Sunday, May 17, 2009

- Do you make Lists?

Well, in addition to "To Buy" lists or the more mundane "To Do" lists?

Years ago I created another kind of list & recently revived it. The summer after high school graduation, a girlfriend & I decided to travel and settled on hitchhiking around England for a month. In addition to planning our itinerary, we also developed The List (as it applied to the UK).

It contained things that we felt were quintessentially of the place, and enumerated things we wanted to have experienced before the holiday was over. The list "ingredients" didn't have to be difficult to achieve; that wasn't the issue. It was meant to measure what we felt was a true and full experience of a new environment.

I can't remember the exact elements for the UK List, but it was things like:

1) eat fish & chips
2) see Buckingham Palace & the changing of the guards
3) drive in a London taxi cab
4) see someone in a kilt
5) visit a castle
6) see Shakespeare at Stratford-on-Avon
7) buy an umbrella
8) drive in a Rolls Royce
9) go to Hyde Park
10) be invited to tea...

You get the picture. We would argue and add things to the list as their quintessential-ness was discovered and determined.

Recently I went on a road trip with the same friend some 35+ years later. She lives in Alabama, so we went on a trip around the area. I found myself creating a list--it sort of was made as it happened instead of beforehand. But we argued through the essentialness of the ingredients, and I think we pulled together a good collection. I realize it is a girl list. You boys will just have to work on your own. Here it is:

The Deep South List:
1) Receive an Unsolicited Greeting
(i.e. hello) My friend didn't think this should count as a key indicator of Southern-ness. I really had to explain that NO-ONE in New York would say hello to a stranger walking down the street--you'd think they were pan-handling.
2) Courtly Solicitation
#1 was men & women; this is just for women--Male interactions with females are often touched with a decorous flirtation, a sense of 'Southern Charm,' an awareness and appreciation of your femaleness, e.g. 'I always stop for pretty girls,' or have door held for you..

3) Bitten by Ants
Apparently, this is standard. I can vouch for it happening.

4) Drive on a dirt road; visit a farm/meet a farmer; wait for Cows to clear the road
The South has its share of cities and industry, but rural South seemed quintessentially Southern, not found elsewhere, and needed to be experienced. I didn't get a photo of him, but our farmer was driving a tractor...not unlike the one pictured on the billboard below...

NC Tractorsign10'19'08

5) Roadside Attractions
One of the carved living tree in Tinglewood, ALA and Bourbon St. New Orleans, LA

    Tinglewood, Montevalla, ALA NO lapdance
6) Breakfast with Good Ole Boys, eat Grits with Unidentified butterlike substance
OK, he's not a Good Ole Boy, he's the god of the forge, Vulcan, who presides over Birmingham, ALA. Magnificent, isn't he? And I know you're distracted, but really, there's no butter in the South. My grits came with a pat proudly announcing it was 40% margarine. It never told me what the other 60% was and I was too scared to ask....

    Vulcan Birmingham ALA 9'08
7) Tea: Sweet/Unsweet
Well, I may have to make an exception for New Orleans, where it was hard to find anyone who'd give me sweet tea--it was all DIY. You do have to specify "Hot tea" if that's your preference, as tea = ice tea.
8) Being asked where you come from
Yes, this would also be on a California list--but it's just not Northeast in my experience & always startles me & reminds me I am somewhere away from home. In some parts of the South, I am sure you are asked where you are going--i.e. which grave yard will you be joining--to better understand your status. Location, location, location.

Hilary NO Cemetary 9'08 NO Grave carving Moth 9'08

9) y'all (or, as I've learned, for some Southerners, it's ya'll--hey, I'm just a visiting Yankee and I'm not taking sides!)
    10) Cotton fields
    Well, I hadn't thought of posting while I was traveling, so didn't take appropriate photos, just captured a few things that appealed. Here's a a rather remarkable ironwork cornstalk fence in New Orleans.

      Cornstalk Fence NO 12'11'08.jpg
    11) Church signage with admonishions, instructions, information about Jesus
    I regret not having photographed some of the Church signage: you have to see it to get it. Here's one man's front yard sculpture--it captures some of the spirit.

      Crosses Hilary
    And here we are with our trusty black bug at the end of the trip. Think of the photo as modern art, creating a sense of immediacy and motion (and covering any bad hair or poor clothing choices).

    IS HM Car

    Since we created out list as we went, we were sure to accomplish every one.

    Do you make


    Jessica said...

    Nope, no lists for me. Except for the grocery store but then I sometimes lose it.
    I just got bit by an ant the other day. LOL I'm in Florida.

    Isabel Swift said...

    Well, Jessica, some consider Florida the South, so I think that counts! Hope you bit him back...

    Max said...

    This definitely belongs under #11. It's on I65 a bit south of Birmingham.

    Isabel Swift said...

    Max, thank you for that excellent photo! Perfect.

    Also have found the personally created signage on outdoor church billboards (you know, the white ones with black moveable lettering) quite inspiring and to the point.

    Anonymous said...

    Just FYI, on #9... in the true deep south, we'd spell it ya'll :)

    Isabel Swift said...

    Anonymous--thanks for the tip! That's so interesting. It changes things. "y'all" was my assumption, with the apostrophe replacing the "ou" of you of "you all" and dropping the "a" of all.

    But if it's ya'll, it means it's a phonetic dialect, with everyone saying "ya" instead of "you" and the apostrophe now replacing the "a" of all.


    Max said...

    Apparently the topic is controversial. I read this in one of the Birmingham weeklies just a day or two ago.

    Isabel Swift said...

    Max: thanks for the link! Interesting. Seems like I'm not alone in my Yankee assumption of spelling & Anonymous is correct in the Southern stance of spelling you as "ya" in this case. It's often spelled that way when you're writing dialect or regional accents phonetically, e.g. "See ya later." I'm not wild about yall, though....

    Christie Ridgway said...

    Isabel: Regarding your Deep South list, #1 and #2...I was vacationing (under protest) with my parents when I was 17, visiting places my dad had lived (grew up in Georgia). We were out walking at dusk one hot evening and I was trailing my parents. I remember I was wearing a very cute sundress and a big straw hat. These young men in a car slowed as they passed me and one called out with a =very= Southern accent, "Good evenin', darlin'." It made my trip. This California girl was more used to catcalls (and oh, the one time a guy leaned out of a car and slapped my butt as he passed me on my bicycle).

    Paula said...

    Y'all is spelled y'all, Isabel. You were right the first time. At least, that's how we spell it here in Alabama.

    I'm surprised you couldn't find butter, though. Maybe not at restaurants, but you can certainly still find it on people's tables.

    Love that you included a picture of the Moon over Homewood (i.e., Vulcan's backside).

    Isabel Swift said...

    Paula: butter in homes, yes. In restaurants, not so much. Of course, we were not dining at any "tablecloth" establishments... And thank you for "Moon over Homewood!" I hadn't heard that. Beautiful!

    Christie: I love your story! I remember walking down the street in college once and having a truck driver honk & give me a thumbs up & it totally made my day.

    I then wondered why that made me feel good and other expressions of "appreciation" (cat calls, etc.) made me feel bad. I realized that one could simply and viscerally feel the intent behind the gesture.

    Catcalls are an aggressive gesture, designed to intimidate and objectify the recipient. Gestures that feel good are respectful expressions of delight. In this PC world, they can be seen as the same, but they're just not.