Tag Archives: southern people

114. Skiing (On Water, Not Land)

19 Oct

Here in the Pacific Northwest, when folks talk about skiing, they’re referring to a winter sport that requires equal parts money (for gear and lift tickets), physical fitness (strong thighs are a must), and an abundance of snow (natural or man-made). While it’s possible—but statistically not likely—for a Southerner to possess one or both of the first two components, having all three at once is about as rare as encountering al dente pasta below the Mason-Dixon.

For Southerners skiing is a summer pastime with relatively few requirements, namely skis and a rope. Of course, you will also need a boat. Oh, and a fair-sized body of water. But any Southerner within driving distance of water will surely know at least one person with a boat.

I don’t want to give y’all the impression that skiing is effortless and/or intuitive. Quite the contrary. Learning to transition from the awkward squatting-in-water position to the graceful exhilaration of skiing takes quite a bit of time, effort, practice, and most importantly humiliating failure (and the requisite mockery by friends that goes along with it). On the plus side, unlike snow skiing, there’s hardly ever any bruising, broken bones, or serious injuries but also, alas, no sympathy.

I’d go into more detail here about what all skiing entails, but it’s been so long, I can’t remember. Basically, you hold on to the rope for dear life and then try to stand up once the boat starts moving. If for any reason a tree comes between you and the boat, drop the rope immediately. I’m not sure why I thought to add that, but perhaps I have a repressed memory involving a skiing catastrophe.

If one prefers to hop right over the skiing learning curve (or perhaps I should say “wake”), I have two words for you: inner tube. All the fun of gliding across the water at top speed without the bothersome chore of standing up. I have also heard of an on-land version of this involving a makeshift sled tied to the trailer hitch of a pickup truck, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it at home. Again, anyway. This means you, Scott.

Me & Louie, back in the day…

When I was 5 or 6 years old, one of my favorite activities—besides riding a motorcycle with my brother Mike—was skiing with my brother Louie (but y’all should call him “Lewis”). I’d stand with my feet planted on his skiis as we flew on water across Hoover Lake. The best part was when he’d let go of the rope, and we’d slowly glide to a stop.

Whether I was behind a boat or on the back of a bike, I relished the thrill of the wind on my face and the rush of a speed I could not control. I was fearless then. Maybe because I didn’t understand the possible consequences or perhaps I trusted that my older brothers would always keep me safe. As the decades roll by, I’m often surprised to find myself clinging to caution with white knuckles. I like to think, though, that if given the opportunity, I’d let my 5-year-old self do it all over again. But only if she wore a life jacket/helmet.

Addendum: The other day, my dad told me that Mom was out on the lake skiing when she was six months pregnant with my little sister, Jenna. Dad said she’d asked her doctor who told her it would be “good exercise.” Know what else is good to exercise? Caution!

Do you also consider yourself lucky to have made it out of childhood in (mostly) one piece? Would you ever let your own kids live as dangerously as you did?

Photo credits: Water Skiing by Travis Wetzel, Flickr Creative Commons; Me & Louie, Holloway family archives.

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112. Waving at Strangers in a Hospitable Manner

19 Sep

On my first date with Geoff, after dining at a former brothel and before my favorite jug band hit the stage at Sunset Tavern, we had time for a stroll along Ballard Ave. As we passed the window of a restaurant, we noticed a group of about 8 to 10 people waving at us most enthusiastically. I didn’t recognize anyone, nor did he, and eight years later we still haven’t a clue what that was about.

Of course, had said incident occurred in the South, I most likely wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Ok, perhaps a second, possibly a third, but definitely not a 37th (Who WERE those people? Oops! Make that 38th). Unlike eating tofu, waving is just one of those things Southerners do. It’s like we breeze through the “Wave bye-bye to mommy” stage and master “Wave hello to that guy mowing his lawn” before we can even walk.

I haven’t studied any data on the subject, but I believe the frequency of waving depends on the size of the town. The smaller the population, the greater one’s likelihood of becoming a wave-ee.

I’m not even counting:

• Waves of recognition from folks you know (because they usually skip right on past waving or handshakes and go straight for the hug).

• Waves from automobiles to indicate A. “Thanks for letting me in your lane, kind driver” or B. “Oops! Sorry, I’m a dumbass, not an asshole.” (Like when you almost plow into a pedestrian–theoretically, of course).

