Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Hold On Be Strong 5K

I hope you want to hear about the 5K I walked today, because I want to talk about it for a minute.

Because I did a 5K today.

Here I am before the race:

Before

Many thanks to my friend, Meghan, for taking the photo for me. She also drove, and even though she jogs and is faster than me, she was also kind enough to walk at my pace today so that I would have someone to talk to. I won't taunt her at work for not knowing obscure 80's movie quotes for at least a week, as a show of thanks.

I can't promise more than a week, but I'll try.

I'm kind and generous like that.

Before I talk about the race, though, I want to talk about something that struck me while I was uploading the photos. I am wearing a 2XL shirt in that photo. I was also wearing a 2XL shirt back in late June and early July when photos of myself and my declining health spurred me to change. Let's take a moment to compare.

Today:

Before

June 21:

Team 5

The shirts are both the same size, but I am not.

That feels fantastic.

I think the Hold On Be Strong 5K ended up on my radar because I get mailers from Second Harvest because I donate to them and the race benefits them, but it's also possible that I saw the poster somewhere and just can't remember. Either way, I convinced Meghan that we should do it. It's the second year of a memorial race organized by the Cedar Grove Baptist Church in honor of two congregation members who died in an accident, and the race starts and ends at the church:

Cedar Grove Baptist Church

It's a bit far out in the country, but that made for a really pretty race course:

during

Not only did they host the event, but the church also provided a meal of beans, corn bread, and sweet tea after the race (I just had the corn bread, because I baked wheat bread yesterday and wanted to make French toast when I got home for dinner), and a lot of water and cold towels for people who wanted them. They also had a prize raffle, where I didn't win anything but Meghan did.

During the race, I felt like we were moving at a pretty good pace. We passed some people, and I even encouraged another lady during the last mile who was loudly telling her daughter that she couldn't do it. Mostly, I was shocked that I was able to encourage her, because by Mile 3 I wasn't out of breath.

Yay for progress.

Then we reached the finish line:

after

and it turned out that we actually were moving at a good pace: 51 minutes. That's about a 16.5 minute mile.

Last time I did a 5K was the 2011 Race for the Cure, three years ago. And what was my time then?

59:58

59 minutes.

I am making progress.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Everybody Talks

Since I started talking (or, more accurately, writing) about my weight loss journey, people have wanted to talk about it with me. I'm fine with talking about it, especially if you want to talk about my steps. You could even say that I invited people to talk about it by being so open and sharing it with the internet, which is the same as sharing with the world. Despite all of the talking, though, I've discovered over the past few weeks that some of my friends (I'm not naming names, because I hope we're still friends after I write this) are still a little unclear about why I am dieting and exercising.

One friend said to me just yesterday, "This is really a lot of effort just to wear smaller clothes, isn't it?"

Another said last week, "You wrote this blog entry about how you're big and fat and now you hate yourself and I think you might need to talk to a therapist because you're obsessed."

This is partially true. I did write a blog entry about being big and fat, and in that entry I mentioned being depressed about my weight and about not fitting in chairs and having to buy a lot of bigger shirts and using the seatbelt extender on an airplane (which may be the most humiliating thing that's ever happened to me, at least from my perspective; I felt completely without dignity and fully ashamed even though the flight attendant was very nice about the whole thing), but I realize now in rereading it that I didn't talk enough about what else is going on, so I wanted to take a moment to clarify.

In July, when I wrote that first blog entry and started all of this, I weighed 295 pounds. I was leading a mostly sedentary lifestyle where I spent most of the day sitting down and, based on the first day I wore my Fitbit, walking less than two miles over the course of the entire day. I was using less than 2000 calories a day, total, including the number of calories that you burn just sitting and being alive, but eating between 5000 and 7000 calories a day based on the food diary I kept for a few weeks last spring. Just to help you conceptualize what that looks like, 5000 calories is about 16 Dunkin' Donuts Boston Kreme donuts.

Occasionally, especially if I was stressed or sad, I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts on my way home from work (after eating breakfast, candy all day, and a lunch that included a 32 ounce non-diet soda) and picked up a half dozen of those and ate them for dinner over the course of the night while I lay on my couch reading and playing video games.

Back to the point, though, I was eating about 3000 calories more a day than I was burning, which is how I ended up weighing 295 pounds.

And I was still gaining weight.

