The spring 2014 semester begins

in warm rain after an unusually seasonable hard freeze for several days last week. Perhaps the bipolar weather is a sign that although this year will be unpredictable, yet we will cope. (Again.)

People with a more northerly perspective assume Southerners are winter wimps–which is true, because the deep South isn’t used to actual cold weather. One reason we like living down here is the mild winters. Sure, summers are hot, muggy, and buggy here, but temperatures in Chicago and Boston get even higher. At least New Orleans and Houston and Mobile don’t usually freeze,

As a child, moving whenever the U.S. Air Force transferred my father, I thought I wanted to be a Yankee. The North had New York City, Henry David Thoreau, snow, better schools, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Over the years, though, I’ve come to appreciate the geography and culture of the coastal southern United States. Long growing seasons, sand beaches, vernacular architecture, primitive painting, accordions, and cooking. Family reunions were held in a wooded state park in north Georgia in August, with sweet tea, fried chicken, potato salad, and all the trimmings.

For a fun Christmas present, I bought a copy of A Southerner’s Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life, edited by David diBenedetto. It comprises short magazine-type essays about food, hunting, football, and other things associated with the South, but no articles about poverty, racism, ignorance, disappearing coastlands, or fundamentalism.  In other words, this book shows the South of Scarlett O’Hara, not Ernest Gaines. But for reading on a cold afternoon in front of the fire while wondering what bowl game LSU would be invited to, it was nearly perfect.

With dismay I read in the Eunice News that a local woman is part of the cast for a new television show called Party Down South. I had seen a vulgar ad for it during a football game and was embarrassed. To balance the soap-opera sex, drugs, and noise of popular television, perhaps one episode could feature a garden party in April, with light cotton dresses, champagne in crystal glasses, and a string quartet.  Or White Linen Night, the gallery opening evening festival in New Orleans.

There’s the trashy South, the genteel South, the reactionary South, and the hopeful South. I choose hope.

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