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February 28, 2005 || 1:30 am

Yesterday was another vintage Alabama event - the Perry County Historical Society's annual Low Country Boil. This takes place at the rather distinguished, in a white-columned old South way, former Female Seminary in Marion, where the society is based, in a huge echoing dinner-hall of a room.

The good ladies of polite white Marion bake endless cakes and cook up an enormous amount of shrimp, sausge, corn, potatoes and so forth in a Cajun boil and my band, as two of my fellow members belong to the society, played along while a steady stream of old ladies, young couples with babies and Judson professors ate, drank and gossiped. Some old ladies were already waiting before the food was served at five, eager to secure their place in the line and get out with their take-home packages. Several Rural Studio folks came along, and were bought their tickets by the Mayor. The echoing hall meant we couldn't hear each other's instruments at all, but nevertheless we managed to get the serving ladies going, clapping their hands and vaguely shaking their hips, so we can't have sounded too awful!

I was accosted at the door by a lady who rather accusingly stuck out her hand and told me that we hadn't met yet, as if that was a huge social slight, and turned out to be the wife of the preacher at the Baptist church in Newbern , obviously canvassing for a new member of the congregation. Avoiding being roped into church here is tremendously difficult given the number of these formidable ladies who await one's every turn.

Afterwards, I sneaked out back for a drink out of sight of the disapproving church folks with Chip, our guitarist, who thankfully has a much more scallywag attitude while still managing to remain a thoroughly well-respected member of Marion society. Then after hanging out with our bass player for a bit, we made it over to the Shack, where we slowly drank a beer and Chip told stories and greeted everyone who wanted to get a word in with him. He's sort of a little prince of Perry County - a solid, self-made, old-time guy, never treated anyone badly, always with a smile on his face and a great story on his lips.

We stayed and stayed until almost everyone had left and we were exchanging jokes with the bartenders, one of whom is a sweet and nerdy sci-fi geek who subsists on cigarettes and energy drinks, and the other (the owner) is an alcoholic and, as it turned out, perhaps a little more casually racist than most of the white rednecks around here. When someone makes jokes about the Rural Studio building 'n****r playgrounds', there's really no point in trying to reform them, but it amazes me that someone can feel that at ease with me, an outsider girl, that such things will exit his mouth. But it happens all the time - a white man will lower his voice a notch and 'confide' in you that whatever the problem might be is, I'm afraid, down to them damn blacks. I exchange glances with Chip and we decide it's time to leave.

I exist uneasily in these places, on the one hand loving the raw honesty of it all, the unpolished backwoods faces, the country music and the small-town intimacy, and at the same time not wanting to offer my implicit support or collusion with some of the wisecracks. Like Agee and Walker Evans, I feel like a spy.



"it amazes me that someone can feel that at ease with me, an outsider girl, that such things will exit his mouth."

I think that some people just can't imagine that the whole world doesn't agree with their point of view.

And some people know that you don't agree but will say stuff like that anyway... sort of a passive-aggressive behavior.

I am always at a loss for what to say when somebody says something like that. I hate to admit it but usually I just try to change the subject.

By Blogger Rurality, at 10:07 pm  

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