I mentioned in that first blog entry that I was having trouble just walking across campus. Walking up the flight of stairs into my apartment was leaving me short of breath if I was carrying something. I haven't been hiking in the Smokies in over a year, because I no longer had the stamina to walk the distance required for any of the trails. (I probably do now. I need to try that.) At the end of the day, my feet and ankles were swollen to the point that I could not see my ankle bones, and every night I had to put my feet up so that the swelling would go down. And then there's the thing with my shins:

my shins

See those brown spots? Those are not freckles. That's venous stasis. It means that my heart can't pump blood down to my legs and then back up to my heart. It's an early warning sign for diabetes. It can also lead to ulcers on your legs, slow wound healing, and amputation.

Let that sink in for a moment.

I let myself get so fat that I might have to have my feet cut off someday because my heart couldn't circulate blood to them.

I say "let myself" because I do not have a medical condition that makes me gain weight. I do not have physical limitations that prevent me from exercising, other than my weight. I just didn't feel like exercising. I was lazy. I enjoyed being lazy, and making jokes about it, and this is what happened. I didn't talk about a lot of this because no one wants to admit that they partially destroyed their own health through sloth, and also because my mom has a nursing license and I didn't want her to worry about me more than she already does. Everything in that first blog entry was true, but I left out discussion of the actual health issues and focused instead on the self esteem. This has, as I said at the beginning of this entry, apparently led to some misconceptions about what's going on here.

So, in July, I weighed 295 pounds.

I was presented with four options:

1) Become eight and a half feet tall. My doctor said this in jest as an option if I wanted to stay at my current weight. The height is actually a guesstimate, as most human height and weight charts top out around seven feet. I'm obviously done growing, so this option was off the table.

2) Die. Maybe I was going to finish developing diabetes. I'd already started, and people hate a quitter, right? Why not go all the way? Or, maybe I was going to have a heart attack. Or a stroke. Maybe I might even get my feet cut off. Or I could go blind. Something was definitely looming on the horizon, and it was a tombstone. I was eating myself to death, and it was only a matter of time before that caught up with me.

I haven't turned 40 yet. I want to go to Venice someday, and when I do I want to walk around and take photos and eat Italian food. I want to outlive several people.

In short, I'm not ready to die.

I reject Option 2.

3) Lap-band or gastric bypass surgery. I am not judging anyone who has done this. If it worked for you, and it was the best choice for you, then I salute you in doing what needed to be done. I rejected this option immediately.

Doctors scare me. Surgery carries risk. There are a number of frightening possible side effects.

Mostly, though, I rejected it because I was horrified by the idea that I was eating so much, and possibly so incapable of changing my habits, that the only way to keep myself from eating too much food was to surgically alter my body to physically prevent it. Coming to a point where that wasn't just an option, but was apparently considered my best option, was frightening and filled me with shame and disgust. I did this to myself.

When I said no, my doctor offered to put me in touch with patients who had the surgery and could "help with some of your fears and concerns", and I realized that my doctor did not believe that I would be capable of Option 4:

4) Serious commitment to diet and exercise. If you've been reading this blog for the past couple of months, you know how that's going. I am walking about 7 miles a day on an average day, and last week I was down 35 pounds. Part of that weight loss is the exercise, but part of it is also that I am on a 2000 calorie a day diet, which has been a struggle for me. I am now confined to a fraction of what I used to eat in a day, and I am extremely careful about my 2000 calories and where I allot them. I say things that sound terrible to other people, because I am focused and, many times, because I have to say it out loud to myself to remind myself that a 750 calorie milkshake from Cook Out is almost half of what I am allowed to eat for the entire day.

"I can't eat that. It's too many calories."

"I can't go to lunch. I want to have dinner tonight."

"I had a Slim Fast for breakfast."

"I wish I could have that donut, but I'm fat."

Five of my friends in the last month have accused me of developing an eating disorder.

I would like to reiterate that I am eating 2000 calories a day. I am not starving myself. I haven't cut out everything I love to eat. I have been to McDonald's. And Pizza Hut. I've even had the potato skins at Calhoun's, which are stuffed with pulled pork and then topped with melted cheese, bacon, and sour cream, and I have enjoyed every bite. I can stick to my diet without denying everything I enjoy about eating, but I have to make wise choices. At McDonald's I had two cheeseburgers, but only a small fries. If I get a personal pan pizza and breadsticks, I don't get a brownie, too. At Calhoun's, I put half of the potato skins in a carryout box, and when I ordered the banana pudding afterward I only ate half of it. I still get to eat things I want, but I have to plan my entire day around it if I really want something, and sometimes I get a much smaller quantity.

Last week, for example, I explained very excitedly to a friend that I had eaten half of a single serving ice cream cup one night with dinner, and then I ate the other half the next night. I got to have ice cream, two nights in a row!

My friend was horrified.

Let's look at this, though. See this ice cream?

single serving

That little tiny ice cream cup is 310 calories. That's more than I give myself most days for breakfast. That's three average sized apples and some calories left over. Ice cream is nice and all, but it's not worth 300 calories to me when I only get 2000. It is worth 150, though. After dinner, I got to have five spoons of ice cream. It was cold, and sugary, and sweet, and good. I carefully spooned out each bite and let it melt on my tongue, and thought, "Jesus, this is awesome."

Am I aware that obsessively counting calories and creating elaborate rituals to eat my food are warning signs for an eating disorder?

Yes.

So let me reiterate, again, that I am eating 2000 calories a day. You can get a lot of food out of 2000 calories, and feel very full, if you are careful about what kind of food it is. And I have to be careful, or I am going to die. I have to change a lifetime of eating habits, or I am going to die. If I choose the ice cream over the apple, that's fine, but I have to understand that the ice cream is an indulgence rather than something I can sit with a pint of and eat directly out of the carton with a spoon, or I am going to die.

And I don't want to die.

I want to go to Venice some day.

I've come a long way in two months. I've walked over 500 miles. I've increased my walking speed from a thirty minute mile to a twenty minute mile. I've lost 35 pounds. I can do this, but I'm not even close to finished. The 35 pounds I lost? I have to lose that much weight again. And then some more weight on top of that.

I'm going to Venice.

Even if I have to walk the entire way there with a Goddamn rice cake in my mouth.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Two Months

Two months ago, I weighed 295 pounds, and resolved to lose weight.

One month ago, I let you know how that was going: I weighed in at 273.

Today, I have another update: I weigh 260 pounds. Since July 3, I have lost 35 pounds through strict adherence to a 2000 calorie a day diet and walking 5-7 miles a day. I have logged 824,403 steps on my Fitbit. That's 522 miles.

Things that are 522 miles from my porch:

Kentucky. All of it.

Indiana.

All but a corner of Illinois.

Ohio.

West Virginia.

Maryland.

Georgia.

Virginia.

Both Carolinas.

Bama.

All but a corner of Mississippi.

All but the easternmost tip of Lake Erie.

Last month I was measuring my walking in terms of distance that cities were from me, and now I'm measuring it in states. I've already covered a small part of Canada and reached the Gulf of Mexico. Today, states; tomorrow, countries.

There are still things that I'm struggling with. I'm still fat. I've written several entries over the past couple of months detailing highs and lows, and may write another one soon because I'm having trouble dealing with some of the discussions that I've had with people over the last few weeks, but right now I'm letting that simmer, and tonight I want to focus on some positives:

1) I destroyed a pair of shoes.

My mom bought me a new pair of sneakers in late April. This is what the bottoms look like now:

DSCN2137

I've walked the tread off of them. See the dark spots about an inch below the toes? My sneakers are about a quarter of an inch thick in that spot, which means I can feel every rock and twig and whatever else is on the ground. I have more or less taken an extremely comfortable pair of sneakers and melted them, by walking them to death. Sorry about that, Mom.

2) I got new shoes!

I picked up these in North Carolina at the outlet malls this weekend:

DSCN2138

They are comfortable, they are school colors, they are designed for distance running and walking, and they were on clearance for $30. I look forward to walking the soles off of them.

3) I registered for a 5K next weekend.

"You realize how far that is, right?"

Yes, supportive friend. It's a trip and a half around the Greenway. It's less than I walk every single day.

I can do this.

I won't be fast, but I will finish it.

4) I conquered the treadmill.

I explained before that walking the treadmill is like falling into the Twilight Zone, where one minute in the real world feels like three when you are on the treadmill. It didn't matter that I can (and do) swivel the television to face the treadmill, either. If you can see the clock, you can see that the clock doesn't move. It's agony, and adding insult to injury, my treadmill doesn't have a book or magazine holder, just a cup holder and a space for the television remote.

Fortunately, my friend Leonor sent me a book for my Kindle, and I realized that I can put the Kindle in the spot for the television remote, increase the size of the print so that I can read it without leaning forward, and that it's just tall enough to cover the clock.

