Category Archives: Uncategorized

Angela’s Dive Diaries: Starting Advanced Open Water this weekend – a bit nervous

So, I am already jumping into AOW this weekend – Peak Performance Buoyancy and Underwater Nav. I bought a sweet Suunto compass for this. I’m going to be in a dank quarry with no visibility. Though my dive instructor buddy tells me this low viz is good for underwater nav because I can’t cheat – I have to be precise. I’m nervous because I am used to the crystal clear warm waters of Curaçao. Will I get it done?? Stay tuned.

Angela’s Diving Diary – Building My Confidence One Dive At a Time

[Diary from before I went to finish OW – I was diving to gain confidence in the water.] Sept. 3 – I DID IT! Today I had my very first full dive just for fun my lovely divemaster Laura at Coral Estates in Curaçao. At this point I have the Scuba cert. Afterwards, she said I was so calm and comfortable in the water – that I did an amazing job. Though, I keep going a bit vertical which is making me kick harder. I felt so calm. And I will tell you why – 1) she frequently swam backwards and beside me to let me know her eyes were always on me 2) she had me review basic skills before we went out – I realized I was very comfortable with my basic skills which made me confident 3)she asked me to do something just for fun that will help later with Open Water – take off my mask and breathe with the reg while floating. It was so easy – I didn’t know I could do it. She then said – we don’t even need this today for having fun – but now you know you can do more than you need. I felt like a master when she said that. Again, she built my confidence. Before I knew it, we were at the reef and over the wall. I was able to completely relax and focus on the sea life. I saw a massive flounder undulating and dancing a full ballet in the water AND baby trunk fish and other stuff I don’t know what because I need a Fish ID course…I had so much fun and pure joy and I am at a new level of progress. I have never been so happy in my life. I cannot stop smiling. I sat at the beach bar after by the dive shop and sipped a gin and tonic, watching the sun set and feeling like a million dollars. One thing I have learned about diving for myself –I must build confidence at my pace – and that this whole process is one of building and scaffolding. Oh, Curaçao, I love you.

7-card stud, fried catfish, and girls who are ripe for Southern dick

by Angela Perez

Dear reader, I’m going to share with you a conversation I overheard yesterday whilst dining in one of my favorite country-cooking cafés.  As I feasted upon cucumber & onions in apple cider vinegar, hushpuppies, slaw and fried flounder, a rough-looking, ruggedly handsome, middle-aged fella, about 50, and his buddy, a wiry, white-haired, elderly man in a John Deere cap, sat in the booth behind me.  I know what they looked like because I checked them out when I got up to pay my bill.  Here’s what I heard (names have been changed):

Younger fella: [in a thick, Southern accent where one-syllable words are spoken in two syllables – like “cah-aHd” for “card”]: I’ll tell ya’, that ole gal’s running that card game in [tiny town in rural Franklin County] three days a week now.  All ‘dem boys is gettin’ in on that game.  7-card game.

Older fella: Nah. Nah.  Count me out.  I ain’t gettin’ in trouble with the old lady.  No cards for me.  Not anymore.

Younger fella:   That Tommy is a crazy sumbitch when he’s drunk.  And he always loses when he gets to drinking.  I won $3,000 last Thursday night ‘cause he was hitting that bottle.  Had been all week.  I don’t know when he ain’t drunk lately.  [Pauses, looking at the menu].  I’ll be damned if they ain’t added some new things on the menu.  Chicken-fried steak…clam strips…Nah, I want my usual, them chicken livers.

Older fella: I’m getting the chicken and dumplings. That’s always good.

Waitress comes over to their table. She’s tall and scrawny, a very weathered-looking 21 or 22, chewing gum, white-frosted, stringy, mouse-brown hair pulled up in a bun, and quite possibly, hidden under her purple t-shirt, a tattoo sprawled across her lower-back consisting of a shaky galaxy of stars, hearts and/or butterflies or maybe the word “Slipknot” or “Carolina Panthers” with the team logo.

Waitress: Whatch’all boys having to eat today?  Tommy [Editor’s note:  This Tommy is not to be confused with the drunken Tommy, you know – the one who turns into a sumbitch when he gets drunk] I know you.  You want them chicken livers.

Tommy [to the old man]: What did I tell you, Ed?  This little gal knows what I like.  [guffaws in a suggestive way]  I like a gal who knows what I want.

Ed:  I want the chicken and dumplings….ummm….no….get me that catfish with fries and hushpuppies.

Waitress: I gotcha.  It’ll be out in a little while.  [she walks away]

Tommy: That lil’ gal is ripe for it.  Just like her momma used to always be.  And I gave it to her more than a couple times.  Her mamma, I mean.

Ed: What’s her name, our waitress?

Tommy: I can’t remember, known her since she was little.  But her momma, now, you know her.  Donna.  Used to be Donna Jackson.

Ed: Oh yeah.  I remember her.  Well, I remember hearing about her.  She married that Phelps boy.

Tommy: Yep, Jimmy Phelps.  He plays cards with us, too.  You know, I read in the paper today that that ole’ boy ain’t paid his taxes.  But he’s up at that trailer every week playing cards like he’s got money to spend.  I feel bad for him though.  He had to put his momma in that nursing home and it’s costing him an arm and a leg.  But three people stopped by my store today and told me they saw Jimmy’s name in the paper for not paying his taxes.

Ed: People love to tell you bad news when it ain’t about them, don’t they?

Tommy:  You damn right.  You know, I saw Jimmy kick his dog one night.  He had brought that dog of his, a yellow retriever, up to the card game and Jimmy was drunk as hell and he was losing all his money.  And that dog kept whining at his feet and he kicked that dog so hard I thought he’d killed him.  I’m gone tell you one thing you don’t do around me and that’s hurt a dog.  Jimmy nearly got his ass beat that night.  We made him go home after that.  Kick no dog around me.

Ed: Nah, ain’t no call for hurting a dog.  That’s unconditional love right there.  Cain’t expect that kinda loyalty from people, I’ll tell ya’ that much.

Tommy: You know, Lou Ray won $2,200 that same night and he don’t never win.  I still think he was cheatin’ somehow.  You cain’t trust a single one of them in that whole family.

Ed: His daddy won’t no good.  And none of his boys are.   They’re all trying to find a way to make a dollar off you, whether it’s to your good or not.  And it’s never to another man’s good, I can tell you that much.

By this point, I had eaten all of my food and needed to go ahead and go the counter and pay the check. As I stood up, I accidentally pushed the booth seat back into Tommy’s booth seat behind me.  I apologized to him and he smiled. 

Tommy: Aw, purdy girl, I thought you was just getting fresh with me.

Angela:  I never get fresh before 5 p.m.

Tommy: Whoo, girl [he gives a low whistle] call me at 5:01 then.

Angela:  [laughs out loud]

As I walked outside, I thought about going back inside and asking Tommy if I could go to a card game at the trailer with him some time. But I figured he’d think I was ripe for it.  So I let it go and went back to work.

What a woman obsessed with scuba diving looks for in a man. Or rather, what you don’t want.

by Angela Perez

Ah, what ARE women like me (who are obsessed with scuba diving) looking for in a man other than him possessing a working penis, all of his teeth, a job, and a strong stroke?
Well, I’ll tell you.

This conversation happened between me and a co-worker at some half-assed Mexican restaurant (you know the kind, where they feature $5.99 specials called Speedy Gonzalez 1, 2, 3 and so on.  And each dish tastes exactly the same but satisfies a craving so you go and eat half a pound of two day-old chips and shell out 8 bucks total plus tip for the waiter who is wearing too much Drakkar Noir and wonder why you put yourself through this mediocrity every 3 or 4 weeks.)

My co-worker, who is in her mid-30s and has been married for 10 years and has 2 children, asked me this, “So Angela, do you think you’ll find the one any time soon?”

“Find the one what?”  I asked, reaching for one of the stale chips.

“You know,” she said, “the man you’ll marry.”

“You know that I believe marriage is for the weak,” I said.  “You and your husband excluded.”  (I just said that to pacify her. I actually count her in that bunch.)

“Oh, Angela, there’s a wonderful man out there who will make you want to run down the aisle.”

“Maybe,” I replied.   I tried the guacamole.  “Good Lord,” I exclaimed, “I think they put shredded jicama in this.  It’s incredible!”  I dipped my spoon in for another try.   They had indeed put jicama in guacamole.   A revelation.

“You’re avoiding the topic,” she said.  “So, how about this.  Tell me who your ideal man is.”

“I honestly don’t know,” I said.  The waiter came back to ask us how everything was even though we hadn’t gotten our food yet.  The acrid smell of his cologne was actually clinging to the back of my throat, ruining the joy of jicama.  Suddenly I recalled that the first time I ever had sex was with a boy wearing Drakkar and we were listening to a Metallica cassette on his boom box.

“Okay,” she said, not giving up, “let’s do this.  Tell me what you absolutely don’t want in a man.”

“Hmmm…okay, that I can come up with,” I said, dipping a chip in the salsa.

“Yayyy!” she squealed, daintily clapping her hands.  “Finally.  So name five things quick – without even thinking about it.  Aaaaand…GO!”

