Roadtrips, USA

This past weekend, my wife, son and I drove from where we live in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina, to Nashville Tennessee.  We had both been wanting to go since we moved down here last year, and neither of us had even been to Tennessee, and so we decided to go.

One of the things, that we’ve both noticed when driving around the country on various road trips, is the difference in culture is sometimes observable from the highway.  It’s apparent in what you can see immediately off of the highway, as well as the billboards that line the high way north and south, east and west.

In Massachusetts, where I’m from originally, the billboards are kind of boring.  You might see an ad for the local radio station, or depending on where you are, you may see one for a celebrity doing a show at Mohegan Sun Casino.  There isn’t much beyond that.

Down south however, there are three very distinct categories of billboards, and sometimes they’re very close to each other.  The three categories are strip club/porn shop billboards, gun billboards, and Jesus billboards.  The reason these are funny isn’t that they’re particularly funny topics in general, but the way they’re done.

First there are the strip club/porn shop billboards.  These are funny, because often times they’re trying to allude to more than they seem to be allowed to say.  We passed a sign that literally said “Sexy Stuff, Exit 390” (I don’t know the real exit number).  We also saw one that said “lingerie, adult DVDs, and vibes.”  I’ll be honest, neither of us would have guessed that if they couldn’t put the word ‘vibrator,’ that they could put the word ‘vibe.’  Would have been great to see “lingerie, adult DVDs and dilds,” but I’m guessing that there is some kind of weird double standard on that.  Or perhaps it would be that not enough letters or syllables were removed.

The second category are the gun billboards, and typically these I don’t notice as much, but my wife pointed out a few really interesting ones, including one claiming to have “machine gun rentals,” which I think regardless of your stance on the right to own guns, this is some weird wording.

Lastly are the Jesus billboards, some of these are really simple and reasonable “Jesus is the answer” types billboards, which honestly, you may disagree with the premise, but I still think it’s inoffensive by itself.  But there are other billboards which seem to be much more odd.  Lots of ones that seem like answers to questions unasked, like “…And you think God doesn’t work in mysterious ways!” Along with a small evolutionary chart with a red circle and slash through it.  WTF?

Anyway, the big thing that I find interesting about these billboards, isn’t them as standalone signs, but their proximity to each other.  If you were an alien, driving through a highway in the south, you would think that Jesus must have been obsessed with strippers, porn, and guns.  There are numerous spots in which your visual landscape, while sitting still, consists of all three elements, and it’s bizarre.  Especially when you see signs from miles away, off in the woods, elevated above the treeline, declaring that Pilots, or Loves, or any other big soft-fonted truck stop company has “Unleaded $2.49/Diesel $2.94.”

Last thing that I want to mention, and that is that one of the “Adult Stores” (because they don’t call themselves porn shops.  That’s like the ‘gentleman’s club’ of porn shops.) that we passed, was a drive-thru.  I must say, I’m really intrigued to how it that works.  “Um, yes.  I’ll have a number four, and a tube of the warming gel.  —*whispers* What do you want honey?— Oh, and a number twelve with a can of whipped cream.  And um… Super size it.”  Notice I didn’t make the obvious joke of one of the menu items being sixty nine, because I have standards, and honestly how big would their menu have to be outside the building to have that many items?

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you all about what I saw along the highway all weekend.  What’s the craziest billboard you’ve ever seen? Tell me in the comments.

Season Review: NC Autumn

Lots of people can do a movie review, or a book review, or some stupid gadget review, but I wanted to do a review of one of the seasons, since this was my first year in NC, and Fall is starting to give way to winter, I thought it only fitting that I review a North Carolina autumn for you.

Now, if you’ve read my book (which sales figures show you probably haven’t) or read enough of my blog posts, you might know, that I hate fall/autumn.  Hate it.  So why bother reviewing it?  Because, I found something different about it this year.

I moved from Uxbridge MA (adjacent to East Bumfuck) to a small town just outside of Raleigh NC, and things are a bit different in the world of weather.

