Friday, August 27, 2010

forever young

do you really want to live forever?

My grandmother--Grandmother Shirley, the coal miner's wife, the stubborn Midwestern spitfire, the fixer of mashed potatoes and conquerer of crossword puzzles, a woman who loves Wild Turkey and Lifetime movies and her family, the woman who raised her only child to be my incredible father--is coming to the end of her life.

That tough old bird was diagnosed with lung cancer and given six months to live. That was five years ago. The cancer hasn't put too much of a crimp on her style, but she does hate the oxygen she's had to wear for the last few months. She just stopped mowing her own acre+ yard recently.

After her first round of chemo in years yesterday, she passed out in the passenger seat on the way home. Her blood CO2 levels are far beyond what would be fatal for most people. They revived her quickly and now she's awake and alert, joking with us over the phone. But her CO2 levels aren't budging. She says she's ready to go and the time is near. The doctors don't disagree. She says she isn't afraid to die, just afraid to suffer.

Daddy's on his way up right now. Mama and I are taking things minute-to-minute, trying to decide what on earth to do, given that I am supposed to leave for Boston in less than 48 hours. When it rains, it 500-year floods.

at my cousin Matthew's wedding in 2008. from left, my cousin Jeannie, Grandmother Shirley, my mother. my father is above.

I'm not a pray-er but I am a believer in positive vibes. Send your warm thoughts up to Northern Missouri right now to my Daddy and my Grandmother Shirley and our whole family as we celebrate the hell out of a life lived well.

Discussion Question:
If death is a part of life, why is it so hard to let the people we love go?

you got a fast car: drivin through the mountains

Nick and I made it out of town around noon Monday, headed due west on I-40. I love how quickly the familiar Tennessee Valley gives way to hills and then mountains. For whatever reason I spent half the ride in a truly venomous mood, irritated with Nick and with the dog's incessantly digging toenails. Luckily, a first screening of Eminem's fantastic new album did much to rescue me from my aimless ire, as did a stop in Knoxville to inhale Zaxby's in the parking lot and talk endless shit about how totally unappealing Knoxville is.

Towards Asheville, the mountains began to rise impossibly out of the ground straight up for the sky, like the trees were rooted in each other's branches.

me and Boudreaux

Nick and Boudreaux

What if Boudreaux was the same size as us?

We reached our roadside motel around dinner time and lazily spent the evening eating Italian takeout and indulging in cable TV. I have to admit that the motel is delightful. Our room faced the backyard, which featured grills and picnic tables and a horseshoe pit and a pool and two massive poles that stretched up and up to hold a huge Exxon sign that bathed the yard in a soft blue light at night. Boudreaux in particular loved the motel's resident bunnies, which scampered across the grounds silently throughout the night.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that does not look like an Exxon.

I hope you brought your own horseshoes.

Boudreaux says: Can't talk now, mom; there are bunnies.

Since we were due at Edisto Beach early afternoon, we got up early Tuesday to hit the road. Before Nick got up, I walked down to the breakfast buffet. Feeling virtuous, I passed over the pastries in favor of a big bowl of oatmeal and a few apples stashed in my purse for the road. Then I poured myself a bowl of Froot Loops and inhaled it standing up, since everyone knows it doesn't count if you're standing up.

Nick should have had more Froot Loops.

We drove southeast on 26 out of North Carolina and straight through South Carolina. The mountains rolled and rolled into hills and finally level coastal ground. We stopped for half a peck of peaches at a farm stand. The peaches are gorgeous, like jewels. While standing in the shade outside with Boudreaux, I am 90% sure I was solicited for sex. What kind of prostitute wears wicking clothes and brings her dog along? Apparently they do things a little differently in South Carolina.

We also stopped at a Piggly Wiggly for some groceries. All the signs inside were hand drawn with considerable panache. When I complimented the manager and told him it had been ages since I'd been in a store with handmade signs, he smiled and asked, "What do you mean?"

I found a pink Silly Band in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot that is shaped like god knows. Of course, I added it to my collection. Facebook blew up with suggestions, and though many were hilarious, none really convinced me.

A parrot? George Jetson's hair?

After that, it was a long flat empty drive to Edisto Beach State Park.

NEXT TIME: Setting up camp

Discussion Question:
wtf is that Silly Band??

* * * * *

This is part four in my series about my August of Camping and Tramping.

one: we're on the road to nowhere
two: "Spectacles in the Surf: Seeing and Not Seeing on the DePalma Family Vacation"
three: miles covered
four: you got a fast car: drivin through the mountains

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

miles covered

I'm sorry but this song is still incredible.

I can't believe our August of Camping and Tramping is already over! We got back to Nashville yesterday, and Nick and I are both recovering and being spoiled at our parents' houses for a few days before we LEAVE FOR BOSTON SUNDAY!

How about some trip stats?

