Southern Discomfort

Although it’s been said many times, many ways… this girl is a native “New Yawker”.

Born and raised in Queens. Did ten years in Brooklyn. Newly minted as a Harlemite as of one and a half-year ago. Aside from an extremely brief stint in Savannah during my infant/toddler years, I have never called another city or state home.

And yet… here I sit mentally cognizant of a faint and distinctive drawl that has managed to stick in the few days that I’ve just spent there while visiting my father.

The last time I checked, I wasn’t Kerry Washington in character for “Ray”, so this really isn’t going to work for me.

Fortunately, the twang is the only thing I picked up from my little visit to Georgia — although it could be said that the manners, affinity for fried things, and lack of urgency occasionally displayed could also be indicators that my ancestry definitely ain’t from the north.

It’s fascinating how, in a matter of a few days (and sometimes within moments) of being in Savannah, I’m always reminded of how different life and people can be when it comes to a little bit of geography.

It always amazes and terrifies me to be in a city that presumably has more hospitals, hospices, and pharmacies that boldly advertise diabetic treatment than a swath of the country. That I can also find a massive number of fast-food and chain restaurants, with a majority of the population packed into every one of them at any given hour, indicates more than just a passing indulgence or PMS-induced craving for anything that smacks of a cholesterol or cardiovascular nightmare.

Maybe it appears more so when you’re from a densely populated place occupied by a few million people — many of whom run, eat raw or organic things, and contemplate selling their kids for a space at Soul Cycle.

It’s also interesting, and helpful, to know that if I want “exotic” fare such as Indian, Mexican, Sushi or Thai food, the wait to get into those places are nonexistent since the natives steer clear of anything foreign — ironic (or prophetic, depending on perspective) — since Savannah is a military town.

Yes, I’m a city girl. I like my newscasters glamorous and equipped with the ability to read teleprompters with the ease and grace of someone who has either perfect vision or respectable corrective surgery. I’m resigned to believe that not all eyewitnesses bare resemblance to Sweet Brown. I prefer attempted suitors to not have baggy, low slung pants or call me “ma’am”. I didn’t realize there were still people in the world using paper checks to pay for things — better yet defrauding store clerks with them. That the latter was done by a very large black man dressed up as a woman is all the more horrifying and down right hilarious! (C’mon… a fake check and a fake chick?? I mean… really??)

But a part of me loves the smell of rain, and walking barefoot in it. Loves looking up at a night sky full of stars. Gets joy out of cracking crabs with my bare hands and doing it “just so”, so the meat comes out of the leg perfectly intact. Eats pecans until I catch a “bad one”. Walks the cobble stones of River Street with full knowledge that centuries ago my relatives congregated there to both buy — and be sold as — slaves.

Alas, these are Summer pleasures… so it was waayyy too cold for that!

As convenient as it may be to see an Oscar nominated movie like “Silver Linings Playbook” in a theater of about ten people (none of which were of my ethnicity) on a Friday night, there’s an overall feeling of loneliness that can quickly wash over you. In New York, it’s a self-imposed isolation that comes with the refusal of finding an outlet among the thousands available at the flick of a Time Out magazine page. In Georgia, it’s a bit more palpable.

Sometimes I make the mistake of believing I’m adaptable to any environment because I can pick up a dialect or digest a meal in various parts of the world without much fanfare… only to discover I’m a “fish out of water” in my country of birth.

That’s the funny thing about the American South. As “inclusive” as the country claims and dictates itself to be, there will always be a part of it that subtly reminds the rest of us that it was never their idea or desire to embrace the transition. And as archaic as some of the ideals may be, there’s almost a certain beauty and admirable quality in their defiance to maintain certain traditions.

…Except when it comes to elections and anything legislative. Then, they’re just irritating. Thankfully, the food is significantly more palatable and digestible than the politics, although it can initially be deceiving since everything seems like a good idea when southern hospitality is involved. For all I know, Paula Deen could be a fascist, but her hoecakes are so amazing that I may inadvertently vote for a Bush in the next election.

Still, none of this has good long-term effects on the heart.

In the meantime, perhaps there’s a future for me in voice-over work.

Ironically, I do not have a New York accent.

Suddenly, I have an urge to go juice something and watch a “Law & Order” marathon.

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