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Some Alabama in Some Pictures

alabama in pictures 1

We went for Lydia’s SHINE SHINE SHINE One Read even at Auburn. I did it last year. This is a GREAT event, and Chris and Ashley and the Friends are AWESOME. Look, Ashley always does an amazing book-specific display. Lydia’s lit up and featured a lot of WIGS and WIG HEADS.But while we were in Alabama ANYWAY, we rented a little cottage and stayed to write and soak up images in a nearby TINY town. I got three chapters drafted.

alabama in pictures 1 and a half

We drove over from Auburn, and this is my face when I saw it: A movie rental store. Not a kiosk in The Pig. A genuine MOVIE RENTAL PLACE. Hello, 1995! That said, there is full on 2015 Wifi happening all around the town. Still, fast computers capable of streaming and unlimited fast WiFi are expensive.

This place has a population of 3000 folks with an estimated median household income of about 30K a year. That 30K must get stretched butter-scrapin’ thin, especially if it has to cover a kid or two. Add in a lot of retired older folks on fixed incomes with fixed ideas about technology —Scott’s mom JUST got rid of her phone line modem thing that makes a grindy noise. (I am one to talk. I will never get, say, SNAP CHAT. I just think—WHY? I BARELY want to talk to people I adore most days, making chit-chat terrifies me, I am so hypersensitive that I am SURE the insta-rejections would leave me questioning my value as a human being, PLUS I might have to see surprise genitals? WHAT? No. NO, THANK YOU.)

Also? A pretty big population whose HAVING A DECENT JOB potential is GREATLY harmed due to meth. We saw a LOT of folks with very Meth specific problems.

But even so – Netflix is cheaper? I cannot explain it.

I am not sure it could survive, even in a small town, if it didn’t have other income streams. For example, you can TAN there.

alabama in pictures 2

See on that front shelf all the tanning gels and accessories, and in the back is a door you can go through and emerge either sleeker and more gloriously pecan colored or…kinda orange. Depending on how it goes for you back there.

Since the back room has become a Tannery, the, um, other income stream had to move to the front. *cough* Pr0n corner *cough* There, ll the DVD boxes are plain red gel. There is a tape barrier up and an ADULTS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT sign. It is alos RIGHT at the front of the store. If you go there and get porn EVERYONE KNOWS you got porn and even THE KIND YOU LIKE. Small towns, man.

We rented BIG EYES (not great, in spite of two of my favorite actors and a gifted director whose work I usually love) and WHAT IF (purely delightful in every possible way). We did not, I promise you, rent MISSIONARY POSITION IMPOSSIBLE 7 or AMERICAN BOOTY 3—but we DID notice a couple of patrons circling the aisles, as restless and as intense as sharks. PORN Sharks, is my guess.

I think they were waiting for us to GO so they could BOUND into PR0n corner, grab one of the mayyyybe 150 dvds—-all shame-faced in with only spines showing—-and flee before some more Mom-style possibly Baptist ladies came in;

alabama in pictures 3

We went to Dollar General because Lydia forgot her bathing suit and it was SO GLORIOUS and warm and sunny that we wanted to get in the LAKE. She found one, and I saw what I thought was a pair of PERFECT fantasy pants. You remember I like to write in ENORMOUS SOFT FLOPPY pants that are so roomy and forgiving that you could get into them with me and the waistband would allow us to stand a socially comfortable distance apart. ALAS, “I” was not pants. “I” was a jumpsuit, and my label was quite excited about this terrible fact.

I cannot manage a fantasy jumpsuit.

The small town Dollar General was an interesting cross pollinating population. Here black folks and white folks mingle more than they do in the churches—you look at the church websites and you see all black staff or all white staff, and the congregation pictures are nearly as absolute. But they all come here and smile and tip heads at each other and at us, all of us buying our Cheez-Its and conditioner together.

