How I Became a Yankee Dixie


During my high school senior year college application process, a teacher advised me not to go to school in the South.  “You’re Asian and you’re Catholic,” he warned, inferring neither is particularly welcome down in the land of the Dixie.  I dutifully complied, with my most southern application going to Washington D.C., rest to the Northeast and half to New England, for no other reason than that the home football team was my favorite.

Fast forward ten years and I’m a Dixie apologist who loves country music, owns a handgun, espouses social conservatism and hopes to retire in Alabama.  Since I’ve barely even visited the South, much less lived there, people are understandably lost as to how I ended up with a fetish for the South.

The handgun part happened really recently, but I was becoming a Dixie slowly but gradually from an early age.   My love for country music dates back to when I was attending summer camp called Camp Canadensis up in the Poconos during my formidable middle school youth.  I wasn’t much of a music guy back then (music isn’t the only thing I picked up at camp, but more on that some other day), but everyone else seemed to have this obsessive need to be blasting music in the bunk during daylight.  I found most music intolerable.  The only time I could return to sanity was when counselors from the South, of which there were a good number, thankfully overrode the poor tastes of my buddies and played country.  Today, my music library has music other than country, but country remains the only genre that I can listen to for more than five minutes.

I may have picked up country music, but I think I always a social conservative.  I think I simply realized it in college.

Boston College is an ideologically schizophrenic school.  Located near the heart of liberalism called Boston and Newton, the school had its share of libernazis that I was turned off by from day one.  It’s no exaggeration to say that the first day I walked around campus, I saw people protesting something asininely trivial because protesting is what liberals do (I think it concerned a fence), I thought these people were idiots and I went from being an uneducated conservative to an educated radical.  On the other hand, Boston College is distinctly Catholic, led by an administration that set a very socially conservative tone.  A good percentage of the student body reflected that philosophy.   So on the one hand some portion of the school was pulling me to the right while the vociferous remainder was pushing me off the political spectrum.

I share with the South my taste in music and many views of the world (here and hereafter), but I’m most attracted to that part o the country because of the people.

I grew up in New Jersey which is known for many things, none of which are particularly flattering.  When I went to Boston CollegeI thought I came to the place with the nicest people I’ve ever encountered because everyone held the door for you.  This was not a sentiment shared by everyone on campus.  A Southerner I met in my first weeks there complained that he had never before met such rude people as those on the BC campus.   This disconnect was quite a revelation.  Somewhere outside of my small little bubble in Bergen County, there is a place where Jersey obnoxiousness is not the norm and where  courtesy is not only provided but expected.  I’d heard of  “Southern hospitality” before, but I never knew what it meant.  Having met Southerners, I think it means that you don’t pretend like you’re the center of attention and show other people some fucking courtesy.  I’m sold.

I’ve decided some time ago that South is the kind of place that I’d want to retire to.  In the 2 years I’ve been at this job, I’ve actually had the pleasure of working with people from the midwest and the South.  The pace is much slower in those parts of the country.  In fact, it turns out that what isn’t normal is our 30 straight hours for 90 hours a week.  No, in the rest of the country (not too detached from urbana like Atlanta or Cincinnati),  work hours actually have a meaning, weekend are something to look forward to and every task is not a drop-evertying, “ready, set, sprint!” fire drill.  And I like their life’s simplicity.  You go to work, look forward to the evening with your family, go to church on Sunday morning and sip a beer on the porch in the afternoon.  You can’t blame me for wanting to retire to Alabama.

Of course, I can talk on and on about how nice the South is, but I remain a workaholic Asian Catholic who grew up in New Jersey eating raw fish.  I’d like to think I’m a Southerner, but I’m decidedly a Yankee.  And that’s okay.  One day I’ll pick up the accent and slowly, but gradually, I’ll make myself into a respectable Dixie.

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