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Friday, Sep. 19, 2014

Boldly Going Nowhere

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Born to Ramble

When you're born to ramble, you roam from place to place, seeking the perfect spot to squat. But perfection is only an illusion -- either everything is perfect or nothing is perfect, there is no in-between. Heaven on earth is an attitude, not a location. Listed alphabetically by state are places I have lived; no two places are alike.

Arkansas (1944-45, 1992-98, 1999-2004): Born on an Army Air Force base during World War II. My father was an officer and my mother was an Aries. I returned 48 years later. The pace is relaxed and real estate is affordable. It's easy to blend in here -- just park a bunch of dead cars in the front yard and bathe only during full moons.

Arizona (1987-92): Lived in the desert 50 miles from Phoenix. Most of the time, it was like living about a half a mile from the sun. It's a very hostile environment. All the desert creatures (rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, javelina, fire ants) are nasty critters and every bit of vegetation has sharp thorns. It's the sort of place where you have to be alert to potential dangers at all times, much like being in Detroit or Chicago.

California (1975-86): The land of fruits and nuts. You can make a ton of money there and still not afford to buy a house. Los Angeles freeways are basically a series of long parking lots. The fastest part of your commute is backing out the driveway. If you go there to be discovered, you will soon discover you want to go back home.

Florida (1964-65): I went to college in Miami for a year. There are a lot of old people down there with blue hair, driving big cars, peering through the steering wheel rather than above it. They creep along at about 2 mph and always have a turn signal on, usually the left. Nine blocks later they'll make a right.

Georgia (1966-68): U.S. Army, stationed in Atlanta. They talk strange down there. For example, "y'all" is singular and "all y'all" is plural. You can rent a movie and buy live bait in the same store. Everyone has two names: Billy Joe, Billy Bob, Bonnie Lee, Bonnie Sue, etc. Sometimes they have three names, like Billy Joe Bob or Bonnie Lee Sue. The clay soil and the necks of the residents have one thing in common -- the color red.

Kansas (1954-56): Fourth and fifth grade in Kansas City suburbs. Lots of highs and lows. I returned a punt for the game-winning touchdown and someone stole my bike. Everything was flat, including most of the women.

Minnesota (1956-64, 1968-75): I once changed a flat tire when it was 33 below zero. At 45 below, spit freezes before it hits the ground. In the summer, you swat mosquitoes. In the fall, you watch the Vikings. The Vikings have been to four Super Bowls and lost them all. If suffering builds character, Minnesota has plenty to offer.

Missouri (1966): Basic training in Ft. Leonard Wood. I'm now an employee of the U.S. Army, thanks to the insistence of Uncle Sam, learning how to do squat thrusts and clean toilets. Apparently, the southern portion of a country called Vietnam needed my help coping with the northern portion of the country. I'm not a happy camper.

Ohio (1945-46): I had my first birthday in Columbus. I took long naps and burped a lot. I still do.

Tennessee (1998-99): 10 months in Memphis doing a computer contract, watching the Big Muddy flow south. It's about 1959 over there. Elvis is still popular and you can catch B.B. King live on Beale Street. Every grocery store has armed guards, and looking anyone in the eye is considered an act of aggression.

Wisconsin (1946-54): After my father was discharged from the service, we moved back to my parent's hometown of Stevens Point, a college town with its own brewery and one tavern for every nine residents. In grade school I learned how to read, write and hustle marbles at recess. They eat a lot of bratwurst and cheese there. Lighting a match in a crowded barroom during a Packer game could inadvertently cause an explosion.

After all those years of rambling, I'm right back where I started. I no longer have the itch to roam. In fact, now that I live in Arkansas, the only itch I have these days is from chiggers.