As many of you know, my dear friend Ian Morgan Cron (Twitter: @iancron), author of the extraordinary book Chasing Francis, is relocating from Greenwich, Connecticut to Franklin, Tennessee in a few days. It seems appropriate to educate this “damn Yankee” to the finer sensibilities of southern culture. Here are a few thoughts that should prepare Ian for his debut into the genteel lifestyle.
1.) History — Forget all that crap you learned at Yale about the American Revolution. In Franklin, we know the most significant war ever fought was the one we reverently call Civil. Connecticut didn’t have a single, solitary civil war battle—so as far as Historic Franklin is concerned, you probably don’t even qualify for statehood. We don’t care that Connecticut was established in 1633 and was one of the original thirteen colonies, we all know true American history didn’t begin until 1864. As far as Franklin is concerned, time should be marked not as B.C. or A.D, but rather B.C.W. or A.C.W. Why, one of our own, Lee Greenwood, is working on a new national anthem called “God Bless The Civil War.”
2.) Language — Two words. Talk S-L-O-W. Be sure to properly pronounce our hallowed, I mean, historic city’s name. “Frah-ain-klin” In fact, pretty much every word down “he-y-ah” in the south has three syllables. Take your name for instance, it would be “I-yah-an.” You also need to know that a person is not really dead until they are “graveyard dead”, that utilizing “youse guys” instead of “ya’ll” and “you’uns” will give your origin away every time. And even though you think “grit” means “sand or other fine grainy particles eaten by fowl to aid in digestion,” it’s actually a food staple eaten by southern human beings every day. Slow food and slow talk will gain you fast acceptance in the south.
3.) Taxes — I’m sure you are jumping for joy because taxes in Franklin are almost too good to be true. Well, unfortunately, they are. Even though you might think property taxes are thousands of dollars less, there is a little thing called “shopping tax.” Never heard of it, oh, you will. In Franklin, we are such good and niave citizens, we agreed (well, at least our alderman agreed and we went thoughtlessly along with them) to pool together our resources to pay for a big ‘ole historic (costs of historic porportions, that is) government building to loom “gotham-like” over our fair little city. Wasn’t that “civil” of us? And the “shopping tax” helps make sure we all do our fair share to pay for it. Unfortunately, Tennessee history never taught us about the likes of William M. Tweed, Peter “Brains” Sweeney or Thomas Joseph “T.J.” Pendergast. What was it that Hitler once said during that little skirmish in Germany? “What luck for rulers, that men do not (take time) to think.”
4.) Driving — I know you lived just a few miles from the Big Apple. But you better forget Manhattan driving rules real quick down “he-y-ah.” If you run a yellow light, if you don’t stop at a stop sign until the centrifugal force leans you completely back into your seat, if you go three miles over the 30 mph speed limit, if you violate any of the thousands of ticky-tacky traffic laws—then quickly refer back to #3. We here in Franklin lovingly call it our unified “shopping tax.” Also, you need not rush to beat the car in the merge lane—they will always let you in. Wonder who arrived first at the four-way stop? It doesn’t matter, the other three drivers will smilingly nod at you and let you go first. Need to pass someone, they will graciously move over so you can get on down the road. Have a flat tire—someone will always stop to help. Welcome to Franklin. Too good to be true? It’s not.
5.) Eating & Drinking — I have already mentioned one of our time-honored staple foods. But you also need to know that your tea will be sweet and probably have fruit in it—unless you request otherwise. That biscuits without gravy is blasphemy. Chicken should never be grilled—only fried. We also fry our green tomatoes, pickles, potatoes, okra and rabbits. Oh, yeah, you’re from the northeast. Just forget that we hunt animals down here. I know PETA would be upset. PETA is from Connecticut, right? Now that you live in Franklin, seriously consider revoking your gym membership and go ahead and join weight watchers. A little preventative maintenance never hurt anybody. Fried chicken with gravy and a side of creamed corn, anyone?
Welcome to the South. On a slightly more serious note, we are the home of Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Wolfe, and Mark Twain—just to name a few writers who seem to have done okay. We are also home to the blues, jazz, alternative rock, country music and Elvis Presley. And there are more creatives in little ‘ole Franklin, Tennessee per capita than any place on earth.
Oh yeah, and leave those fancy martini glasses at home. Down he-y-ah, you’re in Jack Daniels country. Grab a coke (you better not call it “pop”) and add a little Tennessee joy to it—and you will never give Connecticut a second thought.