“So.  One. I could never date a man who suggested that for a first date we eat at Olive Garden.  Or any chain restaurant. I could never date a man who regularly wears golf shirts and khaki pants with pleats in them.  Men should never wear pants with pleats in them.  Flat front only. Wait – do those two items of clothing count as two reasons?  He’s got to love to get in the ocean – swim, snorkel, dive, I don’t care.  But he has to want the water as much as I do.  Hmmm…also,  I could never date a man who wears Y-front white underwear.  Gotta wear boxer shorts or even just let your balls and dick swing in the wind.   Oh, and I like nice, solid forearms.  My favorite part of a man’s body.  Oh and one more, I could never date a man who thinks getting a group together to get on one of those Trolley Pubs in downtown Raleigh would be a fun thing to do.”

[Trolley Pubs are found in larger cities across the U.S.  They are these rolling pubs (like a giant bicycle) where up to 14 people get on and sit around a bar-in-the-round and each person pedals as they troll through the streets of downtown, drinking beer and going from pub to pub.  Their revelry combined with the flashing light decorations make it the most annoying sight and sound imaginable.]

“Oh my God,” she said, frowning.  She let out a sigh.   “I was thinking more along the lines of you naming certain qualities like if he was a Republican or is obsessed with sports.  Which I know neither of those is okay with you.”

“Those are two good ones to add to the list actually,” I said.   Wow, I didn’t know she knew me that well.

She shook her head.  “You are going to die alone.  You can’t be so specific.  One guy isn’t going to have everything.”

“I know that,” I said.  “Okay, I can maybe let go of most of those except for the ocean part.  It’s fundamental to what I think about, how I look at the world.  I cannot get around someone not wanting to be in or near the ocean.”

“What if he doesn’t like the ocean but had a lot of money and treated you like a queen?”

“I’d rather die than concede,” I said.  “Power never concedes without a demand.

“What does that even mean?” she asked.

“I don’t actually know.”  I looked around, weary of the conversation and of, particularly, myself.  “Where the hell is my Speedy Gonzalez number 12?”

“Do you really even truly know what you want?”

“Yes,” I answered carefully, “I want a man muscled in flame and who sweats kindness and intellect and who is funny and who will burn me to the ground causing me the exact opposite of harm.”

She rolled her eyes at me and nodded towards the approaching waiter.  “Okay.  Whatever.  Our food is here.”

“Good,”  I said.  “Great.”   And I threw down on that Speedy Gonzales like the good little single Mexican gal I am.

 

 

Black folks, those illegal Mexicans you hate and the rural Christian academies of eastern N.C.: Long live the U.S.of A.!

by Angela Perez

There are no race problems in eastern North Carolina!  Who told you there were?  Those fanatics were pulling your leg, my friend, because black, white and Mexicans living Down East do indeed all still eat at the same Chinese buffet and cash their checks at the same banks.  Though, some are cashing welfare checks but, hell, somebody always is abusing the system, ain’t they?

But let’s just pretend, for a moment, the rumours WERE true.   That the rabble-rousing nay-sayers had a point.  If we go down that road, well, I suppose you could say that in the sometimes tense racial environment characterizing much of life in rural eastern North Carolina, there is a phenomenon that endlessly yet subtly fuels tension: it is called the private rural “Christian academy”.   But, like I said, those glum and laughable tales are way off the mark.

Those little Christian academies are an important part of rural life! These tin-roofed meccas of private kindergarten-through-high school education are typically funded and sponsored by the wealthy white farmers working the land around places like Buzzard’s Cross and Todd’s Crossroads and Jernigan’s Ridge and their families have worked that rich land and killed hogs for generations.   The schools usually support about 50 – 150 students tops and there is a delightful Christian element to daily learning that ensures not only will the children not have to be exposed to the shenanigans and general immoral attitude of black folks and Mexicans, but also the Lord Jesus will live in their hearts until they are called home to heaven.

These  hearty, salt-of-the-earth folks and their kids don’t generally know many black folks since they live in the rural parts of N.C., areas most of the the black people fled right after these farmers’ great-great grandfathers freed them from those happy-go-lucky days of slavery.   The wealthy male farmers, unfortunately, are still exposed to Mexicans since they employ many hundreds of them under the table to work the land, but the farmers make sure that the lewd and over-sexed Mexicans never come up to the big house for supper or lay eyes on their plump and delicious pale-skinned wives or the gentle blonde curls of their daughters.   Luckily, on the weekends, when Mexicans are swarming the rural countryside, the farmers’ wives and daughters are over at the mall in Raleigh, shopping for cute tops and nice bedding at Macy’s.  Such a fancy store and there’s always a 60% off sale on something!

Nowadays the only negroes they have to abide are those two they show on the Fox Network news channel all the time, that Obama and his uppity wife, I think they call her Flotus or something (black people name their children the craziest names and it’s been proven that those African names like Flotus can keep those children from being successful later in life).   If you look into the sky over eastern North Carolina, you can see all the wisps and clouds of earnest prayer, billowing up to the heavens, entreating Jesus and his father, God, to hurry up with the day they get those communists of color out of office and return to the good ole’ days when black people knew their place and Mexicans who did slip over the border were sent back home packing, that is, unless they worked in the fields for low wages or learned English and could make good tamales and salsa.

So back to the phenomenon of “Christian academies” that pepper the landscape in eastern N.C.  These bastions of pure and higher learning cost a few thousand a year and they are a wonderful enclave of white happiness and erudition where darker skin colors and sin don’t interfere with the 21st century like it does elsewhere.   No ebonics or baggy pants here!  No Mexican boys trying to kick those hideous soccer balls around on our pretty baseball field!  No Mexican girls with coconut oil in their hair and short Old Navy skirts trying to rape our freckled boys!  Once in a while, a wealthy family falls on hard times and the child or children must leave the sweet confines of the academy and attend public school.  Public school kids, those irascible hoodlums, often take great joy in the misfortune of these once-pampered white folks, but, having good Southern manners, they don’t say much about it to their faces.

Here on these Christian campuses, white doves are released every morning after prayer time and the girls still wear pink Espirit sweaters and Izod turtlenecks and the boys still wear white Don Johnson blazers, with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows.  When the women graduate, they are gifted 50 pounds of fat, which adheres to their middle-sections and thighs and they are granted a short haircut that’s full on the top and adorned with lovely white frosted tips.  They then have 2 white babies and attend a nearby church.  They still have rarely seen black people or Mexicans except at the grocery stores, which, for some reason, even in this day and time, are neither private nor overseered by wealthy local farmers.

Ah!  These elite academies prepare some of the the farmers’ kids for college!  Many, alas, are not ready for their exposure to knuckleheads from India and China and Africa once they hit the university grounds.  So, many will go to local universities, like East Carolina University or UNC-Wilmington, or Pitt Community College, mainly so they can rush home on the weekends and get away from the liberal, hawkish sinners of the world, especially the gay ones who walk around campus holding hands.  “It’s hell on Earth, mamma!” sob the farmers’ daughters who, alas, haven’t found husbands on campus because those gay men keep sticking their cocks where they don’t belong!  So, they rush back to the farm on Friday evenings after their last class and eat homemade fried chicken, collard greens, and biscuits and swill sweet tea, each lovely girl dreaming of that rosy-cheeked, well-to-do rural boy who will sweep her in his strong arms, make love to her, and whisper sweet promises that she will never, ever have to hold down a job or career of her own.  Or, at the very most, she’ll have to keep the accounting books for the local church, but only part-time.

The wealthy farmers’ kids who don’t get swept up in worldly desires and liberal values while away at college, usually, finally return home, or at least end up living in the “big city” that is closest to the farm, in places called Plymouth or Williamston, or New Bern or Rocky Mount.   Armed with their college degree, they become the heads of local banks or pharmacists or open a car dealership.   Since some of their biggest customers are, in fact, black people and Mexicans, they develop an easy camaraderie with them (as long as they don’t rob their stores!), but they still don’t want their children commingling with poor folks of any color, because poor folks are always up to no good.  So they continue to send their children to the elite country academy, even though nowadays that sometimes means having to drive an extra 30 – 45 minutes to get to the school instead of back in the day when attendees lived within a five-mile radius. But sometimes, my friends, you have to use up a lot of gas and have patience if you want to preserve those sweet, good old days!

That’s about it for now folks.  So, here’s to the private Christian academy and the good work they do to keep our Southern values afloat and alive.  Somebody has to do the hard work, and they know it mustn’t be those lazy black folks or illegal aliens who, for the love of Christ, don’t even bother to learn to speak English and are always driving drunk with no license.  No, this work must be done by God-fearing white people in big strong trucks, because that’s what made America what it is today!  Viva la U.S.A.!  Ooops – I’ve got to speak English if I’m going to be living on this glorious soil.  Long live the U.S.A.!

What I use Facebook for, people who get upset with other peoples’ posts, and your reasons for being on social media

Recently, a friend of mine was “scolded” by her morally upright friends and family for some of her “wild” Facebook posts – photos of her drinking and smoking.  They warned her that the world would think terribly of her and that she must stick to posting photos of her latest bowl of pho and of the autumn leaves changing.   That she was being perceived as a wild slut.  Also, I’ve seen a lot of posts from friends lately who are so upset by Facebook that they are going to have to check out for a while.  Here’s what I’m thinking about all of this:

I view social media as a form of self-expression – a way for me to be completely open, honest, and transparent.  And at the same time, I am able to mold and shape that self-expression in an artistic and thoughtful way that is still honest.  My posts are a way to combine reality and art in a public forum.  It’s a grand thing really, to be able to do this.   Social media is catharsis for me.  That’s why I am careful about who I friend – I don’t friend co-workers or family or people I think would not understand the extremes of my personality or self-expression.  They will easily misconstrue my posts.  The people who respond to my posts negatively or judgementally or argumentatively, I delete them.

