Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes And The Meaning Of Life

It's a lollipop- it's a sign- its a symbol- no...'s a back drop for Cheyenne on her brief break from eternally riding the car.

I am an avid reader of J H Kunstler the urban critic from Syracuse who records the collapse of our urban landscape each Monday on his blog. His trenchant essays remind me each week that things in mainland America aren't going as well a they might in many places. The outskirts of Columbus, Georgia, gave the proof of his belief that suburban America, badly designed and badly built is collapsing.

That Suburban malls have no future is not a subject for discussion in mainstream press, we are told we are in a weak recovery from a recession. It doesn't always look that way.

We took to the Interstate to make tracks as our vacation week got off to a slow sleepy start and we weren't getting any speedier as we sank into holiday lethargy. There is something especially intimate about riding the car, with Cheyenne snoring while sprawled across the rear passenger seat, NPR talking in a low murmur on the radio and my wife slipping in and out of consciousness in the front passenger seat. And so the miles roll by. I enjoy road trips and am grateful for the Keys' tenuous road connection to the mainland.

I have found much of Georgia consists of rolling hills covered in pine trees bisected by long straight roads like these we followed close to the Alabama state line.

We were in Blue Ridge country, the beginnings of Appalachia and the mountain range that stretches north to Pennsylvania. It's country characterized forever by poverty and isolation, and ever since Hollywood got it's hands on it by the very worst of negative stereotypes.

I don't have much experience of Appalachia but my sister in law does. She and her husband moved to these mountains in Western North Carolina after they got married and she took up doctoring for the poor out of a rural clinic near Burnsville. She gave birth to her own first son on the kitchen table with my wife in attendance and she has lived an ascetic life that would have strained our marriage. I like to say I married the sensible sister, the lawyer in the Jewish family with an eye on comfort and convenience.

My experiences of Appalachia as a frequent visitor over twenty years of marriage is that these are mountains towns and villages filled with very earthy decent people. The ghastly movie Deliverance did nothing but mess with the image of country folk who are poor and may be reluctant to accept modern mores but who in face-to-face encounters with outsiders are cheerful and genuine and frequently very funny.

The life that my sister in law has lived in a North Carolina 'holler' (hollow or valley in our lingo) has been one of work satisfaction helping people who really desperately needed her medical skills among people who never did get respect from the outside world. She really likes this place as much as I enjoy the Florida Keys.

These are mountains where traditions die hard and where daily life is hard too, especially now that the economy is shrinking and tourism is no longer the expansive money pit it once was. But we still seek out the southern experience when we come to visit. We got our dose of fried green tomatoes at Brother's Restaurant hidden in a Murphy strip mall and pointed out to us by a solicitous local. Huge crispy slices with an unusual piquant horseradish sauce

I had a fine peppered white gravy pork chop while my wife had the superior dish which was a perfect fresh trout. We drank tea (unsweetened) and bought a piece of peanut butter fudge for home made dessert to go. The bill was $33 with tax (6.75%) and tip which as my wife pointed out seemed a lot of money to pay for a mediocre pizza and three glasses of wine at the Beachside's Tavern Saturday night in Key West, but seemed a deal in Murphy for an expansive lunch.

We arrived at the house in Asheville at dusk and set about entertaining the great nephews who had to show me their climbing tree. Connor, three and a half, swung like an acrobat.

His elder brother Aidan, six and a half, struggling with an already broken arm in a cast was less agile and had, to his loud chagrin, get rescued by his father. Tears before bedtime.

Cheyenne watched the excitement placidly, content to be out of the car and sitting in dewy wet grass. Thanksgiving is the right holiday for everyone. No gift giving compulsions, no obligations except to eat and listen, and thus no stress, and if one gets to sit at a groaning family table with one's best friend for a foot warmer, there is nothing much better to look forward to. And no matter what the naysayers insist, Cheyenne has earned her piece of turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving to all from Celo North Carolina.

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