There's nobody you can't bribe with banjos, boobs, or booze. Well, nobody not worth bribing anyway. Where I'm from, hard work can get you far but a nip and a pluck will get you farther. The only thing going any further is a pair of nice boobs in nicer boots. Where I'm from, a girl like that can really rise to the top.
My boots? WOLVERINE!!
Where I'm from?
S'pose you could call it a "tiny rural community." I was raised on a few acres nestled deep in the Appalachian mountains. About 200 miles from any major cities and 100 years back in time from modern society. You need to get lost twice to find my homestead, and the second time should carry a hint of desperation. Of course, once you lose satellite, cell service, and GPS, desperation is pretty much all that's left. As all vestiges of hope have evaporated and your will to live has been replaced by flashbacks of Deliverance, you'll pass by the Waterville General Store and then you're practically home. Only another quick 15 mountain miles or so, but by then you'll be so happy to stand up that you hardly notice the chickens in the front yard.
I can see my red neck from here!
The smell of dinner wafting from the kitchen windows will pull you across the gravel and dirt driveway and into the single story home. The architecture of the century-old train station turned into a family residence will be lost on your senses as you focus on the delicious aromas filling the air. I may point to the old roofing eaves and tell of the lanterns that once hung there, but you'll just politely nod and wonder when we eat. I'll show you the door in the back that opens in two pieces, one at the top and one on the bottom, but I know your heart won't be into the Shining Times Station reenactment. It's hard to concentrate on dialogue when your stomach grumbles over the lines.
Eventually we'll land in the epicenter of the house, the kitchen. When Mom gutted the train station to rebuild the house that she wanted (on the inside) she put the kitchen right smack in the center. From her place at her tiny formica table next to the stove, Mom could see into every room and monitor every door. Mom's gleaming white table was the exact distance from every exit of the house. Nary a mouse could cross the threshold without catching Mom's eye. Granted, she didn't do a damn thing when she saw the mouse, but he sure as shit did not go unnoticed.
Even though she had no idea we were coming, dinner is almost ready and Mom says we hafta wash up. I wouldn't piss her off about it either, that fry pan is the same one she used to beat the kids with.
Most cast iron is seasoned with tears of country children.
Mom makes a killer fried chicken. She says the secret is in the flour and breading process but I think it's the gentle way she breaks their necks. She serves the juicy fried tenders with slow-simmered bourbon-brown sugar barbeque sauce, or just a nice fresh homemade ketchup if you prefer. I'm having mine with Rose Jelly.
Cleaning your hands with the hose out back is just easier, it comes up faster from the well to that pump anyway. I imagine paying $2 for a bottle of water is going to feel pretty fucking ridiculous once you drink the best water ever right from your hands.
Don't let the dog hump your leg. He gets excited over the hose.
Every vegetable on the table was grown out back. Mom has been planting her groceries all the years I've been alive. I didn't know food could be delivered until I was well into my teens. And then Domino's ruined it for me. I'll take Mom's hand-picked tomatoes and oregano on toast any day over crap-ass chain store "pizza." Our sauce is ALWAYS homemade around these parts, Papa John. And I know the guy that hand-slaughtered the pig for Canadian bacon. Mmmm. Bloody fresh.
This guy is here to lighten the mood. Don't get queasy on me now, I'll stop talking about butchering soon, I promise.
Hell, everything where I'm from is made from scratch. The age-old traditions of making food and booze are passed from generation to generation just as abundantly as these blue eyes. Good luck convincing me that store-bought cottage cheese and apple butter aren't poison.
Culinary is not the only hillbilly art. Mom made my prom gown, watched me graduate high school, sewed the military patches on my BDU's, was there when I delivered my baby, and helped me make my wedding gown. In that fucking order too, haters. She sat beside me through years of bad health, knitting the entire time. I would be not surprised if she had turned hospital equipment into storage for leftover food. OTHER PEOPLE'S leftover food. She made slippers for my feet and hats for my bald head. She brought me aloe from her yard and spearmint from her windowsill.
Mom raised chickens and children and collected chainsaws and ex-husbands. She taught me how hard it is to be soft; I'd still rather be tough than easy. It's not pretty raising five kids in the poor mountains of Appalachia. I may not talk fancy like the city-folk I live near now, but I can throw a frog twenty yards and cut and stack a cord of wood faster than any of my brothers or sisters. I can also rebuild a small-block engine, shingle a roof, clean the creosote from a wood furnace, field-quarter a deer, smoke cheese, deliver kittens, drop a tree, clean a Glock, milk a goat, drive an 18-wheeler, shear a rabbit, drink a case of beer, make sausage gravy and biscuits from scratch, embroider, play the banjo, and brew my own beverages.
Recommended daily amount of fruit and grain.
I've lived in the city for nearly a decade. That's ten very long years that my neighbors have tolerated the sound of a banjo while things were being pickled. There are more plants growing on my deck than most city-folk see in a year. They would develop an allergy to vegetables so fresh.
I spend many weekends in my stick-shift pickup truck, heading for the closest rendezvous I can find with the Appalachian Trail. When my feet touch the earth and I look up at the sun between the leaves, I feel home. I walk for hours along the dense woods, up and down and over and through. The sparse slices of the colored blazes leads me along and I grow calm as the forest riots around me. I remember moments of my youth; my mother's laugh, my brother's jiggly-belly dance. Occasionally, I tell a joke to the wilderness.
