I have this seemingly weird thing that I do that actually makes perfect sense when you think about it. When ever I get a bunch of frames for prints and drawings I leave them in the car until I'm ready for them. If I don't do that, one of two things will happen: they will either be appropriated and filled with photos or reproductions of the works of French Impressionists because I insist on breaking my family's heart by being a printmaker or they'll get broken in a way that will be maddening and sometimes will even lead to a good story. The latter is an inevitability even when the former is avoided.
"I've set a new record," I told Kevin over the phone.
"You broke it going into the gallery?" he guessed.
"That's for next time. I got the frame painted and lacquered, the mats -yes, this is a two-layered jobbie- cut, painted and covered with textured paper, I picked out the perfect print from the run, got my title card ready, got everything lined up and then the glass slipped out of my hands."
"And this was not a sixteen by twenty rectangle that you could replace with glass from a thrift store frame."
"Of course not. This was a sixteen by sixteen square. Luckily I did find a replacement. I'll just use the open frame for a painting."
"Good thinking. So did it lead to the inevitable awkward encounter of some sort?"
"No. Well, yes. Indirectly." I said.
"And it was in the books section," he said.
"It's not always the books section," I countered.
"It's always the books section. Isn't that where you met the homophobic God-guy?" Kevin asked.
"Well, yeah, but..."
"Then there was guy who wanted you to tell his daughter that girls do not read books about bugs."
"That was at Davis-Kidd."
"The man who kept mistaking you for someone he dated when he was at Lipscomb"
"Barnes and Noble."
"The woman who insisted that you tried to convert her to evolutionism at Western Kentucky?"
"Thrift store book shelf. I'll give you that one." I said
"The guy who yelled at you when he saw you didn't take his suggestion and get the Glenn Beck book?"
"You make it sound like I go there to argue"
"No, I'm not, "he said, "It's just that you're a loon magnet. So what happened this time?"
"There was this nice lady and were talking about cookbooks and then I had kind of moved on and out of the blue she asked me about 'Gone With The Wind'..."
It was at this point in the conversation that Kevin probably regretted getting through art school without ever having picked up a drug habit.
"What did you say?" He asked.
"She's not from here. I tried to laugh it off and say that being a writer and native Southerner means that I've been Williamsed and Faulknered and Weltyed to death. She persisted and asked me if I read the sequel."
"I babbled a bit and then finally said, 'Look, if you want to know the truth'..."
Kevin sighed. "Sweetie, if she wanted to know the truth, she would not be reading Margaret Mitchell."
"Good point. So I said, 'If you want to know the truth, I'm glad we lost the Civil War. She looked stunned for a moment and then aghast. 'Why?" she asked. I tried to be circumspect. I really did. She has told me how much she loved the South and how nobody better say a bad thing about it and all that. So I said, 'It was really a pretty immoral place back then."
"What did she say?"
"She seemed very surprised to hear that. Maybe it was the source, I don't know. Then she asked me how it was immoral. My mouth dropped open. I told her I needed to get going and that I hoped she enjoyed Bittman and Prudhomme and to look for Emeril's Louisiana books. Then I left, feeling a little mad at myself for wimping out and not saying what I think we both knew."
"I know. I suck. My pictures look nice, though."
Some of you are probably confused as to why I have such a visceral reaction to "Gone With The Wind". Here's the thing: It's one of those works that people love when they really don't want to think about what the Southern US means or is or can be. "Gone With The Wind" is the archetypical Big Lie that things were really great for everyone down here, that all people of European descent lived in great big mansions and whiled away their days at fox hunts and cotillions whole a other group of people were only too willing to devote every fiber of their being to creating this utopia. Any school child will tell you that's a big steaming pile.
Here's the truth: Many of those "lost family mansions" were actually just big, nice farmhouses with a few shacks in back or sometimes a crude minature of the larger house where the people who were kept as slaves were expected to live. The people who lived in those big Greek revival mansions may have let a few of their sons play soldier at first, but when the cruel reality of war finally hit them, they often paid off the children of poor whites to go fight in their places. And no, the Africans who were brought over were not happy to be anyone's slaves. Would you be happy to be a slave? Why am I even having to type this in 2010 AD? Finally, I am frankly very happy to be an American. I am not about to abdicate my citizenship just to make people who put wealth above human rights feel better about what they're doing so they can stay rich. So why in the world would I, a native of a state whose official nickname points to the desire to sacrifice and protect what we see as our role as Americans want to use a brief period of seditious nonsense as the primary cultural touchstone to explain who and what I am?
I don't. My South can be found in the way my family and I talk. It can be found the stories we tell and the art and music we make. My South is historically the hotbed and laboratory where the entire country's ills are hammered out on the hearts and minds and bodies of those who weren't not given the luxury of the thin veneer of civility to be sheltered from the unjustices or to hide their biases. My South is also a place of healing the past. The grace and forgiveness I see here, sometimes on a daily basis, still amazes me and confirms the presence of the divine that can be seen in every person. My South is Christian and Jewish and Muslim and Atheist and Sikh and Hindu and Wiccan and Buddhist and Santeria and a thousand other ways people try to touch heaven. My South canbe found in the cities that are beginning to regroup after a decade of fiduciary and natural disasters. It's about pitching in and not giving up and not forgetting the people who are still there after the reporters and their camera crews have gone away. My South is green and getting greener as we realize that Grandma and Michael Pollan have a point. My South is summer tomatoes and people forming CSAs and other independent ways to fuel our bodies. My South is loving the established sports traditions and yet embracing the new ones as people come here to create lives for themselves and their families. My South is my home as nowhere else could be in the here and now. That's my South.
I hope that anyone who still buys into the old lies will see there is so much more to what is here and who we are. Y'all come by sometime; y'hear?
copyright 2010 Jas Faulkner