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Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Carolina Christmas

1. Driver Safety

I am bopping along interstate 85, headed north into the Carolinas. A virile black Chevy pickup is my front door, a maroon Camaro is my back door and I’m in the rocking chair.
In my opinion, this is the safest place to be when a state trooper is lurking, ready to award a speeding ticket to a passing motorist, because he will either ticket the truck that is the pace-setter or the muscle car that is last in line and easiest to pull over.
In the world of fossil fuel spending, I know I am part of the problem, not the solution, because I love to drive – anywhere, anytime, and fast. I should feel guilty, but the pleasure of motion, sunlight and music overrides what I know is wrong about my behavior. Strangely, when I am in this heavy machine of steel and burning gasoline, I feel at my most weightless.

2. Not an Original Idea

Such a dry cold envelops these old mountains. I steer carefully through a hairpin turn on my ascent towards Asheville, N.C., aware that the pressure in my ears is changing. I should be living here, I think. I deserve to have this beauty every day. I catalog the reasons I love North Carolina which include, but are not limited to: music, four distinct seasons, rushing water, wildlife, a sense of wonder, BBQ.
As I count the number of Lexuses and Mercedes around Saluda and Flat Rock, I am mindful of the fact that everyone with a generous retirement income feels the same way.

3. A Stranger Here

“Them two boys just been saved. As for me, my soul at this time remains unaffiliated.” – O Brother Where Art Thou?

Although I have lived in the South for more than three decades, I still do not understand South Carolina. Nowhere do I feel more out of place, more “unlike” the culture around me, and I tend to think it has to do with religion and politics. But there’s something else, something I can't name, that causes me to feel like a different species.
My cousin Pamela, her husband Garry, and I drive to Landrum to hear music in a small, cozy bar called Zenzerra, where Garry will sit in with the musicians and add his mouth harp to their string band. It turns out that I know all the songs, and with the help of a shot of bourbon, I start to relax. When the band plays Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” it strikes me as funny that they are playing a song (written by a guy from my home town) that sounds holy but really is about carnal love with bared fangs.

4. My Fault

Sometimes I don’t know where I belong. This short visit with Pamela underscores how lonely I am much of the time in Alabama. I miss being with people who sound like me, share family memories, laugh at the same ironies. But those people are thousands of miles away or, in many cases, dead.
This is my own fault; I can’t go home because I’ve stayed away too long, and I’ve failed to assimilate where I now live. I fall asleep in my cousin Rachael's bed, humming a childhood lullabye that only my late mother knew, and now I am its only singer.


Harry said...

Thoughty with deep feelings, leadfoot.

I have kin in both Carloinas. I know its beauty, and I think, that odd feeling you can't put your finger on too.

There is lonesome longing for belonging and downright sadness in the mother's lullabye songing, that is I hope, more art than life.

One of the best lyrics ever:"Well maybe there's a God above / But all I've ever learned from love / Was how to shoot somebody who'd OUT DREW YA..."

Gita Smith said...

Yes! Agreed, that is a brutal straight-ahead look at one kind of love.
Thelullabye part, I'm sad to say, is true life.
See you in 2011 Harry, one way or another.

Harry said...

Then it must be your duty to teach the song to someone young and special to you.

It's a deal, one way or another.

Happy New Year Gita!

Angela said...

It seemed to me that you felt most at home on your way to somewhere else. The image of being the last singer of a song reveals a certain kind of homesickness that travels much too well. Your words carry a special ache. This was a rich read.