Notes from the road — the P(x) digital diaries
Day 5: Wednesday, August 18th
Finally a normal day. We're up and at 'em early and headed to Bill's Pony Station for breakfast. Chris makes the mistake of appointing the Cynthia and Kelli team to drive/navigate. After driving north then south then north again and still not finding the Pony Station we pull into Jimmy's Egg, a local joint. After consuming many cups of coffee we are ready to rock.
We ask the waitress if it would be all right if we interviewed outside. In true southern form she said we could interview right there in the restaurant and we should start with the gentleman at the table across from us. By the time we left we had 6 interviews and a great lead. One of the gentlemen we interviewed said he had a good looking single son that he was sure would love to talk to us. His son was a teacher and basketball coach at a local high school. How could four single women refuse?!
What a great way to start the day! The waitress at Jimmy's Egg even filled our thermos up with hot coffee for free. Thanks Kim at Jimmy's Egg!
Our lead took us through Oklahoma City to a small town in the middle of nowhere, Varnum, OK. Actually it was pretty near the middle of Oklahoma, nuf said.
Since this documentary is on our social and environmental future we though it only fitting that we pay our respects to the 1995 Federal Building bombing site. It was a saddening and introspective visit. Nothing of the building remains. In its place is a construction site. Oklahoma City is in the process of building a huge memorial. A memorial which will honor the lives of each and every man, woman and child lost. On the fence surrounding the construction site is a collage of poems, teddy bears, toys, flowers, photos, goodbye letters and other memorabilia. Columbine High School has a small banner on the fence signed by students saying, "we remember." I am curious to see what they will do with the items when construction is over.
Leaving Oklahoma City we head off the beaten path to Varnum High School, population: not a lot. We drove for miles on dirt roads wondering if this was really the right direction. Fortunately there was a Quick Mart for us to stop at to gain reassurance. Yup, the directions on the napkin from breakfast were heading us in the right direction. By the time we pulled up in front of the school the temperature had reached 102 with a 100% sweat factor. How do humans survive in this kind of weather??? What will global warming do to them?? As I ponder these thoughts with the two cool brain cells I have left a UPS truck pulls up and the driver starts to load up his dolly. April and Cynthia rush the man asking for an interview. He says sure, but he doesn't think he has much to say. He was pretty much right. You win some you lose some. Finally the gang is all ready to go and we head into the school office. "Hello," Cynthia says, "May I please speak with Mr. Hardaway?" The secretary looks beyond her to the film crew carrying very official looking equipment. "Is he in trouble?" she asks. Interesting first question don't you think. We assured her he was not and she asked if it was his birthday, "Not to our knowledge," we replied. Obediantly she led us down the hall and outside (please no more heat) to the gymnasium. To keep from ruining Mr. Hardaway's life with scandal we explained ourselves along the way.
Mr. Hardaway was a tall, good looking fellow with a nicely shaven goatee. He was taken a bit by surprise when we approached him, but once we told him that his father had sent us there, what we were doing, his father's name and where we met his father he seemed OK. Took a while, don't you think? Well worth it though. After we interviewed him we had him help us recruit another coach. We were also able to get footage of them teaching the first day of their Phys. Ed. Classes. That was the first day of school for the students and teachers. What a way to start the year!
We tried to run to the truck to avoid melting, but April's astute vision spied a dead cicada on the ground and we had all been curious as to what the loud suckers looked like. April filmed it and found a box for it so we could bring it home. Give her a call if you want to check it out. Jumping in the car we decide its time to give Kelli a quick refresher course in stick shift driving. Chris rode shotgun and Cynthia manned Oscar waiting for the groundbreaking footage to begin. Easing into first gear we fly down the dirt road. Then she pushes into second and third gear. Will she ever blow it or stall? Chris suggests we stop and practice, Kelli doesn't think that nearly as good an idea. We are going right? Isn't that the point? Never once does the girl stall or have a hard start. She's a pro!
Enjoying the back roads we head up a smaller highway to the town of Cromwell. Stopping at a mom & pop convenience store we ask where central Cromwell is, where people hang out. "This is it!" the woman behind the counter says, "what can we do for you?" Chris explains our purpose and convinces the woman's son to grant up and interview. We set up outside of the store in the 102 degree weather, because the backdrop is nice (store front, tin roof, live bait shed). I thought for certain we could find a great backdrop inside, too bad I'm not directing. We find through our interviews and other conversations that Cromwell was supposed to become the capital city of Oklahoma. Unfortunately due to the discovery of oil in Oklahoma City and Cromwell burning down three times it has been reduced to a one room, live bait, movie rental, grocery store kind of town. This happened over 100 years ago and the locals are still bitter about it. Wooah!
