I’ve called Missouri home for two months now, though of course that’s not true. I still think of North Carolina as home. I still thought of North Carolina as home after six years of living in Virginia. Eight weeks is not going to cure that.
Let me rephrase: I’ve lived in Missouri for two months now, during which time not a single mountain has sprung into formation. This has not stopped me from looking. My rational brain recognizes that I’m living in the flattish middle part of the country, but my subconscious is putting up a good fight.
I went for a walk the other day, because obviously I couldn’t go for a hike because you need mountains for that. Sometimes, when you cross a border between states or cities or even neighborhoods, you can sense the the difference right away. Stephen King wrote eloquently about those border differences in Black House and then turned around immediately and chopped someone’s head off because it was a horror novel and that’s what you do.
As soon as I crossed the border from Missouri to Kansas, I felt no change whatsoever, nothing nada none, but my head is still attached so there’s that.
The place was called Kill Creek Park, I think probably maybe. I could check, but the google search box is way up there. It was something savage, I remember that much. A body of water was in grave danger.
The trail consisted of some woodsy bits and some prairie bits. There was a wooden platform called a Prairie Observatory, and so I dutifully climbed upon it and cast my eyes to the horizon. Why, on a clear day, you could see for meters and meters!
Last time I was on a wooden observatory thing, I was perched upon Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. From there you could see into eternity. Probably I shouldn’t be comparing the two observation decks.
I’m still sore about the absence-of-mountains thing, but there are compensations. I found an Ethiopian place in Kansas City and very nearly inhaled the food, it was so good. Even Asheville, with its amazing food scene, does not have an Ethiopian restaurant.
And Independence, to my surprise and delight, has turned out to be a welcoming place for someone of my reading tastes and inclinations.
As part of my effort to proclaim to the world that I live in Missouri now, and also because it’s the law, I went to the DMV to get my new license plate. Now in certain other states — let’s pick one at random, oh I don’t know, how about North Carolina — you mosey on into the office, you pays your money, and you mosey back out with your plate.
In Missouri you mosey in, wait for damn ever, and then finally learn that you just wasted 45 minutes in line when the girl hands you a badly photocopied fact sheet. Unfortunately this information was not available on the DMV website (you had checked), and neither was it posted on the walls of the office (you had checked there, too), so 45-minute wait was a necessary step to get the fact sheet.
I am here using the word “fact” in the loosest possible sense.
Before you can get a plate, you need to have insurance, title, and inspection. Fine. But also you need a piece of paper from the tax office. The fact sheet helpfully provided directions to a place that was not at all the tax office.
“Well, what you’re gonna have to do, you’re gonna have to head West,” said the nice man at the place that was not a tax office, as if those words had meaning for me. Back home we don’t use cardinal directions because there’s always going to be a mountain in your way.
Eventually you find the tax office (and if you’d been trying to do this on your lunch break, you can add whole layers of guilt and anxiety to the process) and discover that, in Missouri, you have to prove that you do not owe them money.
If I owed money to the City of Independence, you think they might have a record of that, wouldn’t you? Isn’t that how it works?
But no, the burden is on me to show that I don’t owe money. To do this I have to produce utility statements from the past few years showing that I had been living elsewhere. Naturally I do not have any utility statements, because all of my communications are electronic because I, unlike some people apparently, care about the planet.
So then you wait six weeks for your credit card company to mail you your old statements, and finally finally finally you get to spend another lunch “hour” at the tax office proving that you don’t owe money. And you think that this might be an appropriate time to revisit the works of Kakfa.
On a break at work the next day, I decided to scope out the vanity plates on the DMV website. In certain other states you can have seven characters, which is how I was able to fit WIZZARD on my plate, but here in Missouri you can only have six characters. Which sucks, but keeping that double Z is important, so I was willing to sacrifice a vowel or two. I was pleased to see that both WZZARD and WIZZRD were available. I did not register for a plate, however, because my break was almost up.
At home that evening, I went to sign up for my personalized plate, and found that neither option was available. Thanks to the charming idiosyncrasies of the Missouri DMV website, the mere act of searching for a letter combination is enough to remove it from the pool of available choices.
By the time I realized this, I had inadvertently screwed over the other residents of Missouri by searching for all the six-letter corruptions of “Khaleesi.” Sorry, everyone.
I’m still waiting to see if my requested plate (WZZURD — it was the best I could do) will be approved, a process that took about four seconds in North Carolina and which takes six weeks here.
But for all my whinging, Missouri is starting to grow on me. The fall leaves were beautiful even without mountains, the winter is shaping up to be properly cold, and despite my introversion and tendency to hide at home with a book, I’ve been meeting some interesting people. Though having just said that I plan to hide at home with a book this week. Old habits die hard.