A Northern Teen Eats His First Delicious Meal In The South. He Gets A Slap In The Face For Dessert.

Poet Dave Harris talks about his move to Arkansas and points out some things the locals may not have noticed. Yet.

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Speaker: For the first 18 years of my life, I was convinced that I could make real sweet tea in Philadelphia. People from below the Mason-Dixon Line would tell me I was lying to myself. Nah. Give me a box of Lipton and a bag of sugar and I swear, I will brew you something magical. I was wrong. There are some things you just can't find in the North. 

This past summer my family moved down south. Carpet-bagged our apartment in West Philly and moved to El Dorado, Ark. Not "El Dor-AH-do" but "El Dor-AY-do." In the same sense that there is a Versailles, Ky., there is an El Dorado in Arkansas. 

Fact: there are only 18 thousand people in El Dorado, Ark. Fact: Participating in oral sex is considered to be a form of sodomy, which is also illegal in El Dorado, Ark. Fact: It is considered unlawful to keep your pet alligators in bathtubs. Naturally, I was unexcited about moving there. 

But the first meal I had in this town was at the Good Times Grille. The waitress, a Southern Belle with a smile bigger than history, eyes the color of every ocean that Arkansas would never touch, [ya'lls and how these cricket lagging] off of her tongue, she gave me my first glass of sweet tea, and it did not taste like Lipton and sugar. 

It tasted like God and juvenile diabetes. When the meal came, the string beans were a religious experience. The frog legs tasted just like chicken. One bite from the baked potato made me want to slap my momma, God damn. 

I want to call this place home. This flavor almost made me lose the aftertaste of history, the foundation upon which all of this was built. 

The first time I saw a confederate flag was as I exited the Good Times Grille, in front of a parking spot with a sign that read, "Redneck Parking Only". I don't want to call this place home. 

I do not sunburn. Do not expect my neck to tan the color or your intolerance, Arkansas. I think being landlocked has kept you from seeing the horizon. Every bird in the Arkansas sky reminds me of Jim Crow. The laws may have died but racism still flaps its wings here. It takes the form of, "I met a black guy the other day and he was so articulate." Misogyny lives on, since I don't think I could ever put a woman in the White House. 

These are the stereotypes I carry with me. I won't lie. I've always generalized the South. I was too surprised when no one here dropped an N-bomb when [an old] pitch-forked old man made the mistake of calling me "boy". I'm from the North so I can't help but see ghosts down here. 

There's a tree in my front lawn from which a rope tire swing hangs. I cannot sit there without questioning the circumstance in which I could have swung there 100 years ago. 

I shouldn't be this angry with geography. Most people here smile, say "please, yes, and thank you, ma'am." I'm living inside contradiction. But one of us needs to move forward from this Civil War. 

She gave me a glass of sweet tea. I asked her how she got it to taste so good. She said, "The secret is in the recipe. It's been in our family for generations."

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Original by Button Poetry. Like Dave on Facebook, 'cause he's great. You should also follow Dave on Twitter.

Apr 25, 2014

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