A month ago I rode with a colleague to the South East Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (SEUUMA) retreat at “The Mountain” in North Carolina. It was a long half-day drive with much pleasant conversation and a stop at a “Waffle House” for lunch. I had been curious about that chain since I got here, as I remembered hanging out at one with friends on the “Sojourn to the Past” trip ten years ago. When I looked it up online, I had found a very meat-laden lunch and dinner menu and had not returned. It happens that the breakfast menu option for hash browns with your choice of toppings suited me perfectly: I brought half of my “scattered, covered, & capped” hash browns home for supper.
As our talk turned to music, Mandy recommended a documentary to me that I had heard about several times before: Muscle Shoals. It is about a place in north-western Alabama famous for hosting many celebrity bands back in the day. As I enjoyed my leftover potatoes, cheese, & mushrooms, I sat back and cued it up on Netflix. I found myself surprised at the sense of familiarity I felt—with the music, certainly (“Brown Sugar” was recorded there, for example), but also with the place. I haven't visited that part of the state, but the landscape and culture in the film resonate with my experience here in the southeast corner. I feel the same kind of connection watching movies set in other places I've lived over the years: Wales, Normandy, Paris, Washington D.C.
When I decided to do this blog, I planned to reflect on things that are different from what I'm used to. Here are a few of them:
- Ordering iced tea requires that you specify “sweetened or unsweetened.”
- Most retail businesses have public restrooms—including thrift stores and supermarkets.
- When I walk out the front door, squirrels and birds skitter for cover.
- Children are raised to say “yes ma'am”; “no ma'am.”
I also want to share my appreciation for the opportunity to stretch my mind and heart, yet again, by making my home in a new place. I'm grateful for the chance to deconstruct the prejudice I had coming from somewhere else to live in the South. I've come to believe that the history of this region belongs to all Americans. It is certainly not what sit-coms of the 50s and 60s depicted. I find myself feeling offended by the mainstream contempt for Deep South culture and language. Late-night talk shows have been especially vicious recently about southerners, as though their regional accent denotes stupidity and wrongheadedness. I have found many who speak that way to be intelligent, kind, generous, responsible people, whose company I enjoy.
A few photo highlights below, from around town and from our road trips the past few months exploring the area. Still so much to see and learn!