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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bank Shot

Interestingly, I was nearly dis-invited to Thanksgiving this year for allegedly referring to a relative as being a redneck.
To get the full picture, we need to go back a year. My stepmom's brother Gale had just built himself a gorgeous place out in Lyons, along the Santiam river. He had the whole fam-damnly over; all these people I was related to by marriage, but had never met. I had a great damn time.
The older generation was rather solidly conservative, the younger, rather solidly liberal. They got on well, as people from the same family and same society should. They listened to each other, rather than trying to shout each other down, as one might suspect they would, listening to "talk" radio.
At one point, the patriarch (Gale) said something along the lines of, "Remember what Dad always told us: never forget you're a Holfert." This being the family's last name.
After a brief silence, I said, "Well yeah; if you forget your own last name, then you really look stupid." They all laughed.
What I apparently did happened on my birthday, a month or less later. My stepmom, my dad and I were getting some lunch at Jake's Famous Crawfish, and I (allegedly) referred to her brother as a "redneck".
Now, I don't remember doing this, but if I did, it certainly wouldn't be an insult.
As a small town punk rocker, rednecks were the enemy. They were the people who wanted to beat me up because I looked funny, and as all true cowards do, this was never man to man; it was always seven of them, or so. I spent a lot of my time running in those days; only an asshole sticks around with odds like that.
But I am no longer a teenager, nor a punk, to put it lightly. So to hear this was weird. Even weirder; Gale is a redneck. Had I called him one, he would have taken it as a badge of honor. He moved up to Alaska because he preferred the company of the land to the company of people: the true definition of redneck, if you ask me. And Alaska is where true rednecks go, if you ask me also. After his wife died, he moved back down here.
Later, when I was a hippie to most people's eyes (well, I had hair down to my ass, anyway), I was camping on my step-uncle's (other side of the family, the Jewish Redneck side...More on that later) property with my girlfriend and daughter, put to sleep each night by the coyotes.
One night, someone had a runny nose, so I came inside to get some Kleenex. I took a couple, and my step-uncle said, "Take the whole box."
I said that I only needed a couple tissues, and he got all pissy. "Take the whole damn box!"
I pointed out again that I didn't need the whole damn box, a couple tissues were all I needed, really, and he chooses to deal with this inflammatory statement by saying, "You just don't like rednecks, do you?"
At that point I started laughing. I said, "Sam, I don't know what the hell you're talking about. I'm gonna take this here box, go back to the tent now. You have a good night, okay?"
Hell, I don't have a problem with rednecks: I like them better than yer average hipster around here, certainly. I have a problem with anyone when they're being childish, rural or urban, but I don't engage in categorical dismissals. I think there's a lot of people-some of them being rednecks-who wouldn't think of giving me the benefit of the doubt the way I do them, but that's because I'm a goddamn saint, as we all know. Liberal, conservative, urban, rural, I love 'em all. I hate assholes.
So my stepmom and I talked this morning. After reiterating that I had no recollection of having done so, I apologized if my calling her brother a redneck had caused any bad feelings. She started off her professional life as a teacher, and went into Teacher Voice right after this.
"I think there's a lot of things that we can say about our own families that we get defensive about if other people say them," she said.
"The same is true of nationalities," I said.
My friend who went to France for a while talked of being cornered at dinner parties and being pressured to explain U.S. foreign policy, which he definitely had no role in crafting. Then, there's what happened to David Sedaris:
"Like me, my American friends are sometimes called upon to defend their country, usually at dinner parties where everyone's had a bit too much to drink. The United States will have done something the French don't like, and people will behave as though it's all my fault. I'm always taken off guard when a hostess accuses me of unfairly taxing her beef. Wait a minute, I think, Did I do that? Whenever my government refuses to sign a treaty or decides to throw its weight around in NATO, I become not an American citizen but, rather, America itself, all fifty states and Puerto Rico sitting at the table with gravy on my chin."
And I realized that if I ever go anywhere other than North America, this might happen to me, too. With my crap language skills, I might not be able to say, "But in my homeland, people like me are decidedly the minority...And Mr. Bush didn't call me to ask about invading Iraq anyway. Neither did Mr. Clinton." The irony would be rich.
This sort of happened to me when I went to Bermuda. A fifteen year old, I wasn't terribly concerned with politics, but I watched the news, and knew that we were bombing Libya that particular week. Wherever I went, nothing but hard looks. Surely they knew, right? But no.
And note the 'we' in that above sentence. I wasn't bombing a damn thing, but 'we' were...This opens up nothing but possibility for more discussion. When an Iranian living in the U.S. gets a brick through their window for being Iranian, doesn't even the most childish of jingo stop to ask themselves: "Well, if they actually liked Iran, why are they living in Fort Worth?"
But you know what happens next-"If they live here, they want to bring down this, the greatest nation what ever was," and feel fine in their racism.
No; chances are if they're here, they had to flee Iran when the religious nuts took over, and are no doubt shaking their heads bitterly at the fact that the religious nuts are more and more in charge here, too.
In any case, I'm invited to Thanksgiving again. Last year, I taught a young boy there to shoot pool. There was a pool table out in the garage, and I felt like shootin' stick. The kid was just tired of being ignored by the adults. I showed him a few tricks.
His mom came in at some point and told me that I didn't need to spend all that time putting up with her son if I didn't want to. I didn't bother saying that her kid provided better conversation than a lot of the adults at the party; "He's fine," I said. Then I drank some more whiskey and attempted to teach him how to do a bank shot.

