When Alabama is mentioned in the national media, it’s usually in the form of racist sorority girls and weird horse stuff. As someone who has spent most of their life in Alabama, however, I can say that what this state has in unironic bigotry it makes up for with beautiful landscapes, fierce pride, and a whole lot of heart.
Here are eight things from Alabama just as beautiful as our most recent national championship win.
1. The food
These aren’t necessarily in any order but if they were, this would still be number one. Say what you will about Michelin-starred establishments; L’Atelier is great and all but down here one order of rudely delicious barbecue costs $8 and is enough to feed a small family.
Not to mention we have all of the best stick-on-your-bones foods – fried chicken, corn bread, biscuits and gravy, grits. Plus we have amazing seafood and are never sparing with seasoning or heat. What you gain in weight you triple in happiness.
2. Football Culture
I’ll admit that I don’t actually care about football as a sport, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love everything surrounding it. For one, tailgating is insanely fun and basically an excuse to put on too much eye makeup and daydrink. No one cares that you’re not a student on gameday; just wander drunkenly through the quad cheering for the Tide and you’ll find dozens of friends.
For another football is great because it guarantees me three hours of freedom every Saturday in the fall. We all hang out at my in laws’ to watch the game, and they happily scream at the TV and keep my kids distracted while I run away to hide in the bath.
Alabama is a state of charming weirdos, or as they’re more often called, ‘artistes.’ One such creative is Vickie of Green Peridot designs, who makes and sells jewelry from the teeny little town of Vernon, Alabama.
Her stuff is freaking quality and the main reason I have started a new Pinterest board called ‘Second Wedding to Orie (Post 1st Divorce)’ – I just want a solid excuse to wear a thousand Green Peridot bracelets on my arms and make everyone look at me for an evening. It’s not like I’m crazy or anything.
4. Channing Tatum
Born in Cullman, Alabama, Channing Tatum is the new figurehead of this great state. He might even be the unwitting reason for the last, lingering vestiges of homophobia here. If I were a straight man, I, too, would be angry and confused if I popped a stiffy when watching this:
… Roll tide to that, too.
5. Mardi Gras
Don’t let New Orleans trick you with its voodoo lies and drive-through daiquiri stands – the American Fat Tuesday celebration of indulgence and debauchery originated in Mobile, Alabama, the same city I spent half of my high school career in. Coincidence? I think not.
Of course, Mardi Gras actually came from the French as a means to prepare for Lent, but that’s irrelevant to this centuries-old bicker. Nola residents like to say they started it, but anyone from the Alabama coast knows that the legit Krewes and the best parties are all found in Mobtown.
Yeah, I said it. I said it and I stand by it.
It’s true that I wasn’t born here, nor did spend the actual formative years of my childhood here, but my entire teenagerhood happened in Alabama and that has to count.
Plus I’m here now, returned from the land of yankees like a prodigal son, ready to apologize for ever thinking that their overpriced ice hellscape would be better than this, so what else do you want from me.
YEAH, SURPRISE! You thought eight zillion championship titles was our proudest export? False! It’s motherfucking supersoakers!
Much like Mardi Gras, SuperSoakers originated in Mobile – or at least their inventor Lonnie Johnson did. An inventor since teenagerhood, Johnson became an engineer working for the US government and creating clever inventions on the side. With the SuperSoaker, he was the mastermind behind the number one selling toy in the world as well as several of my childhood summers spent nursing water-made welts across my shins.
8. The people
I won’t deny that there are some backwards people in Alabama. Sometimes you feel like you’re being punk’d with the sheer amount of nonsense that you read on billboards and hear from old church ladies denouncing birth control as the devil’s sin-pellets. Most of the time, though, people are justwarm.
Flat tire? No problem, at least 4 people will slow down to make sure you’re okay, and two of those four will offer you their cell phone to make a call. Oh, wait, one of them already changed your tire while you were trying to remember your boyfriend’s phone number, and now they’re loading the punctured tire back into your trunk. You want to offer him some cash as a thank you? He won’t take it!
‘No, no ma’am,’ he’ll say in his syrupy drawl, shaking his head and chuckling good-naturedly. ‘My mama told me never take money for kindness. No, you just drive safe now, alright?’
And then your kind savior hops in his car and speeds off, leaving you with a working car and warm fuzzies all in your heart.
This isn’t even an extreme scenario; this is an actual occurrence I pulled from my own life. The mentality down here is to always look outward: help others, be kind, and live well. Some of it is religiously motivated, it’s true, but never have I lived anywhere with as strong of a ‘people helping others’ mentality as you’ll find in the Southern USA.
And I will definitely Roll Tide to that.