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City slicker turns country bumpkin, and happily


Tanya Wright



I have been traveling back and forth from New York, Los Angeles and Columbus for roughly a year. New York is where I''m from; Los Angeles is where I''ve lived and worked as an actress for the last 10 years, and Columbus is where I shot "Butterfly Rising," the first movie (I''m told) ever to be shot in the birthplace of that talented chap, Tennessee Williams.  


After closely inspecting my airplane tickets, I noticed my stays at the two tony cities on either coast were getting shorter, while my sojourns to the South had gotten looonger. What was going on? When I went to LA, I felt restless -- agitated, really -- and yearned for something quieter. Peaceful. Is it my age? My natural inclination? Maybe it''s a bit of both. 


You can hear the night in the South. I grew up in the heart of New York where the city sounds lulled me to sleep. Screeching sirens. Screams. And the endless, endless activity. New York: "The City that Never Sleeps," they say.  


LA isn''t much better. Glitzy, cost-of-a-mortgage cars and perfectly manicured hard bodies abound all hours of the night, looking for their "big break." Truth is, I''ve never been one to skulk around when the sun made its way to the other side of the earth and have always been as happy as a clam nestled snug as a bug in my bed by 10 p.m., on either coast. If there was something I was missing at night, then it would have to find me in the morning. 


This self-professed city slicker has had a few interesting experiences in Columbus. My "Favorite Five" are listed below -- some of the things I''ve learned and experienced from spending some Time in the South: 




The pace 


The South is decidedly slower, unhurried. People actually greet you when walking down the street, when they pass you in their cars!  


The first time someone said "Good evening" to me, I looked at them like they had lost their mind. Saying "Good Evening" and "Good Morning" are just not what you do on the East or West Coast. It just doesn''t happen. Ever. And if someone does throw you a nicety during the course of your day, you start questioning their sanity. This is sad, but true. Try saying "Hello" to someone in New York; or better yet, smile at someone in LA. In some parts, you''re liable to get your teeth knocked out. I''m serious. 




The food 


This is probably the single hardest thing about being in Columbus. In New York or LA, there is a Whole Foods on virtually every corner. Sushi bars and Starbucks abound. In Columbus, if ain''t fried or gravied, it just ... well, it just ain''t. This is hard. Very hard.  




The bugs 


Now, I know I made reference earlier about being able to "hear the night" in the South, but what I really meant is that you can hear the crickets. I never knew there were so many critters in the insect kingdom! Granted, I had been warned about the bugs in Mississippi during the summer, but whoa!  


A week ago, I woke up to one of those buggers biting me in the back. When I reached over to pull the stinger out my shoulder, the critter stung me in the hand! A half hour later, my hour body broke out in hives. Classic hypochondriac that I am, I called my family to tell them that, if for some reason they didn''t hear from me, I was probably at home dead from an insect bite; a Black Widow was my insect of choice. A fitting end to a woman who had spent most her life as an actress. Oh! The Drama! 




The modesty 


I went to a Quaker school in Pennsylvania. Yes, I am a part of the crunchy granola, Birkenstock-wearing tribe -- it''s in my blood. 


I have absolutely no problem seeing others in the buff, or even walking around without my clothes myself, but a recent visit to the local Y let me know that buttocks-in-the-buff was a no-no. I very innocently walked into the steam room completely nude. No one said a word, but their gasps and the way a certain senior citizen turned her head in shame told me that this was not a place where folks walked around naked.  


I cleared out that steam room, quick, fast and in a hurry. I didn''t mean to offend! Will the nice old lady who almost broke her neck turning away from me please accept my apology? 




The Wal-Mart 


Now, I''ve saved this one for last because I was ashamed to admit I had never been to a Wal-Mart until I arrived in Columbus. In my neck of the woods, Targets (the store with a bulls-eye for the logo) are plentiful, and I knew my way around one pretty good.  


I had heard about Wal-Mart (who hadn''t?) but I had actually never been inside one. Oh, my. What a wondrous store. These people could never be blamed for falsely advertising their claim of having "everything you need all under one roof." Wal-Mart is a blessing and a revelation! I am a better person now for having stepped inside their sliding glass doors.  


The time will soon come when I will have to make a move. I am an actor and, I suspect, there will always be a bit of a "gypsy" in me. But wherever coast I land in, I may always have a foot ''Down South'' -- a place where I call home. 


Editor''s Note: Tanya Wright is a co-star of HBO''s "True Blood" and the writer/director of "Butterfly Rising," a film shot this summer in Columbus. Begining Sept. 10, she will conduct a six-week course, "Unleash Your Creativity," in Columbus. Open to those 18 and older, it will include writing exercises, reading assignments, movement classes and journaling. Class size is limited. (Cost ranges from $180 for the first 15 enrolled by Aug. 31, to $240.) For information, contact Wright at 662-570-4338, or e-mail [email protected]



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