The Corner

Derb Does Dixie, Again

A dispatch, written last night:

Orange Beach, AL: Sept. 29, 7:30pm—-That sound you hear in the background

is waves breaking on the beach. Let me explain.

From Montgomery yesterday I decided to drive down to Georgiana to see Hank

Williams’s childhood home. Well, I did that, and it was lovely. Georgiana is a

pretty, sleepy little place, populated by friendly, slow-moving people who

all have that exquisite courtesy that you only find in the country South. I

“heard that lonesome whistle blow” right where the infant Hank must have heard

it–the house is only 50 yards from the railroad track, which is still in use,

and the trains whistle up as they come into Georgiana. The curator, Margaret

Gaston, is a spirited Alabama lady from the same kind of background as Hank,

and only (if she won’t mind me saying so) a few years younger. She never knew

him, but she saw him perform at the Grand Ole Opry in 1951, and says what

everyone else says that saw him perform: he was mesmerizing. “That was what he

truly loved to do–to give himself to an audience like that.”

Well, then I got a fit of the Bilbo Bagginses–you know, “the road goes ever

on…” I figured that having come that far down I65, I may as well make a run

for the gulf coast, take a look at the “Redneck Riviera” I’ve heard so much

about, and hope to get back to Montgomery in time for my noon date tomorrow.

(I’m addressing a chapter of the Federalist Society.)

So I drove right down to Mobile, spent a happy couple of hours at the USS

Alabama park, which also has the USS Drum (a submarine) and a fine display of

military aircraft, then turned along I10 and down 59 to the Redneck Riviera.

Off season you can walk in to motels and get a room overlooking the beach for

$30 extra on the room rate. (It is SO expensable, Kathryn! I’m writing

about it, aren’t I? And you’re publishing it, aren’t you? Oh, come on….) So

here I am, sitting on my private balcony at the Orange Beach Days Inn, with the

surf crashing a few yards away. I watched the sun set behind the condos

along the beach, the sky (it’s been a cloudless day) all blazing orange and gold,

fading alomg the southern horizon to pinks and mauves, then to purple in the

east over Pensacola. When the sun had gone I went and got myself a take-out

order of Kung Pao shrimp with fried rice, and I’m sitting here eating Chinese

food from boxes, listening to the surf and watching the crescent moon shining

down over the Gulf of Mexico. Ah, the South! Moonlight and Magnolias!

[Now, as Basil Fawlty would say, comes the hard bit: I have to call Rosie,

who believes that I am performing backbreaking toil on behalf of the

Conservative Movement in some snake-infested swamp somewhere. How am I going to explain

the background surf noises? “Yeah, honey, the hotel has a real serious

plumbing problem…”]

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