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April 17th, 2003

being among the talkative shy

I'm deeply grateful to all who filled out my poll today. I'm not surprised that a lot of my LJ friends find little in common with Christina Aguilera, or that P.E. scored a majority and literature zero when it came to least interesting school course choices--but it's important sometimes to say things out loud. Words bestow a power, a belonging, a rhythm, an atmosphere of things best left said, not unsaid.

Tonight I did the pro bono legal clinic at the Salvation Army. I find this very fulfilling. I love doing what I dreamed of being able to do one day--to help, just a little. I spent a lot of time with some folks, giving advice, which reminds me that I am among the "talkative shy". I'm not shy in the meeting-and-greeting sense. I'm one of those friendly "how are y'all doing?" small town boy southerners, with a soft accent and a good bit of warmth in my voice. But I am one of those people who is shy of letting people see my inmost feelings, and for that matter, someone who mistrusts feelings generally. I don't make many close friends; I cheris the ones I do make. I'm a very good friend, but not a very good socializer. I'm not the "quiet shy" type though. I am a rather chatty person. I'm shy, but shy in torrents of words.

I don't dream about people on LJ, as some of my friends do. But I do think about their accents. I imagine accents and voices. This is pure fiction--reading a journal provides no real clue to sounds, and even two dimensional pictures don't provide much clue as to appearance. But accents fascinate me--they have so much of region and class and art and poetry in them.

Tomorrow I leave work early to go home with my wife to my parents' home in Arkansas. When I cross the Arkansas border, my accent suddenly shifts south. It's always a bit southern--but when I am back on my native soil, it becomes more so. I used to worry--which is real? Was the near standard English I spoke in California "real"? Was the urban southerner English I spoke when I worked in downtown Dallas "real"? Is my Garland, Texas southern but not cornpone dialect "real"? Is my Arkansas accent "real"? In truth, they are all real. I have multiple accents, for multiple social settings. None of them are faux. All of them are natural and subconscious. I like that about myself. I am at home with all my accents. It's far better than many other "multiple x" disorders, and requires no medication.

I'm reminded, though, of the time the University of Arkansas Alumni Association, Los Angeles branch, being that night myself and one other fellow, who never graduated from our school (but called the football coaches on the phone regularly to kibitz sports) manned a booth at the Beverly Hills High School career fair. I'll never forget the way that the wealthy parents of those children of privilege took one look at our Razorback banner draped across our display table. Lips literally involuntarily curled upward. We could have been dealing drugs, based on the expression. Cool drugs, sold by a costumed character called the Dancing Razorback (kinda like Joe Camel with red flair). I was straight edge before they had the expression, and still am, but it was that kinda feeling. But in those curious late 1980s to mid 1990s days, the most drugs I ever saw dealt were to folks in BMWs and Mercedes stopping on their commute from downtown LA to the wealthier westside of LA, at MacArthur Park (the place where the cake melted in the rain in the song). Car after car of wealthy people, buying crack for the weekend. I wonder what college they attended?

But maybe that's my problem. It's not good enough to be able to chat, one must be able to chat about things other than whatever comes to mind. Dale Carnegie did not win friends and influence people watching crack cars in mid-Wilshire and then chatting folks up about it. But forgive me--I'm shy. Let me tell you all about timidity--for hours.