Rheta Johnson: Dependable sameness called home

August 10, 2013 9:30:42 PM

Rheta Grimsley Johnson -




FISHTRAP HOLLOW -- The frogs are so loud tonight, it is difficult to have a porch conversation. 


I have needed to hear the night sounds of the South for weeks. As good as it is to see inspiring new places, to ride a train up 14,000 feet to the top of Pike's Peak and tour a Western theater where Oscar Wilde once fell into the orchestra pit, I'm glad to be home. 


Home is hallowed ground, where you can hope for change but depend on sameness. 


Everything is pretty much as I left it. The tomato man moved from one parking lot to another, but still naps in his pickup between customers. The local newspaper has not one but two photographs of men holding high the snakes they killed, vertical venom. Local matrons are dressing like Scarlett O'Hara for yet another re-enactment of the Lost Cause. 


Around here, Confederates are not relegated to the attic. 


Mississippi melts a little during August, which mercifully blurs rough edges. It's like the way they used a gauze filter to shoot Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund for the movie "Casablanca." Everything's somehow softer. 


My great friend John Bedford and I once caused a late-night scene in Paris at the Place Marguerite de Navarre, drowning out a spectacular fountain with our silly argument. Alabama or Mississippi? Which is the best state, especially for that endangered bird, the Southern liberal? 


John, who hails from Alabama, claims Mississippi is less progressive. I say Alabama. Having lived in both states, I felt qualified to judge. 


I think I won the debate on a technicality -- and thereby proved Mississippi more desirable -- when John cited Hamilton, Ala., his hometown, located right on the line, as an illustration of Mississippi's failings. It was the ultimate "Gotcha!" moment. 


Parisians must have thought us crazy. As usual, they were right.  


Which reminds me. Has anyone apologized to the French for all the grief they got for saying years ago that cyclist Lance Armstrong cheated? 


Willie Nelson, however, thinks Lance is due the apology. "I think it is just terrible how everyone has treated Lance Armstrong, especially after what he achieved, winning seven Tour de France races while on drugs. When I was on drugs, I couldn't even find my bike." 


I love to travel, because it makes home so precious and indispensable. You notice things you might otherwise ignore. New red and yellow paint on Cafe Memories. New growth on the willow tree by the branch.  


It makes you realize, too, that other places, all places, also have ridiculous laws and crooked politicians and bizarre customs and local celebrations. 


Travel illustrates that your home is not the center of the universe in either good or bad ways, but just another spot on the map that most will never hear about, much less visit. 


But that's OK. Because some of us still love it, defend it and are perfectly happy to see it through rose-colored glasses and, the way we saw Ilsa, through a Vaseline-coated lens.