Archive | April, 2012


23 Apr

How long has y’all been global?  I just came upon two instances where y’all was used in a non-Southern specific context and it got me thinking.  NPR’s Three Minute Fiction Facebook page used it.  A new product from The Clorox Company used it on its Facebook page.  Rappers and hip hop artists use it.  Joe Biden used it a couple of weeks ago, and he’s from Scranton. Y’all is the pimento cheese and blue Mason jar of language. We are having a y’all moment right now.  A y’all-geist, perhaps? No? Okay.

I’ve found it’s generally the first Southernism foreigners pick up.  And by foreigners, I don’t mean Ohioans. I really mean people from foreign countries.  Of course, we also force it on people.  I pity the Japanese businessman who comes down here to put in a factory and is hounded by people from The Chamber of Commerce wanting him to say, “Hey, y’all!” at every ribbon cutting, meeting, and photo op. I have European friends who use y’all with impunity.  To look at it spelled, it looks like it something your bubbe would have a strong opinion about. “This y’all is gornisht helfn!  Much too tough!  And it would kill you to use some salt?”  Maybe this is why it’s going international.  But y’all either comes naturally to people or it doesn’t.  You  sound really dorky when you try to use y’all to be folksy or to treat Southerners like we’re of a different country.

There is also some debate on how to spell the word correctly.  I, like my buddies Mr. Faulker and Miz McCullers,  like to spell it ya’ll, but I’ve found when I do that I get a lot of comments from people who did not grow up using the word telling me I spelled it wrong.  I don’t actually know how you spell a made up word incorrectly, but yeah.  Ya’ll means ya all–which is how we pronounce what we mean when we say ya’ll down here. Totally different from you all.  And don’t get me started on all y’all or y’all all. Or even youins.  

Y’all is all about emphasis. All of these things mean something different:

  • “Y’ALL!! Y’ALL!!”
  • “Y’all! Watch this!”
  • “Y’all? Y’ALL??”
  • “Y’all? Uh-uh.”
That last one is generally followed a few seconds later by, “I. SAIYYED. UH. UH.”

I guess it sounds folksy and therefore approachable and therefore will sell body lotion. In fact, if I were going to produce a skincare line I’d probably call it Y’all.  I’d want it to fit a wide range of skin issues and that makes it sound like there’s something for everyone. I would also have packaging that used twine and slab fonts and lots of those disembodied pointing fingers, but that’s a discussion for another day.


19 Apr

My first and only brush with Karaoke was singing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with some Marines. It wasn’t always pretty, but it had feeling. Sort of like Levon’s voice. It broke, pleaded, and crackled in places, but there was never any doubt he was telling you a story you needed to sit down and listen to, son.

I’m about to be 40, so there’s never been a time in my life when Levon’s music wasn’t there. Some of my earliest musical memories are from The Band. It was a while before I really embraced the music. For a long time I didn’t think American music was okay– even though Levon was the only one who actually was American. I ran to the Brits for a while, picking up albums from Joy Division and The Style Council. My turn away from post-punk and New Wave was due to falling head-first in love with Seattle grunge and jam bands like Widespread Panic. Suddenly, synthesizers and dance music sounded self-conscious and pretentious. The harmonica, banjo, and bottleneck guitar players of home all sounded new and real.  A book of Bob Dylan lyrics my friend gave me as a half-joke was consulted frequently. (And still is. Chuck and I used it just the other night to settle a debate over whether or not Dylan wrote a certain song.) When I finally made my way around to watch The Last Waltz, I wondered why I’d wasted so much time getting there.

It’s hard to listen to Levon passively. He implores you to listen to his story, whether it’s about a poor dirt farmer, coal miner, or Confederate soldier. The music doesn’t seem to belong to any particular time. Everyone knows a song he sang or played drums in even if they don’t know it’s him. I personally schooled a couple of Marines in The Way of Levon. I wonder if they also remember the night Levon got them to take a Rebel stand, if only for three minutes.

