The Modern Southern Gentleman

I’ve been re-reading some of my old posts and there are some that I’m quite proud of….

This is one and it seems like a good time to revisit it:

The Modern Southern Gentleman

Some of the others badly need revisions and rewriting for the book version!

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Chapter 90: The Love I Lost

I returned to Sweet Briar College a couple of weeks ago for what I feared was to be the last time.  I had not been there since 1981.

My last visit there, 34 years ago,  was populated by ghosts and anxiety.  I was part of the Class of 1981 at Washington and Lee University.  Most of my friends were from the class of 1980.  When I went to that weekend there in 1981,  we were already beginning to feel the past.

I was there with one of my best friends who had lost his Sweet Briar girl to another man during her Junior Year  Abroad.  Thus it was a poignant visit to begin with.  But on a larger scale, the Class of 1980 was gone.  Those had been our friends and our first link to Sweet Briar.  The Sweet Briar Girls we came to see that weekend felt the loss just as we did…Our friends who had made our college years so special had graduated.  It was not the same…..

After that weekend, I never thought I would be at Sweet Briar again.  I thought it was time to move on and put it all in the past.

As a History major, I should have known better.  Our past, collectively and individually, is a part of us and only time can show us how much a part of us it really is….

Over the following yeas, I never went to my reunions at Washington and Lee.  I was simply not interested.  Too many people would be missing.  Mainly, the Sweet Briar girls would be missing.  I was very  aware we would not have been the W&L men we became without them…..

This year was the year of the 35th reunion for most of my friends.  The 34th for me… and we had our reunion together at Sweet Briar.  A lot of our W&L friends did not understand how we could choose not go to W&L reunions, but decided to go to Sweet Briar that weekend…..

In modern terminology, I think it was for closure. Sweet Briar was supposed to close and this was out last chance to be there together again.  It was the “last” reunion weekend at Sweet Briar College and our Sweet Briar friends had invited us to crash.

Most of we old W&L boys did not think twice.  It was a chance to go back and to be together again as we once were….To go to the Boat House where we had gone to so many parties in our youth.  To revisit the sites of so many great college weekends. To spend time with some phenomenal women who never really left our lives, but who we did not see nearly enough today….

My Mother once told me “I never went to College, but I hear it changes you and it is where you meet your friends for life.  Choose them carefully.”  I’m glad I did…

And Sweet Briar, in many ways, was as much of my college experience as my alma mater Washington and Lee.

I’ll never forget meeting my friend Ralph.  It was the end of Freshman year at W&L and everyone was packing to leave.  He asked me if I had a cigarette.  We all smoked back then….It was one of the last days of the year and I was one of the last to leave.  He came back  to my Dorm Room at Graham-Lees, we smoked and chatted a bit and then said good-bye.

I was still finding my way at W&L and to me, Ralph was a total BMOC-Big Man on Campus- to me.  You saw him everywhere.  I was honored he recognized me.  Knowing Ralph, as I later did, he would have talked to anyone who would have given him a Vantage Regular.

But maybe I was wrong.  I met him again at the start of my sophomore year and he basically took me under his wing.  I’ll never know why and we will never talk about this in person, but he did.  He went with me to see my Sophomore apartment, that I was sharing with 3 other guys and a Labrador retriever.  Where  I was miserable…. and he said:  “We have an apartment available in my building- the Corner Arms.  You should move there.”  And I did…

The Corner Arms was an apartment building in Lexington that mainly rented to members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.  Ralph brought me in, helped me paint my apartment and, over time, and became along with my friend Bob, like a brother to me during our W&L years. Ralph introduced me to Doug, Bruce, and other guys who also became my close friends.  Then Shakey and a couple of others.  All at the Corner Arms…

It moved on from there…Ralph encouraged me to “rush” Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity- the fraternity I was told to Rush by all my friends back home.  He was Rush Chairman- again total BMOC to me.  I was offered membership, because of him and Bob,  and pledged.  He got me through all the pledge activity that I found so silly.  He taught me the short cuts and he championed me…..

