South Meets South at Cafe Wha? in NYC
What has brought me here is the belief that there are stories out there that need to be told. Rich stories, of the South especially, that beg to be shared and recorded so we may not forget that we have a legacy rich in language and peculiarities - a dialect that is unique. Stories that are sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, and sometimes soothing as a summer rain, but always comforting and familiar to those of us who grew up here.
I was reminded of this a few weeks ago while on a trip to New York City. On my last night there, I was at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village, the one place I had been looking forward to going above all others. It was the first place Bob Dylan performed on the cold January night he first set foot in New York in 1961. I knew the Cafe Wha? Band would be superb. I had already listened to them on-line and made reservations for the first show. They delivered. Each member had a particular style and they covered everything from Blues to Reggae -- Soul to Rock.
During the first break, the wild-eyed, charismatic leader of the band happened to be sitting alone at a back table when I walked by, and I couldn't help but voice my enthusiasm.
He immediately asked, "Where's that accent from?"
"Mobile, Alabama!" I replied.
"I'm a Georgia boy!" he laughed. "Man, I love to hear somebody from home!"
And there it is. I hope my readers from the South will love to hear home in my work. I hope my readers that aren't from the South will appreciate a taste of what it is like to have grown up here. After all, don't we all read as part of the human desire to understand each other?
The first time I read Jack Kerouac's, On the Road, I had never even left the state of Alabama except to go to the Gulf Coast of Florida, but his work made me want to travel across the country. So at seventeen, I did. Who knows, maybe without his influence, I would have never seen the western states or had the experiences I have.
Maybe had I never read Allen Ginsberg or fell in love with Bob Dylan's music and poetry when I was fourteen, I would have never yearned to travel to New York one day and listened to the house band at the Cafe Wha? where a great musician and good ole Georgia boy got to hear a voice from home.
That is my goal -- to be a voice from home. It may be a quirky voice as some have said, but I hope you will listen and have a few laughs (or shed a few tears) along the way.
If there is one thing we Southerners have learned to do, it is to laugh and cry at the same time. Is there any other way to make it through?
June 20, 2012