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96. Riding Lawn Mowers for Big-Ass Yards

27 Apr

When one of my friends, a native Seattleite, visited the Deep South for the first time, he was astounded by the amount of space folks have, including the biggest lawns he’d ever seen. At my house here in Seattle, we cut what grass there is (and by “we” I mean Geoff) with a weed whacker. We’ve got a lovely English-style garden in the back, but the grass in front doesn’t even justify a push mower. The house where I grew up, though, is a whole ‘nother story. One that involves a riding lawn mower.

Like many Southern folks, we lived out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by woods on all sides and, yes, a ginormous yard. One of my greatest thrills as a kid was getting to ride along as my dad mowed the lawn. Even today the smell of freshly mown grass makes me giddy with nostalgia. Ok, maybe giddy is too strong a word. Let’s go with “slightly less cranky than usual.”

As much as I loved going along for the ride, I couldn’t wait for that glorious rite of passage: Driving the lawn mower all by myself. Looking back, it might have been wise for me to practice before being set loose, but I reckon failure is how we learn. I’ll never forget the feeling of taking the reins for the first time: one part elation, three parts terror. As soon as I took off, I headed straight up the huge oak tree. Sadly, this would not be the last time a vehicle under my power would come in contact with a tree, but I shouldn’t digress…

Sorry, y'all, this won't cut it.

I’m sure I panicked. I most likely screamed. I definitely concluded that mowing the lawn was not for me. Now that I think about it, this childhood trauma is probably what caused me to abhor yard work of any kind. (Or at least it sounds like a better excuse than “Bugs. Worms. Dirt. ICK!”)

I’m sure the bike-riding granola folks here in Seattle would be horrified by the oversized carbon footprints left by gas-powered riding lawn mowers. I admit, they’re not exactly, well, “green.” But when you consider the Herculean task of cutting an acre or so on a sweltering summer day, I bet even Ed Begley Jr. would happily hitch a ride.

Photo credits, Flickr Creative Commons: Riding lawn mower by WindRanch, push mower by Dan Cederholm.

92. Wearing Curlers in Public

1 Apr

I can count on less than one finger the number of folks I’ve seen sporting curlers between here and Los Angeles. I’m not sure if they even sell curlers here, though you could surely find some on Amazon. Is there anything they WON’T sell?

In the South, you’re likely to encounter ladyfolks wearing curlers in the grocery store, Walmart, the dentist’s office, or most commonly, the mall. Whenever I encounter a be-curlered person, I wonder: “Where are you going later that’s SO FANCY? And why wasn’t I invited?”

Surely curlers aren’t some kind of ironic fashion statement. Yet. In fact, many ladies attempt to cover them with a jaunty scarf. Not that they’re fooling anyone. Nobody’s head is shaped like that. I hope.

The best I can figure, wearing curlers in public is all about multi-tasking. How else can you shop for kitty litter and get your hair done at the same time?

I’m probably not qualified to comment on curlers, seeing as I’ve never used them myself. But since when has that ever stopped me?

As far as I know, there are two types of curlers – hot rollers and, um, room temperature ones? I believe that hot rollers work faster, so the kind you see in public are the latter variety.

Yes! They sell these on Amazon!

You’ll find quite a few styles of room temperature rollers. I’m most familiar with the spongy pink foam ones with a plastic snap contraption that holds them in place. All of the other varieties require bobby pins or clips of some sort. Actually, I think there are some rollers that claim to stay in place all by themselves, but those are probably marketed by the same folks who tried to sell us the specialty tape that would magically hold one’s boobs up. (Don’t waste your money.)

I don’t know how long one must wear rollers to achieve the desired amount of curl. How do you know when you’re done? Are there directions on the curler packages?

You’d think that the roller thing would have phased out back in the 80’s, once The Perm Generation started up. But perhaps they’re making a comeback. Hey, if parachute pants can do it, anything can!


While many folks use curlers to preempt bad hair days, this technique has been known to backfire. Back in high school, my mayonnaise-hating friend Sandy decided to optimize the curling power of the pink foam rollers by sleeping in them. She might’ve even started off with wet hair. She showed up at school the next day with WAY more curls than she’d wanted/aimed for/thought possible. The look was reminiscent of a certain Saturday Night Live character so naturally, she earned the nickname “Rosanne RosannaSandy.”

Do you now or have you ever used curlers? If so, have you ever worn them in public? If so, why??

Photo credits – Flickr Creative Commons: Blythe doll in green curlers by Squirrel Junkie, Red-headed Blythe by Aimee Ray

84. Mardi Gras (“Throw Me Something, Mister!”)

8 Mar

Throw me something, mister!

Laissez le bon temps rouler, y’all. At least until midnight tonight. You’d think that in the South Fat Tuesday wouldn’t be that big a deal. I mean, what distinguishes it from Fat Wednesday, Fat Thursday, or Fat Friday? In a word: beads.

Pop quiz: Which city hosted the first Mardi Gras celebration in North America? If you answered “New Orleans,” you are A. wrong and B. obviously not from Alabama. Yes, folks, the good people of Mobile, Alabama, got the party started years before New Orleans was even founded. They gave birth to the tradition, and then New Orleans came along and turned it into a juvenile delinquent with a substance abuse problem. Not that they’re bitter.

