Thursday, March 30, 2006

All Things Southern, Volumes I & II

As some of you may or may not be aware, I've been down here in the south, the deep south I believe they call it, for a couple few years. And I think I'm finally starting to get a good bead on just how things work down here, and why things work down here. And why nobody really works down here.

Over the course of my observations, I've noticed that there are many things that are distinctly southern, and as such, lend themselves an easiness of access to those of us not American by birth, Southern by the grace of God.

Here are just a few.


Sweet Tea

If you want ice(d) tea down here, you're out of luck. It's not ice(d) tea. It's sweet tea. And it could possibly be one of the most glorious liquid concoctions known to man, if he's white and owns stuff. Sweet Tea is not ice(d) tea with sugar added to it. No. Sweet Tea is sweetened while it's being brewed, which is the secret. I don't know exactly how they do it because I've always been afraid to ask. But godammit is it ever yummy!

[slurp]


Meat and 3

The 1st time I was being taken to a Meat and 3, I quite honestly didn't know what to expect. Upon further inquiry I was informed that it was a place to eat, not a place to "meet". The "meat" in the Meat and 3 should be self-explanatory. It's the "3" that really raises some eyebrows. Turns out the "3" refers to vegetables. But not just any vegetables. Collard greens, black eyed peas, creamed potatoes, &c., and things of that nature.

It's a pretty straightforward experience: you get in a line eerily reminiscent of a theme park, retrieve a cafeteria tray, get yelled at by what appear to be angry, swarthy southern men in aprons, request your "meat", e.g., country fried steak, chicken, fish, &c. (I almost always get the veal), and request your 3 veggies. You're done. Easy peezy japoneezy. Then you head off to a table and begin to power down the animal fat while a surly middle-aged woman who calls you "sugar" retrieves you some Sweet Tea.

The food is fresh, delicious, and full-fat fantastic. I was told that Meat and 3's evolved from the combination of Greek immigrants and their fascination with order, huge black women and their fascination with delicious thrift, and southern white people and their fascination with being really fat.

And it's a fairly rare occasion where you'll actually have to salt your food at one of these joints.


Ridiculously Hot Women

Holy crap! Drop dead gorgeous women folk everywhere you turn. But don't let that delicate and demur fa├žade fool you, that "well I never!" manner lead you astray. Because "once you get behind closed doors" and the seersucker and taffeta start to hit the floor, you'll find out that almost all of them are really… lame in the sack. I'm pretty much a prude myself, so I've had to rely on extensive "exit interviews" for my conclusions. Suffice it to say that "southern hospitality" doesn't necessarily extend to the boudoir where you "dance the horizontal hokey-pokey". Make sure to bring plenty of lube.


Southern Hospitality

Scholars have surmised for years that the hospitality making the south famous isn't hospitality at all. It's fear. Fear that The North will come back down here, free the slaves, again, and burn Atlanta. Again. While my newfound compatriots certainly would prefer that the 1st two events remain in the theoretical realm, I certainly don't have a problem with Atlanta going up in flames. It would sure make it easier to drive through it on the way to someplace actually interesting and fun to be.


A lot of Black People

I guess I would have thought that, having been treated like shit for 400 years, southern blacks would have moved north en masse, where the racism is much more subtle. Well, many did; but many, many, many more didn't. From what little I know about the whole situation, my guess is that those that didn't move north didn't know they were allowed to leave the south. Others, it seems, were just too lazy. Plus, you just can't get good watermelons or fried chicken up there. Boy, it sure is a good thing that southern blacks are so different from northern blacks.

Speaking of which…


Racism

Only in the deep south could the white man create a verb out of the word "nigger", e.g., "All that niggering they're doing in the front yard sure isn't gonna be good for this housing market, Amber Jean." One of the most vile words in our language and perhaps currently the harshest racial slur a speaker could use, "nigger", when not whispered in Country Club locker rooms south of Huntsville, Alabama, is more times than not replaced with a hushed "nigra", a slightly less acerbic linguistic epitaph. E.g., "I sure hope the nigra gal I've got who comes once a week to clean the house doesn't start stealing from me."

Racism in the south is many things. But one thing it sure isn't is subtle. At the risk of repeating myself, again, I'll just sum up what I've said on here before. Sure, we've got our black mayors, our black congressmen, our black city councilmen. But they don't really have any power – at least not any real power in the strictest sense. The south is run almost exclusively by old money white men in bourbon-tinged "board rooms" and smoke-filled "studies". And everybody knows it, and seems to be fine with it. "If it ain't broke, &c…" I guess?

Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, it's like this: If you see a black guy walking through Mountain Brook Village, he had damn well better be carrying a tray of drinks or some shrimp cocktail appetizers, or he'll be spread eagle at the back of a cop car faster than you can say, "Separate but equal, sort of, almost."


Fried Green Tomatoes and Fried Okra et al

There are 3 major food categories in the Southern Food Pyramid: 1.) salt; 2.) fat; and 3.) fried. If these people down here could figure out a way to batter and fry it, they'd eat dirt. [And d.) sugar.]

