7.07.2010

West Coast Differences

Coming from the North-West to a place like Fort Polk, Louisiana can be quite a culture shock. I have tried to explain this to my new friends here, and I thought we all were on the same page about things… No one really likes being stationed here; we all have our moments of complaining about anything and everything awful about this place. It turns out though, some eye-opening facts were revealed to my good friend when she finally traveled to the West Coast for the first time.

This friend of mine is another Air Force wife stuck on this Army base. She is unique in that she is from Germany, and met and married her husband when he was stationed there for a few years. Since then, her experience of the United States has consisted of being stationed in North Carolina and now Louisiana. She has also traveled through to Northern Florida a few times since that is where her in-laws reside. I’m giving you this background because hearing her exclamations regarding her trip to the other side of the country not only made me laugh hysterically, but also made me realize how truly different life down here is… a foreign eye seeing things for the first time gives a clear impression of the minute details that my mind now neglects to even take note of. I’ve traveled through most of the U.S. by now, and I am well aware that we are a nation of many many differences.

I happened to be shopping in the Commissary (the grocery store on “Post” [base] for you non-military types) when I got a call from my friend. She and her family had arrived that day to the San Diego area. It was a horrible day for me to go pick up groceries; I have never gone on pay-day and I apparently hit it right on the nose. The place was packed, there were probably 3 loaves of bread left in the bread aisle (luckily I did not need bread), and there were tons of Army Joes in uniform and pregnant girls pushing overflowing carts around. Lovely.

I was trudging up and down the aisles trying to maneuver my own cart around kids and away from the hurried shoppers in uniform, when my friend started raving to me about how nice California is. She asked if I’d ever been there, and I told her that I have – to L.A. and when I was little my family went to Disneyland and the Red Wood Forest. “Oh my goodness!” she says, “I can’t believe how nice it is!” At this point I couldn’t help but laugh – she was so excited. I mentioned that she was finally seeing another American culture and she stated that she had told her husband she could not believe she was still in the same country.

“See,” I said, “now you can understand a little more of where I’m coming from when I say it’s so different down here.”

“Yes, I can! I finally really understand what people mean when they say California is so nice and clean! And now I have an idea of what you mean about the West Coast being so different and how hard it is to be down there…” I was so happy that she was getting to see another part of the U.S. I can only imagine what her entire opinion of our country had been before this, as the next words out of her mouth were, “You know, we are staying kind of near the airport, which is usually not such a good area in a city, right? [yeah] But you know what? We’ve driven around here – about an hour from the main city – and I still don’t think I’ve seen a single trailer.” She wasn’t trying to be funny, but I lost it. Right there in the middle of the commissary, I could not stop laughing. I couldn’t help myself! She just continued right on, “And there are no yards with cars broken down in them, and trash laying around. It’s so nice here!”

“I know! Now you know why I hate it here so much!” Okay, so if you don’t want dirty glances you probably shouldn’t say that in the middle of the commissary. But I didn’t care!

I was laughing so hard at her descriptions of things here and how she was seeing a place lacking the broken down buildings and overgrown yards full of trash and old vehicles that I forgot what I was even shopping for. I was just pushing my cart around and finally when I had heard all about the beautiful West Coast and the yummy In-n-Out burger and fries, I got back to my shopping. As I rounded a corner past a line of shoppers waiting to check out, some Army dude in uniform stares at me and says, “Hey. You trying to check out?” Umm… no, I am not an idiot trying to cut off your line. I’m trying to shop around the masses of people packed in this place. I only told him no and that I was just trying to get to an item, but that is the attitude of an Army “soldier” that I have seen way too many times. Some wanna-be hot-shot with a couple of bars on his sleeve. I, quite frankly, do not care. I’m Air Force. I don’t have to take your crap. I just have to live here with the Army.

Back to the current story… I’m not claiming that there are only trailers in the South. There are trailers even in California. But, places are kept much nicer in general than what I have seen down here. The over-grown trashed houses, trailers and vehicles are a breed of their own in the deep heat. So much so, that I have taken a brief tour photographing things, so that you might also understand a bit more what it truly means to say: “Things are so different down here in Louisiana.”

Trailers can be abandoned, trash can be left, weeds will overtake anything here if you let them. Foundations can be made of a few stacks of cinder blocks or bricks. How do you think a trailer standing up on cinder blocks in the middle of spindly-tall trees will fair through a hurricane? Just think about it. I hope you enjoy my snap-shots. I didn't travel outside of a 15 mile radius here for any of these... it's not like I had to go searching. This is what we see on a daily basis. Lovely Louisiana.


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