It's worked out so well that I went through my Amazon wish list and marked all the books that I'm ok with reading in Kindle, so that I can just purchase and download as I finish, and so that any random friend or loved one who wants to buy me one and aid me in my fitness journey knows what I'd like to read.

(That was subtle, right?)

I'm about to finish my second book since I made this discovery, and have already downloaded a third.

5) I decorated my wall.

Now that I discovered that the treadmill is not an adventure in agony, I've struggled a little with the view:

DSCN2139

I'm not staring ahead most of the time, since I'm reading, and when I look up it's usually to glance over at the television and see whatever has pulled me out of my book, but still, that blank wall across from me needed something. It was a prime space for something motivational, but what does that mean?

How about a mirror? I thought. You can look up and see how fat you still are, and that'll make you keep going.

I realized immediately that was a terrible idea, just like the day that I put the scale right in front of the refrigerator door. There's motivation, and then there's self-abuse.

What about a calendar? Maybe something with a hot guy on it?

Not a bad idea, but for some reason Chris Hemsworth has a shirt on for all 12 months of his calendar. Look, he's pretty and all, but a significant portion of what I like about Chris Hemsworth is between the neck and the waist.

Tom Daley probably has a calendar, and his shirt is probably off every single month.

Tom Daley is the same age as my students, which would be "old enough to be my child". If I'm going to hang up posters and calendars of a 20-something year old then I might as well get a red convertible and a hair transplant.

So, what to hang, then? What could I look at that would represent a visual goal, something to strive for? Something that would say, "I am the pot of gold at the end of the treadmill rainbow"?

DSCN2140

I bought that shirt in 2004. I've never worn it in public because when I bought it, it was really tight. I could button it, but not sit down in it while buttoned, and I hung it in my closet, thinking, "Oh, I'll just lose a little weight."

In 2004.

In 2006, I packed it with the rest of my belongings, moved to Tennessee, and hung it in my new closet.

It's now 2014.

I'm going to wear that shirt.

Probably in 2015, but still.

Goals.

Monday, September 1, 2014

New Bern, North Carolina

It's my last night in North Carolina, and Kristin and I are spending it watching the "Saved by the Bell" movie on Lifetime. We didn't totally waste the day, though. After I finished blogging this morning, we hopped in the car and drove to exciting New Bern, North Carolina.

You're excited, right?

You should be, because New Bern, North Carolina, shaped American society as we know it.

Historic Birthplace

New Bern, North Carolina gave Pepsi Cola to the world, and gave a choice to a new generation.

Or something.

That wasn't why we went, though. I wanted to go so that we could visit Tryon Palace, the home of the first governor of North Carolina:

Tryon Palace (1)

It was a really nice afternoon. We toured the main house, kitchen office, and the stables:

Tryon Palace (2)

Tryon Palace (3)

Tryon Palace (4)

Tryon Palace (5)

Tryon Palace (7)

Tryon Palace (8)

Tryon Palace (9)

and then toured the grounds:

Tryon Palace (11)

Tryon Palace (12)

Tryon Palace (13)

Tryon Palace (14)

Tryon Palace (15)

Then we had lunch, stopped at an antique mall, and headed home.

It was a nice day to end a nice trip.

Midnight Clock Clown

On Friday morning Kristin showed me around the East Carolina University campus, pointing out buildings and campus sights and such things. When we were near the library, she casually mentioned that "a pirate clown pops out of the clock every night at midnight and yells things."

"What?"

"A pirate clown pops out of the middle of the clock at midnight, and yells things at people or something."

"What? Can I see this clock?"

"Sure."

We drove past the clock tower, and it looked like a clock tower. No pirate clown, no yelling. On the other hand, it wasn't midnight.

I thought about this for a day or two, especially after Kristin produced a Youtube video. There definitely was a clown head in the middle of the clock, and flashing lights, and it seemed to be saying something, but you couldn't quite hear it over the people talking. The clown's mouth wasn't moving, so was it saying anything at all? Or was that just more people talking?

What the hell was going on inside that clock?

Intrigued, we scheduled last night as our time to go see the midnight clock clown, and have our questions answered.

After watching the Vols destroy Utah State in the season opener, we puttered around the apartment a little to stay awake (that was more for me than for Kristin, who stays up pretty late most nights), and then headed to the library plaza to await midnight, and see the pirate clock clown.

