Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Hurricane Names for 2014 Are Totally Lame.

My friend Jack got me to thinking after this tweet:

I have to say I thoroughly agree with him. I think it’s pretty clear that the 2014 Hurricane season’s names are the worst yet. Sorry in advance if your name is Dolly, Fay, Nana, Teddy, or Wilfred. Although I’m not sorry, your names are terrible hurricane names. You should complain to NASA or NOAA or Al Roker or something.

I can't hear 'Hurricane Dolly' without thinking of Dolly Parton. Or maybe a sheep. Or maybe a sheep dressed as Dolly Parton. Supposing there is a Hurricane Dolly, it had better be absolutely fabulous, with a disproportionately (and possibly artificially) large western wall. All news segment music intros had better include a chorus of “Jolene.” And Jim Cantore better be clinging to a sign post, winds bearing down on him, making a “9 to 5” reference.

Okay, so maybe that hurricane isn’t so bad. But Hurricane Fay? … … Never mind, I’m related to a Fay, and she is definitely a hurricane--in all the best ways, of course. She is in charge, knows how to make a grand entrance, is good at organizing people, her arrival is greatly anticipated, she's frequently found in Florida, and her penchant for shopping is certainly hurricane-like.

So we’re good with Hurricane Dolly and Fay. But what about Nana? What is she going to do? Harass you about when you’re going to FINALLY get married and have babies? Or when are you going to cut your hair? Or lose weight? Or wear nicer clothes? Or put on some make up? Or when are you going to do something with your life? Or dump one guy for another? Or go to her preferred church? Or clean your house to meet her level of clean? Or criticize some other part of your life?!?!?! … … Never mind, that is all very destructive and scary. Hurricane Nana is also very, very terrifying.

Well Teddy can’t possible be that intimidating a name. Teddy makes me think of bears, and bears totally--

Terrifying. Teddy is effing terrifying. Never mind.

But we can all agree that Hurricane Wilfred is not at all scary. Not even a little. Wilfred is a middle-aged man in a dog suit. Sorry Wilfred.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Deli Counter: Confessions of a Fat Girl

The story you're about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the jerks. Today, on Fatnet...

On Sunday I went to the grocery store; I needed some stuff for breakfasts and lunches during the week. My first stop was the deli counter--there was no line, so I wanted to go there first. I ordered some thinly sliced country ham. The idea was I’d get slices of country ham and put them on whole wheat biscuits.

As I was putting in my order, a woman walked up behind me. “Country ham? I didn’t know you could order that from the deli counter!” she said, pleasantly enough. “Oh yeah, I didn’t either for a while! But I love to put it on biscuits for breakfast.” Then there was a pause. The lady behind the counter actually stopped loading the ham into the slicer. The Deli Lady and the Customer Woman exchanged a quick look and the looked back at me. And then this happened:

Please picture Deli Lady like this:

Please picture Customer Woman like this:

Please picture me like this:

Deli Lady: Baby, you don’t eat that every morning do you?
Me: Oh no, I--
Customer Woman: Because that is really unhealthy. There are definitely better things to eat for breakfast.
Me: I know, but it’s a great source of protein, and I--
DL: You don’t have blood pressure problems, do you, hon?
Me: No, I’m lucky in that respect! But I only eat it--
CW: Well that’s not too far away. You’re lucky that you’re young. If you don’t eat healthier you could end up with any number of problems. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer--
Me *in a rush*: That’s why I put them on whole wheat biscuits and have Greek yogurt and fruit with it. It’s a balanced breakfast.
DL: Do you want me to cut you off a slice of turkey? See if you like that better?
Me: Well I am also going to get some of the Boar’s Head cracked pepper turkey for lunches.
CW: There’s so much salt in deli meat. You could definitely have a nice, filling lunch if you did a salad with some grilled chicken. Depending on the dressing, there’s no salt in that.
DL: Oh, I love grill chicken salads! They are so good!
Me *dully*: I’ll have to make that some time soon.
DL and CW exchange a final look that clearly said, ‘We did our best...’ before DL continued slicing up my ham and CW went back to browsing the deli counter.

As I walked away, I could tell they were both watching me. And I felt so awkward. Of course they meant well enough, but really, they had been so rude.

I have been in similar situations before and I have handled myself in such a classy and beautiful way that the people didn’t realize I’d put them in their place until I was already walking away.

