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By Tom Baxter:
I’ve seen the bright lights of Memphis, and the Commodore Hotel
And underneath the street lamps, I met a Southern belle…
Like poles on opposite ends of some weird Midwestern planet, Southern California and the South exist in a state of magnetic attraction and repulsion. In some ways no two areas of the country could be less alike, and yet within each you will find, often quite unexpectedly, aspects of the other.
Bakersfield and Galveston are 1,700 miles apart, but psychologically they’re just down the road from each other. Great swaths of Gwinnett County are like Orange County with pine trees. Drift in to an electronics store in Huntsville, Ala., and you might think you were at the Frye’s out near LAX. Drop by Mr. Pockets’ on Sepulveda on any given Saturday in the fall and you’ll find yourself in a crowd of Alabama fans, though the leaves in their new home never turn crimson. Once a year, they even fly in barbecue from Dreamland.
Last week, for the first time, I defriended somebody on Facebook. This individual, who will go nameless, posts scripture online on a daily, often hourly, basis, but tossed the seventh chapter of Matthew out the window within a few hours of Ted Kennedy’s death and launched into the sort of bitter, vile spew which has poisoned public discourse in this country. It’s vulgar to defame someone who’s just died, whether it’s Jesse Helms, Ted Kennedy or even Saddam Hussein, but that’s not entirely the reason I defriended this person. Others have committed this offense on Facebook and I haven’t gone and found that checkbox which removes them from my sight. Recently, when someone made a tasteless joke about Michael Jackson, I called him out about it in terms I deemed just as vulgar as he’d been. I didn’t know the author of the Ted Kennedy invective well enough to write […]
Riding the first real hot streak of his short life, Jimmie Rodgers hit town in October, 1928, recruited a backup band in an Atlanta speakeasy, and in two sessions the following week recorded four of the songs that would send his name around the world and into our century: “Blue Yodel No. 4,” “My Carolina Sunshine Girl,” “I’m Lonely and Blue,” and his greatest hit, “ target=”_blank”>Waiting for a Train.” All around the water tank, waiting for a train, A thousand miles away from home, sleeping in the rain I walked up to a brakeman to give him a line of talk He says “If you’ve got the money, I’ll see that you don’t walk.” Rodgers, who billed himself as “the Singing Brakeman,” here takes on the persona of a hobo. The song is about the power relationship between these two classic American types: the hobo and the brakeman, the […]
It is a summer night in South Alabama, shortly before the 20th Century’s first great collision with hell. Austria-Hungary will declare war on Serbia in five days; within two weeks, the slaughter will be under way on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. The pace of events throughout the world is accelerating like a teamless wagon clattering down a hillside, but as Sarah Clementine Murdock picks up a pencil to write her daughter, time still moves at its immemorial pace.
Clio, July 23, 1914
My darling Belle,
I have been trying to get the chance to write to you all this week; but it just looks like I never will do any thing. I just want to talk to you so much more than to write. I am trying to make Dad some shirts, and it worries me so to sew. I reckon I am getting too old; but I am always tired when I start. I was sorry that Minie wrote you about Nat, for you all have enough there. He is some better I think, all-though he is suffering with his back. They are treating it and going to try to keep from operating if they can help it. I hope so. Anyway, Lucy came back Monday, and brought her aunt and little sister with her; but I enjoyed it. She is a nice good girl, and I enjoyed her company, and she did not mind helping me. You would like her.
Some years ago the St. Petersburg Times ran a feature story about a former neighbor of the writer William Faulkner, who reminisced that on Sunday nights, the Nobelist would sneak across their adjoining back yards to watch “Car 54, Where Are You?” at his house. Scholarly research on Google indicates Faulkner eventually made no secret of his fondness for the ‘60s sitcom, but I like the image of him sneaking next door to watch it. That old story came to mind recently when I read that Bob Dylan, pressed in an interview with Rolling Stone to name his favorite songwriters, replied: “Buffett I guess. Lightfoot. Warren Zevon. Randy. John Prine. Guy Clark. Those kinds of writers.” Nothing against Parrotheads, or Canadians. But Dylan is not only the poet of his generation but a listener of famous erudition and, on his late-lamented radio show, a disc jockey extraordinaire. We know he’s […]
The Centers for Disease Control last month released what amounts to a map of the blues, though befitting a government study, it was wrapped in a colorless title: Geographic Patterns of Frequent Mental Distress.
The map and the report it’s in, published in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, are based on data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which bills itself as the world’s largest on-going health survey system. During 1993-2001 and 2003-2006, the BRFSS asked some 2.4 million Americans how many days over the past 30 they would say their mental health had not been good, and mapped the results by county.
Meet Katherine Jenerette, a former aide to US Rep. Henry Brown (R-S.C.) who hopes to unseat him in next year’s Republican primary. This ad – direct and somewhat unconventional in approach, low budget and lodged on the Internet – is a harbinger of more to come in 2010. We have some idea of what the campaign pitches we’ll see next year will look like based on the trends that were so evident in 2008. Predicting what particular kind of political ad will work next year – and in what medium — is still a tricky proposition. “This may be the most fluid time in political campaigning we’ve seen in a while,” said John Rowley of the Nashville-based Democratic firm Fletcher Rowley Riddle, which won seven “Pollie” awards from the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) for its work in 2008. A recent AAPC survey showed political consultants think that a […]
Maybe it says something about how next year’s governor’s race in Georgia is shaping up that the early jostling has involved two back surgeries. The more widely publicized of these was performed, reportedly with good results, this week on Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. He had been viewed as a top contender in the race for the Republican nomination until he announced at a tearful press conference earlier this month that a back problem had convinced him to abandon the governor’s race and run for his current job. There was so much skepticism about the real reason for Cagle’s departure that he showed his X-rays and MRIs to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway as proof he genuinely is in too much pain to take on such a big race. No doubt pain did have a great deal to do with Cagle’s surprise decision, but the timing – a week after the […]