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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mason Dixon

“No matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life within the confines of your head.” ~Terry Josephson

El Padre is from Birmingham. A child of 1950’s and 60’s Birmingham. It shocks me that he came out of it both alive and relatively unscathed. Though he does have a completely rational fear of Emmett Till, hell I won’t even Google that name unless I have my eyes closed. Hands covering the screen. In 8th grade I attended a NAACP dinner with Peg that Emmett’s mother spoke at. Outside of the grand concourse at the Egg was a full display of pictures from his untimely and horrific death. I didn’t sleep for a week. But yes, Birmingham: The home of Bull Connor and not so friendly firemen who used hoses on small children as opposed to bombed black Churches.

Peg is from West Virginia. The daughter of a former coal miner. She didn’t live there for as long as El Padre lived in terror of Birmingham, but still from the south just the same. When she was five, her house was run over by a mixing truck. I made her tell me that story every night before bed.

They both still say such gems like “Mama and them” and El Padre uses “Y’all” on an almost daily basis. Sadly, the raised children who are not the least bit Southern. Children who are proficient skiers and actually can appreciate a good old fashioned snow day. When it snows here, I lament on how lame the Federal Government can be. I mean, it’s only seven inches. Plow that shit, put some salt down and be on your merry way.

Because of them, when I am inebriated – as I will most assuredly be this coming weekend – I too can revert to this Southern accent I didn’t know I had. Everything becomes slow and deliberate and there’s a twang. My God, a twang.

*****

A few months ago, I was driving through South Eastern Pennsylvania. Rural, real rural. Children of the Corn type shit that would scare that forced me to hold my breath through the woods and past the abandoned sheds and farm machinery. Every tall and sturdy tree I passed, I envisioned my eventual lynching.

As I kept driving, I finally saw a familiar sign. I let out a sigh of relief and my heart slowly started to beat at a normal pace again. It was a pillar of hope: “Mason-Dixon Line” is what the sign read. And when I crossed it headed south back into Maryland, I had never been so elated to not end up chopped up in the middle of a Wheat field in east bumble fuck PA.

I told someone about it the next day and quipped that while it has been customary for blacks to be happy about getting North of the famed line, I had apparently chosen that moment to mark one of the few times that a black person has been monumentally relieved to be headed South of the Mason-Dixon Line.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Dagny said...

Children of the Corn is always more frightening than the South. And hey! My dad grew up in Alabama/Georgia, my mom in Virginia. I, too, become Southern after a couple of cocktails.

And oh my. I forgot that this was the big trip. Perhaps I will motivate myself and head down to San Jose over the weekend.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous jonniker said...

I'm dying, because I grew up in Pennsylvania, and you are right to fear it. It's like West Virginia is purported to be in parts, and there are Confederate flags (of the malicious variety, not the Southern pride variety we see here in the true south) and flea markets and gun shows and everything else you'd expect. My husband avoids going there with me like the plague.

I grew up in this bizarre little Utopian pocket, where everyone was equal (we were all poor) and more than half the school was minority, and the town was too small to be divided, or even *notice* that there were people of other races, much less care that they were different. I had no idea how lucky I was until I got older and started tooling around other nearby towns in the state. OMG. Horror! DELIVERANCE.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Heather B. said...

I was so thankful when I got into Maryland because I KNOW Maryland. And Maryland is close to home. The worse part is the reason for why I was driving back home at like 11:30 PM in the dark with the lynching fear was because I wanted to go out that night. I am crazy.

10:35 AM  

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