Thrifty Baptists with tidy hair and shopping lists cross paths with the meth addicts here, too—one to get a good price on fruit snacks for the kiddie lunchboxes, the other to buy expired Chips Ahoy from the sales bucket. We saw one woman in FILTHY zebra striped sweat pants, her skin and her teeth testifying to her addiction, and all she had was four or five JUMBO packs of off brand baby wipes. I looked at her and started praying there was not a baby. Meth and parenthood is a terrible combination. Meth actually can’t be combined with ANYTHING good or hopeful or healthy or nice — it is purely terrible, start to finish. I could see her life in the pick-holes riddling her skin, and she broke my heart.

And yet the the cold writer in me was sizing her up in that photographing way. I have a piece of brain whose job is to remember, to report, and a worse piece, farther back and down, with a worse job. That cheese-skinned, dead-eyed sorrowful object of a woman got buried in the rotty pile of composting horror at my brain base where this book is cooking—where all the books have cooked, basting themselves in that rich gooey fecund stinking slime.

AND ALSO—My writer brain wants to know: WHY ALL THOSE FREAKING WIPES? Had she — killed someone? Was she thinking that with ENOUGH wipes, she could get the blood out of the lino well enough to thwart luminol; if so, she’s been high every time she watched CSI. Or can you somehow GET METH out of baby wipes? Does anyone know or have a better theory? WHY WOULD A METH ADDICT NEED THAT MANY WIPES????

11 comments to Some Alabama in Some Pictures

  • Corey

    Eesh! Maybe baby wipes in lieu of a shower?

    The jumpsuit made me shudder, too, though I wondered if it could actually be fantasy pants with a built-in apron. If I’m ever in the Dollar General in Out There, Alabama, I’ll check.

  • Maybe she has a baby? Scary thought…

  • dee

    Wipes are used to clean up residue.


    I’ve been researching this for a book as well, so I love that you asked. The use of pens fascinates me, personally.

  • Karen in Maryland

    What ticked me off about Alabama during the 4 years we lived there was the (very regressive) tax on groceries. At the time, I think it was 6.5 percent. It made me sad to think of all those poor people in trailers having to pay extra money on their gallons of milk. (I wanted to pretend that they all wanted to guzzle milk and not full-sugared sodas, even though that state is often named one of the heftier ones.)

  • Brigitte

    Ah, fond memories of driving through a remote town, with a bunch of friends, seeing a prominent flyer for the local play displayed in the gas station window: “Never Trust a City Slicker”
    Luckily for us, this was before meth became the big thing.

    The crime-infested small city next door to us is full of it, but at least you don’t have to worry about shootings too much, guns are worth good drug money!

    And I feel the same way about Snapchat, shudder!

  • liz

    I’m so sorry, but you lost me at ‘swimming in the lake.’ Could there be SNAKES in that lake??

  • edj

    I mostly just clicked over to read comments to see why on earth she could need that many baby wipes.

  • Ashley

    Maybe the baby wipes were on such a deep discount that even in a meth-filled life, she couldn’t resist buying all of the packages of jumbo baby wipes at 24 cents a package.

    Or maybe there is a baby, but some grandmamma is actually rearing her, but occasionally, she thinks, I can by things for my baby and then brings her mamma massive amounts of baby wipes.

    Thanks for making me FAMOUS. This is the most famous I have been since the time I was on the local news because of 4-H.

  • Jill W.

    Your video store story reminded me of this recent commercial Matthew McConnaghey and Jimmy Kimmel did for a video store in Austin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kefrdEqytOI Funny stuff.

    Old navy has some pants right now that would be pretty good fantasy pants, especially if you buy them too big. I have a pair and I wear them to work and actually get compliments on them despite teh fact that I feel like I am in my pjs.


  • Julie

    She probably had no running water and obviously needed a bath.

  • Dollar General. You are so right. We live so far out in the boonies (though in Texas) that we were THRILLED to have a Dollar General installed on a corner near us. Now it is only 8 miles to milk Amd baby wipes rather than 15. Alas, the meth has not the hold here as simple poverty and alcohol. A time to be thankful.