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Posts Tagged ‘South’

Since moving to Huntsville in 2007, I’ve been invited to go camping by everyone from co-workers and classmates to new friends and virtual strangers.

I’ve explained time and time again that as natives of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, my husband and I don’t camp. We rarely even discussed camping until two years ago, except to mock or feel sorry for those who felt the need to brave the sticky humidity, frequent rain, biting insects and frightful fauna of Southern Mississippi and lower Alabama.

Usually, these victims were fathers of Boy Scouts, lured into the wilderness by well-meaning but misguided troop leaders. Those who ventured out once got our pity, but those who went the next year after lodging a week’s worth of complaints about the first year’s mosquito-ridden disaster got nothing more than a good mocking.

Seriously, hotels are all around us. Use them. Love them.

The weather in Northern Alabama is admittedly more hospitable to camping. The humidity is lower (don’t even bother griping about the humidity here – I’ve been to Nicaragua in August), and at night, the temperature actually stands a chance of dropping below 85 degrees. There are still big checkmarks beside the boxes for biting bugs and snakes, however, plus coyotes seem well-represented up here.

There are, I suppose, a few events that could be made more fun by camping. I could get a really early start at the really awesome Tyrolean Traverse in Desoto Falls State Park. I could make it to some caves in Tennessee that local grotto members start exploring at ungodly times on Saturdays. Heck, I might even find myself at Bonnaroo next year.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m talking myself into camping. My love for indoor plumbing supercedes many adventure possibilities. You’ve got more selling to do, North Alabama.

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I’m planning a trip to New York City and I am PSYCHED. People who grow up in the rural South usually have one of three reactions to urban life:

  • They are annoyed by crowded sidewalks, brutal traffic and the intricate layout of city streets.
  • They are terrified by the city’s sheer vibrancy.
  • They fall in love with said sheer vibrancy and begin plotting their way to a high-rise office and studio walkup.

I’ve loved city life since moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the early 1980s. My family’s home was an easy 20 minutes from the Louisiana state line, which was a mere 40 minutes from downtown New Orleans.

The Crescent City is a troublesome example, because it runs on its own rhythm. All cities do. But it introduced me to a world of close quarters, where strangers lived literally feet from one another, rode buses and streetcars, and many times, heaven forbid, WALKED. It was a world in which people ate dinner at 9 p.m., not 6 p.m., and they certainly didn’t call it “supper.”

It was a world of sophistication far removed from my home in Kiln, Mississippi, where I literally had to drive across a defunct cattle gap to get to school every morning.

I truly fell for city life when I was 21 and went to London for four weeks to take a World War II history class. I barely slept the entire time I was there because I didn’t want to miss a minute of action.

Between the Underground and an extremely well-run (read: on-time) system of buses, I could be anywhere in the city within a half hour. The crosswalks required traffic to come to a standstill for pedestrians to cross busy streets – and we’re not just talking crosswalks at red lights and stop signs.

After a lifetime of being accused of walking too fast, I was a welcome addition to the People in a Hurry on the city’s sidewalks. I learned the true people-moving potential of escalators, and I’ve been uncomfortable standing completely still on moving stairs ever since.

The restaurants, the shopping (note that my favorite destination in any foreign city is a grocery store, and a must-visit destination in any large American city is a foreign grocery store), the population’s ethnic mix … there’s just too much that I love to list it all.

New York has it all: subways, buses, foreign grocery stores, fast-moving sidewalk crowds, world-class restaurants, even non-stationary escalator-riders. And not a cattle gap for miles.

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Speaking to a friend from Texas today, I noted that Southern families, or maybe just farming families in general, seem to have tragedies woven into their histories, generation after generation. This probably isn’t a fair assessment – Northerners have plenty of dysfunction, too, no? – but it’s what I know.

Southerners can be shockingly straightforward about the past. An uncle dies, you hear the story of how he accidentally shot another man while hunting in his youth, and barely escaped jail time. Again and again you hear about the aunt who died decades too young because a pompous doctor refused to perform a life-saving hysterectomy. You learn about an old family friend who lost his hearing and hand to a careless dynamite accident.

Cancer. Alcoholism. Diabetes. Car accidents. House fires. Thwarted love. Mental illness. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. There are a thousand things that can go wrong, and a thousand things that do go wrong.

When things go right, there’s not so much story, but isn’t that the story that should be told?

My brother, raised by a father whose own father abandoned him before he was even born, a man whose love for us in the end couldn’t overcome what he had missed growing up, has been an unbelievably good father to his two daughters. He may be a natural, but I suspect he is purposely railing against the past.

I’m married to the sort of man that my mom deserved, a man who actually wants to be married to me, and isn’t just filling the role that society dealt him.

Having spent my life outrunning dozens of potential unhappy endings, it always shocks me a little to think that my brother and I may actually be OK, that we’ll stay happily married to our respective spouses, that he’ll always be the guy who really deserves the No. 1 Dad coffee cup, that we’ll pursue careers we don’t despise and maintain hobbies that we love.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop running. But the idea that I might win lets me catch a breath every now and then.

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