First off, I get seasonal affect disorder, which some asshole decided to call SAD (probably the same person who named the condition of stuttering “a stutter” or lisping “a lisp.”  Just a real sick kinda person.)  A big portion of this condition is not getting enough light due to shortening days.  Well, here in North Carolina, the sun goes down about 40 minutes later on most days than it did up north, which so far has meant that I’m at least leaving work in the sunlight.  This does wonders for me.

Last weekend, the foliage was in peak color, which makes me think that perhaps the season is just delayed down here, but we’re now less than a month away from the days getting longer again, so I tend to think that perhaps, this is just a better fall as far as light and mild weather are concerned.

I’m not sure it’s accurate to say this is the best autumn of my life, that I feel the best I ever have, but certainly it’s the best of the 20 years (more than half my life).  I’ve felt only the slightest twinges of sadness and depression the last couple of months, and they’ve barely made a blip on my depression-o-meter (if you suffer from depression, I strongly suggest getting a depression-o-meter, they’re a real life saver.)

Now, if I’m being totally honest, I think that there may be other reasons, why this year autumn has been so awesome.  First, my son is at an age where he is incredibly fun to hang out with, and things like Halloween are fun again, watching him waddle around as Yoda.  Second factor, I’ve felt like I’m really making headway towards my goals, I’ve been writing a ton of articles over at World’s Best Media, I started a second paying gig as an assistant editor at a book publisher, I’ve had some smaller successes with articles and things I’ve written, and honestly, it’s just starting to feel like it’s coming together.  Third factor, I’m enjoying my time; all of those things I mentioned before are fun and rewarding, but I’m also spending time with my wife, and with our son, we drive around this new state of ours, and explore.  My wife seems a little worried because I’m more tired than I used to be, but it’s because I’m living more than I used to be, and I can’t do it without her (and frankly I don’t want to try).

So maybe the weather doesn’t deserve credit, maybe my recent happiness, is just a convergence of factors, but at least the weather isn’t dampening it.  At least I don’t feel like a fucking mole person in my day job, going into work in the dark, and being released back into the dark.  Honestly, even with the all of the other factors, that mole-man mentality can really ruin shit, and I’m thankful that I’m not doing it.

I give NC Autumn: B+ (Because after all, it’s still the 4th best season.)

I am a Fucking Coward

Most of us like to think we would be the hero in a crisis, we think we would be the person to stand up to a bank robber, or to risk our own lives for the sake of our families or the greater good.  Most people never are faced with a choice like that, and those who are often don’t act the way they hoped.

Today, not in the face of anything that personal, but something I believe to be as important, I found out that I am not a hero, I’m not even an ordinary man willing and able to do the very bare minimum.  I’m a coward.

Over the last several years, there have been protests that I’ve believed in, but I was able to justify not attending because it was always ten or not hours away.  I lived in Massachusetts, so when the protests were going on in Ferguson, it was easy to justify not going because it was too far.

Now I live in North Carolina, and so I’m closer to where a lot of the protests are happening.  Today, in Charlottesville Virgina (which is only about three hours away from me) the Klan, Neo-Nazi and an other white supremacy groups were organizing a rally in a park called Emancipation Park.

I should be going to counter protest, to lend my body to the ranks of people trying to show they have more support than the literal haters.  But I haven’t gone, and I’m not likely to go.  The reason for my absence isn’t moral ambiguity, or lack of time, instead it’s fear.  The truth is, if there are beatings, or pepper spraying, or God forbid worse violence, I’m scared of the personal impact.

All day today, the more I have heard about this ongoing event, the more I have been overcome by guilt and shame.  I cannot think of any argument that I have been more clear on in my head, and yet my convictions aren’t enough motivation to go stand for what is right.

It may seem less obvious to many of you, but to me, it seems today’s events are a clear movement in a worse direction.  There has been a lot of talk about the ’emboldening’ of racists in this country over the last two years, but this is coupled with a federal government unable to accomplish anything, and talking now about possibly suspending the 2020 elections due to illegal immigrants voting.