And he introduced me to Sweet Briar.

And, to me, Sweet Briar will always be synonymous with Carolyn.  She was his girlfriend then….

She was cute, preppy-as we all were- but she was somehow different.  From the very beginning, we could look at each other across the room and almost read each others minds.  A raised eyebrow between us told the whole story to each of us.

She became my first fashion advisor.  I had a corduroy coat with a hood she called “the cub coat.”  She quickly told me that had to go.  She was with me when we went to  the College Town Shop and I purchased my first down jacket- that I would wear for the next 10 years- with her total approval.

And she was our entrée to Sweet Briar.  Carolyn was our Social Chairman.  For every big college weekend at W&L and at Sweet Briar, she would be sure we all had “appropriate” dates.  Translated:  Sweet Briar Girls.

Carolyn was- and is- a very down to earth woman.  She was also the Matchmaker supreme. She may not have thought long-term, but she made sure we all had fun dates for all the big weekends.  I always said-and she agreed- we must not let our pursuit of an education stand in the way of our social life.  And we had a grand social life.

And she was protective.  It was her friends that mattered….she wanted us to all mix, be together and have fun.  We didn’t think much of the future….it was all about who would have fun that particular weekend.  The moment mattered.

And, I think, even then, she knew I was a bit of an outsider.  I was always watching everyone from the sidelines.  Years later we would talk and she would tell me, even then, she knew I was Gay.

She also, perhaps unwittingly, fed my F. Scott Fitzgerald fantasies of college.  She introduced us to elegant Southern debutantes, witty northern Jewish girls and nice, regular middle class girls who were each none the less special.  But we also met the girls who became our “Jordan Bakers” and “Daisy Buchanans”  through her.  More later….

I loved those days….

Then I didn’t….

For many years after I left the world of W&L and Sweet Briar, I only remembered the bad. How in my senior year, after most of my friends left, things went incredibly bad.  But I did manage to graduate from W&L-eventually.  And then, I put all the memories in a box and put it in the back of the closet of my mind….

I moved on to being an out Gay man, with a partner and a very different life from those W&L and Sweet Briar Days…I traveled the world and did the corporate thing.  I learned to live in my modern, liberal bubble.

I closed the door to these times and these people and didn’t see most of them for more than 20 years….

Then, about 10 years ago, Ralph gave Carolyn my e-mail address….

She e-mailed me…

We reconnected…

And she gave me back the love I had lost for those college years…

She reminded me of the good times and I put the bad times in that old box instead and put it away as soon as I was back in touch with her…..

I finally moved on…

I came full circle to understand and embrace my past…

It took a Sweet Briar girl to put me back in touch with my W&L days and my W&L friends…..

My partner and I met Carolyn and her Sweet Briar roommate Tish in Paris in 2007.  It was probably appropriate that we began our reunion on foreign soil, neutral ground.  We met for the first leg of that trip in the Atlanta airport and saw each other for the first time since 1980.  We both cried and my heart and mind opened up to the past for the first time in years.  I was ready to finally embrace and explore the role the past had had in my present.  To seek out and  let those people back in….

Flash forward to June 2015.  The “last” reunion weekend before Sweet Briar closed for good.  I don’t recall how it all started, but right away the “boys” decided we had to be there.

Part of me was afraid we were interloping on something private for the women of Sweet Briar.  But that was not the case.  We gave them space for their reunions and we cautiously and tentatively had ours.  And, because of this Sweet Briar Weekend, I realized how much I had missed my W&L friends.  We realized were all a part of Sweet Briar and they were all a part of our W&L years.  It was bigger than just one weekend for a supposedly dying school.

