I Left My Heart in Appalachia

I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.

Recently Dear Husband and I took a trip that we are calling “Autumn Back East 2021”. Our goal was to visit friends and family, and I wanted to show DH what autumn leaves really look like in a region that isn’t primarily covered in evergreen trees, and introduce him to our nation’s capital.

We flew to Atlanta, picked up a rental car, then drove to Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and then drove to Washington DC by way of Virginia. Then we flew back home.

It was an amazing trip which lasted 15 days, and since I’m now only blogging every other day, if I gave you a day to day account like I have on trips past, it would take a month, and you’d be heartily sick of the subject before we even left peach country. So I’ve decided to focus on highlights, which I’ll do my best to keep in order. You can find the first post in the series here, and a link to the next post in the series, when it becomes available, below.

I am always surprised, upon entering Appalachia, to discover that I can breathe. Actually, the surprise is realizing that I’ve been going months and years without truly breathing, and haven’t noticed. It’s not an allergy thing. It’s just… I feel like I’m home. I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.

I have no idea why this is the case, because I wasn’t even born in the area. But this overwhelming feeling of familiarity always overtakes me. If past lives are actually a thing, then I suspect that I’ve been roaming these mountains for hundreds of years.

I love the lush greenery and the seasonal changes. I love the boulders and the stonework on the houses. I love the fungus growing on the trees. I love seeing wild turkeys roaming on city streets. I love coming across places called things like Wiggle Worm Drive and Snickersville Turnpike.

I love that you can taste the rich, healthy soil in the mountain water. I love the crickets and the fireflies. I love dulcimer music. I love the quilts and the crafts and the creativity. I love the cows and the horses and the chipmunks and the woodpeckers. I love hearing the owls in the distance. I love how the greens close up fade into blues faraway. I love that Virginia is for lovers, but I think all of Appalachia is, really.

Upon returning to this place, the very trees seem to be saying, “Well, it’s about time! Where have you been?” as the mountains cradle me in their arms. So you can imagine my joy, knowing that I was to spend three whole days in this spiritual home of mine.

First, we left Georgia and headed to Eastern Tennessee, to visit my dear friend Carole. I met her thanks to this blog. Even on days when this blog overwhelms me, I realize that it’s facts like that that make the whole thing worth it. We were fast friends before I passed through this area on my way to Seattle seven years ago, and we met for lunch. Now we were meeting for lunch again, this time at her home deep in the Smoky Mountains.

As we rode through the winding woods, we were flagged down by a woman standing on her front porch steps. She said her cows had gotten out and she was afraid we might hit one while going around a curve. We said we’d keep an eye out. Even though we were still several miles from Carole’s house, we asked if she knew her. She said yes of course. She told us she was x number of driveways down, and with a hint of envy in her voice, she allowed that Carole’s driveway was paved.

As we approached Carole’s compound, we were extremely impressed by the two houses that she and her husband had built with their own two hands. There was also a man made catfish pond and a little cabin called Tranquility Base. It was all very cozy.

It was such a delight to see my friend again, especially now that everything was working out in my life. She finally got to meet Dear Husband and they got along like a house afire, as they say hereabouts. She was kind enough to give us a tour, and also to make us lunch. As we talked, she would casually say things like, “Oh, yes, I chinked all these logs myself,” and “We had to clear all the trees down to the road before we could have the driveway put in,” and “I did this stone floor myself.” We were awestruck.

Sadly, we couldn’t stay long, as we were renting a cabin in Fairview, North Carolina, and we didn’t want to approach it for the first time in the dark. I must confess that I shed a few tears as we drove away, because I don’t know when or if I’ll see Carole face to face again, and that always hits me hard. She gave me some keepsakes to remember her by, and I’ll cherish them always.

Okay. Hoo. Something in my eye…

Anyway, after that we drove on into Western North Carolina. As much as I love the Smoky Mountains, I love the Blue Ridge Mountains even more. This is truly where my heart and soul reside. Before going to the cabin, we passed through Asheville to pick up DH ’s wayward laptop from the FedEx, and here’s some of the amazing public art we saw in the area.

