Sunday, 11 August 2013

Southern Hospitality

'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers'.
Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire.

If you're too young to remember the actual play written by Tennesee Williams you may recall the Simpsons adaption where Marge plays Blanche in a local production and Ned Flanders plays the primal Stanley. I was very interested to discover that the play is actually based in New Orleans.  In fact, they even have a competition once a year where actors battle re-enacting the inflamous "STELLLLA"!" shouting scene here. We even stayed near Elysian Field's Ave in Marigny which is where Stella lives.

Now the infamous line about the kindness of strangers at the end of the play is meant ironically as Blanche is actually getting committed to a mental institution by Stanley after he rapes her. But down here in the South, there's a ring of truth to it regardless of it's orginal context. People are just so damn nice here. 

We flew into San Antonio in Texas, where the elderly owner of our airbnb place had offered to pick us  up from the airport despite it being quite late. He then preceded to show us around the neighbourhood and took us out for a drink (even though we were exhausted from traveling all day). In my suspicious mind this was quite alarming as we had just met him, we were in his car and we were driving down unknown, pitch black, narrow roads. Was he getting us drunk on purpose?! 

No (as we are not dead in a shallow grave in his backyard) he ended up been just an overly hospitable, harmless man who just couldn't stop talking about his first cousin, a famous jazz musician and kind of creepily flirting with young waitresses, pretending to know them. He was just lonely I think as he did take us out and paid for our riverboat cruise which ended up being dinner and a drink as well. Though I don't know if it was worth it as we then had to endure his endless monologue, omg, he was just so old.

These were ACTUAL conversations we had.
After a very long 24 hours we bid old George farewell and drove ourselves to Austin. We had such an awesome time in our week here thanks to the hospitality of our airbnb host Aleza, who was the opposite of George! She was our age, so friendly and funny PLUS she had two awesome dogs for me to cuddle all week (they probably got a bit sick of me). She even invited us out dancing one night which was really cool as Austin is the live music capital and she taught us a bit of Columbian salsa like dancing. There was an easygoing, casual feeling in the bar and it was just really easy and fun to talk to people and do a bit of dancing. I wish Sydney had more casual places like this. I even got in wearing thongs (flip flops)!

And now, we're in New Orleans. Just on a simple trip to the local grocery store for a poboy, we met a lovely elderly African American man and his wife waiting for their order who just struck up a conversation with us and shook our hands and wished us the best of luck (in a really genuine way) when they took their leave. Just after, we were chatting to the Vietnamese owner of the store who showed us his recent holiday picture in good ol' Cabramatta in Sydney. And THEN we saw a crazy lady walking towards us ranting and swearing for no reason but when she reached us, instead of verbally abusing us as we expected, she paused, smiled and greeted us with a friendly 'Hey y'all'. We are constantly smiling from the kindess of strangers in the South. It's infectious in the most beautiful way.

It'll probably be a rude shock once we hit New York. I can just picture the old stereotype now "Haye wortch it, I'm warking hare!". I'll just try to keep up my Southern manners for as long as possible.

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