I see people, and this happens to me sometimes too, getting frustrated and upset their experience with Facebook or the responses to their posts.  Anything you see from me on social media is a true expression of me and where my head is at that moment – or I wouldn’t have posted it.  I’ve had phases where I eschewed selfies and I’ve had phases where I posted a lot of selfies.  And I am sure there have been some who have been irritated by my “selfie” phase.  I post a lot of photos of my dog.  (If you are ever irritated by dog photos we weren’t meant to be friends anyway.)

There are a lot of posts of me going to shows and of me out on the town with friends and a lot of posts of me drinking gin and and about sex and men and even sometimes smoking and partying.  Of me traveling the world to snorkel, swim, and scuba dive. Because that’s my lifestyle.  If I posted something else, it wouldn’t be honest.  It wouldn’t be me.   My posts aren’t to celebrate self-destruction or self-glorification.  Jesus Christ, I ain’t 12 years old.  No my posts are part of my free and single lifestyle – the way I am currently choosing to live my life.

My posts reflect what is happening in my life – the good, the bad and the ugly.  If I was always knitting and baking cookies or had a baby, well, you’d see endless photos and posts about that.  But I don’t do those things.   No, I go to shows.  I love heavy metal.  I drink gin.  I swim and dive.  I read a lot.  I love Russian literature and Japanese and Chinese film.  I am in the dating scene right now.  I am getting laid now and again.  I like to write.  I have the sense of humor of a perverted 15-year-old boy sometimes.  This is who I am.  And my social media activity reflects that and is a lens for those activities and ideologies.

I love my family.  And I love my friends.  But at the end of the day, it’s my fucking life.  And I cannot and will never let anyone dictate what I do or how I do it.  In fact, unlike my girl friend, I cannot even fathom what I express about myself on social media being an issue.  If one of my family members or friends told me that my posts were too “wild” or “immoral,” well, once I stopped laughing I would tell them to go fuck themselves.  Period.  Then don’t look at my posts.  Delete me.  Unfollow me.

I’m going to express myself however the fuck I want to.  And the type of people I am friends with, for the most part, are eccentric, creative, wild, free, artistic, have similar interests, etc. and understand what I am doing with social media.  Those people do similar things, and many of you fascinate and entertain me on a daily basis.  (Also, I need social media to keep track of the shows I want to see and where I want to dive next.)  So many of you have similar lifestyles.  Or, maybe you have settled down, but HAD a similar lifestyle and you understand what I am expressing.  It’s funny, when I go out, most nights, there’s always someone who comes up to me and mentions how much they enjoy the things I share and express on Facebook.  And although in no way do I need validation for any fucking thing I do, it makes me feel good that somehow my self-expression meant something to someone else – high brow or low brow.  I like knowing that what I put out in the world makes someone else feel good.  Or better.  And, okay, at the end of the day, social media is a purely self-indulgent, selfish, giving, and sharing exercise for me – and I am fascinated by how words and photos manifest those states of being, of thinking.  The process of the ego and the id in the world.

What is social media for if it’s not to be a true expression of who you are?  No, no, no – it can never be a full expression.  But what is?  It’s not possible. I’ve thought long and hard about this.  We’re in a new era of sharing and understanding ourselves in relation to one another – now through this bizarre lens that isn’t going away.  You may say, but we’re not supposed to KNOW that much about one another.

I disagree.

Social media may evolve or morph, but it’s not going away.  If you don’t use it to parse out and create something that is utterly true to who you are, what’s the fucking point?  Social media is indeed, in 2019, an extension of ourselves.  Deny it all you want.  But it is.  It’s a new way to connect and communicate with the folks around us and friends far away.  People we’ve never met or didn’t know before.  In fact, there are people in Raleigh I’ve known through going out for over 10 years and I’ve learned more about them through Facebook than I ever did before and cultivated deeper friendships based on some of the information I found out which piqued my interest.

I use social media to express my psyche – insight for myself and those around me.  And the psyche is not a clean, ordered, moral place.  It is the opposite of that.  And people who claim to constantly live in a clean, ordered and moral place or who care about how perfect their lives look to other people, well, I don’t want or need those people in my life. It’s not honest.  It’s not genuine.   And I want to live genuinely.  The noble and the cowardly.  The high brow and the low brow.  The cool and the absolute idiocy.  The wise decisions and the really stupid, dumbass shit.  And everything in between.  And I want to express it through this incredible medium – through articulation I come to understand myself and the world around me better.  If you construct your life in a way that leaves the worst out, then I’m not being honest.   And that is not a life that I am going to live.   Ever.

 

On slaves’ bones and turkey buzzards

By Angela Perez

Me and my dog Tater are in the back woods of Tyrrell County near historic Somerset Plantation, slicing through that ancient silence along the Scuppernong River, the morning sunlight glinting like diamonds on the black velvet waters. I slam on brakes and the car jerks to a stop, flinging Tater into the dashboard. There in front of the car is a mangy brown dog staring down a giant turkey buzzard, both angling to devour the carcass of a squashed snapping turtle there in the middle of the road.

I roll down my windows and listen to the starving dog growl and edge closer to the dead body. The buzzard stands his ground, flexing the broad expanse of his wings ever so often. I hear a voice to the left of me.

“Now that’s a fight right there,” said a withered old black man sidling up to my window. I looked around me trying to see from what nearby house he must have emerged from. I saw nothing around me but miles of plowed fields dissected by black water canals. “You know slaves dug those canals to connect that river to that plantation down the road,” he said. “They worked them men ’til they wore clean out and if they died while they was diggin’ they got left right where they died. Ain’t even bury ’em.” He whistled at the stray dog. “You better come away from that buzzard Mr. Dog,” he said, “he’s gonna tear your ass up when he finally gets mad.” He looked at me. “You know there’s slave bones in them ditches. They come up some nights and talk to me. Tell me things.”

He patted the side of my Jeep, “Watch out for that ole’ buzzard.” He turned around and walked back down the road behind us. I looked ahead and the dog was chewing on the turtle’s head and the bird had flown away. I looked in the rear view mirror. The old man was nowhere to be seen.

Two stoned dudes ordering at the Bojangles drive-thru: gimme all your dirty rice

I needed hot fried chicken last night.  Real bad.  So, while I was at the Bojangles drive-thru waiting on my order and I could hear the two stoned-as-fuck guys behind me ordering (they were on the loud speaker):

Stoned driver ordering: Rice. Gimme rice.
Bojangles worker: Sprite?
Driver: Rice!
BW: Fries?
Driver: Rice!! RICE! Gimme all your dirty rice.
Stoned passenger to driver: Man, I’m the highest I have ever been at a Bojangles.
Driver: Shut the FUCK up, I’m ordering.
Passenger: Get me some mac and cheese.
Driver: No way man. Last time you got that shit all over my fucking truck. You’re getting fries.
Passenger: I’m high and I know what I want. End of story. There’s a big difference in fries and macaroni and cheese.
Driver: Not when you’re wasted as fuck and riding in MY truck.

Alas, dear reader, my order came all too soon and I had to pull away. So much wonderfulness all around us if we just pay attention while getting hot fried chicken.

cheech and chong

Destroying What You Love: on quitting liquor and smokes for 45 days

by Angela Perez
When I’m fucked up on something, I am masterful at destroying what I love.  So I had to stop all that shit.  This blog was written on April 15, 2016.

Yesterday marked 45 days without cigarettes or alcohol. It’s hard for me to believe I’m saying this, but I don’t miss it.  Even gin’s bright juniper-mist voice falls on deaf ears.  It’s like when you finally get rid of a boyfriend you knew was bad for you but you thought you couldn’t live without so you kept at that same tired old ruinous rusted busted emptied-out bone-weary relationship, but once you finally cut the ties and enact a strict no-contact rule, after a while, you wonder why you ever thought you couldn’t live without that person.  You shake your head, perplexed, when you examine that disfigured bloody corpse of a horse you both beat into the ground.  How did we let our once glorious communion come to such a state as this?

 And I’m not saying alcohol and cigarettes are inherently bad. Lord no. They were just bad for ME.  And in my new found clarity of soul and unmuffled head, I remembered something that I will advise you to remember:

 find those people who feed you intellectually, who make you grow as a person in thought and deed. Surround yourself with non-lazy, ambitious folks making interesting things happen. Who, when you talk with them, the world and all of its possibilities seem to open up before you. Divest yourself of the rest, while still communing with all. Don’t abandon the ones reeling in darkness and hurt.  But don’t live there with them, clawing at mouldering dust, moaning in a pitch-black tongue you used to speak oh-so-fucking fluently.
These broad edicts are impossible things to do when you aren’t ready. Easy as pie and bluebirds when you are. It’s the getting to the ready point that’s the real son of a bitch.

As one of America’s truest masters of poetry, Galway Kinnell, wrote:

Walking toward the cliff overhanging
the river, I call out to the stone,
and the stone
calls back, its voice searching among the rubble
for my ears.
Stop.
As you approach an echoing
cliffside, you sense the line
where the voice calling from stone
no longer answers,
turns into stone, and nothing comes back.
1_HeadofaDeadMan_l

Your day job vs. gardening – when your wife will only suck the tip

by Angela Perez

When the Life Path Genie appeared before the man in his dull grey cubicle there on the 39th floor of the office building, it really was quite a shock. He had never complained about his work.  And while pushing cyber paper and assisting Vice Presidents with important needs and gentle egos wasn’t what he’d dreamed of being when he grew up (he’d planned to be a sexy astronaut or a real pussy magnet in a loud and famous heavy metal band), well, he was never the type to complain.