From there, it was on to Fairview, a little town I had never visited before. We found the Log Gap Cabin on Airbnb, and it proved to be even more amazing than we had anticipated. They aren’t kidding when they say you need an all wheel drive to get there, though. The steepest part of the road had me convinced for a minute there that we’d have to abandon all hope and lug our suitcases the rest of the way on foot. I’m glad I wasn’t doing the driving. After a few attempts, we made it, and settled in for two nights.

This place was amazing. It’s deep enough in the woods that we could pretend we had the entire planet to ourselves. There was a hot tub of which we took full advantage. The balcony was a lovely place to sit and read and listen to the sounds of woodpeckers echoing in the forest. At night, we slept through a chorus of crickets, and woke up to the sounds of deer crashing through the underbrush. I always feel rejuvenated after a night in these mountains.

The whole time in the cabin I was able to just… be. The proprietors left some homemade banana bread on the kitchen counter for us with a nice note. We never turned on the TV. I got to read and nap and hot tub and read and nap some more. I was home. (And when I found out how much this cabin sold for last time around, I was thrilled to discover it was much less than the last house I bought here in the Seattle area. So there is hope for retirement after all.

While in the area, we did venture out to ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway and visit the Folk Art Center and Warren Wilson College, where I spent my Freshman year. (I have spent the rest of my life regretting that I transferred elsewhere after that.)

I was deep in the throes of nostalgia when we got on the parkway. I could almost see my seventeen-year-old self just out of the corner of my eye. I think she’d be happy about how I turned out. I remembered friends long gone and dreams never quite realized. I remember having legs of pure steel because of all the climbing. Those legs are long gone, but even so, I keep coming back to this place. It’s where I’m tethered.

The Blue Ridge Parkway wends its way through North Carolina and Virginia for 469 beautiful miles. It’s definitely not the road you want to take if you’re in a hurry. There are too many places along the way that will make you want to linger.

The part I’m most familiar with are mileposts 365 to 385. That’s the stretch from Asheville, North Carolina to Craggy Gardens. Right near the Asheville entrance, you’ll find the Folk Art Center, which is my favorite shop on the entire planet, although I’ve  never been able to afford to buy much there. I’ve probably visited this place 100 times in the past 40 years, and it never disappoints.

You won’t find anything made in China at the Folk Art Center. In fact, all it features is traditional and contemporary crafts from the Southern Appalachians. I particularly love the quilts and the woodwork. I have often dreamed of having a cabin in these hills that is decorated with nothing but things from this center.

You are told not to take pictures in this place, and I’ve always done my best to comply. But this time the visit was bittersweet because I don’t know if I’ll ever get to pass this way again, so I must confess I cheated. It was the only way I could think of to carry it with me aside from those memories that I’ll always keep close to my heart. I hope I can be forgiven for a few errant photos after all these years.

From there, we drove north(ish) on the parkway, stopping at many of the overlooks and breathing deeply of the mountain air. We were hoping that the leaves would be changing to their glorious reds and oranges and purples and golds by now, since it was late October, but that transformation was only just starting. That is a pity. Thanks, global warming. I’ve seen this place in all 4 seasons, and it’s always gorgeous, but Autumn is by far my favorite time of year.

On the way north(ish), we saw a lot of emergency vehicles pulled over in one spot, and they were lowering a gurney down the mountainside. This never bodes well. I tried to find a story about that particular tragedy while writing this post, and discovered a hair-raising number of accidents, murders and fatalities in this area over the years, but none for that particular day. I hope that means that whoever it was managed to survive.

Finally, we reached the Craggy Gardens Visitors Center. I still maintain that this is the most beautiful place in the world. Ever since I laid eyes on it for the first time, I’ve said I would like some of my ashes scattered here. But now I’m far away, and I’ve decided that cremation is not the most environmentally friendly way to go, so there will be no ashes to scatter. Compost, maybe. We’ll see. But I’ve also been introduced to some other gorgeous places, like Sedona and the Painted Desert and Yellowstone and the badlands of South Dakota, so I’m beginning to think that it would be much nicer to have little remnants of me all over the place, even in places I didn’t get a chance to see in this life. Travel is, after all, my reason for being, and what a glorious world we live in.

