Sunday, August 23, 2009

8-23-09: A Week in the Christian South

I'm writing this in the Wilmington, North Carolina airport (by gate 5 to be exact), about 15 minutes from boarding my flight to Philadelphia, then on to Hartford, after spending about eight days down here visiting my family.

This isn't the first time I've been down here. Hardly. I've been coming down semi-regularly since I was 16 (I was down here exactly eight years ago), but will be down visiting my parents a few times a year from now on. I've had time to experience the southern charm of southern North Carolina, in the middle of the famed "Bible Belt."

Being a Catholic originally from Massachusetts, the Christian South is rather foreign to me. I've visited other countries, ranging from England to Thailand, and have had different experiences getting accustomed to those cultures. Strangely enough, visiting the South can sometimes feel like being in another country. Not so much nowadays it seems, since my parents live in an area populated with "ex pats" from New England, just like them. But there are still obviously the natives, who are interesting people.

They are overall quite nice. They're good Christian people, and are almost always smiling. They're mostly devoutly religious, which is fine by me, but can be a bit in your face about it. There are churches everywhere down here, of various denominations. No synagogues, though. There's even at church at the MALL in Wilmington. The mall! Their reasoning: "rent's cheaper." Strange.

But the sheer number of churches is a side issue. You see a lot of religious statements all over ("Jesus is Lord" is on many business signs), and people are seen praying over their morning coffee and muffins in local coffee shops. You just don't see that up north.

The food is another thing. It's really good. I had chicken-fried steak the other night on my birthday that was absolutely amazing. I'm really looking forward to trying that again. Great stuff. Their seafood is also out of this world down here. Everything is fresh; which is usually the case when you live right on the water.

Maybe it's the sunshine and heat, but I actually enjoyed my week-long stay in the friendly South. Sure, it can be a bit much for those unaccustomated (yes, I heard that word down here this week, spelled exactly that way), but I'd rather be assaulted with kindness than deal with constant hassles of some northerners. But I still miss the bullshit, so I'm flying back. North Carolina is for vacationers.

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