It’s no big secret that Julie and I were never all that “at home” in Texarkana. Loyal readers (or should I say loyal reader: “hi Darrell”) may recall me telling a story about traveling 200 miles to buy root beer in Dallas and how the guy who put in our sprinklers found that fact a little odd.
While in Texarkana, the following exchange once took place, really.
Location: At the EZ Mart (Texarkana is the World Headquarters of EZ Mart, which is only in Texarkana)
Scenario: I’ve come to the counter with a Pepsi and a bag of Fritos.
Counter Person: “Do you want anything else?”
Me: “Oh… do you think I should get something else?
Counter Person: “Huh?”
Me: “Is this not enough stuff?”
Counter Person: “What?”
Me: “Nothing. Never mind.”
Counter Person: “You know, I get the idea that you’re on a completely different level than me.”
That pretty much summed up my experience in Texarkana. It was like being a visitor from another planet. Yes, we were aliens, and our space ship was a Subaru. To our knowledge, ours was the only Subaru in Texarkana. We had Yankee accents, preppy clothes, and a sneaking suspicion that George W Bush may not have been personally placed in the White House by the hand of God. In short, we didn’t fit in. So we tried to escape any way we could.
We watched satellite TV. We listened to podcasts. We watched movies in Dallas. In the end we didn’t even watch the local TV news… with me on it. We dreamed of leaving Texarkana for a place where weren’t so out of place.
Finally we escaped for real. We moved 2,000 miles to Oregon. It’s hard to imagine two places more different than Medford and Texarkana. One has one of the world’s most acclaimed Shakespeare festivals; the other still has a theater with a “negro entrance.” They both have populations around 60,000, so I guess they do have one thing in common.
Since our arrival in our new home, we’ve enjoyed the perks that come with the new location. Good movies are just a 10 minute drive away in Ashland. Hiking trails abound. Summer will bring a major music festival to the area. And, yes, good root beer can be found in just about any grocery store, and even a few convenience stores. Life is good here.
But there is just one, tiny little complaint. We’re not special anymore. We’re just one more young couple tooling around Oregon in a Subaru with NPR on the radio. I’ve actually had trouble finding our car among all the other green Subaru Outbacks.
We’ve been weird for so long, now we’re… typical. We’re not persecuted. We’re not “dangerous” outsiders trying to poison people’s minds with that “egg headed Ivy League thinking.” (For the record, I went to Cal State, Northridge which is, last I checked, not an Ivy League school. Julie, on the other hand, well…) We’re not even “city slickers.” We’re nothing.
So what to do? It’s hard to stake out turf in Oregon that someone else hasn’t occupied and made downright respectable. Remember, this is the land of both Hippies and Lumberjacks. But yesterday I was driving down the street and saw someone really sticking his middle finger out to “the man” and “this backwards culture.” Across the back of his pickup truck was draped a giant Confederate flag. Hmmmmmm.
(P.S. While in Vienna last month, I also spied a truck with numerous Confederate flag bumper stickers. I have no idea why.)