Day three was the first day in more than 13 years where I was no longer a resident of the South.
This is more significant than simply no longer living in North Carolina. The South is bigger and more meaningful. And, from my point of view, worse. Much worse.
I am not a fan of the South. I realize that many are, maybe even some who might read this column. I apologize in advance for the offenses I am about to cause. Because the South is different, in ways that you can’t really fathom until you’ve lived there, and because most of those differences are bad.
It is a place where you can go to the town’s 4th of July fireworks and have all of the white people sitting on one side and all of the black people on the other. With no mixing. Because both groups prefer it that way.
It is a place where people do not meet your eyes when walking down the street. Or even when walking the halls in your own office.
It is a place where people are open and warm on the surface but closed on the inside. “Southern Hospitality” turns out to be only skin deep. You can meet people very easily, but you cannot make friends. You will always be the newcomer, even my neighbors who had lived there 20 years were still the newcomers. And they were from the South too, just from a different part.
It is a place that can pass a law one month that requires a drivers license to vote, and then the next month announce that the Department of Motor Vehicles is closing a bunch of licensing agency locations for budgetary reasons. Most of which just happen to be in poor black counties.
It is a place where local government is venal, where official decisions are all personal, where politicians amass wealth visibly and without shame, where my wife once asked an acquaintance from the area why he didn’t run for County Commissioner only to be told that there was no point, he didn’t have enough capital.
It is a place where people defend their privilege at all costs, even when it is only imagined privilege.
I will miss the mild winters, and I will especially miss the lovely spring. But I will never miss the South.
Interstate 70 through Missouri is exactly identical to the I-70 I remember from road trips in my late teens and early twenties. It is the same two-lane hardtop ribbon now that it was 40 years ago.
Except the people using it are not the same. There are way more of us. This was a common theme throughout the trip, two-lane interstates, decently maintained but stagnant, and only sparsely set with rest areas. In most stretches, two lanes each way is still enough. But not on I-40 from Knoxville to Nashville. And especially not here, I-70 between St. Louis and Kansas City.
This was the worst stretch. Cars and trucks everywhere. So many that I’m not certain another lane would be enough. It makes me wonder if cars and trucks are even viable into the future. How many roads will we need, and how many lanes, in another 40 years?
But the future is not my problem. Back in the present, I can tell you that I-70 in Missouri is over-saturated and could use some serious infrastructure investment.
The cats are getting better. Maybe they are becoming more accustomed to travel.
Or maybe they are just worn out from two days of near-continuous yowling.
The hotel is in a small town and is independent but is actually quite posh in a small-town sort of way.
There is a Pokemon gym in the hotel itself, close enough that I can use it from our room; many Pokemon die a variety of Poke-deaths. But only when my Gamer Girl isn’t looking; she finds my Poke-fascination to be rather embarrassing.
Perhaps when I grow up I will understand.
The hotel recommends a nearby Mexican restaurant. After the previous night’s horrible Italian, we do not simply take the hotel’s word for it, but double-check on Yelp and find it to be decently-rated there too. An hour later, we’ve learned that in small-town Kansas, the phrase “Mexican food” means “see how much salt you can put on some beans”. So much salt. So much.
But even so, it is still way better than the previous night’s Italian.
🙂 😀 🙂