A RED STATE

My alarm was set for 5 AM and I was already in bed. It was still light out, which is normal for late May at 9 PM. What wasnÕt normal was my getting into bed at such an early hour. Even in my promiscuous days I was never lucky enough to be in bed this early. Now I was doing so in order to get a good nightÕs sleep. I canÕt recall every having done this before. Even when I was in seventh grade and had to get up at 4:30 AM for my early morning paper route, I didnÕt go to bed at 9 PM. I came home after delivering my papers and went back to bed.

I am a night person. To me, going to bed before midnight is a violation of civil law. My average time for going to bed is 3 AM. I donÕt know why I became a night person. I think people are born that way. My father and his parents were morning people. They were farmers who got up with the chickens. Somehow I got on the owlsÕ schedule.  So why the sudden change now?  I think itÕs because I happened to be in Western Kansas -- a Red State.

Traveling west across the country, I had arrived in this small farm town in the middle of the heartland where I had booked a room at the ŌGarden Cottage Bed and Breakfast.Ķ I was the only guest, and the owners live 8 miles away, so I had the cottage to myself. Arriving late afternoon, I got settled and walked two blocks to the center of town to a restaurant that had been recommended to me. If I had walked three blocks further I would probably have been at the edge of town.

As I walked out of the cottage, a neighbor was pulling into her driveway. She got out of her car and waved to me. I waved back and proceeded down the sidewalk. A car drove slowly by me going the opposite direction and the elderly couple in the car waved to me.  The town was very quiet and there were no pedestrians and only a few vehicles that passed me as I walked to the restaurant. I was waved to twice more. Was there something about me that was attracting attention? Back on the east coast I live in a town house, and my neighbors donÕt even wave to me. I stopped and looked at my reflection in a store window, but I could not see anything out of the ordinary.

In the restaurant there were a number of families eating dinner. At a couple of tables there appeared to be three or four generations eating together. A number of people glanced at me and nodded their heads as a greeting. The waitress said I could sit anywhere I wished, so I selected a table near the front door in order to observe all of the patrons and the people coming and going.

The menu was ample and contained nothing that I couldnÕt pronounce – a welcome change from many of the restaurants I frequent back East. I was surprised to see salmon on the menu, being that I was at least 1500 miles from any body of water where salmon are found. The salmon was excellent and included a baked potato, fresh green beans, corn, and a very fresh salad. I had two large diet PepsiÕs. The bill came to $13.45.  Why is it that if you order salmon on the coast, close to where they are caught, a dinner like this costs twice as much?

I took the longer way back to the cottage, walking around the courthouse square in the center of town, and exchanged waves and hellos with several more people. Arriving back at the cottage, I walked right in because the owner had said I didnÕt need to worry about locking the door. Back East I lock the door while taking out the garbage.

The entire experience was most peaceful and delightful. I got the impression that I was a welcome addition to this small community. Everyone was friendly, down-to-earth, and peace loving, which made me wonder why all of these people voted for George W. Bush.

Since I was in a Red State, going to bed early just seemed like the appropriate thing to do. It was also the only thing to do. I couldnÕt access the Internet to check my email, my cell phone was on extended roaming with a weak signal, there was no cable TV, and except for a Laundromat and the restaurant where I ate, there wasnÕt a thing open. Nevertheless, I loved the experience. But I wouldnÕt love it 365 days a year. I can see why Bob Dole moved to the coast and Dorothy dreamed of Oz.