Sunday, April 5, 2009

Getting in Touch with Your Inner Redneck

We love it down here. Why move to a place you don’t love? We could have moved to any one of the 50 states but we chose Virginia. And so we embraced it. I promptly set all the dials on the radios to Super Country and ordered a subscription to Progressive Farmer. I started watching RFD-TV, just so I could learn the ins and outs of important things like steam engines and corn chowder and square dancing. I planted a garden and made Pearl promise to tell me if she saw me doing something wrong. “Don’t be shy now,” I told her. “I don’t know what I’m doing.” That was an understatement—the only thing I ever planted before was a hyacinth I got on Easter. It came in a plastic pot wrapped in pink foil. It was dead by Mother’s Day.

In addition to the proper reading material and music, and a good garden full of turnip greens, in order to get the full southern experience, one’s activities should include: listening to bluegrass music down at the Dairy Queen; shopping at Wal-Mart (that’s a given); attending the Moonshiner’s Jamboree; and going to a pig roast where the pork will be served with cold slaw on a hamburger bun.

You should go to church and say “Amen” out loud when the preacher recites something you find particularly meaningful. Don’t say it half-heartedly like you don’t really mean it or you’re going to take it back if the wind changes direction. No. Bellow it out to show your agreement with whatever it was Pastor Lonnie said that was so inspiring. Say it like you’re mad and nod with conviction. It’s a very heady experience. Next thing you know, you will consider joining the choir and maybe even getting saved. All very southern acts.

You should take advantage of the pancake supper down at the firehouse, almost as good as ordering a pizza, which is impossible to do in the country. Never again will you be able to stomp into the house dead tired, shaking with hunger, kick your shoes off and walk zombie-like to the phone, where you will dial Tony’s Pizza, on speed dial, and order a large pie with pepperoni and extra cheese that will appear at your door in twenty minutes flat. Nope. You’re getting pancakes. Or frozen pizzas and sandwiches on those nights you can’t bear to cook and thank God, that at least, you can get Thumann’s cold-cuts around here. Because your delivery days are over sister.

Shooting guns is required. Even if you’re against killing animals like I am, just shoot the gun at a tree or something. Or the rifle or whatever it is. Any of these things will put you in touch with your inner redneck.

You can also go see NASCAR.

Now that’s the grand poobah of all southern experiences. Listen, I’ll admit it takes a lot to float my boat. I’m the one who fell asleep at the circus during a presentation of humans being shot out of cannons. I’ve seen a lot in my life. Perhaps I’ve seen it all. So maybe I’m hard to please. There were 63,000 people there. 63,000 people can’t be wrong. But, truth be told, I just don’t get it. And perhaps, if I cannot appreciate the roar of the engines on a half-mile track surrounded by beer guzzling fans giving the finger to and throwing cans at the drivers who pass that aren’t theirs, I will never fully assimilate.

I admit, the first hundred laps were exciting. You see all the people that are on TV and I thought I caught a glimpse of Jeff Gordon’s arm through the car window and I could swear Junior waved at me. There are big screen TVs like at concerts and pit crews all decked out in their sponsors’ colors and they go running out there and change the tires lickety-split just like you see on ESPN and then the race car guy peels out.

The last hundred laps were also good because I could finally figure out what was going on. I perked up when I realized my guy was vying for the lead. Kelly and I picked Jimmie Johnson because he wears a cowboy hat. I found out his number was 48 and kept an eye on his car so I wouldn’t lose track even though it was making me dizzy. But I kept getting distracted by the Lowe’s logo. I made a mental note in my head of everything I need and they just sent out one of those no-interest-no-payments coupons so I might as well get that screen door I’ve been thinking of and a new light fixture for the dining room while I’m at it. I’m also out of bug spray and I need bone meal and weed-and-feed and some black paint for my wagon wheels. Then I saw the bullseye on the Target car and I remembered I wanted to get some new curtains for the bedroom and perhaps one of those vases covered in mosaic made out of broken mirrors and a leather ottoman shaped like a cube that you can put a tray on with drinks and cheese-and-crackers like I saw on Design on a Dime. Fantasy shopping and watching my guy maneuver himself into first place kept me busy for a while.

Kurt’s guy was in eighth place. Kurt likes Dale Jr. because he used to root for his father so he just switched over to the kid because he’s a loyal kind of guy. I don’t know who the rest of our group wanted but I suspect it was also Junior because that’s who everybody goes for around here. People have his number decaled on their car windows, on flags flapping from their porch railings, draped over mailboxes and on t-shirts, jackets and caps. Someone even wrote a book called St. Dale and if he isn’t a God, he might as well be, for all the worshipping the locals do. And southern fans can be rabid, let me tell you. Just so you know, it would be in your best interests, especially if you’re trying to fit in, not to bring the subject up if you are voting for someone else due to a cowboy hat or cute buns or because you saw him on Regis and Kelly (which is why I almost chose Jeff Gordon). I would keep a lid on it. Kind of like religion and politics. Some things you shouldn’t talk about if you want any friends. At least in the south.