But then this was also sort of different. These weren't my peers. These were older women. I remember I had this one client who saw me doing something in what I felt was a highly efficient manner, but she felt differently. “Your attempts at efficiency are nothing but poorly disguised laziness. And if you don’t stop being so lazy, you’re going to die young. You need to make a change in your life. I’m 45 years old and do a lot more physical activity than you do, clearly, and that’s disgraceful.” Obviously she was no longer talking about how I was moving the copy paper. She was older than me, a client, and essentially in a position of power, because one word could have had me fired in an instant. (Long live the at-will hiring in this, our fair Commonwealth! *eyeroll*) But in that situation I needed the job.

In this situation I just needed… ham. I dunno. Ham’s pretty important though, right?

I know what some people going to say. "Jess, why didn't you go to the manager or tell them to get stuffed?!" Well the simple answer is this: In my mind, arguing with them or telling where they could shove their grilled chicken salads didn't seem worth it. They weren't going to change their behavior and it would only leave me looking like that angry fat person who wanted ALL THE HAM. And personally, I'd rather be irritated about it initially and then write a funny blog post about it later. And eat my ham biscuits. (Do you get how delicious these things are???)

Sometimes it seems as though people think I have no idea that I'm fat; that it's going to come as a shock and surprise to me. Sometimes I really want to turn around and be like, "Omg, where did all of this ass come from?!?!"

Seriously folks, I know what a salad is. I don't need your assistance in nutrition, and if I do, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to solicit the advice from the people at the deli counter.

Whatever. I ate my ham biscuits this morning and they were delicious. Those women don’t know what they’re missing. I bet they eat muesli or drink kale for breakfast or something. And that's why ultimately, I pity them.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Southern Love, Without Apologies.

I was born in Richmond, a city in the South, the capital of Virginia. I lived in a few other places including in the Midwest before eventually making my way back to RVA, where I’ve lived for the majority of my life. I take pride in being from the South, in the same way that anyone takes pride in being from their region. For me, I think living in the South is wonderful, and what’s more, I think Richmond is an amazing city.

There’s no getting around a fact though: 153 years ago the American Civil War was declared, with the last shot was fired four years later in June of 1865. Richmond served as one of two capitals, the first being Montgomery, Alabama.

Though it’s been 149 years since the last shot was fired, sometimes it feels as though we are only decades beyond the beginnings of Reconstruction. I often read travel articles about Richmond (because we all like to hear good things about ourselves,) and frequently find the first sentence goes something like this, “Coming out of the shadow of its past as the Capital of the Confederacy, Richmond is well on its to becoming a destination.” Don't believe me? It’s as though we’ve only just rebuilt the city after the retreating Confederate army burned it. One doesn’t read articles about Chicago that start off with, “Rising from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire, this city is now a place to not to be missed!” Of course you don’t! Because it would be absurd to write about an event that took place in 1871 as though it happened in the last 50 years.

Like any place that has historical significance or interest, history plays a role in encouraging tourism. We tell people that if they’re a fan American history or have a particular interest in the American Civil War, there is no better place to be in the South because Virginia has it all: Battlefields, the White House of the Confederacy, birthplaces of famous officers, burial sites and cemeteries, retirement camps, ruins, chapels, the site of the end of the war, museums galore, and historical markers every 10 feet. There is so much history here! I love history! And for the same reason I like going to Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, etc., because they all have something interesting to teach. And I think that’s where many miss the mark when they think about Richmond, Virginia, and the South.

There’s a condescending attitude that we are interesting despite our history, not because of our history. Despite our history, we are a destination, a good place to visit or to live. Despite.

I was interviewing one of my favorite musicians a few years ago for a local news site. The singer happens to be from New England. I received the following instruction from the person who assigned the interview to me: Make the article relevant to Richmond; ask about what it’s like to play in Richmond, what makes it different or special. So I asked the singer, and his answer was more than a little awkward, and he stumbled as he tried to come up with an answer. “Well you know, it’s great being in the South, Capital of the Confederacy and all…” And inwardly, I sighed.

The South is more than the former Confederate States of America, but we can take pride in it being a part of our history, a part of what makes this place so great. Living in the South or being Southern is not something one needs be ashamed of.