• Beauty Queen-style waves from parade floats. (There’s a mnemonic device for this, which starts with “Screw in a lightbulb, touch the pearls…” Sadly, I’ve forgotten the rest. Can anybody help me out?)

• Waves from anyone dressed as food, wearing a sandwich board, or holding a sign. Either they’re being paid or hoping to, preferred currency being cash or occasionally attention.

I’m talking about random acts of waving. Like when a lady planting an azalea in her yard or an elderly gent taking his daily stroll to the mailbox takes a moment to look up, smile, and offer a friendly wave. As if they’re saying, “Hello, fellow human, nice to share the planet with you.” Or else possibly they’re being swarmed by gnats or mosquitos. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

One night when I was in college, my friend Sandy and I were driving around aimlessly when we took up the notion to start waving at folks we passed in a vigorous, insistent way, not necessarily in a “Your left rear tire has burst into flames!” manner, but more along the lines of, “Elvis!! You’re alive!!” or “Hey, Ed McMahon, come on over to my doorstep!” Probably, those folks were just as perplexed as Geoff and I were following our walk-by waving incident. Come to think of it, perhaps all my former random wave recipients decided to hold a reunion in Seattle and turn the tables.

Anyhoo, if you happen to be in the South and find yourself on the receiving end of a seemingly random wave, the proper response is to smile and wave back. Just remember to use all your fingers.

How do you feel about exchanging hand gestures with strangers?

Photo credits: Adorable waving elf by GoodlookinVintage available here, Food Dude by yasa_, Flickr Creative Commons.

110. Dropping By Unannounced (Preferably Around Suppertime)

7 Sep

But how about some advanced warning next time…

Considering the millions of people who live in Seattle, I’m surprised how often I run into folks I know when I’m out and about. It always gives me the feeling that this metropolitan city is merely a small town with an overactive growth hormone. I know that it’s not a small Southern town, though, because these chance meetings usually occur at bookstores or restaurants and hardly ever at my very own doorstep. People here call first or, preferably, text.

Not so in the South. One must be prepared to welcome unexpected visitors at any time (or, in the alternative, hide under the bed till the knocking at the door subsides).

The other day, my dad mentioned that a friend from church intended to mail him a card but she couldn’t remember the address so she sent her husband over to hand-deliver it. Later that same afternoon, someone else dropped by to share an overabundance of home-grown tomatoes. (And may well have received a pile of figs in return.) That’s just how Southern people roll, y’all.

When I was growing up, our house was a popular location for the folks who happened to find themselves in the neighborhood. I should mention that “neighborhood” in the South could mean within a 100-mile radius. With no actual houses in between. It’s all relative.

Speaking of which, immediate family members tend to be the most frequent droppers by (and the most famished). I may have mentioned certain of my mom’s kinfolks who always stopped to spend the night en route from Texas to north Mississippi. Rarely was there advanced warning and they usually traveled in a pack of six to ten people. Fortunately, my mom—the self-appointed Sleeping Arrangements Organizer—always managed to designate a nocturnal resting place for everyone. (When Mom died and my siblings and I returned home, my sister said, “How are we supposed to know where everyone should sleep?”)

One of my family’s Frequently Told Stories involves my then-teenage brothers hosting a wild shindig while my parents were out of town. A couple of my mom’s sisters unwittingly crashed said party and the liquor had to be stashed right quicklike.

In the South, you just never know when someone will show up out of the blue, so it’s important to keep a clean house, stocked pantry, and company-friendly beverages. Also, you might want to put on something decent. Maybe not full makeup, but at the very least, pants. And if you have a pool, resist the urge to skinny dip (or as Southerners sometimes call it, “fat dip”) until after dark. Remember, your friends and relations are happy to keep you on the straight and narrow.

When I was a kid, I occasionally tagged along when my dad went “visiting.” This was before I acquired analytical skills and consequently did not understand how the sudden, unexpected presence of one’s preacher might put a damper on one’s Saturday afternoon. We always received a warm welcome, but surely more than once someone must’ve dashed to the kitchen to stash a few cold ones.

Despite what the U.S. Constitution says, Southerners have no expectation of privacy (reasonable or otherwise). You could string caution tape across the front yard to dissuade unannounced guests, but that would most likely just attract more look-y loos.

