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Tag: kudzu

Live nude kudzu, and other thoughts

 

Sweeping back through the south, we’ve crossed Tennessee and made it to North Carolina, this time without the benefit of what, back in the summer, was our favorite form of highway entertainment — looking for dogs in the kudzu.

The Vine That Ate the South is naked now, having lost its leaves for winter, leaving behind only long strands of clumped-together, spindly, bare vines. I can no longer see big green animals in the leaves, only stick figures, spider webs, spaghetti and road maps.

The kudzu will be back, though, in spring — and ready to spread as quickly as “adult superstores” have through Tennessee. There are a lot of “adult superstores” in the Volunteer State. Going down I-40, it seems like every other billboard is either touting an “adult superstore” or the fact that Jesus Saves.

After crossing the Mississippi River, we stopped outside of Memphis for a quick visit with my son, checking into a Best Western, where I had reserved a room online, after seeing it touted itself as dog-friendly.

Not until I arrived did I see that there were pet fees, according to a posting at the front desk  – $15 for a dog between 5 and 20 pounds, $25 for dogs 20 to 40 pounds, and $35 for dogs 40 pounds and up.

I immediately squawked — I’ve become a bit more of a squawker in recent months – pointing out that I’d be paying almost as much for the dog as for me.

“How much does your dog weigh?” asked the desk clerk.

I thought about lying, but, having seen too many God billboards, couldn’t. Over 100 pounds, I said, adding that he’s much better behaved than a lot of 10 pound dogs, and pointing out that the whole charging by weight concept was ludicrous.

The desk clerk made a face like he’d swallowed something yukky and excused himself. Ten minutes later he was back, with a room assignment and news that they’d only charge me $25 for the dog.

Too tired to have any principles, and wanting to get off the road on New Year’s Eve, I accepted the discount and took the room. Then I seethed about the whole thing — especially the weight part — for a couple more hours.

Charging fees for dogs is not dog-friendly; its dog-greedy. I wonder how much damage dogs do to motel rooms across America, compared to that done by people.

Rather than pet fees, maybe motels should be looking at rock star fees — for they, if we’re going to stereotype, are famous for trashing rooms. Why not a fraternity boy fee? A student on spring break fee? A crying baby fee? A loud sex fee?

Only twice in our travels have we experienced loud sex — both times from the room next door. Ace and I did the only thing we could. We tilted our heads and looked at the wall the sounds were coming from, then turned up the TV.

This particular Best Western — where we neither experienced loud sex nor managed to stay awake until midnight — had another sign at the front desk that bothered me: “No Visitors.”

Is that constitutional? Even prisons allow visitors.

Depite all the control being exercised in motels, or at least the one we stayed at, Tennessee, as a state, seems less successful at reigning in kudzu, or adult superstores. (Not that I have anything against adult superstores; it’s a free country, except at the particular Best Western we stayed in.)

As we passed through Tennessee, I stopped at several huge thickets of kudzu (and at no adult superstores, though I was wondering what exactly made them “super”).

I searched the bare vines for dog shapes, which some some of you may recall became a bit of an obsession for me over the summer, but I could find none.

Instead, all I could see in the withered and weepy vines were hunched over old witches, overworked peasants and evil motel desk clerks who charged exorbitant pet fees.

The rise and fall of kudzu dogs

With leaves getting past their peak, turning brown and taking a dive — at least up north — my journey is losing some of its luster.

And I’m losing one of the ways I pass the time while driving: Soon, the kudzu dogs will be gone.

As some of you may remember, I got a little wrapped up in kudzu growing in the shape of dogs while I was traveling through the south. I kept seeing kudzu dogs as I progressed north — kudzu not being strictly a southern phenomenon anymore.

I saw several along the New York State Thruway, but none as good as the green ones I saw down south. The thruway doesn’t lend itself to pulling over — prohibits it, actually, except in the case of emergencies. So I refrained from stopping and taking pictures, figuring “but officer, I saw a kudzu dog,” wouldn’t quite qualify.

Those I did see — kudzu not changing colors as crisply and vibrantly as some other leaves — looked a little dappled and mangy. When the fast growing vines finally call it a season and stop their climbing, the leaves turn brown, making only a quick stop at yellow.

Soon, the vines will be bare, and I’ll have to resort to other ways of passing the drive time — like dictating brilliant thoughts into my voice recorder that, when I listen to them the next day, aren’t that brilliant at all; singing, babbling, talking to the dog, or guessing which part of my back is going to start hurting next.

