The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

June 10, 2016

The Southern Concept of “Fixing to,” and What I am Fixing to Do Tomorrow Night

Southern supermodel and ex-wife to Mick Jagger Jerry Hall told reporters about her looks, “My momma always used to say, ‘honey, there are no ugly women, only lazy ones.'”

Jerry Hall

“Momma always said there are no ugly women, only lazy ones.” — Southern model Jerry Hall

Southern women are not lazy; after all, look how carefully groomed they usually are!  No Sarah Lawrence College bohemian tousled bobs on their heads — Southern hair is always intentional. Neither are Southern men lazy, though they are less carefully groomed on the whole than their sisters and wives.  However one might say all those well-groomed Southerners are in much less of a hurry than Yankees tend to be.

When I moved from Brooklyn down South, the hardest thing for me to absorb was the Southern concept of timing.  I itched for the whole first year down here for a New York minute, and honey, while there are no ugly minutes down South, there are plenty of lazy ones.  That New York minute never came; it wasn’t even unimaginably delayed coming on the Northbound F Train because of extensive trackwork; it never existed and never would. I mourned the New York minute the way I mourned the chopped liver bagel from the Second Avenue Deli.  Both New York phenomena are hard to explain to outsiders as charming.  You have to take a bite of one to know how good they are.  I am at an Irish wake in permanence for the New York minute.  As anyone who has attended an Irish wake can tell you, such events involve tears, off-color tales, prayer, and a little bit of whiskey while nobody else is looking.  New York minute, we hardly knew ye, at least down South.

resting Southern men

These men are fixing to get up and go back to work.

Instead, down South, we don’t bound out of seats to do things as much as we are “fixing to” do things. For those uninitiated to that grammatical structure, “fixing to” do something means one really may get around to it eventually.  If one is “fixing to” pick up his friend at Memphis International Airport, for instance, that means one is watching the last five minutes of an episode of Designing Women on DVR, wondering if the shirt one is wearing has a stain on it requiring a change of clothing, and looking under the coffee table for one’s other flip-flop.  Maybe in fifteen minutes, the one who was fixing to go to the airport will have fixed himself, applied a little designer impostor cologne under the armpits of the shirt with the stain on it, which one has decided to wear despite the small splotch of barbecue sauce, found the flip-flops, and sauntered over to the car to open the driver-side door.

To their credit, Southern cardiac surgeons are usually never “fixing to” perform a balloon angioplasty; they operate as emergency requires with a brisker pace. But the cardiologist usually nods understandingly when the patient says he is “fixing to” start an exercise regimen, no riot act read.  It’s just the way things eventually get done around here.

Anyway, I am fixing to do something myself tomorrow. I am fixing to give a reading of new poetry as part of an important New Southern literary event.

There is a marvelous avant garde literary journal called Salt down South; they are as experimental as anything coming out of literary Brooklyn in recent memory.  They are so avant garde they have rejected old paradigms and rebooted themselves.  They are now Salted 2.0, and they have published a work of fiction I wrote about Irish-American identity and cultural expectations within that community, to which I belong.  They have asked me to read at a literary reading, art show, and harmonica and steel guitar folk extravaganza tomorrow night in Oxford, Mississippi.  The event is fixing  to go from six-ish to ten-ish tomorrow evening at the Shelter on Van Buren, directly adjacent to Oxford Square and across the street from Off Square Books.  There will be beverages and snacks for sale.  There will be bonhomie.  There will be me reading poetry commemorating the smashed glass ceiling of Tuesday night, another Irish  wake with off-color tales of the highest literary caliber.  The editors of this journal are not just good editors; they throw a wonderful Southern beaux-arts party (or bozart party, as H. L. Mencken would have it). Prepare to feel happier and hipper leaving than when you arrive.

This is also the launch party of the rebooted avant garde journal. The honour of your presence is respectfully requested.  Again, that’s Saturday, June 11, 6-10 pm, at The Shelter on Van Buren, 1221 Van Buren, Oxford, Mississippi.  I sincerely hope you are fixing to attend.

