Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wholesome Land

"We get free parking at the hotel. We just need to tip the valet." Jesse reminded me.
Tip? Somehow the word triggered a wild thought, "Are they wearing G-strings?"
"Absolutely not!" Jesse used the tone that left me no wiggle room, but I couldn't stop. I went on, "Where am I going to stuff all those dollar bills then?"
"Do not talk like that when we're there. I will be so embarrassed." She rolled her eyes and shook her head at the same time. Since when she's the good girl?
"And no F word, no goddammit, no cussing while down there. Remember: we are going to the Bible Belt." She added.

I'm already not liking this pending trip much--not that I cuss often. I just don't want to walk on ice all the time while there. Sometimes my mouth has its own idea of what to blurt out aloud. Plus, it's 95 degrees there with 69% humidity, and this is only the beginning of June.

She also suggested a show we should see with the word "shepherd" in the title. I told her I wasn't going to travel two thousand miles to see a show of gospel music. The phrase "wholesome fun" sounds alarmingly unfun to me.

I gave another serious consideration to the dress I'm going to wear for the event: collarless, sleeveless summer dress with big flower-and-leaf design all over, and a neckline that doesn't really say "I'm a nice Catholic girl" either. I don't want to cause any heart attacks with it--one memorial is already too much. I could hear them whisper to each other now: Look at that woman from California! And look they all will, because I will have to sit up front to "man" the laptop and TV for the video showing.

Let them gasp, I decided. I'm doing this for Jesse, who told everyone to dress colorfully for the occasion since Wes, Missouri born and raised, loved color. The idea didn't go well with folks back in his hometown, who had a hard time understanding the concept of "celebration of life" in Jesse's email. They solemnly reminded her that this was a memorial, not a celebration.

We were going home when the G-string conversation occurred, after spending an afternoon at Monterey, where Wes' ashes were scattered. She took a panorama view with her video camera of the bench on which they often used to sit, the ocean waves crashing on the rocks, and the golf course; but the sun wasn't cooperating and not a single ray was beaming down when we got there. It was normal for Monterey, where it's always grey, cold and overcast, but we were hoping Wes would pull some strings up there and perform a small miracle.

To my relief, and sadness that followed, I didn't see any ashes among the ice plants by the bench. I always hear stories of wandering spirits that couldn't rest until their earthly remains are properly buried. What about spirits of cremated remains that are scattered about? How are they going to find peace? Do we imagine the unsettling souls because our own spirits need to be comforted after a loved one departed? I will make this the number one question to ask of the good folks at the Bible Belt.

Better get ready, Branson--California girls coming your way in two weeks. It's hard to predict which party will be more surprised.

                                                       *     *     *

You know you're not in California anymore when you see this sign at the entrance of the lady's room at Denver airport:
I shall hate to imagine what will be flying about in the event of a tornado attack.

But I do like the Gulliver's Travels inspired, cereal-bowl-and-donut shaped, mysterious airport construction:

Our hotel room overlooks the river that meanders around the city:
And I would enjoy the serene view even more if it wasn't 95 to 100 degrees outside everyday.

This bridge hides a dark history: Two black families moved into the city in the 50s. One of the men of the families was found hanging from the bridge one day. The other family moved out soon after. It hurts me in the chest every time I think about it. I'd like to think we have progressed admirably, if not quickly, since that time.

BBQ in Missouri style: Five different types of sauce and a whole roll of paper towels:

If a gun hanging in a holster won't make you work your hardest in the office, I don't know what will:
It was actually in someone's office.

Shoji Tabuchi's theater looks great at night outside:

But it's practically shabby comparing to it's restrooms inside:
You can literally entertain your most distinguished guests here.

Baldnobbers was the first show in Branson and the hillbillies were truly hilarious:
But if you ask anybody in Branson you will be told that they are Arkansans.

I found out later Wes's brothers were planning on putting on bucktooth and overalls to welcome us at the airport, simply because I had asked Jesse "Are they all hillbillies in Branson?" Too bad they didn't go with the plan, but the visual stayed.

In my opinion, this is Branson's most beautiful attraction--rocky landscape:
It's everywhere and it's free, thanks to the Ozark Mountains.

I'm glad to have a chance to meet Wes' family and friends, all cordial, funny and nice people. This is the house in which the brothers grew up:

Every one felt as if he/she knew Wes much better after the stories being told at the memorial. I will never forget the tales of his tenacity and excellence for sports, his rowdy teenage years (repeatedly wrecking his father's car, beer cans falling out of the car every time he opened the car door, etc.) his deep belly laughs, his Vietnam War enlistment, his love for animals (my dog would jump onto his lap from my arms if he was near) We all laughed and cried. Jesse said Wes was there with us, and I believed her. 
We squeezed four shows, a boat ride, and an amusement park outing in addition to the preparation leading up to the memorial in the six-day travel. Jesse handled the grieving widow role fairly well despite breaking down during her turn of the speech.

  Aside from a few stares, most people looked at me as if I were a normal human being. They are doing the best they can to be a diverse community and here's a great example:
You can get your Hispanic and Asian fix in one sitting.

The hotel valet asked me if he could go to California with me, not that I had some secret rendezvous with him (or anybody), but he couldn't stand the heat. He had my sympathy; and in case you're wondering--no, I didn't take him with me. It would've been scandalous for them.

After enduring Jesse's neurotic breakdowns, over-packed luggage, losing and finding stuff all over the place all of the time, irritability and constant threats to cry over the minutest affairs, I think we'll stick to short day-trip for now until I'm recovered from this one.

You will be proud to know that not once did I say the F or G or S word while in Branson. Not when anybody could hear me anyway.

(RIP, Wes.) 


  1. Well, now you can let 'er rip! The words, that is.

    Good to see you!

  2. I'm expecting a country-western short story. Got one cooking on the brain?

  3. Ms. A -- you got me going for a while! Good to see you too.

    Bruce -- I hadn't thought about it, but now my brain is really cooking. Thanks!

  4. O.k., I am trying yet again to leave a comment! Having grown up in the Bible Belt, I know just how frustrating watching your language can be!

    You are a wonderful friend!!!

    Note to Bruce: Are you ever going to write another post????? I miss you!!!

  5. I concur with Bruce, I seriously thought I was reading a new story!

  6. Sarah, you have a way of making even dark writing and experiences fun. I really enjoyed this post. I haven't been to the Bible Belt, but I'm guessing they curse like sailors. I guess you're not supposed to if your an outsider. (?)
    PS Forgive my being missing for a while. I'm back from one trip, headed out for camp tomorrow. I wish I was mobile with my connection. We'll catch up in later July.

  7. Judie - I'm with you on Bruce's post.

    Lou - Stay tuned...or not.

    Robyn - miss you! Hope your travels are fun and yes, lets catch up soon.

  8. I've been missing your prose! I do believe one could have fun, though, even in Branson, MO. Raise some hell!

  9. Melissa - Just being there was quite a shock for them, so I tried to behave. It was a fun trip for the most part.

  10. a western story especially with that gun hanging around :) waiting for the new story

  11. I f-ing love it! :-) Great to read you always!

  12. Lovely of you to share so much! Thanks! I'm always up for vicarious travel!Thanks for stopping by the blog Sarah!!



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