I’ve been living down south for a number of years now (for my sins), and it sure is curious to see how different life is down here from up home.
Well, the first thing is, here, there’s seasons, I guess, but you wouldn’t call ’em real seasons, not the way we had ’em growing up. Oh, summer here’s the real thing; you can feel the scorch through the walls and hear the heat crackle even over the roar of the A/C. But back home, when the leaves started turning and there’d be a bite to the air, you’d call it fall and start rushing to top off your woodpile before the snow came. Down here, a few of the trees get sorta dried out and dispirited-looking along about the end of summer, but then again so do I; no shame in it. It’s all of a piece, though, because down here there’s no real winter. Oh, there might be a bit of a blow and a light dusting, but the last time there was anything close to a serious blizzard, the Federal government shut down for a week.
Now let me take a minute and explain something: What I’m doing here is telling a story, which is a lot different than just laying out facts for you. The difference is the same as between listening to the ball game on the radio and just checking the box scores the next morning. You never see the ball either time, but you can sure tell which is which, and for me, I’ll pick the show over the numbers any day of the week.
Sometimes folks tell me I like the show too much, and that if the facts don’t fit just right with the way things oughtta be, I might just stretch ’em a bit. And that’s true, so far as it goes; some of my stories aren’t precisely Gospel — but every one of them’s the truth all the same. They tell me in the old days the announcer would read the game as it happened right off the wire; he could be a thousand miles from the field, but you couldn’t tell. “It’s a high fly to right field… Kaline’s right up by the wall… He’s reaching… and it is OUTTA THERE! Home run!” That game was real as real could be, and so are these stories.
I mention this because some of you might not believe me about the government being closed, but that’s the Lord’s honest truth. Just click here and you’ll see for yourself. Back in Maine, a foot or two of snow won’t even make you late to work in the morning; here in the South, the only people to make it in on time were the Marines. They did their morning run by the Potomac just like every other day, because they’re Marines. Everyone else stayed home and waited for the spring melt — which took about a week.
Hand to God, I watched one guy dig his car out with the kitchen dustpan. Three feet of snow in the parking lot, and he’s out there with this little thing just beavering away, all wrapped up like it was cold or something. He got this trench cleared about eight inches wide all around his car, then cleared the hood, the roof, the windows, and finally the trunk. Went inside to get a brush for his lights, and wouldn’t you know it but the plow picked that minute to go by. Thought he was gonna cry.
Now I can hear you thinking it: Why didn’t you go help him? Well, I could go on about my bad back or that my boots were still thawing by the door, but the truth is, that man just isn’t neighborly. I cannot bring myself to help a fellow who insists on throwing his snow on someone else’s car. Come right down to it, I don’t think there’s any help for him.
And he’s not alone; this place is full of some of the most un-neigborly people imaginable. Some are lawyers; there’s even politicians — but you can’t hold that against ’em; they’ll sue you if you try. No, you knock on a door down here, they won’t offer you to come in and have a cup of coffee. They’re frightened of that knock, terrified to open up. It’s like they think you’ll come in and steal the furniture. Which is probably from Ikea anyway, and if you’ve never heard of that place you’re better off not knowing. But I digress.
The thing I miss most about living in Maine is the kitchens. Down here, a kitchen’s this little closet tacked on to the side of the condo. It’s got a sink, a mini-fridge, and a microwave, and if you want to turn around you’ve got to back out into the hall. Kitchens back home are massive; they have to be, just to hold all the people. They’re the heart of the house, where everyone gets together to sit and talk (and that includes the neighbors!) And let me tell you, come winter, the closer to that old woodstove you get, the happier you are.
I never get tired of comparing here and there and seeing which is better. I’d guess other folks might, though, ’cause they don’t come round to listen so much these days. Which is why I’m picking on you now; you’re so far into reading this I guess you must not know any better. Which is fine by me; back home, I can rely on the icy chill in the rest of the house to keep my audience close. Here, I need an advantage.
There’s just something about telling stories around a fire. Here in the condo, my fire’s on YouTube, the kitchen stove’s electrified, and the neighbors just ain’t neigborly. I tell ya, it’s just not the same.