- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
Taking Drastic Steps
The signs were small at first. I didn’t really realize what was going on. I started enunciating the ending R on words like summer and dinner. I would ask people from deep in the Confederacy to repeat phrases to me. Hollywood southern accents began to sound authentic.
Even when the problem became obvious, I denied it. There was no way this could happen to someone like me. I was a smart man aware of his surroundings. It just wasn’t possible. The final straw was watching Sweet Home Alabama and thinking it was a cute movie. The next day I started paying attention to my speech patterns and realized I was clearly pronouncing my G’s. I had to get help.
I wallowed in self pity for a few days; making excuses, denying how bad things were and trying to justify the change. I see Yankees all day long. My best buddy is from Ohio. The Woman Whose Garbage I’m Responsible For was born in Michigan and spent four decades in South Carolina without picking up a drawl. I need to speak clearly and succinctly to communicate with my customers. It was pathetic.
While vacationing in Ireland I looked inward while listening to a harp player at the Cliffs of Moher and knew I had to do something. That and using succinctly in a sentence. I met a guy from Alabama in a Holiday Inn Express elevator just before we came home. I took it as a sign to get my life back in order.
The first day back I fought off jet lag long enough to drop by Publix and pick up a package of dried Lima beans. We call them butter beans in Alabama. Last weekend, after spending the day watching SEC football, listening to Levon Helm and Lucinda Williams, and reading a little Rick Bragg, I was ready to make things right.
I put half of the butter beans in a pot of water and let them soak overnight. They swelled up real good. The next afternoon, I dropped a couple of pieces of bacon in the pot with fresh water and started a slow boil. At first I was going to use fatback but was a little leery of an overdose, so I used the bacon. I whipped up a pone of cornbread in my iron skillet forged in Birmingham and waited for everything to be ready.
I grew up on what later became known as soul food. The recipes were passed down; roots and tradition dripped from every mouthful. I have stretched my culinary envelope as I‘ve gotten older and drifted away from many of the dishes that anchor me to my heritage.
It became obvious to me I was losing my southerness and needed to take drastic steps. Butter beans and cornbread worked for me because I haven’t had any in such a long time. Like shock treatment. The first taste melted years away and reconnected a link to my past that had nearly rusted away.
That evening I stopped the television carousel on an episode of Andy Griffith. The next morning when I stretched y’all out for three syllables, I knew I was back to normal.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
One night about three years ago when Jake was five, I was settling him to sleep with a book about Chicken Licken. I hadn’t met her before but Jake knew her well. When we got to the end of the book and he asked for another story, I was too tired to fetch another book, and didn’t want to disturb his sleepy state, so I made up a variation on this theme. We lay with our eyes closed, imagining. Taking the character’s name in vain, we casually began to invent life situations and adventures for Chicken Licken. “Chicken Licken goes to school” Read on →
Every human culture, it seems, has had some notion of the sacred, and has placed that notion at the center of its worldview. From this, we can conclude several things: 1) that a sense of the sacred – like other universals, such as language and music – is an inherent part of our humanity; 2) that therefore we can conclude that this sense has served the cause of life of our kind through the eons in which we developed; and 3) that the experience of “the sacred” possesses an important kind of power, that it is not just an inherent part of us b Read on →
There were superficial reasons—when he thundered on the political scene at the Democratic Convention in 2004 and then rode on the wave of that thunder to his election in 2008—to compare Barack Obama with Abraham Lincoln. There was the Illinois connection, for instance, and the gifted orator connection, and the “new birth of freedom” connection. Add to these the evident high esteem, even reverence, held by Obama for that towering mentor of his spirit, and it is easy to link the two of them. But what about things deeper than the surface? A sobering intimation arose in me, in the wake of the Read on →
I knew I liked him early on by the way he told a joke. He had timing and delivery and the punch line was not telegraphed. Whenever I get off my mountain, I’m alert to serendipitous opportunities to meet such people and to get a peek into their lives. So on a recent trip to Atlanta for a couple of woodworking classes, I had the pleasure of spending a few nights with a dear friend in Asheville, one of the world’s finest and most civilized of cities. My friend is also a fine lady and like her adopted city, most civ Read on →