Hey, Hardee's!

The South in the spring is stunningly lush and green. The balmy humid air, the scent of bug repellent, and the vibe is hype with anticipation of the impending NASCAR season. The South is a world unto its self and an interesting place for a tattooed negro gal from Cali such as myself.

Recently a dear pal of mine had settled back into Kentucky life and my cousin was getting married in Charleston, so I packed a bag and headed down Dixie way.

First stop Cleveland for a brief layover. Only two cool things ever came out of Ohio. Chrissie Hynde and Devo. Okay, three including Drew Carey. An hour later I'm in Louisville and greeted by Miss Tish. This is her land and her folk. In the next several days she'll teach me cool phrases like "cold-natured," which in Tuckian means one gets the chills; the opposite of which is to be "hot-natured."

I also discovered there is such a thing as frog-giggin.

Giggin' requires a canoe and 3 people -- the paddler, the light man, and the gigger, who holds a pitchfork for spearing da froggins. In Tucky, Spring is the season for frog legs, deep fried and succulent, as I was told. Tish and I took a day trip to Marshall County where her folks live in a passive solar house on 40 acres of emerald pastures. Her mother, Mary, is a charming and gracious Christian woman, who said things like "the dickens" and made a pecan pie for our visit. Her dad, Dick, a retired professor, wore skinny dark Levi's and converse, just as he did as a young man in the 50s. While I nibbled my catfish and hushpuppies, Dick explained his frog-giggin mishap the previous day when the pitchfork went through his hand. Ok, too country for me!

The Tucky accent has a cool lyrical lilt. The only time
I had a hard time understanding someone was when Tish's friend, Charlie, was chewing kaw and was talking to his daughter. Couldn't grasp a word except "girl." Tish would tease me and call me "city mouse."

The other accent I could hardly decipher was Gullah; a Southeastern dialect black folks speak that has roots in West African languages, primarily from Sierra Leone and Ghana.

The Gullah to this day do basket weaving with palm leaves and indigo batik passed down from the slaves that came via the Caribbean. I was considering checking out an old plantation during my trip before I passed a billboard along a highway into Charleston depicting a smiling blonde holding a parasol, an epic antebellum house in the background. It made me want to barf. What the fuck is that shit?!

There's nothing remotely romantic to me about the Good Ol' Days of Dixie. To me it represents subjugation and the degradation of my people; of suffering and bondage, and racial dissention that still exists to this day. So, Lil' Miss Blue Bonnet can shove it up her petticoat and fuck off.

I found it more positive to celebrate a culture heritage which spans thousands of years, which endures despite being taken in chains from one continent to another by Evil Whitey.

At the people's market in downtown Charleston -- the same area slaves were once traded and sold -- a merchant peddled Confederate flag swimsuits, belt buckles and shot glasses. I thought to myself that some of this shizzle simply would not fly in California -- except maybe a biker gathering outside Modesto at 2am, with lots of beer flowing and George Thoroughgood's "Bad to the Bone" blasting.

During my trip, I heard mention of Hardee's. I assumed it was some regional fast-food chain, like White Castle. It's actually Carl's Jr. -- same logo, same shit food, different name. Just as Best Foods is called Hellmann's east of the Mississippi. I personally think this is an ongoing conspiracy to pit East against West.

"Hellmann's, Western bitch!"

"Best Foods, Eastern punkass!"

The coolest market name is Piggly Wiggly but the stores are dwindling in the South, being bought out and acquisitioned by another larger regional chain. I checked one out. No big deal, just a cool name, and they don't sell Piggly t-shirts, dammit.

Southern cuisine is, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as soul food. The staple of "country cooking" is to fry practically anything edible. Creamed corn balls, fish, hushpuppies, shrimp, chicken, pork, beef -- you name it, they fry it up. Then there's BBQ, various kinds of woods for smoking, and meat stock is commonly used when cooking vegetables for flavor. Tofu and soy protein it ain't! You're hard pressed to find lean yoga-stretching, gonzo mountain-biker folk here. Land of the corn-fed hefties, but farmer's markets are also plentiful for getting fresh local organic produce.

Generally, Southerners are friendly, charming people, but I did have that sense at times of being a fly in the buttermilk before I met up with my relatives in Charleston. I did get an email from Tish recently that Kentucky's governor signed an act into law prohibiting gay and transgender discrimination -- the first state in the South to do so.

Other than tobacco, pot is also a plentiful crop due to the climate and soil. It's called Kentucky Bluegrass round these parts and it rivals anything this side of Humboldt County.

I did come across some stereotypical images on the road: The beatdown shack with a rusted pick-up in front, double-wide mobile home tracts, rifle-racked trucks, United We Stand/Support Our Troops billboards, and Jesus Saves bumper stickers. That may not be my scene (in whole or in part), but I dig the fact that I could order my bacon "fried soft" and I didn't get that crosseyed look a Californian would give me. "You know... like, not crispy?" Take me home, country road.

-- Badass Blue Moon Mamma,
June 18, 2003

Copyright 2003, Badass Blue Moon Mamma

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