Pieces of My Culture

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A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

“I get so frustrated when I talk to people and they say, I don’t have a culture. And it’s mostly white people who say it. And I say, that’s bull, of course you have a culture, where did you grow up? Who’d you talk to? What’d you do? What was your thing? What was your family’s thing? Where’d your family come from?” – – Rhiannon Giddens

I was born in Athens, Georgia, and thus by natural inheritance will always be a Bulldog. Not that I’m an over-the-top fan of any football, but it’s part of my culture. I grew up knowing what red and black were for. My parents met in Athens, where they were both living in the first government housing built in the town. My Dad lost his father when he was four, and Mom’s dad abandoned the family when she was a baby, so they were both raised by mothers who had to work hard all their lives. I never knew my dad’s mom, who died before I was born. But, my Mamaw Bryan was always a sweet, white-haired, lilac dressed Grandma who treated us to Coca-Cola in jeweled colored metal cups and cooked up wonderful fried chicken in her little apartment.

I’m sure being raised without fathers played a part in my mom always being home with us while Dad worked hard to provide. We never lacked for anything, but I have no doubt my parents were on a tight budget. Mom made some of my clothes and we ate a lot of beans, but I never worried about where my next meal was coming from. I learned to save what money I had to purchase what I wanted, like a ten-speed bike and my first stereo.

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We moved to Jacksonville, Florida, via Montgomery and Ft. Lauderdale, when I was six. I grew up there in the same house until I married. The Georgia Bulldog devotion stayed with our family, especially due to the Georgia-Florida game played each year in Jacksonville. My life revolved around school, church, and neighborhood. We saw Mamaw and our Georgia cousins once or twice a year. The extended family loved to visit us, partly because of our proximity to the ocean. We were less than 30 minutes from the beach and that was a huge part of my childhood and teen years. Flip-flops, body surfing, driving on the beach and listening to WAPE radio are all cherished memories that fashioned a part of me.

This was all background, though. It helped shape me, but there is much more to culture. There are also beliefs. When I was ten years old I came face to face with my sinful state and knew I needed a Savior. I went to my mom, who sat me down in the kitchen and gently answered my questions. I was soon after baptized and spent the next seven years or so with a group of friends, many of whom I’m still in touch. Our world was one of church picnics, choir trips, “rolling” each other’s homes with toilet paper and “dinner on the grounds”. I am forever grateful for those gentle times of growing up feeling safe and secure.

Jacksonville was a last-holdout to racial integration. This affected me in numerous ways. My parents would always claim not to be prejudiced, but they yanked me out of public school the year that desegregation was finally enforced. Yes, it was a tumultuous time and I would not have wanted to be bussed across town, but I actually was anyway, for a year, to a private school. By 10th grade I was back in my local high school, and had my first real encounter with a different race. I never told my parents that I actually made friends with some black students. In my house the “N” word was common; even my brothers and I called each other that when we were mad, much to my shame and regret.

Music is a big component of every culture. In elementary school we sang “Found a Peanut” and “Billy Boy” along with learning all the military branch songs; I still remember ““Over hill, over dale, we have hit the dusty trail, and the Caissons go rolling along.” I grew up on the Beatles, KC and the Sunshine Band, and “The Church in the Wildwood”. My first concerts were the Dooobie Brothers and Peter Frampton. I never learned to play a musical instrument, but from the time I got my first transistor radio music has been a part of my life.

I imagine it might take a whole book, and perhaps a quilt maker, to piece together all that is my culture. It’s southern, middle class, and pretty white. It’s sprinkled with ya’ll and yes ma’am and grits. Casseroles are the preface and postlude of every funeral; July 4th and New Year’s Eve bring reason to shoot off tons of fireworks; “Merry Christmas” still abounds as the go-to December greeting.

In reflecting on the elements that shaped me, I hope that I have passed down all the good parts of my culture, and let go of the parts that needed to be left behind.

 

(originally posted Dec. 2015)

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Monday Music #2

I have a playlist on Amazon that I call Sweet Homes. Not all the songs are about Alabama, though, because I’ve had other homes. Jacksonville, Florida is where I grew up, and I planned this post long before Irma was a household name. My heart breaks for friends and family with cleanup to face and losses to deal with.

 

 

Jacksonville

It wasn’t even in my plan
A week in the sun and some fun in the sand
I was really only passin’ through
It all began on Ocean Drive
Standin’ in line for a burger and fries
Coincidentally, so were you
We took a quiet corner booth

Didn’t plan on hangin’ out in Florida
Never was too good at standin’ still
Suddenly it’s lookin’ like I’m gonna
Kill a few more days in Jacksonville

I’m givin’ up my walkin’ shoes
While the wind and the waves wash away my blues
And you help me lose track of time
Rock and roll, you’re holdin’ me
Rockin’ in your arms by a rollin’ sea
It wasn’t easy makin’ up my mind
I can see forever in your eyes, your eyes

Didn’t plan on hangin’ out in Florida
Never was too good at standin’ still
Suddenly it’s lookin’ like I’m gonna
Kill a few more days in Jacksonville
Kill a few more days in Jacksonville

Songwriters: Pat Mclaughlin / Joshua Otis Turner
Jacksonville lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Ole Media Management Lp/

*originally posted @ Carry Me Home on 7/17/17

The video below  from the Weather Channel, where you can see “Winged Victory” surrounded by water from the St. Johns River.