Squirrels just wanna have fun!
The trees are prone to giggle at my stand-up.
Joleen Doreen is a mountain-grown specialty.
It pains me to raise a daughter as a city girl when I am so obviously country. I'm not even stereotypical country, I'm go'damn hillbilly country. *spits tobacco juice on own foot*
I'd like to teach my daughter a lot of things, I'm just not sure if I have the patience that my mother didn't have either. I definitely don't have the cast iron fry pan. And non-stick bends when used as an ass-paddle. I bet Mom wished she had her own website back in the day. The amount of inner peace that writing provides is a lifesaver at times.
Take now, for example.
I've compiled this entire post while waiting for my kid to kill a tiny spider with a napkin. The first twenty minutes were spent squealing, so it's a wonder I got any writing done at all.
I've been Joleen Doreen for as long as I can remember. My mother called me that the first time we met, and she never once stopped. It caught on after a while, and sure enough, before I knew what was happening all five of my brothers and sisters were calling me Joleen Doreen too. Dad held out til I was about four. Probably wanted to see if I was staying or not first.
It never seemed strange to me that my name is Joleen Doreen. It feels like a song. Being graced with a name such as mine virtually guarantees being bombarded with lyrical outbursts. A Joleen Doreen must be ready at all times to carry a tune or dazzle onlookers with a glorious dance number. In fact, I've prepared a small number in which I earnestly declare how ready I am...
...but alas, no time here.
So much to do, with the introductions and the small talk and the background and the foreshadowing. To save energy I've condensed everything into this brief statement:
I am Joleen Doreen.
I'll be here all week.
I did not know that this was where I needed to be, but I suppose the best place for a Joleen Doreen IS at joleendoreen.com (tell your friends). It took some time to find the place, it was hidden behind heaps of self-doubt and piles of low confidence. But now that I'm here, it feels like home.
Just a few rules before we get started.
I am in charge.
It DOES SO have my name on it.
Monkeys are cooler than you.
I'm not taking my shirt off.
IT IS SO MY NAME.
WHY ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME?
Every third paragraph ends with a chorus of "Jolene" (Dolly or Ray, singer's choice)
Your pitch needs work.
And add more shoulder shake to the next songbreak.
I've written many things over the three and a half decades that I've been able to make observations. My first published piece was a scathing exposé on the gender-biased snack practices witnessed in mother's cupboards. It was an under-the-table job. I remember proudly first seeing my words in print, the gleaming crayola a stark contrast to the white wall of the oppressive kitchen.
Still mad I didn't get a Pulitzer.
But by then I was hooked on phonics. The written word, the spoken word, the lyrical word, the word to your mother; I loved them all. I made up words and used words to make things up. I penned stories of monsters and mobsters; I growled out tales of wizards and woe. And that was just last week on the toilet.
Research into my childhood has produced notebooks and journals full of pointless drivel about horses; nothing but the incoherent ramblings of a child. What a waste of research! I then tried to read the writings of my teenage years. I immediately grew a nose-ring and my skin formed an odd flannel-type rash. Also, all the hair fell out of one side of my head and grew only in front of my eyes while all my clothes turned black. Weirdest damn thing. It's like I was Pearl Jammed.
I'm better on paper.
Always have been. It's not just because of editing, although that certainly would be nice to have in real life. I'd cut and paste the hell out of some of you sorry sonsabitches. Plus, I don't read the shit I write enough to edit it anyway. It's because words say the things that I don't know how to.
Words, gathered together, huddled in a group.
Letters holding hands, vowels of silence bonding meaning to sound.
The power of the written word gives me hope. Hell, It only took seven letters of the alphabet mixed with a little circumstance to create Joleen Doreen.
Any hint of auburn in my hair is a direct result of the cocaine flame in my bloodstream.
For the sake of nostalgia, let's all add an Eddie Vedder warble to this chorus, shall we? (Don't forget to shoulder shake)
My vagina tried to kill me.
It was awful.
I had a lot to say about it. And I wasn't very shy. It's a strange hat to wear, survivorship. I'm dealing with that on a very private level, and it's an adjustment. It is difficult to bitch and moan about hard I have it being healthy and well, and I am not apt to make that struggle public. On the other hand, I have greatly missed the joy of writing that I rediscovered with the Killer Cooter.
In the year that has passed I have written a number of short stories, some poetry, a moonshine recipe or two, a letter to your mom, a few social commentary editorials, and a number of smartly-worded Amazon product reviews. I knew these were obviously things that people NEED to read, why else would I have written them?
I needed someplace to showcase my brilliance!
Someone suggested that joleendoreen.com was out there, biding its time in the interweb world until I was ready. BUT AM I READY, I asked? And nobody answered, because I had not put it online yet. Still, I could not stop writing. More and more words spewed from my hands, pushed from my head. Half autobiographical, half nonsensical magic; all Joleen Doreen.
When I looked up from my writing, here I was; an entire website of my own. And would you believe that people actually read this shit? I never usta would think that little ol' Joleen Doreen, an itty-bitty hillbilly in the city™, would end up here, at joleendoreen.com. To be honest, I only started a website because I ran out of room in my composition book.
Yesterday was a long day.
I thought mom was contractually obligated to encourage me. Turns out she must have bribed a fair few of you as well. So here is where I am write. And wrong. And we'll dance. So sing along.