Southern Comfort/Southern Conflict

        We’re at the Southern Writer’s Conference in Chattanooga this week. Southern Comfort. It conjures up images of whiskey and bluegrass music. Bill Monroe wrote an instrumental called ‘Southern Flavor,’ but half the time I call it ‘Southern Comfort.’ Southerners can play some cool roots music and tell stories and cook pigs. There’s a lot of comfort in the culture, and yet also there has always been great conflict in Southern life.

        Even as a kid I thought we had a peculiar institutional gentility that seemed so odd. Some of our comfort was derived from the conflict of others, yet no one openly acknowledged it. We had a black lady named Georgia who worked in our home. I couldn’t understand how anyone could be prejudiced against her, but people were. No one was prejudiced against Georgia’s fried chicken though, I promise you that.

        Good fiction has to have conflict, and southern life yielded some powerful writing. Twain once said (paraphrased) “when he saw trouble he’d write his way through it.” I grew up in relative comfort but it was clear to anyone who had their eyes and heart open everyone wasn’t so fortunate. For fifty cents we could play golf all day long, but a black kid couldn’t set foot on the property. Very strange.

        In spite of it all, though, people are drawn back to the comfort of home, even if it was conflicted in their youth. I hope nowadays the South can offer all people more comfort than conflict. Guns and violence are part of southern culture too. I realize that’s part of the landscape, and maybe has to be at times, but as for me I’d rather play music. Maybe everyone doesn’t like my music, but that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their personal preferences. I suppose that would be considered a conflict for some people, but at least if folks don’t care for the mandolin no one dies over it.

        ‘Southern Flavor.’ (‘Comfort’) It’s a fine old tune. I think I’ll go learn a new version.

Dr. B

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8 Comments on “Southern Comfort/Southern Conflict”

  1. Billy Says:

    I am going to look you up tomorrow. I am outside of Jackson, Ms heading that way. Hope to see you tomorrow. Think you can introduce me to Roy Blount?

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Cool. We’re at the Tyvoli Theater. Come visit. I’ve seen him around, so who knows? Dr. B

  3. doug ross Says:

    Livin the life ain’t you doc? If you see ol Ronnie Rash tell him I said “Heal” with multiple exclamation points.

  4. jel Says:

    hope ya have some fun!
    play a tune 4me :)

    • drtombibey Says:

      Jel,

      Having a ball. Got to sit in with the Chattanooga Folk School players at Clyde Edgerton’s art gallery show tonight. The man is an excellent painter. (and I don’t mean houses like Wheatie in “The Mandolin Case.”)

      Dr. B

  5. newt221 Says:

    I could not agree more. We Southerners are an odd lot of gentility and violence…equality and prejudice…love and hate… It’s what makes us who we are…

    • drtombibey Says:

      Cindy,

      I reckon it’s the Southern way, huh? I read Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy. There was a lot of violence in it, but I hope we read those parts to try and figure out how not to repeat certain parts of history.

      Dr. B


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