Midnight Train Theory
By Sam Burnham
There's a theory about everything these days. Crop circles, cattle mutilations, aliens, overlapping plot lines in Disney animated films, even one that suggests that Ferris Bueller's Day off was nothing but a dream in one boy's mind and nothing more.
I don't usually subscribe to silly theories and such but there is one that I have in my own mind. There are two songs that are obviously connected in my mind. Oh, there are a few little edits involved to try to throw us off the trail - a few additions or omissions to make the conspiracy and maybe even some mystery to prolong the controversy while attempting to deny any connection at all. It makes for a typical Southern storytelling experience.
In 1968, just months after the death of our first storyteller, Otis Redding celebrated sitting on a dock on San Francisco Bay doing a whole bunch of nothing, something Southern men have a gift for doing. Give us a porch, a dock, a riverbank, or a place around the fire and we will put on a clinic in the art of accomplishing nary a single thing. Nil. Diddly-squat.
So that is what the subject of our first story is doing when we meet him. Nothing. He has his reasons. He explains some of the reasons but not in a lot of detail. We don't know what all led him to this lonely state. But we can always listen to the rest of the story
Because five years later, Gladys Knight and her Pips released the sequel. While a Southern man is capable of doing nothing better than anyone else, there is one thing that can catch his attention, and make him get up and accomplish more than anyone could ever imagine possible. That one thing is a good Southern woman.
So what happened, if you can see the whole story, is that our hero left Georgia, young and stars in his eyes, he hit L.A. with big dreams that crashed hard, drifted north to Frisco and reverted to his roots, just a Georgia boy taking in the sights and relaxing in an attempt to lick his wounds and regroup before deciding his next move.
That is where our heroine makes her entrance. I see the visual in my mind. Looking down the dock. Her graceful silhouette approaching the stack of crates supporting the reclined silhouette of our hero.
We aren't privy to the conversation. We're not sure exactly what she says or does, not specifically. It was likely something on the range between "sweetie, let's go home and have some beans and cornbread" and "get your sorry butt up off those crates and let's go home". Probably a bit of both as Southern men can be stubborn. But as the sun makes its way to a dark concealment somewhere beyond the Pacific horizon, our hero stands up on his own feet and starts strolling back towards town. Our heroine takes over the vocals for the second half of the story and our couple find themselves on that Midnight Train to Georgia.
Sure, there will be naysayers, but I won't be deterred. Our hero doesn't mention L.A.? How many of your failures do you sing about? She'd rather live in his world? They're going to live in his hometown. It's so obvious as to not even be humorous. The songs are inextricably connected and I cannot be deterred.
Now, I'm off to do a whole bunch of nothing, but I'm sure not going to be doing it in San Fran.
Under the weather
So it's wintertime. That's not much of a revelation except to what few readers we may have in the Southern hemisphere (and yes, there are a few of those). Georgia isn't really famous for our winters unless you count the adventures of Buford Calloway. You won't find much weather forecasting at ABG. It's just not our thing. Self-commiseration on the other hand...
We've passed one brush with Jack Frost on Wednesday and he seems to be preparing another swipe at us on Friday evening. Of course the forecast could change by then leaving us to bundle up against the threat of temperatures plummeting into the mid 40s and not rising much more above 60 in the warmest part of the day. But this is an El Nino year, a phenomenon that brings wacky weather to Georgia periodically and leaves us to wonder, with that little brat on the loose, just where could El Madre possibly be? Parents these days...
So now everyone is running around crazy, buying up all the milk and bread. And then there's the liquor store, which creates some social issues since the local Methodists recognize each other in the booze line but the more plentiful Baptists do not. But keep in mind that all of it, every last drop, is medicinal.
Preparations will continue until the evil flakes begin to gather on the pavement, at which time, no one in Georgia knows how to operate an automobile. But all the possible preparation, including making sure not one single loaf of bread, pack of hot dog buns, or even the last English muffin is available for purchase at any store, anywhere. Preparation is important as a snowstorm that starts on Friday evening could leave us stranded in our homes until at least lunchtime on Saturday.
So there it is. No time for more. I'm off to make preparations of my own. If you don't hear from me, I'm trapped and unable to escape...who am I fooling? If I get trapped, you'll probably hear from me.
This isn't about politics. One thing I want to try to make certain of is that, even in a contentious election year, I don't allow this site to be some shrill political blog. Because I want to offer much more substance than that.
But one of the trending instances from this week's Republican debate was Texas congressman Ted Cruz's comment about New York values. I noticed the topic has its own hashtag as noted above and the Twitterverse is all stirred up with both sides of the argument engaged in trying to portray their idea of what #NYValues are.
The fact is, there are different values in New York City. But that is nothing unique to Gotham. That is standard with any metropolitan area. I just posted a story about the vast differences between Atlanta values and the values that can be found only an hour or so down the road. The issue can be applied to Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, any metro area. This phenomenon is portrayed in the old fable The Country Mouse and the City Mouse two different individuals learn they are ill-equipped for life in the other's environment.
As the Industrial Revolution made large cities a reality in America, a divide began to grow. It's the same divide that led to the War Between the States in the mid-19th Century. When we say that slavery didn't cause the war, it's because there was a much more comprehensive cause in which slavery was embedded. The cause was the struggle between two distinct cultures that had developed in America between the urban and rural peoples. Each group had their own values and slavery and abolition were among those values.
The war determined political supremacy of the urban industrial model and large cities began to develop and the urban areas came to be subordinate to the cities. As the new social order evolved, cities began to establish their own form of morality. And we have seen over the years instance after instance of cities trying to push that morality on everyone (and yes, this is a two-way street). A perfect example is from my trip to Maine a little over a year ago. The people in the coastal cities like Portland were pushing new laws pertaining to hunting and trapping of black bears. I don't think there is a lot of hunting a trapping going on in the cities. One reason for this is the hunting and trapping programs permitted by the State of Maine and practiced by the sporting residents of the rural areas in that state keep bear populations at healthy levels and away from metropolitan areas. That's good for the bears, who are kept out of dangerous cities. It also prevents the mauling of unsuspecting, if well-meaning, people who have no experience with bears outside of Disney cartoons.
But back to New York. Let me stress that this article is far from an endorsement of Ted Cruz's candidacy. That's not the intent. It's also not an attempt to say that every single New Yorker fits the descriptor. But it is saying that New York is a city that projects an attitude - tough, busy, disinterested in your opinion of them, and important. It's home to Broadway shows, top-notch professional sports, and some of the most famous restaurants in the world. New York obviously has something to offer the world. But the outside world, where many of those Broadway singers, actors and musicians are raised, where many of those athletes call home, and where nearly 100% of those gourmet ingredients are raised and harvested, deserves some level of respect from New York. And it's worth noting that a billionaire who grew up buying and selling real estate by the city block might not have a clear understanding of the everyday life of someone in the rural South or, for that matter, the mountains of western Maine.
So when someone says that your values don't reflect ours, it might not mean that you are an infidel. It might just mean that you are different. It might mean that your life experience is incongruent with ours. Don't immediately take offense. It's going back to our mouse friends from earlier. We should try to understand that we are different and that there are good reasons we are different and not exactly prepared to change.
Values belong to the people. Politicians like to try to harness that to their advantage. We can let them do it or we can cultivate our values and pass them down to our children.
Regardless, my values aren't New York values and for that I am truly thankful.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire