As much as I hate to admit it sometimes, I am 100% a city boy. Is that a bad thing? Some would say yes. Does it make me feminine? I would have to whole-heartedly disagree. Am I less manly than someone who grew up in the country? I am, but only if you measure by definition of manliness based on very ignorant precepts (Defining manliness along these terms is probably a bad idea, but it does make for an interesting cranial exercise – Should a man strive to be “Country” or “City” or neither? Or both? Is there something worse than either?). This City-Country distinction is a particularly compelling topic here in the “Land of Cotton.”
The South is a very distinct place. When you are in the South it is clear, if from nothing more than the humidity – but usually from much, much more – that you are not in any other part of the world. It has many faces, but to most outsiders, and even to a large number of southerners, the predominant faces are rural and agrarian. Ag Schools and Alan Jackson, Barbeques and Boucheries, Cowboy Boots and Combines – these are the sort of imagery that most would call to mind when pondering Dixie, but that is not all that the South is. It certainly isn’t the image that I have in my head after spending damned near every day of my 29 years south of the Mason Dixon. What is the image in my head then? Groups of people bedecked in seersucker, having four hour lunches at Galatoire’s; Professors and students ambling ‘neath the Stately Oaks and Arches of the campus of Louisiana State University; relaxing on the white sand beaches that stretch from Gulfport to past Destin; nerds, sleep deprived from hours spent studying for differential equations exams, crossing the interstate in the middle of the night from Georgia Tech to stuff their faces with hotdogs at the Varsity; Charleston's tall homes leering over the waterfront as if they were about to dive in; and a Streetcar rolling past the mansions of the Garden District bound for the high rises of New Orleans' business district.
That is my image of the South, and I am sure I share a similar view with quite a few others, being as the twenty largest cities south of the Mason-Dixon alone have a combined population of more than 50 million people. We, Urban Southerners, may even be the majority down here, and we recognize that our past has many traditions that originate in the agrarian setting, we also realize, and are very proud of, the fact that many of our traditions simply could not have begun anywhere but in an urban setting.
Please stay tuned, for Part 2 of the City/Country Dilemma, where I'll give my background as a means to view my position on the matter.