This time last year, a few of my best friends and I set off for a “Deep South Road Trip” with the idea that, in 10 days, we could pay some kind of homage to the mythologized landmarks we grew up hearing about. A compressed pilgrimage, if you will.
We drove to New Orleans and arrived just as Mardi Gras hangovers were beginning to set in. Our cheapest lodging option, a Pepto-Bismol-pink motel named “Mardi Gras RV Park and Motel,” turned out to be as seedy as it sounded. After this, we proceeded to get wildly lost looking for William Faulkner’s home in Oxford, Miss.
In Memphis, Tenn., we laid aside our vegetarian persuasions for barbecue, then cried in spite of ourselves at Graceland. On the way home, on a godforsaken stretch of highway, a car-full of UNC guys spotted our bumper sticker and asked us to dinner via the classic sign-in-the-window trick. You know who you are.
In 2012, we take great pains to avoid making sweeping geographic generalizations — unless, of course, we’re talking about the Southern leg of the United States. At UNC, introductions are often followed by a familiar disclaimer: “I’m from the South, but I’m not Southern.”
The implication is that Southern culture shares a monolithic identity — an identity to avoid.