And it was immediately clear, it was not a dying school.  I am so proud of these women who fought tooth and nail to keep their school alive.  And I realized how important to us it was that they succeed.  It was more than just Sweet Briar they were fighting for, it was for our collective pasts.  We were all  part of Sweet Briar because these fierce women were a part of our past, present and future.  They had influenced us in ways we might not have realized 35 years ago, but they had.

If we lost Sweet Briar, we lost part of who we were.  We all had an interest in Saving Sweet Briar because Sweet Briar such a part of our W&L experience.

We all came together at Sweet Briar.  Older, fatter, balder on the W&L side.  Amazingly, the Sweet Briar girls looked better than they had 35 years ago.  I think it was the Sweet Briar Dairy food in the 1980’s.  The Campus certainly did not look like a dying city.  There was nothing funeral about the atmosphere.  It was more like anger and determination to save the school from a errant Board.  It was a very well-dressed rebellion…

Our first night of the Sweet Briar Reunion Weekend, we had cocktails in my room at the Best Western Hotel.  We boys couldn’t get a good hotel because we only decided to stay 2 nights at the last minute.  Every hotel in Lynchburg was booked solid.  Of course, the Sweet Briar girls had planned better and thus had better accommodations.  But it was like our last Hotel Party the Natural Bridge Hotel at W&L, the night of Crescent Queen Ball in 1979.  The year before Carolyn was crowned Crescent Queen- translated Fraternity Sweet Heart- for Lambda Chi.

The next day, we went to a party at nearby Vineyard.  My urban partner always asks why it is my friends always feel the need to park in a field for a party.  We always have…from Zolmans’s Pavillion Grain parties in college on…..I think it makes us feel down more to earth or something.  Anyway,  it’s a Virginia thing….

And the amazing thing was we didn’t have to try at this party.  We all- W&L boys and Sweet Briar Girls of the 1980’s- picked right up where we left off.  We sat right down on the ground and ate our sandwiches and drank our wine.  And it was amazing to roam around and to see the Sweet Briar Alumnae from so many years and how they had changed.

It was no longer  the “virgin vault” as it was once referred to in our day.  It was a very diverse, smart, down to earth, group of Alumane women all inter-acting with a shared goal- to Save Sweet Briar.

As for our group, we were older, we had all been through changes.  Bad  and good marriages, bad relationships, troubled children, divorces, breakups, careers built and crashed, saying goodbye to dying  parents….but we were fundamentally the same. We clicked right back in to who we were in 1980 and easily merged that personality with who we are now.  Tentatively, perhaps at times, be we really had not changed that much….

There were a few uncomfortable moments, for me, realizing our politics had diverged….but ultimately it didn’t really matter.  Liberal or Conservative, gay or straight, we all shared a collective time and place and that was what mattered.  We had the bond of friendship that was forged at all those W&L and Sweet Briar weekends in the past.

That weekend finally and completely gave me back the love I had lost for those years….

And made me realize how much I loved these people who were part of my past- and hopefully my future.

And it all happened at Sweet Briar…

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A W&L and Sweet Briar Wedding

For those of you reading my latest Sweet Briar post, you might enjoy this one as well:

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Chapter 89: She Went to Sweet Briar

I’m  back to blogging sooner than I expected because I heard we are losing  Sweet Briar College….

It has taken me a week to digest this and I still can’t believe it.  We always think our colleges will outlast us.  Will be eternal.  And it’s a shock to lose one that meant to much to so many of us…

First of all, I did not go to Sweet Briar.  I am a man and therefore excluded from the Sweet Briar sorority.  But I did go to Washington and Lee University in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when it was still an all male school.  And Sweet Briar was a big part of my college experience.  I dated Sweet Briar Girls.  Sweet Briar Girls are some of the best friends I ever had….

Let me first of all say, I mean no disrespect calling them Sweet Briar “girls”.  I was a Washington and Lee University “boy”.  We didn’t think of ourselves as “men” or “women” in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.   But looking back, we were so much more mature than today’s college “men” and “women”, yet we knew we were just kids trying on sophistication like a new sweater.  And we really preferred to think of ourselves as “Ladies” and “Gentlemen.”