One of my favorite scenes from Friday Night Lights was when the coach and Tami arrive home and discover Buddy Garrity waiting in their driveway. Tami fumes, “WTF is smarmy-ass Buddy Garrity doing in our driveway?!” (I’m paraphrasing.) Then without missing a beat, she gets out of the car and says (sweet as iced tea), “Oh HEY, Buddy! Come on in!”

And, no, I’m not signing your petition…

Here in Seattle, we have a politely worded sign to dissuade solicitors from knocking and/or littering our door with propaganda. It doesn’t say that folks we KNOW ought not summon us unexpectedly, but that’s implied. I can’t recall ever encountering such a sign in the South or a Southerner who wouldn’t think the request A. sort of rude (despite the “please” and “thank you”) and/or B. not applicable to them.

A little more than a decade ago, I took up the notion to “get back to my roots” (which lasted all of four months). I formulated and executed my moving plans quite hastily and hadn’t informed many folks. During the last dozen or so miles of my journey from Seattle to Florence, MS, I decided to pop in and visit one of my oldest and dearest friends. When Sandy opened the door, I said, “Hey! I’m living here again now!” She gave me a huge hug and invited me right in. That’s how I knew I was home.

What do you think about random acts of visitation? Please do tell.

Photo Credits: Y’all Come Back sign by Frolic ‘n Friends available here, I’m Already Disturbed sign by Off the Wall Painting available here.

108. Swinging, the Family-Friendly Kind

31 Aug

Porch Swing Reader by Holly Abston available @ETSY

A few weeks back, I was exploring Pier 1 with my sister-in-common-law, Paula, when we happened upon something neither of us had encountered since the 70’s: a swinging chair. I hopped in right away and was immediately transported back to my days as a swinger.

As a kid, I spent approximately 20 percent of my time swinging…in the tire swing at our babysitter’s house, on various Tarzan-style rope contraptions in the woods, or on a makeshift swing tied to a tree out by our old barn/motorcycle parts storage shed. I seem to recall swinging out on a rope and dropping into a river a few times, but maybe I saw that in a movie.

The only swing I regularly left unswung was the one in our backyard. During my dad’s brief stint as an amateur beekeeper, he housed the bees right next to our swing set and they quickly built a summer home inside our plastic rocking horse. Good times!

Before the bee infestation. Also, before pants.

The mother of all swings and the one where I did my greatest proportion of swinging was on our back porch. Which is really less of a porch and more of a tacked-on room enclosed by sliding glass doors. It might have been a porch at some point, but most likely unlike any you’ve ever seen. Unless you’ve seen one with a refrigerator, a seldom-used auxiliary “dining” table, a string art lamp, and a non-working ceiling fan. Of course, if you’re from the South, maybe you have similar porch amenities.

What classified the area as a porch was A. the swing, B. the rocking chairs, and C. the lack of central heat/air conditioning. At Christmastime, we use the porch as an overflow refrigerator, which works out great except for those years when it’s 75 degrees on December 26, and we’re hard pressed to find a place to stash a ginormous turkey.

Southerners have a reputation for moving at a more leisurely pace than other folks. Never is that more true than when one passes time on a porch swing. The gentle back and forth movement easily induces a relaxed state. This is, after all, how one puts babies to sleep. Unless one uses Benadryl, which I hear is also popular.

Swinging sisters on our “porch.”
L to R: Aunt Jean, Mom, Aunt Tommie

On a porch swing, time inches to a crawl and conversations meander. Questions are pondered. Secrets are shared. Occasionally, naps are taken. At the risk of sounding woo-woo, I think swinging can be transformative. As a kid, I’d probably have described the feeling as “exciting” or “fun.” The teenage me would have said (begrudgingly, because that’s how the teenage me rolled) “freedom.” Now I’d probably say “unburdened.” For a few moments (ok, hours) swaying back and forth without the harsh reality of ground beneath one’s feet, there’s a sensation of weightlessness, a suspension of dis-relief, maybe.

Well, unless the porch swing suddenly and without warning loses its grip on the ceiling and comes crashing down. Which can happen, y’all. I know because this scenario played out on our back porch once. Not while I was on the swing, mind you. But the incident did involve certain of my family members. I can’t recall which ones, exactly, and even if I did I wouldn’t name names. This happened more than 20 years ago, but I suspect the bruised egos are still tender.

