Saturday, July 21, 2012

places, part two

my friends look at this picture of me pretending to ride a four wheeler in the field of kathy's house in greencastle, mo., and they say, "that looks like you being you". and yet this picture could not be further from my life here in los angeles.  i DID actually learn how to drive the thing, mind you, and it was quite a bit of fun to tear around the mowed hay field in the back yard of the house.  but i hear what my friends were saying.  they were not commenting on the context of the photo, they were commenting on me, within the photo.  they were commenting on how i look just like me, even in different surroundings.

well, duh.

i suspect that they were expecting to see me in overalls, sporting a kerchief and straw hat.  but the truth is that i have a pretty agreeable self-presentation that requires very little altering from situation to situation.  the way that you see me in the picture above is how i might also look one day at work, or how i might look one day at the movies--you get the idea.  i do know of gay men who have their "work clothes" and their "play clothes", but goodie for me, my outfits are pretty interchangeable.  

and yet there is something different about me in the photo, and that would be the place.  i don't often find myself driving a four wheeler in a hay field in greencastle, mo. and so, despite the recognizable presentation in the photo, i am not, actually, me being me.  i am, instead, me being me in a small town, while on vacation, and that was a nice me to experience.

the me that i experienced in greencastle was not subject to the anxiety i encounter here in los angeles as soon as i leave my apartment.  on the contrary, i looked forward to venturing outside of kathy's home and into the surrounding neighborhood.  rather than looking at the ground and guarding myself against interaction, i noticed that i was looking up, and meeting the gaze of passing motorists, who then gave me the finger.  no, not what you are thinking, but rather the raised finger or two of the hand on the steering wheel, indicating an acknowledgement and a greeting in one economic gesture.

drivers in los angeles do not give the fingerwave.  believe me when i tell you this.  but even if they did, i would not notice it, because i don't look at drivers when i am walking in l.a.  there are too damn many of them, and they are not looking at me.  but in greencastle, mo., there are very few drivers, so when one of them passes you by, you take a look, because they are taking a look at you.  that's the way it goes back there, and it's not a bad way to go about your day.  not a bad way at all.

in greencastle, as in green city, the neighboring town, i looked up and around when i walked about, and i was reminded of who i was as a child, constantly curious, endlessly innocent, forever wondering, fantastically imagining.  i had nearly forgotten that me.

there were so many things to look at that are different from what i see in los angeles:

beautiful old houses in varying degrees of upkeep

i was told that i could buy a house like the ones above for around $15,000, and that is why people who are retired so often retire in places like this.  i mean, who wouldn't?  but i am not so sure.  other than being missed at church, i am sure that if i were to retire in a place like this, i would pretty much resemble most of the other "old folks" in town, with the exception that i would have better furniture, music, and clothes.

never ending country roads
riding a bike, believe it or not, would be more hazardous here than in the big city, primarily due to the lack of width of the roads and lack of shoulder.  in addition, at night few of these roads are lit, as you can see by the lack of street lights in the pic above.  my little powerful bike lights wouldn't stand a chance against the country darkness and the big rigs.

re-imagined old opry houses (now housing lions club bingo on saturday nights)

abandoned school buses serving as home
i actually saw a confederate flag in one "yard", which amused me more than it surprised me.  i can say that there is a lot of "white trash" there because there is even more "white trash" in los angeles.  in los angeles the trash just masquerades as reality show stars.

amish farms and stores
believe it or not, i bought a few of the pamphlets sold at the amish stores, primarily for "research", and i am sure that i will soon write a post about how sensible i actually think their way of living is--minus the whole god part.  i bought some gifts for my friends back home.

small town main streets that had seen better days

abandoned theaters (this one now serving as a private residence)

lots of tractors

rows of mailboxes

rustic beauty
as i wandered and wandered, camera in hand, i imagined who i might have been if i had been raised in towns like these--small, sidewalk-less, traditional.  and as i wandered and wandered, i imagined who i might be if i were to currently live in towns like these.  my imagination ran wild, i have to say, and i like where it took me.  i liked the me i imagined in these towns, while realizing that the town in my imagination would not be the town that perhaps existed behind the doors of these century old homes and rustic windows.  but i must tell you that what is important here is not that i would ever consider living in towns this size, because i wouldn't, as mentioned in the previous post, but that i was able to connect with the less guarded, more imaginative and adventurous person i remembered from so many years ago.  i was able to connect with the me that nods at passing drivers, and says "hello" to people i pass on walks. it sounds hokey, but it was a relief for me to have an experience of myself apart from my "social anxiety" and aggressive stance in the world.  little did i realize that by traveling back to missouri, i would not only revisit memories of my childhood, i would also revisit myself.