And while his job wasn’t necessarily as fulfilling as his hobby of raising 20 varieties of daffodils in a tiny hothouse he’d built in the backyard, his job paid the bills and provided decent health insurance for both him and his wife of 10 years.

Although he was middle-aged and in full health, he knew it was just a matter of time before he needed pills of all sorts and regular rectal exams.  “That’s the aging process love!” his mother told him before she died last year.

The man often found work fulfillment by sometimes attending a monthly whiskey club some of the lower-level employees on his floor had put together.  But he wasn’t much of a drinker so he didn’t always go.

The Life Path Genie showed up the moment he clicked on the third job listing on LinkedIn.  POOF! The genie appeared next to his computer. Only 10 inches tall. The man was startled but he didn’t cry out.

“Since you’re in a cubicle, I’ll have to whisper,” whispered the genie. “I see you have been looking for jobs while you’re at work.  You know, you could get fired for that.”

“You aren’t wearing little shiny pants,” said the man.  “Or a little turban. Where’d you get such a tiny business suit?”

The genie tapped the computer screen impatiently.  “These things are of no importance.  What is important is that you looked for jobs three times three days in a row from a work computer. Such actions immediately summon me, your personal Life Path Genie.”

“Wait, are you from human resources?” asked the man, looking around nervously.  “Are you here to fire me?”

“No, no, no,” said the genie, laughing just a bit.  “I’m here to help you find your true life path.  Obviously this isn’t it, or you wouldn’t be looking for jobs.  At work.  That’s really taking a risk you know.  IT and human resources could find out and then it’s the axe.”

“Well, it’s not so much that I want to quit. I mean, I have great benefits, the pay is decent.  Higher than average really! I’m low-level so I’m not really on the radar of the really super important people in the top levels of management who ensure the continued success of this operation.”  The man paused for a second and continued.  “Oh, and there was this one woman who was only about 30 years old working in the cubicle next to me and one of the new managers really liked her blonde hair and cute pants and noticed her talents and raised her several pay grades.   She was moved up, not for looks, but for talent.  It shows that you can get ahead around here if you have talent and combine that with the right pants!”

“Sir,” said the genie, “you’ve been here six years. The flowers of your labor are in full bloom. You come to work early so that the important managers can see you and you stay late, laughing loudly at co-workers’ jokes that aren’t funny, so the managers know you are working late. When, in fact, you are playing solitaire, updating your Facebook page, reading the New York Times online and talking about sports.  Is this how you want to spend your life?”

“Well, genie, there ARE worse things to do with yourself,” replied the man.  “Like working for the state or with people who don’t speak English.”

“I also know that your wife doesn’t have sex with you anymore because she also isn’t happy in her office job,” said the genie.

“Well, she gives me hand jobs some mornings,” said the man sheepishly.  “Sometimes she gives the tip of my dick a right good sucking.  What business is that of yours?”

“Good sex is important to finding your life path,” said the genie matter-of-factly. “Well, sir, I think I know all I need to know about you.  Get ready, my friend.  Your life is about to happen!”  And with that, the genie disappeared with a poof that was no louder than an unobtrusive fart.

The man had no time to figure out what had just happened because he had an important meeting to attend that was actually really very unimportant.

That night after arriving home and tending to his tender daffodils, he walked out of the hot-house and stood very still in the quiet of his backyard.  It was dark already and the stars were clear and bright.  He looked over into the neighbor’s yard and there was the pretty 24-year old school teacher who had moved in only 3 months earlier.

She was naked and looking directly at him. He walked over to her.

“What are you doing?” he asked, feeling blood rushing into the tip of his rather unused penis.

“I’m going to fuck you right here in my backyard,” she said, wrapping her lithe young limbs around his body. “And then I’m going to kill you.”

The man turned to see if his wife was peeking out the window.  She was not. He turned back to face the school teacher.

“That’s fine,” he said. “I very much want to stick my cock into you and see where this goes.  But please don’t kill me.”

“We shall see,” she uttered softly. “We shall see.”

The next morning, the man’s wife found her husband dead in his hot-house, stabbed in the stomach presumably by the clipping shears protruding from his belly. He was sprawled across the Hoop Petticoat variety of daffodil.

The police speculated that this was most certainly a suicide. When they questioned his wife and the neighbors, including the school teacher, no one knew of any reason that the man had to kill himself.

“We loved each other,” sobbed his wife. “We went to the movies regularly and ate out at lovely restaurants once a week.” When asked about how he felt about his job she replied, “He’d just gotten a 3 percent cost of living raise at work. They allow him access to social media. It was all going so perfectly.”

“He couldn’t have suffered from any kind of despair or disillusionment. Why, why throw our life together away?” she wailed. The wife was inconsolable but comforted by all of the gluten-free and free-range gourmet duck fat casseroles that friends and family had started to bring over to express their sorrow at her loss.

Later that week, at the man’s office, as his department’s administrative assistant cleaned out his desk (there were mostly clip binders and soy sauce packets in the drawer), she found a sticky note addressed to the VP of Human Resources.

“Dear important sir. I did not attend the three meetings I had on my Outlook calendar for tomorrow. I didn’t want to work here anymore.”

“Tsk tsk,” said the administrative assistant. “What could he have wanted to be, poor dear?  A VP perhaps!” She was going to give the message to human resources but remembered she had to put out coffee in the conference room because four very important managers were scheduled for a meeting in 10 minutes.

Just let well enough alone: a one-minute tale of weight loss and gain and loss

by Angela Perez

Sometimes, you just need to take a compliment with a simple “Thank you” and let well enough alone.  Especially when you’re weight has gone up and down and all over in the last year and a half.  This happened last night:

Friend (who hasn’t seen me in 5 months):  Whoo, girl, you look good!  You look skinny!
Angela:  Skinny?
Friend:  Skinny.
Angela:  As compared to what?
Friend:  Uh…as compared to last time I saw you.
Angela:  Skinny?
Friend:  Well, I mean…skinnier.
Angela:  But use of that word implies a degree of svelteness.
Friend.  Okay, why don’t you just shut the fuck up?  How ’bout this – you ain’t as big as you were. You look so good so please shut the fuck up.
Angela: Let’s start over.

Note:  This is still way better than how some of my Southern friends and family back home greet you when you visit for the holidays: 

My 300-hundred pound diabetic cousin donning a muumuu:  “Whoo, Lord, you have really packed on the pounds since I saw you.  Lookin’ just like your big Aunt So-and-So.”
Angela:  You haven’t seen me in a quarter of a century.  Since I was in high school and weighed 100 pounds.
Cousin: I know. Girl, ain’t no slim folks in your family. Wasn’t never meant to last no ways. Seen this comin’. Weight Watchers, girl. Weight Watchers. We got to stay on it in this family. (She says she eats the top off of a red velvet cake.)
Angela: Hand me that whole tomato.
Cousin: Girl, is that all you’re eating?
Angela: No, I am about to shove it in your mouth so you’ll shut the fuck up. Pass me the mac and cheese.

extraordinary me: does he take his pants all the way off to do it

Tonight, while creating categories within my new dive-themed move to the Caribbean blog (sex, dating, diving, all-things-Curacao), I decided to be true to myself – the flaming liberal, social justice side of myself – and include a section about that.  Much of this particular section will be focused on ocean conservation but there will be many jabs at Trump. Conservatives may freely enjoy the dive-instructor-dick stories, but might want to judiciously avoid the “From the Mind of a Flaming Liberal”  category. And, to kick off the new blog category, I will share a little poem I wrote just for such an occasion:

extraordinary me
by angela perez

when trump eats breakfast
who sits next to him does he
crack a hardboiled egg on the presidential plate and pick up
greasy fried hashbrowns with his little orange nubs
does he watch t.v. while some kind of brown man fills
a crystal cup with ice cold Diet Coke.
last night did trump dream of lady pussies with
no hair and no body cajoling him
to press his cheek against a frozen window pane
and speak of joy not monstrously stitched
to that gray-gold empire where a Slavic wife scowls
in gossamer Dolce & Gabbana

is there a tanning bed in the white house
and does he tweet while shitting in the toilet
when he makes love, in what direction does his hair flow
Mr. President, do you fuck all-the-way naked or just pull your junk through an open zipper

oh people, my people, my bony heart is a graveyard of fake news and tan liars
who run away but don’t get far and then wither. Believe extraordinary me.

That time I got attacked by a bear in Harney County, Oregon

by Angela Perez

Since I’ve moved back to my beloved Raleigh, NC, many of you have asked me about my recent, brief two-year stint in Oregon.  I’ve told the following story many times and a while back I wrote it down.  I’d like to share it with you now.

Scree, canyon, coyote and bear

Back in 2010, I decided to leave the South and move to Baker City, Oregon.  Before I moved to eastern Oregon, I had done my research.  I knew that the wild and remote area featured high desert country, no humidity, lots of snow in winter, a sparse population and no good places to find grits, sweet tea or fried chicken.  But I didn’t know of the drastic variety of the landscape.  One minute you’re cruising down the road through an endless vista of sagebrush flats, and the next, you’re maneuvering your way up the backside of an alpine forest-covered mountain.   There’s a canyon near Baker City, called Hell’s Canyon, along the border with western Idaho, that’s one of North America’s deepest river gorges.  The gorge was carved out by the ancient Snake River, alongside wheremany Oregon Trail pioneers met an unhappy demise.

