Hawking Up Hairballs

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Inner Redneck

So, there I was a few days ago, driving up I-85 to meet my brother and his family for dinner at a new Malaysian restaurant, the Assam House. I had my radio tuned to a station that plays classic rock. Its selections are usually pretty anodyne. For example, I've never heard them play any Bob Dylan, and they seem to favor the soft stuff, like Stevie Nicks, Elton John, and Jimmy Buffett. The upshot of all this is that I had the radio on merely for background music, and the volume was down low. All of a sudden though, my hand shot out toward the radio and turned the volume up. What was the song that caused this reaction? Sweet Home Alabama by Lynard Skynard. I could hardly believe it. What was up with that?

Sometimes, at the strangest of times and places, one comes face to face with truths about one's self, and it was at that moment that I had to confront a painful fact. Deep down, in my heart of hearts, I ain't nothing but a redneck. I mean, Sweet Home Alabama, for Christ's sake! And I confess to liking Greg Allman, especially Midnight Rider. Even worse, though I don't care for country music, I really like old Bocephus, Hank Williams, Jr., even though I'm put off by the implicit racism of some of his songs.

My father was a career military officer, and I spent most of my formative years in Ohio, but blood tells. On mother's side, there were Irish and German dirt grubbers. My paternal grandfather's family was one of the old Minorcan families of St. Augustine, Florida. Hence, my Spanish last name. In St. Augustine, there were three segments of society, the whites at the top, then the Minorcans, and the blacks at the bottom. When my paternal grandfather married my grandmother he scored a coup. She was as white as they come and she had the pretensions to go with it. And where was she from? Why Alabama, of course. Muscle Shoals, to be specific. Her father must have been some kind of tough customer. He fought for the South in the Civil War. Starting out as an ordinary soldier at the beginning of hostilities, he fought all the way until the bitter end at the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee, where he was taken prisoner just a few months before it was all over. He was wounded six different times, and rose to the rank of lieutenant, probably because there were so damned few who lasted the whole war alive and relatively whole. The fact is, that on my father's side, twenty-one family members fought for the Confederacy, so I come by the redneck honestly. My mother's forebears were recent immigrants in Ohio at the time, and they showed better sense in avoiding the war altogether.

It doesn't end there though. The St. Augustine Historical Society has published a history of the city. In it there is a picture of my paternal grandfather's daddy. It's a posed shot. He's in his Sunday best, sitting in a wicker chair. Next to him is a wicker table, upon which stands his favorite fighting cock. He was apparently proud of the bird. Ah, different times. It was a good thing that PETA wasn't around back then. He was apparently quite the character. He worked as a carpenter, though only when he felt like it, if my father was to be believed. There too, times were different though. You didn't have to bust your ass to make a living in towns like that. He lived until well into his eighties, and he died in the 1920's as a result of injuries suffered when an automobile hit him while he was riding his bicycle. Yep, you got that right. The old guy was riding a bike in his eighties.

By the way, the Assam House was great. The avocado shrimp, in particular, was yummy, but I sat there wondering where I got my taste for Asian food. Hmm, some say the Chinese got to the so-called New World before Columbus.


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