us does. you just learn to plan ahead...or at least you try.

but seeing it on a map is entirely different.

the dark areas are the food deserts. whenever i look at a map i always try to find me. sometimes i'm pleasantly surprised like when i looked at the electoral map of 2008 and saw that my county in north carolina went for barack obama and helped carry the state. other times, a stark realization hits like when i saw this map. but then i said to myself, "hey, at least i don't live in south dakota."

i find it interesting that the predominance of these deserts occur in the breadbox of our wonderful country, those midwestern states known for their fields of grain, corn, and other staple crops. that seems to be the definition of irony. it's like the quip that people who build big houses don't live in them. well, people who grow great amounts of country's food supply can't get an apple with out burning up a couple gallons of gas either.

we've all heard about this push for local food. it's healthier. it's better for the local economy. yada yada yada. it seems like it's going to be necessary for folks in rural america. some folks are already on the boat (or should i say farm). there are csa's and co-ops popping up all over the place. hell, my uncle in brooklyn even has a garden in the alley behind his apartment. if he can grow tomatoes, potatoes, and other staples in an alley in a city 12 million strong, i think we can figure out how to do it reliably across rural america.

many already have, but i also know that there are a great many who live in rural areas, especially the mississippi delta and appalachia, who haven't and need to do because while they may be overweight and on the short track to diabetes and other health problems, they're also malnourished.

i can't forget the kids i saw on tv last summer who, when asked to name certain vegetables, might as well have been blurting out their favorite justin bieber songs. they had no clue. they didn't even know that french fries came from potatoes. we've come a long way to a place where we think food comes from a store and not from the ground or from an animal that actually lived somewhere before we ate it in nugget form.

there are many reasons for this shift, but i'm firmly on the local food bandwagon now. with the local groceries that used to dot small communities around our country being driven out of business by larger conglomerate stores and more people moving to urban areas, those who remain in rural america will continue to have the quality of their food dictated by elements outside their control.

i'm not exactly sure where this is headed for me personally, but i'll keep you posted on life on the bandwagon as long as i'm on it. and i'll stay on it if for no other reason than i'd rather pick a small bunch of tomatoes out of my backyard than drive forty miles to buy them from walmart.

photos from here, here, and here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

animal hijinx

it's been about two weeks since i heard what was indeed the most disconcerting noise i've ever heard come from the mouth of a living creature. i was sitting at my kitchen table a few days before halloween working when, from what sounded like it was just outside the window of the pantry, there came a scream that sounded like a cat running over an electric fence line while a bear clubbed it with a salmon it had just caught out of the river; the animal was simultaneously fearful and befuddled.

when i got up to see what i expected to be carnage in my backyard, there was nothing. no trace of anything. no animal limping away in pain. no other animal enjoying its place in the food chain. no phone calls for me to make to my neighbors about how their precious little mittens or tess or fill in your favorite southern author's name here was in my yard motionless of no fault of my own, but rather something resembling manbearpig.

now i know what you're thinking. you're thinking, "dude/broseph/sir/beardy, no animal makes that noise you described so eloquently and then vanishes without a trace in a manner of seconds. you, dude/broseph/sir/beardy are a liar."

well sir or madam, you haven't seen many horror movies, have you? this was textbook thriller cinema minus the fact that i didn't run into the attic or take an impromptu shower in the middle of the day or go looking for the 1/2 bear, 1/2 man, 1/2 pig that certainly just ate a cat in my backyard. yes, aside from my brilliance, this was halloween 13 quality horror: noise. fear. silence. return to normalcy. continued fear. continued silence. extended fear.

(okay maybe there was a little less fear on my end. maybe, but i'd like sasha mitchell of kickboxer 4 fame to play me in the movie version given his acting chops and ability to bring a series to a screeching halt.)

this, however, was not the last strange encounter with rural fauna that i've had since then. a couple of days later, biz and i took an early morning walk through town. there are about three ways to walk through town, and luckily enough for us we chose the path littered with dogs, many of whom were homeless or at least appeared so and in dire need of attention.

at one point, i counted 14 dogs on all sides of us, some ferocious 7 pound dogs with more bark than bite, some dumb chocolate labs who don't understand anything but their need to retrieve something even if they already have it, and one overfed basset hound bringing up the rear.

if you've ever been surrounded by 14 dogs, it's not exactly easy to move quickly. if you've ever been surrounded by 14 dogs with an combined iq of 14, it's nearly impossible to move. and if you live out in the boonies like us, then you know that at least half of them are strays. they just wander wherever, so they might as well follow you. oh, and they probably have a cocktail of diseases streaming through their veins. the joy of rural life.

as we walked i could only think of two things: 1) how i wished i'd had a stick of some sort to shew them away and 2) will ferrell and john c. reilly's psa in talladega nights about the packs of wild dogs that were taking over america's cities and how it had only taken them four years, but they had started to take over rural america as well.

not to be outdone by stray dogs and disappearing, cat-eating predators, though are the chickens. that's right i said it. chickens. our neighbors have chickens. they had four until sometime friday when that lovely pudgy basset hound and his west highland terrier friends broke into their coop and snatched two of them away, leaving me to transfer the other two to another coop while the neighbors were out of town.*

let's be clear about one thing. chickens are wily. in the midst of the transfer one decided she didn't really want to move so she just flew out into the yard and ran around, wings tucked in, head bobbing away, making me look almost as graceful as the llama at right as i chased her into and out of the bramble, the coop, and the yard.

i kept running over the joke my dad used to play on me about catching birds in my head as i panted across my neighbor's yard. he said all you have to do is get really close and pour a little salt on their tail. while that's an absurd task, after about ten minutes of chasing that wonderful, beautiful member of creation in and around the yard, i began to wonder if wouldn't be such a bad idea. about that time it ran into the hole and got trapped, so i guess we'll never know.sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

animals of all kinds are on the brink of absolute freedom out here, and sometimes when they walk that line between freedom and the domestic life, they add a little flavor to life even if it's not always the one i'm craving.

