American South

Traveling to the American South has long been something I wanted to do. My fascination with South is akin to my fascination with big hairy spiders and mega-tsunamis. It’s a voyeur sport. I’d rather be a spectator than a participant. I know all there’s to know about those two, I’ve watch all the National Geographic and Discovery channel documentaries. I like the chill running down my spine when seeing a picture of a thick, rusty-colored leg of a spider hiding behind an object, because my mind draws picture of the horror creature that can posses such a leg. I remember seeing one of those in the Amazon jungle leisurely making her way out of the hole in the ground – one set of thick legs at a time – followed by Rubenesque torso, generously covered with reddish hair. I was mortified but couldn’t take my eyes off her. With the mega-tsunamis – it’s simple awe. The size and the inevitability of it, because when it comes you can’t run and hide, the best you can do is marvel at such nature’s beauty before it consumes you. In all of the recent disaster movies I tend to watch the part with the wave, over and over. It is both alluring and repelling. Alluring and repelling: South is like that spider hidden in the hole – I want to see it, but all the signs show it’s not going to be pretty and that instigates my curiosity even more.

I confess that my image of the South is perhaps superficial and stereotypical – poor, incestuous, uneducated, bigoted while at the same time courteous, polite and charming. That’s why I have to go and see it for myself and hope for more of the latter.

The image of the South in my mind is reinforced by numerous horror movies with the same plot: a group of teenagers gets lost in a hillbilly country (usually it’s Texas or West Virginia), get terrorized by the weirdo locals and the only ones to survive are those who didn’t have sex at the beginning of the movie. Message: Don’t come near us and if you do happen to pass by – there’s no fucking allowed. That’s why, in order to avoid asking locals for directions, I stocked up on local maps. Or how about that original hillbilly horror movie Deliverance from the 1970s? Remember? “Squeal like a pig!” That scene gives me shivers. It also made me realize why people in the rural states insist on carrying guns – to protect themselves from those inbreds in the woods, and not to fight some imaginary Commies.

And then the music, although it’s a topic for a separate post. Not contemporary country music – which I don’t like, but Southern rock like occasional CCR or Lynyrd Skynyrd on the radio – my guilty pleasures. Although I do appreciate some bluegrass influence in my favorite British bands like Led Zeppelin (i.e Gallows Pole) and Dire Straits (see my post about Mark Knopfler).

Let’s call of the above my “preconceived notions” about South. Anyway, trip to the South is something I wanted to get out of the system for a long time. My trip will start in Nashville and from there I will be making my way through Alabama down to the Gulf, then some poker in Biloxi and will end up in New Orleans.

In the meantime I’m practicing to keep my mouth shut, or at least not to give any political statements. Perhaps, I’ll marginally pass for a Southern belle this way. Any advice on manners and language is welcome!
And this is just to give you an idea of where I’m going.


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