by Nicole Crews
Mother: Where did you go for Spring Break?
Me: I went on a road trip to DeBordieu, South Carolina with the girls.
Mother: I’d hardly call that group “girls.”
Me:“Well, we talked about boys, gave each other facials, gossiped, rode bikes, had petty arguments and started drinking around noon. What would you call us?
Mother: Rehab candidates.
When I was in college my boyfriend was a University of Virginia man who came from a prominent South Carolina family, so I guess you could say that I was his vale of humility between those two mountains of conceit. He obviously got out of Low Country Dodge as quickly as possible but why he chose the navy knee-sock and headband capital of Charlottesville, Va. for his collegiate endeavors is a whole nother question.
Mother: Well at least his Southern-ness is spread out a bit. You know the old joke about Richmond men.
Me: No, what’s that?
Mother: He went to THE school [Episcopal]. Then he went to THE college [UVA]. Then he got married in THE church [St. John’s]. And then he turned to THE bottle.
Perhaps the Pappagallo-wearing, Peroxide blondes of the Palmetto State had become tiresome — which would explain why he was interested in the dark exotica of my lineage. Maybe it was UVA itself and its Jeffersonian traditions that lured him northward. It could have been the geography itself — the undulating, intoxicating hills of the Albemarle County competing with the flatland, scrub pines and chokes of Spanish moss that spread like lies across his own homeland. Maybe it was just the tongue-wagging of the too-close-to-homers.
KD DeBordieu Roadtripper: You know who I’m talking about. She looks like Gertrude Stein in a size 20 Lily Pulitzer.
Tri-Delt Roadtripper: Doesn’t her family own a furniture company?
Me: Her family owns an office furniture company.
Whatever the reason, the division built a fascinating bridge over the Old North State for me to traverse whenever his family functions beckoned me south or university events drew me north.
The best part about the South Carolina adventures had nothing to do with country-club cotillions or the regular, ancestral high-fivings that took place amongst his clan.
The boyfriend’s Billy Carter uncle owned a juke-joint called the S&S, just down the road from the family’s decaying manse. That was where we would slide up to the bar, order two tall cans and proceed to wow the crowd with our honky take on the music that they had been drinking in for decades. It was real blues and R&B — not that fabricated beach music heard at the boat club with his parents. There was no “Carolina Girls” or “Sixty Minute Man” on the juke at the S&S — it was Bobby Blue Bland, the occasional Miles, Coltrane, sometimes Aretha.
S&S Bartender, pointing to me: White girl can dance.
Boyfriend: White girl think she can dance.
S&S Bartender: Thinking’s about half of it. ’Sides, I ain’t seen your khaki-wearing, no-ass out there.
Etta James was my personal favorite and I often belted “Stop the Wedding” en route to the many nuptials I was forced to attend via RV in the boonies of South Cackalack. The only thing I was partial to at these command performances was what was coming out of the kitchen. Not the kitchen that prepared the bland tomato aspic, trays of buttermints and miniature ham biscuits for the wedding guests —the food the servers prepared for themselves during these two- to three-day events. I guess I knew it was called “soul food,” but I always just thought of it as the tastebud equivalent of the music served up on the juke at the S&S.
Me, to DeBordieu Roadtrippers: Let’s do a low-country boil one night. We need to funk it up a bit.
KD Roadtripper: Let’s do filet with an iceberg wedge with bleu cheese another night. That should balance the funk.
Adventures in Charlottesville had their own appeal. I learned more about Thomas Jefferson than I’ve ever had use for. I kept hearing about some fellow student being FFV and for a long time I was pretty sure that meant a flavor of venereal disease particular to Virginia. Mostly, I learned that to be cavalier and to be a Cavalier are two distinct items. My boyfriend, in Virginia at least, was neither. He was a shrimp out of boiling water and became, I believe, a man on that hallowed, dry ground. So it turns out my mother was right, spreading your Southerness around a bit is a healthy thing. If you don’t believe me, just ask my fellow DeBordieu roadtrippers.