Sunday, August 24, 2008

Southern Exposure

Good Witch and I traveled to Tennessee and North Carolina on Friday and Saturday, and we've been enjoying southern hospitality for the last couple of days. It's great, but clearly different.

The first sign that we're arriving in the south is the appearance of "Southern Exposure" roadside billboards. "Southern Exposure" is the name of the chain of skin bars that dot the interstate, beginning in West Virginia. Their parking lots are populated most times of day, but I can't speak for what's going on inside. Not interested.

After arriving at my brother's nice home near Kingsport, Tennessee, I was soon gifted with a quart Mason jar of nice clear moonshine, made not long ago, and legally, by a friend of his whose family has been in the moonshine busness for a couple centuries. I've not had moonshine since I lived in central Tennessee about 40 years ago. It will put hair on your chest!

For breakfast Saturday morning we enjoyed some delicious pork sausage with our eggs and toast. The sausage came from a 400 pound pig that my brother shot in the head with a .22 rifle before being tutored by the farmer in the fine art of skinning, splitting, and butchering a pig. You may wonder what kind of guy my brother is: he's president of a large high-tech company who spent part of last week in Bangkok dealing with the Thai government, who is a major customer. He just butchers pigs in his spare's a southern thing.

After breakfast we drove across the Smoky Mountains to Hendersonville, NC, just south of Asheville. Every time my car reaches Erwin, TN, and the huge mountains come into view, I'm amazed that I once hiked across them on the Appalachian Trail. They seem almost insurmountable, but actually they are quite traversable one step at a time. It just takes a few weeks to do it.

My 87 year old mother and her slightly younger husband live in Hendersonville, comfortable in a villa that's part of a multi-tiered senior living community. We've been to an Agatha Christie mystery play with them, and also had a fantastic brunch at a 1930's stone mansion, now a B&B, just across the South Carolina border. Tomorrow Bob and I play golf, weather permitting. He's over 80, but he still lives to chase the elusive golf ball.

Tomorrow marks GW's and my 42nd anniversary! It can be true that everything, and I mean everything, about a marriage can still be improving after that many years. In our case, it is. Maybe it just takes a long time to get it right.

Politically speaking, western North Carolina is pretty redneck. There are many transplanted northerners here, but they are still outnumbered by the locals who have been isolated in these mountains for a long time and are subjected daily to a local newpaper owned by reactionaries. McCain will take Henderson County by a large margin. When I reflect on Hendersonville being representative of most of the south, I wonder if the founding fathers were right when they attempted to restrict voting rights to those who were likely to be educated.

We'll hop in the car early on Wednesday morning and I'll drive 800 miles to Rochester in one 14-15 hour stint broken up by short potty breaks every two hours. It's a grind, but Good Witch reads a novel to me for a few of those hours. On our way down we made it halfway through "The Sweet Hereafter", by Russell Banks, and we'll finish it on the way home. Then it will be back to business with a church mortgage closing on Thursday morning, a board meeting Thursday night, and then the overnight shift at the ambulance. But our "Southern Exposure" will have given us a nice break in routine and some interesting experiences. We'll do this trip over and over again until the people we come to visit have moved on for the last time.


Ron Davison said...

It is fascinating how much context makes a difference to what is normal. When I taught Covey seminars, I remember finding it so amazing that something (like employee empowerment) that would seem obvious to the point of not worth mentioning in the Bay Area would seem obviously naive and ill-advised in another place, like the South. Even beliefs seem to need a context.

Dave said...

You missed a bet: put some of that sausage in gravy.