According to my quite depressing stats page, it has been 9 days since I last posted anything on this blog. It is painfully obvious that this here humble blog of mine is not on cruise control yet. I’m not sure what the opposite of cruise control is (expiring free-fall?), but whatever it is, that is what my blog is on.
Some of you may be wondering where I have been for 9 days. I flatter myself, of course, to think that anyone wondered. Self-flattery a hobby of mine. The flatter the better.
Well, to answer the question that no one asked, I was on business travel last week. Most people that get to travel for their jobs get to go to exotic places, like New York, Chicago, Boston, London, Las Vegas, San Francisco, etc. I get to go to unexciting places like Podunk, Georgia. Don’t get me wrong. I love Georgia. I grew up in Alabama and Mississippi and I consider Georgia to be in the blessed trinity of the Deep South. But glamorous it was not.
As I drove from Atlanta far out into the treed hills surrounding Podunk, I noticed through the rental car window the red clay, the towering pine trees, the magnolias, the mimosas. The ground underneath the pines was brown with a bedding of pine needles. The air was thick with the scent of pine and magnolia and honeysuckle. I saw a patch or two of kudzu. The air was warm and humid. All of this conspired to give me flashbacks to growing up in Mississippi.
Georgia, like Alabama and Mississippi, is beautiful. Outside the big cities, the pace of life in the Deep South is a peculiar kind of slow, on the surface seeming to be dawdling, plodding, and lackadaisical. But it is none of those things. It is a deliberate kind of slowness, measured and ponderous, inspired by sweltering heat and thick humidity.
People are a little more friendly. Southern accents abound. And I don’t mean those fake Southern accents you will hear in movies and on TV. I mean an honest-to-God Southern accent, lyrical and lilting, seemingly unschooled and unpolished, but in reality ingeniously cadenced and nuanced and efficient and seductive.
But Georgia, like Alabama and Mississippi, has been overrun with modernity. There are Targets and Krogers and Hiltons and Sports Academies and Chili’s and Dillards. Stand in the “good” part of town and it is indistinguishable from any other mid-sized or bigger town in America.
Such a pity.
Our culture is becoming homogenized. Generally, that is a good thing. High quality and good service and variety have become uniform across the land. But the price we paid for that was a near complete loss of regional identity.
If, rather than boarding a 737 for a 2 hour flight to Georgia, I had been somehow teleported from the suburbs of Dallas to my destination in Georgia, I would have been at a loss to tell you where I’d ended up. Had I even left? Was there a reason to go back?
I have been watching the dissolution and the erosion of the Deep South all of my life. Some of that is for the better. I am more than eager to see poverty and racism be eradicated. But it saddens me that the good has been erased with the bad.
But I can close my eyes and smell the magnolia and honeysuckle and, for a moment, I can forget that I am surrounded by homogeneity and indistinguishability. The bland is replaced with the colorful. Modern aloofness is replaced with Southern hospitality. The corporate is replaced with the homespun. Hotel lobby chairs are replaced with front porch swings. Bottled water is replaced with sweet iced tea.
But only for a moment.