Sonic Plaza (1)

While we waited, people began to gather:

Sonic Plaza (2)

and soon there was a crowd of about thirty-five, and only a few minutes until midnight. During the wait, Kristin looked up the pirate clock clown on her phone, and informed me that the clock tower is part of ECU's Sonic Plaza, an art installation commissioned in the early 1990's under a state law that said a certain percentage of every new state building had to have some kind of art deliberately included in the design. The steam cloud in the center of the plaza was part of the design:

Sonic Plaza (3)

and off to the side there was some sort of wall fountain that didn't seem particularly exciting. There was supposedly also a set of tones that plays when people enter the plaza, but it either didn't play or we didn't hear it. The last element of the installation is the clock, and different things pop out of it at different times of the day. At sunrise there is a rooster, at noon a steam whistle, and at sunset a cannon, each accompanied by sounds and lights.

And then, at midnight, there is clock clown.

"He sings a song," a student on one side of me said, as we gathered closer in front of the clock.

"No, he tells a poem," one of his friends countered.

"It shouts at people," the girl on the other side of me said.

"It tells the future," her friend argued. He'd been in a lengthy break-up conversation with his boyfriend on the phone the entire time we'd been waiting, so I wondered if maybe he'd come for guidance.

It was 11:58, and clock clown was going to appear and do... something.

As the clock reached 11:59 (but Kristin's phone said no, it was actually midnight), the doors in the center of the clock opened:

Midnight Clown (1)

Midnight Pirate Clock Clown! You appear! Impart us your wisdom! Shout at us! Sing us a song! Tell us the future!

Midnight Clown Clock, clearly a harlequin and not a pirate, did none of those things.

We moved closer.

Midnight Clown (2)

Midnight clown clock silently retreated, and the doors closed.

"That's it?"

"The clock still says 11:59. Maybe it's not done?"

"My phone says 12:01."

"Sometimes it doesn't do anything."

We drifted off through the mist at the center of the plaza, no more enlightened, amused, or educated about the future than when we'd arrived.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Ava Gardner Museum

Yesterday Kristin and I decided that we should drive an hour or so to nearby Smithfield, North Carolina, so that I could visit their local attraction (other than the outlet malls):

Ava Gardner Museum (2)

The Ava Gardner Museum.

I've been hearing about this museum from Kristin for several months, starting with a phone call:

"Hey, I was out driving around, and I saw this museum for that old movie star lady you like!"

"Which one?" There's a Bette Davis museum?

"It was a short name... I think it started with an L..."

"Lana Turner?" I'd go to a Lana Turner museum. I started googling while we were still on the phone. "There isn't a Lana Turner museum in North Carolina. I don't think there's a Lana Turner museum at all."

"Are you sure? It was a museum, and they had a sign and everything."

"Where were you?"

"Smithfield."

"Google says there's an Ava Gardner Museum."

"Yes! Ava Gardner! She was a movie star, right?"

"Yes..." Now, I can guarantee that Kristin has never in her life seen an Ava Gardner film, or if she has she has no idea who was in it. "Remember The Aviator? With Leonardo DiCaprio? And that scene where he was all hermit and creepy and peeing in the jars, and he had to go testify, and Kate Beckinsale has to go in and convince him to shave and clean up?"

"Yeah?"

"She's playing Ava Gardner."

I know it's a horrible example, and probably an insult to the long career of Ava Gardner, but it was the most recent example that I could think of. Using examples like that is probably one of the reasons why a few months ago I also had to explain to Kristin that Joan Crawford isn't actually starring in Mommie Dearest. I am part of the problem.

Anyway, we were met with slight disappointment when we reached the museum.

Ava Gardner Museum (3)

I knew that would happen.

"It's closed?"

"Yes. I told you when we were going to dinner that the museum closed at five."

"Like we listen to everything the other one says when we talk."

She has a point. I've tuned out a number of stories about her job this weekend. We still looked around a little:

Ava Gardner Museum (1)

Me and the Ava Gardner Museum

We were late to the museum because we spent our day doing other things.

First, before we got on the road to Smithfield, we stopped by the Salvation Army, which we missed during our thrift store tour of town the day before. I don't give money to the Salvation Army due to their abysmal track record on LGBT issues, but I guess I'm willing to buy things from them, because Kristin spotted this:

Shenandoah 401

and it was only three dollars. Shenandoah (released in 1981) isn't normally a Pyrex pattern that I collect, but the 401 is a handy size to have in the kitchen (good for beating a couple of eggs, a single serving of soup, etc.) so I picked it up. Kristin bought a stovetop popcorn popper pan, the fancy kind with the hinged lid and a crank to turn the popcorn inside, and then we got on the road to Smithfield.

