I'm exhausted--teetering, as Ms. Difranco says, between tired and really tired--which is why I haven't been able to sit down for good while and write about our trip to Tennessee.
<--- The Chattanooga Choo-Choo.
Kip and I went to visit my folks in Chattanooga for about a week--ostensibly so we could attend their annual 4th of July party, a legendary occasion all its own which draws in somewhere in the range of 150 people, in a low-key, elaborately casual sort of way.
Here is my mother awarding one of the attendees. -->
Yes, there are awards for the most elaborate costume, the most patriotic kid, and other coveted categories. And it's brunch. Read this post for a better run-down.
We also went to visit Dollywood. If gays are called to the four corners of the gay universe, they are New York, San Francisco, Provincetown and Dollywood .
Kip is decidedly easy-going about almost everything, and my parents--stubborn and decidedly parental in certain ways--truly know how to relax and have a good time doing something or nothing. We ate, we ate, and somehow--this is the greatest wonder of human nature--we were later hungry and could eat again: Foster's pound cake, potato salad, mac-n-cheese, biscuits, watermelon, that chicken thing with the chipped beef.
My great aunt Allene, who for the last however many years was a caretaker, until her mother died two years ago, has never been known, as far as I can remember, to be anything other than in perfect, relaxed control of the situation. Lately, she is perpetually on the edge of tears--or slap happy with uncontrollable fits of laughter. For no other reason, it seems, than she is old, exhausted and still running around, for the most part, full-speed ahead. She still mows her lawn, for example. Granted, it's a small Atlanta lawn, but she mows it.
<--- From left: Margaret, my Dad's sister who lives in Southern California, my Dad, me and my Mom.
My parents neighbor, Lola, who is essentially my surrogate grandmother, is becoming a bit slower, beginning to retreat into stories from the past--but then we all do that, so why should it be alarming? She is still sharp. What separates her, I think, from my father's parents is that she is still genuinely interested in other people's lives. How did the Houck's become so distant, so drawn into themselves as to obsess over the tiniest, perhaps-invented notion of what your life was, and is? Nothing comes out of the blue, I want to write--as if to prove that we could have foreseen their slow, strange, co-dependent decline that their marriage has become--but I know that is untrue. I know that sometimes the phone rings and your life is changed.
Dollywood is as I remember it, only with larger crowds. And now that NYC has colored (distorted, enhanced, righted, informed?) my perception of everything, only the people look bizarre. I forget that people don't know how to walk. That is, they don't know where their body is in space. Car culture in non-pedestrian cities is such that your spacial awareness atrophies. Or never develops to begin with. People just swing their arms and stop, turn without warning--bad drivers, if you will.
At Dollywood, we at BBQ sandwiches, heaps of roasted potatoes and cole slaw, chocolate covered potato chips, and later handfuls of red, white and blue Kettle Corn.
<-- We took pics in the photobooth.
We rode the world-ranked and Golden Ticket-winning Thunderhead rollercoaster, which lives up to its promises, or is simply a great ride, if you're not the type--like I am--to have read about it's development, construction and opening, since it was announced. (Geeky Thunderhead stuff can be found here, here and here.)
They've re-vamped Dolly's Chasing Rainbows Museum, where the story of her life and career is told via photos, her awards, and dress after dress after dress. They've also shellacked personal notes passed between Dolly and her personal assistant/longtime partner Judy. (Dolly's a lesbian, by the way. It's not unknown, but people are sometimes shocked to hear. I think the more shocking thing is that a lesbian can't have a career in country music.) It's quiet, respectful way of including Judy--since she must live an otherwise invisible existence.
We returned to New York--it's now been more than a week. It was a lovely trip.
Here we are in the parking lot before our departure -->