Let me take you back…

Washington and Lee University in the late 1970’s- early 1980’s was coasting a bit on its past and its reputation.  This was before W&L went co-ed in  the fall of 1986- a decision that probably led to its survival.

During my time at W&L, it saw itself as the Oxford or Cambridge of the American South.  It was based on tradition based on tradition based on tradition.  We were only a few years past the “Assimilation Committee” which taught young, Southern Gentlemen and wannabe’s from up North how to fit the “mold” and how to behave in polite society.  It was academically rigorous and socially staid.  The goal was to turn out proper, liberally educated Southern Gentlemen to “take their place” in society and the business world.

Most of us went there more than willing to be indoctrinated.  Our backgrounds led us there.  We were taught not to question the status quo.

I’ll never forget my shock my Freshman year when my Politics 101 professor started the first class by saying: “Gentlemen, you are all anachronisms.  Your day has passed, but you don’t yet know it. You are privileged, white men.  I want to  make you think outside what you were raised to think so you can survive in the new world coming.”

And this was at a school some of my friends back home called “a rich, bitch preppy Southern Boys School.”

Sweet Briar had even more challenges in perception.  Some people called it the “Virgin Vault” where rich families sent their daughters to be properly “finished” before they met their future husbands at W&L, UVA or, god forbid, Hampden-Sydney.

Both perceptions were wrong.

I met girls at Sweet Briar who were much smarter than their counter parts at W&L, UVA or that other boys school….

What we had in common was that we needed a small school where we could safely learn to question what we had been told not to question…

We needed to be at small, liberal arts colleges as opposed to big Universities so we could grow and thrive….

If you want to get a picture of how it was to be at W&L and Sweet Briar in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, watch the opening credits to “The Way We Were.”  In many ways, that was our journey.  We were Hubbel Gardners, Katie Marowsky’s, Debutantes, would-be writers, social butterflies, and fraternity boys learning to find ourselves and who we were in a changing world.

We were Protestants, Catholics, High Church Episcopalians and Jews who didn’t wear our religions on our sleeves or take them nearly as seriously as we did our wardrobes.  We were all, to varying degrees, intellectually curious and wanted to learn, but we also firmly believed our pursuit of an education should not get in the way of our exceedingly active social lives.

We danced the nights away at parties where the music was early 1960’s soul and balls where the Lester Lanin Orchestra played dance music from our parent’s generation.  There was an intense debate at my fraternity over whether  we should play Evelyn “Champagne” Kings hot new disco song “Shame.”

And there was a Motown song by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes , “The Love I Lost”, whose lyrics we swore included the words:  “She went to Sweet Briar.”  We were also masters at self delusion…

Even then, I think we knew we were caught in a bit of a time warp. We were the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation.  A bit of a Lost Generation ourselves as we didn’t yet have a defining moment.  We were children during Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement.  We didn’t know AIDS was coming.  We were at a loss to define ourselves individually and as a generation, but we didn’t worry about it too much.  We danced to the Tams singing “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy” and we tried to do so….

I was engrossed in my F. Scott Fitzgerald fantasies of the American aristocracy at that point in my life.  I had not yet reached my equally Fitzgeraldian disenchantment with the rich. Several of my friends from those days say I was like “The Great Gatsby”‘s Nick Caraway character of our time and place.  A financial aid student from a small town, who never felt like an outsider, but who saw things through a different lens.

We saw ourselves as the privileged “best and the brightest” and were yet uncomplicated by the realities of life in a multi-cultural world.  Some of us would later embrace the changes to come, be grateful to our past and what we had learned and move on.  Some of us would be lost in the myths they weren’t willing to challenge.  But we were still too young to know that then…

I’ll never forget the Friday afternoons at W&L.  None of us would ever dream of taking a class after 1:00 pm on a Friday.  My friends and I lived in an apartment building over stores on Washington St/Route 60.  Around 3:30 or 4:oo we would start having cocktails-bourbon and waters and bourbon and ginger.  Or just bourbon….

