Thursday, July 17, 2008

Part 2: living in the rural south - a love/hate relationship

Vegetation

The south remains full of lush green vegetation even in the midst of a long, hot, rainless summer.


Blackberry bushes run rampant in the south and while a severe drought can keep the berries from growing fat and juicy, you can count on the brier-studded brambles continuing their struggle to take over your yard.


The sweet smell of honeysuckle heralds the official start of summer in the south. The flowering vine is a favorite of butterflies and bees and southern children love to the pick the flowers, sucking the sweet nectar from them. Don't let the honeysuckle vine fool you though. It tends to mingle with poison ivy and is known to choke the life out of anything in the path of it's climb.


The ghostly brown tentacles of kudzu in the winter doesn't mean the plant is dead. Come summer, kudzu will cover the south in a heavy green blanket, thanks to the well-meaning, although a bit hasty intentions of some horticulturists and soil conservationists. Kudzu has been known to swallow up entire farms, houses and even livestock and small children in its relentless hunger to devour the south.


Morning glories offer a brilliant splash of color to the southern landscape in the summer. You can count on it returning every year, regardless of how many times you've killed it and careless homeowners will quickly find that morning glories left unattended for the summer will run rampant, crawling up into the siding of homes, twisting along porch rails and window sills to the roof.

A whole mess of weeds threaten finely manicured lawns across the south and, having been born and raised in the south, I am beginning to believe we southerners would be much better off by giving up our fight and letting the damn things take over. After all, grass - real grass that you are trying to grow - falls into one of three categories in the south. There's brown, dirt dead and "Damnation that shit's tall!!"

Dirt dead grass generally stays that way, although clumps of towering weeds demand you mow it, throwing the dust into the air, which turns to muddy streaks on your, um, glistening, face.

Brown grass is deceptive. It can remain in a suspended state of brownness, refusing to grow an inch for as long as three months. Then, boom! A good gully-washer hits and you leave for work the next morning, hoping rain, followed by a day of strong sunshine will put a bit of green back into it. By the time you come home from work, that brown grass has suddenly been transformed into "Damnation that shit's tall!!" Inevitably, one of two things will happen at this point. 1) The temperature will suddenly top out just over 100 degrees, the sun and humidity threatening to melt you from the inside out if you even think about pulling out the lawn mower or 2) the Heavens will suddenly open up and give you a two-day gully-washer followed by six days of sunshine and a lawn mower that refuses to crank.

This potentially dangerous situation requires what I like to call the tiresome two-step. Contrary to what you may be thinking, the tiresome two-step is not a dance, although it does require a great deal of cooperation and attentiveness among partners (you and your push mower.) It's quite simple, although it does take a bit of practice. Don't worry, your partner will let you know immediately if you do it wrong by bogging down and shutting off. You take two steps forward, then two short steps back, quickly forcing all your upper body weight down on the handle of the lawnmower in order to raise the mowing deck at least a foot into the air. Hold that position until all grass clumps fly free from the blade. (Warning, this is usually when the creepy crawlies start panicking and go on the offensive, but we'll get to those in Part 3.) Now, walk forward two steps and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And don't forget to be mindful of the briers on the blackberry bushes and various vines wrapping themselves around your legs as you battle to reclaim your lawn!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Part 1: living in the rural south — a love/hate relationship

Weather

The first key to understanding life in the south, particularly rural parts of the south, is understanding the weather. You can thank, or blame, the weather for practically all things southern.

There are generally two season here in the south — Summer and Winter, that's it, just those two. Spring and Fall never really visit the south. Instead we have what can only be compared to a menopausal woman. One day it's 80 degrees and the next day the temperature never rises above 50. Nope, we're left with Summer and Winter and roller coaster days that fall in between the two.

Summers in the south are hot, I mean HOT!!! Folks from Arizona and New Mexico, who face 120 degree days come to the south and melt. Southerners are blessed with an ever-present sauna, just outside their front door. One step outside and immediately your hair is curled and your glasses are fogged up.


There are some prissy southern ladies who like to say that we are accustomed to the heat and don't sweat, but merely glisten. BULLSHIT! I don't care if you've been born and raised down here, there is no getting accustomed to living life in a steam room and even the most refined ladies SWEAT! Fortunately, your clothes hang damn with the humidity anyway so you can almost get away with telling the "I don't sweat, I glisten" whopper!