Driving onto the small town of Gore, Oklahoma located between the Illinois and Arkansas Rivers, we are in search of a town center. Each town is different about where the locals hang out and this one is not readily apparent. We pull into a True Value hardware and ask advice from a local guy on a motorbike. He says his father-in-law has a bar not far from there with the coldest beer in all of Oklahoma. We were hoping for a dive bar on the river, but this one offered to us out in woods will do.
As we pull up the dirt drive we all get a little uneasy. This place isn't quite like anywhere any of us have ever been. It is a super dive bar made of two house trailers pushed together. Parked out front are a half a dozen trucks both running and not. Crushed Budweiser cans litter the dusty road. Out on the grill a fish is smoking, the smell permeates the area. April and Kelli are playing a sorry game of pool. I have rights to tease because Chris and I just finished our sorry game, which she won, because of my error. She may not be so lucky next time. We're biding our time waiting for a local official who has agreed to an interview. The bartender declined, but had a friend he knew would want to put in his two cents. I question whether he's just keeping us hanging out to dry (literally) so we'll buy more beer and listen to old country music. April tells me it's circa 1970. I wouldn't know.
As we are sitting in the dingy dinette made from the trailers, patiently awaiting the arrival of our interviewee, we played pool on a table that was stabilized by a cinder block and a rusty jack. After everyone has played we decide to head out. But lo and behold ... enter a man dressed in khaki shorts, a tucked-in t-shirt, and a cowboy hat escorted by a hardened woman with a deep tan, halter top and cut off shorts. (One butt cheek was exposed ... oh my) Chris: Hi! We're filming a documentry and asking folks what they think about the future. Your friend said you would be interested in being interviewed. Man: blank stare, small smile Woman: (dashing from across the bar with cigarette in one hand) NO! Chris: Excuse me? Woman: He can't talk to ya'll ... he's goin fishin' Chris: It'll only take a minute, five questions. (She's no longer trying to sell the man but asking permission from his significant other.) Woman: No! He doesn't have a minute. He's going fishin' Chris: (to man) Are you sure you don't want to be interviewed? Man: impish look Woman: (to bartender) Give me a beer ...(to Chris) he doesn't have the time. Four girls look scared at one another ... quickly gather equipment ... and get the hell out ... However, the man took a beer and sat down, I guess fishin' was going to wait awhile. As we all know, hindsight is 20/20. As we drove away, we all had our share of colorful comments we would like to have said had we not had thousands of dollars of equipment with us.
We headed out of Gore (thank God) and were on our way to Arkansas. The itinerary said we were going to Paris, but we went to Alma instead. (Cynthia forgot that her aunt and uncle had moved 15 years prior.) As we find our way to their home, I can't get over the fact that no one has fences. The street that Uncle Lewis and Aunt Pat live on have beautifully lavish houses. A far cry from the trailer park bar we'd visited (thank goodness). We were greeted by Cynthia's aunt, uncle, grandmother and grandfather in the southern tradition at the front door. We were then instructed to the location of the showers and where to put our stuff. I guess Gore had left its pungent calling card on all of us. After showering and visiting we were invited to a beautiful spread of food in the kitchen. Though we look sweet and innocent as soon as food is placed in front of us we descend upon it like vampires ravenously eating the last soul in a leper colony. (it ain't pretty).
After dinner we set up the equipment as grandpa pulls out his harmonica and begins entertaining. I felt like I was in a movie, it was completely surreal. The combination of harmonica and a deep tenor voice singing bluegrass music was more than this California girl had expected. Wow, an experience to never be duplicated. Especially when grandma started picking at him about bringing the wrong harmonica, thank goodness they were human ... I had expected Beaver Cleaver to come around the corner. Enter Cynthia's cousin Jeremy (17 yr.) and his girlfriend Cherish. A far cry from the Beav but he played the role well but Beav never had a pseudo-mohawk. We interviewed Grandpa, after his musical repertoire was expired. It was a bit more intimate than our norm, as our interviewer, Cynthia, was nestled on her grandfather's lap. (Isn't that just the cutest thing you ever heard of?) He had some wonderful thoughts to share from his 82 years of experience. Soon after grandma and grandpa left. We then interviewed Lewis and Pat. This led to a three hour discussion. We had many more hours left in us, but seeing it was Pat's first day back to school (she's a principal) and we had only had a few hours of sleep the night before, we all called it quits. April crashed out in Jeremy's room, Chris took the spare room, I took the couch and Cynthia crashed out on the floor next to her cousin. (approx. 2 am) The next morning we were awakened by the smell of coffee and Danishes — yummy! Thanks again to Uncle Louis and Aunt Pat for your hospitality, southern style. Jeremy happy 18th birthday ... just think, now you can go to jail ... heheheh.