Carry Me Out From Old Virginny

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Last week I nearly lost my life for the sake of New England.

I was visiting friends in Virginia. This is a state where the local folk don’t actually pronounce the name of their state correctly. They typically say “Vuh-ginia.” It’s outrageous. Any New Englander can tell you it’s “Virginier.”

My hosts are not Southerners. One of their employers made them move there. It was not technically a demotion, but draw your own conclusions.

They invited a number of their neighbors for a cocktail party, and I tried to be friendly. As each one arrived, I shook hands and introduced myself. It was clear that my hosts had previewed them about my visit. Their responses were quite uniform: “Oh,” they invariably said, “you’re the one from Baw, Stun.”

“Well, uh, not exactly Boston,” I invariably replied. “I live outside Boston.”

“Uh huh,” they invariably answered, looking me over for a long moment before heading toward the bar.

They were nice, mostly. I found myself in a number of conversations, and I understood most of what I heard. I think I understand now why life tends to be somewhat slower in the South. It’s not the heat. It’s not the humidity. It’s the speech patterns. People often employ two syllables where the rest of the country only needs one.

“Way-ull,” they might explain, “thay-ut’s just how we taw-uck.”

See how long this takes? Nine syllables, when six would do.

I also observed that Virginians are not in any hurry when it comes to names. I don’t believe there is anyone called Tom in the state of Virginia. You must announce your middle name. You can be Thomas Lester, or Tommy Lee, or at the very least, Tom Bob. There is no such thing as abbreviation. There is no Charleston, Virginia. It’s Charles City. And if you live outside the line, you’re in Charles City County. Maybe you’ll find a condo for rent in Charles City County Heights. No? Try over yonder, in Lower Charles City County Heights. (Sure, I can give you directions. Head down along the Lower Charles City County Heights Creek, and cross over the Lower Charles City County Heights Creek Bridge. Just on the other side you’ll see a sign pointing toward Lower Charles City County Heights Creek Bridge Hollow. Don’t go that way. You’ll just wind up at Southwest Little Lower Charles City County Heights Creek Bridge Hollow Village Valley Center Rock Flats Gulch Roost Corners. Not a good neighborhood.)

The cocktail party almost wrapped up without incident. But then a good ol’ boy named Terry Beauregard-something, well into his half-dozenth bourbon, cornered me. His face was red, his eyes were glistening, his lips were curled in a permanent snarl, and if I remember correctly, his solid gold snaggletooth was filed to a menacing point. Or maybe my memory is skewed by the retroactive terror.

“You ruined mah world,” Terry Beauregard rasped.

“I beg your pardon?” I answered weakly.

“You’re from Baw, Stun. Up nawth. You people came down heah and destroyed a beautiful way of lahf.”

“You mean in the Civil War?”

“The War of Nawthun Aggression,” he growled.

I tried not to stare at the Glock in his pants.

“Actually, I’m not really from Boston,” I offered.

Terry Beauregard cocked one eyebrow.

“My father was in the Air Force. I was actually born in south Georgia, on the base.”

He sighed, his nose a good three inches from mine.

“Way-ull,” he grumbled, his gold tooth twinkling, “Ah s’pose Ah’ll let you lee-uv.”

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