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11 Comments:

Blogger carrier said...

Actually I installed the verification thingy right after the attack of the Katz and Spammer Kidz. You don't like the workout gear? I gotta get me some of those.

Did I mention the always long and cool Robert Plant was here a week or two ago? Didn't visit the seaside village where I toil...that I know of, but he did do a sleepover in Astoolia. Stayed out in the new cannery pier hotel over the river and according to my underground contacts even checked out mallternative.

5:42 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Well, if he checked out Mallternative, he's certainly my Overlord, er...Gives me No Quarter...er, Li'l Robin Anthony wants to come an' play-yay...Hm.
So how is that new hotel? Checked that out?

6:35 PM  
Blogger carrier said...

Very expensive...but what a view! On a clear day you can easily see the mouth of the mighty river gazing to the West, and in the distance to the East Mt. St. Helens.

It looks mighty fancy viewed from a boat on the river, I mean considering it was designed to look like an old fish cannery.

Maybe someday some special occasion will lure us out there onto the river.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Jacq said...

Sounds like an awesome place. Any chance of posting any pix, RB?

6:21 AM  
Blogger cats dig me said...

Oh; Here you guys are. Howzit goin? Getting lonely over at the space. Thought I'd see how the other half is living. So, hows the livin'?

9:22 AM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

If I get a digital camera by this weekend, there should be pix. It's a shame that the Jewish Rednecks don't live on that ostrich farm in the John Day Valley anymore: that place was stunning.
C-been a while since you've written. The livin's good though. Next time MacBeth and I get out to the coast, we should hook up with you and Carrier at said schmancy ho-tel.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Jacq said...

I often choose the land or my CATS over the company of most people. I've had more experiences dealing with rednecks and assholes than anyone else worth mentioning. Come up to Pennsylvania sometime. You wanna see some rednecks? How about some Mennonites or Amish? Woo buddy. Just don't drive too close to the horse and buggy combo. You definitely get shit all over your windshield...

5:52 AM  
Blogger carrier said...

Flying feces of fate...country living at it's finest. In rural Oregon the only excretment in the air comes in the form of Lars Larsin's voice.

I know there should be an O between the S and the N, but somehow sin seems more appropriate.

The celebration of Lewis&Clark's visit to the area two hundred years ago is in full swing here. As it was in the fall of 1805 the rain is welcoming weary travelers from across the country.

12:09 PM  
Blogger cats dig me said...

Yep, right up hwy 104, the road by my house. Thanks Lewis, thanks Clark. I wanna get drunk. Where the hell did I put that bottle o' Vile Brand?

1:53 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Good, rambly post. :-)

--ER

6:58 PM  
Blogger Max and Vanessa said...

Interesting post Rob... I (Vanessa) think that 'redneck' refers to an ignorant, poor, rural, Republican, huntin'/fishin' type. Gale has some of these aspects, but I think that if you took a few minutes to sit down and bounce a few ideas off him, you might find that he's pretty open minded. I was happy to hear that you thought of us younger folk as liberal, as I am, but in fact I don't think the majority of the younger generation were in fact liberal. If I was to choose the most liberal of the bunch, I'd say your step- mom takes the cake. Anyway, looks like you don't blog so often anymore, at least not under this alias, so no need to keep writing.

3:12 PM  

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