This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Monday, August 08, 2005

This is the Kind of Thing That Happens Here, Part III.

This is the Kind of Thing That Happens Here, Part III


The “Hay-Ride-With-No-Hay” notwithstanding, everyone was quite subdued and chill on that Saturday night. The reason for that was 100% the fact that people still felt queasy from all the drinking they did the night before. I was not dealing with beer-pounding alcoholics here – these were people who had reached their limits, or at least were stopping before they did. I really appreciated that, even though some people may not have had as much “fun” as the previous night. The games of horseshoes were poorly and lethargically played, the alcohol was consumed slowly and deliberately, and most of the time people were just sitting in an oval of chairs on the front lawn. This, of course, led to a story, as told by me, and made up completely on the spot. It was a grave disappointment, and its failure was the lowlight of the weekend for me. And yes, I’m fishing for compliments here.

There were several reasons why the story didn’t work. I had a hard time telling whether people were interested, and at one point someone faked moving the conversation on, which kind of shot the wheels off the whole thing. Stories are built upon momentum and flashes of brilliance, and this story had neither. Normally I can get momentum back pretty easily by turning the distraction into a valuable life lesson or pointing out its absurdity. This time, it just didn’t get back on the tracks. Oh, I think most people were listening, but when the hotly-anticipated arrival of crazy cousin Anna happened (in a pickup truck, of course) I felt like it was time to wrap things up. I probably lost confidence in the story because of the many distractions and the fact that I was tired, and my stories are always far more effective when I’m alert and my mind is popping. So I’m sorry, East Texas – I’ll do better next time.

Yet another crazy cousin, Andrew, arrived with Aaron and a young-looking friend named Josh. They stated their intent to go shoot some snakes, and they left for a while. We novices quickly found out the “shoot some snakes” meant exactly what you’d think it meant, as shots rang out in the direction of the lake. Every time they did, I felt like taking cover. I’m such a suburban boy. They came back with 3 snakes, roughly 3 feet in length each. If Andrew would have been walking out of a limo, the scene would have looked exactly like that one Simpsons episode (“Whacking Day” – Prod. Code 9F18. And yes, I am that nerdy) where Mayor Quimby gets out of his car and lifts up 12 pre-killed snakes to impress his constituents. It looked just like that, with the snakes hanging down like giant beige licorice whips with eyes. Two of the snakes were “probably dead”, and the other one was curling up and trying to bite Andrew. He was making jerky arm movements to ensure that the biting didn’t happen, and warned people not to try to pet that particular snake. Again, we weren’t total hicks.

At some point Clay, Anna, and Juli left on a boat to get close to some alligators. No, they were not drunk. They apparently managed to get super close, then weren’t exactly sure what to do next. I repeat, they were not drunk. This is the kind of thing that happens here.

Josh (the little friend of Andrew) turned out to be 23 or so, a college graduate, and a serious Bushian Republican. He sells credit card deals to businesses that take credit cards, or at least that’s what I remember him saying. He goes to existing customers and sells them packages that save them money. Josh was young and full of confidence, as only a non-jaded Republican can be. Before I went to bed, Josh and a teacher friend of ours named Les got into a discussion on the Iraq War that I was literally sitting in the middle of. I would recount it for you, but what do you need to know? It was a political discussion about the Iraq War. I know some people love that sort of thing, but 5 minutes into it, I was ready for bed.