Is there any place more fun than New Orleans on Fat Tuesday? I think not. If your idea of fun includes being jostled by an unruly mob, having beer spilled on you (repeatedly), and groveling (or worse) for some cheap-ass plastic beads. For some, this is heaven. For others, it’s hell. For me, it’s a little of both. Yes, folks, I’m willing to dodge a little vomit in hopes of catching a doubloon. If anyone wants to trade one for the giant pair of granny panties I caught one time, please let me know.

The last time I celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I was in my 20s. If I were to do it again, I’d want a hotel room with a balcony. Not necessarily to avoid being trampled (though that’s a plus), but to have access to a bathroom that’s been sanitized for my protection. I would rather pee on the street than enter the ninth circle of hell better known as the porta-potty. Picture the poophouse scene in “Slumdog Millionaire.” Or don’t. I still have nightmares.

Ok, moving on. Did I mention there’s cake? And costumes? And beads? And cake?

It’s not particularly tasty cake. But there’s green and purple frosting. And a plastic baby inside. If you get the slice with the baby, you win a fabulous prize: you have to procure a King Cake and host the next party. Woo hoo! Who doesn’t enjoy providing pastry for a bunch of drunken ne’er-do-wells? I’m not sure what happens if you don’t follow through. Maybe Rumpelstilskin convinces your first-born child to run off and join the circus or take up with a bunch of proselytizing vegans.

Well, I should wrap this up before Ash Wednesday rolls around.

What’s the best thing you ever caught at Mardi Gras? No STD stories, please.

All photos from Flickr Creative Commons: Bead seekers by Philippe Leroyer, Mardi Gras Beads by Mike Bitzenhofer, and King Cake by Logan Brown.

77. Dust Ruffles (Pretty AND Practical)

23 Feb

For Southerners, having a bed without a dust ruffle is like showing up in public without your britches: Everybody can see your stuff! The horror!

Whenever I see ruffle-less beds in magazines and even – gasp! – real life, I always wonder, “Where do they stash all their stuff?”

The answer, here in Seattle anyway, is: In the basement. Oh, how I wish my fellow Southerners could know the joy of having a giant room in which to store all the stuff that Goodwill probably wouldn’t take, but that you, nevertheless, find yourself unable to part with.

Why do most home builders in the South opt for attics? You can’t go in them between the months of May and September due to the possibility of heat stroke. Maybe it’s because Southerners mostly use the space for Christmas decorations. Except for my sister who also has an extensive collection of Halloween decorations.

Now that I have a basement, I’m down to only one of those plastic under-the-bed boxes, but I’m not about to do away with my dust ruffle. (Despite all the complaints I get when I’m out of town and Geoff seizes the opportunity to put boy sheets on the bed.)

My waiting-to-be-revised, but relegated-to-the-back-burner (or “eye” for my Southern peeps) novel has a scene in which my narrator lifts the dust ruffle of her childhood bed searching for shoes she might’ve left behind and finds…nothing. She says, “What kind of person has nothing under the bed? My mother.”

While parts of my novel are somewhat autobiographical, that line is pure fiction.

My mother made the most of any and all storage space available. If you put something on the table and left the room, by the time you got back, she would’ve already stashed it somewhere. If you asked where it was, she always said, “It’s wherever you left it.” Um, no…

There’s no telling what all you might’ve found under the beds in my mom’s house: board games, bags of pantyhose, vacuum cleaner attachments, items waiting to be re-gifted, etc. You might even find some actual dust. My mom kept a clean house, but who bothers with cleaning under the bed? Not people with dust ruffles!

The best thing about having a bunch of random crap under the bed is that it leaves little room for monsters. On the flip side, though, if a real-life monster breaks into your house, you may have nowhere to hide.

Photo: Battenburg Dust Ruffle from Bella Home Fashions.

Do you have a dust ruffle on your bed? If so, what’s it hiding? Don’t worry, I’ll never tell…

65. Crochet–Getting Crafty, Granny Style

3 Feb

Photo by Poppy
Flickr Creative Commons

You can’t throw a sugar packet in a Seattle coffee shop without A. Hitting a knitting group or B. Being chastised for mishandling some of our Earth’s precious resources (sugar, paper). Knitting has gotten quite trendy here in the last decade, thanks mostly – I think – to the catchy moniker “Stitch ‘n Bitch.”

Well, y’all, Southern ladies have been stitchin’ ‘n bitchin’ for centuries. Where do you think all your grandmother’s doilies and afghans came from? Walmart? I think not!

Before I get much further, I must confess that I have never knitted, nor crocheted, and I don’t exactly know how to differentiate between the two. As near as I can figure, knitting is for useful items (sweaters, socks, etc.), crocheting is mostly for decorations.

