October 14, 2008

Well...welcome!  To myself!  To blogging!  For lack of a better idea of what to write here, I'll stick to things related to American Owned.  

I’m back on the road in Tulsa, getting ready to head out and search for more motels and owners tomorrow in northeastern Oklahoma.  People in Tulsa are so chatty and soft around the edges in the way they interact with strangers, that it's kind of jarring.  The boundaries I'm used to having are completely not recognized. At dinner, in a restaurant where there were only two patrons, the other one, a 40-sth lady whose cell phone sang Fly Me To the Moon every time someone called, started up a conversation with me - from across the restaurant - about her Chinese herbalist and what *he* thinks of these green papaya salads.  "I'm not sure about them herself, but they're delicious, aren't they?  You know, I can't find green papayas myself, but when I do buy them ripe they have so many seeds in them I just don't believe it..."  Her friendliness left me feeling just a little guilty about my reflexive need to turn away from her every time her phone rang.  Another...well, not friendly, but southernly-nuanced moment, happened when I took a u-turn looking for the restaurant where I met the papaya lady.  The driver behind me, a grizzled white man in a battered maroon pickup, stuck his hand out the window and wagged his index finger at me.  Like a teacher!  Or a teacher in a movie!  For the record, there was no sign about this being illegal; I think he just didn't like my turning when he wanted to go straight.  But still, a finger-wag?  Is that what it looks like when road rage meets southern hospitality? 

I am not looking forward to the next five days.  This work is incredibly draining; not boring, just draining.  And this is mostly because there is no incentive for me to be doing it.  Incentive = audience, money, recognition, career….advancement. Whatever.  There’s nothing driving me to do this except for the unmistakable sense that it matters.  To whom, or why, I have no idea.  Certainly to me, but I have a recurring and wrenching feeling that I’m both audience and performer in some navel-gazing psychological drama (that I’m also writing, naturally).  But I can't start thinking about Why am I doing this project?, or I'll never actually do it.  There won't be an it.  There will just be regret.  At best, it's like E.L. Doctorow said about writing a novel, that it's like driving at night with the headlights on - you can just make out what's in front of you, but you can't see your destination.  But you'll probably get there, right?  You have to keep going.

So for now, I’m going to try to get good interviews with people who actually run these properties, and also get good photos.  And then, it’ll be a matter of wrangling with the material.  But that's later.  

Copyright Anne Dodge, 2009   •   Contact acdodge at gmail dot com