Whether a physical piece of me ever winds up in Craggy Gardens remains to be seen, but I know, as sure as I’m writing this, that I leave my heart there every time I go. I can feel its pull even from across the continent. The connection is strong. Craggy Gardens is my happy place.

Unfortunately, time was limited, and I still wanted DH to see Warren Wilson College. I may have only been there for a year, but I still consider it more of an alma mater, or “nourishing mother” than any of the institutions from which I obtained a degree. It shaped me in fundamental ways.

It’s always poignant, visiting someplace you knew and loved decades ago. Often much is the same, and much has changed. Hopefully the changes are for the better, and in this case they were, but it also means that the place you once knew so intimately is gone. The best thing to do in these situations, I’ve found, is to glory in the remnants and try not to be too jealous about not having had the opportunity to experience the improvements.

My beloved barns and mountains and fields and church were still there. A lot of the buildings I knew and loved were still standing. Even my mailbox, that I used to run to daily with high hopes of contact from loved ones, still stands. My dormitory has long since burned to the ground and been replaced by a different building of the same name. And they now have something called the “Center for Gender and Relationships”, and that’s an exciting improvement. There’s more artwork everywhere, and the cafeteria has been vastly improved although much of the food still comes from the college’s farm and gardens.

There are also more cozy gathering places in front of the cafeteria. I wish they had been there in my day. At the time, there was just a stark bridgeway to the entrance, and all the intimidating jocks used to sit on the railings on both sides, so it was like running a gauntlet of sexual harassment just to eat a meal. Many of us girls would take the long way, down the hill and through a side door on the lower level, to avoid their intent stares.

There is also now a pedestrian walkway above the highway that bisects the campus. I would have been grateful for that. When going from class to dorm, we used to have to climb down one hillside, cross the highway at a dangerous curve, and then climb up the next hillside. Hence my legs of steel. This walkway is a vast improvement. The campus hosts 650 students now, instead of 500, and they have several more dormitories, most of which seem to have been built with an eco-friendly agenda. Yay. The room where we used to dance is now a vegan eatery called the Cowpie Cafe.

I was sad to discover that the bookstore was closed on that day, because I saw a lot of cool t-shirts in the window that I would have bought. And, to be frank, the shirts that the subcontractors sell online are ugly, monochrome, and don’t really reflect the WWC vibe. They could make a lot more money for the school if they changed that.

I really enjoyed wandering around the WWC campus and showing DH one of the places where I think I was most happy. If my heart is in Craggy Gardens, my soul is on Dogwood Ridge at WWC. I was glad to see that most of the students were the same kind of liberal hippies who inhabited the place back in the 1980’s. I keep trying to convince the young people in my life to study there, and I’m always shocked when I don’t succeed. This college is everything.

After all our wandering, we came across a tiny little sign that said the campus is currently closed to all outside guests, including community members who do not live on campus. Whoops. Well, at least we were wearing masks, and only entered one building. We saw the rest from the car. My only piece of advice for WWC would be to fix their rotting signs. I know they can do better than that, especially since all the work crews that run the college are comprised of enthusiastic students.

This love letter to my college, and to Appalachia in general, is very sincere, and it will last my whole life long. It’s always gut-wrenching when I take my leave of the place, but life has its own agenda. This time around, it was that we were headed to Washington DC to explore its many wonders. You’ll be able to read about that in subsequent posts.

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A Sad Little Mating Dance

I had to admire her determination and persistence.

In my freshman year, I was lucky enough to attend Warren Wilson College, a liberal, rural, private institution that only had 500 students at the time. To this day I regret transferring to another school after only one year, but WWC had done away with my major, and, frankly, the place is obscenely expensive, and all the “gee, you’re an awfully smart young girl” scholarships had dried up.

I loved that school to the very core of my being. I loved the small class sizes and the gorgeous campus nestled in North Carolina’s Swannanoa Valley, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. I felt cozy and safe there. I will be passing through again soon, to visit the piece of my heart that will always remain there. The only downside to the place is that it was like living in a small town with no way out if you didn’t have a car, which of course I didn’t. So in an effort to stave off boredom, I attended the weekend dances in the basement of the student union.