One weekend, I went down into the southern parts of Harney County in the far southeast for a solo weekend camping trip.   I’d been to Burns, the county seat down there, many times for work reasons.  And I’d always marveled that Burns marks the border to some other universe – a doorway leading into a vast alien landscape of jagged rim rock and cooled lava beds stretching down into Nevada. The land there is a place where man is welcome to visit, but remain at his own peril if he doesn’t understand the laws of coyote, canyon, and scree.

 

Steens Mountain sits in Harney County, a remote and wild part of southeastern Oregon. Steens Mountain sits in Harney County, a remote and wild part of southeastern Oregon.

Steens Mountain sits in Harney County, a remote and wild part of southeastern Oregon.

As the summer was coming to a close, I noticed the calendar was edging dangerously close to snow season so, one Saturday, I got up bright and early, pulled out a map, loaded up the car with my camping gear and my dog – a half-beagle, half-basset hound named Tater, and headed to no-man’s land around noontime.  I decided that we were going to camp on Steens Mountain at Fish Lake, a little Aspen-speckled campground about 7,400 feet up the mountain.

Harney County is referred to by many Oregonians as no-man’s land. They have a point. Oregon’s largest county, with a total population of just over 7,400 hardy souls, is out there. Sagebrush and buttes.  Gorges and wild mustangs. Parched desert and hot springs.  But not a lot of people.

There in all of that solitude and epic ruggedness, one can almost hear geological formations happening and the gears of time moving the earth’s mantle.  The naked red basalt stacks and mountain-gouging winds move across the landscape, at different paces, but each as gnawing powerfully on your senses at any given moment.  Contemplating the Alvord Desert from atop the 9,700-foot peak of Steens Mountain, I stood small and silent and a little bit nervous as I felt the earth’s crust wrap itself around a core of seething magma.

But I digress into melodrama.  Back to the impromptu camping trip.

As I got to the little village of Frenchglen – population 12 – at the base of the mountain and turned left on a lonely dirt road knows as the Backcountry Byway, I began to question the wisdom of taking a camping trip alone.  Perhaps somewhere up there among those quaking aspens and cottonwood trees lurked a bear that would eat Tater as an appetizer and then have me as an entrée.  I was, however, sort of ready for bears at this point.  All summer I had been readying up on how to survive a bear attack.

My friends in Baker City found my fear of bears on the mountain hilarious.  “There aren’t any bears up there,” said one of my girlfriends one night a few weeks before as we sipped beers at Barley Brown’s, a local brewery in Baker City.  “But that doesn’t mean you should take camping trips alone.”   That evening, we hoped hot and lonely cowboys would saunter in for a cold beer and some warm company.  But none ever came through the door.

Back to the Steens.

As I got to the little village of Frenchglen – population 12 – at the base of the mountain and turned left on a lonely dirt road knows as the Backcountry Byway, I began to question the wisdom of taking a camping trip alone.  Perhaps somewhere up there among those quaking aspens and cottonwood trees lurked a bear that would eat Tater as an appetizer and then have me as an entrée.  I was, however, sort of ready for bears at this point.  All summer I had been readying up on how to survive a bear attack.

I wound my way up the mountain, Tater hanging out the passenger’s side window, and arrived at Fish Lake’s campground, a secluded little stretch that skirts all the way around a rather small, unremarkable lake.  I found the perfect camp spot among a little grotto of trees and soft tussocks of long grass, and pitched the tent just two feet from the lake’s abrupt edge.  I then set up a lounge chair.  Tater and I sat by the lake-side and watched fish jumping, while a nice fat ribeye steak sizzled on the portable grill.  Well, I watched the fish jump and Tater watched the ribeye.

I started to get nervous as the sun went down and families were leaving the campground to head home after a long day of fishing.  Eventually, there was just me about a half-dozen other families scattered around the lake’s shore.

After supper, I left my tent flap open, stretched out on my air mattress and marveled as the sun cast its warm golden glow onto the hills surrounding the eastern rim of the lake.  Then, without a warning, night fell and the wind started to blow like crazy.  I had read in one of my Harney County brochures I picked up at the chamber of commerce in Burns that winds come out of nowhere on the mountain at this elevation. I called my dog into the tent, zipped up the flap and proceeded to try and sleep.  The wind was whipping up little waves on the lake and the sound was so close I felt I was sleeping in a canoe.

“Ah, the sound of waves.  Perfect for inducing sleep!,” thought I.  What could there to be scared of?

And then it happened.  I heard a very distinct snuffling sound outside the tent.  I tensed up.  Tater was already sacked out snoring.  Was it a bear?   Paralyzed with fear, I sat straight up.  The snuffling got louder- it was definitely a bear.  Or a porcupine with a cold.  Either way, I was in a tight spot.

I briefly contemplated leaving my dog, Tater, behind to handle the intruder. Don't tell Tater about this.

I briefly contemplated leaving my dog, Tater, behind to handle the intruder. Don’t tell Tater about this.

The minutes dragged by as I frantically cooked up a plan of action, which was as follows:  unzip the tent as fast as lightening and quickly shine my flashlight into the eyes of the intruder, blinding whatever had invaded our campsite.  I would then make a mad dash for the car, hoping that Tater – who was still asleep – would spring into action. I wasn’t quite sure what would happen after that, but I figured it would all sort itself out.

As I yanked down hard on the zipper to open the tent flap, the zipper got caught in the fabric and ripped the lining all the way around the opening.  After finally tearing open the ripped flap, I whipped out my flashlight to blind whatever it was with the bright light.  With a frantic flourish, I clicked the “on” button, but instead of a flood of searing light, there was nothing but a weary trickle of tired yellow light that barely lit up the ground in front of the tent.

“What the…?!?” I shouted, shaking the flashlight until the light went out altogether.  Oh, good gracious, I’m going to die out here on this mountain all alone, I thought, while my dog is passed out on the air mattress.

I shook the flashlight again and shone it around.  There was just enough light to identify the trespasser.  It was, in fact, a paperback book.

To be exact, it was A Walk in the Woods, by travel writer Bill Bryson.  I had been reading his camping stories to see how Bill handled bear attacks while hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The book had fallen out of my backpack and the cover fluttered in the high winds, scraping the front of my tent.

To be fair, there is a bear on the cover of the book, so there was a bear attack element to the entire debacle.  Meanwhile, as I stood there feeling foolish, Tater snored even louder.  I sat down in front of my mangled tent and looked out over the lake, feeling the adrenaline leach away from limbs, head, and heart.  After an hour of staring up at the millions of stars in the ink-black sky above, I crawled back into my tent and promptly fell asleep, dreaming of the South and of camping trips where the biggest threat was a curious ‘possum.

 

Hey, Angela, sorry to hear your cousin killed his wife and shot himself. It’s Christmas-time in Hollis.

I had just finished pumping gas into my car and was screwing on the gas cap when I heard someone yell out, “Oh my God!  Angela, is that you? You’re home for Thanksgiving, I see.”

It was a former classmate of mine, one I hadn’t seen since we graduated high school 25 years ago, back in 1989.  I recognized him vaguely but couldn’t remember his name.  I did notice he’d lost a substantial amount of hair over the past couple of decades.  His camouflage jacket was zipped up to his chin and he had on red gloves, which struck me as rather unpractical for staying hidden while stalking deer.  Camouflage is the standard mode of men’s dress in eastern North Carolina.  I stood there, smiling but squinting as I tried to recall his name.

“It’s me Larry.  Larry Perry [editor’s note:  name changed].  We’re friends on Facebook,” he said, hugging me.  I hugged back and immediately recalled I had never really been friends with him back in high school and didn’t even know we were Facebook friends.   Larry used to be part of the woodshop crowd, a low-key, quiet group of boys who mostly smoked cigarettes behind the lunchroom and dated plain girls who were destined for motherhood and not much else.   As a member of the drama club, I rarely had time for boys who listened to country music and made overly-shellacked shelves for their mothers and those boys weren’t interested in a girl who listened to the Grateful Dead with vaguely gay miscreants obsessed with amateur dramatics and Boone’s Farm “Tickle Pink” fortified wine.

“How are you?” he asked.  “When did you come home?  I know you live in Raleigh.  I read your Facebook posts.  They are always so crazy and interesting.  And I always read your blog, that “Muumuu” thing you do. I like the way you write.  I don’t really like to read usually but I like to read your stuff.”

“Wow, thanks, Larry, I appreciate that,” I said, feeling myself warming up to Larry immediately.   I am imminently susceptible to flattery of all kinds.  “Yeah, I’m just here for the day visiting my dad.   I’m about to head back.  How are you?”

“You know, gotta keep on keeping on,” he said.  “Just working for the tax man.”  He paused and shook his head.  “That was rough news, about your cousin.”

