Posts Tagged With: southern hospitality

The South: A Photo Essay (pt. 2)

Southern Hospitality

Southern Hospitality is no mere catchphrase or cliché; it exists and is alive and well.  You can experience it as soon as you cross the Southern border.  When I stepped off the plane from my last trip to Germany, I was greeted with a warm, “Welcome to Atlanta, darlin’.”

But, it’s down the road and outside of the big cities where you’ll find true Southern Hospitality.  In a small town like Cuthbert, part of the appeal is that everyone knows everybody.  You can walk into a restaurant and they already know what you want.  Or, you can stop by the Cuthbert Cleaners and your clothes will already be waiting for you.  Plus, you’ll be greeted with Miss Dawn’s smiling face and one of the sweetest and longest Southern drawls you’ve ever heard!  Miss Dawn and her family are some of my family’s dearest friends, so picking up my clothes is never just business; after telling how everyone on her side is doing, she’ll always check in on us, too.  You simply leave with a warm feeling, and I have to admit, every now and then I have to stop in just to get me a good ole Southern hug from Miss Dawn!

Here in the South, we throw up a wave or a nod at everybody passing by, whether in a car or on foot…and whether we know them or not.  Not to would simply be rude!

Every Southern Gentleman and Southern Lady – hell, everybody down here – knows the proper use of “ya’ll” and we cringe at the Northern substitutes: “You all; You guys.”  “Ya’ll” may not be considered “proper” by all, but I’ll defend its grammatical correctness to the day I die.

Southern Hospitality dictates that you always ask someone how they’re doing.  Southern Hospitality also dictates that you always answer positively – unless it’s just visibly apparent that you’re not “just fine.”  Then you just stay at home and wait on people to come by and check on you.

I also think that the South is the only place where you can learn someone’s life story in the grocery store line.  But I would also urge caution:  everybody knowing everybody also has a less-than-sweet flipside.  You better not do anything that you wouldn’t want the whole town to know.  Because by the time a pot of coffee can brew or a pitcher of tea can steep, your business is going to be spread all over town via the Southern Gossip Network, which contrary to popular belief is made up of just as many men as women.

But, it’s alright.  You can say most anything you want to as long as you follow it up with “bless his heart.”  It’s a saying that someone who hasn’t lived in the South for a while wouldn’t understand how to use.  It can be used as a ‘cover up’ so to speak, a phrase to make everything alright:  “The Johnsons’ little girl is just about as dumb as the day is long, bless her heart.”  Or “That dog has a face that only a mother could love, bless its heart.”  OR it can be used sincerely as a way of showing just how sweet or darlin’ something is.  “That boy is always checkin’ in on his mama.  Bless his heart.”

It’s all part of Southern Charm, a charm that should never be underestimated.  “Is he always like that?  So calm and down to earth?” someone asked me at my uncle’s office in the heart of New York City’s financial district.  My uncle grew up on a farm and now does business with billionaires, heads of state, and royalty across the globe.  In the rat race and lightning-paced world of Wall Street, he still speaks slowly and with a slight Southern twang.  People love it; they’re enamored with him.  “Yeah,” I answered, “That’s just Uncle Jim.”  The guy looked at me and then added, “Huh.  I guess it’s just that Southern Charm!”

You’re damn right.

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The South: A Photo Essay by W. J. Newsome is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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The South: A Photo Essay

Now that I’m back home in the South for a few days, I thought I’d post this photo essay that I put together a couple of years ago when I moved to Buffalo.  I’ll post a new entry each day until it’s done.  Yall enjoy! 

In a country as vast as the United States, it goes without saying that several distinct cultures will exist within our borders.  And while each is unique in its own way, I believe there is one region of the US that is most distinctive and most unique: the South.  Depending on whom you ask, the South is either the best or the worst place to live in America.  And while there are indeed both good and bad things about Dixie, the virtues far outweigh the imperfections for those of us who call the South home.

Hollywood likes to portray Southerners as a bunch of Confederate Flag waving hillbillies.  And yeah – yeah, those Southerners sure do exist, but the South also produces poets, entrepreneurs, and world leaders.  Slavery, segregation, and racism have tarnished the South’s past, but at the same time, the South is the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., the iconic leader of the Civil Rights movement.

The South is known as America’s Bible Belt for a reason.  In many small towns, the pastor’s words from the pulpit carry as much sway as anything released from the mayor’s office.  Politically, the South is now a Republican stronghold, though at one time it used to be the Democrat’s saving grace.  And not only does the South help shape politics on the national level, it often times leads.  Five of the last eight presidents have hailed from the South.

King Cotton once ruled the Southland, and while the crop may not be as important today, the South’s is still a predominantly agricultural economy.  There are still places where you can drive for hours and see only vast expanses of cotton, peanuts, soybeans, corn, peaches, or tobacco.

The South is a domain where football is king, and the only question of where you’ll be going on a Fall Friday night is the home bleachers, or the visitors’ stand.  Southern Hospitality is not a myth; sweet talkin’ and warm huggin’ is the greeting of choice around here.  But you better watch out: some of those little old ladies’ tongues are as sharp as their smiles are wide.

Food and Family are the pillars of Southern culture, and what Mama says goes.  The kitchen turns food into a Meal, which is something enjoyed by all sitting around the supper table.  And yes, we have ‘supper’ every night and save ‘dinner’ for Sunday at noon.  Down here in the South, the only things longer than our conversations on the porches are our accents.

While California and New York may now be the world famous destinations for rising stars, Blues, Soul, Rock & Roll – music as we know it – all began in the South.  And though it may not be your cup of tea, all of today’s leading Hip-Hop and Rap artists sing and rap about their home: “the Dirty South.”  Many of them got their breaks in Atlanta, host of the 1996 Olympics, the birthplace of Coca-Cola, home to the busiest airport in the world, and the Capital of the New South.

Life South of the Mason-Dixon Line may be slower and even a little more rural than up North or out West, but I don’t think we’d have it any other way.

*****

Following is a series of photographs that I have taken.  They are pictures either of things that I will miss about living in the South since I now live up here with the “damn Yankees,” or simply things that I feel embody different aspects of life in the South.  More simply put: they are pictures of Home.

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The South: A Photo Essay by W. J. Newsome is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Categories: Entertainment, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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