Which we detoured off of, because of me.

See, as we were driving along, I saw a billboard for the Selma, North Carolina Antique Mall, "The Largest Antique Mall in the South".

"You want to stop?"

"Yes! Yesyesyesyes!"

So we stopped.

And, oh my God... The Pyrex:

vintage pyrex (1)

Booth after booth of Pyrex:

vintage pyrex (2)

So much Pyrex that in some of the booths they organized it by color, shelf after shelf of Pyrex moving through the many shades of the rainbow. And after a few hours at the antique mall, and booth after booth of reasonably priced (in some cases shockingly underpriced) Pyrex, you're probably wondering how much I bought, and if it will all fit in my car.

Well, here's my massive Pyrex haul from the antique mall:

Early American 441

Early American 441, in gold on brown, which means it is the dip bowl from the Early American chip and dip set.

That's it.

They had a lot of Pyrex, but not a lot of any of the things that I was looking for. This is one of the few non-extremely-rare pieces I was still missing from my Early American set. Early American is my jam:

Early American (1)

My Pyrex jam:

Early American (2)

and now that I have this piece all I'm missing is the 404 mixing bowl (which I could buy online but refuse to pay fifty dollars for), a lid for my 503 refrigerator dish, and the brown on white 963 (I have the gold leaf on brown version in middle of the stack in the second photo above). Everything else in Early American is really, really hard to find and expensive (the 4 quart roaster, the shallow square dish, a gold leaf on brown 443) and will probably never be part of my collection unless there is a magical lucky find somewhere, someday in the wild.

For yesterday, though, I got my six dollar 441, so I was pleased.

We also did a little bit of shopping in downtown Selma, which is pretty much all antique stores:

Selma, NC

and I found another treasure:

Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero

Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero

The Spider-Man rock opera from 1975, on vinyl.

Now I'll have to get a copy of the CD, so I can listen to it.

So, yeah, after we did antiquing and thrifting and outlet shopping and then had a late lunch/early dinner (Did you know that Cracker Barrel has a light menu? If you didn't, you probably don't want to.) the Ava Gardner Museum was, sadly, closed.

Maybe some other time.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Thrift Shop Tour of Greenville

Yesterday Kristin and I spent most of the day driving all over her city, visiting thrift stores, antique stores:

warehouse

consignment stores, and the one comic store that Kristin knew of:

Bat mural

We started our day downtown with a nice breakfast at The Scullery:

breakfast

We met our mutual friend Aaron there, and I had a bagel and cream cheese (the verdict on North Carolina bagels is "not bad; better than Tennessee") and split an order of sausage balls with Kristin. For those unfamiliar with sausage balls, they are a Southern delicacy made of bulk sausage, cheese, and flour or (more often, but it depends on the recipe) Bisquik. They are delicious, but you probably shouldn't eat too many. I've been known to make them for tailgating:

sausage balls

After breakfast we walked around for a while, and saw the cute little downtown area:

painted fence

just these wigs

blue sun

vintage letters

Greenville is a cute little town in the same way that Cortland, where I went to school for my undergrad, is cute. It's an older little town where the college is the biggest thing, so they love their local sports team:

purple pirate

and they have stores and restaurants and places to go, but a limited number of them. There's a definite difference between living in a place like this and a place like Knoxville, which is a small city, but that doesn't make it a bad place. I found their empty streets:

Pepsi mural (2)

former barber

random artwork:

horse sculpture

fire dogs

and Civil War Memorial:

Our Confederate Dead

charming. I found their still-living Confederates:

racists

less charming.

I've heard all the arguments about, "That flag is my heritage!" and "That's our history and culture!" and I don't consider any of them to have merit. It is a history, culture, and heritage built on oppression, slavery, and racism. You cannot subtract one from the other. You can't say, "I love our heritage except for the slavery part" because the slavery part is entwined. The genteel Southern plantation culture collapsed for a reason: it was not sustainable without a slave workforce. If you continue to resist this idea, and still proudly display your Confederate flag, then you are a racist whether you admit it or not. There's no argument.

I still thought the rest of the city was really cute, though.