I had never attended dances in high school. I would never attend dances in any other college. But at WWC, attend them I did. This was so unlike me that it stuns me when I look back. WWC brought out a lot of amazing things in me.

A lot of drama played out in these dances. It was like all the school gossip got to be acted out on one central stage. You never knew what was going to happen.

For example, my friend Jenny (not her real name) liked a guy named Carl (you get the picture), but those feelings were far from reciprocated. It was becoming a rather hot topic, because Jenny was pining away for this guy, and he couldn’t have been less interested. Rather than letting that be that, though, Jenny was persistent in her efforts to get this guy to propose marriage and have 6 kids before the school year was over. It had all the students collectively shaking their heads.

For some reason the other day I was thinking about one particular dance in which Jenny decided to put all her cards on the table, so to speak. We tried to warn her. We really did. But her head was too far up in the clouds to hear us.

On this particular night, Jenny decided it would be cool to wear an oversized, care-worn satin teddy that she had borrowed from a friend. To that, she added a pair of baggy jeans and a jacket. To complete the ensemble, she donned the same ratty tennis shoes and white knee socks she always wore while washing dishes in the cafeteria. Apparently this was all supposed to be sexy and yet somehow revealing of her amazing personality. She was convinced that this was the night she would win Carl over.

I had gotten to the dance ahead of Jenny, and had planted myself in my usual wallflower spot, all the better to observe the various goings on. I would sometimes dance at these events, because the custom was just to kind of dance alone in a large group unless you were officially coupled up. So if enough close friends were around, I’d get out there. But mostly I enjoyed watching and gathering intel.

Carl was already on the dance floor with a group of buddies when Jenny walked in. She immediately made a beeline for that side of the room, and stood on the periphery, waiting for Carl to catch a subtle glimpse of satin and become instantly smitten. I doubt he even noticed she was there. (He was clueless and/or indifferent, and she was extremely short.)

She kept sliding back and forth along the edge of the dance floor, so that she’d be directly in his line of sight if he looked up. I say sliding because she had taken off her shoes. Jenny liked to dance by sliding her socked feet back and forth as if she were skiing. She wanted to be ready to slide onto the dance floor when the inevitable invitation came.

She schussed there for about a half hour, staring at him the whole time, completely enraptured. He had to have known at this point. I was starting to feel really sad for her.

Hint taking wasn’t her strong suit, obviously, and communication wasn’t his. I had to admire her determination and persistence, but people were starting to laugh at her and I hated that for her. That was the only silver lining to the fact that she only had eyes for Carl. She was oblivious to the fact that everyone was watching.

Finally, she decided she would just have to make him see her. So she joined the large group of individuals on the dance floor, and slid in his direction. The bottom of her socks must have been black by now.

She got right in front of him, and then slid her jacket and her teddy strap off one shoulder. I think she was expecting the world to come to a sudden stop when she did this, but of course it didn’t. He didn’t even look up.

It must have taken some effort not to see her at this point, because she was a good foot and a half shorter than he was, and he was looking down, after all. I could only assume that he knew exactly what was going on and was trying desperately not to have anything to do with it.

He turned slightly away from her, so she put her teddy strap back up and straightened her jacket and then slalomed past a few of his friends so she’d be in front of him again. And then she performed the same shoulder-baring move, as if she expected magic to happen.

Nothing. By now I as picturing myself watching this whole thing through spread fingers. I wanted to run out there and save her from herself. I wanted to tell her she was awesome and she should never feel like she had to try that hard to be loved. (And also explain to her that if she did feel the need to try that hard, it entered the realm of sexual harassment.) But I knew it would do no good.

At this point, Jenny had pulled her jacket wide open, and she was shimmying her all-but-nonexistent breasts at the poor guy as she threw back her head and closed her eyes. She looked like Steve Martin in the Two Wild and Crazy Guys routine in Saturday Night Live. I don’t think that was intentional. It was heartbreaking to watch.

And then, a sort of magic did happen, but it wasn’t what Jenny was hoping for. Without any signs of having communicated at all, Carl and all his friends exited the party en masse. So many left all at once, in fact, that it left Jenny all alone, shimmying on her deserted part of the dance floor, eyes closed, as her teddy straps slipped ever downward.

