We had just finished a 3 day binge in Memphis. But now it was time to get down to the real purpose of our trip. Arkansas. And that meant cleaning out my father’s storage unit, which was only going to be made more miserable by the heat wave hitting the bible belt. Several people had died from the intense levels of heat. And even though we were used to it, being from Florida, it was still miserable.
My father’s mountain property is near a small tourist-y town with an old fashioned downtown area. It is also in a dry county, which was a drastic change from the alcohol laden, party atmosphere in Memphis.
Our first day we went to see my father’s property. The mountain was beautiful and more of a soft, rolling hill than the sharp peaks I normally picture when someone uses the word mountain.
It was beautiful
He had several acres of woodlands and a house in the basin. During our initial survey I found several crystals just lying on top of the ground on his property. It felt like they were waiting for me to find them. Like an offering. Maybe an apology in advance for our stay in Arkansas.
I have a bag of crystals I found up there. This one is in my office at work.
We went down the basin to see the condition of his house. A winter ice storm had knocked out the power a few years previously and we weren’t even sure if the place had been condemned. Imagine our surprise to find a car in the driveway.
We knocked on the door and my father’s ex girlfriend answered looking shocked. She asked what we were doing there and we kind of had the same question for her.
It turns out she had gotten the power fixed and had been staying there, free of charge and illegally for almost a year. She had not notified my father of her intention to move back in. She hadn’t spoken to him at all since he had moved back to Florida.
And can you believe, this bitch had the fucking nerve to be angry with us for not calling to tell her we were on our way!
I had never liked this woman and was not about to put up with her attitude. So I did my usual aggressive, confrontational smart assery. But my father stopped me and she agreed to let him in (his own house) to talk to him. But not us.
So my sister, brother and I waited outside. In the heat. For about 20 minutes.
I cannot imagine what there was to talk about during that time. She was living there illegally. She was not on the mortgage. She wasn’t paying to live there. I suggested several times, in a shout loud enough for her to hear, that we just call the cops and let them sort it all out.
Finally, I was fed up with waiting and sweating outside. I walked inside just to hear her whining about how we were making her feel attacked by showing up unannounced and expecting to have access to his house.
At which point I laughed and laughed until she got mad and left the room. She asked if we would come back the next day. We left and found a motel nearby.
Instead we emptied my father’s storage unit. In the blazing heat of a dying sun. From an unairconditioned metal box of storage unit on a concrete slab into an unairconditioned metal box of a moving van. I have never sweated so much in my life. I actually lost weight on that trip despite all the ribs and biscuits I was eating.
My father, a former construction worker in Florida, got heat stroke. It was so bad we wound up leaving him in the hotel room later that day and wandered around the town while he rested. It was a pretty little town. Like something from the 50s.
I’m not kidding when I say that. Did I mention there was no alcohol in the county? Well, there were also signs once we got into the downtown area that cursing was banned in the town and you could be fined, arrested, or banned from the city limits.
When I saw the first of many of those signs I said, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
At which point my brother elbowed me and looked around nervously. “No cursing!”
“But seriously,” I said. “Look at this bullshit. What is this? The town in Footloose? No drinking, no cursing, no dancing, no music. Jesus!”
My brother told me I was going to get arrested and banned from the town.
To which I replied, “Good. I don’t want to be in this candy ass town for another second! Ugh, what the fuck?”
And in case you didn’t know before, now you really see how much I like to curse. That town was offending my personal morals. But, I figured I could behave myself. After all, I rarely swear at my job and I’m there most of my waking life.
We walked into an antique store and the shop owner was an older grumpy looking guy. We said hello very pleasantly to him and he didn’t respond. His wife came out from the back and chatted with us for a minute. I think she may have been flirting with my brother, but who can tell.
The grumpy guy suddenly interrupted, “What is that?”
I looked and he was pointing to my brother’s shirt. It was from one of my favorite plays, Avenue Q. And the shirt had a quote from one of their songs. It read, “It sucks to be me.”
Amazing play. Good song too.
We explained it to the guy and he squinted at us like the bunch of heathens we are. “That looks like cussing to me. There ain’t no cussing in this town.”
I nudged my brother and muttered, “And you were worried about me swearing. Who’s going to get us kicked out now?”
We tried to explain to him that it was a joke and not meant to be offensive. But he didn’t want to hear it. He asked us to leave his shop and we did.
My brother is a pescatarian and I didn’t have much hope of finding something he could eat. But we stumbled upon some sort of anomaly in a town that backwards (to me anyway).
We found a bookstore/cafe. It had organic wraps, vegan cookies, herbal teas. The girl that worked there was friendly and interesting. She was a breath of fresh air in that town of conservative uptightness.
The girl that worked there was very chill and we spent a good part of the day there, laughing and talking about how horrible the town was. I even kept the receipt from our meal as a reminder that no matter how dismal something looks, there is always hope that it will get better.
My father still owns the property and his ex eventually moved out (as far as we know anyway) a few years later. Still without paying him any rent to live there. And though it is beautiful countryside, I will never again go back to that fucking town where I can’t swear the way god intended me to as a foul mouthed, vulgar American.