Thursday, July 29, 2010

It’s all in the Details

I’ve returned from Oregon - more on that later. While I was there, an experience inspired me in terms of writing and details.

And, I am visiting Patricia Stoltey today with “My Writing Life - so stop by her blog and say hello!

What struck me was the difference in driving between North Carolina and Oregon. Now, we have our Pokey Puppies here! It’s not uncommon to get behind someone going 45 in a 55 mph zone. On the flip side, there’s those driving 10-15 mph over the speed limit. (And if you’re on I-95 and you’re NOT one of those people, you WILL be run over!) However, in Oregon, the range is much smaller. Most people drive five miles over to five miles under. This causes a steady flow of traffic rather than the obstacle course that is NC.

Did you know that? (Did you know that there is no self-serve gas pumps in Oregon either? Weird, huh?)

As writers, we have to be aware of these subtle differences. A detail like that won’t be listed on a fact sheet or website, either. We would need firsthand experience, either ours or someone else’s. Yet it’s those little details that add depth and reality to our work.

I spent the first nineteen years of my life in Oregon. I’ve visited many times over the years, and eventually I realized that it just wasn’t the same anymore and not really home. This past visit it really hit me that NC and the East Coast is my home now. Yes, we have our humidity and hurricanes. Tomorrow I will be forced to go around a large tractor or a lawn maintenance truck parked in the road. (And I do mean parked IN the road.) Everyone here thinks BBQ is pulled pork rather than a rack of ribs. But there is something to be said for Southern hospitality. The East Coast is packed full of interesting people and places. I like the consevative attitudes here. My friends, family, and business are here. This is home. Southern people no longer scare me! LOL

Thanks to everyone who left well-wishes for my mother this past week. We hope she will be out of the hospital in a couple days. I spent my time there looking at skilled nursing facilities (she will need a couple weeks of rehab) and assisted living homes. She’s not crazy about the idea, but knows it needs to happen soon. So another trip to Oregon to help her sort her house is in the very near future.

I am just happy I get to return home to North Carolina afterwards!



Lovely to have you back,also that your mother is much better.
Will look i to Patricia's site.


Jan Morrison said...

oh those details! You are so right. I live with a pick bottom who freaks if he reads something incorrect. I'm not as rigid as he is about it but still - if it is an area I know about (geographically or otherwise) I can get quite annoyed if the writer hasn't done their homework. And yet I've set a huge portion of a book I'm writing in a place I went to as a young child. arggghh. blame it on my protagonist. I do.

Mason Canyon said...

Glad you're home safe and sound. The South can be comforting. Glad your Mom is doing better. Assisted living can be a difficult change, but sometimes needed.

I'm amazed that there are no self-serve gas pumps in Oregon. I don't think there are any full-service gas stations left in the South, at least not in my area of Georgia.

Thoughts in Progress

Kristi said...

I've never been to Oregon but I love reading about these differences we take for granted! As a fellow NC'ian I'm not sure what I'd do if I didn't pump my own gas. I think I'd freak out if someone did it for me. Do you tip them?

I also missed the news about your mother and just wanted to let you know you're in my thoughts!

Unknown said...

After ten years in Georgia, I still feel like a fish out of water! *sigh* And people here ALWAYS drive 45 in a 55 zone. Why? :P

I love what you said about the importance of searching out what I'll call the "-isms" of a place. A story's authenticity is in the author's details. So true!

Welcome Home, Diane!

Hannah said...

I've never lived anywhere else. I think I would like/hate it. Who knows what the future will bring though?

Glsd you're back!

Will Burke said...

It's amazing how we change & adapt, eh? Though adapting to traffic freaks can be harrowing!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think I would take a hostage in Oregon traffic! Glad you're back safe.

Anonymous said...

Heh. I recall my first time in OR, driving on the highway, wondering why no one else was going 75....

Fortunately, there weren't any run-ins with the police (at least on the highway), so no harm done. :)

And yes, it's those little regional differences that make for verisimilitude in fiction, right? Adding depth, enriching narratives, etc. Yup.

Ann Best said...

Thanks for commenting on my Winter in Summer post. My daughter and I lived for six months in Raleigh (long story how we got there) three years ago before we moved permanently from Utah to Virginia. We lived through the long, hot summer in Raleigh. Didn't get to enjoy the pleasant winter as the residents said it would be.