This is only one of what will likely be thousands of tributes to Levon Helm. There are only a few people I will allow myself to get full-on sentimental for. Today I’ll not only indulge sentimentality, I’ll believe in heaven because I love the idea of a Helm, Danko, Manuel reunion.  If there is a heaven, tonight there will be one hell of a show.

Wardrobe Malfunctions

10 Apr

I recently uttered a sentence I never, never, never thought I would say: I need a sewing machine. I don’t quilt, crochet, or knit. I tried rug hooking once, but couldn’t get the hook dislodged from the wall after I threw it. I have, it is true, been known to cross stitch, but not with any real skill. Although I did cross stitch a bird silhouette with the motto “Tweet Deez” for a friend, and it turned out nicely. But there’s no door between my kitchen and dining room. So you see the need.

There are a few things believe to be true about a house. One is that I find it barbaric to have a bathroom directly off a bedroom. The other is that one should not have to look at how the sausage got made when one sits down to eat said sausage. At some point in my home’s history the swinging door between the kitchen and dining room was taken off. I can see some conflict with where the door probably rested when opened. It’s not a large dining room. You’d have to be careful not to pop a guest in the back when coming through the door. It is my desire to keep from unintentionally smacking a guest in the gourd with a swing door that has lead me to decide a curtain might be a better option. This will need to be sewn. Also, I change out pillows and seat cushions roughly every other month. It gets tiresome hand-sewing pillow covers. And? The only good part of that movie with Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling where he plays the creepy guy who dresses as a woman at some point and probably killed Kirsten Dunst and chopped her into a million pieces is this one dress she wears. It’s just a little ‘70’s style shift made of cotton lawn. I think I could make it. And I will keep thinking that until proven wrong, which will probably be three hours after having purchased fabric to make the dress.

Due to the profound kindness of a few family members, I have a new-to-me sewing machine. It has lots of pieces. I don’t know what any of them do yet. Well, I can figure out what the buttonholer attachment does, but making something with buttonholes is about as much an option as squeezing some Kingsford to make me a diamond ring.

The other hand-me-down I ended up with is a pair of leather New Balance walking shoes. I KNOW! From a distance they look like regular trainers.They fit me perfectly. If you’ve ever seen my feet you understand what a miracle of sport shoe engineering this is. They make my feet feel like fluffy bunnies are mating on cotton candy clouds. They are awesome, and I will never disparage ugly walking shoes again.

The other day I had some stuff to do around the house, and that usually involves paint. As a preemptive measure I’d put on one of my designated painting shirts. Truth? Most of my shirts are designated painting shirts. I can get paint on a shirt just looking at paint chips. It’s a disease. Same with food. I used to think my friends were psychic when they could tell me what I had for lunch. This particular paint shirt is a men’s big-n-tall denim special I got sometime during the Clinton administration. I had to make groceries so I threw on my swanky new walking shoes, buttoned up my denim shirt, and got in the station wagon full of a sewing machine and its table that hadn’t made their way inside yet. I looked like I was on my way to pick up my sister wife.

Normally when I’ve got on my paint-splattered clothing, I fool myself into thinking I look artsy. I get out of my funky little retro-styled wagon, bebop around with a bag my husband got me from Ten Thousand Villages, and think, “I’m an artiste! I don’t look like a middle aged woman who’s off her meds! I look ARTSY!!” I find if I think to myself in exclamation points, it helps keep me delusional. This time all my look said was, “Yes, checkout person, I have a binder full of coupons that will force you to ring up my basket of groceries in FOUR separate transactions! And while we’re talking, don’t you think that Redbook cover is a little racy for the checkout aisle?”

When I was little I used to put pantyhose on my head to make long hair. I think my adult version of that is pretending my paint-splattered wardrobe is artsy rather than pathetic. I have come to peace with that. Also? I ROCK those walking shoes.