They busted out a tape of “Owl Sounds,” which amazingly caused some owls to show up and look creepily around like they do. How and why did we miss this? My friends, don’t ever go to bed early. Also, there was a bunch more political discussion, where at least one East Texan reportedly expressed the opinion that we should “Bomb Mecca.” This brings up an interesting point…

The next time you hear an opinion expressed in the “civilized” world about rural people being uneducated, stop and think for a moment. The emotion summed up by “Bomb Mecca if they bomb us again,” is merely a response to the indiscriminate hate being shown to something they love (i.e., America) by outsiders. Listen to Air America Radio during any 20-minute period and you’ll hear something equally as emotional and misguided from the opposite side of the American political spectrum. East Texas hatred toward the “Northerners” or “Yankees” or “Blue-Staters” is often misdirected and over-the-top, but if you were constantly being belittled and called stupid by equally stupid people, how would you react? When liberals roll their eyes at you for speaking your mind as if you couldn’t possibly know what you’re talking about, and then turn around and say that animals should have the same rights as humans or that war is always wrong, what are you supposed to do with that? Ignore it? Vent? Buy some guns and lock the doors both figuratively and literally and turn on some programming that echoes what you feel? Is there any wonder why East Texans don’t like CNN, and instead watch Fox News with O’Reilly and Hannity and the Lip Gloss Crew?

The closest “bigger” town to us at the lake house is none other than Jasper, TX. What do you think of when you think of Jasper? The three hicks who dragged that black guy to his death, right? The people out there must be a bunch of crazy racists, right? It’s easy and fun to categorize a whole region of people – it helps us make sense of the world. But I can tell you with certainty that the crazy cousins won’t be dragging anyone to their death anytime soon. I’m sorry if that blows up your worldview.

East Texans are, as you might imagine or have heard from news stories, almost uniformly Pro-Bush. Part of it is that he’s from Texas, but most of it is that they hate the government. When Republicans give lip service to their base, they are giving lip service to these people. They talk about lower taxes, small government, strong defense, traditional family values, and leaving people alone. These are all things the average East Texan strongly believes in. It’s not because they’re stupid or backwards – these are all good American values. They would rightly point out that if you hate these Republicans, you would also hate the founding fathers. These hicks are being marginalized, even though they have hundreds of years’ worth of history to back them up. Many of them may get caught up in emotion and take bad specific positions (like “Bomb Mecca”), but one has to admit that the goals behind them are valuable and legitimate, even if one doesn’t fully agree with all the particulars.

Ok, I realize that some people don’t agree that things like a strong defense, traditional families, and small government are valuable. These people are insane, and can never win, so let’s ignore them. This is still America, and if there’s one thing we do well it’s marginalize the weirdos.

And I do realize that there are many actual idiots out there in East Texas, just like anywhere else. You can tell who they are pretty easily – they’re the ones who want to pet the snakes.


The next morning we got up early (9am) and ran again, this time North on Hwy 92. We passed old people in a church parking lot getting out of their Buicks and Caddies and making the slow walk to Sunday Morning. We ran down a huge hill on the way out, and back up it on the way back. Man, that sun is hot when you’re running up a hill in East Texas with no shade. They should fix that. We stopped at walked for a bit, and this guy in a pickup stopped and asked us if we were broken down and needed help. Apparently the fitness craze of the late 80’s never quite made it here. We politely refused, and the confused man drove off. It’s a good thing we weren’t black, right? Just kidding.

We were about to leave this whole area of the world behind and go back to our much more urban and crime-filled existence when Kirby offered to show Jill how to shoot a gun. This is the kind of thing that happens here, but probably shouldn’t. We all trekked down to the beach and the crazy cousins set up a beer can for Jill to blast from 20 yards away. She took the gun and fired it with both hands, and busted some caps in the a__ of the sand directly in front of the can. It was without a doubt the scariest part of the weekend, albeit unreasonably so. I mean, what’s the worst that could have happened, short of her deciding that she’s had enough of this marriage and it’s time to become the star of her own real-life TV movie, entitled She’d Just Had Enough, and starring Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Brad Lohaus. Thankfully, she resisted any and all urges to kill, and everyone escaped unscathed.

We said our goodbyes and got out of there – bug-bitten, relaxed, and (at least some of us) mad with the power that can only come from shooting a gun. We both really want to return next summer. Maybe we’ll bring the Jarts and have some real fun in the spirit of East Texas.


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