*after much consideration and moderately scientific research, i have a working hypothesis that the pudgy basset hound and the terriers fashioned themselves into a sort of three headed trojan horse that struck both fear and wonder into the cat outside my pantry just before halloween causing the scream heard 'round my kitchen. i also think such a plan would work well the theatrical stylings of sasha mitchell, allowing him to be both kickboxing "stud" and lovable idiot cody all while searching for this mythical beast.

photos from here, here and here.

what do you think?

got your own thoughts on rural life?

certain aspects of it you'd like me to explore?

people you'd like me to interview?

i want to write what you'll want to read, so leave me a comment, shoot me an email, or drop me a line on facebook.

but please, no pokes. they hurt and they are confusing. unless you're poking the queen. then they are hilarious. and while i may be a jack of anywhere from a few to some trades and master of a handful, i am also not a figurtive head of state and thus am ineligible for hilarity-induced poking.

proceed with your thoughts and enjoy the stories and somewhat aimless wanderings of life in god knows where.

Friday, November 12, 2010

america's pastime

if you've spent any time watching sports in the last fifteen years, then you know one thing is certain. baseball is no longer america's pastime. i guess people got tired of watching wwe stars jack homers instead of actual baseball players. sure it's been around longer than basketball and football, and there are few things more american than going to the ballpark on a summer afternoon, enjoying a hot dog and some peanuts, but now football is king.

despite the love/hate relationship between the press and brett favre and the unending saga that is the impropriety of heisman trophy winners/candidates, football reigns supreme across america - from the plains of kansas where they still play 8-on-8 to the deep south where football fans are just soccer hooligans with a different accent and from texas's friday night lights to the little schools all over the map who just want to play the game. sure maryland's got it's crabcakes and lacrosse (sorry carson elrod) and southern california digs the beach volleyball (see what i did there?), but they can't hold a candle to the overwhelming hold football has on america... especially small town america.

how can you not love a sport where something like this takes place:

contrary to the overwhelming similarity of most towns in america these days, every town doesn't have a walmart or a target or even an institution of higher learning. we don't all live in city x, but what every town in america (and if not town, county or parish) does have is a high school. and that high school serves as the locus point for much of life in rural communities. as i've said before most rural communities are made of folks whose families have been there literally since they first walked up a decided to stake their claim there. there's a deep investment in the community and all it offers.

furthermore, the alliance for excellent education says that rural high school graduates are half as likely to complete a post-secondary degree than others. so while college grads will hoot and holler for their team on saturdays, those who ended their schooling a little earlier turn their attention to fall friday nights.

on those friday nights across america, stadiums are filled with parents supporting their kids, younger children dreaming of one day being the one to catch the pass that wins the big game, and a lot of teenagers texting one another while they pretend to watch the game they paid 5 bucks to see. the wins and losses are tallied and often used as a barometer for the health and well-being of the community. apparently to some, the success of a group of 15-18 year olds playing a game can be a determining factor in how one community perceives itself. that's almost as crazy as thinking that a group of 435 adults of various persuasions can have lucid discussions and make policy decisions.

and from saturday to thursday the highlights are recounted not just from the last game, but from games years ago when something similar happened (only better and in spite of more difficult circumstances).

there are also lots of uncle rico's out there claiming that they'd have won state if their coach had just played them, and blaming him that they're now selling tupperware and breast enhancements instead of playing in the nfl.

despite the exaggerated expectations put on high school football and the overblown inferences of success or failure, high school football really is a beautiful thing when seen in person. a few weeks ago we went to a local school's homecoming game. unbelievable.

there was a sea of people in the stands and around the field. the stands were packed with parents, alumni, children, students, everybody. it's safe to assume that the entire county was in attendance for at least part of the game. there was an alumni dance team, an alumni band, and enough stories going around about how "back in my day..." to fill a book. the lights on the field were just powerful enough so the kids could play at night, but dim enough to give the view that vhs feel, nostalgic and a little out of focus. it was truly a community event like nothing i've seen before.

i also heard that another school in the area, if their team won the state title, school would be canceled for a couple of days. really? i thought those privileges were left for the men of troy, free shoes u, and the u itself. i guess not.

elizabeth hates football, but there's something about high school football - knowing the kids who play on the team, in the band, or on the cheerleading and dance teams, having relationships with them, and wanting them to succeed - that gets her. it's that sense of community, that sense that we know each other and see each other around that appeals to her, i think, and i have to agree.

do i wish this was the case? do i wish sports were the common rallying point for small communities? despite my love of sports, no. and there are some who agree with this notion and are doing something to shift the rallying point to something a little more constructive. i sincerely hope they can.

for now, all i know is that you can walk into just about any small, rural town in america, ask about the high school football team(s), have a conversation that goes on for hours, and perhaps even leave with a few new friends. maybe one day the conversation will revolve around something else, but until then rural communities will continue to talk about sweeps, options, and the occasional flea flicker executed by a group of teenagers. it's true wherever you go.

photos and video from here, here, and here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

two steps forward, one step back

let's get one thing straight. no one has ever said to
me, "hey, you know who always seem to be on the cutting edge of technology? you."

i was easily one of the last five people i know to get a cell phone (and that includes a slew of folks at least a decade younger than me), we didn't have internet access at my parents' house until i was in high school, and while my friends milked their parents for the newest video game craze every christmas during our childhood, mine could not be milked, so i saved some of my spending money from an eighth grade trip and some allowance and bought my own nintendo 64 only to promptly sell it to a friend's younger brother about a year later.

i even prefer to write with a pen and paper, though i fully realize that were i to write this blog with pen and paper it would a) not be a blog, b) take an immense amount of postage and stationery to deliver to you, the readers, and c) give you one less thing to read during your "breaks" from work. for all my slowness (you may read: unwillingness) to incorporate technology into my life, it is clear that certain changes are inevitable, even beneficial to life in the twenty-first century.

it is also clear that the more rural parts of our world have yet to incorporate the totality of twenty-first century technology. in some cases this happens willingly and in others it stems from being ignored by those of the urban persuasion.

where it happens willingly, it is surprisingly refreshing.

there's a man here in town who swears by his blackberry, a worn out and warped pocket notebook that holds all his contacts, upcoming meetings, and notes in a space smaller, cheaper, and a lot less radioactive than its electronic namesake.