I’m terrified and ashamed.  Edmund Burke said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  I think right now to do nothing is disqualifying from being ‘good,’ and I have done nothing, and make no mistake I do not kid myself for one second that this post or Facebook memes are doing something.  Something real must be done, by everyone possible.

My intention in writing this, is that maybe I will be told about something I can do that I will be brace enough to do, or at the very least to shame myself enough to act.

Empty House

Hi Everyone,

Sorry that I’ve been slacking hen it comes to posts the last week.  It’s been an absolutely crazy week, and I’ll give you a quick catch-up, and then get to the point of this post.

My son turned one!  My son’s birthday was this past weekend, and in addition to spending time with both my wife’s family, and my family, we also had a big birthday party for him at the zoo.  It was a great weekend, and I’m so glad that his birthday happens to fall right as the weather starts turning for the better.

(Last week, I decided that I would get him a comic for his birthday, and that maybe I’d get him one for every big event or whatever, and then when I was there, I found a comic that happened to come out on the week of his birthday called Super Sons Issue #3—probably should have gone with something Wolverine based since his name is Logan, but I was thinking that he’s a ‘Super Son.’  Quickly after I left the comic store I thought that I should just start collecting that particular comic for him and realized I needed to go get issues 1 and 2.  Anyway, this might sound cheesy but, the truth is that whatever he grows into as a little person, I want to be there with him, and so if in a few years he thinks this is stupid, I’ll transition to whatever he prefers, but I’m gonna still planning little things like this and trips, and other things that I would love to participate in if he is down for it.  Sorry for this whole aside, but it will fill in some of the backstory that you’ll want later.)

We moved!  As you probably know if you’ve been reading my posts for the last month, we are moving from Massachusetts to Raleigh North Carolina.  This week was/is the actual move.  My wife took time off from work, and the tow of us have been working like crazy for a couple days trying to get everything ready.  Yesterday the movers came and loaded up the truck, and we had lots to do then too.  Anyway, last night my best friend Adam and I got in my car and drove from 6:30 P.M. until 5:30 A.M. until we got to a hotel in Raleigh (I didn’t have keys to the house yet).

So here is the point, I dropped off Adam at the airport, and Sarah and her mother are coming but they’re still hours away, and none of our furniture or things (except what was in my car) are here.  I have to make a decision, on whether or not I continue to write after I finish this post (I have some fiction stuff I’d like to work on) or I drive around and find all the different things I’m going to need to know about.  I already found Zaxby’s—which I think is the best fast food fried chicken— a comic book store called Ultimate Comics—where I managed to find Issues 1 & 2 of Super Sons—which I think nearly lives up to it’s name.  Explore or write?  It’s a tough call.

So let me lay the decisions out this way.  I don’t get almost any free time where it’s literally just me.  Which is a great time to write, but it’s also a great time to go walk around the neighborhood, and see what the parks and pools are like.  It’s like the best weather I’ve seen in months so this doesn’t help the “stay in and write” argument.

On the other hand, my novel that I haven’t touched in a few months is about a road trip, and perhaps right after doing one, I should go write about it.  This is what my brain does without Sarah and Logan, it looks at opportunity and turns it into anxiety!

Regardless of what I decide, I hope you’re all enjoying the beautiful weather!  Let me know what you’re doing to enjoy it in the comments!

Moving

I have lived in Massachusetts for the majority of my life.  I’m 32, and other than a year and a half when I lived in Denver, and a couple of years—before my memory—when I lived in New Hampshire, it’s been all Massachusetts.

I’ve moved more than 30 times, although I’ve lost track of the exact number.  Most of those moves have been in the central Massachusetts area (as far East as Waltham, as far South as Uxbridge, and as far West as Worcester—within Massachusetts I haven’t lived much further north than the Mass Pike).

As many of you who read my posts regularly might know, I am not a fan of living here, I’m not a fan of the weather, the constant road-work, or the enthusiasm this state seems to have for fucking everything—”Fall’s the best!” “I love apple picking” “I love sweater weather” “I love pumpkins” “I love the Patriots,” you get it.  And when someone like me isn’t enthusiastic about the never ending parade of stupid shit, they all act like it’s a big fucking deal to descent in opinion.

