January 10, 2008

Eyedrum and Between

YO Local Beloveds---looking for something different to do here on a slow Thursday in Lovely kinda-northishy Georgia.

Tonight is the party for the winner’s of Creative Loafing’s 7th Annual Fiction contest. The theme was “Scratch,” the winners rocked it, and I was one of the judges. There is going to be cake. And live music by Duet for Theramin and Lap Steel. And the righteous Indie Bookstore folks from Bound to be Read Books will be on hand, and the winners will be reading. I am going to be there with David Fulmer and Fiona Zedde (the other two judges) and I plan to say at least two funny things about cats from hell. Not MY cats. Actual hell spawned cats owned by Satan. SO. There’s that. You should come.

Suite 8, 290 MLK Jr. Drive SE,

This year, I was part of an arts program that sends writers to local high schools, and I talked about Between, Georgia At both schools, they asked if I had ever been to the REAL Between, Georgia, and I said, “No. And I don’t want to go.” At both schools, this was a point of interest in the discussion. They wanted to know why I would set an entire book in a town, and then not go there, even though I have been within ten minutes of Between about nine times since the book’s release.

My standard answer is, “I suspect they didn’t do it right.” And that’s true. Between, in my head, has a miniature town square, like a doll house version of Monroeville or Marietta. There is a junkyard teeming with sleek black dogs who move in a school like pirhana. There is a diner and the owner, Trude, takes the dried up turkey that didn’t sell in yesterday’s Open Faced Sammich special and recycles it into something called Turketti. Turketti is that universal gellid gray color all casseroles take on when they are mostly made of pasta and cream of mushroom soup, and Trude figures if she puts enough Velveeta on top, people will eat it. That is what Between is like. And if you want to tell me it is not lIKE that, you find I have my fingers in my ears and am saying LA LA LA! CONNECT THE DOTS! LA LA LA!

One of my favorite reader mails remains a missive from an older gentleman, irate with me for doing such shoddy research when I wrote his town’s history. “There is only one church in town, and that is just about the only thing you got right,” he berated me. “And even so, it is a METHODIST church, not a BAPTIST one!”


Anyway, one of the students -- (Her name is Starlett--- did she win NAME LOTTO, or what?) has relatives in Loganville. Here is Starlett posing with her cousin by the sign.
She CLAIMS that that is just about the busiest street in BETWEEN behind her, and says, “There's a "nursery" - the kind with plants - Between Grocery, a church, and an auto store, and that's it.”

Kids today! They’ll say ANYTHING. I am sure the town square is just out of sight to the right.

Connect the dots! LA LA LA!

Posted by joshilyn at January 10, 2008 7:21 AM

She is correct. I used to work in that county. Although their "main road" is just Hwy 78 that goes from Atlanta to Athens and cuts through Between. But I always thought it was quite quaint as there are some lovely, decrepit old houses.

What's crazier is the nearby town of Bethlehem where the street names are (I kid you not) Star, Christmas, Angel, Mary, Joseph, Manger, etc. (There are a similar bit of streets in Atlanta by my house where Merry Ln and Christmas Ln intersect. Ironically, it's in a nearly entirely Jewish neighborhood.)

Posted by: Jessica at January 10, 2008 7:40 AM

I am singing right along with you. I don't want my mental picture of Between sullied either!

BTW-- I always love a good PeeWee's Playhouse reference. I have the whole series on VHS and I liberally intersperse them between my 3 year old's Barney, Wiggles, Dora, and, (yes, I have succumbed to the evil corporate giant) Disney Princess viewings. : ) She loves the shows-- especially the snacktime parts when he says "mmm...__________y"

Posted by: Jill at January 10, 2008 7:48 AM

There's a great line in a Too Much Joy song that I keep firmly in mind when writing. "Some of this is true; some of this is better."

Posted by: Dave at January 10, 2008 8:23 AM

For years when driving between our home in Austin, TX and my husband's hometown of Bossier City, Louisiana, we took the back roads through east Texas and always passed a sign for a town called Opelika. I had this whole fantasy about Opelika built up in my mind, because how fantastic a name is that for a town, anyway? I was just sure it was a charming little spot filled with local color and whatnot. One day when we had a little extra time, we actually followed the sign to see where it led, and that's when we discovered there really IS no Opelika, unless three farmhouses and a graveyard constitute a town.

I have chosen to ignore reality and in my mind, Opelika is a FASCINATING, quirky place. Kinda like Fairhope (my husband's brother lives there) but without the good seafood.

Posted by: Badger at January 10, 2008 8:51 AM

My paternal Grandfather grew up in Opelika!

Posted by: Joshilyn at January 10, 2008 9:07 AM

Opelika, TEXAS? Or another Opelika? Because I firmly maintain there IS NO Opelika, Texas. Or wait ... I mean, there IS! And it's fantastic! I am so confused.

Posted by: Badger at January 10, 2008 9:26 AM

Opelike Mississippi!

Like yours in texas, It is a teeming metropolis. Or not.

Posted by: joshilyn at January 10, 2008 10:15 AM

Obviously, Between and Opelika are small enough to be the type of towns described as "you blink you miss it." And those who have tried to convince you of their lack of charm have blinked. I'm sure everything you imagined is right there, one blink back.

Posted by: Amy-Go at January 10, 2008 10:47 AM

I should admit to living in kinda-northernishy GA. But had no idea till recently that Between was not a totally made up town. although I am surprised that you have taken such liberties with reality (ee-gads, you do works of fiction after all) I don't think I want to see the "real thing" either. I have your version planted in my head, and anything else would be a let down.

Posted by: elizabeth at January 10, 2008 12:18 PM

You could have written it about LA, Chicago, New York, or Miami and no one would have noticed the literary license you took in your book. But boy, there is so much more in little towns that stick out like a sore thumb it you use said literary license. You might tell them the publisher boffed it in the final print and the in disappeared from InBetween, Georgia.

just kidding. well you could. I'm just sayin'.

Posted by: Cele at January 10, 2008 12:26 PM

I like your version of Between better. Who cares what Mr. Irate-Man says. Get a grip dude! It's fiction not a PBS documentary! LA LA LA ;-)

Posted by: Trace at January 10, 2008 6:19 PM

There's an Opelika in Alabama too.

Posted by: Trace at January 10, 2008 6:21 PM

Your Between is worth reading about. Mr Irate-somethingorother won't ever make it in a novel.

Posted by: Patti at January 10, 2008 11:09 PM

I wish I had looked at this earlier. I could have skipped tap class to come tonight. Hope y'all had fun.

I had a college roommate that grew up in Between. She wasn't the be-best-friends-met-each-other's-family-visit-the-'rent's-house type of roommate, though, so I have never actually been to Between, either. I, too, prefer to think of the town as you have portrayed it.

Posted by: erinanne at January 11, 2008 12:02 AM

I prefer your version of Between! The town square MUST just be off to the side in that picture. Of course it is.

Posted by: Lindsey at January 11, 2008 2:17 PM

So, you're taking Fridays off too? Around here? All y'all? You know if you set up your phone to send pictures to your blog, the Blog365 thing would go a lot better for you. AND your life would improve in other very significant ways. Ways that involve instant gratification when your cat/dog/rabbit does something stupid or your child/husband does something funny.

Posted by: Lydia at January 12, 2008 9:45 PM

Ever heard of Finger, Tennessee? That's where my grandparents lived and I spent most of my summers. It's still there but not near as bustling as when I was a kid. But it will always, in my mind, look like it did in 1963. I don't want to go to Between. I've been there, in my mind. Looked kinda like Finger to me.

Posted by: Rhonda at January 14, 2008 3:00 PM