And we would wait…

Route 60 went from Amherst, Virginia over the mountains from Sweet Briar to W&L in Lexington.  It’s amazing we all survived the drunken commutes between dances, balls and fraternity parties.  Miraculously, luckily we did….

But on the average Friday, we would sit in the open, ancient windows of our apartments and drink and wait for the girls to arrive.  Very few of us had cars, so everyone car pooled back and forth over the mountains…

I’ll always remember one family who sent their daughters to Sweet Briar with then elderly Cadillac convertibles.  We would watch for them to come into town in a yellow ’68 caddy convertible and wave to them from the windows as they arrived in town and went to check into Mrs McCormick’s Guest House.  Sweet Briar girls were not “rack dates.”  They did not spend the weekends in the apartments of their dates-no matter how long they dated.  They understood propriety and keeping up appearances.  And it was frustrating and it was nice.  It was our life and we played by the rules.

But that caddy driving into town, packed with Sweet Briar girls is one of my fondest memories.  They were young, they were smart, they were beautiful and they were enchanting.  Each in their own way.

When I heard that Sweet Briar is probably closing, I couldn’t help but think back to those Friday afternoons and the breath of fresh air and excitement those young women brought to us in our all male world at W&L.

We didn’t think the fact that Sweet Briar was giving women a chance to excel at the sciences when women were discouraged from doing so.  We didn’t think then that they had a week of freedom from competing with men and the social expectations of the time. We didn’t think about them having a special, non-competitive, social arena to bond and grow as women.  We didn’t think they had a special time and place to find themselves as women just as we had a special time and place to find ourselves as men.

I think of those girls, women today, when I hear Sweet Briar is closing.  I can already see they have many different perspectives and different thoughts on what the proposed closing means.  I also see us all looking back to those years we shared…

I think of Carolyn, Tish, Sandy, Rachel, Charlotte, Julia, Anne, Katie, Myth, Lollie and so many other Sweet Briar girls who crossed my path.  Some who became life-long friends.  Some who are magical shadows in my past….

And I hate to think other young women won’t have the chance to know and learn from them and be inspired  by them as fellow Sweet Briar alums.

Sweet Briar should survive.  Maybe not as what it was, but as what it could be in the 21st Century.  I hate to think there is not a place in the world today for Sweet Briar and those special Sweet Briar girls…

There are still W&L and other Southern men-and women- who need to meet them…

We still need women who can both wear pearls and kick ass…

Women who can make a point subtly when needed and not so subtly when necessary….

And a place that gives them the environment to learn and grow and to have the courage become women who can take on the privileged men in a changing, modern world….

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Chapter 88: You Can’t Go Home Again

This is going to be somewhat of a valedictory post. A summation of the past and a look to the future.  And like most valedictory addresses, it will probably be too long…

This blog has served me well during a difficult chapter of my life. I started this blog when my Mother was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and I had a certain distance from the past. The humor and detachment came easily to me. I had not been “home” for a very long time for more than the obligatory few hours at Christmastime. I had the distance that is necessary for perspective.

That all unexpectedly changed over the last two or three years. I had to go home again. The humor became more difficult to find and the past seemed much closer than it had for years…

When I look back on this blog, I can see a journey. Socrates once stated, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, based on this theory, mine is definitely worth living because I have examined the hell out of it for the last few years on this blog. It wasn’t always pretty and I cringe at some of it, but it was honest.

It was truly how I saw things at a certain time and place.

Looking back on this blog, I can see the struggle to deal with reconciling people and places with how I remember them and how others do. I lost a few friends along the way and made some people very mad. I can see the evidence of depression during some phases of the journey.  But I am grateful that I made a few people laugh….

And I would not change one damn thing.

