5 Things I Miss About the South

I’ve been living in New England for over two years now. Despite all the perks that arise from living in a major metropolitan area, there are some ways in which the north just can’t compete with the south. Below are the top 5 things I miss about the south (excluding friends and family).

wps1) WINTER – I miss southern winters. The change of seasons is nice, I even enjoy a bit of snow, but there’s nothing quite like winter in the south. Fretting about that long stretch of four days that might not make it out of the forties, the lovely dip in your utility bill that results from paying to heat your house instead of cool it, Christmas at the beach – what a headache, right? On the days when the temperature stays in the negatives up here in the northeast I like to log onto Facebook and  read all my southern friends’ complaints about the cold. Then I send warm thoughts their way.

wps22) ALLIGATORS – I really miss alligators. It may seem strange, but it’s true. Every time I see a nice boggy pond, a stretch of swamp, or any dark waters for that matter, a jolt of adrenaline surges through me. I keep my eyes wide open and alert, on the lookout for danger. Then I remember that gators don’t live this far north. The only way to describe the resulting emotion is disappointment. This is more than a case of old habits dying hard – I’m filled with a sense of loss. I mourn the absence of alligators in my life. There’s a big empty hole in my heart that used to be filled with alligator sightings. Okay, so maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but I’m sure there’s other southerners transplanted up north that know what I mean.

wps13) PIBB XTRA – I miss Pibb Xtra, formerly known as Mr. Pibb. For those of you in the north, it’s kind of like Dr. Pepper, but different enough that Dr. Pepper won’t satisfy you when what you really want is Pibb. For those of you in the south – they don’t carry Pibb up here – isn’t that strange? I know I shouldn’t even be drinking soda, but sometimes I do, and when I do, I fantasize about drinking a Pibb Xtra.

wps44) COST OF LIVING – I miss the low cost of living in the South. One of the biggest shocks about moving to the north is how expensive certain necessities – like toilet paper – are. It doesn’t seem like it should be legal. In the south a can of soup is 99 cents and grocery stores like Buy One Get One FreePublix run BOGO deals on dozens of great items every week. In the north your grocery bill will literally double for basically the same items. So will rent, property taxes, utilities. . . and did you know about this thing called state income tax? Yeah, apparently most states make you pay state along with federal income tax. I must have missed the memo because that’s just crazy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA5) ROADS – I miss southern roads. There are very few traffic circles, almost no parallel parking, and streetlights are always strung over the road so you know where to find them. Parking spaces are wide, street signs are clear, and bright yellow lines separate lanes of traffic.  In the south, if something is blocking your lane, you wait for oncoming traffic to break before passing the obstacle. It will never cease to amaze me how many times a driver will veer head-on into my lane on a daily basis – up here it seems to not only be normal, but also expected. Yikes! I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

So there you have it – the 5 things I miss the most about the south. I’d be interested in hearing what other transplants miss.

A Desert in Maine?

wpdesert4Is there really a desert in Maine? Well, yes and no. By all appearances, the forty acres of glacial silt in the middle of the woods in Freeport, Maine looks like desert. It does, however, get plenty of rain and the nearby vegetation is slowly invading the beach-like dunes.wpdesert

A little over 200 years ago, what is now desert was once the Tuttle farm. Failure to properly rotate crops left the soil too mineral depleted to grow a harvest. The land was then used to graze sheep. Sheep, however, pull grass out by the roots instead of breaking it off like a horse or cow.wpdesert1

With nothing to keep it in place, the soil eroded. Left to the mercy of the wind, the silt continually gets blown around, the landscape constantly evolving through shifting dunes.

This unfortunate case of humans wreaking havoc on the land is now an example of capitalism. For a fee you can take an educational tour of the desert and hike the sandy hills. There’s also a barn museum, gemstone mining, a sands from the world collection, and even a gift shop where you can grab a drink and a souvenir.

wpdesert2I visited the desert on a very cold, very windy day. My impression? While it wasn’t the best spent $10 of my life, I can neither recommend nor discourage a visit. After all, for the rest of my life I’ll be able to say that I’ve been to a desert in Maine – who am I to deny someone else that distinct pleasure?

Christmas in November – The Bram Stoker Awards

stokerIt’s time for the annual Bram Stoker Award recommendations which, for a voracious read like me, is like Christmas in November. Imagine having your inbox filled with the year’s best short stories, anthologies, novels and poetry collections – for free! This year is especially exciting because I have a story that’s been recommended for the ballot – That’s my name wpsmeegleright there with Steven King and a posthumous story by Shirley Jackson (author of The Lottery, The House on Haunting Hill – trust me, you’ve probably read something by her!).

It’s an honor just to be nominated and have my name up there with the greats. That said, after seeing my name with them, I was overcome by the strangest feeling. Like wproosterSmeegle in the Lord of the Rings, I want it! I need it! I wondered if I was at a disadvantage because my story is a detective mystery instead of a more classic things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, creature or ghost horror story. I was anxious because I’ve spent the last year using my spare time to write instead of (gasp) networking with other writers. Sadly I’ve made few friends with my fellow HWA members.

wprooster1In all honesty, it’s not what winning the award would do for my career as a writer, but what it would do for my confidence as a writer. A little validation can do wonders for the soul. But, alas, reality is a game of numbers, and I am but an army of one. If any member of the HWA reads this and is interested in reading the story, please let me know and I’ll send you a copy (necessary shameless plug). I would be ECSTATIC to get on the formal ballot. Seriously, I would strut around like a rooster for a week. I’d even wear a humiliating costume and send you a copy of the video if you helped (desperate shameless plug). But if I have to live with just receiving the recommendation , that’ll be ok too.