In many ways, I blame rock & roll for what happened. I discovered this unholy music in boyhood, when my Uncle Mike died an untimely death at age twenty-eight. My grandmother gave all his 8-tracks to me, music I’d never heard before: Rush, Bowie, Little Feat, Eat a Peach. The eighties pop dished out by FM radio was candied and glittering and great fun, sure, but this older music was dark and gas-powered, all fire and gravel.
“I didn’t do any research,” Luther Dickinson said with a grin as he opened the door to his room at the Washington Square Park Hotel. Dickinson was in New York for a show that evening at Rockwood Music Hall, and he had agreed to talk with me about a question I’d become obsessed with: Did blues slide guitar evolve from the Hawaiian steel guitar or from the African instrument usually claimed as its ancestor?
An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.
Our shared experiences as Latina women in the South and all that this entailed—our search for belonging in a society that was weary of new immigrants, the desire for sustainable change that would further the understanding between Latinos and Southerners, and the discovery that we were in fact able to catapult such change—sealed our kinship and guided our conversation.
Following John McPhee to Florida.
McPhee’s book about oranges in the age of concentrate production is not a screed against industrial food or agribusiness priorities. There’s no scolding chapter explaining which oranges to buy at the grocery store. For that matter, there’s no hand-holding “what will happen in this book” chapter or really even much in the way of plot or main character, aside from the regular presence of our reporter guide. In that way, it doesn’t much resemble the books published about food today.
A Southern Journey from the Summer 2017 issue.
The grass was up to my waist as I crouched down on the side of Interstate 20 a few miles outside of Van. Insects buzzed around my head, and I tried not to look for snakes or ticks. Instead, I alternated my gaze between the blue sky and the man and woman standing on the shoulder of the eastbound lane, my teammates. Darby held a sign that read simply, ATLANTA. Aaron’s sign was more elaborate; on the back, he pasted photographs that showed people sliding down waterfalls, which he’d use to explain the race when speaking with a driver. I was forty yards behind them, out of sight of the oncoming cars, guarding a pile of packs. It was 7:45 A.M. and traffic was sporadic. The 2016 Great Hitchhiking Race was underway, and we were hoping our first ride would take us well out of Texas.
Immigrants are active Southerners. They choose to live here, to raise families, to grow businesses. Despite unfavorable odds that may, in this new age of American isolation, temporarily thwart innovation, active Southerners are reinventing the region. In the process, as an already complicated region embraces new people, and cultural nuances accrete, much is gained. Especially for eaters.
A short story from the Summer 2017 issue.
It was said about the blind woman who ran the concession stand in the lobby of the county courthouse that she could tell by touch the difference between a one- and a five-dollar bill. Judges, lawyers, felons, and their long-suffering kin spoke of her so-called sixth sense. She was aware of the rumor, which she attributed to ignorance.
A story by Jesmyn Ward, the second of three excerpts from her forthcoming novel Sing, Unburied, Sing.
Because I wanted Michael’s mouth on me, because from the first moment I saw him walking across the grass to where I sat in the shadow of the school sign, he saw me. Saw past skin the color of unmilked coffee, eyes black, lips the color of plums, and saw me. Saw the walking wound I was, and came to be my balm.
Freshwater bivalves evolved by sending their larvae up rivers in the gills of spawning salmon. Now, like their ocean ancestors, they live out some of the most obscure lives on the planet, clasped in a darkness of their own creation, sometimes for up to a century or more. “Under a firmament of nacre,” wrote the French poet Francis Ponge about the oyster. A firmament, yes, because, like the sky, it is vast and ancient. Because, like the sky, you can get lost in it.