 

 

 

 

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Cathy – Part One

Those friends from middle school are unique. They are the ones you grow up with and make memories with that last forever. I’ve drifted away from most of those, but about six years ago I reunited with Cathy and we became closer than ever. It’s like we fell right back into that kinship that all the years had not erased. We began to hang out now a few times a month – it might have been a concert, listening to an author speak, going to a class, poking through a bookstore, or whatever we could find to do. A few years ago we even went to several funerals together. In March I had to go to one alone. Hers.

I don’t even know where to begin to think about Cathy. She was the kind of person who made you feel she was truly interested in you and your well-being.

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

Cathy truly stuck close to me, like the sister I never had. I could talk to her about anything. I don’t think I’ll ever have another friend like her. I thank God for the time he gave us.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. – Psalm 116:15

In Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, Aunt Ellen was described as “…seeming exactly strong enough for what was needed for her life.”

This is so much like Cathy. She had a quiet strength that took her to the end with hope and grace. For the two years we corresponded via snail mail and texts, she never grumbled. Rarely would she  mention a hardship, but when she did it was more like she was just telling me about it, not complaining. She would talk about the future, the adventures we would have. When I went to home to Jacksonville  and took her out, she never let on how long it took her to get ready; how she had to wait for some of the drugs to get out of her system before she could function.

We would go out to eat and she would eat like a bird, then have the rest packed up to take home. But, we would sit at the restaurant for several hours just talking.

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“Books were there… when I found a friend who loved books as much as I did and we could read together or spend an afternoon running our fingers over the spines.” -Mandy Shunnarah, from I Don’t Do It For You: A Reader’s Manifesto via her blog, Off The Beaten Shelf

This was us – we could spend hours rambling around bookstores like Chamblin’s Uptown in downtown Jacksonville. I will always miss my book buddy.

Urban Dreamer

When I saw the prompts for PAD day seven was Urban _____, I thought right away of all my trips to downtown Jacksonville and Birmingham.

Urban Dreamer

Driving in from the suburbs
To the city
Where the homeless and the yuppies coexist
Though not quite rubbing shoulders

I stroll the streets
Sipping a latte
Browsing the bookstore
Admiring history and graffiti
Wishing to be a part of it all

Throwback Thursday – Friendship Fountain

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Anyone who lives in or has visited Jacksonville should recognize these  pictures of Friendship Fountain . The first picture is actually a postcard. I remember as a kid seeing the fountain at night with the multi-colored lights shining in the waters and thinking it was so cool. We would take relatives there when they visited, and years later I took my own kids. And, then even more years later I took my niece, and finally my grandson.

Here’s a little fountain history: It was designed by the same guy who designed the Hayden Burns Library, another staple of my childhood. When the fountain opened in 1965, which was the year we moved to Jacksonville, it was the world’s largest and tallest fountain. It was refurbished in 1985, completely renovated in 2011, and it is still drawing visitors today.

Terrific Tuesdays – 2

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For our second adventure we went to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. It’s free to get in every Tuesday from 4-9pm. It was an overcast, late afternoon when we arrived, so we headed straight for the gardens while it was still light as I wanted to take a few pictures. The gardens are along the St. Johns River, so that added to the chill. Even though it’s the dead of winter, here in Florida there are still some flowers that can bloom. The gardens are always lovely, with huge, stately oaks, manicured bushes, arbors, and interesting sculptures. There were a few groups of kids, middle schoolers and little kids, there learning about the gardens outside and the art inside.

The museum has some permanent works and some rotating exhibits. Some I really like, some I think border on the obscene (Ding Dong Daddy aka William Walmsley). I did enjoy Our Shared Past and Our Family:Photographs by Vardi Kahana

After visiting the gift store, we headed off to find supper, ending up at Derby in the Park in the 5 Points area. We shared the Fried Green Tomato appetizer, but I could have eaten them all; I think they were the best I’ve ever had. We each got a bowl of potato soup, then split a delicious sandwich, which came with Derby Fries. I took some of these home and had them for breakfast the next morning. (Cathy took home a fried green tomato, intended for breakfast, but her son got to it first).

 

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Terrific Tuesdays – 1

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As my days in Jacksonville seem to be numbered, my friend, Cathy, and I plan to do as many things together as we can before we go. I was going to call these Free Tuesdays, since we are trying to do things around town that are free, but since often there will be lunch or other purchases along the way, I decided on Terrific Tuesdays. Not too original, I know.

For our first adventure last week, we headed downtown with the goal of eating underground at Benny’s Sandwich Shop. We found a parking meter (yay) and had lots of change, so we were set. Entering though the Atlantic Building, former Atlantic Bank, we followed the signs down the stairs. I spotted an unmarked hallway, which we went down and discovered the old vault. So cool! There was also a large scrapbook there, with news clipping coming unglued, that dated back to about 1972. All the articles revolved around the Regency Square Mall. It seemed like an odd thing to find there, but we enjoyed browsing through it for awhile. Then we headed to Benny’s, where the service is friendly and the food good and inexpensive.

After lunch, we met a very gracious security guard. She directed us back down into the tunnel, after she pointed out the spot where we would pop up across the street. The tunnel felt more like a hallway as we passed several underground offices. Sure enough, we came up to the surface at the opposite corner.  I went back to feed the meter and then we headed to Chamblin’s Uptown Bookstore. On the way we decided to detour through the public library. We hit every level, taking pictures while in the courtyard on the second floor.

I keep a list of books to look for on my phone, but had no success finding any at Chamblin’s . I did, however, find a book by one of the authors on my list. It sounded so interesting that I bought it, to add the bazillion books at home that I haven’t read yet. Proof that I have an addiction to used bookstores.

It was perfect weather for our first Terrific Tuesday! Can’t wait for more!