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.
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.
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? well...me. 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|
|re-imagined old opry houses (now housing lions club bingo on saturday nights)|
|abandoned school buses serving as home|
|amish farms and stores|
|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|
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!|