Sunday, July 24, 2005

Ketchup is a Vegetable

My mother's family is from Kentucky and Tennessee and I was raised with very Southern grandparents and extended family. Until recent years my grandparents lived in Lynchburg, TN where it seemed everyone in town was either a Motlow, a Bobo or a Tipps (my family). My Aunt Bobbie and Aunt Bettie still live there, strong Southern women both. My grandparents take what I find an interesting and occasionally uncharitable view towards poverty. Having been raised "poor and proud" as the saying goes, they can't understand how someone in this modern world could not pull themselves up from poverty. Along with that, there is also a traditional femininity about my grandmother (Miss Ernestine as her Southern friends call her), that means that until failing health forced her hand, she'd never been seen without her false teeth by my grandfather. She also once told me that she had never passed gas in front of him. I can't help but believe her. And yes, I am her blood relative(see last entry). So I found this article recently and it made me think about one particular trip I took to visit my grandparents 7 or 8 years ago.

Two days after flying in to visit, they got a phone call that my grandmother's brother, Uncle Cornett, was dying and we needed to get there right away. "There" is Inez, Kentucky where my grandma grew up, where our family cemetary is and where my mamaw and daddo are buried(great grandparents). Grandma had long since left Kentucky and had never had a desire to go back and be that poor again. My grandfather, being a native Tennessean, actually makes fun of her for being a Kentucky hillbilly. As he says, at least they had toilet paper in their outhouses and not a catalog. So the 3 of us set off in their huge Cadillac and floated along to eastern Kentucky for a vigil. Uncle Cornett was a coal miner his entire life and died that week of black lung. While I was there I had the opportunity to meet my extended family in Kentucky for the first time. Cousins mainly, but some great aunts and uncles I had only heard about. Their names are the kind of names that make a kid wonder why their own name is so boring; Doc, Dodie, Trigger, Punk, Stirrie, etc.

I felt like the out of place Northerner. My own family teased me for saying pop, whereas all dark soda is known to them as Co-Cola. I met a cousin who was a couple of years older than me, which put her right around 27-28 at the time. She had 4 children, about half of her teeth and would be considered morbidly obese (as would half of my Kentucky family). The state of the general population's teeth and bodies in general can be attributed in part to the diet of modern Appalachia. I was on a workcamp this past summer in Southern Ohio and saw the same thing as in Kentucky; mile after mile of delapidated trailers with not a single garden. People are eating processed foods primarily and not gardening or canning their own foods with nearly the regularity that there used to be. As a child I remember my grandma's garden was overwhelmingly large and canning was something that the entire family participated in for days on end. It probably wasn't even the financial neccessity it had been when my grandparent's were younger; it was just what you did because it was ostentatious/foolish to buy tomatoes in a grocery store. I don't know if I even had a store bought tomato until I was at least a teenager.

It seems that a lot of the tools that were in place to help a person move out of poverty are skills that have passed over recent generations in modern Appalachia. Gardening, canning, sewing and mending your own clothes. It feels like a processed, disposable society these days, one in which we all participate to some degree. Being on workcamps in Appalachia and West Virginia really opened my eyes to differences between rural poverty today and rural poverty 25 years ago. For an incredibly true telling of poverty in America today, you should read The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David Shipler When I was in my late teens, I was homeless, totally broke, on food stamps, completely dependant on the kindness of my friends and their friends for quite some time. Despite these major hinderences (is that the best word?), I always had the ability to make the most of my food and clothing purchases because I was raised to know how. On my most recent trip to Appalachia I saw that they were teaching free classes on how to can fruits and vegetables and upon speaking to people in the community, came to find that not a single one of them knew how to can, although almost all of them remember watching their mothers do it as children.

This post is a real rambler, I know. Welcome to my incoherent, jumbled brain. Just some thoughts. Oh yes, and I don't know squat about setting up a blog or links or anything, so I apologize for the lengthy links. The husband will help me with all of that when we actually see each other.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Kaci The Gassy

While browsing the 2005 World Almanac (alright, I'm a liar. I'm actually reading it cover to cover), I came upon a run down of French monarchs and was reminded of how wonderfully whimsical some of their nicknames were.
Charles I (the Bald)
Louis II (the Stammerer)
Charles II (the Fat)
Charles III (the Simple)---apparently the Charles legacy was not a fine one
Louis V (the Sluggard) left no heirs----wonder why

And then the more positively viewed monarchs:
Robert II (the Wise)
Phillip I (the Fair)
Louis VII (the Lion)
Phillip V (the Tall)
John II (the Good)
Charles VII (the Affable)

For anyone who does not own one, I recommend purchasing a world almanac. It is mighty fine subway reading, never dull, not too bulky. I can't believe that until recently I've gotten by periodically browsing the totally dogeared, 10 year old almanac at O'Connors.

It's a Lonely Planet

So due to a recent stroke of familial luck, the husband and I are finally going to have the opportunity to take a honeymoon (2 years after the there a statute of limitations?). Now we just have to decide where to go in the middle of January. My instincts are pushing me towards Thailand. Someplace exotic, warm, friendly and cheap. The added bonus of Thailand is the potential for an extended layover visiting friends in Hawaii, essentially cutting the travel time spent waiting to throw a blood clot in half. Lonely Planet has pointed us to some compelling options, but I really seem have Thailand on the brain. Argentina is still in the running though. Nothing like a collapsed economy to pique our interest.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Feel the Team

Oh man, I am such a cliche at this moment, but whatever. How many people have started blogs because they have a boss who says things like the above to them? Seriously, feel the team??!! Mostly I feel the indigestion.