Friday, January 28, 2011

Okies n Me

How I ever ended up in this town is for God herself to explain, and I’m listening.
I look around me and it’s like, “Dorothy, you’re still in Kansas” as I drive my “hippie machine” in and out of the 2 strip malls and onto the back roads of the hamlet where I have resided for the last 6 years.
There’s the senior center, the donut shop, Lou’s Tire and a Straw Hat. Anywhere USA. Instantaneously, I notice the marquee on Prunedale Feed and Supply:
Ladies Night Tuesday 5:00-8:00.
I’m wondering what the hell a women’s gathering would do at a feed store… Like would there be wine or just hot dogs and a silent auction filled with farm equipment as prizes? Down the road, there’s the Calvary Christian Church on my right whose marquee reads:
Under Same Management For The Last Two-Thousand Years.

So I decide to investigate the history of my community and here’s what Wikipedia says:

Prunedale is a census-designated place in Monterey County, California, United States. Prunedale is located 8 miles (13 km) north of Salinas, at an elevation of 92 feet (28 m). The population was 7600 residents at the time of the 2000 census. But the sign now reads 10,897 as of 2008. Plum trees were grown in Prunedale in the early days of its founding but the trees died soon after due to poor irrigation and fertilizer. Some locals on occasion call the area "Prunetucky." The origin of this term references the often unkind but sometimes true stereotypical characteristics of the populace, which had a large population of Dust Bowl migrants from the Rural Midwestern and Southern United States ("Okies," et al.).

So we’re known for plum trees dying due to poor irrigation and fertilizer and residents that call it Prunetucky?
As if being poor, illiterate, redneck and having a high ratio of persons on America’s Most Wanted list is something to be damn proud of?
The other night, I was forced to go to CVS (We actually have two.) as I was out of that clear, eucalyptus molten I occasionally partake in, and as I turn into “strip mall # 1” there’s a cluster of 5-8 jacked-up vehicles; all having chipped paint, one headlight, and confederate flags in their windows and all parked in a football-type huddle with about 7 shirtless, BEER DRINKIN teenage Pruntuckian males and their “ladies” having a fun night in a parking lot. Their music is blaring so loudly that I can’t hear myself think and of course I steer clear of the whole celebratory shebang. Why? Well, those boys don’t take too kindly to a linen-wearing, tofu eating lesbian in a silver VW Bug with her PEACE, Practice Non-Violence, Equal Rights, VICK You Make Me Sick and Repeal Prop H8TE decals all over the glass and bumper. And quite honestly, I don’t take too kindly to them either. The partitions are there. It’s similar to the 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi in which the blacks knew their boundaries; like the margins on notebook paper, and the whites knew also and neither crossed over those lines that had been drawn decades before them. They actually didn’t have a burning desire to because those lines; those walls that divided them, felt as comfortable as a woman taking off a tight bra after a long hard day at work. I parked an agreeable distance away from them.

I savored and highly recommend Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel entitled The Help if you haven’t yet read it. Be prepared to meet three audacious, unforgettable women. It’s a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't… no matter if you live in Jackson Mississippi, Carmel California or Prunetucky.


  1. I think you're the one that's been under management for the last 6 years. Keeping it all REAL and TRUE.

    love you like the dickens.

  2. Good evening Val,
    I can just see you zipping through the CVS parking lot. And I want to know what those ladies do at the feed store!

    In my pursuit of higher education I am currently enrolled in a cultural anthropology class, and have been repeatedly amazed at how many different "cultures" I move in and out of every day. And how I never really noticed before. I go to my weight lifting class at 6am at the SRJC and blend in with the football boys, all grinning and sweaty. Then I drive over to Whole Foods in Coddingtown to get my middle aged middle class white girl food before I go and try to blend in with the young achievers who rule my anatomy lab, who all seem to live on energy drinks and M&M's.......Then I go to do an electrical job in Marin County where I do my clean-cut professional thing with the ultra wealthy client, then walk outside to spend the day with the guatemalan guys who bust their backs digging trenches so I can lay conduit in them, then tell them to fill the trenches back up.
    And in all these encounters on an average day I rarely cross the line; I'm friendly, fun (depending on my current hormonal state), easy to work with and inclusive, but never lose the feeling that I am here and they are over there. And I'm starting to wonder at why I am so afraid. Because it does feel like some nefarious fear keeping me in my little bubble. I mean, sometimes the fear is helpful, like not parking your lesbian liberal automobile next to a bunch of drunk Prunetuckians, but other times it just keeps me disconnected. I'm looking forward to inquiring into my habitual "stay on my side of the line" way of living......

    Oh, and an interesting note: I was perusing our text for cultural anthropology, "Atlas of American Folklore", and I noticed that there was a listing entitled "Lesbians". So of course I flipped right to it; and how enlightening it was! Did you know there have been 3 eras of lesbianism in america ( if you're my age, 50, you've lived through two of them), that our "costumes" have changed as the era has changed, that our tribal gatherings are in Michigan each year, that our coming-out story is the basis for establishing ourselves as a member of the sub-culture, and that we traditionally celebrate an anniversary of our first sexual encounter with another woman by having a candlelight dinner?!?!? I kid you not!! We have been observed and recorded in the "Atlas of American Folklore"!
    Much love to you Valerie, thank you for writing and inspiring.


  3. Thank you, Storm, for sharing and for expanding on both the visible and invisible lines that divide all of us. Your comment/blog not only brings me "up to date" on your daily routines and explorations, but causes me to pause...and that's a good thing!
    My faithful followers (All 16 of you!) I highly recommend you read the above comment.
    I love you Storm and I love you the dickens!