There’s an old regional joke that refers to Northern Virginia as Southern Maryland, and it’s not because of how they vote or how much money they have. It’s because sometimes it seems like Northern Virginia would rather not be associated with the South. A simple Google search will you this is not a minority opinion; a lot of people put a large wedge of separation between Northern Virginia and the rest of the state. But then that idea started making its way down interstate 95: Towns like Stafford and Fredericksburg were becoming “less Southern.” The idea is starting to permeate Richmond now and I’ve found is common around “moved-here’s.” I had a person who moved here a few years ago say to me, “We’re not really that Southern.” Of course we are! But there’s an inherent sense of shame for being from or living in the South that seems to have held on for the last 150-ish years, and leaves me disappointed.

Like so many things, the South is stereotyped, making us one extreme or another. I don’t need to outline the stereotypical Southerner, but needless to say,  “reality” shows like “Honey Boo-Boo,” “Duck Dynasty,” and “Buckwild” are not documentaries. They no more representative of Southern life than “Real Housewives of New Jersey” or “Jersey Shore” are of New Jersey. I think in trying to avoid being seen as a stereotypical Southerner, people go the opposite, extreme direction, rejecting much of the South when possible, and that includes an interest in the local history.

Recently, Mom and I were standing on the porch of the Confederate Memorial Chapel at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The museum stands on the grounds of the former Confederate Soldiers' Home.

I had toured the building with my parents and grandparents. The place is beautiful, not to mention pretty neat when you pair the place with old pictures and a diorama of the camp. There’s a lot of history. Mom looked over at me and said, “I wish there was a way to be interested in history without the feeling like one needs to apologize.” I knew what she meant. There was an air of defiance in the tour guide’s voice as he explained the different artifacts and displays, “It’s not too popular these days to--” was said multiple times when referencing the celebration of history. Being a Southern history enthusiast seems to require a balance between justifying your interests and apologizing for them, because otherwise people will think you’re one of those Southern history enthusiasts. You know the ones that I mean--the ones who use the Stars and Bars as a poorly disguised code for racism or the Flaggers who have hoisted a historically inaccurate flag over 95 outside of Richmond.

Therein lies the problem: Because so many people associate the history of the South with the Confederacy and the terrible things that went with it (slavery, destruction of families, farms, towns, economies, deaths and injuries of over a million, ultimately the assassination of a sitting President, tell me where to stop…) and later racists or people who do inflammatory things, one can feel the need to disassociate themselves from the South and even disparage it.

I know that I had multiple ancestors who fought in the Civil War, on both sides, including my great-great-great-great grandfather Williams Evans Davis Sr., who is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

We hope to have a headstone placed at his unmarked grave with his name, ranking, and dates of birth and death.

I take pride in his sacrifices because I know that any human being doesn’t take lightly the act of taking up arms, going to war, and killing others. Everyone knows the conditions were appalling, the environment, unforgiving, and the treatments available to those injured, nothing short of horrifying. Why should I feel any amount of shame for having him on my family tree? Because he was on the wrong side of a war that was fought over slavery, under the guise of states rights? Because if that’s the case, then the natural conclusion is anyone with roots in the South should be ashamed of their ancestors and history--and I say, no, that’s not okay.

It is possible to have an interest in the history of the South without being a supporter of all the negative things associated with the Confederacy; therefore there is no need to be ashamed.

Being from the South does not require an apology, and neither does loving it. It’s a balancing act and requires compromise, an open and reasonable mind, and compassion for your fellow man. Carpetbaggers and people from the North alike can leave their baggage at the door when they’re here, and Southerners, you can too.

Come to the South if you’re want to experience a lifestyle of hospitality and good manners. Speaking for Virginia, come for days on lazy rivers and rapid ones alike. Visit museums with exhibits that’ll only make one east coast appearance--and it’s not in New York or Washington! Enjoy amazing food from nationally recognized restaurants and chefs, and great wineries and breweries scattered all across the Commonwealth. Take in festivals for everything you can imagine, great performances and concerts, local arts and music scenes, roadside attractions, natural wonders, theme parks, and fairs. Visit local artisans, farmers, craftsmen, and cooks who sell their wares in general stores and farmer’s markets. And yes, take in the history. Because we have plenty of it! From the tribes that hunted and gathered on the land, to the first successful American settlement, to the American Revolution, to the American Civil War, to civil rights, to well beyond. We are Southern, we are proud, we love our home, and we look forward to sharing it with you.