the best source of local information remains the local paper, still available only in print form and only delivered weekly. that's right, one paper per week. on the brightside it's better than the deal my parents have in the mountains of north carolina. their paper prints monday, wednesday, and friday, but gets delivered tuesday, thursday, and friday. logic abounds.

people even use phonebooks, and not as paperweights or props for feats of strength. they actually use them to find numbers, because a lot of people in rural america still have something called a "land line."

whatever that is.

maybe the most endearing, though somewhat financially confusing, case of the willing indifference to technological advances is the use of the postal service for in-town correspondence. while no one this side of scrooge can complain about getting something in the mail that is not a bill, credit card application, or catalogue, it is mildly troubling to think someone went to the trouble to stamp a number of envelopes, hand them to the postmistress, and have her walk twelve feet to put them in everyone's post office box. at nearly 3 2/3 cents per foot, it doesn't seem like a great deal, but somehow it actually is.

however, where the failure to embrace technology happens out of omission, it's depressing at best.

the most recent episode of radio lab, reminded me that for the last two years, we've been living in unprecedented territory: more than half of all people in the world live in cities and not in rural communities. we now live in a decidedly urban world. instead of living in a world dominated by the minority who live in cities, we now live in a world dominated by a majority who call the "metro-area" home. while this is not news to anyone, it does pose some interesting questions. especially ones about how we get our news.

jon stewart said it well at the rally to restore sanity and/or fear when he remarked that the news media are based in cities across the nation and that they reflect back to americans a world that is not always true to every viewer's life experience. it's almost as if we live in one world all day and, if it turns out that we don't actually live at cnn, fox, or msnbc, we see a different one on the television when we come home.

in smaller cities and larger towns this might not necessarily be the case since the chances of having a reputable local news channel is greater, but out in the middle of nowhere where most folks rely on satellite tv which provides them with roughly 8 bravos, 9 discovery channels, 10 qvcs, and perhaps even a channel looping images of a partridge in a pear tree, local programming is virtually non-existent or inaccessible. (when it is accessible it's reminiscent of that attempt your high school made at doing the news: grainy, slightly entertaining, and less than informative.) so, the world that comes through the wire is in fact not reflective of the life lived by those of us in middle-of-nowhere america.

furthermore, great efforts like the one laptop per child program, led by nicholas negroponte, try to connect every child in the world living in a rural place with a laptop computer so that they can get up to speed with their more privileged, urban peers. every child, that is, except poor, undereducated ones in rural america. apparently, they aren't in need of catching up to those with more opportunities, especially those in their own country.

so while, it's refreshing to know that out here some folks still carry a pen and a notebook around, and prefer a face-to-face meeting to an email chain on a smartphone, it's only refreshing when we have the choice to remain several steps behind everyone else. there's little refreshing about being left several steps behind or kept out of the discussion entirely.

we all know what happens when we get left behind. we start listening for the loudest familiar noise, and when we hear it, we start following. and not because it's telling us the truth, but simply because its noise and it could lead us somewhere, despite the fact that while "somewhere" might be the nearest town, it might also be a campsite full of crazies smoking peyote and getting ready to drink some kool-aid under the spell of the snuggie.

photos from here, boone, and here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

if i do what, i'll go where?

one day in art class as a seventh or eighth grader, i was busy not being good a painting a landscape when a girl of the southern baptist persuasion stopped by the table i was sharing with my friend of the hindu persuasion to share the good news with us. really she just wanted to share the good news with him - she knew i was probably okay, despite my presbyterian upbringing, since our parents were friends.

calmly and coolly, she shared that if he refused to accept jesus christ as his personal lord and savior, he would go straight to hell. without another word, she left to grab some more paint or another brush. she was, in her mind, a true messenger of the truth of christianity.

she was, in my mind, an idiot.

that day i started wondering why she, and others like her, were so sure about what happens after we die. it doesn't take long to figure it out. all you have to do is drive by rural churches like the one she attended and read their marquees. the "jokes" they put up there, tell a good portion of the story and explain why things seem so black and white in rural american religion even though life in rural america is an ever changing shade of gray.

i had the recent joy of driving through the appalachian mountains in southwestern virginia and northwestern north carolina on a trip to visit my parents and my grandfather. the town where my parents live is about 90 minutes in any direction from an interstate, so much of the drive was on two-lane highways that followed the curves of the mountains and spilled into the small towns that dot the region. a rough guess on my part is that there are as many churches in these towns as there are families who inhabit them, and thus a lot of drive time reading material.
(as a volunteer firefighter, i disagree stoney fork.)

"forbidden fruit makes lots of jams," said the first sign i saw. just down the road another church gave these instructions/warnings: "pray, believe, receive. pray, doubt, do without." not to be outdone, sometime later i drove past another wondering "is your prayer life well done or rare?"

seeing these reminded me of three others i had seen before moving from north carolina. the church my high school girlfriend attended at one point asked passers the question over on the left.

damn. tell me how you really feel next time. that shed a lot of light on the time she called me on a sunday and asked me what i was up to, and when i told her i'd just finished mowing the yard, she got silent in disbelief that i had worked on a sunday.

the next one, kindled hatred towards wizardry, saying "there's only one potter and his name isn't harry." i guess they're right, but harry seems like a decent name for god. i can trust a guy named harry, and with a name like that, he's probably good with his hands.