This was my journey “home”.   A journey home to a difficult family and a difficult place. A journey to and through a difficult time.

And I learned an important fact. It may be a cliche, but “You can’t go home again.”

There are a lot of reasons for this. I think the main one is that, at least for me, home is a changeable concept. It’s not the place I was born, the town I grew up in or where I came from.

It is where I am now- with my partner, my love and my family of choice. It’s a house in Sunset Hills in Greensboro, NC.  A  place in my soul where I live in comfort and safety. I am more than ever aware that the “home” place may change over time. For now, it is that house in Sunset Hills in Greensboro, NC where we live a very happy life. I like to think it always will be that, but who knows? Someday it may be somewhere else, but the constant thing that makes it a home is being with someone you love. Feeling loved and feeling safe.

Based on that theory, it should have been easy to do home to Danville. I still have family and friends there that I love. But it isn’t “home” and hasn’t been for a very long time. When I was forced to deal with my hometown on a regular basis, it was not a good experience. It depressed me in ways those who still live there will never understand….

It also challenged my identity.  I’m a pretty free and easy, openly Gay man in Greensboro.  Going back to Danville, I was immediately reminded of a time and place where this was not the case.  I remembered the closeted, fearful young Gay boy I once was and was challenged to reconcile the two….

I was older now.  Heavier, but more self assured.  I’ve been to London, Paris, South Africa and all over the U.S.  Going “home” to Danville was the strangest journey…

Sometimes, you have to be away, have a certain distance to have a different view from those who live in a place day by day in your old hometown.   It surprised me how hard it was when you come back to your past and realize others see it as their present….

And memories can be colored by time so that things may not be exactly as we remember them…

Going home…

First of all, it’s always difficult to have change forced upon you. I was forced to go home. I didn’t want to do it. I knew I was treading on dangerous ground. But my Mother had come home to die.

It’s difficult to deal with going home when you know it’s to deal with the death of a parent. It changes the perspective and makes everything much more real. It intensifies the feelings.  It makes you see things and doubt things you would never have imagined doubting or questioned your perspective of otherwise.

It makes you look back….

And it makes you deal with the present in surprising ways….

And I was immediately struck by how different it all was from how I remembered it….

The town I grew up in had an economy based on tobacco and textiles. Both industries are as gone with the wind as the Civil War. And with the loss of these industries, the town seemed to have lost its identity. It was no longer “The World’s Best Tobacco Market” or “The Home of Dan River Mills.” These industries had been the foundation of a thriving middle class. That was all gone too….

I was struck by how a pretty little town had become ugly and bare. They were tearing down the mills and selling the hundred year old bricks and old growth wood  flooring to “reclamation” companies for use in new construction by rich people.  They were throwing up corrugated steel and aluminum buildings in the place of historic structures.

I hate to say it, but there was an obvious leadership vacuum.  Everyone younger and educated got out as fast as they could.  This did not leave much of a leadership class….

I was struck by the acceptance of casual racism as it seemed everyone who still lived there seemed to need to blame someone else for their troubles.  They saw everything as Obama’s fault or the fault of giving too much to “them” so they didn’t have to work.  Even though there were no jobs….

I was struck by the loss of thriving local restaurants and businesses and the domination of chain restaurants and stores that obscured what was left of the uniqueness of the town….

I was stuck by how much it had changed and it pained me…

I didn’t recognize the place I was born…

And I was struck by the overall hopelessness of the remaining people and their need to justify why they were still there. Like there was a judgement awaiting them for staying.  They closed ranks and hung to each other like the steerage passengers on the Titanic who didn’t get a place in the lifeboats and didn’t quite know why.  They defended their choices because they had to to survive and live with their choices….

I was struck by the coarseness….The hardness.

And I was stuck by the kindness, graciousness and gentility of some old friends and members of the Old Guard. Mainly older members of the community who made me still feel at home with their acceptance and graciousness that made me proud to still be a Virginian by birth.

