“There’s no place like the South” were the words spoken by Bill Maxwell, a columnist who lived in and loved the South. I understand his sentiments. Here is my story.
My bags were piled up sitting in an empty room overlooking a square in Greenwich Village. The friend of a friend who I shared an apartment with (relegated to one room) no longer needed me there. She was disabled and I had helped her out with maneuvering around her tiny rent controlled apartment. Her friend was returning to New York to study dance and I was out of an apartment and ironically, a job. It was pouring snow outside the windows without curtains. When Amy wasn’t around, I invited one of my girlfriends to stay over. A native Brooklynite, she informed me the next morning that she wasn’t able to get any sleep because she felt watched in the living room with no curtains. I understood that feeling. There were many times I felt the same. My family invited me to L.A. (Lower Alabama) located on the Gulf of Mexico and a stone’s throw from sunshine. My mind wandered somewhere South as I glanced out the window. I went downstairs to the Korean grocer for my hot coffee in the wonderful blue white cups with the Greek lettering on them. Upon returning, I met one of my neighbors and told him that I was moving South. He understood but his eyes got very large and he stated dramatically,”But you have not idea of how great you can be.” I smiled thinking we knew so little about one another as most neighbors in New York City, but I appreciated his tact. I knew he would never leave New York City but I had no choice. Laid off from my job as an assistant city appraiser with the Department of Real Property and unable to find anything.Another housing crash was around the corner and I was panicking. Newly minted with a BA in English, I was desperately searching for anything including a waitress vacancy at the diner next to my apartment. I had some vague idea about working in publishing but it seemed very difficult to find an opening. As I watched the snow fall soundlessly, I wondered and worried about my future move. What would I do there? At least I would have housing.
Arriving in Mobile, Alabama, a small city, in the evening was uneventful. My parents picked me up and we drove across a long bridge entering a very rural county which was Baldwin and eventually moving toward the beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. Since I had spent the last three years in New York City keeping a strong rein on my facial emotions and not meeting the eyes of other pedestrians when walking,
I was not prepared for what transpired. My family had rented for me a small cottage which belonged to the owner of the motel property they were visiting. It was cozy and directly adjacent to the ocean. The first time I went for a walk, I was amazed at the friendliness of the people meeting my path. I asked my mother worriedly, “Why are they so friendly?” She told me “That is the way they are.” With time, I began to relax and enjoy my stay. I learned that the South and the Southerners had some wonderful stories. One of my favorite was about a travelling salesman from the North who said that the first time he traveled in the South he was so happy to be there because of the hospitality of the people. He would sit on the porch enjoying his tea and pie for hours discussing everything from the weather to politics until he realized that his sales quota was down and they had no intention of buying anything but that didn’t mean they couldn’t share a good story or a laugh together. I won’t argue that it was challenging to find a job in an area where the good old boy system still existed and good jobs were protected with short leashes by the owners. I managed to find some interesting jobs including being an interpreter for French mechanics from Rohr Industry. That lasted the summer. I wrote some free lance articles which were published by the Mobile Register and was even invited for a potential interview with the Houston Chronicle by the editor after sending her samples of my writing. I declined and kept on working part time temp jobs which included stuffing newspapers with fliers, customer service at front office hotels, meeting the natives, and trying to get my feet on the ground.
To be continued….my saga of leaving New York for Alabama.