I love living “in the South.” I have done since the day I landed in Nashville in June of 1982 with some other colleagues from the UK.
The warm air wrapped itself like a warm blanket around your shoulders. That warmth has shown itself in so many ways since then. Not just in the weather but the people, the food and the ambience of a slightly slower lifestyle than other parts of the country.
There’s a hands-on, person-to-person feel about living here.
While the pace has picked up remarkably in recent years, with phenomenal growth rates and expansion all around, there’s still a sense of being in a good place.
I suppose, to a large extent, it starts with the weather as we enjoy the full four seasons, but it’s only cold in January and February and swelteringly hot in July and August.
The other eight months afford us a generally mild and gentle atmosphere, disturbed occasionally by spring storms as the seasons shift. It’s rarely windy unless a front is blowing through or nature is pitching an occasional fit in one way or another.
I found the food attractive too – still do. I was 150 pounds and wore a 38-inch long suit in 1982 and almost had to run around in the shower just to get wet. Now I’m more like one of those hogs on its way to a pit for barbecue.
These days you can find Southern styles of barbecue all over the States and it’s even showing up back in London. At the same time, a great deal more culinary sophistication has found its way here. Nashville is now a hot spot for almost any food imaginable, with steak houses to rival anything in New York or Chicago and Asian joints to mirror Los Angeles.
Chicken tikka masala may not outdo grits yet but there are four Indian restaurants within a mile of my house. But a Southern style breakfast with all the fixins still takes a lot of beating. Even country hams from central Kentucky, Virginia and here in Tennessee are now being compared to some of Italy’s best prosciutto or Spain’s jamon iberico.
Vineyards have been sprouting up all over the place – and decent ones, at that. I had the chance to invest in one about 15 years ago and couldn’t as I’d just put money into a car sales and recon center. I sometimes rue that decision and could see myself quite handily as a winemaker.
But in the end it’s people that form a lasting impression on where you find yourself as comfortable, normally taking a lifetime to establish that sense of being. Here in the south it seems a bit easier, more open and outgoing; a warm welcome hovers everywhere, people say ‘hello’ in the street or give you a stubby hand wave from a truck window on a back road.
Folks are polite in the supermarket – staff as well as customers.
And then there’s the language. As one given to the admiration of linguistic dexterity, especially with similes, metaphors and puns, there’s no better place in America to listen to flowery exaggerations and comparisons and I’ve heard a ton; one dealer about another, “He’s lower’n a snake’s belly in a wagon rut!” or “He’s so crooked he could hide behind a corkscrew!”
The words themselves have to find new spellings for illumination; on that subject, laht bub for light bulb, hisn and hern for his and hers and words that run together for a complete sentence or question.
My first run into a gas station back in ’82 where they still had an attendant to pump the gas was greeted with, “Checkatorlfuryer”?
I love Southerners – bless their hearts!