So, my wife and I finally bit the bullet.  We decided to move away, partly the job market hasn’t been great, and partly it was a good opportunity for us to get better weather and a change of environment.  To be completely honest, Sarah and I love driving around on weekends exploring, and we were starting to run out of things to do here.

We’re moving to North Carolina, not exactly sure where—we’ve narrowed it down to three different apartments and just trying to decide—but somewhere in the Raleigh area. We’re very excited for a change of pace, but also there are the complications.  We’re both a bit nervous, not because of a fear of failure, but it’s a rather big move, and so we’re just jittery.  Telling our friends and family is tough, and while everyone seems to understand our reasoning, it doesn’t make it less painful, or feel less personal.

One thing that I’ve been thinking about is lifestyle change.  I know from experience, that Chinese food, and pizza can be extremely different depending on region—my father-in-law laughs and says “oh yeah, down here they make pizza with dough, and sauce, and cheese” but look at Chicago style vs. New York style vs. Greek style vs. Neapolitan.

I think that by going somewhere with a different culture will do two things, force me out of my comfort zone which will be a good thing, and it will possibly make me—beyond just the eating out aspect—become a little more independent and in control.  To stick with the food example, if I find that I don’t like the food in the area, it will force me to cook more, which will arguably be healthier, but also because I tend to get bored making the same thing, will force me to explore.

Overall, I’m very excited about the move, and I’m definitely going to continue blogging about it, and letting you know about the different challenges to moving to a different region.

What would you worry about most with a move like this?  Is there anything I should consider?

Choosing is the Hard Part

As many of you may know, I was laid off in November.  I’ve been home watching my son, applying for jobs, and finishing school.  These last three months have been great, because I’ve bonded with my son in a way that I don’t think I would have been able to otherwise.

What I haven’t been talking about on here, is the fact that I applied to grad school (I have an M.A. but this time I’d be getting an M.F.A) in North Carolina.  I’m waiting to hear back, and have been told that I should hear back in early April.

In addition to that, my lease on the condo I live in expires on April 30th, and we just found out a week or so ago that the owner is planning on selling it.  This is fine, because we have thought this may not be the best layout for my son who is about to start walking—it has 3 floors, and none of them are set up well for being gated.  Also the condo is further from almost everything here than we want to be.

So, my wife has been trying to figure out where we’re going to live.  We’ve gone and looked at other apartments in the area, but we’re in a weird mental space which doesn’t really lend itself to this type of decision making.  If I get into school in North Carolina, it will have a teaching position attached to it, so that would be my job.  If I am not accepted, I will need to get another job but the jobs I’ve been applying for have been fairly spread out, so it is difficult for us to determine what town/city is the best for us to live in.

Just because things weren’t complicated enough, I got an excellent job recommendation today from a career councilor.  The job is in Irvine California, now this really complicates things, because I don’t really like living in Massachusetts, and Southern California has kind of been my dream, and so that’s another possibility.

Of course, I’m going to apply for the job, and if I don’t get offered it, I won’t have to weigh any factors, same thing if I don’t get into North Carolina.  The problem is what if I get the job, and it’s amazing and then I get accepted into school which is an amazing opportunity.

Even worse, is the fact, that I will feel terrible about taking my wife and son away from our family, but the job opportunities here in Massachusetts have given me little to no hope.  I’m not sure what the best thing to do is, to follow the opportunity, and uproot my family, or to keep trying here where we have a built in support system.

I think ultimately that I know that there isn’t necessarily a right decision and two wrong decisions.  Assuming that I get my choice of these opportunities, I know that there are upsides to each, and I know that there are downsides to each.  I know that each will affect Sarah and Logan in both good ways and bad ways, as much as these decisions will affect me in both ways.  Choosing is the hard part, not living with that choice. Weighing decisions and trying to do the right thing, is easily the worst part about being an adult.