Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Heart Belongs To The South

Pictures from top:
1. The Confederate flag
2.Manatees: Malabar, Central Florida
3. My good friend Steve Thorpe with NASCAR racer.
4. Welcome to Georgia signboard
5. A Sunday aftertoon blue grass jam.
6. Carwash girl Melbourne, Florida
7. The Desert Inn at Yeehaw Junction near Kissimmee
8. Deep-fried duck with black-eyed peas and collard greens
9.Menu at the Marsh Landing restaurant, Fellmere, Florida
10. Barbecue joint in Mount Doro, Florida

I moved to Princeton, New Jersey recently, after a year's stay in Melbourne, Florida. Melbourne is on the east coast of the Florida peninsula, right in the center between Jacksonville in the North and Miami in the south. Florida north of Fort Lauderdale is pretty much Southern USA. Not the caribbean culture of Miami and The Keys. Central Florida is more like Georgia and the Carolinas, though with some differences due to it's geographical features and climate. The land of alligators and swamps, cattle ranchers and cowboys called crackers, citrus farms and countless churches. Central Florida , like much of the rest of Southern USA is also the land of that charming Southern drawl, NASCAR, Harleys, beer and Cadillacs, guitars and Bluegrass music, Barbequed ribs and Fried Chicken with Cole Slaw, and charming Southern women with names like Betty Jo, Honey and Ella Mae.It is only after I have moved to New Jersey that I see how different the Yankees are. Cold and rude, impatient and reckless drivers too. It is only in New Jersey that I have been tailgated and horned at while driving at 65 mph in a 55 mph zone. It is only in New Jersey that I have experienced store sales people who either ignore your enquiries or come up with a rude retort. I find that even the squirrels in Florida are friendlier less stressed than those in New Jersey. The squirrels I meet in New Jersey are psychotic. When you stretch your hand out with a tid-bit to feed them, they run round in circles, and seem to go quite mad trying to decide whether to trust you and come for the food, or to flee. After some frenzied running around in circles, they will rush in to take a bite at your feet before scurrying up a tree. On the other hand the Florida squirrels will greet you with a delightful squeal, and confidently take food from your hand.
Oh, how I miss small town Melbourne, where everyone greeted everyone, where the public toilets are clean [a sign of a civilised society] and the Dolphin Research van has a parking spot reserved for it in the middle of a highway, and people stop to let a turtle cross a highway. [ love for fellow animals- another sign of high civilisation] How I miss the 'yes ma'm and no sir', the banjos and fiddles at the blue grass jams, the pelicans on the beach, the pulled pork sandwiches, and barbequed Ribs, the Crab cakes and Mahi sandwich , fried chicken with Collard Greens and Black-eyed peas. And yes, the square dancing at the County Line saloon by men in jeans, boots and stetsons with women who look like Daisy in The Dukes of Hazzard. Most of all, the unmistakeable twang of Fender Telecaster [not Stratocasters] guitars, in rollicking Country & Western songs that sing of truck stops and and rodeos, guitars and pickup trucks, and lovelorn blonde waitresses in dingy diners. Bless those red-necks in their trailer homes too, flying the Confederate flag. I prefer them to smooth-talking yankees.Nothing will convey my feelings for the South better than the pictures I post above.
That cute bright-red BBQ joint with the wheeled cast iron oven is in Mount Doro and sells the most delicious Ribs I ever tasted. The guy posing beside the NASCAR is my good friend Steve Thorpe, a Blues Guitarist from the backwoods of Kentucky.
The Car Wash girl makes going to the carwash a pleasure. The Desert Inn at Yeehaw Junction is where an annual Bluegrass music festival is held. And that picture of the Menu in front of Marsh Landing restaurant in very rural Fellsmere makes me miss the South even more.
My most awesome experience in Florida, coming face to face with 1000 pound Manatees that swim up to you to be stroked like pussy cats.
The South is not just good old country charm. It is also the fastest growing region of the USA. As the old North East, and even the Mid-West fall into a state of decay, because of old infrastructure, high wages and cost of living, the young and vigorous South, unshackled by high wage union contracts, and the legacies of old-time industrialization, takes over the baton as the dynamo of the USA. New and dynamic Companies establish their operations in the South. Toyota and many other foreign auto Companies prefer to set up in Tennesse, Kentucky and the Carolinas. FEDEX uses Louisville, Kentucky as it's global hub. Melbourne, Florida is an aerospace and engineering hub. North Carolina has a booming Financial Services sector and is home to big banks Wachovia and Bank of America. Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have attracted the oil tools and rig servicing industries as well as commodity processors and traders like Cargill.

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