Really seeing the South
I tend to view and compare most of the South through my cinematic experiences. For example, as we headed through Virginia to North Carolina I could almost hear the banjos playing as per Deliverance as we saw the amazing landscape, forests and rivers.
Then we passed through some blue-collar towns which had seen better economic days, and it felt kind of sad, like the towns in The Deer Hunter. There’s a sad and strange feeling as you drive through these towns. We stopped at one cafe in a town that had a population of just under 700 people, and the guy who ran the cafe told me business was hard, people were unemployed and here everyone knew everyone.
In reality, this is the America I want to see. I don’t want to see shopping malls, strip malls, the inside of a Buffalo Wild Wings, or the clothes racks in Macy’s. I want to talk to real people, observe their real lives, and experience a true slice of all that America is. It really is a diverse land and I only fully appreciate that on roadtrips when I experience its eclectic nature.
Roadtrips = discussions (and there’s no escape!). We talked a great deal about how living somewhere and being part of the community, especially as an expat, is the only way to completely understand and be part of a place. As we chugged on though some of these places, as much as I would like to understand them with my journalistic head on, I’m not sure I would want to live in them; I’d always feel like a solitary outsider and I’m not sure it would be possible to ever fully integrate into a community that has so much internal history and such a difficult past. It made me realise how much I’d become part of the Columbia and Howard County community, despite forever being an ‘outsider’ as a British expat.
The Rebel Store
‘What is that?!’
“It’s a Rebel store!’
‘It’s a Confederate stuff store….’
‘Holy shit, they still exist?!’
Yes, folks, they do….
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so uncomfortable as we approached this store on our way to the Georgia state line. This stuff is sold as ‘historical’, which is why they’re allowed to get away with selling it. What was in store? CDs that contained songs that were so offensive, I can’t even write them down; clothing that stated that slavery should still be in fashion; and other such slogans on knives, guns, hats and women’s tanks. Wow. Get me out of here, fast.
We felt a little bit sick to the stomach as we left this store. It’s a whole different world, and one that I cannot fathom, not wish to be part of.
Next up: Savannah, and my obsession with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil