Hillbilly Lanai: RIP

Hillbilly Lanai, Halloween 2008

I’m happy about getting a new porch, don’t get me wrong, but I’m really going to miss the collective of splinters and paint chips that came together for the cause we called The Hillbilly Lanai.  The Hillbilly Lanai was more than a porch.  It was, in the vernacular of sentimental gag-provocation, “a member of the family”, albeit a weather beaten family member who squatted by the side of the street and hoarded windblown litter and wildlife bones in its nether regions–an insane homeless great uncle, if you will.   To its credit, The Hillbilly Lanai didn’t give up its ghastly chipbag and chipmunk cemetery secret until it was dismantled, a gesture I’ve taken as a sign that it did its level best to live up to love that it was given by living down its more unfortunate attributes.  Bless its heart.

It was a sight.  Comprised of rickety grey planks and held together with spikes of tetanus threats and patches of lead poisoning, I dare say my front porch was, from an architectural standpoint, the closest thing to a Snuffy Smith-type outhouse that Charlemagne Oaks has seen in the last century and a half.  As the steady encroachment of track houses continues to consume the town’s historical character from its outer reaches, in, The Hillbilly Lanai was an embarrassing vestige of a simpler, more modest time.  It grinned in the face of progress and prosperity with a mouthful of summerteeth sunshine, and for that I loved it.

The Hillbilly Lanai was the stage upon which key moments of our lives were played.  It was where we set out Mabel’s jack-o-lanterns, and where Kate and I once set out our differences, the terms of our negotiations drifting up with the Marlboro smoke through the amber, street-light diffused rain.   There was no place on earth more suitable for the shucking of corn and the drinking of beer right out of the bottle on a July afternoon.  It also served as a checkpoint through which the paramedics escorted our neighbor away from her home upstairs to a waiting ambulance, and treatment for whatever it was that made her cuss, cry, and carry on all through Valentine’s Day Eve 2007.  It was where our postman stepped out of his professional role to come out to Kate and to shake her hand for raising a family with me.

On the other hand, it did leave a few splinters on my ass, and the handrail didn’t cut it from even an ornamental standpoint, but nonetheless, I relate to that porch.    When I refuse to let others make me feel out of place just because they have more money or privilege than I do, I’ll think of that porch.  And when I fret over the right shirt with which to conceal my tattoos from my mom, yes, I will think of that porch and its hidden stash of refuse, and I’ll laugh. When my joints creak and as my hair turns grey, I’ll think of that porch.

The men who took apart The Hillbilly Lanai tell me that it was “a danger.”  I acknowledge that its time has come, but it shouldn’t be dispatched without a word of gratitude for the fact that despite its age and debasement, it held up.  It was a grand thing voiced in humble terms, like Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” chorale played on a banjo.

Goodbye, Hillbilly Lanai.  You meant a lot to me, you rickety-ass thing, you.

Hillbilly Lanai, Mabel’s first recital, June 2011

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