And I was struck by having to deal with my family again.

My family, as it remains, is small. It was once much larger, but we lost so many families members in the 1980’s that I once joked we paid for wing on Townes Funeral Home.

I had to deal with my sister….

I’ll be honest, as I see it,  we had never bonded while we were growing up. I am four years older, which makes a difference when you are young and through High School. I was at college before she came to my High School. And High School is very important in small Southern towns.

The Friday Night Lights burned bright over Christopher Stadium at George Washington High School for the Football games that are a rite of passage in the South.  But I was already a “boy in the band” ghost, away at Washington and Lee University, when my sister entered the spotlight in her sequined majorette uniform.

It was always her town more than mine…..I knew even then I truly belonged somewhere else….

And  we never bonded at home. It was a house too filled with fights, thwarted dreams and frustrations that had to be kept from the neighbors at all costs. It was a house where my Father’s temper was a land mine to be carefully avoided or manipulated to one’s own advantage. It was a house where we were all passengers on an American Titanic fighting for our own places in the First Class lifeboats. And it was also the “Mad Men” era facing the changing times.  We all just tried to survive as best we could.  There wasn’t time to make friends.  It makes me think Familial Darwinism is a new concept that is worth studying….

Then, we had spent 25 years only seeing each other at Christmas for a few hours, then going back to our own lives. Twenty-Five years of shallow conversations and hidden truths.  Twenty Five years of avoiding old land mines left over from previous wars.

You really can’t go home again.

And if you do, you have to play by their rules.  That was the hardest part for me.  I am still very rule and structure oriented.  I did not recognize the place I was forced back into…I knew my rules, but was hesitant to see if they still applied.  I feared I was too formal and old school Virginia….It was like landing in a foreign country without a Rough Guide.

I like to think we all have an imaginary soundtrack to our lives.  I try to make mine Cole Porter and the Gershwins as sung by Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.  My sister’s seems to be Journey, Bon Jovi, Boston and a touch of Loretta Lynn.  Not a compatible combination….

For functions, I believe in sterling silver forks and china plates.  My sister is disposable plastic and paper plates.

I love old things and tradition, she loves the here and now.

I believe in formal dining rooms and proper situational manners, she is great rooms and casual lifestyles.

I believe in formality and social rules. She is anything goes….

I won’t judge which of us is right.  At least not in public….At least not now…

And I’m not sure which of us is adopted…..

So, it was all bound to explode….

We managed to get through the my Mother’s prolonged death.  We were civil and kind to each other.  We practiced admirable degrees of give and take on both sides.  Much to my  regret, I even gave in on the funeral home choice- which is a whole different blog to follow.  We compromised.  We got through it.  I don’t think either of us was happy with how it all  went, but we got through it….

Then we had the fight from hell.  We got down and dirty and mean in the way that only families can. The scary thing to me is it seemed to energize her.  It exhausted me.

It made me want to go back to my real home and get away from that place I grew up in and the family I left there….

It made me want to put up walls and fill the moat….It made me want to lock myself in my castle and defend it against all comers.

That’s when I realized “you can’t go home again”…..

Funerals do seem to lead to drama.  People seem to get so emotionally tired from the process and trying to figure out what is  expected and what is the “right”thing to do, that they eventually crack and have to tell the truth.   It’s an escape valve.  And someone being dead is a great rationale to break confidences, let your hair down and all it as you see it.

Now,  what I hope to get back to doing is telling the truth as I see it…

From a respectful distance and with a revised perspective.

It may take some more time and some more distance, but I will be back…

I’ll get the time and distance to remember a truly Southern Gothic Life….

And tell it as I see it….


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2014 in Review

Here is the annual report on blog activity that I receive from WordPress,  the company that hosts my blog…

Many thanks for all your readership and support!