Even the rain is afraid of the heat. We have two types of rain during the summer here in the south - sprinkles and gully-washers. Sprinkles are just that, little drops of water that leave polka dots on the pollen covering your car and hit the pavement with a sizzle, causing the steam to rise. Gully-washers are exactly what the name describes - torrential downpours that flood the ditches and swoosh violently through the gullies, creating their own, new gullies as the parched earth is unable to soak up the sudden deluge that most often comes when a hurricane passes through or a severe thunderstorm springs up in a cloudless sky. Your only warning that a storm is approaching is the leaves of the trees. When they suddenly look silver, the wind exposing the bottom sides of the leaves, take cover, a storm is coming, even if the sky is bright blue as far as you can see.

I should also point out that whenever any amount of rain falls in the rural south, the air is suddenly filled with the aroma of cow shit. Don't ask me why.

Winters in the south would most likely be considered fall in other parts of the country. They are mild and wet. Unlike the summer where you may go three months without seeing so much as a sprinkle, winters generally bring a number of gully-washers, which frequently lapses into what seems like a 40 day flood. Every so often the sky will spit out a dusting of snow, but most likely you will go to bed to the sounds of a gully-washer and awake to the cracking of limbs as the weight of ice pulls them down, taking the power lines with them.

Displaced yankees laugh when we close down the world over an inch of snow, but it doesn't take long for them to realize why. 1) The snow is always hiding an inch of ice glazing the road surface. Go ahead and scrape it away to expose the glass-like slip and slide! 2) It really is true what they say, southerners can't drive on that shit! Oh, don't get me wrong, we can tear down a backwoods, dirt farm road at 70 mph without knocking a berry off a bush or spilling a drop of beer, but we can't go thirty feet on the white stuff without ending up in a ditch!

the problem with tadpoles

There's a friggin' tree frog living in my gutters!!

You would think this wouldn't really be much of a problem, but apparently it's tree frog mating season or something cause that damn thing is loud!!

And no, tree frogs don't go "ribbitt. Ever hear a cat try really really hard to get up a particularly stubborn hairball? THAT is the rhythmic song of the tree frog!!

This is the thanks I get for refusing to dump out water that has tadpoles in it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

contradictions

It dawned on me earlier today that most of my friends seem to fall into one of four categories: stoners, cops, the continually cheerful and the perpetually depressed.

No wonder I've never hosted a party.

Monday, July 14, 2008

meanwhile...

I haven't been working. Well, that's not entirely true. I've been doing a bit of freelance work for a daily paper nearby, but I'm not on anyone's payroll.

A large-scale, permanent freelance opportunity has been looming on the horizon, but hasn't quite materialized yet, making it very difficult for me to make my post-surgery plans.

I had intended on going to school, but if this project doesn't come through, I'll have to buckle down and find a "real" job. The guy in charge of the project hasn't fully made up his mind whether or not he wants to go forward with it and I'm left on hold.

The only thing worse than trying on bathing suits is looking for a job! It is so discouraging. I see plenty of jobs I can do, jobs I could do well, but without a college degree my options are quite limited. Know that I've been paid to do something I love, I simply dread the idea of having to spend 8 hours a day behind a desk answering telephones. I think I'd rather go back to waiting tables before I do that.

deep breath

I have no excuse for my absence from blogging lately, other than slipping off into that vortex that sometimes sucks me down, away from the rest of the world.

I'm in the process of seeing surgeons and waiting for them to schedule an early August appearance in the operating room. I had said I wouldn't have another invasive surgery done, but I had also once promised my family that if the treatment after the first surgery didn't work, I'd concede to one more surgery. So, that's what I'm doing. One more surgery, keeping my fingers crossed that this one will keep the cancer at bay for longer than a couple of months.

I lucked up this go around. I still have to meet with the second surgeon on the 22nd, but the first surgeon, seems pretty confident that, while I'll be miserable for a few weeks afterward, I shouldn't have any long term complications. That's right, I'm special, I get to have two surgeons going at me this time around! I'm not too horribly worried about the second surgeon's prognosis. She's the one who did the last surgeon so i know she's good at what she does and since I've been here before, I have a pretty decent understanding of what's involved. I'll be laid up for a few weeks, but I should come away with all the important muscles & functions in tact.

Now I just have to steel myself for the pain.