I cannot end a post on porch swings without mentioning the song “Swinging” (AKA “Swangin”). This little ditty by John Anderson was the “Who Let the Dogs Out?” of its time (early 80’s). For a while, everywhere you went, people were singing (or “sanging”) about the joys of swinging on the front porch with a girl named Charlotte Johnson (who’s as pretty as the angels when they sing). I’m not sure how I made it through that particular summer without strangling one or two people. I thought I’d subject y’all to the original version, but I stumbled upon this version which may just be the best cover of any song by anybody. Ever. Why hasn’t this kid gone viral yet?

Photo credits: Porch Swing Reader by Holly Abston available at Etsy, Swing-out sisters courtesy of the Holloway family archives, Porch Swing Welcome sign by robayre, Flickr Creative Commons.

102. Flip Flops–The Depth of Fashion

30 Mar

Here in Seattle, the weather is about as fickle as Mary on Downton Abbey. Will it rain? Or snow? Or be overcast? Or sunny? Or marry Matthew? Yes! Sometimes all in one day. That’s one of the first things they teach you at Pacific Northwest Orientation: Layers.

Even so, with a glance out the window, I’ll see some folks in parkas, some in sandals and shorts, and some–inexplicably–wearing all of the above. What I rarely see is people wearing flip flops. Birkenstocks? Yes. Tevas? Boy howdy! But flip flops? Not so much.

I’ve been aware of the Southern predilection for wearing those foot-slapping sandals for quite a few years now. One time my sister tried to convince me that they were the height of fashion. But I’ve seen nary a flip flop shod model making his/her noisy strut down any runway anywhere. And if one ever did, I feel sure they’d be wearing the “shoes” ironically. To be fair, I’ve never seen models in Berkies either, nor do I expect to.

What I hadn’t realized until I was home this past Christmas is that flip flops are considered all-weather footwear. At least by more than one member of my family (and y’all know who you are), seeing as they were wearing them in what I’d definitely describe as “sweater weather.”

I might’ve asked why, but I’m psychic enough to predict the answer: “They’re comfortable.” To which I would telepathically respond, “In winter?” Surely frostbitten toes can’t feel all that great (if indeed they feel at all). At least with Birkenstocks, one has the option of wearing socks. Not that I’d advise this or actually do it myself (full disclosure: I have). But at least you can protect toes from the elements and/or conceal one’s winter pedicure hiatus.

Perhaps sensing a lack in the marketplace, some industrious soul came up with a flip flop sock. Which is great if you want your feet to resemble some sort of tree-dwelling creature or perhaps a reject muppet.

To be fair, I should mention that Southerners deck themselves in all manner of fancy flip flops. These are not your typical shower shoes. You’ll find them in a rainbow of colors (alas, the ones with the faux rainbow stacked heel seem to have gone the way of pet rocks). They’re embellished with rhinestones, flowers, “pearls”, you name it. Still, y’all, they’re flip flops. Lipstick, meet pig.

Perhaps I’m not giving flip flops a fair shake due to a childhood trauma. When I was 10 or 12 years old (or possibly 11), a girl named Natalia came to live with us for the summer, for reasons that are still unbeknownst to me. Natalia loved two things: her flip flops and Phil Collins’ cover of the Supremes’ classic “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

My sister and I were not overly fond of Natalia. I can’t remember exactly why, if the two aforementioned character traits aren’t reason enough. Also, she was a tattle-tale. Anyhow, I’ve come to associate that relentless “flap, flap, flap, flap” noise as the sound of Natalia (read “doom”) approaching. And I feel the urge to dash away quickly lest I be further aurally assaulted by that dreadful song, which is, of course, now playing in an endless loop in my mind.

Sorry, y'all, I don't.

Do you wear flip flops? If so, why?

Images from Etsy: Flip flop sign by Expressions of Kim (another Kim, not me), Flower flip flop by Petal ‘n Pearl Boutique, Crystal flip flop by All Things Glamorous, “I Do” flip flops by Bridal Flip Flops.

Stuff I, Myself, Like

16 Jun

Two of my favorite people:
My nephew Jackson and his baby brother Eli.

Tomorrow’s the day y’all have been anticipating in the manner of my 13-year-old self waiting for the release of Duran Duran’s “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” album. That’s right: my 100th post. Whee!

