August 27th, 2014


Painsday,12:50 p.m.

I'm not doing a very good job of keeping the LJ current on this trip. Of course, it can be rightly argued that the object of this trip, and of life in general, is to experience, not to report. But I spend my life reporting, which, of course, changes the life being reported on. It works just like quantum physics. It's very hard to closely examine a thing with altering the thing you are closely examining.

Not a great deal has happened, though. And I doubt it will today. I'm probably at a 6 on the pain scale. Maybe by tonight we can get ought and go for a drive. The night air is warm, as summer night air out to be. Warm, muggy summer nights are one of the things I've missed most of all.

Late yesterday, my mother drove us over the mountain and out State 25 to Dunnavant, and then we went out Dunnavant Road to Kendricks Cemetery, which was once Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, on the shores on Wehapa Lake. This is where an awful lot of my family on my mother's side is buried: Rameys, Isbells, Brashers, et cetera. My Grandmother and Grandfather Ramey are buried there. Sometimes, I think I will be buried there, between the mountains, far from any city. It's a quiet and good place, secret from most of the world. Mom and I placed stones on my grandparents' headstone, and she told me about various family members, pointing out their graves. There are a number of civil war tombstones here. It's an old cemetery. I have some photos that Kathryn took, behind the cut:

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Afterwards, we drove back east along Mimosa Road (also in Dunnavant), to the house where my grandparents lived in the seventies (1973-1980), the last place my grandfather lived. He was born somewhere in Dunnavant, but we're not sure exactly where. Which means, likely, that no one alive knows. Hell, he may not have known. I spent much of my childhood in the woods around that house.

Okay, I'm gonna go wait until it's time I can take some Vicodin and try to push this pain back. I'm not here to sit in the house and bitch about my feet and legs.

Aunt Beast


I would be remiss if I allowed myself to be so caught up in the bittersweet sting of nostalgia that I did not pause to discuss the issue of politics in Leeds, Alabama, which, of course mirror the general political climate in Alabama and across much of the country. Part of me wants to look the other way and not even bring up this problem. But I asked my mother, a moderately liberal woman, a Methodist who supports President Obama and believes in compassionate, responsible social programs and so forth, I asked her to please be honest with me about what it's like here in Leeds in 2014.

And what I hear is grim. She tells me that most of the city is now strongly Republican. No surprise there, though when I was a child, most Alabamians were still Democrats. What's alarming is hearing that a significant percentage are either openly Tea Party or Teabagger sympathizers. So, if you're familiar with the tenants of the TP crowd and Far-Right Republicans, you know what this means. Among other things, it means I can rejoice in the geography and the climate, the beautiful mountains and forests, and even in those aspects of Southern culture that are dear to me. But I cannot hope ever to live here again in the atmosphere of tolerance and progressive mindsets that I have grown accustomed to in Rhode Island. The hate and willful ignorance that have swept across America since 2008 have sunk deep roots in Leeds. This is not a place where gays and transgender people can live without the risk of violence, in a worst-case scenario, or a low-level persecution and harassment, in best-case scenario. The conservative attitudes that have always characterized this town have become inflamed into hostility towards most of those things I hold dear and vital to a healthy nation, or, indeed, to any healthy civilization.

And see, all I really want is to be left alone.

Out on I-20, which parallels Leeds, there's an enormous billboard that reads, "ANTI-RACIST IS A CODE WORD FOR ANTI-WHITE." On the one hand, the mayor of Leeds has denounced the billboard. On the other hand, it's still right there, screaming at thousands of motorists every damn day. It should be noted that, as of the 2010 Census, 14.3% of Leeds residents were black and 6.6% identified as Hispanic or Latino. And they have to see this billboard.

Now, to be fair, I've been walking around Leeds since Monday morning, and, so far, neither Kathryn – with her blue hair – nor I – a 6'3" transgender woman – have gotten any shit from anyone. Not even in Wal-Mart. And obviously there are good people in this town who have not given themselves over the bigotry of the Far Right, who do not believe there should be an automatic weapon in every home, who do not condemn government programs to aid the poor, who are not creationists, who are not racists, and who do not hate GLBT people. I want to be clear that I know this. But I suspect those people are few and far between. And I keep being told of this or that cousin, uncle, or aunt who have actually become Tea Party supporters. People I once considered sane and kindly.

And it makes me ill. I want to be here, surrounded by the landscape of my childhood, but, at the same time, hearing such news makes me want to head back to New England.

I just had to put this into words.

Aunt Beast