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Friday, January 2, 2015

MY SOUTHERN BRIER PATCH

tony smith

New Year's day I spent mostly in the bed. Didn't want to do anything. Didn't want to be awake. Read some between naps in a new biography of Vincent Van Gogh. Today I passed the half way point. It's 900 pages.Woke a few minutes to seven, thinking it morning. The weather report on the radio for Friday was "tomorrow." I thought, you mean today. Today is Friday. I remembered I was waking from a nap--oh no, it's not tomorrow yet--it's evening. Friday morning I need to get with mechanic, tie the car door closed with baling twine and drive to his shop, taking back roads, to see if he can fix it. I hope it doesn't involve two hundred dollars in parts, or more. Happy New Year. This morning I found the owner's manual, looked up the fuses and pulled the fuse that works the interior lights to avoid running down the battery. I tried everything someone with no experience in such matters could think of. New Years. Things like this tend to happen to me on Friday evening after five o'clock. I have to wait til Monday to make an appointment for help. If mechanic cannot get to it tomorrow, the highest likelihood, I'll have to wait through the weekend til next week. Here again, when frustration reaches the point I can't stand it, I pull back into indifference. It only means I can't go anyplace for almost a week. Good. Like getting snowed in. Plenty of catfood, birdseed and carrots to last a week. Don't need a prescription filled for another week. Turns out it was a good time to be immobilized. Nothing to do but accept. As long as I'm staying at home, I'm not spending money. Money goes a lot further when I stay home. Staying home consumes no gasoline. And it's where I want to be anyway. Don't throw me in the brier patch. 

tony smith

I think of Brer Rabbit from the Disney film, Song of the South, tales of Uncle Remus, that I saw age 6. My only memory was Brer Rabbit (me) caught by some characters that wanted to hurt him. They were talking of what they could do to him. Brer Rabbit said, "You can do anything, but please don't throw me in the brier patch." It struck his captors a good idea. They threw him in. He hopped among the briers, tapping a bunny dance, singing, "I was born in a brier patch." More than likely, this was my first acquaintance with the South. I loved the movie, loved the Southern accent, loved the characters. This is age 6. I've been searching for my first discovery of the South as a place and hadn't been able to trace it past a biography read in third grade of Robert E Lee. Looking for why the interest in Lee, the South. The Uncle Remus stories must have been my very first introduction to the South. I do remember identifying so fully with Brer Rabbit that his plea, don't throw me in the brier patch, has stayed with me all my life. I think it taught me that cleverness of mind trumps brawn. I had the metaphor of brawn sitting beside me. I already knew he had no brains. I'm hearing Chuck Berry sing in my head, "You can't catch me, oh no, you can't catch me." As soon as I had my freedom, I headed for the South. You'll never catch me in the South. Maybe the South is my brier patch. I've found that people outside the South are largely afraid of the South. My brier patch. To say I loved a movie at age six has no bearing on if I might like it now. Age 11, I saw Demetrius and the Gladiators, starring Victor Mature. It was so sentimental, I loved it, cried at the end. Mid-twenties, I was in somebody's house while it was playing on the tv. I watched a scene and gagged. Victor Mature made me puke. How could I have ever liked such a thing? Eleven. I liked Mighty Mouse too. 

tony smith

Live oak trees, Spanish moss, the Southern accent, the Solid South at election times, my symbols of the South. I knew about slavery and the Civil War from school. I was partial to the South in history class. Didn't know the politics of the South until after school when the Civil Rights movement was cranking up. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee, Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, later to become The Band, were from the South. The South is where rock n roll was conceived and born. The Carter Family were Southern Appalachian hillbillies in the time before electricity and plumbing arrived in the mountains. Mountain people listened to them on radios that worked from Model T batteries. I had never listened to the Carter Family until I'd been in the mountains a quarter century. The church I went to had Carter Family gospel songs in the hymnal. Hearing Carter Family the first time, I recognized several of their songs. Being able to understand and feel the Carter Family is one of the great blessings of my life. The Carter Family songbook, over 500 songs they recorded, is the songbook for Southern Appalachian old-time and bluegrass, songs AP Carter found traveling up and down the mountains looking for songs. For me, The Carter Family makes a greater icon for the South than any general or politician. The Carter Family are the Southern people, the white people, the culture I live in. I love to hear Sara Carter sing like I love to hear Lucinda Williams sing. 

tony smith

Going by Southern politicians, the rest of the country takes all of us for racist bigots. That's ok. Keeps em away. It's never 100% of the vote that goes to the politician appealing to racism. They most often win an election, though not by much more than 50%. I am here to learn the South and the mountains, not to judge the South or want to change it. I would like to see less racism, but that time will come. It's an historical progression involving belief systems with religion woven in, a mythology. It's slow to change. Like all healing, it takes time. Racism comes from ignorance, and willful ignorance is the slowest to change. This form of ignorance is all over the country. Michelle Bachmann is from Massachusetts. Ted Cruz is from Texas-Canada-Cuba, went to Harvard Law school. He aint Suthun. Bobby Jindal is from India and went to Oxford. Evidently, ignorance has nothing to do with education. It's like the meme that reappears on facebook, You can't fix stupid. Those people are avoidable anywhere, except maybe in an elevator. I stay away from them. They know I'm a liberal and they stay away from me first. Works out just right. As I like to be received for who I am, I like to receive others for who they are. I don't care that some of the people I know are racists. It weakens my respect for them, but that's all. Each one has his and her own history, same as I have mine. I like to know individuals for who they are, not a pretense made up for show. If I judge them, they don't let me know who they are. If I were to judge them for being racist, I'd be a racist about white rednecks. Individually, person to person, I prefer to stay out of their politics and mine. I'm of the old-time way of sitting around the wood-stove, spitting in tin cans, talking about anything but politics and religion. I save these subjects for the blog.  

tony smith


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