Fortunately, all her friends at the party seemed to be operating under an umbrella of ESP as well, because without any plan, we all immediately got on the dance floor and surrounded Jenny, so when she opened her eyes, we were there. And we all danced that way for the rest of the night.

Tears slid down her face as her feet slid across the floor, but at least her friends had come to her rescue. That was something to see. More than a few of us had tears in our eyes as well.

As a mating dance it had been an epic failure, but it was a masterful show of solidarity that you don’t see very often nowadays. What a pity. We as a society sure could use it.

As far as I know, Jenny never attempted to court Carl again. We’ve lost touch. And even if we hadn’t, I suspect this would be a sore subject now. I wish her well, and hope that in the subsequent decades, she has learned moderation to go with her amazing determination.

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The Battle of Hayes Pond

Don’t you love it when the good guys win and hate loses?

Recently I saw this charming picture, and it drew me in so much that I had to learn the story behind it. And it was quite the education, indeed. First, it introduced me to the largest state Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River, the Lumbee. You’d think I’d have heard of this tribe before, given their size, but no. Next, it introduced me to their bravery in the face of hate. It makes me admire them greatly.

In 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled against desegregation, this stirred up many people out on the racist lunatic fringe, including members of the Ku Klux Klan. Then, in 1956, the Lumbee tribe achieved some limited federal recognition. That, of course, really got the KKK’s attention.

The Lumbee have been living mostly in Robeson County, North Carolina for many a generation. In 1957, the Grand Dragon of the KKK, Catfish Cole, decided to focus on Robeson County with a campaign of harassment. The Klan burned crosses. They drove through the streets spewing their hateful message, and did their best to intimidate the Lumbee, whom Catfish called a “mongrel race”.

On January 13, 1958, Catfish decided to have a KKK rally in Maxton, North Carolina, and invited 500 Klansmen to attend. The goal was to force the Lumbee to stay in “their” place. Only about 50 Klansmen showed up. But 500 Lumbee did, too.

Shots were exchanged, but no one was seriously injured, because the Lumbee agreed to shoot over the Klansman’s heads, and the Klansman were too busy running to hide in the swamp, their silly white dresses fluttering behind them, to do much damage. As a matter of fact, Catfish Cole ran into the swamp, leaving his wife sitting alone in the car. The car got stuck in a ditch during the melee, and several Lumbee had to lift it out for her. Catfish and wife parted company a year later.

After everything was pretty much said and done, the authorities finally arrived. The KKK banner was torn down and two tribe members, Charlie Warriax and Simeon Oxendine, wrapped it around themselves to show their victory for a Time Magazine photographer.

Catfish got a two year sentence for inciting a riot. It’s said that the KKK has stayed out of Robeson County ever since. That makes me smile.

The Lumbee celebrate the Battle of Hayes Pond every year. Good on them! Don’t you just love it when the good guys win and hate loses?


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A Solution to Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering, or the deliberate manipulation of the shape of voter districts to ensure a particular political outcome, is one of the most common forms of corruption in the United States. This crime is perpetrated against the American people by both Republicans and Democrats. We all know it. It has to stop.

Here’s why it hasn’t. In every state in the union, either the Democrats or the Republicans are in power. And the party in power just loves Gerrymandering, because it’s a way for them to remain in power. The citizens of this country need to take that power back.

The people in the great state of North Carolina have been given a wake-up call. Their gerrymandered districts were deemed unconstitutional by a lower court. Unfortunately, it just got overturned by the supreme court. (Bias, anyone?) They need to make changes.

But they are hardly the only state with insanely shaped voting districts. Check out this district in Florida. It even stretches a tentacle right down the center of the St. Johns River, without touching dry land for miles, in order to exclude some people and include others. It helped an extremely corrupt Corrine Brown remain in the US House of Representatives from 1993 to 2017. She is now a convicted felon. Finally.


Here’s what has to happen: We need to create a law that requires all districts to be in the shape of squares or rectangles. They should be required to have only four 90 degree angles, with one exception: Allowances should be made for the uneven borders between states.

