From time to time I travel to places far from the Deep South, like San Francisco, for example. That’s pretty far from Atlanta or Montgomery or Jacksonville, to name a few of the cities I’ve hit up recently.
So why San Francisco?
No reason in particular. I went one time for sports related reasons back when a man named Montana threw the football to another man named Rice. I went straight to the game and then got back in my old car and drove home. I remember being fascinated by the streetcars and humming “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat” a lot.
I’m accustomed to driving everywhere in my F-150, which is carrying about 234,000 miles as of this writing. After my previous ridiculously long drive to see the 49′ers back in the day, I knew for sure that a smart person doesn’t drive from say Pigeon Forge, where I was the day before I left, to San Francisco unless they have a lot of time on their hands and even more patience and perhaps a couple of spare tires. And I am a busy man. I have places to go, like Abbeville, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia and Andalusia, Alabama.
That last one is the home of a friend of mine who talked me into going to San Francisco in the first place. Well, at least this time. I went to watch the 49’er of my own volition. What a fellow from Andalusia could possibly know about San Francisco escapes me, but he’s been there a lot and said I’d like it so I packed a few boxes of MoonPies into my carry-on and squeezed into the middle seat of a Delta 757 out of Atlanta and took off for the West Coast.
Once I landed and rented a cheap car and drove all over the crooked streets and hills and the Golden Gate and a Redwood forest, I parked in a complicated garage that I found out later was $48 a day. I stay in hotels that don’t cost that much. Anyway, I walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf, looked everywhere, but I didn’t see one fisherman. They should call it Lost Tourists Wharf. The place was packed and most of the people seemed like they had no idea where they were. And I kind of felt the same way. It didn’t keep me from going to Alcatraz and standing downwind of a bunch of smelly seals on a pier and eating lunch with a group of people from just across the bridge in Oakland. “Locals” they said. Born here and stayed here all their lives.
I’m not sure it was my use of the word “y’all” or the mention of a MoonPie that made them giggle a little too long. After an awkward pause, I whipped out a box of banana MoonPies from my backpack, handing them out one by one. If I had given them Moon rocks, they couldn’t have examined them closer.
“San Francisco has shown me a good time, so I’m returning the favor,” I said, smiling like I was sort of an official representative of the good side of the Deep South or something.
It took a while, but they finally started eating while I told stories about my travels across the country.
“Have to ever been to Grapevine, Texas?” asked one of the women.
“I have,” I assured her and added that it earns its name every year with a growing wine industry, maybe not like Napa Valley, but a Texas version.
“What other crazy Southern places have you been?” Asked her friend, a tall woman with hair so thick and curly it hurt my skull wondering how she carried the weight.
“How long y’all got, cause I’ve been to them all,” I said, cranking on the Southern accent as Southerners tend to do when they know people expect it of them.
I went through stories about fireworks and snapping turtles and gators and barbecue and Jesus and football and biscuits and mamas and fishing and taxidermied deer. They really seemed interested in taxidermy. So much so I may have to write a whole post just about that soon.
Four hours later I finally left them, tired of telling stories, but fully understanding why people like San Francisco. Lord I must have told them 100 stories about the South and they listened intently, taking in each one, asking questions and being mighty kind to me.
Walking away, one of the women asked if I had another MoonPie for her to give her son. I gave her the last one.
“He is doing a school paper about the Civil War and I know he’d love to show his class what they ate back then,” she said sweetly.
I want to believe she was just pulling my leg, West Coast style, but I’m afraid her face was quite serious. Surely I didn’t tell some story, during all of the tales I threw out, about Civil War soldiers eating MoonPies. But I might have.