When I was growing up, crocheting was at an all time high. In the 70s, there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be prettied up with a bit of crochet. Is that an extra roll of toilet paper? No! It’s a lovely doll with a crochet “skirt.” Is that your blender? Goodness, no! Apparently an adorable chicken wandered in and took up residence on the counter. Is your broom wearing a skirt? Don’t be silly. That’s Twiggy. You know, the model? She lives here now. In our closet.

I don’t know where the obsession for turning everyday things into art projects came from. Possibly the same handbook that taught folks how to make the ubiquitous Barbie doll bake sale cake. (Don’t tell me you haven’t seen one.)

I, myself, got caught up in the crochet/knitting craze back in the early 00’s when ponchos were all the rage (remember that exhilarating five minutes?). I hooked up with someone on ebay who knitted custom ponchos (and matching hats!), and went a little overboard, buying poncho/hat combos for my mom and sister and three for myself. It was almost like having a grandmother. Though I don’t imagine most grandmothers are compensated through Pay Pal.

During the height of my own crochet frenzy, I sprang for some beautiful (and none too cheap) Alpaca yarn at the Puyallup fair. It’s around here catching dust somewhere, probably still hoping that it will spontaneously become a scarf one day. Alas.

Over the years, I’ve toyed with the idea of picking up needles and learning how to knit one, purl two. And maybe I will one of these days. Just don’t expect to see me showing up to stitch ‘n bitch night anytime soon. However, if the stitchin’ is optional, count me in!

Do you crochet? If so, could you make me one of those fancy TP covers so I can deck my bathroom out in retro style?

38. Toothpicks or When Rednecks Accessorize

16 Jun

At many a Southern eatery, you’ll find a toothpick dispenser next to the cash register. Look for it by the used-to-be-complimentary Andes mints that they now want five cents for. Cheap bastards. But, hey, at least the toothpicks are still free.

I’m not sure how this tradition got started. What am I Wikipedia? But I really wish I could put an end to it. There are few things less appetizing than seeing people pick their teeth in public. Which is why I don’t understand how restaurant owners can recklessly leave toothpicks lying around knowing that the toothpickers will surely be seen by incoming customers.

I’m always tempted to say to the server, “I WAS going to have the filet mignon, but now I’d just like some Sprite and saltines.” But as a former waitress, I try to keep the snarky comments to a minimum. And tip big.

Seriously, people, tooth picking – like nose or belly button picking – ought to be done in private. That’s what bathrooms are for. Ok, that’s not their primary purpose, but still.

What’s maybe even worse than actively plucking food particles is those people who walk around with a toothpick in their mouth ALL THE TIME. Like they never know when they’ll happen upon corn on the cob and must be prepared.

At tote-sum stores in the South, they sell FLAVORED toothpicks for chain toothpickers who presumably aren’t into the natural woody flavor. Cinnamon is popular, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen mint. Maybe even wint-o-green.

Back in junior high, toothpick chewing was popular for about a week. If I recall correctly, we made our own with cinnamon oil. Where we got the cinnamon oil, I don’t know. That doesn’t seem like something they’d regularly stock at Kroger.

Thankfully, some teacher or concerned parent decided that this was a nasty habit/choking hazard, so toothpicks earned the spot of bubble gum’s wicked step-sister. And I was spared from what might have been months of looking like a hayseed. Whew!

What’s your stance on tooth picking in public?

36. Wrangler Jeans: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Wear Levi’s

7 May

Why do Southern people love Wrangler jeans? No, I’m asking you: why? Ok, I’ll admit to admiring the way they hug the backsides of bull riders. But, honestly, I think any jeans would do. Even Walmart brand, if there is such a thing.

Wranglers are supposed to be tough, the Clint Eastwood of jeans. So maybe folks feel more macho with that lasso-esque label on their butt. Still, this doesn’t explain why women wear them. Then again, maybe it does.

I can’t recall whether or not I’ve ever actually owned a pair of Wranglers. I’m sure my sister would remember. She has an uncanny talent for recalling anything you’d rather forget. I do distinctly remember trying on a pair once. This was at Mildred’s, a sad little clothing outpost not far from where I grew up. I can’t remember anything they sold apart from the aforementioned Wranglers. Underwear? Neckties? Ball gowns? Help me out, Richland people…

I never considered myself the Wrangler type. I mean, I’ve yet to attempt roping a steer. Heck, I haven’t even chased after a greased pig. I think you kind of have to earn Wranglers, in the manner of a Boy/Girl Scout merit badge.

When I was growing up, getting caught in Wranglers knocked you at least two rungs down the social ladder. In my mind, anyway. I didn’t even want folks knowing I occasionally wore Lee’s. (eek! now you do!)

I was all about Chic jeans (pronounced like “small yellow bird,” not “oil baron.”). And Jordache (with requisite comb in the back pocket). And my personal favorite, Gloria Vanderbilts (although my dad claimed he couldn’t afford those fancy Gloria “D.” Vanderbilts. Perhaps because he wasn’t John D. Rockefeller?)

Now that I’ve been an ex-pat Southerner all these years, I kind of think I ought to get myself a pair of Wranglers. Embrace my heritage, you know? But where would I even find a pair? I’m guessing Nordstrom doesn’t carry them.

Do you wear Wranglers? What do you like about them?

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