This would still allow for some manipulation. I suspect we’d see radical differences in square sizes, and some strangely long and skinny rectangles. But even so, the power to predict outcomes will be much more limited.

The thing is, until all the people, on both sides of the political spectrum, get together and agree on this one issue, there will be no justice for any of us. We need an organization to take this on as a pet project, and inform the people that they are being manipulated. It’s time to take back control so that our politicians represent the will of the people.

Let’s hear it for 90 degree angles!


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If You Could Do Anything…

If money, time, responsibilities, age, and health were no object, what would you do right now? If there were no barriers in your way, what dreams would you pursue? What goals would you try to achieve?

I think about this quite a bit. As I’ve said, I have a very long bucket list. I dream big. Even so, my “one thing” seems to be different depending on which month or year you ask me.

Today, at this moment, what I’d love to do more than anything else is pursue a Master of Fine Arts at my alma mater, Warren Wilson College. Many very talented writers have gone through that MFA program, and have gone on to win National Endowments for the Arts; Guggenheim, Radcliffe, Stegner and Hodder fellowships; the Rome Prize from the Academy of American Letters; Whiting Awards; the NAACP Image award; The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award; the Kate Tufts Discovery Award;  the Juniper Prize for Fiction; the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry; the Kenyon Review Fellowship; the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy; The Howard Frank Moser Short Fiction Prize; and on and on. Even more have gone on to be published through highly acclaimed publishing houses. I genuinely think this program would push my writing to the next level.

It is a low residency program, which means I could remain in my beloved Seattle most of the time. But twice a year I would experience the delight of Western North Carolina and its Blue Ridge Mountains. And there’s something magical about the WWC campus. It is one of the most environmental and liberal campuses in the country, and it influences you. It gets into your bloodstream. You can’t go there without leaving as a more amazing you. I’ve tried to get many people to attend this fine institution. One day I hope someone will actually listen to me, because this place is a gift.

So what is holding me back? Money, first and foremost. That always seems to be my biggest hurdle. The bills won’t stop coming simply because I would prefer that my focus be elsewhere. And then of course there’s the question of time. An MFA is not a trivial pursuit. It’s not something I could squeeze in between my bridge openings at work. And unfortunately, that work is what keeps the dogs in kibble.

So unless I happen to stub my toe on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I’ll simply have to keep dreaming of a path in life that I most likely will never have a chance to take. Somewhere in an alternate universe, another me is sitting under a tree in the heart of an alternate Appalachia, learning how to be the most incredible writer she can be.

Oh, and she’s younger, thinner, in a loving relationship, and impervious to cold. Why not? Given my active imagination, I can almost content myself with that. Almost.

So now it’s your turn. What would you do, if you could do anything?


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News Flash: I Don’t Care Where You Pee

When I lived in Florida, I used to dream about moving to the mountains of North Carolina. To me, that was paradise. I had convinced myself that I would find my ultimate happiness there. I used to vacation there every chance I got.

The reason I was so anxious to get out of Florida, believe it or not, had nothing to do with the oppressive heat or the gigantic cockroaches (although I don’t recommend them). It had everything to do with the conservative culture and the, frankly, bat shit crazy politics. Florida seems to have more stupidity per capita of politicians than any other state with the possible exception of Kansas or Texas. North Carolina, I thought, would be a refreshing change. Until now.

Thank God that relocation never came to fruition. When I hear what’s currently going on in North Carolina, I have to cringe. No matter what your opinion is about transgender Americans, you have to see how stupid this bathroom legislation is. Oh, where to begin.

First of all, is that state battling against some secret underground organization that has been suppressing the news and statistics about public bathroom violence? Because, to be honest, I feel more uncomfortable in the average parking garage than I do in most bathrooms. (Thanks, Hollywood.) And how would they keep this conspiracy quiet? I mean, nowadays if a snake comes up out of a toilet, it’s all over Facebook before nightfall.

My whole life, I’ve never had a dangerous bathroom encounter, unless you count bullies in junior high school. I’m sure violence does occur occasionally, but that can be said of any public place. If a bathroom seems sketchy to me, I avoid it. Simple. For example, I wouldn’t go to a New York City Subway bathroom at 1 a.m. That’s just common freakin’ sense.

