Singing Songs About The Southland
Not here, though. I'm writing this from Hampton, Virginia, where as a child I was (along with my brother) perhaps the only dependent in the history of the United States Navy to attend the same school district for ten years straight. (Dad kept getting transferred from ship to ship, but all were docked at one of the 5,285 military bases within a 30-mile radius of my home.)
We drove down the Delmarva peninsula, because my traveling companion had a hankering to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I was a tad bemused by this; having grown up in an area where crossing a bridge-tunnel was a daily occurrence, I think it's cute to see someone who thinks it's a Big Deal. For those who don't know, the CBBT is a 17-mile-long bridge crossing the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, with two tunnels going beneath the seabed. I'd always thought the engineers built tunnels rather than drawbridges to prevent passing ships from snarling commuter traffic, but just read a few months ago that the actual rationale was so that, in the event of a war, the destruction of the bridges wouldn't make the sea lanes impassable to warships.
In the middle of the bridge you're so far out to sea you can't see any land at all. At least not today, though the humid haze might have had something to do with that. I'd forgotten how the humidity makes the sky here sometimes look more white than blue.
One downside of being a military kid: when you grow up and return to your hometown for a nostalgia fix, you find many of your childhood landmarks off-limits now that you're a civilian. But there were plenty of other landmarks to see, and had you eavesdropped in my car this afternoon you'd have heard a monologue like this:
"First Landing State Park! They changed the name; it used to be Seashore State Park. That's where I lost my sense of smell in a camping accident on Easter weekend when I was eight. Hey, the gun shop's still there! Hasn't even changed his sign. And here's my old elementary school. Still in a ghetto, I see. Damn, I forgot how trashy this area was."
"This probably isn't a good neighborhood to drive through with Connecticut plates," my T.C. pointed out.
"It wasn't too wise to drive through here with Virginia plates either," I said, but turned around and drove out anyway.
But some of it's been spiffed up. The tree-scattered vacant lot where I illicitly learned how to smoke is now a "planned community" of overpriced brick houses with Scottish street names. The scrawny saplings on the street where I grew up are now stately shade trees, though the houses underneath now look smaller than ever.
Tomorrow I'm going to a Waffle House for a biscuits-and-gravy breakfast. If restaurants up North would start carrying that, I'd never need to dip beneath the Mason-Dixon line again.