Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Settling in (1)

I rolled into town on June 30th and am still settling in.  Montgomery is a peculiar conurbation made up of interconnected suburban communities and strip malls.  Basically, two interstates run through the place, the I66 runs north to south and the I85 runs east to west.  The bulk of the city runs east of I65 and is divided more or less evenly above and below I85.  I live on the far east side of town, which has the feel of so many recently built communities that rode the wave of the last real estate bubble.  There are too many shopping centers and many housing developments look half cooked. I live approximately 14 miles from the base.  The good news is that there is little traffic here.  The locals complain but it does not seem at all bad to someone who has lived in Los Angeles and other big cities.  My door to door commute takes approximately 25 minutes.

I plan to start riding my bike to work 3-4 times per week the week after next, after my orientation is completed.  I’ve done a practice ride to and from work and it takes an hour and fifteen minutes, door to door.  This might be a stupid idea because Alabamians are not accustomed to cyclists.  Less charitably, they seem to believe that cyclists belong on the sidewalk, never mind the law.  Everyone thinks I’m crazy for considering a cycle commute, but I’ve scouted a route that just might work.  Really, it’s only one awful stretch from downtown to the base and a couple of other sketchy short bits.  Mostly I will be cruising through neighborhoods.  We’ll see if this works.  If it does not I will almost certainly search for a commuting car.

So far, quite apart from the chats with folks I bump into casually, the only Southerners I have interacted with are a couple of the administrative assistants at work and people of I have met on cycling rides.  I usually get mileage out of these two tropes: “To my people, you all are Northerners” and “I’m from the Deep Deep South.”   Southerners are friendly, engaging, polite, and laugh easily.  They are also garrulous.  One has to be careful chatting someone up — anywhere — because one might get stuck there smiling and nodding with somewhere to be.

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