A sort of homecoming
Back where I came from, plus Links of the Week: Mattress Mack, Brunswick stew, and the ultimate college football call
This weekend I’m on St. Simons Island, Georgia, for a writers’ conference. I’d hang out anywhere with these people—they’re some of my favorite human beings. But there’s an extra layer of thrill for me because this is where I grew up. And even though I haven’t lived down this way since I was 21, it still feels like home.
I mean that geographically. The spiritual answer to “where’s home,” for me, is “wherever Alix is.” If we were stuck in a hut in Timbuktu, that would be home, as long as we were together.
I’ve lived in or around Charlotte for 33 years—nearly my whole adult life. Most of our friends live there. It’s the place I know better than any other. We love Charlotte. It would take some monumental uprooting of our lives to get us to move.
Still, when I think “home,” I think of this little slice of coastal Georgia: the tidal creeks and the marsh grass and the shorebirds gliding in the wind.
As you know if you’ve read much of my stuff, I am a huge Georgia Bulldogs football fan. This just happens to be Georgia-Florida weekend—on Saturday, the two old rivals will play football in Jacksonville. St. Simons is an hour and a half away, and thousands of Georgia fans will stay here Friday night before heading down for the game. As I headed over the causeway to St. Simons, I saw one of those portable road signs up ahead—the ones that usually say ACCIDENT AHEAD or that sort of thing. This one said:
WELCOME GEORGIA FANS
So, yeah, it’s an extra-nice time to be here.
So much of what we think of as normal comes from what we experience as children. I still have the scent memory of the salt air when the wind comes off the ocean, and the rotten-egg smell when the wind blows the other way, from the pulpwood plant. I know exactly what a shrimp is supposed to feel like when you bite into it. I can close my eyes and see the clouds coming in every summer afternoon, gathering out over the water while they decide to rain on us that day or not.
And then I remember my mom and dad and my sister and a couple of crazy uncles and all the others who have come and gone while I grew up down here.
I read a sentence that caught me up short in a story I link to below—a profile of Matthew Perry, who was Chandler on “Friends.” It’s a long sentence, but the point was that not only did Perry play Chandler on “Friends,” but because “Friends” is on everlasting syndication and streaming all over the world, he is still playing Chandler on “Friends,” and will until the end of time.
In a sense, that’s true of all of us. As long as we have our memories, and others have memories of us, we are still doing all the things we have done, on an endless syndicated loop in our heads. That’s not good or bad, necessarily. It’s just there. And maybe it’s why a place where you haven’t lived in decades can still feel like home.
I smelled the real salt air this morning. Just like I remembered.
10 things I wanted to share this week:
My guest on the latest SouthBound podcast is Sean Dietrich, a/k/a Sean of the South, a storyteller with a big and loyal following. Sean’s own story is amazing in itself—he went through a family tragedy, dropped out of school in seventh road, and took a meandering road to where he has ended up.
My weekly for WFAE was about the death of a movie theater where I spent many pleasant hours.
Another story from home, sort of: The New York Times looks into the history of Brunswick stew. You’ll notice that the writer doesn’t spend much time in Brunswick, Georgia, which tracks with my experience: When I was growing up, nobody mentioned our town in connection with the stew. It always felt like something the Chamber of Commerce came up with.
Here’s that Matthew Perry profile, by Chris Heath in GQ. It’s dark and jaw-dropping in spots—most definitely not a fluff piece. Special kudos to whoever wrote that perfect headline.
DOG NEWS: While I work on my book, I’m devoting this slot to dog stories. This week: People who can’t stop naming their dogs after … people. (Full disclosure: Our beloved old dog was named Fred.)
My buddy David Fleming has a great piece for ESPN on Mattress Mack, the high-rolling gambler (he’s got $10 million on the Astros to win the World Series) who is a Houston folk hero.
The San Diego Padres’ year in Polaroids.
The Onion roasts Tom Brady.
Was listening to a playlist of The Jayhawks and had forgotten about the utterly beautiful chorus of “All the Right Reasons.”
10. Finally, since it is Georgia-Florida weekend, here’s Larry Munson from 1980 with the greatest call of the greatest play in college football history:
See y’all next week, everybody.
Thanks for reading! I depend on your support to keep The Writing Shed going. If you’re willing and able, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.