Monday, January 17, 2005

Welcome to the deep south

"A place is yours when you know where all the roads go." Stephen King

Our guest speaker this week, Bill Maxwell, writes about his first impressions of the "deep south" in his column today. It's always interesting to view your town from an outsider's perspective. Over time, the quirks you observe at first glance, become part of the scenery. Like Maxwell, I came from a place I thought was "southern" but soon found out that Texas is outside the magic circle. In fact, while Tuscaloosans consider Texas a "western"
state; it's also considered a state-of-mind. I agree with that assessment and with some of Maxwell's observations.

Like him, I'd never seen so many churches, confederate flags or pick-up trucks when I first moved here 18 years ago. I had never met a woman who killed a deer, science teachers who don't believe in evolution and parents who censored their children's literature. I'd also never had a waitress call me hon or a teenager call me "ma'am." Over the years, I've come to cherish the "deep southness" of Tuscaloosa, choosing to celebrate the characteristics I love and discarding those I despise.

My motto, cross-stitched and hanging above my desk, says: Bloom where you are planted. As the daughter of a career military officer, I've been planted and uprooted more times than I can count. Tuscaloosa is where I've put down my roots, birthed my daughters and grown as a woman, writer, mother and teacher. My daughters say yes ma'am, go deer hunting and have southern accents strong enough to melt butter. But I don't censor their literature and have never allowed them to wear a Confederate flag t-shirt. They are "from here," something I've never been able to claim. Never being from anywhere in particular, I cherish the heritage, the hometown, the deep southness of where they are from.
Ideas, spirit, fun, intellect and wisdom can be found where ever you plant yourself. If you look hard enough, search long enough, you can make any place--home.

Please read this column and come to class on Thursday with questions and comments for Bill Maxwell.


At 11:20 AM, Blogger Lauren Champlin said...

I am excited about Bill Maxwell coming to our class. Thanks a lot for putting links to sites on the blog - it really helps!

At 8:13 AM, Blogger Josh said...

I'm looking forward to Mr. Maxwell coming as well. I was born in Iowa and a lot of my family still resides there. It's always interesting when I go home to visit because I always notice the difference in dialect and accents. Also, there is a vast difference in lifestyle when you compare the midwest to the south. I'm interested to see what Mr. Maxwell has to say and what he notices about southern living.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Emily Kornegay said...

Yikes! Sounds like Mr. Maxwell hasn't really warmed to his new home. I do agree -- the Deep South is just as much about culture as it is geography. We have our bald spots, that's for sure, but I do hope that he soon becomes acquainted with the some of the charms of southern culture. I'm looking forward to meeting him on Thursday.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger C G said...

His tone is quite serious, and I hope things look up for him. I agree with Mr. Maxwell that the Deep South is still disturbed and troubled, and the sad thing is that some of my fellow college friends think that it is perfect and love that racism still exists. It just shows that our youngsters will continue the traditions. Granted there are some things that I loved about growing up in the Deep South – great home cookin, Debutante balls, game day fever – but we are pretty resistant to change here.
For crying out loud, Judge Roy Moore has an 8-percentage-point lead over Gov. Bob Riley in a hypothetical 2006 primary match up according to a Mobile Register-University of South Alabama poll of likely Republican primary voters. Moore drew support from 43 percent of respondents to last week's poll, while the governor earned only 35 percent. It’s scary to imagine what Moore might do – Ten Commandments everywhere! I know that was random about Moore, but I just heard the news. I’m looking forward to hearing more of what Maxwell has to say on Thursday.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Becky said...

For some reason, the link to Mr. Maxwell's column wasn't working just now (Wed., 1/19/05, 7 p.m.) but I've previously read his work in the St. Petersburg Times and think Stillman is fortunate that he desired to come to work for them. He'll train insightful journalists to follow in his footsteps.

The "daughters" link however, worked without a hitch and I soon found myself lost in the images you paint with words alone. I could actually visualize the expressions of consternation on your face, hear the women say "Bless her heart", and see the apparently uncultured man in the elevator in the Bahamas. Great essay. When something makes me laugh out loud, as this piece made me do, it's really good.


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