Holly and I don’t get to see each other that often, but we’ve spent enough time together over the years to have created certain traditions. One of them is to meet at 609, a well-known restaurant and bar in downtown Joplin, for drinks and a long talk about
men and the gossip around town these days a variety of intellectual subjects. The bar decor and our conversation change every time, but our order of Cabernet Sauvignon and spinach dip never do.
This time around, I wanted to talk to Holly about practicing Buddhism in a town without a single Buddhist temple. So how did we end up talking about Game of Thrones?
Kimberly: We are in 609.
Kimberly: In downtown Joplin.
Holly [Smiling]: Yes.
Kimberly: And I was just explaining my blog to you.
Holly [Laughing]: Yes.
Kimberly: That it’s about a person’s relationship with a place.
Kimberly: But I don’t want to talk about this place.
Kimberly: Is that OK? Even though we have a history here. What I would like to talk to you about…
Kimberly: …is the absence of a place in this city where we live.
Kimberly: Because…will you correct me if I’m wrong? Are you a practicing Buddhist?
Kimberly: OK. Does Joplin have a Buddhist temple for you to practice in?
Holly: Oh! No! But, you know, it’s interesting, because it’s becoming clearer and clearer that my time in Joplin is coming to an end. Because it’s not that there isn’t a Buddhist temple here… It would be great, it would be nice. But as my close friends, who are my age, have retired and moved away, I’m finding myself increasingly isolated here in Joplin. There aren’t…I’m 62…there aren’t that many women here my age who are as free as I am…as in having grandkids and a husband…no farm work, no church work. You know, I’m an anomaly. I’m not…you know, I’m an introvert, I don’t need a lot of friends. But I need a couple of friends.
Kimberly: Are you an introvert?
Holly: Oh god yes, I’m an introvert!
Kimberly [Laughing]: I would have never have guessed that.
Holly: You…yeah, I’m very much an introvert, and…so it’s hard for me to go out, and it seems like extroverts always have lots of friends and I envy them that. But I just can’t handle that, all those people. So, in Joplin…it’s interesting, because I have this…the people I’m close with in Joplin now are 26 years old.
Kimberly [Laughing]: Yeah?
Holly: And, you know, as beings, or whatever…as beings, we have much in common. And I feel completely comfortable in myself. But when you’re 20, your friends are 26…you can’t talk to them about the tone of your arms changing. [Begins singing, rather beautifully, “Crazy Arms” by Patsy Kline.] You know, I’ve noticed in the last year that the skin on my arms is changing.
Kimberly: I’m 33, you can talk to me about the skin on your arms. Because I know about it. But I’ve been through…a weight loss…adventure…
Holly: Yeah, I can talk about them with you, and I can talk about them with my friends that are 26, or my friends that are 40. But I can’t talk about it with you and you know…I’m 62. You know, I’m in the ascent.
Kimberly: [Inaudible because of laughing]
Holly: I’m fixing to float off the top of the mountain in the next 20 to 30 years! And I feel very isolated.
Holly: And there are not many of my people here. In Joplin. I have to say, Joplin’s been good for me.
Kimberly: Yeah. I should describe…because people who hopefully read my blog are in the United States but also in places like France.
Kimberly: We are in the HEART of what was…or I guess still is for the time being…Trump’s America. Which is somehow…
Holly: Well, we’re not exactly in West Virginia or coal…a manufacturing center. So we’re not exactly in the physical spot. Those people, I think that’s a different kind of “Trump’s America.” But we are in a very conservative part of the country. And a very…Frederic Douglass would call them “nominal Christians”…People here are very serious about being Christians in name only.
Kimberly: Yeah. Oooh, that’s good.
Holly: Yeah, you know, they’re into it! So, it is difficult…I don’t fit…very well. And as an introvert, I have to make myself go do things. Because I spend too much time alone. So, it’s…it’s challenging. It makes me have to be bigger or better than I actually am. It makes me…you know, I’m going out and doing stuff.
Kimberly: You’re pretty big and great already, I’d like to put that on the record.
Holly [Laughing]: Oh, well thank you very much. But, you know, there’s a part of me at this point, and following the concussion…and the loss of hearing, I spent a lot of last year at home. And then Tom was my lifeline, because Joy had left. And being in public with my hearing is also…
Kimberly: I know the last time we came here, to this place, we had to switch tables at one point because it was right after the concussion and you couldn’t hear! So we had to move around.