(this must be the remix no one ever heard.)

the all time best, however, came when i drove down to see my college roommate one break. just off the exit to his house, there was a church whose sign read, and i kid you not, "turn or burn." can't knock 'em for b.s. that's just straight to the point.

and that's when it hit me. these signs are an attempt to boil down the completely unexplainable questions of life into something we can use. for so long, i'd thought they were legitimate attempts to welcome people or encourage others to come visit. maybe they did that, too, but there is no part of me that is willing to believe that is the main purpose. rural churches aren't generally looking to expand. they're looking to survive.

like i said, life is a shade of gray in rural america. for those that farm, there's the constant worry about how good the harvest will be. for those in more touristy places, there's always the dependence upon visitors and enough snow for the skiiers, enough sun for the tanners, and enough color for the leaf lookers. so much is out of the hands of those who live in rural america, especially those whose livelihood depends upon the land.

and when you're livelihood is up in the air, the last thing you want is for your soul to join it. so while i may never agree that it's turn or burn or that doubt leads to loss, i can at least understand the roots of these pithy little statements and just laugh to myself. i'll even enjoy the humor in some of them because i know my dad would double over in genuine laughter at some of them, though they're no funnier than michael scott's email forwards.

but i'll never get why a trip to the paint shelf seemed like a great opportunity for a sermon.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

dudes do things dudes do

there are lots of elements at work in transitioning from living in a city of millions to town of several hundred. there's the size adjustment, the time it takes to get somewhere to eat or drink adjustment, and the actually getting to know and like your neighbors adjustment (both of which we have done) to name a few. but there's one i'd forgotten about.

more so than anywhere else, i think men in rural places live into masculine stereotypes. i'd even argue that they set the curve. i mean, who sets that curve better than this guy? no one.

for those that know me, i'm not exactly the most macho dude. sure i love sports, meat and (thanks to elizabeth and terry at the woodshop) i'm developing a woodworking habit, but after that my macho quotient takes a serious dive, at least comparatively to my perception of men in rural america. here's an assessment:

- i think i've shot one gun in my entire life. hunting is the sport of choice out here.
- i don't exactly have a demonstrative personality nor do i think only wives should submit to their husbands.
- i learned how to drive a stick not because it was macho, but because it saves gas, or so i was told.
- oh, and i can operate a washing machine and an iron with relative ease.

however, in addition to my love of sports and meat and my aspirations to be norm from the new yankee workshop, i do have one other thing going for me. i own a truck.

trucks are masculinity shaped in metal and put on wheels. as you might imagine, that's not the reason i got mine, but i'll embrace it. i got mine so i could move my stuff easily. emphasis on my.
so it came as a big surprise to me that as we were driving home the other day, i told elizabeth how glad i was to have a truck. there have been roughly zero days in the last few years that i have been glad to have a truck.

you see, i made a firm decision about a year ago, that i would only offer my moving services to others in the most dire of situations after a friend asked for some help and proceeded to show up late and completely unprepared for the impending rain. it was somewhere between lifting his desk, complete with his snot storage area, and having a tarp tossed to me to cover his belongings while he got inside another car and left, that i told myself i would never do this out of the sheer goodness of my heart ever again. i consider myself a giving a person, but i have to draw a line somewhere. i only wish I had done so before picking up a handful of dried boogers.

but here in the land of stereotypical masculinity, i am thankful that i have a truck because even though i work with my hands, there's a keyboard at the end of them, not a backhoe. it's easy to remain on the outside in rural america if you've just moved in (or out depending how you look at it). there's a culture in a rural america that emphasizes one's history in the community, but that's a different topic for a different time. owning a truck just might be my first correct answer on my insider's application.

so i drive proudly to the fire station in my beat-up, little truck and know that at least i'm not that guy writes for a living and drives a miata. i enjoy the first part, but if the second were true, i'd walk around town knowing that, in the spirit of stereotypical masculinity, they'd be thinking there's a little something off about that new guy, isn't there?

on the other hand, it might be a fun time.

dog the bounty hunter from here, truck by boone.

rural image of the day...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

god knows what you'll hear here...

in addition to god's ability to know exactly where it is that we are in relation to the rest of humanity despite the difficulties many atlases and mobile gps apps have in doing likewise, it turns out the old bearded and muscular man in the sky also knows what we will hear on a daily basis as we go about our life in the middle of nowhere.

okay, maybe not. but i've certainly heard a lot of things that you don't really hear everyday in other parts of the world. and i'm not talking about the way things are said; we've been over that already. i'm talking about the actual stories that you hear.

take, for instance, my conversation with the fine gentlemen at a local tire store. i walked in to get some new tires for my truck and walked into a conversation i couldn't have made up. this place we live is dominated by farmers and apparently farmers have amazing stories.

while i can't do this one justice here just imagine me, or yourself, it really doesn't matter, standing across from a farmer relating a story to myself and the mechanic about a cow that received two barium enemas that were supposed to cure its ailments, but resulted in it spewing some pasty white liquid all over a trailer just as it was being taken out to be appraised for sale. in a fitting end to the tale, the judge who saw this rather disconcerting event take place simply began yelling, "bloat! bloat! bloat!" and the cow sold for half its worth.

oh, did i mention i heard this story twice? someone came in as the farmer was yelling "bloat!" and clearly wondered what the hell was going on, so we were all blessed with the enemas again. thankfully only in story form.

not to be outdone, this story came only hours before i attended my first volunteer fire department meeting. epic. while most of what happens at these meetings cannot be shared for both insurance and decency's sakes i can share that it was generally what you might imagine happens when you combine fifteen men from 26 to 65, equal parts business and pit-stops, one spittoon, and several folks tapping the rockies. perhaps the only thing i can share is that when i told everyone that i was a writer by trade, one fine young gentleman asked if i wrote porn. i don't. i promise.

well i guess i can share one more, even though i didn't technically hear it that night. as we were sitting around doing our voluntary fire work, someone made a comment about one man's tank. that's right. tank. not, hey jim how's that jeep treating you? or i heard you got a new shotgun, bob...apparently one of my neighbors owns a tank. in case you're wondering, the answer is yes. he does fancy himself a vigilante at times. i remembered reading a story about some guy in mississippi who chased a man charged with robbery through a cornfield in a tank, and going through one of those seth myers/amy poehler really!?! skits in my head. what never crossed my mind is that i would one day be able to see his house from my front porch. it's funny how things work out, isn't it?

on a more serious note, when you live out here in the land of corn fields sometimes driven with tanks, you'll also hear things like, "i had a very faulkner experience today." no one in dallas walks around thinking that. on the other hand maybe they feel like patrick duffy every now and then. what my neighbor, the guy who shared his faulkner like experience with me of sitting with a man who doesn't fit in the culture around here which is different from the culture elsewhere where he also feels uneasy, was getting at was that out here just about anything is possible. and if it's possible, someone will probably share whatever happened with you and what they tell you will either make you laugh, cry, or do both for very different reasons. and you can't even begin to make up these stories in your mind. they're so much better when they're true.

images from here and here

Monday, September 13, 2010

going once, going twice...

