Most anybody in a long term relationship knows the meaning of “captive audience”. You inevitably (but joyfully!) will end up doing a fair amount of things that your spouse is more interested in than you are. This is especially true in the realm of TV watching. In my experience, if we are watching television together, the set will end up on HGTV far more than it will on the SyFy Channel. Is that fair? Hopefully you realize that is the wrong question to ask.
The right question to ask is: “Will watching this help my long term interests this evening?”, if you know what I mean, wink, wink. Just kidding. Probably a better question: “Does this have enough interesting elements that I can get something out of it?” Here lies the key to contentment. If watching TV by myself, there is zero chance I would end up on HGTV, but when watching that channel as a joint experience, I kind of like it. Marital Zen.
I have not reached that point with the Hallmark channel, which my better half mercifully agrees to watch only on her own (thank goodness, as this time of year she attempts to watch all 750 new Christmas movies). One of the shows I’m fully Zen on, though, is HGTV’s Home Town.
This show follows the professional exploits of Ben and Erin Napier as they attempt to renovate Laurel, Mississippi and environs, one house at a time. They seem genuine, at least on TV (which never lies), and their projects are tasteful. The show follows the typical HGTV/DIY formula of taking an old house that ranges somewhere from outdated to completely dilapidated and renovating the snot out of it in one hour. They seem to have an endless supply of folks in small town Mississippi with $100k to spend on renovation, plus the purchase price of the house. Everyone wants Open Concept. I don’t think anyone in the history of HGTV has ever said, “Lets ad a wall here and here. I really want to separate the kitchen and living areas and create more rooms!”
One thing I like about Home Town is that the show has a vehicular mascot. It’s a 1962 Chevrolet C10 pickup named Clint, which I was able to photograph on a trip last year. More on that a little later. The truck regularly makes appearances in episodes as they are driving to projects, or parked in the background. Ben has owned this truck since well before the show debuted in 2016, back when he was renovating houses and running his woodworking shop, unsung and unfilmed. Not a lot of information exists online about the details of this truck, such as what engine it has. If it has its original engine, it would be either a 135hp 235.5 c.i. stovebolt L6 or a 160hp 283c.i. small-block V8, with the odds favoring the six based on production numbers. Of course, it could easily have a newer 350 V8 or something else.
A glance inside reveals it has three-on-the-tree (increasing the odds it still has its original drivetrain). The truck has been lowered and received new wheels since the show began (see publicity photo above). A social media post by Ben in March this year announced that the transmission had died and he was considering whether to just repair it, or to use the occasion to do a full restomod, with a new chassis mounted under the original body. I’ve seen no word on what he ended up doing.
Our family drove to Fort Walton Beach, Florida in September last year to rent a condo for a beach vacation. Our long-scheduled trip ended up being a few days after Hurricane Ida ripped through Louisiana. As far as we could tell beforehand, I-10 along the gulf coast was open at that point post-hurricane. As it turned out, it was but there was a section down to one lane which slowed progress. The bigger problem was that power was out in much of the area between Baton Rouge and Biloxi. No power = no gas stations.
If I was not a bonehead, I would have anticipated this and gassed up in Baton Rouge. It’s not like I don’t live in hurricane territory myself with multiple experiences with region-wide power outages. Nope, I just drove on through and we ended up needing fuel right in the heart of the dead zone, thus stressing my wife out tremendously as she imagined us stuck on the side of the road, hitchhiking to the nearest town and getting picked up by an axe murderer. Not Marital Zen.
After trying multiple exits driving around with no luck, we finally found a small town with one gas station open. Police were directing traffic and monitoring the line. With the gas needle distressingly near E, we waited in line for an hour and a half (see photo above). I elected to keep the A/C off, lest we run out of gas in line, with the endorsement of my better half but it didn’t help to lower the emotional temperature in the car. Fortunately, there was no limit on gallons and the price was only a bit more than normal. With wife now calm and A/C back on, we made it to Florida with no further incident.
A few pleasant days on the beach should have given Louisiana utilities time to get more up and running, but we decided it might be wiser to avoid I-10 and take an alternate route home. The route we mapped out went through Laurel, Mississippi and as Home Town fans, we naturally had to stop and see the sights.
As usual, TV doesn’t lie. Laurel is a pleasant little town (actually small city, pop. 17k), and everyone we encountered was friendly. Of course, one stop for us was the Scotsman General Store where Ben has his woodworking shop that many scenes from the show are shot in. It’s not really a general store, as they deal mostly in nicknacks, souvenirs, some expensive hand tools, and a cool walk-in fridge with many dozens of varieties of bottled soda you can mix and match for a reasonable price. The wood shop is visible through a large window in the store and TV again told the truth: Ben was working in the shop along with a couple other guys. No TV cameras were there at the time.
My daughter, who had just turned 8 on our trip, likes watching the show. She was fascinated that the guy she knew from TV was actually in there working. Ben spotted her and gave something to one of the guys, who came out and handed it to my daughter with Ben’s greetings. It was a small spinning top, which had the strong appearance that it was made on a lathe at the shop. Needless to say, she was delighted. Also needless to say, and completely unrelated, I walked out with a couple six packs of specialty sodas.
The 62 C10 is not the only classic vehicle in the Napiers’ stable. I found an article that stated they also own a 1964 Pontiac Catalina that’s been in his family since new and a 1971 VW Beetle cabriolet. Recent episodes have shown them driving a mint 80’s era Chevy Blazer, so that’s presumably another new toy. The C10’s absence might also indicate that Ben decided on the restomod route.
Home Town shows Ben and Erin working closely together fixing up houses and happily enjoying each others company. Since TV doesn’t lie, they model Marital Zen quite well. I’ll bet Ben can even watch Hallmark movies with his wife. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I could work professionally with my wife. I’m not sure that would work well, but we can at least achieve zen watching Home Town together.
photographed in Laurel, MS 9/3/2021