Usually June and July see us overseas with a lazy, late afternoon realization that it is the fourth. Shrug, nod in the general direction of where you think the United States are and then it’s back to a cold Hairouin and roti.
This month sees us landlocked and moving between coasts. Harboring an Iago like itch for trouble we move erratically down towards The Gulf. Fabric swatches and uncracked moleskines sit idle in the way back under a drift of sand pocked bags and rod cases. I suppose I’m in search of inspiration, some bbq, and at least the chance to throw a rod at some fish. But if you must know, and as the humidity peaks, there is a declining trajectory of ambition at hand.
We are in Alabama and interests are piqued by the Garden & Gun piece on the quail trail. Open fields come into view and the soil turns sandy. The once orderly rows of a pecan copse are blurred by the movement of chokebush and kudzu.
We make ourselves lost on idle clay roads and are reminded of how visceral and green the landscape is. It’s a Flannery O’connor story of lush growth, dark scents, and the scripted decreptitude of wonderful old houses. You could get lost here.
none of my material is green enough. Everything has me in the mood for eye searing chartreuse pins over a subtle Prince of Wales blue. Must send for swatches to meet me en route.
I have shirts (our 170’s really do travel well) but am tie-less. I borrow an Hermes that is probably older than me, blue with cornflowers bursting upwards towards the neck. This evening its to be a fete- of a friend of a friend. No movie theatres, no Starbucks, not even a bowling alley out by the highway anymore. A house party seems just about right as the day draws on and the g & t cools me. I rest my eyes and lean back in the glider as the dog lays in an orange wedge of afternoon sun.
The obvious abounds. Every cliche is in place and I can see why transplanted northerners, interior decorators, and Atlantans make their intermittent claims here before moving on to a place less challenging. Of course it’s the anniversary of “To Kill A Mockingbird”. As the Chattahoochee creeps through its dammed waters behind us I’m ready for someone to cue Atticus.
I am holding a Sazerac
and have already ditched the tie. I thank the skeletal, heavily perspiring older gentlemen tending bar and note the tie of his bow and the starch of his shirt. I have seen him off and on over the years at such get togethers and he always looks the part. I note that he still pours with a heavy hand.The afterthought of an air conditioner simply cannot keep up with the smash of bodies and a veranda door is opened. The sweet, sickly heaviness of gardenias fills the room and serves as a foil to the faint bitterness of bats somewhere in the eaves. I am told that the ballroom above our heads is collapsing and is off limits. I look in the off center gilded and fogged mirror. The leaded chandelier above seems suddenly menacing.
The crowd is a definition. There are knots of elderly people moving about a massive pecan refractory table piled with the usual Southern goods. Wavering hands clutch crystal high ball glasses against chipped Spode. The period clothing would make even the most jaded Williamsburg denizen envious.
Middle aged couples talk of the oil down on the Gulf as their children chase fireflies and are attacked by no see ums out by the roses. Coltish tanned girls from Oxford and Tuscaloosa are drawn together (as all Southern women are) by a good story. I see B.R. and he tells me of how they are renovating his uncles old place outside of Acapulco. Although saddened that it has been discovered
again he is looking forward to the seasons villa parties. A guy in his twenties hands me a glass of something local, then adds a friends bitters.
It tastes like spar varnish with an overtone of rosemary. I thank him and then field questions about Tony Howard. I think that someone must think we hung around short midwicket and deep fine leg together…
still no greens.
Tomorrow the road leads to the sea….