But Fried Green Tomatoes are a culinary delight. And if they're prepared properly, they're not that greasy.

I didn't even know what the fuck okra was until I moved down here. It's a vegetable that resembles a banana pepper in shape only, with just a hint of flavor, which is why you either fry it in heavy butter, or stew it with canned tomatoes (again, pronounced either "da-mayduhs" or "mayders", depending on your regional dialect).

Fried pickles? Of course. Fried turkeys? Duh. Fried squash? Fried corn? Fried sandwiches in their entirety that themselves contain fried foods? [sizzle sizzle sizzle!!!] If it's not moving, fry it. If it is moving, make it stop, then fry it. Fry, Fry!, FRY!!!

Speaking of which…


A lot of Overweight People

It's getting to where you can't swing a slab of ribs around without hitting some morbidly obese woman who's crammed herself into jeans 5 sizes too small and finishes off her outfit with a tube top. And then finishes off another entire pie, which was fried. Fortunately the local legislature is spearheading a program to help reduce some of the girth at City Hall by not letting government employees keep buckets of hot wings under their desks any longer. And you know what? It's working. Sometimes a carrot stick is just a carrot stick. But sometimes if you dip in 2 cups of bacon ranch dressing, it's nearly palatable.

Huge, huge people. Everywhere.


The Accent

I know what you're thinking, and the answer is: Yes, they do practice talking like that. Especially the ladies, from a very early age. While the lilt and lithe of "Scarlett O'Hara-speak" becomes ever more endearing with every single syllable, it's the redheaded step-child accent from the "wrong side of the tracks" dialect that will peal paint.

For example, ivorynically, "time" is pronounced "tom", "Ryan" is pronounced "Ron", "school" and "pool" are pronounced "skoo" and "poo", "soil" is pronounced "sole", "hold" is pronounced "hoed", "sentence" is pronounced "said-ince", "feel" is pronounced "Phil", "hello" is pronounced "hey-y'all", "African-American" is pronounced "darkie", and "Christian" is pronounced "Baptist".

For example, ebonically, "here" is pronounced "heeyah", "doing" is pronounced "durrin", "credit" is pronounced "credick", "leg" is pronounced "laygue", "ask" is pronounced "ax", "welfare" is pronounced "mmm-hmmm (with that finger wag thing)", and "police" is pronounced "run!!!".


Church Burnings

We've got our abortion clinic fire bombings. We've got our burning crosses in front yards. We've even got our Bessemer tire fire, one of the longest standing open fires in the country.

But nothing screams "The Southland" louder and with more enthusiasm than a good old-fashioned burnt-to-a-crisp church fire, leaving nothing but the iron hardware from the pews and the collection plate behind. This tradition, quite popular especially here of late, stretches all the way back from 1947 to 1965, when over 50 bombings occurred in Birmingham, subsequently named "Bombingham" to very little laughter, perhaps culminating in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963 by (white) segregationists, which resulted in the deaths of 4 black girls.

Oops. Yes, it's all so very southern. Well, at least the perpetrators were found and convicted in a timely matter – er… Never mind. I suppose they'll burn in hell forever, though, if you believe in such things.


Barbequed Ribs [extremely poorly chosen list order]

If your church has been burnt to the ground in the latest rash of southern church burnings, then there's probably a pretty good chance you're not going to feel like "firing up" the old stove back at the house to prepare the rump roast for Sunday dinner. So why not head on over to Dreamland and get you some ribs.

The original Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, where nothing was served but ribs, sauce and white bread (and "white bread"), was the best rib place ever in the world. It's still fantastic. But with the added luster of now being a franchise, I'm told it's just not same as the old days, what with all the cleanliness and the expanded menu.


Idiotically Retarded Asshole Fuck Ups

Let's see: Trent Lott, Jeff Sessions, Judge Roy Moore™, Richard Scrushy, Judge Roy Moore™, and Trent Lott.


Tornados and Their Very Special Love/Hate Relationship with Trailer Parks

[ahem]

more shameless self promotion.


Mmm… Magnolia…

Really, is there anything more southern than a southern gentleman (i.e., white guy who owns stuff), bourbon on ice in hand swirling it about [tinkle tinkle tinkle], gazing from his veranda out at his extensive backyard admiring the landscape, meticulously cared for by illegal Mexican immigrants? Answer? Yes…


The Overweening Sense of Importance, Entitlement and Victimization

Really, is there anything more southern than a southern gentleman (i.e., white guy who owns stuff), bourbon on ice in hand swirling it about [tinkle tinkle tinkle], gazing from his veranda out at his extensive backyard admiring the landscape, meticulously cared for by illegal Mexican immigrants, all the while bitching to the hired help about, well, illegal immigration?

It might just be me, but I constantly here from these dudes about how every region but the south is somehow trying to fuck over the south. !!!Newsflash!!! They're not. The only time anybody else actually cares about anything we do down here is during a presidential election. And believe you me, they're starting to care less and less about even that.


I hope you've enjoyed Volume I of All Things Southern. Remember: it's hard to miss with good material. Not to worry. Plenty more where all that came from.

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