"well, my family has a house up in the mountains on a lake, and we go up there in the summers, and there's this cute little general store that we go to, and there's this guy who works there who wears overalls and no shirt and he has very few teeth."

this eloquent, run-on response was given in a college english class that i took in response to the professor wondering about our perceptions of people from the mountains as we prepared to study charles frazier's cold mountain. once she finished waxing so poetically, i figured i'd just sit this discussion out and hear what my colleagues had to offer about where i grew up.

i learned a lot. people from the mountains are dumber, less attractive, and more likely to both own a gun and fire it at will. their sense of fashion is vastly outdated and they are more likely to fall in love with a person across the room if the room is in their own home. i also learned that owning a second home somewhere does not make you a local expert on anything except tax codes and that it's difficult to agree with someone's assessment of anything when they choose to pose for playboy's girls of the acc spread. ok, i already knew that last thing was true.

after sitting through this painful display of amateur anthropology, i began to look at where i grew up a little differently. months before that discussion i was chomping at the bit to get out of that little mountain town and all the backwards people i couldn't take anymore. i thought i was surrounded by a lot of dumb, gun-toting, tooth challenged people who didn't see what the world had to offer them if they'd just step off that mountain for a little while. but to hear some other people make those comments stirred up some familial ties i didn't know i had. it was like they were all my little brothers and sisters and while it was perfectly ok for me to mock them, under no circumstances could anyone else do the same.

i even started watching my favorite documentary differently. in high school some friends of mine convinced me and several other guys that we needed to see this movie called hands on a hard body. contrary to popular opinion it is in fact not a porn flick. it follows about a dozen folks in a small town in texas as they vie for a new pick-up truck. when i was fifteen, it was comedic genius. the misplaced references to highlander, the super jesus-y lady who thought god told her to sell her truck before the contest because she was going to win this one, the former marine with a literal shag carpet chest. gold. all of it.

but then i watched it after this discussion of mountain people (sounds like a show on tlc) and got really sad. they weren't acting or trying to be funny. they wanted that truck so they could use the rest of their income to oh, i don't know, feed their families or pay their rent. they joined the marines because there weren't really other options for them. they needed that truck and they were willing to stand up with one hand on it for close to a week just to get it.*

i couldn't get this film out of my head the other night when we went to a local auction. i tend to think of auctions as events where furniture and personal effects are sold at decent to astronomical prices. at least i tended to until the other night. when the first items up for bid were boxes of fudge rounds and other little debbie treats, i had to withhold my laughter. but then people started bidding on them. all of them. they were gone in about a minute.

and that's when i started wondering if this was how the auction usually went, if it was a sign of the economic times, or if it was just a chance for friends to have a yard sale in auction format and we just happened to show up. once the woman in front of me started asking serious questions about the quality of a small teal bell and the "flavor" of the incense, i realized we were at a serious affair.

there was a caller, his bedazzled partner who took down all the purchase information, and two rather unique individuals hawking the various wares of the show. one man in his hawaiian shirt, vietnam vet hat complete with head lamp and the personality of benny hill; the other could be described accurately by my friends in english class.

while the wares didn't always seem auction worthy to us and at times it felt like watching whose line is it anyway as the vet and his buddy ran through their jokes about everything they picked up, one thing became obvious. if it didn't serve an immediate purpose (nourishment, replacement or repair, etc.) it didn't get bought. that is, except for the ladder golf set we took home. we also bought a t square, so i can start building some stuff around the house that we later learned is made from some cancer causing chemical. awesome.

this was a purely utilitarian auction. what can i get for the least amount of money that will do my family the most good? apple jacks > teal bells. my father-in-law would've found a lot of partners in crime here.

maybe folks from the mountains, rural america even, are the way those geniuses in my class described them. stereotypes do come from somewhere, but i think there's something more behind it. life's a little slower and even a little more practical for those that live there. that doesn't mean it's an idyllic existence by any stretch of the imagination. i can't imagine that a place where you're willing to take off for a week to stand next to a truck that you may or may not win or go to an auction every week to buy foodstuffs is completely pleasant all the time.

all i'm saying is that day-to-day operations take precedence over the frills and extras life has to offer. sometimes that order make things hilarious, sometimes it makes them sad, but it's always real and just as entertaining as living anywhere else.

*note: the jesus-y lady is still hilarious and always will be and the the film is still comedic genius in my opinion.

photos by boone and joey joey joseph

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

rural grammar, part ii: pronunciation

i think everyone has an embarassing story about mispronouncing a word in front of a bunch of know-it-alls at one point or another in their life. in my family there are tales about fat-i-gue and ep-i-tome.

in eighth grade i was given the the word diphthong in a late round of the annual spelling bee. being the confident speller i was and having heard mrs. avant (pronounced as southern as possible with emphasis clearly on the first syllable) clearly say dip thong, i thought to myself, "nailed it," even before the office was a glint in ricky gervais's eye. "dipthong. d-i-p-t-h-o-n-g. dipthong," i said confidently. no need for it to be used in a sentence or to wonder about its language of origin.

i started to give myself a pat on the back and make my way to the final group when i heard mrs. a-vant apologetically tell me that i was wrong and would continue my streak of never winning anything academically, athletically, or socially. well, i told myself the last part. she just told me to have a seat.

if she'd wanted me to spell diph-thong, why didn't she just say so? i spelled what she said, and since when is the h in ph silent? we don't talk on the pone or get lit listening to pish! oh that's right, it's not silent, mrs. ay-vant, eighth grade english teacher. and yes, i will take the title you stole from me even if vince young won't take the heisman he got jobbed out of.

thank you gary larson for summing up my pain.

here's the thing. i'm not sure she knew what a diphthong was, and i sure didn't. (i thought it was the kind of garment will ferrell thought that olive garden waitress was wearing in old school.) but if i had corrected her and said, "actually mrs. av-aunt, you pronounce both h's in the word," two things would have happened. first she would have told me what a pretentious little brat i was and then she would have given me some lecture about how it actually is dip-thong and who was i to question her on pronunciation. she would have been right on both accounts.

