Sunday, August 16, 2009

Country Girl in the City

It is August 16th, two days into my blogging experience, and what I DON’T know about it is enough to make me GAG. Grumbling and grinning… that’s pretty much what life is full of, isn’t it? I try my best to make sure the grins outweigh the grumbles!

This may not be the proper venue, but I’d like to wish my nieces, Cassandra and Elizabeth, a happy 26th birthday. When you celebrate, do NOT do anything you wouldn’t want your mother (or your aunt Karen) to find out about, and you’ll be just fine! I love you both.

A friend encouraged me to put a column or two that I’ve written for ‘Observations From The FARM (Fresh Air and Room to Move)’ on my blog, so I’ll start with this one. A little bit from my recent trip to The Big Apple…

Over the years, I’ve written columns about life here in rural western Maine. Since I’m a country girl, such stories are from within my comfort zone.

I’ve also written about the few times I have ventured OUTSIDE these bucolic surroundings which make up my home and community. I’ve shared the dread I felt when traveling to Maine’s largest city, Portland, for continuing education classes. I’ve detailed my exploits at the ballet in Bangor, and yes—even discussed my angst in a public bathroom in Farmington.

But none of these fair cities can compare to the one I visited last month. I, Karen Bessey Pease, traveled to New York City! The Big Apple! New York, New York!

I am a lover of nature, an enthusiast of wide open spaces. I like fresh air and room to move! However, I also like to pretend that I’m brave. I am determined to try new experiences when they are presented to me. And so, with friend Patty in tow, I flew to JFK airport on May twenty-eighth.

I think I surprised my family. I believe they thought I simply would not make the trip! But I’d been offered a spot in my publisher’s booth at the Book Expo America, and how could I refuse such an invitation? It was an opportunity to promote my new novel, and it was a chance to see a place I’d never imagined being able to visit.

Of course, those who love me offered all kinds of helpful advice. My favorite pep talk came from an adult male whom I love and respect.

“Have fun, Babe. But… don’t be too EARTHY, will you? Don’t want you to embarrass your family…”

“Thanks a lot!’ I said. “That’s exactly what I’m worried about!”

“Oh, just keep your mouth shut, and you’ll be all right!”

What a vote of confidence! Didn’t he know what he was asking? Didn’t he know who he was talking to? Eeek!

Another friend had these sage words.

“You probably shouldn’t talk about flatulence…”

And then, as I recounted those words of unsolicited advice to a friend outside the hardware store, expecting sympathy from her and a bit of support, she added this to the pot!

“Well, remember! It’s not just your family you’re representing! It’s the whole state of Maine. For God’s sake, don’t screw up!”

Am I THAT bad? I was determined NOT to embarrass my family! Nor my fellow Mainers! I was absolutely resolute! No earthiness! No bodily functions! I’d talk about what city-folk talked about! Surely, I could learn a thing or two! I would be a quick study, and garner a mass of useful information on how a proper urbanite comported herself. I’d show these doubters just how classy I can be!

But, what to wear? My closet contains jeans, dungarees, and yes, a pair of Dickeys. For special occasions, like brush burning and manure shoveling. So I asked a friend or two for suggestions.
One of my female friends told me to be ‘clean and neat’! Now, come on! I KNOW clean and neat, woman! I’m clean and neat in my jeans! I needed more assistance than she could offer. She’s a farmer, too, after all.

A male friend told me to wear heels. Yes, you heard me. Heels. I’m six feet tall, for Pete’s sake. Were we on the same page, I wondered? I wanted to know what to wear to a BOOK EXPOSITION! Where, I assumed, STUDIOUS people roamed. Heels. Hmmmm.

I was on my own, it seemed. Never a good thing when fashion is involved! I did something desperate. I bought a tube of mascara. I know, I know… it’s a bit risqué for a woman of my age and temperament. But—New York City! I just KNEW that women in the city wore mascara, and I was determined to blend in and become one of the crowd. No way were they going to be able to look at me and tell at a glance that I was a hick from the sticks. Uh-uh! I was NOT going to embarrass my family! No earthiness, no flatulence, and no stubby eyelashes!

Lucky for me, Patty actually made ME look good. I’d never expected that. She’d overslept, and so was in a state of controlled panic when I awoke her at 4:30 a.m. by calling her from outside her locked and dark house. She’d packed the night before, so she simply grabbed her toothbrush and shoved her bare feet into sneakers. And… we were off!

What Patty hadn’t remembered was that we had to go through security at the airport. Bags and shoes on the x-ray conveyor, body through the metal detector. Off came her sneakers. Out came her bare feet. Those same bare feet that had traipsed through her garden the night before, and that had missed the opportunity for an early morning shower! Yes, I laughed. It was a typical bonehead moment, but for once, it wasn’t mine!

Ah, Patty. Is it any wonder that I love her?

We arrived at our hotel, which was just one block from Times Square, by 10:30 that morning. We crowded into the tiny, two-person elevator and took our small pieces of luggage up to our rooms. I was anxious to experience the city, but I’d forgotten one thing. A box of my books had been delivered to the hotel, and I needed to retrieve them and store them in our room until the Expo. So, alone, I went back to the lobby. I retrieved my box. I approached the miniscule elevator and pressed the UP arrow. I heard a ding, the door rolled open, and a beefy, robust man stepped into the lobby and scurried to the front door. I crossed the threshold and pressed the button for the third floor, my box of books balanced on my hip. And, just as the door slid shut, I took a breath.

I shouldn’t have done that. I tried not to do it again. I also tried desperately not to laugh or gag, as that would have made my situation more appalling. I reached my floor and bolted from the small, enclosed space. I took a great lungful of fresh air. I giggled, I walked to my room, I stored my novels. And then I took off for a walking tour of New York City with my pal. I said nothing earthy, and I spoke not a word about bodily functions.

But I’ve gotta tell you. I felt right at home.

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