They say you can never go Home...

Soldiers of Sparta were allowed to return home after lost battles, only if carried dead upon their shields. I'm convinced this is a more practical and time-saving way to go about it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Panhandle

I have recently returned from a week-long business trip from the Panhandle, which included stops in Pensacola, Panama City, Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and many, many more. During the course of this trip, I have not only learned that Florida is divided into two time zones, but that Florida is one damned big state. Granted, one look at a map and a pass of the eye over Florida’s rather flaccid geography, and it might be tempting to write off this state as one without staying power. However, despite its perpetually-detumescent condition, Florida is a state of magisterial length and girth, I'm here to tell you.

Those who travel to the Panhandle on a regular basis have a special term of endowment--er, endearment--for this part of the state: L.A. This would not, in fact, have anything to due with Miami’s showy cousin-city on the West Coast, but everything to do with its proximity to other Confederate States, namely Alabama. Which explains the nickname, L.A, (Lower Alabama.)
During my guided tour of this area, I was treated to some of the incredible local vernacular, which I am determined to start incorporating into my regular speech patterns:

Aw’m wrapped up tightah than a fiddle string!

It’s slam empty!

Watch youself theh, aw made uh devil of uh mess!

That’s jes’ wottamelon talkin’!

I have also been treated to stories about an unfortunate folk in Alabama termed inbreeds--or IB’s for short. One fellow told me I could spot them by their “5 gallon” heads. (Despite my constantly roving eye, I was not lucky enough to spot one). Another told me a story about a particular IB who was born with his left eye positioned on the upper-left area of his forehead, which endowed him with an ability to see around corners. (For a split second, I wished I could be an IB. But that moment quickly passed, when I reminded myself that at least I can flip my eyelids over. And I’m double-jointed.)

And if I wasn’t already worried about not fitting in—having a complete lack of anteriorally-located eyeball, nor having any original story whatever about IB’s, coupled with the fact that I have no cool vernacular of my own, save the ever popular “stoked”, I was counseled to sound as little as a white-assed Yankee as I possibly could, because the locals wouldn’t take kindly to me otherwise. Greaaaat.
As a kid, I was routinely mistaken for my Mother when I picked up the phone. (I still carry the complex.) And, having lived in Southern California for a good portion of my childhood, I have been accused of talking through my nose, like a gayer version of Don Johnson. But moving to Massachusetts in the springtime of my adolescence did somewhat help my speech patters sound more testosterone charged. But now—apparently sounding like I’ve done time in New England is a deal breaker. What to do? Go back to talking through my nose? I spent a good portion of the day ruminating about how to sound more like a southerner, and wishing I spent more time listening to country music.

All of my worries were for naught however, because one solid day of being in the world of the panhandle, surrounded by some of the thickest accents I’ve heard south of Georgia, I was twanging with the best of them.

Heck, I was even telling my new friend J, who was my tourguide through the Panhandle, that he was “jes’ tawkin’ wottamellons” by the close of the day.