Friday, July 02, 2004

Initial Impressions, Part Deux...
The second installment of my new feature, which relates the trials and tribulations of a confused Yankee in the land of Tara. I'm finding that I'm spending entirely too much time on this stuff, and not enough on finding my way around, but you take the good with the bad.

Observations of the South:
1. Tobacco juice - the expulsion of tobacco juice is perhaps the most disgusting act that can be committed by human being. That having been said, I have not passed a single day in the last month where someone had not expectorated tobacco juice in my vicinity. What makes this habit so digusting (and I admit, I smoke, for Christ's sake!) is both the sight and the sound. Imagine, if you will, a sickly-brown stream of mixed saliva and tobacco being expelled at high speed. It remains, alternately, in either a liquid stream or a semi-solid, stringy mass, seemingly defying gravity before it careens into the ground with a sickening "splush" sound. To add horror to this scene, try to imagine the sound made prior to the actual expulsion, as said fluid is forced between front teeth (or since a good many Southerners lack adequate dental care) swished around the mouth before it's squeezed out between pursed lips. Individually, this is nauseating. I've seen it done in concert as seveal men at a time engage in the communal act of spitting tobacco juice in a choreographed ballet. I have almost lost my breakfast on more than one occasion.
2. Black Women - Southern black women, seem to me as a white male, somewhat more attractive than their Northern counterparts. I have not figured out, yet, if this is due to any actual differences in relative beauty or merely just a relaxation of the attitude. All in all, I would say that southern black females are, at least, definately more approachable than northern ones. This is a bonus for a single male, not only because more women are potentially available, but also in terms of variety, which we all know, is the spice of life.
3. Southern white females - come in two varieties. They are either drop dead gorgeous or a frumpy, dour, downtrodden lot, that has been beaten down by life (or more often, the men in her life). The first kind seem to come from a higher socio-economic class, and break down into either the "Good marriage material" sort or the "Madonna/Whore" category. The second variety appear to take every opportunity they can get to either become slovenly drunk or to work themselves up to full rut. I cannot claim any true scientific research in this area, but I will continue my work in this regard and let you know. What I can say for sure, is that I have been told several times that "Yankee" men are prized commodities -- we at least know how to treat a lady. Even when she ain't one (wink, wink).
4. The Urban Patois - not expecting too much difference here, I cannot say I was not suprised to find virtually none at all. Very often being the only white man on a bus, gives one the opportunity afforded by ostracism to clearly listen to what is going on. The major differences seem to be in pronunciation: "Mutha-fucker" becomes "muth-fucker", "Nigga" becomes "Nigrah" (although I have heard "nigga" used as well), "bitch" becomes "bi-atch". Not only has the language remained constant, but also the subject matter: petty squabbles over men, petty squabbles over "props", guns, Malt liquor, rap music, racism (real and perceived). All of it is delivered in a muffled/machine-gun stacatto which requires an interpreter to figure out, and the above-mentioned curses used as any part of speech, and often, as punctuation. Since most of this banter comes from those wearing fast-food service uniforms, perhaps I'm not hanging out in the right circles. More on this as I risk life and limb to discover more.
5. Southern Men - I have to admit having limited experience in this area (I haven't met too many southern men yet), and can claim no scietific representation of the population. However, there are three varieties that I have seen so far: redneck, gentleman and asshole. A redneck is just what he says he is; he's country, and damn proud of it. He's a simple sort, which fits perfectly with his limited world-view, which revolves around NASCAR, hunting dogs, beer and BBQ. His overiding virtue is his ability to tell you what's on his mind, whether you are interested or not, whether or not it even makes sense, or even, if he completes an actual sentence.
The Southern Gentleman is just that, and typically comes from a higher socio-economic stratum. Most of the professionals I have met thus far fall into this category, and there is no distinction based on race, either. His exalted virtue is that you can dress him up and take him out without danger of having tobacco juice sprayed at you. The final variety, the asshole, can usually be found in the same way one finds trouble: don't go looking for it, it will find you. He's often proud of the fact that he's served time and can be found in redneck bars (where he's top dog) or gas stations, provided there are no other true minorites to take his job. His overriding virtue is his ability to lose his temper at the drop of a hat. One can usually evoke this display by saying something to him that he doesn't understand, i.e., using words with more than four letters and possibly two syllables. He differs from his northern counterpart i that he typically has a rebel flag, gun rack and deer antlers on his truck.
6. Religion - to date I have spotted two, count 'em, Catholic churches in Charlotte. I have also seen exactly one synagoge.
From what I have been able to infer, this makes Charlotte extraordinarily cosmopolitan in realtion to most locales south of Vriginia. The vast majority of the houses of worship are baptist, methodist, presbyterian and other Christian denominations which probably handle snakes and faith heal for donations. However, I have found Charlotteans to be a very devout group of people, which probably explains their courtesy and forebearance. An interesting aside, it is not uncommon to find police at major intersections on Sunday mornings, directing traffic in, out and around places of worship.
7. Politics - I still cannot get one person to explain to me how city government works here, probably because the people I'm asking have not clue one. As for issues, most southerners will take great pride in telling you they are for "this" or against "that" without any attempt at explanation as to how they formed their opinion. Asking why very often results in the subject's head spinning at high revolutions just before it falls off his/her neck. I haven't met one, solitary soul (face to face) that can adequately describe their politics to me -- it's a mixed and matched set of often contradictory concepts: socially conservative, economically liberal. There is, however, a well-developed sense of outright hatred for big business and crusading zeal for the rights of the workig man/woman. This is often based on logic and religious belief, and it's refreshing to hear, rather than the recylced commie propaganda I'm used to. If you really want to know the state of political thought here, just remember that John Edwards is a Senator for this state, and he's the perfect dipstick for measuring the depth of the surface. If you can understand THAT sentence without stopping to think, you know what I mean.

Still, my quality of life has tremendously increased, and I haven't yet found a reason to regret my move.

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