Years ago, Karl and I did a road trip from Dallas to Atlanta for one of his car conventions. We decided to make it a driving tour of the South, and by that, I mean the Deep South. Going through my old stomping grounds in East Texas, widely considered to be the westernmost part of the Deep South, we headed to New Orleans, and on to Biloxi, through Alabama to Atlanta.
After the convention, we moved on to Savannah and Charleston before needing to cut our trip short. A hurricane was coming, and neither of us had an appetite for experiencing what I think of as an extended tornado with a side order of flooding.
All in all, it was a fun trip, although I suspect my sensibility at that time was a bit less developed than it is today. For example, when a genteel lady shopkeeper in casual conversation—and there’s a lot of casual conversations with everybody in the Deep South—unironically referenced the “War of Northern Aggression,” I thought it was quaint. Not so much today.
On our return trip, we went through Macon, a small city a bit bigger than my hometown of Tyler, Texas, but insufficiently large or sophisticated enough to roll out that famous Southern hospitality to make a big-city homosexual feel welcome. Karl and I stopped at Long John Silver’s for lunch, and he naturally fit in with the locals with no problem. I, on the other hand, might as well have been wearing a pink ball gown and a glittery crown, as if Glinda had come from Oz to Georgia.
Alarm bells were going off in my head while Karl casually reviewed the menu. Then Whoopi Golberg came to me in a vision saying, “Craig, you in danger, girl.” I whispered to Karl, “Let’s get out of here.” He was oblivious. “Well, then just give me the keys, and I’ll meet you in the car.” I knew we should have gone to KFC in the first place.
But inclement weather and inhospitality aside, the only other blemish on the trip was that the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum was closed on the day we were driving through Montgomery. Until this week, that association was one of two that I had for the capital of Alabama.
Just type an “a” and an “l” in Google, and the first offering is “Alabama brawl.” I suspect more people have seen at least some of the viral videos of this incident than have seen the Barbie movie. While watching the videos of spectators at the incident has made voyeurs of millions of us, the story itself has avoided context, even with the innumerable number of hours given to the media coverage of the brawl.
I found it interesting that the three white men involved with starting the whole thing are apparently from Selma. Putting Selma with Montgomery in the story brings up that other association not related to Zelda Fitzgerald. This juxtaposition of these two towns in Alabama is not new, nor is the current one nearly as violent as the previous one. The older one does shade last week’s riverfront brawl, however, even if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., himself did not jump off the boat.
The mayor gave an interview this week, including remarks that this incident is not representative of Montgomery and was perpetrated by people “not from the city,” while not mentioning Selma. I marvel at his restraint. If a bunch of yahoos from Longview caused this much trouble in Tyler, I’m pretty sure the mayor would call them and Longview out by name. (Full disclosure: Tylerites rarely need a reason to throw shade at Longview, and I graduated from high school with the mayor.)
Every place has its bozos and bubbas, and all of this hoopla coming out of Alabama is unlikely to give it the title of craziest state in the union. As long as DeSantis is cretin-in-charge in neighboring Florida, not even Texas has anything to worry about in that regard.
There are plenty of good people in Alabama, like the ones who turned out Roy Moore (remember him?) who got removed as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the state by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary (twice!) and failed to be elected to the U. S. Senate in a special election in 2017 and again in 2020. I could say something here about Tommy Tuberville, but I’m from Texas, so I’ll refrain from doing so because, well, Ted Cruz and something about glass houses.
That trip out to Georgia and back from Georgia are the only times I’ve ever had occasion to be in Alabama. Despite all of it, including George Wallace, I have appreciation for the state that gave us, not just Zelda, but Harper Lee and Tallulah Bankhead.
It’s not exactly the problematic “Sweet Home Alabama,” which was not written by anyone actually from Alabama. But it has its moments. This week was one of them.