I always feel a bit longsuffering when well-meaning old friends in California ask me earnestly what it's like to live in a small town in the South. My answer varies. Yes, living here often makes me nuts (let the hate mail from below the Mason-Dixon line begin...) Yes, there are a lot of racist people here (like there aren't in California? Please.) But how do I sum it all up without resorting to the usual well-worn cliches, positive and negative?
I can say, however, that even in the 14 years I've been here, Southern life has taken some interesting new directions. And, to a large extent, there have always been surprises behind the Paula Deen-and-Bull-Connor facade.
I thought about that a lot on Sunday. We started the day at church, which is definitely something I didn't do before I moved here, and the sermon was given by a lovely young white Southern man who is about to be ordained. But nothing else about the church seemed "typically" Southern. It's an Episcopal church, for one thing, not Baptist or Methodist. The priest is a woman, and after the service, she gave an entertaining talk on her recent pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. We sat and listened with friends, including a lovely openly gay couple who are leading lights in the church.
And things got more interesting.
After church, we headed to the Jewish Educational Alliance, the Jewish community center in Savannah, and spent the afternoon at the pool with friends. Before we left the city, we went on our errands to World Market (better known in the West as Cost Plus) for British and Asian snackies, and then to Shivam Indian grocery for rice, breads, and spices. Finally, we set course for home in the hinterlands.
We could have done more, I suppose: Had dinner at Coconut Thai, a fabulous restaurant in our little town, or at El Rinconcito, a taqueria/tienda/Latino workingmen's hangout that serves heavenly tamales. Instead, we dined at home, on roasted local free-range chicken with local new organic potatoes, and Southern red-eye peas, a type of bean that the native-born *female* farmer who grew them taught me to cook.
Old times may not be forgotten here, as Dixie would have it, but the times, they are a'changin'.