Second, has NC also discovered some statistic that shows transgender people to be more violent than the rest of the population? If so, I’d like to see it. Even a basic Google search of “Transgender” and “Rape” seems to only come up with hits in which the Transgender person is the victim, not the perpetrator. They’re not vampires, people. They weren’t put on this earth to attack you.

If the State of North Carolina genuinely believes that its bathrooms are dangerous places, then they need to employ more security guards and beef up their police force. (And not so they can stand outside of every public crapper asking people to produce their birth certificates.)

If they truly want to make the world safe, and they are under the stupid belief that this particular group of people are their most likely criminals, shouldn’t they be introducing legislation to keep transgender people out of back alleys, away from bridge underpasses and other high crime areas? Of course they’d think that. If they really believed any of these things. But keeping people safe isn’t their concern at all.

Their agenda, plain and simple, is to open the door to discrimination against a group of Americans whose lives they don’t approve of. (They’re basically throwing a tantrum because everyone can get married now.) First it will be bathrooms. Then schools, jobs, and rentals. Pretty soon they won’t be allowed to own bicycles and will have to wear a pink and blue star on their sleeves… This is the kind of thing that happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany.

You’re probably thinking that’s a little extreme. Don’t think they’re that dedicated to their cause in this day and age? Think again. They’re willing to do without billions (with a b) of dollars in federal funding to prove their insane point. That’s pretty freakin’ scary if you ask me.

Here’s an idea. When you go into a public bathroom, go into your stall, close your door, lock it, do your business, wash your hands (please!) and leave. Stop trying to be the pee pee police. If you’re in there all focused on the authenticity of everyone else’s genitalia, then you are a pervert.

Shame on you, North Carolina.






A Floridian Gets Snowed Upon

I woke up the other day to discover that the world was covered in a white powdery substance that I hadn’t seen in 30 years. It instantly transported me back to my childhood in Connecticut. I wanted to turn on the radio to see if my school was having a snow day.


We moved to Florida when I was 10 years old, so all my memories of snow are delightful ones. I played in it. I didn’t have to shovel it or drive in it or worry about the heating bill or frozen pipes. My mother would spend 20 minutes bundling me into my snow suit so I’d look like the Michelin Tire Man, and I’d go play for 15 minutes and then want to come back inside, and I’d expect a hot drink to be waiting for me. I’m amazed I survived to adulthood. And in college in North Carolina we’d steal trays from the cafeteria and go sledding, and have epic snowball fights.


So here I was, all grown up and looking at this transmuted snowy landscape and I immediately got excited. I took pictures. I let my dogs out. They’d never seen snow in their lives. Devo took it in stride. Blue, on the other hand, is a bit high maintenance. He doesn’t like to get his feet wet. So he stood on the back stoop and barked at it indignantly, then came inside and pooped on the living room carpet.

After cleaning up after my dumb dog, it suddenly occurred to me that I was going to have to drive in this stuff. I still had to go to work. And I’ve never driven in snow in my life. I got lucky, though. Most of it had already melted off the pavement. Still, I took it extremely slowly. I managed to make it to work without killing myself or anybody else, but it was a miracle because my defroster doesn’t work and there was ice on the inside of my windshield. And when I left work to come home, my door lock was frozen and I had to climb in from the passenger side.

It wasn’t pretty, but I got the job done. It’s all part of adjusting to my new life. I kind of like the idea that every once in a while I will look out the window and what I will see will be transformed. What a concept.

License blocked

Feeling the Earth Move

When I was 19 years old, I was sitting in my dorm room in North Carolina and the floor shook slightly. I assumed someone was running along the wooden balcony on the other side of the wall. I gave it no further thought until the next day, when I heard on the radio that we had had a minor earthquake. That is the extent of my earthquake experience.

Now I am in the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve been told by more than one person that we are overdue for a big one. One guy even said, “Always have a pair of comfortable shoes on hand, because if it happens, all the bridges will collapse and you’ll have to walk out of the city.”

First of all, I work on a bridge, so if it collapses, walking out of the city will probably be the least of my worries. Second, all the bridges around here have been retrofitted to withstand fairly powerful quakes. And third, if all the bridges are down, where, exactly, do you plan to walk?