when it comes to pronunciation, beauty and everything else is in the eye of the beholder, especially in rural america. towns and counties across this fine country of ours are pronounced in ways foreign even to the foreigners for whom they are named.

ball-i-ver county to you, my friend. no
offense simon, but your revolutionary success in south america won't get you very far here.

i think pronunciation is part local accent and part our quest to incorporate all languages into english. for example:

el dor-ay-do, kansas...
think if they'd just translated it. welcome to the golden one, kansas. who wouldn't want to
go there?

buena (byoo-na) vista, virginia...
lovely view, incomprehensible pronunciation.

kosciusko (ka-zee-es-ko), mississippi...
sorry george washington's polish engineer friend, thaddeus ko-shoos-ko, but can you blame
us? the colonies weren't exactly teeming with poles back then.

we rural americans even tinker with the pronunciation of english words. i mean, why wouldn't we? there's a small town in north carolina where the thing to do on a friday night is cruise through downtown. when you look at the town's name on paper, there are four distinct syllables. when you pronounce like everyone who lives there does, there are two: rutherfordton becomes ruv-ton. don't ask me how. it just does. you can ask any sixteen year old you see on main street on a friday night provided he or she is willing to interrupt the cruise.

then there are places like belzoni, mississippi. named for italian explorer giovanni belzoni. unlike other places, locals and anyone seeking to elude ridicule says bel-zo-na. this makes no sense. english is my first language and i took 12 credits of italian in college and in neither language does an i make an uh sound.

there are also places like, oh, the state of arkansas. arkansas is a french pronunciation of a native american word that we americans decided sounded alright with us, so we kept it.

none of these, however, top what some small folks are willing to do to ensure that you spell their town's name correctly. i give you exhibit a: lurand, missisippi. exhibit b, guin, alabama, to follow after my next trip through the yellowhammer state.

there's another town i recently drove through called durant, and while there's no sign to tell me how to pronounce it, i now know it doesn't sound anything like the way nba stud kevin durant pronounces his name. i applaud these towns for their willingness to help folks like me, the son of a speech pathologist, to avoid making the embarassing mistake of mispronouncing their town's name and bringing shame upon myself and my family.

before you hop on the train and start railing on these places and these people for the "incorrectness" of their pronunciation, think about those news reporters that friend you have who just decided after spanish class one day to start trilling all his r's or that friend who took french and subsequently thought jimmy buffett was a boob for mispronouncing and misspelling his own name and that formula one needed to choose between grand priks and grahn pree and quit splitting the difference.

once you remember how annoying they were, you'll realize shakespeare was right when he talked about the rose. the v in "bolivar" might not sound like a b here, but the honoring of ol' simon is still there, so who really cares? sure things might be accented differently and syllables might be muddled together, but it gives a little character to the places we call home and is a welcome reprieve from the other places that continue to look like you could be anywhere. chances are ruvton, durant, and buena vista have something you can't find in a target, a starbucks, or a pep boys.

photos by boone, cartoon by gary larson found here

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

longer, broader, and a hell of a lot more relaxed

perhaps the greatest difference between rural and urban life is the notion of time and space. hours are still hours and miles are still miles, but their use and perception are decidedly different. at least that's what i've come to notice living in out here in god knows where, america.

i remember first noticing this in college. i grew up in what you could call a rural part of america. ok, well it wasn't that rural, but rural america was closer to me then than i am to a grocery store now, so go with me. i never noticed how different the pace of life could be in two places only 90 miles apart.

in winston-salem, meals were things eaten between meetings and classes. they generally lasted only twenty minuted because there was always something to get back to: a paper, a meeting, an important episode of joe millionaire or the real world/road rules challenge. (i hear your judging laughter. just remember who thought the hills was riveting television. not me.)

when i would go home for a weekend, time seemed to stand still. the nights were longer. the days were filled with conversations that meandered from topic to topic with few, if any, discernible shifts. meals were events. this was, in part, due to the fact that most of them involved witnessing and/or participating in the cooking and cleaning as opposed to grabbing a sandwich and fries, gulping them down, and sending the tray down a conveyor belt.

when we did eat out, it was leisurely and filled with conversation. friday nights out for hamburgers and sunday lunches at a local sub shop were never less than an hour, and nothing seemed wrong or wasteful about that use of time.

i'm thankful to know the same is true with my in-laws. i'll hazard a guess and say 40% of our time in their home is spent in the kitchen, 40% is spent on the sun porch talking, and 20% is spent doing whatever else there is to do. it's fantastic. i don't know exactly what it is about small town and rural life, but the sense of time runs counter to the time our urban friends feel.

time doesn't just slow down at meal time. you'd think rural americans were all buddhists with the way they live in the moment, and by living in the moment i mean having a conversation at the post office counter or on the sidewalk in the middle of an afternoon walk. i spent three hours with a woman talking about quilting and her family this morning. i can tell i'm adjusting back to life in rural america because i loved every minute of it.

but it's not just time. space is different as well. when you live in rural america, there's generally a lot of space between you and whatever it is you are headed towards or whatever it is you need. this is especially evident when driving. the roads are straight and the horizon is flat.

in atlanta, or any city for that matter, your sight distance in a car is often impeded by buildings, billboards, or buicks. you can generally only see as far as the next apartment complex or shopping area. the same idea applies in appalachia only its not buildings that block your view, but rather mountains, so while you might not be able to see very far, the only thing coming into your view is nature, not neon lights.

here where we are, you can see literally as far as is humanly possible. if a human eye can discern a shape or a color in the distance, that shape or color can be be seen.

this depth to the view has the ability to play tricks on you when you drive. a stop sign in the distance may appear to be a couple hundred yards away when in reality its a mile away. i can't tell you how many times i've started to slow down for a stop sign only to end up creeping in first gear for a couple of blocks.

even more than the illusion of distance, there is literally more space to be seen. there are more stars to be seen here than i've ever seen before. the other night, our neighbors built a little fire in the yard and we sat out there drinking, getting to know one another, and enjoying a cool evening that i hope means fall is near. late in the evening, robert, our next door neighbor, and i walked down toward the bayou and looked up to see what we could see. i was speechless.