Now that all 8 of the votes on the SSPL Facebook page have been tallied, we have a winner…Words Gone Wild: Mispronunciation. So check back in tomorrow to read all about it.

In the meantime, I figured that now that I’m reaching a ripe old age (in blog years), I might better start mixing it up a bit. Don’t worry, I’m not even close to running out of topics, but I thought I’d rest a spell and let other folks do the work.

Pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea and head over to Saturday Evening Porch to hear about one blogger’s mother who hated all things tacky as much as my mom did.

If you’re feeling a bit peckish, check out Hippie Cahier’s unbelievably cute and yummy-sounding dirt cake. I’m thinking it must have been invented by a Southerner, seeing as it’s neither dirt, nor cake. P.S. Hippie Cahier is not really a hippie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

If you’ve ever A. been kept awake by monsters or B. been irritated by a sibling, you’ll appreciate Hyperbole and a Half’s scariest story post.

Stephanie at Stuff Christian Culture Likes expounds on the epidemic of PDA via Facebook that may have affected a couple near you. And if you are one of the couple’s she’s described and the post gets your dander up, well…

Tori at The Ramblings has just the solution: PROTEST! Bring your own sign and crabby attitude.

Well, that’s it till tomorrow.

Feel free to share your favorite finds from the interwebs. But keep it PG-13, folks. My dad and other Baptists read this blog. I don’t want to get myself protested.

98. Chivalry–Blondes Prefer Gentle (As Do Brunettes, Redheads, and Blue-Haired Ladies)

13 Jun

When I moved to Seattle for the second time back in the early 00’s (can you believe we’re already into a new decade and have yet to settle on a name for the last one?), I kept running into a problem with the menfolks here: they just would not help. Now, I’m about as feminist as Sarah Palin is not, but I’m not above letting y-chromosomed folks handle the heavy lifting…or anything involving wires…or car parts. Also, insects.

Let me take you back to late 2002 when my then-roommate and I were reduced to doing something shameful and unnatural, namely, hiring a man from the back page of The Stranger. The situation was that we needed a gi-normous desk moved from one room to another through a narrow doorway. We did not have A. the upper body strength to do the job ourselves, and, yes, we did try or B. a guy who would give us a hand (or more accurately two strong hands and biceps to match). So, naturally, we turned to the back page of the stranger, bypassing the ads for paid research studies, DUI lawyers, and “massage” therapists, till we spotted just what we needed: Man With Truck. Actually, we did not need a truck, just a man would do. When we explained this and offered to cover his minimum fee, he reluctantly accepted the job. He may or may not have driven over in his truck. We neglected to check.

After a few more failed attempts at soliciting male assistance (including a potluck wedding reception at which we’d been asked to construct an elaborate electrical-cord system–we’d asked a guy nearby to help and were refused with the excuse “I’ve got to bring in the potato salad”) I was starting to lose faith in the gender as a whole. Then my mom called to tell me about how she was leaving a store and struggling a bit with her purchase when a one-armed man ran over to help her.

Let’s review: a ONE-ARMED man helped my mom with her bags. A ONE-ARMED man she DID NOT KNOW. A ONE-ARMED man who RAN over to help. I’m sorry if I sound a little biased, but Southern gentlemen ROCK.

To be fair, I should say that my opinion of men in Seattle was formed before I made the acquaintance of many kind, generous, and helpful people of the male persuasion who live here. Especially the one who lives here in my house. I guess one should refrain from making general assumptions about the opposite sex when one is on an Internet dating spree.

Where's a boy when you need one?

However, I think it’s fair to say that Southern gentleman do tend to act more gentlemanly (except when they don’t–this means you, Skoal spitters) than their Northern counterparts. I think they’re more likely to go out of their way to help folks they don’t know. Sure, guys here will hold the door for you and would most likely lend you a cell phone to call 911. But would they pull over to change a stranger’s tire? Open the car door for you? Offer to carry your groceries? Maybe not. I mean, during my time in Seattle, I’ve come across approximately 2 million five hundred and twelve rain puddles and can count on no fingers the number of times a man has thrown his coat over one for me.

Have you encountered a random act of chivalry? Do tell…

Photo credits from Flickr Creative Commons: Tire changing by Raul Lieberwirth, Carrying groceries by Amber, Rabbit by Pablo Domingo.

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