Monday, December 29, 2014

What do I smell like?

“George told me once that I smelt like home. I got all paranoid, you know, thinking I smelt of fish and chip shops or dirty bars or something. But he said no, I just always smelt of home.” — Paul McCartney

My own problem is, I don't smell like anything. Although I was born in Texas, and have lived the vast majority of my life in Texas, down-home people seem to mistrust me. I remember one time, I had to ask to borrow my duplex-neighbor's phone to call our mutual landlord to get me checked out of my place. (The landlord's representative had missed the appointment; I was calling to see where they were. I was angry and short on the phone, which my neighbor overheard, since I was in his home --- he then asked me, "Where are you FROM?" I replied, "AZLE, TEXAS," and he shut up.)

When I chose to go to grad school in San Francisco in '94, I learned that San Franciscans were provincial on a level I hadn't even imagined. Worse than the smallest town in Texas. In small-town Texas, people have their opinions... yet they will listen to yours. In San Francisco, I was labeled as a "Nazi" because I told my thesis advisor that my mother was German (in my advisor's mind, all Germans must be Nazis); my poetry was initially dismissed because I'd said I'd spent the past summer reading Norman Mailer (that professor later warmed up to me when I presented gay-oriented poems). When I visited record stores, I saw a cut-out of George Strait with "CRACKER" written in black marker across his forehead. When I worked at a movie theater selling popcorn, a woman at the counter asked me about my "accent" -- when I told her I was from Texas, she said, as if she were sharing a secret with me, "Texas has too many Mexicans!"

Oh, speaking of "smells": When I was working as an office assistant while in grad school in San Francisco and delivering mail across campus, I couldn't enter one particular office because I wore deodorant. One office lady there had complained to the government that she was sensitive to any perfume, shampoo, deodorant, etc. And so was granted special dispensation to have all odorous individuals banned from her presence. I left the mail on the outer doorstep.

I can't STAND San Franciscans to this day.

I envy Paul McCartney. I kind of wish I "smelt like home." In a good way.

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