Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Perplexing, backwards, f-ed up Alabama, your beauty and charm are at times elusive. Your trees hang large, dangling over rotting buildings and crushed dreams beaten down before they had time to form. The huge swathes of empty countryside that blanket your length and width roll on to the horizon only to be broken up by a man walking from nowhere to nowhere. Little black mating bugs are every which where, but in particular they have gathered outside the Outlet Food Center flying in circles smacking in anyone’s face who dares to step out of their car. Every other little shack or large wooden or brick structure is some sort of Pentecostal, holy tabernacle ministry of light. The spirit of Jesus pervades in the scowling red face of the obese lady sitting in her pickup truck at the lengthy traffic light and on the expression of the gray-bearded black man in the neon blue suit traipsing through the appalling humidity of God’s holiest and least fun day.

In the urban centers, the children ride in circles on their bicycles around the statue of the Alabama statesman. Business hours are inconvenient and esoteric. The traffic is light and in no particular hurry. Any glory or excitement that might have once graced the fair city of Mobile or the reasonably large and empty-of-human-life expanse of Montgomery appears to have dissipated decades back when something might have happened of import. The gargoyles of the graceful old buildings now sleep. Their security guards text their children to stop texting. As the work day ends, downtown shuts itself tight leaving only the man with the crazy smile holding the paper bag and the unread newspaper blowing amidst the otherwise happy flower arrangement.

When Alabama gets animated and boisterous, when its passion unfurls, it might very well be in a massive college football stadium which stands above the rest of the university looking down on it with an upturned nose. “War Eagle” they shout, the kids fresh out of high school and dumb as opossums, the old men with their season tickets and surly opinions of the quarterback, the women with their Tiger pride and floppy grey hair. The legend of Paul Bear Bryant, the titan of Tuscaloosa, and the Crimson Tide is perhaps Alabama’s greatest glory, certainly much more agreeable history than that part about setting fire hoses on peaceful black protestors. Bear Bryant, the steely disciplinarian who stood down those boys in their helmets and told them to go out there and win, win the football game you little shits, or something like that. Alabama’s glories may have been fleeting and decades ago, but they were legendary and the stuff of dirt, sweat and an elbow to the loins.

From the home of whole fried flounder to the Alabama cowlick one cannot comb down to the steaming asphalt parking lot of the Food Tiger to the old man mumbling about how to bury a body to the sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil at Mama Goldberg’s to the man and his girlfriend playing the Big Buck Hunter arcade game a little too seriously to the boll weevil monument in Enterprise to Grapico soda, the artificially flavored grape drink that once implied falsely that it contained real grape juice, Alabama, you are one weird, wacky-ass old fart of a man shaking around a cane while drooling on a white handkerchief.

Yet, it is your very oddness and otherworldliness that is so appealing. Alabama, you can be dutifully proud of your Victorian Southern grandeur, your natural beauty draped in Spanish moss, your small town fortitude and genuine affability. But these as-common-as-bugs Southern attributes are somewhat overshadowed by the grandma in the leopard skin bikini at Gulf Shores beach, not to mention the Nascar-worshiping, Ted-Nugent-looking motherfucker one must try to avoid in every other town. Alabama, may you remain all pleasantly jacked-up and ass-backwards as you are for evermore.