I walked to Alabama

from Friday, March28th of the year2008.

Today, I walked to Alabama. I am staying just across the river, in Columbus Georgia. I guess I had understood this before I came, but I hadn’t fully internalized that I was going to stay in Carson McCullers’s childhood home. Pretty wild! I have this entire house to myself, and they have wireless internet, and I am watching the Food Network as I type. I am here ostensibly in residence at Columbus State University, for whom I have written a new percussion quintet, entitled I Shudder to Think.

Here are some of the players, starting the new piece:

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They are all really good and wholesome and friendly. I think part of that outgoingness is the south, and the other part is that their facilities are beyond deluxe. Huge hallways to roll marimbas down, soundproofed rooms…it’s very fancy. They are also playing an older piece of mine, Ta & Clap, for percussion quartet.

Here is a view of the riverfront from ALA-BAMA, where I totally walked today:

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I had a really intense encounter in the local bar just now. I was sitting alone at the bar next to a very outgoing girl. Our conversation literally went like this:

HER (sotto voce):Are you gay?
ME: Yes?
HER: I love you! That’s great.
ME: Hi!
HER: Don’t hit on my fiancé. He is really shy. Isn’t he handsome, though?
HIM: [looks bemused and watches basketball game]
ME: Don’t worry, I’m not gonna. [NB her fiancé is very handsome.]
HER: …but he’s handsome, right? Too bad I don’t get to sleep with him for three years.
HIM: [holds head in hands]
HER: I mean, RIGHT? Wouldn’t you hit this like right now?
ME: uhhh…I mean, not like, at the bar…
HER: Don’t flirt with my fiancé! Just kidding, I love you. Do you have MySpace?
ME: Yes!
HER: Add me! [scrawls name on thing]
ME: [adds her, sees that her heroes are Ann Coulter and Jesus Christ]
HER: Awesome! [Gives me a hi-five]. To Fiancé: “You know he’s gay?”
HIM: Cool.
HER: Right?
HIM: Yeah. {starts watching basketball game]
HER: so what do you do?

And so on and so forth, it was great. We totally exchanged numbers and I did not hit on her fiancé. We talked about Ann Coulter (whom I read religiously) and then, weirdly, the two of them went off to spend the rest of their evening with their lesbian friends? The whole thing was too surreal; I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up the victim of a hate crime or, like, in some Compromising Situation with this girl’s hapless fiancé! I suppose such is the fine line one walks when one leaves the confines of Chinatown. She and I are so hanging out when she comes to New York.

In all seriousness, I love traveling around in these situations, especially when it’s in a limited educational context, and by limited, I mean, very intense but only for a short period of time. I feel like I would be an excellent teacher for about ten days, and then I would become that crazy volatile one everybody feared; I don’t have the temperance and the patience to handle it for longer. Every time I do this, though, I am reminded of how genuinely rewarding it is to talk to students about something I’m passionate about.

In other news, I think this is the most genius thing to happen to language in a good while. Watch the ad. I can’t believe I was just talking about Ann Coulter and that I was in Alabama earlier today!

Carson McCullers’s bed is really comfortable.

5 Comments

  • I’m glad you’re enjoying your stay here. But I wouldn’t advise walking to Alabama again! I’m kind of surprised you didn’t get mugged and murdered. The bar incident is common here. Gays aren’t really hated anymore, we’re just sort of a sideshow that people get a little too excited about. It’s almost worse somehow.

    Anyhow, I’m really glad you’re here. Your discussion thingy was very insightful. 🙂

  • The best part of that surreal dialogue is “Yes?”

  • I was about to mention that, too. “Yes?” rather than “Yes.”or “Yes!” takes the whole thing to a different level.

  • “Yes?” is a more resounding answer. It reverberates. It’s like unoaked Riesling. Ages well and has lots of complexity.

  • Welcome to Alabama. I do feel I should counter Chris’ comment above and say that you should come again. It’s a peculiar and fascinating place that gets a bad rap which is only sometimes deserved.

    I really love Birmingham, which is an underrated city that has a lot to offer culturally [in both the ‘arts & culture’ (whatever that means) and historical senses]. You experience conversations like that a bit less in the ‘big city’ though introductions to people outside of my social circle do sometimes have a tendency to go: “This is Seth.” Beat. “He’s gay.”