I think one of the things I’ll have to get used to in this part of the world is the underlying fact that nature can kick your ass any time it wants to. I mean, in Florida we had hurricanes, but there’s plenty of warning for those. I suppose there was potential for a rogue tsunami or something. But here you know an earthquake is going to happen. You just don’t know when. And when it does, all you can do is stop, drop, and cover, and hope you survive to use your emergency supplies.

It’s a weird concept that the ground beneath your feet, which you have always counted on to be solid, can move and even liquify in extreme cases. That’s got to play with your head. I wonder how I’ll react.

And I hate the idea that when the time comes my dogs will have to fend for themselves. They’ll be terrified and confused. But there’s nothing I’ll be able to do about that until the earth goes back to sleep. At least temporarily.

earthquake bridge

[Image credit: news.bbc.co.uk]

Sabotaged Dreams

The beauty of getting into a relationship later in life is that your character is already well established, so there should be no confusion as to who you are. The older you are, the more apt you will be to know your goals and dreams, and if you properly articulate them to your partner, you should be able to quickly determine if the two of you are heading in the same direction.

That’s the theory, anyway. The problem with that theory, it turns out, is that not everyone is honest. I didn’t get that memo.

Many, many years ago I got into a relationship and told him my lifelong goal was to relocate to the mountains of North Carolina. “Great idea!” he said. “Let’s do that,” he said. He even started going to college so he’d be more likely to be employable when the time came. I was thrilled.

About 3 semesters in he decided to change his major. No problem. Everyone has a right to change his mind. A semester after that, he “forgot” to register for the next semester by the deadline. I marked my calendar so that wouldn’t happen again, believe you me.

After one semester off, back he went. The following semester he told me he was quitting because they were requiring him to buy some expensive equipment. “How expensive?” I asked. $99.

The hell???

He had pretty much painted himself into a corner by that point. He had to admit that he didn’t want to go to North Carolina. In fact, he never wanted to leave Jacksonville. He just went to school to stall me in hopes that I’d change my mind. He had no real hopes and dreams of his own. He was just status quo guy. Our relationship ended after 16 years for a whole host of reasons, but lying to me and sabotaging my dreams just to keep me was a huge one.

After that I met a roofer who had so many dreams that it was hard to keep up with him. What a wonderful, wild ride that was. Too bad it was cut short. It’s impossible to know where it would have gone, but at least it was going somewhere.


[Image credit: successfulworkplace.org]


For those of you who have never been to New Orleans, allow me to introduce you to the world’s most delightful custom: Lagniappe. This word came to the English language via the Louisiana French by way of the Spanish Creoles from the Quechua word yapay. Whew! The fact that it managed to survive so many cultures to arrive at our door tells you what a wonderful tradition it is.

Basically it means “a little something extra”, like the 13th doughnut in a baker’s dozen. It sort of reminds me of the obligatory encore that musicians will do at the end of a concert. Everybody knows it’s going to happen, but we’re still delighted when it does. Vendors in New Orleans will throw in a little something extra with your purchase if you ask. This, to me, indicates what astute businessmen these people are, because when I walk away feeling I’ve gotten a little more for my money, it makes me want to go back.

Oddly enough, my first experience with Lagniappe occurred in Asheville, North Carolina at the Open Door Boutique. I bought a dress there 30 years ago, and they included a stick of incense in my bag. I was confused, then delighted by this little extra thing. It made me feel appreciated. So appreciated, in fact, that I have remembered the experience for decades. And it probably didn’t cost them more than a few pennies. I’m sure I’ve bought things from small boutiques a hundred times in my life, but this is the only shop whose name I remember. (They’re still open by the way, but I have no idea if they still practice Lagniappe. I hope they do.)

So, for all you shop owners out there, take heed: this tiny little investment in your customers will bring you a lifetime of loyalty, and that’s worth its weight in gold.

Open Door

The Open Door Boutique. Photo credit: pearlgateway.com

So here is my lagniappe for you, dear reader: something to think about.

               “Calm seas do not an expert sailor make.”     –Unknown