The great exchange

Greg Behrens

Redneck wedding

Even the weddings are different down here.

I fancy myself as a rather adventurous guy who's willing to try anything once; exotic foods, drugs, or even post-Arrested Development Will Arnett television vehicles, never mindful of the potential gastrointestinal malfunction, possible jail time, or unending disappointments held therein. But nevermore have I felt the true rush of the journeyman than by making a permanent move across the country. Anyone one who has ever taken a trip anywhere understands the feeling of being in a new place, and learning to adapt to that culture temporarily until it’s time to get back to the comforts of home and daily routine. Immersing yourself in a new place for the long haul however, leaves no stone unturned as you uncover all that which was not presented in those travel brochures.

In the United States it is very well known that there are outstanding regional differences from coast to coast that have even gone so far as to stir up violent hip-hop wars. To quote Biggie from, in my opinion, the far more interesting east coast rap scene. “if you don’t know, now you know.” But there is no more difficult transition within our borders than a jaunt across the Mason-Dixon line. In 2001 I moved from a Buffalo, NY suburb to the deep south, eventually landing in a far more rural town than my birthplace about 30 miles outside of Atlanta, GA. The ATL, in and of itself, is probably the grandest metropolitan sprawl in the southeast, but once I set foot outside the massive melting pot of the city, I found this world was a very different place for this Yankee. (That’s what they call us.)

Even after 12 years there are many things that I have not grown accustomed to; first and foremost, the food. I come from a wonderfully delectable place, abundant with wings (they are just called wings there by the way, much like in China, where Chinese food is just called food), real Italian submarine sandwiches, and of course everyone’s favorite poor man’s delicacy, the pizza. Now don’t get me wrong, there are in fact many “pizza” shops in the south, but with so many fantastic mom n’ pop operations around my original stomping grounds, no self-respecting Buffalonian would willingly eat pizza from a place that has a commercial produced on a budget higher than a minimum wage worker’s weekly salary. It’s not all bad of course, what the south lacks in greasy Italian deliciousness, they make up for with BBQ like I had never experienced before, fried chicken for breakfast, and authentic Mexican food. Just beware of the shock to your system, I learned the hard way how many times you can eat that stuff in a week before you’re running for the border, if you get my drift. (The answer is six by the way. I know because I double checked. It’s so good.)

While Montezuma’s revenge might seem frightening, it’s easily avoidable and far removed from the most precarious dangers of the deep south. There is some shit here that will kill you, and that is no joke. I have never been what you would call a “city kid.” In my youth you would be hard pressed to get me out of the lake before sundown on a beautiful summer swimming day. Very often I awoke at the crack of dawn to hike through the woods to some hidden stream, just to cast a line or two into the water with my buddies, rarely ever catching much more than a buzz. Great times were had because there was never the fear of some demon of nature leaping out at you from it’s hidey hole at a moment’s notice. We would’ve had to drive at least two hours to see a bear that wasn’t in a cage. Now I live in a place where there is a coyote behind my office that eats the neighborhood cats. Georgia alone has three types of poisonous spiders, seven kinds of venomous snakes, coyotes, cougars, bears, and rednecks. Danger is everywhere, and I for one, avoid it like the plague, so needless to say, I haven’t been fishing in thirteen years and now we keep the cats inside. (There’s less of them, but they're safe now.)

Again, while all these things may seem scary, they are easily avoidable with a little caution and forethought. Which leads me to probably the most interesting aspect of the deep south: the racism. Oh well, it seems that’s all the time I have. Maybe we can touch on this some other day. (Probably not.)

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