There are certain indelible mental hard-wirings that do not easily go bye-bye when you 1) claim as the “place you are from” the fetid fringe of the Dixie and 2) you are the type of person who, the exact nanosecond your high school diploma was handed to you, you fled the land of ticks and chiggers so fast you left skid marks on the pavement to the most-un-Dixie-like place that your limited pecuniary circumstances and your piece-of-shit 1967 Opel Kadet station wagon could carry you that was NOT part of the Confederacy (read: the Mountain Time Zone) and you never ever again looked back East except as part of some sort of gag-reflex past-life-regression/revulsion therapy. To wit: No matter how much counseling you receive and how much Jagermeister you drink in hopes of obliterating the literal and metaphoric thought of kudzu from your cranial mainframe, you can not help but wince at the very notion of grits and red-eye gravy. And just the thought of NASCAR and rabbit hunting make you want to join the Hare Krishnas.
But, of the all things Southern that make this ex-ex-ex-ex-son of the South jump for joy the most about life in the Mountain Time Zone, what reigns supreme is the fact that, in this part of the country, the notion of “visiting” is far less pronounced than it is in places where lard is still considered a fundamental and necessary food group unto itself. This issue is especially poignant 1) when one dwells in the sort of place that folks would be inclined to visit, often for weeks on end and 2) during the Holiday Season. (I should stress after re-reading and pondering point-number-2 there that the notion of hosting and attending Holiday parties is a mostly acceptable (and quite often enjoyable) sub-phylum of the overall “visiting” genus, if for no other reason than, by definition, it only transpires in December, a time of year where it’s easy enough to find yourself inexplicably “unavailable” because of an emergency camping trip to, as but one random example, Copper Canyon.)
I fully comprehend that by even half-heartedly dissing the notion of “visiting” as a viable form of recreation, my perspectives run counter to some of the most fundamental tenets of new-urbanist/small-world-ism that most of my fellow granola-crunchers flat-out consider gospel. In this, my chums and I have long been at odds. And to them I say: You did not hail from the Land of Cotton, where almost every Sunday since I was old enough to understand what the words “humidity,” “poison ivy” and “manners” really meant, families from the Shenandoah Valley to the bayou country gussied themselves up (which, in my world, is a big negative strike before ever even walking out the door) and went over to someone else’s house for periods of time that made me want to study physics so I could get a better grip on how one sweltering afternoon could go on for 27 goddamned years.
Actually, only about half the families in the South went a-visiting on any given Sunday. The other half were playing host, which in most ways was even worse, because not only did you still have to gussy up, but, in addition, you had to clean your room. Jeez, I need a beer just taking this walk down a memory lane lined with Spanish moss.
Anyway, when I landed in the Mountain Time Zone, first in New Mexico, then in Colorado, then back in New Mexico, one of the first things I joyously came to learn was that visiting in the Southern sense — that is to say, by way of 12 volumes worth of social rituals whose rules of conduct were writ in stone back before the American Revolution — was not part of the collective consciousness, at least as that consciousness applied to newly transplanted long-haired dirtbags. In most parts of the Mountain Time Zone, social interactions take place in wonderfully neutral settings: bars mostly, but also on trails, at civic meetings and in jail cells. I have amigos in Mountain Country that I consider among the closest compadres I have ever known — and I think it’s fair to say the vice is versa — whose abodes I have never once entered.
In the South, most of your friends would know in which dresser drawer you stored your socks. It was definitely “mi casa es su casa,” and I fully understand how, on paper and in theory, that sounds like a bona fide Better World. And maybe it is, but, man oh man, I am happy as a pig in slop to live in a part of the country that is verily defined by the concept of privacy and getting together in communal living rooms.
This is not to say that if I walked into my house and found my good buddy Fatty — who I’ve known for 25 years and who I consider a brother as much as anything, but whose house I have never entered — passed out on my couch, I would do anything save fetch him a warmer blanket, while wondering what he did this time to piss his significant other off. It is to say that it’s wonderful to call home a place where the likelihood of that happening is slim, and, even if it did happen, I know for a fact that the first thing Fatty would do upon waking would be to call the Moose Jaw and make arrangements for a free bar tab for Yours Truly in payment for the night’s lodging.
I know it’s trendy in a progressive mindset defined by Utne Reader these days to espouse the virtues of a more integrated familial society, in which fundamental socialization is most often achieved by way to “getting to know your neighbors” at their house and at yours But, for me, I’ll always prefer getting to know my neighbors in the local bar any day of the week. That way, you never have to clean your bedroom.