there had been very few occasions in the last three years when i was graced with a night sky like this one. no clouds. no rain. no street lights dimming the view. no buildings or advertisements blocking the great unknown. we could see the milky way. i don't think i remembered until then that you can see the milky way.

it's a similar feeling to standing at the ocean and thinking about swimming to england or mexico or whatever landmass is closest to you beyond the horizon. you simultaneously realize how small you are in relation you are to everything outside you and how amazing it is that you even have the chance of comprehending all there is out there.

rural life offers a different way of thinking about and seeing time and space than urban life - longer, broader, and a hell of lot more relaxed. sure, there's a lot to be said about the productivity that a faster pace of life breeds, (i'm just as waspy and driven by the protestant work ethic as anybody) but there's also something to be said for being able to see as far as the eye can see and for being able to enjoy a meal and the company around you. i'll take that any day.

path photo by boone, town photo from here

Friday, September 3, 2010

which do you prefer?

you know when you're at some meeting for the first time, and the person in charge asks everyone to share their name, where they live, what they do, and their social security number (well maybe that's just me)? well, usually these "get-to-know-you" games often end with sharing an interesting fact about yourself. an example would be to share whether you like the mountains or the ocean better. if you're like me you choose mountains, but wish you could choose mountains at the ocean so you could go cliff diving, but that's neither here nor there.

what they will never ask is whether or not you like the mountains, the beach, or the landlocked plains of the rest of the country better. i mean who's really going to say, "ooh ooh, me, i'm for the plains. they're so lovely and flat."

well, having moved to the plains of the mississippi delta (which is in fact not near the gulf of mexico, but rather in the northwestern part of the state between the mississippi and yazoo rivers) i'm starting to rethink my answer. i might just be that guy who will jump up and down voting for the plains the next time i'm in a small group where the leader asks the mountains/beach question.

why, you ask? isn't this

much more appealing than this?

don't tempt me with your colorful autumn leaves and your lush and wooded trails. i said i was starting to rethink my answer.

one of the more revealing things about the mountains/beach/plains question is that it points out our connection to the land, whatever that land may be. humans have been tied to the land for...well forever. as soon as there were enough of us around to start getting territorial about things, we started claiming land, thinking the more land we had somehow made us better than those with less, and trying desperately hold on to what land we had in order to make a living.

our relationship to the land is easy to forget when we live in cities with enough pavement to cause a creek to flood a city (i'm looking at you atlanta), but when this is what you see out the front and back of your house, it's easy to remember.

i had the pleasure of spending an afternoon earlier this week with a lawyer from the small town where i live. he told me about what life was like in this place when he was growing up. he even recalled that he never saw his grandfather without three things, his pocketwatch, his wallet, and his pistol. his grandfather was a farmer at the peak of this place's existence. it's safe to say just about everyone who lived here depended on the land they worked for their well-being.

advancements in technology have taken that percentage down a bit, but still the overwhelming majority of the economy here in the mississippi delata is farming. corn, soybeans, rice, cotton. they're all kings here. and they will be as long as the soil stays fertile and people keep tilling it.

but more than the history of farming in this are, this lawyer told me to listen for something. he said to listen to how people describe where they live. "ask them where they live and they'll say, 'i have a place across 49 or over the bayou,'" he said.

there's a sense of belonging when you say you have a "place" somewhere. i know when i've lived in other places, i've always just said, "i live at/in/behind." there's no sense of belonging when all you can say is that you live somewhere. everybody lives somewhere. others might say "i stay at..." which is much more transient than having a place, but much more specific than living somewhere.

i'm not sure if this is a local thing relevant only to folks in the delta, but i'm inclined to think it's true for anyone who lives in a place so tied to the land. i mean, when you look around and see field upon field upon river upon field, it comes as no surprise that people want to know where there place in the world is. if all you see is the natural world, it's easy to wonder where you belong and to stake your claim.

i guess the same can be said while you're standing on a mountain top or wading in the ocean, but for most of us those moments are occasional and sometimes interrupted by a plane advertising free parasailing or a crotchety old man complaining about the wind after he drove up the other side of the mountain for a view from the visitors' center.

for now, we have a place here.

trail photo by timmy, all others by biz and boone

Thursday, September 2, 2010

rural image of the day...

hitt, mississippi

rural grammar, part i: the apostrophe

colloquial language. it's a beautiful thing. it brings life to our various parts of the world and is perhaps the single greatest factor in determining someone's whereabouts. an accent here, an elongated syllable there, and voila! you know where someone is from...or in the case of george w. bush where they pretend to be from. (bush scholar john william ferrell will back me up on this one.)

just think how boring it would be if we all sounded like me, monotone and with no recognizable accent. there's no need to keep thinking. it would be terrible.

but colloquial language doesn't stop with accents. there are idioms and reference points that also play a part. some make their way into mainstream american english. one can cut off, cut out, turn off, or flip off the lights, and depending upon where this person is from they will do only one of the above despite the fact that there is no cutting or turning involved in making a room dark, and generally that jerk that just cut you off going 70 down the highway gets flipped off, not a light.

that being said, i have been astounded at the use of apostrophe in rural America. it's truly baffling at times. i cannot tell you how many businesses i have driven by here in the mississippi delta that buck all grammatical trends when it comes to naming. you would not believe some of the names I have seen written down if i introduced the people to you. some uses are passable, a plural that could could possibly be construed as a possessive, a made up word, or one that's just misspelled in which case the problem goes a lot deeper than possession.

take for instance, this lovely restaurant in cleveland.

at first blush there's nothing wrong with it, right? wrong.

well, i guess you're kind of right. it would be more awful if it were possessive. the crustaceans would then be marketing their crawfish, a member of their very own family, for your enjoyment. no one wants to eat crawfish served to them by an actual red lobster. it's just weird. that's why chik-fil-a uses cows to sell chicken. they get this distinction.

but then again, it might actually make more sense for it to be possessive seeing as crawfish are a member of the crustacean family so ipso facto the crawfish do belong to the crustaceans.

