Thursday, April 22, 2010

katie and the south

i wrote a blog, a while back, entitled "katie vs. the south." it was about gender roles and sexism in the south - misogyny, to be more precise - as a woman, after all, i have no clearer view of discrimination than of the sort which is inflicted upon me. i was rather hung up on gender questions, as you can tell from the content of my blogs during that period.

this post, however, will be nothing like that. i would like to balance things here by discussing some positive observations that i have made during my time below the mason-dixon. i decided upon this topic today, as i drove from durham, north carolina, to johnson city, tennessee, through virginia. i've made the drive from here to there and back again several times and have never been through virginia - thank you, GPS. yes, i was in three states today - of america, that is. i will make no comment on how many states of mind i have visited since waking this morning :)

i was driving through beautiful mountains, windows down, hair dangerously flying in front of my face, singing along to wagon wheel by old crow medicine show. i began to realize that i really have come to have a very special place in my heart for the south.

it wont deny that it's been a long process, and there is still something inside of me that feels akin to shame when i make this confession. (i suppose it's that feeling that causes me to refer to it as a confession.) i think that when you're raised in the northeast, you are programmed to believe that all other areas of the country are inferior to your own. (except maybe the west coast because california and seattle seem pretty hip.) the south is no exception, and is actually, i would say, at the top of the unwritten list of regions to which the northeast is superior. i say the list is unwritten, but i'm sure you wouldn't have a problem getting one of us to write it out for you.

for these reasons, combined with the misogyny, country music, and artery-clogging food, i was somewhat slow to come around. i viewed my life in the south as a horizon-broadening sort of experience, but certainly not something that could in any way compare to living in the great northeast. the proud yankee in me is by no means dead, and i'll argue the outstanding merits of the region with anyone who will fight back, or even listen, but my attitude toward the south has gradually, certainly, and unexpectedly changed.

who could possibly hate the south while listening to wagon wheel? it's just not possible. even my proud clam-chowder-filled heart swells when the banjo starts to play and my mind relives even just a small fraction of the good things i have experienced here. i smile bigger than i usually ever do when i'm alone and i get all happy inside.

the landscapes around here give me this warm feeling. the landscapes look pretty much identical the ones i enjoyed growing up in new england, when they weren't under feet of snow, of course. and what i can't figure out is how looking at basically the same thing, only in two different places, can make me feel two, both delightful, but distinct feelings? it's strange, but it happens. i think that the drive between ashville and johnson city might just be the most beautiful on earth.

the culture is interesting. i believe that one of the reasons that we northeasterners feel so justified in believing that we're the greatest is that we have such history and culture all around us. the south certainly has no shortage of culture and, while i might not understand or appreciate all of it, i can definitely see the value in it, especially after spending a year in florida. (it was a great year, but trading the freedom trail for strip malls wasn't the best deal i ever made.)

the weather is generally pretty great. i wish there was more snow and snow plows, and maybe a little less humidity, but i can't complain when i get to wear t-shirts in march. maybe that's why the landscapes make me feel warm - because i'm actually feeling warm.

i already knocked the food, and i have a standing rule that, if i can help it, i try to avoid restaurants with "biscuit" in the name, but i will say that the southern culinary tradition of "casserole" and "salad" as words that can aptly be applied to just about anything on the table, is quite impressive. the word casserole used to make me cringe, but now it just makes me get ready to cringe because it could be delicious or disgusting, you just never know.

alright, i think that's all for now. i'm sorry, my dear southern friends, if this wasn't mushy enough for you. i'm getting there, bit by bit.

it doesn't help that i'm living in the triangle, which, as i am reminded every time i venture beyond it's perimeters, doesn't really count as the true south. i do love it, though - the pseudo-south is just great. i could write a-whole-nother post about that, but i fear it wouldn't be of interest to those of you who don't live there. it would kind of be like if i wrote a whole post about why the patriots are awesome. not great for, umm, wide readership.

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