Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

It Really is Different Down Here

by James Glaser
March 30, 2007

It isn't just the way people talk or the hot weather in March, lots of things are different in the South than they are back in Northern Minnesota.

I am getting better at understanding what people are saying to me, but still I swear many African Americans are speaking in a totally different language.

That heat in March, well it is in the eighties now and back in Minnesota there were years that the ice wasn't off the lake for opening of fishing in May.

The food is different down here. There are way more fresh fruits and vegetables in the grocery store, and there are so many restaurants that feature salads as their main course. There are even more fast food chains down here, and I have already written about all the different denominations of Christian Churches. Churches I have never heard of.

Another thing that is different down here is Law enforcement. They have billboards with a huge picture of some criminal they are looking for with the promise of a reward for information on locating the individual. No, they do not say "Wanted Dead or Alive."

It is hard to tell if law enforcement is really that different, because there was so little law enforcement up North. Maybe I should say that another way—there was very little crime in Northern Minnesota. If the one Deputy Sheriff we had were to haul you in to the jail, it was a 70 mile ride, one way. That meant that there was no law enforcement for about three hours, when he took somebody to the Falls to book them. Actually, the one deputy we had covered about 2500 square miles, and he was the only law enforcement 24/7 that we had. He could be forty miles down the road when a call came in for him.

I know it is a population thing, but there is a whole lot of crime down here. You can read about it every day in the news paper. Along with the billboards looking for criminals, there are also billboards with pictures of missing children and missing women. That is both sad and scary.

Public intoxication is big down here, and every day I see fairly young adults sitting under a tree or out side a gas station drinking beer or wine from a bottle that is in a brown paper bag. The other morning I was in line to pay for my gas, and I was the only person in this line of about a dozen people who didn't have a six pack or single bottle of beer to pay for. This was at 9 am, and I wasn't in a ghetto or down on skid row.

So, to say the least, I have had to make a mental adjustment to live down here. There are a lot of very sad people, a big homeless population, many people living in very substandard housing, and that is saying it nicely. The truth is that there are many people who live in shacks that would fit well into any third world slum.

I don't know if social services are on the same level down here as up North, but it is not uncommon to notice people who would fit in to the description of being deranged.

Like any place else, you can live down here and never notice any of the bad things. Well, the prisons do stick out with their concertina wire fences, and the "Wanted" billboards are hard to hide, but you can live in a nice neighborhood, never drive near any of the poor sections of town. Out of sight, out of mind, works.

But like any place, you make do with what you have. True you have to be a little more alert down here. While you don't have to worry about bears in your yard or watch for deer on the side of the road, there are way, way more cars and trucks, and Tallahassee drivers haven't seemed to figure out how stop lights work nor what turn signals are for.

However, the women down here are great. Wait a minute, let me say that again. The woman down here is real fine. That might go over better, and I don't really know enough about them to write about Southern women. Then again, I never learned enough about Northern women to write about them either.

Post Script:

Senator John McCain, Senator Joe Lieberman, President Bush, and almost all of the Republicans in Congress are now telling the American people that things are getting better in Iraq with George Bush's troop surge. Since we first attacked Iraq, on average, 66 American troops are being killed each month. So far this month we have lost 78 American troops. I don't know how they figure that is an improvement.

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