We had a couple of inches of snow the other day, an amount that would make New Englanders laugh with seven feet so far this winter. But this is winter in the mid-South and even a little snow leaves us discombobulated, corralled in our uninsulated homes heated by air pumps – a whirling fan that sends the outside air inside over heated coils – guaranteed to provide warmth only 20 degrees above the outside .
The street at the bottom of our driveway hoards ice like a miser because of the stand of pine on the opposite lot abandoned by its owner who got too old for the golfing privileges it buys. That is where I dump the leaves I gather on a tarp and drag there; ten years so far with no more consequence than pursed looks from passing drivers. A retirement community like ours is full of nosy people with strong opinions who judge. I manage to avoid them as a rule, but sometimes my wife’s engaged life makes it unavoidable. I drove in the afternoon when the roads were dry, even the one before our house, to the Dollar General store on a paper run – towels, toilet paper and bathroom tissues; fall brings allergies and we blow our noses all the time. I also got food for the birds, oatmeal and corn meal. Mix it with peanut butter and lard and stuff it in a feeding post, scatter seeds at the base, and a lot of bird will live another day. I also got bacon treats for our old Jack Russell terrier who has reached the point here she is only interested in food and sleep. I went past Cranford’s, the only alternative to the Wal Mart superstore that suffocated all of the retail outlets when it arrived on the highway eight years ago. I despise Wal Mart even though it gives us mediocre stuff at a better price than the competition, whose stuff is no better. Shopping there is a sterile, warehouse experience, corporatism at its worse, all the variety and richness of life smilingly bled away. The oppressed workers are forced to be cheerful. But I guess it’s better than Venezuela and Cuba and other socialist economies where you stand in line to find shelves that are bare when at last you get inside. I found myself at the Dollar Store with a group of males who arrived in pickup trucks, one of which had two aggressive dogs barking in the bed. Usually, it is women who do the shopping in this part of the country. The guys looked like the ones I’ve been reading about, the ones who have pretty much checked out from society because there is no work for them in our information and increasing robotized economy, white males good with their hands who have been marginalized and demonized. They had wild beards and needed haircuts. The woman at the check stand acknowledge her obvious pregnancy to another woman and said yes, she was married. “The third time is the charm.”