Thursday, September 3, 2009

Way Down in Alabama

i mentioned in my alabama supper post that we impulsively rode into hale county last saturday after having a few, intent on having a few more in a quainter local, but i had not the time to go into detail. we went to see a friend of paul's. she's writing an article for harper's about some such down in the greensboro area. when we arrived we found a gaggle of the hippest hipsters this side of the williamsburg bridge gallivanting about downtown greensboro in an upstairs loft. i couldn't believe my eyes. typically a cool party in alabama is a mix of subcultures, cliques, and interests forever on the brink of fallout. but here, in the middle of sleepy hale county, in the black belt, there was a gathering of people of common interests with good taste, good style, open minded conversations, and good times. many of them were associated with pie lab or rural studio. some were architects, some artists, some photographers, some writers, and many were student interns. talking to a few of them, i found that most were from north of the mason dixon. i also found that they had a strong interest in the black belt communities, in my home state, and were well versed in notable black belt artists and figures. it was refreshing. i ended up talking to phillip jones, an artist from lexington, kentucky, for much of the evening. he was down there with paul's friend, alex, to contribute artwork to the harper's piece. we discussed our favorite alabama artists and/or acquaintances like lonnie holley, jerry brown, charles smith, mozell benson, and thornton dial. he had seen the film the fullness of time, a film about local civil rights activist theresa burroughs, which andy grace directed and, to which, i contributed as a student. he had also seen mr dial has something to say, the alabama public television film directed by celia carey. he couldn't figure out why that film hadn't received more air time. then, of course, we began discussing james agee and walker evans' work in hale county that became let us now praise famous men. this led to a discussion about william christenberry's work. it was great. it felt like what it must have been like to be at one of those art parties in rural alabama in the 30's with harper lee and truman capote. what's funny is toward the end of the evening in tuscaloosa, before the mention of leaving for greensboro, i had looked up at the alabama moon and thought i was having the quintessential southern summer evening. little did i know what lay down the road.

on monday, i went to the library to find let us now praise famous men. i read it a few years ago, but it's essentially a prose poem that needs rereading every few years. in honor of such an inspired hale county weekend, some future posts will be more about hale county and it's badassedness.