SOUTHERN LEGITIMACY STATEMENT:
I have a cat named Georgia.
If that doesn’t work for you (e.g., too flippant, even though factually correct) how about … SLS: I shave and dress up to watch SEC football on Saturdays. On Sundays, I dress down to watch the NFL, stubble and all.
As Gregory Samson awoke one morning ― after a night of troubled dreams in which Auburn repeatedly defeated Alabama, his alma mater ― he discovered, lying in his bed, that his pajamas had become overalls, and that he himself had been changed into a hard-core redneck. Gregory now lived in Manhattan, not far from Columbia University, and his transformation into a Good Ole Boy made him the only Good Ole Boy on his block.
Studying his reflection in the bathroom mirror, Gregory noted that four of his front teeth were missing. He nodded approvingly and left for work, pausing to spit on the copy of the New York Times that had been placed outside his door. Later that day he would cancel his subscription.
Work, for Gregory, meant teaching comparative religion at Columbia, where he held an associate professorship. He had office hours that morning, and his first appointment was with a second-year graduate student named Heidi. She was waiting outside his office when he arrived.
“Good morning, Dr. Samson,” said Heidi.
“Show us your boobs,” said Gregory. “Show us your boobs. Show us your boobs. Show us your boobs,” he chanted in lewd singsong as she fled down the hall.
The rest of Gregory’s day on campus passed without incident, and he spent much of it examining his new persona. He found that his store of knowledge was intact; he still knew the religions of the world backward and forward. He found that with a bit of effort, he could converse with colleagues and students as he always had, betraying nothing of the Good Ole Boy who now occupied the core of his being.
He also learned, however, that his inner Good Ole Boy refused to be muzzled forever. Late in the afternoon, he had a coffee date with Dr. Inez Mercado, a lecturer in Latin American Studies. Their friendship had lately matured to the point of physical intimacy, and if someone had asked him just a day earlier, Gregory might have admitted the truth: He was falling in love with her.
Today, the very thought of entering Starbucks — any Starbucks — filled him with revulsion. Squaring his shoulders, he trudged inside. Inez was seated on their favorite sofa. She was especially vivacious on this day, glowing, radiant, as women in love often are.
Gregory waved to her and went up to the bar.
“What’s your pleasure, sir?” asked a young barista.
Gregory stared at the boy, sizing him up.
“What’s your pleasure, sir?” the young man repeated cheerfully.
“To kick your liberal Yankee ass,” said Gregory. “Care to step outside?”
The young man motioned to the store manager for help, but by the time help arrived Gregory was already seated next to Inez.
“No latte today?” she said.
“Are you okay? What happened to your teeth?”
“Bar fight. Three against me.”
“Oh, poor baby.” She gently grasped his hands.
“Let go,” said Gregory, pulling his hands away. “You’ve been using me, bitch.”
“All you want from me is an anchor baby.”
“Bill of Rights was never intended to cover anchor babies.”
“This isn’t happening,” said Inez, her eyes brimming. “Tell me it’s a sick joke. I’ll forgive you.”
“You’ll … forgive … me?”
“I have to go,” she said, her voice breaking like her heart. She stood up and made her way toward the door.
“Don’t stop till you hit Mexico,” Gregory yelled after her.
A dozen patrons swiveled their heads in his direction when he said that. “One down. Eleven million to go,” he explained to them.
Gregory slept well that night. In his dreams he kicked a last-second 51-yard field goal against Auburn to reverse Alabama’s losing streak from the night before, and he heard beautiful music created by the sound of the wind in the live oak trees.