Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Alabama - December 14, 1819

James got my day started this morning with Alabama-themed music from The Grateful Dead, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Five Blind Boys of Alabama.

Like so many other southern States, Alabama was one of my summer of 1997 "drive-thru" states. I was able to visit it again for a bit of a longer stay in 2000 after James, Paloma and I spent a month in Brazil. We had driven down to Miami to fly down to the Amazon, and when we returned took a 2-week drive back visiting friends along the way. At the time, our friend Bill-O lived in Birmingham. Although she was not yet three years old, Paloma still remembers the visit because Bill had two cats "one with a tail, and one without a tail" (when we visited Bill in Virginia this past summer he still had both cats).  While in Birmingham we visited the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, site of the bombing which killed four girls in in 1963. Spike Lee's movie 4 Little Girls tells their story.  Just across the street from the chuch we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Crazy in Alabama tells the story orphan Peter Joseph "Peejoe" Bullis during the summer of 1965. Peejoe and his brother, Wiley, go to live with their Uncle Dove, the "whites only" mortician, in Industry, Alabama. I wasn't quite sure if Industry was a real place, but did find this reference to it on the internet. I am not sure, though, how much of the civil rights struggle described in the novel actually happened. The novel aternates between chapters from tweleve-year old Peejoe's point of view, and that of his Aunt Lucille, who takes off to California in hopes of landing a spot on the Beverly Hillbillies after murdering her husband and abandoning her six children. Peejoe's chapters were told in the first person, while Lucille's were told from the third person point of view. They also were contrasted in tone. Lucille lives in a fantasy world in which, remarkably,  everything seems to go her way, while Peejoe is caught in the middle of a civil rights battle for an integrated swimming pool, and watches as his Uncle loses virtually all of his business when word gets out that he embalmed a black person.

One mention of a library in this book. Peejoe tells his Aunt Earlene "I'm going outside...Wiley brought me a book from the library."

I found out after I read the book that there is a movie based on it. I will add it to my Netflix list.

There were a few Alabama movies to choose from: Fried Green Tomatoes; Sweet Home Alabama; 4 Little Girls; Forrest Gump; The Miracle Worker; Norma Rae; The Long Walk Home, among others, but I revisited the classic film To Kill a Mockingbird. Gregory Peck stars as Attitcus Finch, an attorney who is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white girl. The story takes place in 1932 and is told through the eyes of Scout, Finch's six year old daughter. Even as we see Finch go well beyond his duty to defend Robinson, and to treat everyone with respect, racial dynamics are clear. Calpurnia, his black maid, stays in the kitchen while the family has supper, and only comes out when called upon to bring something to the table. The courtroom drama is wonderfully done, very suspenseful, even though I knew what would happen. Although I always think the book version of any story is better than the film, this movie comes pretty close to being as-good-as.

After Paloma, I think Scout may be the second best name for a girl I've ever heard.

I made a baked macaroni and cheese recipe that I prepared for the first time a few years ago from Fannie Flagg's Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook: Featuring : Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Barbecue, Banana Split Cake, and Many Other Great Recipes. The macaroni and cheese recipe has a lot of cheddar cheese, and a milk / egg mixture that gave the dish a nice texture. I also made this simple squash recipe which came from an Alabama food site. I selected it because I already had some yellow squash frozen from the summer, and because of its insistence on the use of a cast-iron skillet. Although it was not called for, I also baked the mac & cheese in a cast iron skillet. We have three of them (plus a cast iron griddle) you can never have too many.

1 comment:

  1. I remember that during our 1997 drive-through of the Gulf Coast, it was along the Alabama coast that we found a lot of new hotels being built, but none available, unless we were willing to drive down to the gambling-oriented tourist zone well south of I-10. I think we eventually got a room in Georgia, and I later learned that a cousin of mine and her husband were living there at the time -- doing hotel construction!