Thursday, August 13, 2009

Georgia

I'm back in Georgia, and adjusting once again to the Deep South. For me, this mostly means getting used to the brutal summer heat -- over 100 degrees and humid on many days. Other people seem to have the idea that the Deep South is a foreign country. One friend of mine, otherwise intelligent, asked me, "Are they all Neanderthals down there?" No, they are human down here, and mostly not that much different from what you'd find in other parts of America; the days of the South being really distinctive are over. Apart from more subtle cultural differences -- attitudes and assumptions -- there are some differences that anyone would notice right away:
  • the Deep South accent. I never get tired of hearing it, but not everyone is equally receptive.
  • "Yes, sir." You feel like a gentleman (or lady) down here because everyone says "sir" and "ma'am." It's a good feeling, and easy to get into the habit of speaking the same way to other people. (They are generally nice as well, but that's a more subtle point, unless you come from New Haven or somewhere with especially rude inhabitants.)
  • You might think they have a lot of country music stations down here, but what they really have are a lot of Christian stations. When I was scanning through the dial to find the stations that I used to listen to, the first four stations I heard were Christian.
  • Of course, there are some country stations, though not as much as you would think. But you hear more Hank Williams, Jr. on them.
  • Georgia vehicles only require license plates on the rear. As far as I know, there is no law that pickup trucks have to a plate with the old Georgia flag on the front, but it is amazing how many do. (Mine included.)
  • Georgia grows a lot of peanuts, but have you ever heard of boiled peanuts? I discovered these at my kids' soccer games being sold at the concession stand. They taste kind of like what you would expect, like mushy peanuts. I didn't particularly like them, but my wife assures me that she has had some that are much better, so I'm looking forward to trying them from a different source.
Everyone associates Georgia with peaches, and for good reason. However, you will not find store-bought peaches to be noticeably cheaper or tastier here than elsewhere; you have to find some sold at a stand. What I did not associate so much with Georgia, before moving here, was pecans. I do now, especially since my neighbourhood was built on a pecan orchard. Most yards still have several pecan trees in them -- thankfully not mine, because they drop enormous numbers of pecans on the ground, which have to be gathered up if they are not to lay there and rot. We can gather all the pecans we want from the common areas in the neighbourhood, then take them up the road to a small operation that has a machine to shell them automatically, for a reasonable fee. I have yet to eat a real Georgia pecan pie, and have not tried to make one, but I love spiced pecans made from a recipe like this one.

I live in Centerville, which is sort of a suburb of Warner Robins, which is sort of a suburb of Macon -- anyway, it's close to Macon, and they kind of run in to each other. Centerville is not much more than a residential community. Warner Robins is where most of the action is. It was called Wellston until it was renamed after Robins Air Force Base, the biggest employer around here. The sucking up didn't stop there: the town's official motto is EDIMGIAFAD, which is an acronym for "Every Day In Middle Georgia Is Armed Forces Appreciation Day." Yes, it's nauseating, but otherwise it's a nice place to live, so I try to pretend it doesn't exist. (It's harder to ignore the name of the town, however.)

We live in Houston County. That's pronounced "How-ston," not like the little town in Texas. Sports are big here and in the surrounding counties. Young kids play soccer, just like they do elsewhere -- in fact, there's a huge youth soccer complex in town. The big sports, however, are baseball and football. Just two years ago, the Warner Robins All-Stars won the Little League World Series. College football coaches frequently visit the area to look at top recruits.

Everyone here is a Georgia Bulldogs fan. Most of them actually attended, but they are all fans. Unlike in Virginia, where there was a big rivalry between UVa and Virginia Tech, I find no such rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech. I see maybe one Tech bumper sticker for every 20 Georgia bumper stickers. The big rivals are Auburn and Florida, especially Florida. The football teams play in Jacksonville, a neutral site, at "the world's largest outdoor cocktail party." The rivalry has not been good to Georgia in recent years, but there is reason to believe that is changing. Anyway, Georgia fans are used to suffering: their pro team, the Atlanta Falcons, had only won one division championship prior to 1998, and have never won a Super Bowl. I will close with one of my favourite jokes ever, told to me by a Falcons fan (and native of middle Georgia, not far from where I live now) in 1998, the first (and only, as of this writing) time the Falcons played in the Super Bowl:

A new arrival in Hell was brought before the devil. The devil told his demon to put the man to work on a rock pile with a 20-pound sledge hammer in 95 degree heat with 95% humidity.

At the end of the day, the devil went to see how the man was doing, only to find him smiling and singing as he pounded rocks. The man explained that the heat and hard labor were very similar to those on his beloved farm back in Georgia.

The devil told his demon to turn up the heat to 120 degrees, with 100% humidity. At the end of the next day, the devil again checked on the new man,and found him still happy to be sweating and straining. The man explained that it felt like the old days, when he had to clean out his silo in the middle of August on his beloved farm back in Georgia.

At that, the devil told his demon to lower the temperature for this man to -20 degrees with a 40 mph wind. At the end of the next day, the devil was confident that he would find the man miserable. But, the man was instead singing louder than ever,twirling the sledge hammer like a baton. When the devil asked him why, he was so happy, the man answered,

"Cold day in hell, the Falcons must be in the SuperBowl!"

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