I’ll be back soon with new posts~


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Chapter 87: The Click

There is special state of mind called the “click.” It’s hard to describe it. It’s that brief, ephemeral moment you achieve when you have had just the right amount- not too much, not too little- to drink. The “click” is hard to maintain.  It’s a level of consciousness that makes life both understandable and comfortable. Stress is gone.  Clarity arrives.  Peace ensues…

Tennessee Williams, one of our greatest playwrights and one of our greatest drunks, created many memorial characters. Brick, in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” addresses the “click.”  It’s that moment he achieves when the demands of his desperate wife, Maggie, the expectations of his family and the uncomfortable feelings he may have had for his friend Skipper no longer matter. It’s a moment of peace. He drinks to find that peace in his complicated world and Maggie accuses him of devoting himself to the “occupation of drinking.”

Drinking, to me, isn’t an occupation;  it’s an occasional hobby.  I don’t understand desperate alcoholics who drink to obliterate the world, who drink to kill a part of themselves.  That’s not the “click” I’m seeking….

In a world where what was once normal and acceptable behavior is now held suspect by Health Nazis, that is a dangerous hobby to have…

It’s now too easy and way too politically correct to condemn those who prefer a few quiet moments with their friend Jack Daniels on the porch.  People now are entirely too anxious to judge and make themselves feel better by having an “intervention” and sending one off to rehab if a person has that one cocktail too many…

Drinking is now suspect….

I was raised around drinkers. My Father drank. His friends drank. My Aunt Goldie drank. Everyone I grew up with and admired drank. It was a part of our culture.  It was a part of celebrations of life, life itself and comfort when life became too complicated for the moment at hand.

Mind you, they didn’t drink to the point of danger or excess- at least not very often. They drank to find their “clicks.”

And they knew there was nothing wrong with a man or woman sitting on the porch, alone or with friends, having a cocktail or three to find the “click.” They may not have used that verbiage, but that was the goal.  The internal search for truth, peace or clarity that just the right amount of bourbon or scotch can bring….

I sometimes enjoy finding the “click”. That moment of relaxation where you aren’t contemplating the next problem, but are relaxing into your bourbon or scotch and finding that brief period of  peace in a too busy world in just that moment. That time you have a heightened sense of awareness of the clouds and the sky when you look up from your porch. Of the beauty of your yard and how the seasonal changes are impacting it. That time when problems cease to seem so problematic as you are finding a quieter place where you are at one with the world and no longer fighting it alone.  That time when you somehow find perspective…

Some people find this in yoga or through meditation. I enjoy those, too, but  there are still times when a downward facing dog just doesn’t compete with Dewars.

In a world where there is so much pretense and where image is so important, there is a relief in relaxing into a scotch-induced peace while sitting in a comfortable chair on a screened porch on an autumn, winter, spring or summer night…

My best friends and I, in both High School and College. bonded over beer or bourbon and that other now forbidden pleasure, cigarettes, during nights of long conversations.  In my twenties and thirties, we laughed over cocktails while both planning what to do next and enjoying the moment as it was….

Now, when I find that elusive “click” I often mentally drift back to those days and think of those times and those people.  Not with a sense of melancholy, but with a feeling of spiritual kinship that brings them forward with me to this day.  A feeling of oneness between younger selves, looking so anxiously to the future, and the comfort that now comes with experience and, yes, age.   Taking a moment to appreciate the rare pleasure of having survived this long and appreciating what I have learned along the way.  Feeling comfortable,  as opposed to feeling the fear and anxiousness of youth.  And thinking so fondly of the ones who have shared this journey with me….

There is a special peace in that kind of “click.”

I don’t feel guilty for my “click” as I remember my cliques…

I feel warmer and more comfortable with life- and know I will have to face it again tomorrow without the “click.”

But, the time with the “click” somehow gives me more strength and patience to do that…

I don’t want to ever give up those moments on the porch with the “click” and the peace it brings me from the present and the comforts it brings me from the past…

I will just be sure not to jump any high hurdles, like Brick, and seek to lose myself in the “click” too often or for too long…

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