Anyway, it was the middle three hundred laps that almost put me in a coma. I couldn’t tell what the heck was going on and I couldn’t ask anybody because you couldn’t hear anything. Even if you scream in your husband’s ear and make motions like you know sign language. He’ll just look at you, shrug his shoulders, and keep smiling. Even if you get up and climb over everybody to go out to the concession stands. If you want a Dr. Pepper, you have to point. Mouths were moving but nothing was coming out. So I couldn’t ask a question. Like, how can you tell who is in front? How come they keep stopping the race? Do they keep their same positions when it starts up again? And is it safe to cheer when Number 48 goes by?

When the race was over, I did hear something. The woman behind me leaned over, practically climbed onto our laps, and said, “Jimmie Johnson’s a loser.”

When I told Kurt what she said when we were walking out to the car, he laughed and said, “Did you tell her ‘not today?’” (For those of you not from around these parts and don't know because you couldn't care less, Johnson won the race.)

Nah. What’s the point of arguing with a class act like that? Luckily she’s not the typical southern experience. One of the ladies in the long line for the bathroom saw me dancing from foot to foot (that irritable bladder, you know) and she insisted that I take her place in line. That’s what I embrace. That’s why I love this place. And the pig roasts.


Becky Mushko said...

You so have to read Sharyn McCrumb's St. Dale! It's actually The Canterbury Tales with a NASCAR slant.

It's really good redneck literary fiction.

The Blue Ridge Gal said...

Ya... sure wish I could get into this Virginia 'stuff', but sorry to say it is just waaaay to redneck for our household. It's a beautiful place to live, but I sure miss doing the more refined city folk

The Blue Ridge Gal

Tanya said...

Oh I love each of your stories! For a super fun Nascar experience, the perfect place is the infield at Atlanta Speedway. So much to see and do, redneck mecca. During that boring middle part of the race we would drive around on a golf cart and see everyone's little camping displays. You wouldn't believe the things we saw. It's addicting, I love being there! We went to Martinsville in the fall, much different experience but still had a blast. I have 1 child who loves Jeff Gordon, and the other 3 are Dale Jr fans. My daughter got Tony Stewart to sign her jersey in Atl, and he was a major jerk about it so she can't stand him lol. Jimmie Johnson is from my hometown, El Cajon, so go Jimmie...he's hardly a loser, yes, class act she is!

Cynda said...

That's just how it is. That's why I don't say who my driver is in public because the last time I thought a lady was gonna whup my butt! Sheesh.

Woo hoo, Jimmie Johnson!

sweetflutterbys3 said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I miss all that redneck stuff, if you can believe it. Being stuck up here in PA, I now I have to live it through my brother who luckily for him lives in VA and is one of those rabid NASCAR fans (he likes Tony Stewart- shhhh, don't tell anyone!) :)

CountryDew said...

I confess I don't get the NASCAR thing either. I used to try and have been to several races, but after a while I gave up trying to keep up with it. I barely know who is running these days. Mostly I know that in this house you don't root for someone who drives a Chevy; it has to be Ford (and lately Toyota seems to be okay).

Since my husband will dutifully follow me to a poetry reading at the college, I sometimes go to the races. It's a trade off thing.

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Dew, I know, isn't that funny how people have favorite kinds of cars? I'm a Mopar girl myself. But truth be told, I'll take anything that'll pull a horse trailer, lol.

Thanks everyone for your comments! And Becky, isn't that an oxymoron--redneck literary fiction? lol said...

I guess I will never willingly go to a NASCAR race. But I figure all those other guys and gals must know something I don't know. Maybe I would like it if I tried it, just like Green eggs and ham. Thanks for sharing such a funny story! Hope you guys are well over there.

colleen said...

Wonderfully written.

I just don't get NSCAR either and it took me 15 years to like country music but now I do.

Becky Mushko said...

Hey, redneck literary fiction is a small but distinct genre (says one who used to write redneck social commentary).

Beth said...

Well, I'm definitely a certified Southern girl from way back (with certain redneck proclivities), but I don't get into the NASCAR thing either. Too loud...and a little too expensive for my blue-collar pocketbook.

Jeff said...

I don't get it, either. When I was a kid, I loved to listen to the Indy 500 on the radio at my grandmother's, but as I got older, I lost interest. Must be something wrong with me! Oh, well .... Does that mean I shouldn't build on my land in Floyd County? Nah - don't think so - there is more to Floyd County than pancake breakfasts (sounds yummy!) and NASCAR fans.

Amy Tate said...

LOL!!!!!!! You crack me up. At least you weren't sitting in the chicken bone section. Last time I went to a Martinsville race, I had bones thrown all over me.

Motley said...

Hey Deb, I don't get what the big fuss is either. All day long - go fast - turn left! Big woop. Nascar this Nascar that - I CAN'T TAKE IT!! I'm glad I'm not into it.


ps - GO JUNIOR!!!!!

Motley said...

By the way, Jimmy Johnson IS a LOSER!!!!!!!!

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Very funny Motley.

Marion said...

Last year, I saw a notice on my Kroger grocery receipt that if I called an 800# within so many hours, I would get two tickets for the Martinsville race. Yeah, sure, but I did call, and they sent me two $40+ tickets, really good seats too. We went, and it was hot and dusty and grueling (that was before the actual race!)and exciting but then booooorrrrring, and we left a bit early because of the gazillion cars we knew would be peeling out of the parking lots.
We ended up at Applebee's (HI, Amy!) and watched the end of the race in A/C comfort.