Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Travelogue: Sweet Home Alabama

Think about it. Nothing has done more to rehabilitate Alabama, and perhaps the South in general, than Lynrd Skynrd’s anthemic tune, don’t you think? If you’re from Alabama I’m sure you don’t need this song to realize the wonderful experiences of your life. Listen, I’m no Southerner, but neither am I a self-righteous liberal like Neil Young who pontificates about the “southern man.” I’m glad Skynrd tarnished his name in the second verse. Who remembers his worthless song anyway?

Don’t misunderstand me, dear reader. Having always lived either far west or far north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I’m a Union man all the way. Lincoln and Grant are my heroes. (Sherman was an ass, but he did more than anyone to end the war early and save lives in the long run.) I recall at basic training expressing my disapproval of some Southern states still incorporating the confederate symbol in their flags. That didn’t go over well with my southern buddies at Fort Leonard Wood, but we had a civil discussion about tradition and heritage, state’s rights, and the evils of the past. But I’m no Neil Young, even if he comes from my home state of California (after transplanting himself from Canada). I love the South. I love the Southern people, black and white, plus the Indian family that operated the La Quinta Inn & Suites we stayed at last night. I love the southern accent, only the Dallas-Fort Worth twang excepted here. And, besides, should we come to blows in another Civil War, the South, where most of the major military installations are located, would eat the North alive! So I want to stay in the South's good graces!  I still say, though, that any symbol of the Confederate past is essentially a symbol of slavery and one of the darkest chapters in our national history.

The vacation improved hundredfold when we finally stopped at a hotel in Evergreen, Alabama and I got some sleep. The next morning we arrived at our destination, Orange Beach. The weather was great and the beach was spectacular. The sand is so white and fine. Yesterday Jessi and I walked ten miles along the shoreline; we almost stepped on a jelly fish. Our hotel overlooks the Gulf. This morning before breakfast, around 6:20 am, my wife and I enjoyed sitting in the outside whirlpool, the only time of the day when it's not filled to the brim with boisterous, bikini-clad and beer-bellied primates.  Love the NASCAR crowd....not.

Now we’re making our long way back home. We just stopped at an outlet mall near Gulf Shores. My wife and kids are shopping whilst I sit in Starbucks and waste away again in Frappuccinoville with my laptop. We’ll be heading up through Mississippi en route to Memphis—Graceland to be exact. My wife is no Elvis fan but she wants to experience a bit of Americana. Meanwhile, we pass Civil War battlefields and monuments of the Civil Rights movement like discarded relics of a forgotten past. Popular culture trumps history on this vacation. My plan to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum on the last day is also getting the boot. I’ll have to make my own vacation to these sites this summer when I drive down to South Carolina for military training. I’ll probably crank up “Sweet Home Alabama” along the way. After all, all roads lead to Lynrd Skynrd.