Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #5

Thirteen Things about living in the South that a Northern Girl was not expecting, aka "The Mason-Dixon Learning Curve"

1. FIRE ANTS!! Saints preserve us, these things are diabolical! And they cannot be destroyed, so don't let anyone tell you that they have a fool-proof way to get rid of them, because it is a LIE. On my first day in Florida, with stars still in my eyes from my lovely wedding, I was brought back to reality by a burning and stinging sensation on my leg. I looked down and saw my entire foot and ankle covered in a seething reddish, brown mass. Ever see that episode of MacGyver where he is in South America and these heinous ants are taking over an entire town and killing people and MacGyver had to make his own rubber suit from indigenous trees (naturally) and set them on fire? No? I'm the only MacGyver freak out here? Well, anyway, that episode came rushing back as I stripped my sock and shoe off and just threw them away because there were so many, many ants. How I loathe them . . .

2. Anyone who's ever lived in PA, or tried to buy booze in PA, knows that we have state stores, meaning you cannot just pick up a bottle of wine (or a 40, whatever your pleasure) at your local grocery store and be on your merry way. Nope, you've got to haul it over to ye olde wine and spirits shoppe and lay your money down there. (It drives Rob insane.) Having grown up with this system, it took a little while for me to get used to walking past all the wine on my way to the milk. What took even more time to get used to was the "drive-thru" liquor store in Pensacola, where you didn't even have to leave the comfort of your car, and where, in the not too distant past, you could have even gotten a little sumpin'-sumpin' for the drive home. Because why save the libations for home, right? . . .

3. Boiled peanuts. Didn't even know you could boil peanuts, but you can, and if you have a kettle and a pickup truck with a bed to display your wares, you are in business, my friend.

4. Language in the South is so lyrical - poetic even- and they have a way of making things sound so much better than they really are. Like "palmetto bugs" -- doesn't sound so bad, right? It kind of reminds you of softly swaying palm trees, so that you don't mind the "bug" part that comes next. But guess what -- palmetto bugs are ROACHES, people! Ginormous roaches, with WINGS, that must be lassoed before you can vanquish them.

5. In a similar vein, Rob encountered new terminology for certain medical conditions. "The Blood" = High Blood Pressure, and "The Sugar" = Diabetes. I kind of like these names better, makes it sound less clinical.

6. You may have heard this before, but in the South, they. love. football. I'm not saying this is necessarily a Southern phenomenon, but I haven't experienced the same level of devotion up North (ok, there are a few people leaping to mind as I type this . . . ) While I might be a true fan of a particular team (We Are . . . Penn State!), it might not occur to me to trick out my minivan in team colors. We noticed the ferocity of football devotion more in Florida than in North Carolina, so to preserve myself from being accused of favoritism if I ever make it back to Florida for a visit, I'm covering all my bases: Go Gators! Go 'Noles! Roll Tide! (for all you U of A folks living in the panhandle)

7. Growing up, we always went "down the shore" in the summer -- which for us was Sea Isle City, NJ. I have beautiful, glowing memories of that town and that beach, and I spent many happy hours in the Atlantic surf. Then I moved to the Gulf Coast and I was spoiled forever. You stand on the white sugar sand and look out over the Gulf of Mexico and you are mesmerized by the striations of blue and green stretching out as far as you can see. From there, we moved to the North Carolina coast, and enjoyed those lovely beaches as well. There are advantages to being in the Navy, after all . . .

8. Of course, the flip side to living on any coast in the southern US is the threat of hurricanes. I've found that it's pretty difficult to explain a hurricane. It's not enough to say "it's the hardest rain you've ever seen" because it's so much more than rain. There is the beautiful, breezy calm day that comes 24 hours prior to the storm, making you think that nothing is churning out there in the Gulf; there is the rain, the driving, thrumming horizontal rain that lessens and intensifies as the successive bands of the storm come through; there is the wind, the crazy wind that takes a 15 foot pine tree and bends it so that the top is sweeping the ground, or shears the metal canopy of a gas station right off of its foundation; there is the noise, the rushing and howling of the wind and the eerie, screaming whine the power lines make under the strain; there is the silence that comes when the eye passes; and then there is the noise that begins all over again, only from the opposite direction, like a record in reverse. Add to this the constant threat of flooding and/or tornadoes and you've got one nerve-wracking situation, especially if you decided not to evacuate and you are laying in bed with your baby between you and your husband, just listening and waiting.

(Numbers 9-11 are all about food. If you've ever read my blog, you had to know it would come to this . . .)

9. BARBEQUE!!! Rob and I have eaten A LOT of barbeque, and I'm telling you, no one does it better than the South. (Believe me, we have looked!) We've been lucky enough to have eaten at some fantastic barbeque places in Texas (The "Big Daddy" platter ring any bells, Rob?), Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and sometimes, when the craving is hitting us hard, we think about a summer vacation to tour the great rib joints of our past. If you are ever near Kinston, NC, you should check out Kings BBQ, Home of the Pig in a Puppy. What? Never heard of a "Pig in a Puppy?" Suffice it to say that it involves hush puppies, which may be one of the world's most perfect foods . . .

