10 August 2011

Your Topic Tuesday - Living in the South

Welcome to the first Your Topic Tuesday.  (Yes, I know it's Wednesday, but life got busier than expected yesterday.)  I'll be talking about topics that you, my readers, ask me to talk about.  Maybe there's something I've mentioned in a previous post that you'd like to know a little more about.  Maybe you want to know my thoughts on some burning issue. Maybe you just want me to write some silly things.  Whatever the topic (within reason and decency standards), I randomly choose someone's topic and tell you my thoughts.  If you want to suggest a topic, just comment below!

Last week, there was only one topic request. So this week's topic comes from Les (or RoryBore, as you'll see her in comments) at Time Out for Mom. (Click on the button below to check out her site.)

The topic was this:

I don't know why, but I am soooo fascinated by the South. Maybe it's because I watched Gone with the Wind when I was young, and then it was the first "big" book that read as a teenager. We also drove to Florida when I was a teenager, and I fell in love with the architecture, the gardens, the antique stores. Of course, being a northern Canadian, I am sure my impressions of the South, and Southerns is not likely entirely accurate. Do ladies really gossip at the local beauty parlour like in Steel Magnolia's?? I don't know.....but I would love to know more about it....from a real Southerner so to speak.

It's hard to talk about the South, in large part because different parts of the south are as different as the various cities in the Northeast. Even the various cities that I've visited rather than lived in feel differently from one another.  But today, I'm going to talk about the two versions of the South that I've had the pleasure to call home: Florida and Tennessee.

Florida is a really odd place.  In many ways, it feels like it should be somewhere around Maryland in terms of attitude and cities.  You don't hear many Southern accents as you visit from town to town.  Florida is much more commercial.  From Disney World to Miami Beach, Tampa to Daytona, you've got a larger city feel.  (I can't say much about the panhandle, though.  I've never been there.)  Florida is the place that Northerners come to vacation.

There are two seasons in Florida: Hotter than Hell and Snowbird season.  Hotter than Hell lasts from around April through about October.  You'll want AC during this season.  The heat may be great for getting your tan, but the humidity will make it feel like you're breathing in soup.  I've never been much of a beach bum (despite living on the coast 2 of the 3 places I've lived), so I preferred going from my air conditioned house to my air conditioned car to my air conditioned job.  You'll see a lot of families taking summer vacation or spring break.  The biggest problems are the palmetto bugs (read: huge flying roaches).  But traffic moves at a steady pace and there's definitely plenty to do.  Oh, and Hotter than Hell is also known as hurricane season.  Chances are, there'll be two or three hurricane watches and warnings for Florida within that time.

Snowbird season goes from October until April. It's the season that drives a lot of year rounders 'round the bend.  Because this is the time when the retired part-timers move down to get away from the cold of winter.  And driving in Florida is a lot different than driving in smaller towns in the north.  There are often slow downs and accidents that you need to be on the alert for.  But the snowbirds coming to Florida is a great revenue booster for the state.

As far as the people go... well, you get a mix.  There are some that are friendly and neighborly, and many that kind of keep to themselves.  You may have two dozen cars pass you by if you're stuck on the side of the road before one person will stop to see if they can help.  Sometimes, not even that.  But in the smaller areas, you'll probably have neighbors say hi if they see you in the yard.

Tennessee is completely different.  It's much more like the polite and courteous south that is fictionalized in books and movies.  You hear a lot of 'please's, 'thank you's, 'yes, ma'ams's and 'no sir's' as you go around.  You hear a lot of southern drawls here, some more exaggerated than others.  Someone's a little more likely to stop and talk for a few minutes than they did when I lived in Florida.  The community has a tendency to pull together through adversity.  Almost 2 years ago, we had a really bad snow storm.  My apartment complex was on a hill and the driveway out was solid snow and ice.  Since it was on a weekend, the apartment complex didn't have anyone come out to plow it.  Instead, residents were out there with anything they could use as a shovel, helping dig the driveway clear and pushing cars if they got stuck.  I can't imagine that in the places that I lived in either Florida or the Northeast.

It's not to say that they're always polite.  Nashville has a horrid set of interchanges between the three interstates that come through here.  To stay on the same road, you need to switch lanes three times through the city.  And you have a lot of people switching lanes without signalling or refusing to back off a little to let you in during heavy traffic.

There are a few things that are more prevalent in Tennessee than anywhere else I've lived.  The first is Church.  One of the first questions you may be asked upon meeting a new group of people is, "What church do you go to?"  If you admit that you don't have a home church, you'll be invited to come along to theirs.  But for all that church is important to most of the people I know, they don't shove it down your throat either.  We got food from Angel Food Ministries at a local Baptist Church.  They knew the boys and said hi every time.  They open their Halloween Party and their Easter Egg Hunt to the community and never pushed for us to come to services.  My boys go (or in Teddy's case, went) to a Parents Day Out program at a local Methodist church. They know that the boys are Catholic and don't try to convert us.  They don't think less of me because of my religious views.

The other is the food.  While there is some cultural diversity when it comes to restaurants, you'll find a lot of meat and three restaurants.  You'll find cornbread and sweet tea, biscuits and gravy and greens, fried catfish and chicken fried steak. You can often find places with a different homemade dessert or three daily.  One of my favorite places to eat here in Nashville is The Ole Dinner Bell.  Good food, good prices and great staff.

Somehow, Tennessee makes me feel more secure than other places I've lived.  While I lock my door, I don't wonder if my things will still be there if I forget.  I keep an eye on my kids outside, but more to makes sure they don't run in front of a car than because I'm worried about someone snatching them.  I walk away from my bag in the local library without worrying that something may be taken.  It's not naivety. I know that anything can happen.  But there's such a good sense of community in the places I go to regularly that I can trust someone I know to stop anything bad from happening if my attention wanders for a moment.

All in all, it's a great place to live.  There are ups and downs, as with anywhere you may go, but most of the people will at least be friendly during the down times.