Allow Me To Explain

5 Apr

Here’s the thing. I’ve been laying low because I’m sick of national politics. I’m sick of the fact that the nation is closer to double-digit unemployment rate than not, but YET! What are presidential candidates talking about? Romney’s saying that Obama is out of touch with reality because when you’re president, you get to use gold-leaf toilet paper and diamond toothpicks. Who knew? Santorum claims them communist you-knee-versities out there in California don’t even teach American history! And Obama’s all HE STARTED IT! and pointing at the Republicans.


What I’ve been thinking is that our government works for us, and we should control the dialog. I do not find abortion to be the single most important issue in the health care debate, so I’ve not talked about it recently. I don’t think immigration is the biggest threat to our way of life, so I’ve not talked about it. Not that any of that matters. I’m just one person with no money, a couple of ovaries, and a burgeoning chocolate pudding cup habit. Just because I’ve taken away the dish of milk on my back porch doesn’t mean the conversation won’t slink over to my neighbor’s where she puts out cans of salmon for it.

The overwhelming BLECH I feel towards the national discourse overshadows things I did want to talk about. You might have started reading this blog because of a piece I wrote about a murder in my home state. I won’t go into the details here, but last June in Jackson, Mississippi James Anderson was murdered by 19 year-old Deryl Dedmon. I can now say murdered and not allegedly murdered because Mr. Dedmon pled guilty to capital murder. He was sentenced to two life sentences, one for the murder and one for the hate crime enhancement. Mr. Anderson’s family asked prosecutors not seek the death penalty. Referencing the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers whose bodies were found in Neshoba County, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill, Sr. said to Mr. Dedmon, “All the hard work we have done to move our state forward from that earthen dam in Neshoba County to here has been stained by you,  a stain that will take years to fade.” Weill told the gallery, “know that this craven act isn’t who we are. We can say this now. Maybe there was a time when we couldn’t.”

Even now, even as I want to write about what it feels like to hear someone take responsibility, even as I want the world to see my home in a positive light, even as I want to talk about how I am so happy to be wrong about the piece I wrote in which I voiced my opinion that Mississippians would look away from the murder of a black man by a white man, I hesitate. I hesitate because I want to talk about how two lives were ruined. Mr. Anderson lost his, and Mr. Dedmon will never leave the prison grounds. And our conversation parameters tell me I cannot feel sympathy for both sides. Our social contract dictates I must take a side. So I say up front, Mr. Dedmon deserves every day he sits in that cell. The people who were with him deserve punishment. And when I read that Mr. Dedmon feels remorse and has now found God, I roll my eyes and think of course.  You feel remorse that you got caught.

We have created an either-or world where being right means we can do what we want. Arizona lawmakers wrote a bill that would allow employers to find out why female employees on company insurance were using contraception. Tennessee lawmakers want to publish names of abortion providers and detailed demographic information about patients. Alabama allows police to stop people they have a “reasonable” suspicion to be illegal. And all of this is because the other guy should not be able to have his way. You don’t agree with what I believe, so you are less than I am. You are not as moral as I am. You are not human in the way I am, and I may deny you rights because of it.

Debate has changed its meaning just like what it means to be conservative has changed. It’s tiresome. And it’s mainly tiresome because most of the people I know don’t really live on one end of the spectrum or the other. Most of us are stuck here in the middle where we may give a point to this side one day and the other the next. That’s the way life works. It drives you crazy that your husband leaves his clothes in a heap on the bathroom floor, but you take it in stride because you love the way he folds you up to him when you’ve had a terrible day.

I think in order to keep writing–which is something I love to do and feel incomplete when I don’t–I’m going to keep to the mundane, profane, and urbane. More to come. Really.

(UPDATE: No sooner had I gotten this post published did I come upon this piece which discusses what goes wrong when talking about two sides of an issue. It’s a great piece, and I hope you’ll read it. Top 10 Misguided Responses To Calls for Compassion)