Local motion

July 28, 2022 Comments Off on Local motion

“Are you local?” the nice lady asked me.

“Yes. I live in Wofford Heights.”

“You look local. We have an account for people who live around here in case you forget your wallet or something. You can just put it on your account and we bill you every month.”

“That’s awful nice but I won’t forget my wallet again. It’s a one-hour round trip of hard pedaling. I sure appreciate you trying to just run my number.” I keep a photo of my debit card on my phone.

I was once friends with a guy who was always trying to be a local wherever he was. Even if he was just passing through, he was never a mere tourist. He always knew something about the place or someone who lived there or who had lived there, a friend of a friend whose friend knew someone there important.

He had grown up there, so he was a local, went to college there, so he was a local, worked his first job there, so he was a local, played a gig there that time with his band, so he was a local.

Always a local, even the time he went to Shanghai on a business trip.

Of course this never fooled anyone except the non-locals. Locals know their own. I learned this in Miami, Texas, when an old boy and I were talking one day. “It ain’t that hard to be from here,” he said.

“Really?” I said. Because the place seemed incredibly insular.

“Yep. Ain’t nothin’ to it.”

“So what’s the trick?”

“All’s you need is to have grandparents in the cemetery.”

From that conversation on, I stopped trying to be from anywhere besides where I was from. I’d been schooled on “where I was from” at age 17, working as a phone sales agent for the Houston Post. I was in the middle of my pitch and the kindly old lady said, “Where you from, honey?”

“Where’m I from? Here, ma’am.”

“No, you ain’t.”

“Yes, I am. I’ve lived here all my life. My mom is from Daingerfield and my dad is from a ranch in West Texas.”

“Where was you born?”

I swallowed. She had me. “New Jersey.”

“I knowed it!” she said, and hung up.

I can’t really describe what it’s like to look local around here, but unwashed, same clothes all the time, no car or car from the 80’s, deep sunburn, hair in a ponytail, pays in small change, rear windshield missing from the car if you have one, shaggy beard, and no apparent source of employment is definitely one genre of local in the southern Sierra. Tattoo, riding everywhere on a bike or walking, going into the store and buying odd stuff like a single onion, or a jug of milk and a jug of wine, or being really stoned and trying to figure out if you have enough for the Fruity Pebbles AND the extra-long Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, these are all indicia of localdom. Smelling kind of gamey doesn’t hurt, either.

No one cares. At all.

It had been a crisis there at the Sierra Gateway supermarket in Kernville because I’d ridden all the way there, 6.2 miles, and had a backpack ready to be filled with a half-gallon of chocolate milk in a glass bottle, two onions, some mushrooms, a bunch of green onions, two grapefruit, two steaks, a pair of Triple A batteries, and some multicolored hair bands for my ponytail.

But I’d forgotten my wallet, so it was a stroke of great luck when the lady was able to run my card anyway.

After getting everything rung up, I opened my bag to load it and realized that it was filled with trash. You see, it costs $30/month for garbage service, and why pay that if you don’t hardly have much trash, and if there are public dumpsters at the campground on the highway, and all you have to do is drop it off on your way into town?

Problem is, I’d forgotten to drop off the trash, so first I had to take it out of my backpack, along with a couple of glass bottles I was going to get the deposit back on.

“Just a sec,” I said. “Gotta dump my trash.” I hurried outside to the gas pumps and dropped the plastic bag into the can.

I came back in, and loaded up.

No one batted an eye.

No one.


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