I'm heading over to my friend Patricia Stoltey to read what you said about your writing life.

btw, my father was born in Union, Oregon. I visited Oregon twice when I was young, very many years ago. I know Oregon from my father's stories and the faint memories I have of those early visits to see my paternal grandparents.

Karen Walker said...

Diane, it's lovely to hear that you've now come to see where you are as home, rather than where you were. Oregon holds a special place in my heart, but New Mexico is home now. And NYC, where I was born and raised, well, it's a nice place to visit.
So glad your mom is doing better. I've been down the road you are about to travel with assisted living, etc, so if you want to talk off line, I'd be glad to lend support.

Helen Ginger said...

Seriously? No self-serve gas stations in Oregon? I don't think I've seen a full serve station in ... forever. Didn't even know they still existed. Wow.

I hope your mom is doing better soon. It will be hard on her to give up even bits of her independence. I think the best thing is to imagine how you would feel, then multiply it by 20. It'll take her a long time to adjust. And you too. So, be gentle with both yourself and her.

Unknown said...

I loved this line: Southern people no longer scare me!

I recently spent a few months with two ladies from N.C. and once I understood their accent and idioms, we became good friends. People from the South are warm and friendly and lovely.

Mike Douglas said...

I'm glad your mom is doing better. My best wishes to her.

I haven't visited Oregon in years, even though the border isn't that far from here. I spent a week's vacation driving up and down the Oregon coast some time back, and I loved the place for its beauty. I had forgotten about the lack of self-serve gas. *chuckle* I was always careful to drive the speed limit and keep a low profile because of the stereotype that they hate Californians - they're afraid we'll all move up there and pollute their highways with our Cali speeding ways.

I spent time in the south when I was in the army, Anniston AL to be exact. I mostly remember beautiful country, high humidity, lightning storms with no notice, and really big cockroaches. No putdown intended though - it was a long time ago and my perceptions were somewhat skewed by my being in the service. The people there were quite friendly, even to us GIs.

BTW Reading Heather now and enjoying it muchly.

Anonymous said...

As writers we do notice these differences. Glad you made it back safe. I'm off to Patricia's site now.

Stephen Tremp

Jemi Fraser said...

Regional differences are so much fun!

BBQ here is the actual grill. No one would say 'we're having bbq' - it would sound like we're eating the machine :)

Good luck finding a good place for your mom!

Tamara Narayan said...

As a southerner, I'm glad we're not scary anymore! I've been transplanted too, to Rochester, NY. I don't miss the heat, I love the snow (even shoveling), but I do miss the awesome southern accent. Hey ya'll!

Now is it just me, or are southerners the worst at merging into highway traffic?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Karen, thank you! I might take you up on that offer.

Mike, that is awesome! Figured you were familiar with Oregon.

Tamara, you are so right! It's like they want to stop and wait, but you can't do that when merging into freeway traffic.

And really really, everyone! It is illegal to pump your own gas. No idea why.

notesfromnadir said...

I'm so saddened to read of your mother's hospital confinement. I hope you find a good assisted living home & that she recovers SOON!

Interesting to read about the differences between the 2 states. I didn't know that about Oregon have no self serve gas stations! That's all I've ever known. Glad Southern people no longer scare you! I've met a few & they've been very unscary! :)

But watch out for trucks parked in the road -- that'll slow you down every time!

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

I grew up in Oregon and lived there for a good part of my adult life. It will always be my home, though I disagree with their politics, but that's neither here nor there. We plan to retire in Washington, but it's a stones throw.

I feel for you with your mom. That's exactly how we were the last two years, back and forth between Iowa and Oregon. I feel for you, but you'll have some good times, too, I hope.

Good luck.

Allyn Evans said...

great post.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Nadir, they do slow me down a bit.

Elizabeth, I thought of mentioning the liberal, and then didn't go there!

Arlee Bird said...

I love road trips! Driving in the western states is nicer over all than driving in the east. They don't have self-serve in New Jersey either. It's kind of nice-- especially in the winter when it's really cold.

Tossing It Out

Angela McCallister said...

So sorry about the circumstances for your trip. It seems like long trips wear you down unless you don't really need to be anywhere.

I'm also from Oregon originally, and though most of my life I swore I'd never live there, I bought my house in Vancouver, WA, which is five minutes or so from Portland. Go figure. Technically, I don't really live there yet; just my husband and kids do for now. I tell myself I can't resist VooDoo Donughts.

Just wanted to stop by and pass this lovely award on to you!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you, Angela!