Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Delta Wedding

Sometimes if I’m at a party with a lot of non-Southerners (“Yankees,” as my father liberally groups them) I will try to charm everyone with my cotton picking story. I don’t mean “cotton pickin’,” as in “That was the worst cotton pickin’ hay ride Ah’ve ever been on.” This was actual harvesting of the cotton crop, performed by a 4-year-old me in Memphis. I was on the most literal form of field trip -- the destination being a cotton field not far from my preschool. “Cheap labor,” I tell the Calis and N’Yawkers. “One of the teachers needed a sofa cushion.”

Well, that part isn’t true, but I have photos to prove the picking.

And now Eric has picked cotton, too.

Past school age, road trips replace field trips. Usually there isn’t a smelly Greyhound bus or a paper bag full of jelly sandwiches, but that doesn’t lessen the excitement. At least, not for me. I anticipated last weekend’s Murky-Goofus road trip for months, starting the day I received an invitation to my friend Zarabeth’s Memphis wedding. “We can drive there through Mississippi!” I exclaimed to Murky. “We can eat fried pickles!”

Fried pickles aren’t a staple of the South, any more than toddler labor. Nor is it true that Southerners walk around saying “Howdy do,” as Eric has suggested too many times. It all makes for good chatter, though. And I did intend to follow through with the grub.

We found a Mississippi cotton crop before we located fried pickles. In fact, we missed the pickles altogether. The Jackson, MS Shoney’s held promise as a purveyor of numerous fried items, but it had a different plan for artery-clogging: burgers (this should be a link to Murky’s photo of his Grizzly Burger, but I bet he hasn’t posted yet). Wedding fare was barbecue, slaw, and chips. We shared a bag of boiled peanuts on Sunday night’s return trip, which might have rang Southern if we’d dipped the peanuts in our Diet Cokes. Didn’t happen.

We did see the ducks. The Peabody Ducks are my favorite Southern phenomena. “So much better than your Make Way For Ducklings,” I informed Eric. Twice every day (at noon and 5 p.m.) the Peabody Ducks depart Duck Palace at the top of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and prance (not waddle) into an elevator. Reaching the hotel lobby, they walk single-file up a red carpet laid specially for them, then hop one-by-one into the main fountain. “The Make Way For Ducklings ducks just stop traffic,” Murky conceded.

True, but all ducks quack the same. And as we discovered, nearly all weddings -- no matter the geographic region -- will play Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” for the groom/mother-of-groom dance. Other relevant cultural bridges: bad pay-per-view (Saturday night, not porn but a B- M. Night Sha-whatever movie); Mexican food (Sunday afternoon); and low-pressure tires (Sunday night, spotted and fixed in a flourish of gender-typed testosterone).

It is also universally difficult to dance to “Working For The Weekend,” and we attempted many eras’ worth of bad moves before skulking back to our table at the reception. Our musical choice for the car was Mississippi blues, punctuated by Delta talk radio and a Grisham novel (The Last Juror). Ira Glass got an hour too, mainly because Eric can do a spot-on impersonation.

Murky did not acquire a Southern accent on this trip. Don’t even ask him to try one -- you’ll either be misled or appalled, depending on your state of residence. He’ll never be a card-carrying Dixie boy, though cotton-carrying perhaps.

That doesn’t mean he can’t bond with Hank Williams Jr. On the last few miles of our trip, Eric dialed up Hank‘s “If Heaven Ain’t a Lot Like Dixie.” If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I don’t wanna go / If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I’d just as soon stay home / If they don’t have a Grand Ole Opry, like they do in Tennessee / Just send me to hell or New York City, it’s all the same to me.

A Rebel he’s not, but equating the Big Apple with the fiery pit sounds about right to my Boston beau. Cotton pickin’ truth.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ode To The NOLA Mosquito

The New Orleans mosquito
Has a very strong libido.
Its Northern kin
Will settle in
When summer is finito.
Mosquitos here stay out to bite
Each autumn day and winter night!
Their curfew bell falls on deaf ears
(Assuming a mosquito hears).
“Bon temps,” it seems, just never end
There’s always one more second wind.

Why this is so, I cannot say -
Perhaps mosquitos like beignets.
Or the lowly bug aspires
To imitate our famed vampires
In any case, I wish they’d quit
With this whole blood-sucking bit
Let me be, NOLA mosquito --
Try a Bourbon Street mojito.