copyright Bill Widener 2000

You can take the Girl Outta the Truck

Dear Editor,

What kind of vehicle is "commonly and stereotypically favored by rappers and drug dealers?" Is it a Mauve Mustang or a Carrot-Colored Camaro? Maybe a 5-ton Ford Expedition equipped with optional gun turret, rocket launcher, and Firestone tires? Perhaps an example of Italian mechanical exotica such as a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Maserati?

I don't intend to trade Marcus, my classic 1985 Mercury, for such a vehicle, but I would like to know what kind of car you drive so I can yield right of way if I see you in my rear-view mirror.

Happy motoring,

Hank the Crank

(Henry Hirsch)

It is 3.5 tons of big, black, beautiful Detroit steel. Since I bought it from a dealer who's also an Ace advertiser, I hate to be more specific, lest it appear that I'm playing favorites.

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Mail: 486 West Second St , Lexington, Ky 40507


Southern Comforts

Mountain Dew was forbidden, and our speech was monitored for the slightest hint of a Raleigh accent. Use the word "y'all" and before you knew it, you'd find yourself in a haystack French-kissing an underage goat.

-David Sedaris

"There's a bunch of guys dressed up as Confederates marching around some of the horses in one of the parks on Main Street."

That's the first thing anybody said to me when I walked in the office Monday morning, followed closely by, "should we go take a picture?"

I sighed, before drawling, "Nahhhhhhh."

I didn't know why they were marching. I didn't really care.

I know all about the "war of northern aggression" and all about the fierce pride Civil War re-enactors take in their "heritage" (up to and including their flag).

All I'm saying is it's not mine.

But let me say in the same breath, I consider myself a thoroughly unreconstructed southerner.

And I don't ever apologize for it, because it doesn't mean to me what it apparently means to many who live north of the Mason-Dixon line (e.g., no one in my family wears a white hood, and we all frequently do wear shoes).

Specifically, I consider myself to be from the mountain south, and more specifically than that, the rural mountain south. (There are small towns all over the south -and I suspect farm kids are very different from city kids, whether they live in New York or New Orleans).

A farm was a great place for us to grow up. We had horses and ponies and baby bunnies and goats and ducks and all kinds of things the city kids didn't.

As a teenager, the family farm became a fairly popular locale for field parties and hayrides and camp-outs.

I then spent most of my 20s ignoring my roots. I didn't try to conceal them (and I never lied and told acquaintances that all the members of my family had been killed in a tragic fire, the way one of my relatives did), but I didn't volunteer a lot of information either.

I wasn't embarrassed, but I wasn't entirely sure what my childhood had to do with how I turned out.

Now, in my 30s (WELL into my 30s), I realize how completely ABSURD that was. It's been a tremendous process of integration for me - figuring out how all the disparate pieces fit together, but it's starting to make sense.

Certainly private school sanded off a few of my rougher edges, and I owe a tremendous debt of intellectual gratitude to the liberal arts college I attended - but my core values and the way I approach life were all formed in the hills, valleys and hollers of southeastern Kentucky. Topographically verdant and lush in many ways, while sociologically desperately poor and backward in others, it's a study in contrasts that I'm only beginning to reconcile, and appreciate.

These days I eat polenta instead of grits, and prosciutto more frequently than country ham. But I still spend my summer weekends "canning" (which I learned from my grandmothers). It's just that I'm usually passing out jars of homemade tomato sauce with organic roasted garlic or gazpacho (as opposed to say, bread and butter pickles). But that impulse to share my love with food from my kitchen comes from the exact same place of southern hospitality that all the women in my family handed down.

I'm not the perfect hostess, but no one ever sits down on my porch without being offered something to eat and drink. And if a guest admires one of my possessions at all enthusiastically, they're likely to leave with it (or find it wrapped under the tree at Christmas). It was impossible to pay my Grandma Doll a compliment on anything in her house without running the risk of leaving with the trunk of your car sagging under the weight of anything or everything she owned.

I love my big city friends - their wit, their sophistication and their worldview which is so much more expansive than mine. I envy them their instant access to museums and art and music and a dizzying array of international cuisine.

But I think they've come to realize and respect what I see and love in the home I've made for myself here.

My dear friend Elle emailed me from the Big Apple this weekend (as I was lamenting the fact I won't get to spend her birthday with her this Thursday), "I keep wishing that you lived closer, but then I wouldn't be able to talk about going down south and southern etiquette and all the wonderful splendor that is only indigenous to that part of the country. I love New York. But being away from Kentucky makes me realize how rich a community exists down there. You have built one for yourself, and that is amazing and beautiful."

My return email to her and Mario was probably along the lines of what it always is: "Y'all come and see us when you can."