Miles traveled: 4,004
Days traveling: 26
Hours driving: 72+
Route: Atlanta, GA to Franklin, TN to Edisto Beach, SC to Franklin, TN to Jefferson National Forest, VA to Shaker Village, KY to Charleston, WV to Shenandoah National Forest, VA to Hatteras, NC to Emerald Isle, NC to Wilmington, NC to Conway, SC to Atlanta, GA to Franklin TN

This balls-out crazy trip surpasses our former record-breaking trips: Atlanta to NYC to Atlanta (1760 miles/30 hours) and Austin to Nashville to Chicago [to Berlin via plane] to Nashville to Austin (2682 miles/44 hours, not counting the plane trip to Berlin). We love to drive but even we have to admit that this was a little nuts. But my LORD was it fun!

As you can imagine, I have a lot of posting to do about our adventures! I'll be getting stuff up one post at a time over the next few weeks. Now that I've learned to use Blogger's handy-dandy blog-scheduling tool, with any luck I'll have blogs posting even after we leave for Boston Sunday. Have I mentioned that I'm moving to Boston on Sunday? I digress. If you want a little ~sneak peek~ of our adventures, check out my flickr for lots of pictures.

Stay tuned for all kinds of assorted fun.

Discussion Question:
What is the longest road trip you've ever taken?

* * * * *

This is part three in my series about my August of Camping and Tramping.

one: we're on the road to nowhere
two: "Spectacles in the Surf: Seeing and Not Seeing on the DePalma Family Vacation"
three: miles covered
four: you got a fast car: drivin through the mountains

Friday, August 13, 2010

"Spectacles in the Surf: Seeing and Not Seeing on the DePalma Family Vacation"

"The Atlantic is not my Gulf, that much is true. She's choppier and grittier and colder, less inviting--just, I suppose, as she should be. But she's my ocean now."

I was splashing around knee-deep in the water at Edisto Beach when I composed these lines rather dreamily, dragging my fingers through the surf and squinting in the low sun. I got to But she's my ocean now at exactly the moment a three-foot wave overtook me from behind, knocked me off my feet, and swept my glasses from my face.

I grasped after them wildly as the wave pushed me, limbs akimbo, into shore and then sucked me back out again. I caught nothing but fleeting handfuls of churning water and sand.

they were my favorite pair.

I paid enough attention in grad school to understand the symbolism. No one knew about seeing and not seeing like the ancient Greek tragedians. And no one likes to talk at excruciating lengths about the tensions between seeing and not seeing more than classicists.

Remember Tiresias? The prophet from Oedipus the King and Antigone and Seven Against Thebes and lots of other incredible stories?

Sporting a sexy hipster beard on a Lucanian Red-figured calyx-krater c. 380 B.C

The whole thing with Tiresias was that he was blind, but he was a prophet, a seer. He couldn't see but he could see. Get it? Get it??

Get it???

Tiresias is emblematic of a recurring issue in Greek tragedy: is seeing knowing? Is not seeing not knowing?

As I groped half-blind and sopping for the shore, all I could think of was Tiresias. I knew this had to mean something, my new ocean blinding me. Maybe now I can see?

The only other time I've ever lost my glasses in the sea, they came right back to me, washed up at low tide and rescued by an alert lifeguard. I guess that's why I'm not too worried--they'll come back to me one way or another. And anyway, I had the foresight to bring a spare pair with me this time.

You got me this time, Atlantic. But I hope one day we can be friends.

Discussion Question:
When is seeing knowing? When is not seeing knowing?

* * * * *

This is part two in my series about my August of Camping and Tramping.

one: we're on the road to nowhere
two: "Spectacles in the Surf: Seeing and Not Seeing on the DePalma Family Vacation"
three: miles covered
four: you got a fast car: drivin through the mountains

Sunday, August 8, 2010

we're on the road to nowhere

Bangin new music video from Biscuits and Gravy, ie my best friend Emily and her friend Steve.

As many of you know, Nick and Boudreaux and I are celebrating our transition from the Dirty South to Yankeeland by taking a big aimless camping trip this month. Since I know you've all been losing sleep wondering where we were going to go first, I have decided to end your tossing and turning.

Tomorrow morning we're leaving for Asheville, NC, where we will spend one lazy night before making our way to Edisto Beach State Park in South Carolina. We'll be camping for three nights in a tent in a secluded spot in a live oak forest about 1.5 miles from the beach. How did we choose this particular locale? It's the closest place on the Atlantic where we can camp with our dog.

X marks the area we'll be camping in.

We have big nothing planned while we're there. The week will consist of

grilled peaches

sunrises over the beach

Edisto Beach State Park

farm-stand produce

meeting other camping hoboes

Edisto Beach State Park

shish kebabs for every meal

and most importantly

dog butt in the sand

artist rendering of Boudreaux

Wish us luck as we embark on the first 600 miles!

it's gonna be just like this, except with less snuggies and children

Discussion Question:
Where do you want to see Nick and Katie go on their month of Camping and Tramping?

* * * * *

This is part one in my series about my August of Camping and Tramping.

one: we're on the road to nowhere
two: "Spectacles in the Surf: Seeing and Not Seeing on the DePalma Family Vacation"
three: miles covered
four: you got a fast car: drivin through the mountains