Soon, all the trees will revert to skeletons, and only the evergreens will be there to enjoy — and you can’t find dogs in evergreens. Can you?

Kudzu dogs and trivial pursuits

Remember that kudzu dog I showed you a few weeks back?

The one I encountered in Alabama?

This one:

It turns out he has friends. In my travels through the south and the trip back to Baltimore, I kept seeing dogs in the kudzu.

Maybe it was just the power of suggestion — that after seeing that first one, it made me tend to see more, whether they were there or not. Perhaps one sees in kudzu what they want to see, or perhaps I’ve been writing about dogs too long. I became a little obsessed with kudzu dogs, making u-turns to go back for a second look, pulling off on the narrow shoulders of highways to take pictures as big trucks rumbled by and made the car shake.

It led to some reflection — some self-questioning, at which I am a master. I’d hate to die while taking pictures of kudzu dogs. It’s not exactly a noble cause. Maybe, it made me think, it’s time to get a real job.

I thought: Here I am, a 56 — soon to be 57 — year-old man, spending his day looking for kudzu dogs, as opposed to, say, being assistant vice president of somethingoranother. Have I traveled too far down Whimsy Road? Is it time to drop the gypsy thing and get serious and responsible — get a job and home, settle down and shut the heck up? It was one of those look in the (rearview) mirror moments.

But when I looked in the mirror I saw — in addition to me, and that I needed to shave, and Ace — a clump of kudzu back down the road a piece that looked exactly like Snoopy.

So I got back on the highway, made two more u-turns and took some more pictures as big trucks rumbled by.

Then I proceeded north, still questioning myself – and still seeing dogs in the kudzu:

Stop looking for dogs in kudzu, I told myself. I couldn’t do it. I wondered if it might be a disorder of some sort, or perhaps a sign that, whimsical though it is, I should pursue my plans to establish the Kud-Zoo.

Maybe it’s just because I’m a dog writer that I’m seeing dogs in the kudzu. Elephant or giraffe writers might look at the same clump and see  elephants or giraffes i the kudzu. But they sure look like dogs to me. This one (left), for instance, is clearly a kudzu poodle. See his little paws? He appears to be licking them, or maybe trying to remove a burr.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my like looking for dogs in kudzu, but I fear — to some extent — I will. Maybe it’s not an entirely bad thing.

There are worse compulsions.

And it’s not like I’m doctoring any photographs. All of the above are “unretouched,” as they say. Nothing has been manipulated. That would be wrong, and, given my photoshopping skills, detectable.

And it would make my situation only more pitiful yet — that of a man spending half his life looking for dogs in kudzu, half of it taking photos of them, and half of it retouching those photos so they look even more like dogs.

And that just wouldn’t add up to much of a life at all.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)

Sit, kudzu dog, sit

I came across Sitting Kudzu Dog as I approached Oxford, Mississippi.

Tell me you see him, too.

Otherwise, I might start thinking I’m crazy — for all the things I see in kudzu … and clouds. Nature’s ink blot tests, that’s what they are.

I’ve been seeing things in kudzu for many years now– ever since I harvested kudzu with a woman in Georgia (for a newspaper story), who was putting the south’s evil and fast-spreading weed to good use, making baskets and other crafts out of it.

It was not long after that when I came up with Retirement Plan 11 — opening “The Kud-Zoo.”

I’d buy some large, kudzu-contaminated parcel of land in the south, just off an interstate highway, and get one of those trucks with the hydraulic man-lifting buckets, like the phone and cable companies use, and begin trimming all the unwieldy growth into the shapes of animals. Actually, I would see the animal within first, then, through trimming, free it, so to speak.

Also, along with my staff, we’d train young kudzu, using clothesline and wooden forms, to grow into the shape of animals. The Kud-Zoo would also serve as a commune for kudzu artists and craftsmen, and kudzu artisans who’d make kudzu wine, kudzu tea and kudzu cigarettes on the premises.

We would have an old school bus, painted as if it were covered with kudzu, which — when we weren’t busy running the roadside attraction (i.e. the non-summer months) — we’d drive to schools to give presentations about kudzu, and how the more things we can figure out to do with it, the better of we’d be.

I put the Kud-Zoo right up there with my all time great ideas, and share it now only because I don’t think I’m going to get around to it. If you want it, it’s your’s.