Holly: I couldn’t. So, it’s being in a place where you don’t fit…as a good Buddhist, I would say that that’s a problem of my ego. And that this is where I’m supposed to be. And I like embracing that. It doesn’t mean I have to be here forever. But this is where I am for the next two years. And I need to figure out how to be here in a way where I don’t completely blow my Buddhist practice and stay home and drink wine every night.
Holly: And watch re-runs of Game of Thrones. [Singing] Bom bom bom! BOM! Bom-bom-bom!
Kimberly: I’ve never seen Game of Thrones!
Holly: I’m into it.
Kimberly: I refuse to see it because so many people are into it, I don’t want to be into it as a reaction.
Holly: Well, see, I started watching it but it’s really violent. And Buddhist philosophy, but also just general common sense, tells you not to roll around in violence. So there are seasons where I only watched half of it because I just had to shut my eyes [laughing].
Kimberly: Somebody told me that it’s really rape-y.
Holly: Oh, well, there are a lot of naked women, and there’s rape. But, it’s very…disabled-friendly, you know, there’s the dwarf, whom I would love to have sex with.
Kimberly: [Laughing for probably two minutes straight]
Holly: You know, there’s some pretty fucked-up people that are main players. And it’s also…I mean, the women are really strong. I mean it’s a very feminist perspective. The main…there are main players who are men, but the women are not taking backseat to anyone…
Kimberly: If you had told me at the start of this interview that we were going to be talking about Game of Thrones, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are.
Holly: Well, I was surprised, because when you said interview, I thought, “Ew, yuck.” But then I thought, it’ll be interesting to see where it goes.
Kimberly: That’s the whole point! It’s that I ask a question, usually related to a place, but what I’m interested in is a person’s narrative. So I guess…let me just end with, maybe one quick question, or two quick questions…what do you love about Joplin, what do you hate about Joplin?
Holly: What I love about Joplin is my job. You know, it is fucking magic. I mean, I’m an English professor. I teach Freshman Comp. And I teach it…I’ve always liked teaching it, but I teach it using Buddhist philosophy, neuroscience, and cognitive theory. And I am fearless in the classroom. You know, I’m an introvert in many ways, but in the classroom, I just feel kind of lit up.
Kimberly: This is why I didn’t know you were an introvert! Because I had you as a student…as a teacher, rather. I was the student. So I had never seen that.
Holly: When I have to be, I’m fearless. And I don’t have any kids of my own, but I really can say, and this is a 62-year-old thing to say…you know, I have positively influenced a lot of people’s lives. And I probably fucked up a few. [Laughing] Not very many. I can say that and…you know… I love it, I love it. Teaching is magic, and it’s interesting when they try and do all these assessments and qualify and put teaching in a bottle, it’s just not going to happen. So I’m very, very, very deeply grateful to Joplin and to Missouri Southern for giving me this venue to grow and explore and do good. You know, it’s good work.
Kimberly: I believe that.
Holly: Yeah, and now that…it’s interesting because that’s kind of winding down. I’m going to be retiring and leaving. But the best thing about Joplin is my job. And it’s brought me you. It’s brought me many, many people that I love deeply and feel deeply connected to. That I could’ve given birth to just about all of them! But that’s OK…
Kimberly: As a Buddhist, don’t you believe, in another life, that you did?
Holly: Well, you gave birth to me in another life, actually. So then, what do I hate most of all about Joplin?
Kimberly: You can answer that if you want, but we don’t have to end…
Holly: Well, you know, the hate thing is tricky. But what I find the most difficult thing about Joplin is that I’m so…there are other people like me…you know, I have lived places. Boulder, Colorado, where my people were everywhere! And now I only find my people in the classroom. And so I feel very isolated. And I have to work with that. But that’s the most challenging thing. And then now I’m just figuring out, where do I go next? You know, I want the universe to, like, show me. [Angelic singing] Give me a sign!
Kimberly: Let’s leave it there.
Holly: Say what?
Kimberly: Let’s leave it there!
Kimberly: We’ll let the universe [messing with dictaphone button] give Holly a sign.
Holly: So was that nineteen minutes?
Kimberly: That was actually ten min-….