Sunday, October 4, 2009

Back Down South

For some time now, my wife and I have struggled to make a crucial decision. For some time now, we have been contemplating a move. We have been contemplating leaving the South and moving to the Northeast.

Not that we do not find our quality of life satisfying here; we do. We have been blessed and lead very good lives. And not that we are fleeing some virulent racism or discrimination here; we are not. I think that racism and discrimination exist in equal measures throughout the country, so in that regards, I would much rather deal with the devil I know as opposed to the devil I don’t know.

However, the dearth of cultural opportunities in our area prompts us to consider the move. Culturally, Northeast Florida most resembles Southeast Georgia. Many of the major shows, concerts, and exhibits pass us by altogether. We often find ourselves having to drive north to Atlanta or southwest to Orlando or in some cases, even as far south as Miami to take part in these cultural events. And needless to say, that gets very expensive and time consuming, so we must carefully and judiciously pick and choose the events we attend.

And for the past few years, we have endeavored to spend time in the Northeast during the summer so that we might take part in the range of cultural offerings. Each and every time we are there, it is like a whirlwind tour with us running from this place and that place, trying to get it all in before it’s time to return home. But this too gets expensive and tiring, plus there are other places we would like to go and explore during our extended summer vacations.

Now our relatives and Facebook friends around the country taunt us daily by bragging about the events that have attended. Just last week someone posted a status update about attending a play I have been wanting to see for years. And I have a Facebook friend who lives in the New York area who is forever boasting about the free concerts he attends on almost a weekly basis.

Needless to say, we are now growing impatient. Our children are getting older, and if we are going to make that move, the time is now. Plus, we have solid job opportunities in the area that will not be there forever. So, what are we waiting for? My wife is more than ready, but I can’t make up my mind.

Playwright August Wilson once wrote that the South is the cultural homeland for African Americans. It is in the South within that dreadful, horrific crucible of slavery where our culture was born. It is here where those sustaining values and traditions were formed. It is here where deprived of a meaningful existence, we improvised. Given the offal of animals, we created our own unique foods. Out of the daily anguish and heartbreak of bondage, we created the only musical form to originate in this country.

And I have been blessed to have traveled all over the world. I have lived in many places outside the South; New Jersey, Seattle, and California are just a few that come readily to mind. But where ever I have traveled to and where ever I have lived, I have found myself longing for the South.

I found myself longing for those almost endless rural roads lined with kudzu. I missed the familiar sounds and smells, the familiar accents, the familiar foods. I missed my family and friends, and most of all, I missed the slow, laid back pace of life in the South. And each and every time, I found some reason, some excuse, to escape back down South.

So, I guess I have written myself to a decision this morning. There is no need for me to go anywhere. Any move would simply be a waste of time. I would be happy for a short while. I would probably busy myself going to museums and shows and plays and monuments. But that would probably grow old really quick. My mind would begin to wonder and invisible strings would begin to tug at my heart, and before long I would find myself with my family in tow headed south on I-95, headed back down South.


msladyDeborah said...

I think that everyone has a region of their nation that suits them to a T. It sounds like the south is your space in the place.

Ann Brock said...

Max great post and I feel you.

Constructive Feedback said...

Think about it - 95% of your weekday cycle is repetitive - especially if you consider the viewpoint of your kids.

As long as their schools are quality.
As long as they have quality extracurricular activities.
As long as they are not being chased home by thugs seeking to force them to join a gang..........

You and your wife are 90% there if you have all of these points settled upon.

It sounds like you live in the greater Jacksonville FL area.

I live in Metro-Atlanta, far enough on the outskirts to not have to deal with the foolishness. Close enough to drive 45 minutes to get into the mix. Popular events come through town (BET Awards, AllStar Game) and I can avoid all of the traffic and young people that come along with the event.

I know several people who have moved down from the North, hated upon the South, moved back home and then realized how much they HATE THE NORTH. (I'm from Philly originally).

I suspect that some of your friends that do have access to the shows and cultural events that you speak of also envy some of your accoutrement in Florida.

The weekends are really the only time that we as family men have to partake in much of what you are missing from other areas.

As for me - my kids are so plugged into Tae Kwan Do, Music Lessons, Scouting and birthday parties that our time traveling out of state is often cut short because they want to be plugged back into their sense of normalcy.

The South is growing.
The North is stagnant.

Anonymous said...

I feel as if im wasting my youth in Jacksonville.

KST said...

Ok, first, CF on your blog? Wow. Was used to seeing what I call the "scary face" on the DV blog. : )

Anyway, I loved this post, how you laid out the problem, and ultimately solved it. Sounds like your current residence suits you just fine.

Denisha said...

You could always go visit. Spend a week or so in the Northwest area and take it all in. Traveling gives you the best of both worlds.

ProfGeo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ProfGeo said...

Nice piece of writing!

I think it's good that we all don't want to live in the same place, as it would get pretty crowded. Both sides of my family migrated away from the South over the generations (though a small contingent migrated "back" from the Midwest to Texas, and they seem to have found peace of a sort). I've never felt the call of the South as you so eloquently expressed it, but I know it exists in others.

As msladydeborah said, everyone has a region. (Mine's the West and Northwest.) We may tease others or be a bit competitive about it, but as Quintard Taylor says, wherever you are, that's your African American experience.

Keith said...

I think certain regions tend to be in our blood. They are part of our soul whether we like it or not.

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