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Phoenix in the Summer

Who says you can never go home again? It took weeks of planning, packing, checking and double-checking, firming up, confirming and acknowledging.

Spent some quality time with Old Granny. I love Old Granny. She's 82 and not afraid to call a spade a spade, and not afraid to call members of her own family no-account trash. To include my ex-husband, her grandson. Heh. And she and Peaches are mirrors of each other in their excitement about the upcoming cruise.

Went to my mother's birthday party. That was nice. Sat with my mother and my older sister and it's as though I never left. Mommy was looking nice, my sister was her normal self, and I got the extra bonus of hanging out with my nephew who's an actual adult now, and therefore hilarious to hang out with. We went driving around with the Baby Goddess and my niece Umbrella who were engaged in a discussion about their current careers as spies and discussing their "relationship." I've never laughed so hard or for so long.

Then it came time to go home again. I was on the first flight of the morning back to San Jose, and I noticed that the same people who had been there when I was growing up in Phoenix are still there. There is a particular kind of person there that I've seen no other place, although I'm sure they exist.

The women look like they've spent the last 50 years sitting in the sun, slow-cooking all the juices out of their bodies until they are leathery and rangy and wrinkly. To complete the drying process, they've smoked four packs a day since they were about 10, meaning that the flight they're on is going to be a little slice of non-smoking Hell for them. Their skin has that deep-down red of someone who, although tan, still burns when they go out, which they do daily because their trailer park just doesn't have an indoor pool. They tend to have giant hair that looks like someone took Farrah Fawcett's original idea and channeled it through both Dolly Parton and Tina Turner before dying it blonde with Clorox. They wear black eyeliner around the inside of their eyelids, which makes their eyes small and suspicious looking. They have a perpetual frown (with accompanying lemon-sucking wrinkles around the mouth) because that's what your mouth turns into when you're accustomed to smoking your cigarettes without ever once touching them or removing them from your mouth.

When the men of this group are younger, they're rail-thin too, but as they age they begin to sport the kind of gut that makes most people want to ask "When are you due?" A life of macaroni and cheese and Coors will do that do you. They buy jeans that fit when they are 20, and continue to buy that same size as they age and their gut grows - the jeans just begin riding lower and lower. Their women like long hair, so they grow theirs out. Except that long hair in the face is a pain in the ass, so only the back is long, the front being cut into something that looks almost respectable from a 2-dimensional front. Yup. Mullets are big with this crowd. On a casual day, the jeans are topped with an ancient concert t-shirt or a t-shirt that advertises trucks, beer or the wearer's interest in sex with people who wouldn't give him the time of day. The mullet is topped with a baseball cap that covers the rest of the wearer's interests - a slogan about fishing or drinking or sex. On a formal occasion, the jeans are topped with a plaid cotton shirt with a yoke front, cowboy-style and the mullet sits under a decorative felt cowboy hat (as opposed to a functional cowboy hat which is normally made of straw because felt is fucking HOT).

These people are blue collar workers who drive a 5-10 year old American made car (or truck), who are still renting but are looking to upgrade to a house in Apache Junction when their ship comes in. Their values system is intricate and full of carefully-nuanced rules that keep the pecking order, although anyone with some cash trumps those rules. These are people who use the word "classy" to mean a level of trashy they wish they could afford to emulate.

And the baffling thing to me is that these people are REPUBLICANS. Diehard, Bible-pounding, jingoistic Republicans. They miss Barry Goldwater. They are still convinced that there are WMD in Iraq. They WILL vote for Bush. But they seem to be missing a crucial piece of information: the Republican power structure may take their vote, may take their money, may take their voice to use to justify its steamrolling the rest of the free world, but the rest of Republican-dom doesn't like them and never will. They are what other Republicans make fun of. It's like blacks and latinos being Mormon, when the Mormon faith pretty much says "You can hang out with us, but you can't get into our heaven."

I left because I thought I would just never understand them, but after so many trips home I realize that I always understood. I'm glad I left.

Comments

junglemonkee
Aug. 16th, 2004 08:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Straw vs. Felt
Modern cowboys don't generally have horses. They have trucks and walkie-talkies. And straw hats are certainly moldable. Get them wet with sweat and they will absolutely conform to the shape of your head. All the men my father's family have worn straw cowboy hats for their work, which usually involves some sort of menial farm labor, and they're really my frame of reference.