“What cousin?”  I asked.  I am not close with my extended family and hear little to no news about them.  Most of my mother’s side of the family has remained in this part of the state for centuries (yeah, that’s right centuries – as in since the late 1600s.)  This clan of dozens is thick as thieves, spending weekends together, going to church together, calling each other daily, and staying very in tune with the minutiae of one another’s lives.   The narrative of their blissful existence reads like a John Cougar Mellencamp song:

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities

Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that’s me

Well I was born in a small town
And I can breathe in a small town
Gonna die in this small town
And that’s prob’ly where they’ll bury me 

Ah!  There’s something seemingly pleasant and charming about such an innocent existence but, in fact, the dark, gossipy, judgmental, racist underbelly of that small town existence becomes apparent about five minutes after you roll into the county.  I wondered what dark gossip Larry had for me.

“Your cousin, Mike Waters, your first cousin,” he said.  “I saw him.”

Mike.  Mike.  Oh yeah, Mike Waters.  I hadn’t seen him since I was 15 years old.  Quiet guy, about 10 years older than me.  “Oh man, Mike.  He’s been in the Air Force for years.  Where did you see him?”

He looked at me incredulously.  “At my work.”

“Where do you work?” I asked, getting annoyed with how drawn out the conversation was becoming.

“At the funeral home,” he said. “I work there part-time.  Didn’t you notice my job on my Facebook page?”

I had never seen Larry’s Facebook page in my life.  “What was Mike doing at the funeral home?  Who died?”  I figured it must be my Aunt Mary, Mike’s mother.  She must be near 85 by now, so she’d probably moved on to the next life and was somewhere up in heaven, possibly still on Weight Watchers.  All of my aunts have been on Weight Watchers since the 1970s and have probably lost about 10 pounds total among them in four decades.  Ours is a meaty, ever-hungry family.

“Mike’s dead.  He shot himself,” said Larry matter-of-factly.  “He gunned down his wife, shot her several times in the back, and then shot himself in the head.  Over in Corpus Christi, Texas where they were living for the past few years. They flew his body back here to be buried at home.”

I was stunned.  “Are you sure?”  I asked.

“Of course, I’m sure,” said Larry.  “I saw his body.  It was terrible.  It’s a terrible thing.  No funeral, though, just a graveside service.  You know, given the circumstances.”

“Jeez,” I said.  “I didn’t hear a thing about this.”

“Not even on Facebook?” asked Larry, pursing his lips in surprise.

“I’m not friends with any family members on Facebook,” I said.  “I don’t like to see my aunts’ and cousins’ endless tripe and trollop about their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  They’re too obsessed with one another’s lives.”  I was sure this explanation was a bit too detailed and bitter for Larry, who probably had plenty of photos of his own children, dressed in tiny camouflage outfits, posted all over social media.  As a single, childless, highly-educated and uncannily enlightened person devoted to the pursuit of freedom from family constraints, I was probably rapidly moving outside the tenuous barriers of meaningfulness contained in this bizarre conversation.

“Yeah,” said Larry, ignoring my last comment, “evidently the wife had a restraining order put out on your cousin and said in the police records that she was sure that he was capable of killing her and was seeking protection.  But before they could go to court, he beat her up a few times and then finally shot her.  In the back.  He shot himself in the head.  Oh wait, I already said that.  It’s online on some news sites if you want to Google it.  It happened about two or three months ago.  Back in September.”

“Two months ago?!? And I’m just now hearing about this?  Thanks, I…I guess I’ll look it up.  Good Lord,” I said, still trying to wrap my mind around the news.  “It was good to see you.  I need to get back to Raleigh.  I’m on my way back just now.”

“It’s so good to see you,” he said, grinning widely.  “Man, you look good.  I always thought you were really cute in high school.  I asked you out once, do you remember that?”

I didn’t.  But his words rang sweet and I felt a funny little high-schoolish boy crazy tingle like I used to get often back then.  I hugged him.  He smelled warm and musky and soapy.  It made me sad.  More sad than the news about my cousin.

“I do remember you asking me out,” I lied.  “It was so good to see you, Larry.  I’ll write to you.  On Facebook.”  For some reason, instead of saying “good-bye” I blurted out “ciao for now!”  The words were silly and pretentious and I jumped into the car.  My dog Tater was sitting in the passenger’s seat, staring at me intently.

I rubbed his head.  “All right, boy, we’re heading out now.  We’ll be back home soon.”  Tater licked the spot where his balls used to be.

I sat there behind the wheel for a few minutes, staring across the street at the tiny hospital where I was born.  I wondered if my cousin Mike had been born in that hospital.  I figured most of my family members were born there.   And a lot died there.   As I stuck the key in the ignition, I saw a smallish black bear trundling across the hospital grounds, away towards the edge of the woods surrounding the east side.

“What the fuck?”  I mumbled, surprised.  Bears should be hibernating already, shouldn’t they?  It looked like the bear had a giant white bird hanging limply in its jowls.

I turned the key and Run DMC’s song “Christmas in Hollis” was blasting:

It’s Christmas time in Hollis, Queens
Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees
Decorate the house with lights at night
Snow’s on the ground, snow white so bright
In the fireplace is the yule log
Beneath the mistletoe as we drink egg nog
The rhymes you hear are the rhymes of Darryl’s
But each and every year we bust Christmas carols.

I looked over at Tater.  He’d already curled up and was asleep and snoring, happy in the knowledge we were leaving.  “Ciao, little town,” I said.  “I’ll see you at Christmas.”  I needed to get back to Raleigh and Google my cousin Mike’s name to find out what exactly had happened in Corpus Christi.  I wondered if the bear across the street was having one last meal before it was time to go down in his den.  I wondered if bears dream.

*Some of the names and the facts in this vignette have been changed. 

I looked over at Tater.  He’d already curled up and was asleep and snoring, happy in the knowledge we were leaving.  “Ciao, little town,” I said.  “I’ll see you at Christmas.”  I needed to get back to Raleigh and Google my cousin Mike’s name to find out what exactly had happened in Corpus Christi.  I wondered if the bear across the street was having one last meal before it was time to go down in his den.  I wondered if bears dream.

*Some of the names and the facts in this vignette have been changed. 

Memories: From Peckers in Raleigh to Pirozhki in Moscow (with collard greens with fatback on the brain)

by Angela Perez

My body takes issue with my intellectual pursuits.  In particular, with my adventures with food.  That’s right!  I consider food not a just a nagging means for survival or even some kind of guilty pleasure.

Cheese-laden grits and creamy coconut paletas unlock the meaning of universe, wrap my prune brain around the tragedy of man.

Musing on why all those super-jazzed always-nearly-jizzing young white guys with beards and tattoos sling craft beer and bake bread with ancient grains of Mesopotamia and wax poetic on authentic heritage hog bbq stimulates my mind.  Awwww, but fuck all that.  I haven’t felt like spinning yarns and navigating facts related to the intersections of food, race, class, and gender for a few hours now.

I’ll quit boring you about my foray into raising meat goats (as opposed to the kinder and more lovable pursuit of raising dairy goats – see, I want to roast these babies to make goat tacos and sell them.  …goddammit, I’m doing it again…I ought to apologize…).

Thing is, though, I’ve got no secret greetings.  No inane uplifting game plan.  Just a dusty hide stretched out and sagging from not spending enough time with just me.

People who can’t be alone scare the ever-loving shit out of me.  ‘Dem homosapien fumes and skin flakes all cloggin’ up my chi.   Endlessly making deals with myself to be happy, to achieve Nirvana…all wearing me slam the fuck out.

Angelita, that young woman of the people, vanished.   Endless fine distinctions regarding my expanding middle-aged body and mind are blue-veined and clear to me.   In all my years in Raleigh, I’ve observed a nightmare of eager peckers and shared living arrangements and over-priced fried chicken.  That foie gras torchon was the bomb though.

Finally, alert, I humbly request you hurl your attention at the bittersweet victories of Southern women.

pork

That time I was the only girl at BBQ camp.

Culinary Nostalgia and Local, Artisanal Food Ways: what the Indy Week interview with a BBQ scholar can tell us about ourselves

by Angela Perez

John Shelton Reed, 74, is a highly respected author and scholar of Southern history, sociology and food ways.  He taught for over 30 years at UNC-Chapel Hill and helped found the school’s esteemed Center for the Study of the American South.  Reed, who lives in Chatham County, is also a leading BBQ scholar (I’m going back and getting my PhD in THAT) and recently released his newest book, the cookbook “Barbecue.
A week or so ago, Reed discussed BBQ in North Carolina in an interview in the Triangle’s Indy Week that brings up insightful points about  “orthodoxy” and “authenticity” in preparing and discussing Southern cooking.  That dogmatism Reed is referring to is born out of  a rampant culinary nostalgia that’s inspiring everything from eager foodies buying Lodge cast iron skillets (local Southern celebrity chef Ashley Christensen promotes Lodge often – I’ll admit I’ve wondered if she has or is angling for an endorsement deal with them or if she just genuinely loves the cookware.  Lodge is, in fact, some great cast iron cookware made in Tennessee since 1896.  Whatever the case, I’m glad she is using her popularity to promote it.), pop-up homemade pie stands being erected on organic farms (one pie stand I visited in Durham recently had sold out within a couple hours of opening and you couldn’t even park near the stand for all of the Lexus SUVs and Subaru Outbacks that had swarmed onto the farm), and slick, earnest documentaries featuring highly-tattooed guys waxing poetic on the art of pickling.
BBQ in North Carolina, like so many other fiercely loved regional delights, demands authenticity amongst both sporting foodies who didn’t grow up with the food and those die-hard, that’s-how-my-grandmother-made-it Southerners who did indeed grow up with it and want to preach its gospel.  (We Southerners love to tell people we grew up eating this and that and the other straight from the river or the garden. I’m highly guilty of always referring to my grandmother’s collard greens and my grandpa’s crow stew or cornmeal-breaded fried flounder. I wonder when crow stew will trend…)   Reed tells Indy interviewer Lee Quinn:

