“I hate the South,” he shouts to the bar. “I miss living in Philly.”
He’s an obnoxious fella, ten-times my size, drunk as Cooter Brown.
“Rednecks,” he goes on, ordering a whiskey sour. “Everyone’s racist, they don’t know jack $#!+ about the world, prolly can’t even SPELL Philadelphia.”
This is an affront.
Willa, the bartender, accepts his challenge. She concentrates, then scribbles the word on a napkin.
He cackles. “Oh my GOD! There’s no F in Philadelphia!”
He celebrates with another whiskey.
Willa’s embarrassed. She’s from Oxford—a city once named Lick Skillet before the Union Army came along.
“You ignorant girl,” he says. “Didn’t you even go to SCHOOL?”
Now wait just a hot minute.
Look, say what you want about the South. Heckle all day. But when you insult a woman’s intelligence, it’s time to have a little talk with Jesus.
The idea that those below the Mason Dixon are racist bumpkins—ridden with poor dental genetics—lacking enough smarts to spell Poughkeepsie, is loathsome.
First off: I just spelled it.
Second: spell Czechoslovakia.
We aren’t Philadelphians. We don’t eat much cream cheese. And we don’t drink whiskey sours—putting eggs in your bourbon would get you shot in some parts.
But we’re not so different. We’re humans, same as Yankees, Canadians, East Europeans, and good spellers. Sure, we have gross racists. So does Boston.
We also have exceptional people.
Such as, Caroline—a white-haired woman with fourteen black boys living in her house. They’re college baseball players. In exchange for room and meals, they maintain her antique home. They’re well-behaved, straight-A students.
Daryl—from a town no bigger than a postage stamp. His teachers noticed how smart he was when he practiced math on the sidewalk in chalk. Today, he works for the Pentagon.
Michelle—a six-foot-five, black, lesbian who found a toddler underneath a bridge, then adopted him. I dare you to stereotype her.
Don—a Georgia man who gave a minivan to a homeless woman.
Or: the Louisiana girl missing her leg, who competed in a triathlon.
What about the Methodist chaplain who sat with an eighty-three-year-old Muslim at his deathbed? Both had the gall to call each other brothers.
This is Dixie, not Idiotville, pal.
Here, men know how field dress squirrels, women glide when they walk. Lilies grow in ditches, kudzu grows on kudzu. The Bible gets quoted by old ladies, drug addicts, and everyone in between. Hospitality is free. Tea is sweet enough to give you kidney stones.
Maybe you are miserable here. And, well, I’m sorry to hear that.
Some of us wouldn’t trade it for all the cream cheese in Filadelfia.