seeing as no arthropods actually own businesses (yet) the name for this establishment is all the more confusing. if they'd just call it "Crustaceans" there would be no problem. i would know that when i walk in the door i will be offered any number of exoskeletal creatures soaked in butter, and not simply crawfish. there would be tanks full of rubberbanded crustaceans waiting for consumption. anyone could get behind that...well almost anyone. sorry to those who keep kosher and anyone who's actually adheres to being a vegetarian. (fish is just as much a meat as anything else that comes of a bone.)

it wasn't until i drove through cleveland and clarksdale, ms one afternoon that i realized the problem is being compounded by national chains like walgreens and americas best value inn.

according to a walgreen company stock holder, "Walgreens dropped the comma years ago. Yes, that makes it incorrect, but that’s what they did. Look at your Sunday sale insert or a Walgreens building. No apostrophe. Sad, but true."

sad indeed. since when do companies get to mess with grammar at will? there's no poetic license in acknowledging that mr. walgreen is now responsible for thousands of convenience stores/pharmacies. it probably had something to do with the cost of the signs.

americas best value inn is no better. granted they do operate in Canada, the US, and Mexico, but the last time i took world geography those three made up north america, a single unified continent. so really they only serve one america until they open a cozy little inn down in Rio for the 2016 summer olympics.

really, they're just lazy.

and probably canadian. i'm just saying.

in addition to the blatant misuse of apostrophes by businesses in rural america, there is the over abundant use of apostrophes in names. the name "Leroy" is no longer a single five letter name, but now can be written any number of ways given the introduction of the apostrophe into child naming: Le'roy, Le'Roy, L'roy and so on and so forth.

really the only proper use of the apostrophe in that last example is the last one because it replaces the e. but who will be stopped by such logical thinking? not walgreens, and certainly not any expectant mother who thinks "Le'roy" has a certain je ne sais quoi that "Leroy" does not.

don't get me wrong. i would love to have a name with some flavor. when your name means "from britain," there's really no way but up to go when it comes to adding flair. but i don't think randomly placing an apostrophe at the syllable break gets it done. look at where it takes you.

i'm sure as i continue to live in rural parts of america, i'll continue to confront this and other grammatical misappropriations, so check back for more.

for now i leave you with this actual name and hope you can guess how to pronounce it. it is a real name of a real person and i can get someone who knows this person on the phone if you don't believe me. there are no apostrophes in it. i'm done with them for now.


i can't wait to read your attempts.

coming soon: pronunciation.

Friday, August 13, 2010

am radio

one of the truly remarkable things about living in front of a soybean field and across the street from a bayou is the seeming void of space and time. a car that seems only a hundred yards away on the highway is actually four miles away. a trip to check the mail means not only opening and closing the post office box, but having a fifteen minute (on the low end) conversation with the post mistress and local gossip columnist. the attempt to gain internet and television access, while only a phone call away in more metropolitan pockets of america, is in fact a ten day process calling providers, holding, price calculating, holding, home visits by technicians, appointment scheduling, holding, and installation. did i mention wasp stings? sorry, elder.

despite what was my version of the never-ending story, the nothing didn't capture us. we have been reconnected to all things sports, news, and true blood. but, there is one mode of technology that rises above the inconveniences of rural life: am radio. email can be iffy out here, but brian fisher's rants about all things anti-america come through crystal clear on the radio dial. both of three dog night's hits can be heard on repeat any time day or night. pure am gold. and you can decide if you'd like to trade your old kitchen cabinets for someone's riding mower when they offer it up on the swap shop (or whatever call it where you probably don't live). take that craigslist.

i experienced the glory that is am radio not too long ago. and while this wasn't my first rodeo with fm's little brother, it was the most remarkable radio encounter i've ever had. it wasn't a "war of the worlds" remarkable. i didn't drive my car all the way to the coast to avoid the alien invasion in orson welles' head, but i did hang on every sound from the spanish language broadcast of the 2010 world cup final despite the fact that i only understood proper names like "David Villa," "Iniesta," more obvious words like "gol," and guttural noises.

i was making the drive back from louisville and had begun listening to the game in english on espn radio. needless to say this broadcast made soccer as boring as most americans think it is, but that all soon changed. as i neared the tennessee-mississippi border and the last minutes of regulation, i lost the station. i couldn't find another for about ten minutes, but i stumbled upon a spanish language station, and it was obvious that they were covering the game. i thought to myself, "self, you can either listen to the game in another language, call biz and see if she'll record it, but you'll know the outcome by the time you watch it, or listen to brian fisher." i took door number one.

i'm not sure if the announcers were actually at the game, in the middle of a street brawl, or somewhere making up the story as they went along, but wherever they were, it sounded like they were on a roller coaster made of vuvuzelas. if they were in fact at the game, they did were most certainly not in a booth nor in a seat. i think they were wandering the stadium with a handheld mic and a satellite.

in addition to the noise, the announcers were the odd couple of radio. one announcer was actually explaining the events of the game while the other offered the wanderings of his brain in a stream of consciousness. for all i know he was spewing profanity-laced tirades about misplaced crosses or lazy defense, but despite my lack of fluency in spanish, i am certain, however, that he was not positively contributing to his partner's work, only furthering my assumption that they were actually in the crowd while broadcasting.

even though it was incoherent and not the least be cohesive, these men let their passion for the game through with every breath. their broadcast was hands down the most entertaining and engaging radio program i have ever heard. absolutely nothing happened in the game except a lot of tripping, fouling, nervous playing, and one goal nearly two hours in to the game. i honestly thought they had seen a dinosaur eating a woolly mammoth while riding a sabertooth tiger wearing ice skates, jesus, or that barack obama had been elected for the first time again when iniesta scored. the speakers in my car are old and sometimes ineffective, but the noise they carried was deafening. pure unadulterated joy. you know that moment in every cheesy sports movie when the team wins the big game and everyone hugs to a john williams score? this was not that. this was that dinosaur situation on that rollercoaster of vuvuzelas.

and because of these two men, i was reminded of the power of am radio. it so often gets lost and forgotten. it's now the primary home for conservative talk radio and church broadcasts, but when you live farther away from a grocery store than you've ever lived from a college campus, you'll take whatever you can get.

thank you, rural america for keeping am radio alive.

photo from momento24