The newer generation of barbecue cooks and pitmasters are self-conscious in a way the old barbecue guys weren’t. There is a dogmatism or even fundamentalism in their devotion to cooking over wood coals, pulling the pork, etcetera. There’s a return to orthodoxy that indicates a real respect for these traditions and the regions they represent.
So much media and press attention goes to chefs, restaurants and artisans connecting with the “old ways.”  It is now in the hands of the food industry to preach the gospel of localism through food.  The question becomes, what’s driving such staid, serious dogmatism in food production and why?  From whence springs the all-consuming desire to delve into the murky origins of forgotten food ways?  Why is the public trying to connect with where their food comes from like folks could in the “old days” (though, that connection “back then” was born out of necessity, not luxury – these days, it takes some serious bucks to “reconnect”)?  And why is the public so in love with those chef and artisan food adventures down the romantic, back-to-our-roots rabbit hole?
There seems to be some deep, biological need driving consumers into the arms of Southern chefs and artisan food producers as we salivate and weep for joy and exclaim:  “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for giving us the real thing!” And we admire, often to the point of sycophantism and slavishness, those people who do the research and the hard work and take all of the business risks to present us with the “real thing.”  These chefs, biscuit makers, pork pullers, bakers, butchers, etc.  wield the power to dole out one of the most compelling forces in the universe:  nostalgia.  Let’s take a look at how nostalgia and food connect.
On the negative side, what’s happening is that there is a lot of back-slapping and circle jerking going on in the Triangle just because something is made local and demonstrates a home-grown ethos.  I mean, we all hate what mass-production and globalization have done to society, right?  These folks focusing on “local” and “sustainable” agricultural are thumbing their noses at such gluttonous economy.  My God, family farming can sustain an expensive restaurant so who cares that it might not affordably sustain an entire population?  “That’s not my problem,” I mutter as I shovel organic, locally-grown kale into my pie hole.
The fact remains, however, some of those local restaurants and artisans ain’t producing food that’s even all that GOOD.  Or they are producing food that is good enough for Raleigh or the Triangle but would never cut it nationally.   I hear a lot of my friends in the food industry call certain restaurants and products, “Raleigh-good” and they don’t mean it in a circle jerking kind of way.  Yet, for now at least, the public seems to be willing to fling their money at anything that feels authentic.
Nostalgia is a powerful urge and a powerful business.  Luckily for us, this homespun brand of a consumerism is bound up in basic human need (to eat) benefits us all – the seller hopefully, makes a living and the consumer ends up with incredible food not mass-produced and made with inferior products that aren’t good for us.
In other words, some of that culinary nostalgia may be driven by our current fears of faceless greedy corporations threatening our health and our planet all in the name of making a profit.  Foodies spending their money on “local” and “authentic” food crave and idealize the notion there is love and care, just like when they were children, in the preparation and presentation of the food they are about to put into their bodies.  (Though, ironically, for Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, our grandparents and parents were happily serving us new-fangled highly processed foods like Cool Whip and canned peas – pre-packaged food that made their lives so much easier and simpler.)
We love the idea of a business that doesn’t appear to be wholly born out of the desire to make a profit at any cost (even though, let’s be real, these folks do still need to send their kids to college and pay bills and feed the dog).  Surely, these committed craftspeople are driven first and foremost by passion and curiosity and eschew the destructive evils of capitalism.  I mean, my God, they mortgaged their homes and spent their retirement savings so I could have an heirloom tomato sandwich with homemade pickles on rye bread sourced from the bakery down the street.  They spent their kids’ college fund so I can go in an expensive restaurant and sit on a bench that’s made from wood from an old tobacco barn in South Raleigh that was originally built by slaves.  I mean, my God, how can you NOT feel good about spending your money on that?  (Oh my God, I just realized Sean Brock is the Wendell Berry of restaurant owners.   More on that in another, related blog.)
It FEELS good to give these guild masters our money, like we are doing the right thing for our bodies, our taste buds, our local communities and for humanity in general. I know I for one would much rather buy a $6 loaf of bread from a local baker who claims to be using a technique specific to Roman bakers in 600 BC than a $1.99 loaf from the Kroger bread aisle.  I just better when I put my hard-earned money into the hands of a real, live small business owner who cares about the who, what, when, where and why of their food production (beyond profit) and usually, hopefully, the food tastes great to boot.   And if these chefs and artisans don’t dig into the old food ways, we’re threatened with losing our stories, our history and our origins as it all gets wiped out by giant faceless food conglomerates who have no interest in preserving anything beyond profit margins.
Another driving force behind culinary nostalgia is a deep-rooted need to be part of a tribe, to feel safe in the bosom of a connected community.  By asserting and participating in specific, regional food ways like BBQ, you assert a cultural identity and ensure the continuation of your “people” and your way of life.  Or as Reed puts it in the Indy article:
The tie to geography, particularly in North Carolina, overlays rivalries between the east and the Piedmont. Differing economies, settlement patterns, plantation systems (or the lack thereof), and differences in the European and African migrations to areas of the state all play a role in these identities. In some ways, arguing about what makes barbecue stands in as a proxy for fighting about other things. The Texas-North Carolina smoked meat rivalry indicates this on a regional level. The reason for the relatively recent bubbling up of these arguments might be due to the increasing homogenization of other aspects of American cultural life. Barbecue—at least good barbecue that pays homage to local traditions—can still stand for a place.
In Northeastern North Carolina, when we insist that pulled pork doused in a vinegar-based sauce is the only “right” way to eat BBQ, we are defining ourselves as a distinct community, one that is united by food dogma.    In standing together in the name of vinegar, we are assured we will survive even as those Piedmont hooligans hurl tomato-based BBQ sauce (though, to be accurate, there is still vinegar in the bbq sauces that have tomato in them) at us and threaten to blow up our forts and smash down our walls and run away with our women and children…dissolving the tribe and killing off a simpler, sweeter way of life, even if that way of life doesn’t actually even exist anymore.
And while I strongly encourage you to keep a critical eye on the food and drink that is being presented to us (remember, just because the food or drink was made here or someone won a national award or the News & Observer constantly praises it doesn’t automatically mean it’s all that great), I at the same time believe that biology, history and our taste buds demand that we take these deep dives into all those old Southern food ways.  Let’s all eat, drink and be merry as we continue to analyze and dissect what “local” and “authentic” means.
But don’t get too damn merry.
Don’t forget, we still need to talk about race and class in culinary history and local food ways and take a look at who gets access to all of these fancy breads and heirloom this and heritage that and free-range fried chicken.  I mean, everyone deserves good food, don’t they?  Let’s keep that in mind as we slap each other on the back for getting a write-up in some national magazine – ask WHO is getting to reconnect with where their food comes from.  Will it just be middle-class, educated white folks who like to run marathons and sport cool glasses and interesting tattoos who can afford or are willing to pay $11.00 for a pound of house-ground, heritage-hog chorizo and $16 a bowl for artisanal grits and $12 an ounce for sunflower micro greens while they sit in a refurbished cotton mill and sip a $9 craft brew made with local hops?  Is this where culinary nostalgia inevitably leads and leaves us?  Sweet God have mercy, I hope not.
Ask what the hog can do for you, but what can you do for the hog.

Ask what the hog can do for you, but what can you do for the hog.

Latest food review for Indy Week: “At An, a Rhubarb Cake Provides a Meal’s Perfect Conclusion”

by Angela Perez

I am often asked what is my favorite restaurant in the Triangle.  I have a few, and An, an Asian/Southern fusion restaurant in Cary, is certainly one of them. Ask me directly if you want to know what the others are (I’ll whisper them in your ear).  And I do love giving restaurant recommendations.
Here, in my latest food article in the Indy Week, I relay to you a revelation –
what does an exquisite french pastry named after gold bars have to do with a Japanese kanzuri paste made from chilis that have fermented under snow for three years?
Ah! You shall soon find out…

Just click here to go the article in the Indy.

Chili peppers are fermented in snow in Japan for three years to make kanzuri paste.

Chili peppers are fermented in snow in Japan for three years to make kanzuri paste.

 

For those days when you think to yourself, “I am not an artist. I am not a writer. I am not a musician. I suck. I got…nothin’. Michelangelo bitched harder than you ever have.

“Awwww fuuuuck,” said this Raleigh guy to me.  “I’m no musician.  We never got anywhere.  Some homemade records and a few middle-aged aging hipsters who still come to see our shows.  I’m no musician.”

One barista/poet/nanny/part-time jewelry maker who works for a coffee shop downtown cried in her espresso and exclaimed to me:  “”I am no writer.  I ain’t an artist of no kind. To turn a phrase.”

For those creative types who sometimes languish bereft, or stand as a vault wrenched, slashed open, scavenged and silent inside.  Are ya’ gaping to the world with nothing to offer??

Despair not!  Elation, self-satisfaction, and satiety will soon follow if you just keep on keepin’ on.  Aw shucks, it’s just the human condition got you down temporarily.  It’ll come back to you and you will, once again, be that thing that makes you perfectly comfortable and miserable in your own skin.  I mean, Jesus, even Michelangelo bitched about losing his creative spirit – bogged down by the day-to-day and the failings of his skin sack.   But don’t take my word for, read the Master’s own poem – yes, he was a poet.