here is the thing about a "response" that one has to life.  we can't help but wonder if that response is a permanent change, or merely a layer on top of the base.  i do have the opinion that both cases occur.  have you ever seen a loony old person and wondered to yourself who they were 40, 50, maybe 60 years ago?  well, i have.  and in the middle of that wondering, i find myself thinking about what happened to them that caused them to journey down the road toward looniness.  could they have chosen differently?

i would like to think that my choice to leave los angeles is the opportunity to take myself off the road to looniness.  besides having a wonderful vacation, my time in missouri showed me that i still have the chance to choose.  good to know.

"fourth of july" parade baby.  adorable!


  1. Those off roader vehicles are so much fun. I remember going on one of them in New Zealand. Looks like you had a relaxing trip but I wonder how accepting they are there of LGBT folks and what it would be like to come out in a place like that?

  2. yisraela, thanks for weighing in! as you suspect, the midwest is not very welcoming to lgbt, though my cousin kathy did tell me that there was a lesbian couple living nearby. of course, gay men, as we know, are targeted much more by society than lesbians, so there you go. my sense from blogger friends who do not live in big cities is that regular lgbt folks in smaller towns are usually just considered the same as everyone else--private business is private business. still, i don't know that i would feel completely safe.

  3. I enjoyed reading your blog Tony. I'm not sure I could ever move to a small town (Laredo, San Antonio or even Las Vegas) but you describe Greencastle so on target that I felt I was walking down those country roads too.


    1. thanks, ro! that is the best compliment i could imagine hearing! yeah, you and me need to be in slightly larger places, for sure.

  4. I think living in the LA area, we tend to suppress the "me being me" because no one thinks others want to see that. We have to have the right clothes, the right accessories, the right car, etc. etc. so we've learned to erect a false "me". But when you go someplace else, the "me" we want has an easier time to show; you're relaxing, letting your guard down and being yourself.

    That's why vacations were invented. I think I would go crazy if I didn't get away from SoCal every so often.

    1. great comment, greg! the thing is that i don't feel i show a "false" me, i just don't show "me being me", except to my trusted circle! everyone else gets the look of "stay the fuck away!". my co-workers know that look--it is the one i give customers! i could give a shit about image at this point--one of the benefits of being older, but i do care about looking good because it makes me feel good about myself. the way i look reflects how i feel inside, to simplify. i notice that i have stopped buying second hand clothes as my self-image has improved. ha!

      interesting take on vacations. sometimes i go on vaca in order to explore certain extreme aspects of me. i think some people go to get away from who they are. hmmm.

  5. I think you are leaving LA just in time!! I don't think you'd be a 'loony' if you stayed but just another of the many 'robots' that roam big cities.

    You know Tony, the first part of your post read like you had been in 'prison' for a very long time and you had just 'gotten out'! You remembered things about yourself from your past. It was like you have been 'numb' for so long and the 'feelings' began to come back as soon as you revisited a childhood place.

    This is a very interesting 'study' and to me actually quite alarming to think that we can get so distanced from whom we really are and need to be to feel any sense of being 'alive'.

    I know you are ready now to leave this LA life behind you.

    That first photo of you is fantastic!! How old did you say you were?! lol

    1. well, jim, some people would disagree with you that i am not already loony! mostly i feel that my spirit would just wither and die. i think that people go loony as a way to keep that from happening. neither one is a good option. and sometimes it feels like a sunny prison here, but rather than being "numb", i am mostly "sad". tired of being sad. your comments are so thoughtful, and i love your contribution to my dialogue. wish you were closer so that we could get some coffee and visit! and the pic? well, it was fun. and for some reason, i stay youthful as i approach 50. i like to say that giving up catholic guilt will take years off of your age. :-)

  6. small town living; we all love and applaud it, but it is very hard to actually live in one.

    1. i will take your word on that!! some things i do NOT have to experience...