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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Hey y'all, I've returned. I had hoped to come back from my trip to the South with some enlightenment, some newfound wisdom and maybe a fresh understanding of what is happening out there in the "heartland." But instead of enlightenment, all I came back with was an extra ten pounds (they eat biscuits with everything) and a strong desire to never again get caught in the dead of night on the backroads of central Georgia with an empty stomach. I could almost hear the banjo playing.

Honestly, for the most part, I found the South to be charming. I found Charleston to be absolutely enchanting and Savannah was beautiful, if not a little creepy. I attempted to keep my Yankee biases in check. For instance, I tried not to cringe every time I saw a confederate flag waving off the back of a Ford pick-up with naked-lady mudflaps. I didn't flinch when the woman with the thick Southern accent at the Avis counter derided the Hispanic voice on the airport PA, saying she just wished "those people" would learn to "speak English," which she followed up with something that sounded like, "yarble wobble milly fer tooncha yoble toe." I don't know; I couldn't interpret because her English was so fucked up.

I even tried to assimilate a little. I watched Gone With the Wind. I ate my grits. I abstained from NPR for an entire week. Hell, I even spent part of my Thanksgiving at Wal-Mart. I know, I know, Wal-Mart is evil incarnate... but do you realize the bargains at one of those stores?? I mean, who really cares if some 8-year-old Thai girl got paid a nickel a year for pumping out those picture frames, they were only $1.98! It was at this point I realized I'd been down South too long. Luckily, the visit to Wal-Mart took place at the end of the trip. But I swear, a few more days down there and I might have been dipping some Skoal, clutching the Bible and shouting homophobic epithets at the gays. Thank god I made it back to the North with my senses.

To say I came back without any enlightenment is a bit of a falsehood. I actually think I figured out the secret to Red America's victory. There is something they have down there that we don't up here in our liberal, elitist hippieland, and I believe it is this one thing that provided them with the necessary fuel, focus and foundation for victory in November. That one thing? Waffle House.

Yep, I had no idea the power and reach of the Waffle House until I ventured down South. On the highway, at every exit, in every shit-ass small town we drove through, there was a Waffle House. They were omnipresent, you know, like God. People have constructed shrines to the Waffle House empire. All hail the mighty Waffle House. When I returned North, someone had sent me this map, comparing the pre-Civil War "slave states" with the 2004 electoral map. But the map I really want to see is one that compares the "Waffle House states" with this year's electoral map – I'm thinking there is an undiscovered correlation there worth exploring.

As much as I became enamored with the power of the Waffle House, I was quickly reminded upon my return why I love living in a Blue state so much: The results of a recount in Alabama last week confirmed that residents of that state voted to continue supporting segregation as the law of the land. And so, with that reminder of the rampant bigotry still present down South, I know that if I see a Waffle House move into Brooklyn, it's time to move to France.

Days is back y'all. Eat your grits.

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