10. If I'm really feeling like some greezy, fast food, then I'm probably in the mood for Bojangles. They have a sausage biscuit that I wanted more than anything when I was pregnant with The Boy, and I just found out they have a franchise about an hour away. Sounds like a road trip to me.

11. If you want a chicken fried steak as big as your head, or a steaming hot roll thrown at you from across the dining room, then I've got the place for you. The staff at Lambert's Cafe tosses hot rolls from a cart as they walk through the dining room -- it's up to you to catch them. Or duck. But it's a ton of fun, especially for kids. A word of advice: go hungry, as in a 36 hour fast kind of hungry, because the portions are HUGE.

12. In Pensacola, people decorate their homes as much for Mardi Gras as they do for Christmas. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Rick and Joanne.) And they have King Cakes and moon pies for Mardi Gras, so anything that includes multiple cake products ranks pretty high with me.

13. A state with no vehicle inspection laws makes for some pretty interesting cars on the road. One of my favorites was the car with the hood that was held on by a man's belt. You got to give it to the person who can rig that up well enough to actually stay on while cruising down the I-10.

**You know, it just occurred to me that, to some, this might seem like a rant. But no, no! We have so many sweet memories of living below the Mason-Dixon line, a land of kind and loving people who we are blessed to call friends. I've just always thought it was funny how you can stay in one country, but be in a totally different world.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

1. ChupieandJ'sMama

2. Christie

3. Smurf

4. Melissa

5. Annamary

6. huberama

7. gette

8. Carrie

9. jenny ryan

10. kelli

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


  1. Great list! Really made me laugh. I can live without the fire ants and palmetto bugs, but the bbq sounds wonderful:) Too funny about the booze in P.A. comment. I'm from Ohio, but went to college in P.A. Blew my mind that you couldn't just buy a 6 pack at the grocery. The fact that you must buy a case of beer at a beer distributer just didn't make sense. Happy Thursday and thanks for visiting:)

  2. Great list. Here, you can get a six pack at the grocery store, but its only 3.2 if you want 6 proof or higher you have to go to the liquor store.

  3. Funny! My DH is from the south, and while I've never lived there longterm, I can definitely relate to it being a different world down there!

  4. oh i love this! i moved to florida from new york, and i can tell you i have stories about fire ants and palmetto bugs (i swear palmetto bugs know where you are, and they want you, i had to trick one into flying into my roommate's bedroom). but i love florida, it's home to me. hurricanes and all. happy tt!

  5. I think you did really good at describing the hurricane.. Thats exactly what it was like when Rita hit us last year.. Not fun.

    good list!

  6. hahahha your list is hilarious! I used to live in FL so I know exactly what you're talking about! I'm in DC now and boy is it a huge difference!
    Happy TT, mine is up!

  7. #13 made me laugh out loud. A belt. Too funny!

  8. I love it. I have to come to realize that TX is even a different kind of south than other places, in good and bad ways. I have always lived here though, so I'm sure I miss some of the quirkier things b/c I think they are normal. :) And the booze thing varies greatly state to state and even county to county or city to city here in TX. We can buy beer and wine in the city limits, but have to go just outside the city to get liquor. Pretty silly.

  9. Fun memories here. Always been a northerner, but lots of fmily in the south so we visited a lot when I was a kid. Been tryin' to go every few years still.

    My TT was about St. Andrew's day.

  10. you mean y'all don't have fire ants?

    never heard of palmetto bugs - here in texas we call'em roaches.

    yes, football is a religion down here. even high school football. grown men betting each other on their alma maters. serious stuff.

    i guess you're looking at the other side of the gulf, because our side is pretty brown. ick. but we like it anyway.

    we went to dallas when rita came through. i went through too many of them as a kid scared out of my wits to stick around. screw that.

    i don't care what anyone says, texas bbq is the best. and a good chicken fried steak rocks!!!!

    great list!

  11. Ha, ha ha, welcome to the South! I agree-it is quite an adjustment.

    LOVE Bojangles!!

  12. This was really fun to read. I live on the Gulf Coast, and believe me we all keep watch for the hurricanes...hoping they stay away! I was at training today with a speaker from Colorado! It was interesting to just listen to him speak! (So used to the southern accent.) Thanks for sharing. Hope you have a great weekend!

  13. i could relate to EVERY single one of those, girlfriend ;) From the booze situation, to the gulf beaches to the hurricanes to the BBQ to in uninspected vehicles to the fire ants to the ROACHES
    i'm a northerner all the way no matter HOW LONG i have to live down here!


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