March 6, 2010

Pockets of fabulousness

My new friend

When I moved to Mississippi, I was determined to be a good immigrant.  I did not intend to complain about the total lack of skyscrapers in Vicksburg, the abominable dearth of good chopped liver bagel sandwiches, the lack of fashion week, or any other thing that is properly associated with New York City.  After all, it would be foolish to lament the lack of amazing grits in Brooklyn, wouldn’t it?  When one emigrates, one embraces the new culture.  That’s just what one does, that is, if one is fabulous.

However, I admit that I have missed certain things.  There is no place to lounge.  Setting a spell, as one says here, is quite possible, even inevitable, but lounging?  That’s just not imagined, not with Buddha Bar CDs playing and tapas, anyway.

There are very few speakers of foreign languages. Many tongue-talking Christians live here, but most people, even in my doctoral program, are astonished at my fluent French and conversant Italian.  I am convinced that at Columbia University, those skills would be standard issue at the doctoral level in literature.

I miss the air kiss.  I miss women who care too much, way too much, about shoes.

I miss the brawling attitudes of New Yorkers, so much so that I (God forgive me) decided to go New York on some teenager who gave me attitude and bad service at a McDonald’s one day last week.  She was giving very bad customer service, it was true, and I did not curse at her, but I sure went Brooklyn on her.  Honestly, I think if the incident had ended in a fist fight, I would have found it refreshing, a sorbet to clear the palate.

However, I have met several very interesting people in the last several weeks.  And they are, despite the total lack  of lounging, the  kind of people I would totally take to the Meat Packing District lounge for elderberry herbal seltzers and dirty martinis.

First, there’s Zonzie (see her photo above, already posted on the Net, since she won a competition last year).  She is a Christian college professor at the college where I teach, and she’s a health educator, as well as the picture of health.  Back in the day, she used to model with the supermodels, and now she competes in the figure competition of body building. She is funny, smart, well-traveled, and  all-around good company.  My only objection to Zonzie is that she has ambitions for my health – -she wants to take me  to the gym.  This intimidates me more than I can say, but because it’s Zonzie, and she’s so cool, I’ll probably go.  She’s just too fabulous to ignore.

Then, there’s Brian, this unusual 23 year-old I met at the cafeteria of my University for my PhD program.  He’s getting a degree in International Relations, and he intends some day to be governor of the State of  Mississippi.  As an out-of-the-closet bisexual African-American man, this will be an impressive feat when he accomplishes it.  He has already started a not-for-profit in the state capitol, Jackson, to end corporal punishment for schools –which, I have learned from him, is still legal, still practiced, chiefly on young black men, and still as offensive as it sounds.  Is it any wonder, Brian muses, that the illiteracy rate is the highest in Mississippi of any state in the Union while this practice continues?  Brian is recruiting me, and I’m joining the movement.  He’s the first person I have ever met who truly reminds me of myself when I was 23.  He’s not the kind of bisexual man who would use the word “fabulous,” but that doesn’t hide his fabulousness from me.

Last but not least is Sirobe, whom I met only yesterday at lunch — she’s the daughter of one of my husband’s colleagues, and when I came to sit down, she — much to my metropolitan delight — air kissed me on both cheeks.  She just got back a few months ago from Milan, where she got a Master’s degree in architecture.  We spoke in our conversant Italian together for a little while, not quite enough to be rude, but almost enough.  She was wearing a black sequinned tank top with a tasteful black angora shrug.  She was fabulous, or as they say in Milan, favolosa.

For my next trick, I need to get all these  people together to set a spell somewhere, bring some interesting beverages and hors d’oeuvres.   I’ll pop my i-pod with Buddha Bar CD tracks into a speaker system, and while it won’t quite be a lounge, perhaps with enough of  us, we can create a pressure system that changes the climate.  Forecast for the Vicksburg area:  Sunny, cool, followed by fresh air with pockets of fabulousness throughout the evening.

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