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Arkansas Report

Beginning with predictions, of my impending trip to Arkansas last week I wrote,

It’s likely that we’re being encouraged to move there, or to hit up a cousin for a job (or a kiss), or to explain why Kathy’s not twice-over pregnant already, or to reveal our gray roots, or to cook our Boca burgers this way, and not that; it’s equally likely that we’re having a grand time in spite of my suspicions to the contrary.

So which of those came true? The second cousin who used to be a headhunter for boarding schools said when we met her, “Did you bring your resume?” without asking whether we were even interested in teaching at a boarding school; a virile disciple of Limbaugh asked us when we were intending to reproduce; and nearly everyone suggested we might as well move to Arkansas as stay in Iowa. No one scrutinized our scalps, and no one told us how to eat, although nearly everyone began at least one sentence with, “I’m a meat eater,” or “I like meat too much…”—One side effect of being a vegetarian, which Kathy learned a decade ago and I’ve discovered this year, is that others become conscious of their own gustatory habits in ways that they never imagined becoming conscious. They develop a vocal tic which excuses them for not being vegetarian. It’s always a strange moment to me because it comes across like an smoker who can’t quit the smokes. To consume flesh is suddenly marked abnormal, when in fact they mean that what is abnormal is to be vegetarian. It happens no matter whose family we visit. Kathy said on the drive home—a drive in which we witnessed dozens upon dozens of red tail hawks staking out the highway, waiting for a rabbit or mouse to show his head—“One reason I like Iowa City is that it’s a place where I’m not weird!” In that respect alone, that Searcy still has no non-Mexican restaurant with significant veggie dishes, while Iowa City has two major vegetarian restaurants and nearly every place caters to veggie clientele reveals how the world in which we live is different from the world in which we just visited.

We also had a good time. It’s been too long since I’ve seen my family. All my fears of last week and last month were built out of a paranoia that I think came to being due to absence and distance. I created a family that was a caricature of what it truly is. Yes, my family can be painfully passive aggressive (witness the kissing cousins and mom’s conflicts with my grandmother); yes, my family has had an amazing growth spurt that makes it a very different animal than it was when I last lived in its clutches. But after the shock of the first day, I began to feel at home there.

I regret that it was not a long enough trip to get anything more than superficial impressions. Several cousins have grown up in ways that surprise and please me, including one, a Marine, who while sometimes ridiculous also has all the markings of growing up wise. Several aunts and uncles haven’t grown up at all. I know for certain that I will lose my last great-grandparent before I turn 30, which seems a strange thing to say since few have great-grandparents until they’re 20, but she’s lived and been such an imposing presence for so long, it always seemed a given that she would live forever. At the other end of the timeline, my six new once-removed first cousins (all younger than 3) personality-wise are all over the map: sweet, neurotic, violent, noisy, self-entertaining. As for my grandparents’ house, the fire in the fireplace is made of cellophane; there’s a new suite/apartment upstairs to house my cousin; 31 people, the number we had Sunday night, can still fit there fairly comfortably; and John Ashcroft looks over it knowingly.

It was, all-in-all, quite a trip. A few of our pictures are online. (Kudos to the person who can find Ashcroft.)

 

Comments

well, i just don’t know how you get enough protein!!!

We manage!

As it is, though, the questions never get so detailed as that. It’s a visceral reaction, literally.

you do realize that your choice is selfish, elitist and only possible in a globalized world that flies in your edamame beans and tofu yumminess from nippon…oh i know, you’re gonna try to convince that arkansas grows soybeans…but you can’t fool me.

Well, sure, but the world has been globalized for 500 years: why would there be any reason to pretend otherwise by appealing to the nostalgia of the homestead? I’d rather appeal to India!

And don’t forget that Arkansas also grows chickens and Super Centers in which to sell them. :)

you’re just a matricidal killer of mother nature!!!!

(is the repitition too blatant?)

and, sure pick a place like india that has the biodiversity and tropical clime to support the varied foods needed to be a vegofile

Fine. If I must accept that to be a vegetarian is to reject all forms of homesteadery and subsistence and to embrace pesticides and large-scale plowing, then you have to allow that your meaty ways corrupt the air, poison the water, and trample the land, thereby killing even more animals and plants at the expense of biodiversity than I ever could!

Further,

everybody knows that that’s just liberal hype…

in fact, michael chrichton’s next novel is going to subtitled where’s the s—t? an expose of how all that poop really does have places to go and really does benefit everyone

this is what they want you to believe

when everybody knows its this

people get all bent outta shape over cafo’s

geeze, louise, and the cheese

You’ve at least gotta give PW credit for posing some very difficult, probing and pointed questions…

(PW) You talk about burrowing animals, but not many animals burrow in the ground, do they?

(Paul Willis) Clearing the area in order to grow crops is bad for the biodiversity. Is that where the dangers of vegetarianism stop?

And, my goodness, think of logs and rocks that you are forcibly removing from your property!!!! think of the mice that live in barns!!! think of the fetuccinied earthworms!!!

Mmmmm… cheese.

Oh, indubitably! What I like most, though, are the responses his probing queries receive. There are few better explanations for why crops are bad than this gem: “The kangaroos and the emus that can break through the fences and get into the wheat fields, what they actually eat is rather small, but the damage they do in say, hopping through, or running through a wheatfield, is quite large, because they trample the wheat and they either destroy it or make it difficult to harvest.”