Even ole' Mickey had bitch and whine sessions with his buds when his creative spirit was low and his back ached and he felt flabby in his skin sack.

Even ole’ Mickey had bitch and whine sessions with his buds when his creative spirit was low and his back ached and he felt flabby in his skin sack.

Michelangelo: To Giovanni da Pistoia
“When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel”
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@—1509

I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water’s poison).
My stomach’s squashed under my chin, my beard’s
pointing at heaven, my brain’s crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpy’s. My brush,
above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!

My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me, my spine’s
all knotted from folding over itself.
I’m bent taut as a Syrian bow.

Because I’m stuck like this, my thoughts
are crazy, perfidious tripe:
anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.

My painting is dead.
Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor.
I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.

That time I had a spinal tap in Budapest and how cauliflower recently made me contemplate suicide.

I’ve lost 9 pounds in about two weeks since I changed up some things in eating.  But enough about all that good news.

Last Friday, I bawled and sniffled and sobbed for a couple of hours.    Doomed!  Dying!  Brazen!  If you aren’t sinning – and that includes with food and drink – then you aren’t living.  That’s been my motto for a quarter of century.   Now, here in my 40s, I have to reduce the epically pointless purpose of the universe down to something I can manage that will also allow me to cling to this paltry planet for a few more years.   It will be through fun low-carb cauliflower soup recipes, right?  KILL ME RIGHT FUCKING NOW.

So, last week, the tears came out of nowhere after an easy meeting with a colleague.  Said meeting wasn’t stressful but I could feel myself distracted.   Thinking about the pills I now have to take to control the diabetes my doc diagnosed me with a couple of weeks ago.   Just a few minutes after the meeting in my office, I looked out the window as a little bird flitted past and the damn broke.

The stress of being told I have a disease and then figuring out how to live with it finally gotten to me.  Sure, sure…I know, it will all be fine.  A million people live with it and have happy happy lives.  But I need some time to accept the diagnosis of a disease and one that, if not handled properly, can lead to a lot of bad, bad things.

Gin!

After crying for a while, I realized that, in some ways, it’s the best thing to happen to me in a long time.   My relationship with food has to change.  That relationship is bound up in my ideas about adventure, about pleasure through the work of brilliant chefs, of a lifestyle of good, rich eating and drinking with no limits.  No accounting for calories, carbs, alcohol poisoning etc.  because somehow that makes the whole endeavor seem less of an adventure and more of a chore.  The side effect of that has been to gain more and more weight every year and to exercise less and less.   I FUCKING HATE EXERCISING.  There, I said it.  But somehow, every fat person I know who got thin now joyfully runs marathons and bought a $3,000 bike.  So there must be something to it, some path to joyful sweating (can’t that just be sex??) where you join up with other fit people who share your hobby and talk about chaffing and learn a new lingo.    When I have lost weight in the past, I worked out in the gym 5 – 6 days a week.  I never loved it.  But I knew I had to.  What I loved was how sculpted my muscles got, but I didn’t have a lick of fun achieving those sexy ripples.

Nowadays I must count the carbs of everything that goes into my body.  Whoa Nelly, I never knew how loaded everything on the planet that’s edible is loaded with sugars – either natural or processed.  For someone who now should only have about 40 – 50 grams of carbs per meal, I discovered that an apple cinnamon bagel has 51 grams and no nutritional value.  That’s the thing, even if I blow my carb load on something tasty, I now need to think about how much nutritional value it packs. [NOTE – this switching to 40 – 50 grams of carbs per meal really has worked for me – I haven’t veered from those numbers and I have lost almost 10 pounds in 2 weeks.  If that will continue, I really don’t know.  But I’ve been working very closely with my doctor on this and all is well so far.]

But here’s the rub – while this seems really difficult to me, I am discovering that there are a lot of healthy people without diabetes who live like this every day – just so they can be thin and feel good and end up with a disease where they might go blind or have their left foot amputated.

WHO FUCKING KNEW?!?

Even in my healthiest, thinnest days, my svelteness could be attributed to alcohol, lots of walking, and cigarettes.   Even when I was counting calories and fat, I wasn’t thinking much about nutrition.  Just how to stay within my allotted numbers and not suffer.

These past two weeks I fell into a deep depression, thinking that I was doomed to raw veggies and stir-fry.  I just didn’t know what was low-carb or how to cook low-carb beyond that.

But now I’m learning.  For my birthday, a friend gave me a Paleo cookbook (the Paleo way of cooking, for the most part, works well for diabetics who need to cut the bread and pasta our of their lives.  Though, the Paleo folks who don’t have diabetes seem to make the food so yummy by using a lot of high-carb veggies).  I went over to Quail Ridge books and found that there is, in fact, a diabetic cooking section (ah!  I’m not the only one dealing with this fucking thing).  And so begins the foray into how to cook well with an eye towards not spiking my blood sugar and cutting out the high-carb stuff.

I’m in my 40s now.  I don’t feel invincible like I did in my 20s and 30s – and I wreaked havoc on my body and partied like a lunatic for all those years.   Once, during my mid-20s, while studying in Budapest, Hungary (I lived there for over 2 years),  I was partying so much at the local dive bar taverns with my best Hungarian friend Agnes that I had to go into the hospital there.  Actually, Agnes was my roommate and she only partied with me part of the time.  I was too debauched for most Hungarian female students so I had to find some hard-drinking boys to hang with.  They are easy to come by in Eastern Europe, thought, they don’t always have all of their teeth.

The over-the-top debauchery and lack of eating anything by goulash led me to a major vitamin deficiency and I had to be hospitalized.  For some reason, a spinal tap was ordered.    Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve had a spinal tap in a communist-era hospital (well, it was right after communism but the architecture was still all-Stalin.   I remember the actual spinal tap.  I sat in the middle of a dreary, bleak room.  The doc, a young fella who spoke only broken English, told me to take off my top, and sit backwards on the metal chair.  There in that cold, empty room he proceeded to prod deep into my spine with a massive needle more than once (he said he couldn’t quite get to the fluid) – the pain was so excruciating that I screamed out “FUUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOOOOOU” for about two minutes and then wailed for a bit and then decided to shut up because perhaps he might just hate Americans and be fucking with me on purpose.  Americans, in their Tevas and Washington Redskins t-shirts, are not well-loved in much of Eastern Europe, no matter what you might think.

The site of my first and only spinal tap. I lived in Budapest for over two years and also returned back there to work for several months. Between the Bull's Blood and the cheap apricot brandy, I almost caught up with the Hungarian drinking habits before my body gave out. I'm good, but I ain't that good.

The site of my first and only spinal tap. I lived in Budapest for over two years and also returned back there to work for several months. Between the Bull’s Blood and the cheap apricot brandy, I almost caught up with the Hungarian drinking habits before my body gave out. I’m good, but I ain’t that good.

After the spinal tap, I was wheeled into a room on a squeaky cart and told I had to lay completely flat, not even lifting my head, for 24 hours.  Not a problem unless you are sharing a room with an insane old woman named Marta who screams incessantly something about a dog named Jozsi and how she doesn’t have all the right ingredients to make Hortobágyi palacsinta (Hungarian crepes made with veal and a creamy paprika sauce – they are my favorite Hungarian dish).

That night, the batteries in my Sony Walkman  started to die just as the old lady began a new round of especially loud screaming.   The only CD I had with me was U2s “Zooropa” and, as the music slowed waaaaay down until there was nothing left to hear but the long, muddy warbling of Bono, I felt my only tether to sanity slipping away.  It was then that I decided to slow down the partying and drink less Bull’s Blood (that was the name of the wine me and my fellow Hungarian students swilled by the gallon.  It cost roughly the equivalent of a $2.00 a bottle and it was damned good.)

Long story short, the partying and wild times, well, I’ve had a good time doing it all.  God knows I have.   The thing is, not only can I NOT live like that anymore.  I just don’t want to.  Honestly, it bores the hell out of me.    But so does raw bell pepper and measuring out almond flour by the tablespoon full.   So, I’ve got to find a way to make this new relationship with food and drink just as interesting and exciting as my other relationships with food and drink.

I shall become a brilliant chef of all things low-carb.  Sexy food photos to follow.  I won’t preach about it or proselytize – I’ll just share my journey.   For those of you who are contemplating changes in diet and health, I’ll tell you this – no one – NO ONE – is less inclined to a mostly veggie diet than me.  But there’s got to be a way to make this work.

Oh Bojangles!  I miss you!  But a cute little black dress from Neiman Marcus needs me!

Oreo Blizzard from Sonic!  Sayonara!  But a bikini calls me.

Food porn and shopping porn to follow.  Ciao, my lovelies.

Oh gin-soaked revelries.  Adieu!

 

Fried okra and pastel green ambrosia salad made with Cool Whip tastes good.

Some Fridays, all you gotta do is go to the Forks cafeteria in Wake Forest, NC and wait on your hot and crispy fried okra. Because it goes so good with stewed chicken and pillows of pastry, cabbage flecked with salty hunks of pork, and dreamy fluffs of ambrosia salad made with Cool Whip. Ah! As I feast, I sit near the food line because oh how I love hearing old Southern folks order: “I’ll have the field peas and turnip greens, please, ma’am.”