Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Place Called Alabama

     Knox McLaney on his farm cooking to feed the 1048 Irregulars.

In a place called Alabama, I have friends that are both white and male. As the lone African-American woman in a group of white friends, I know we are special.  You won’t read about us in novels by bestselling Southern scribes. You won’t see us on TV or in movies. In a place called Alabama, where live oak trees shade the land my ancestors tilled with their hands as slaves, where history declares my friends racist because of their grandfathers’ sins; we call ourselves a family.  

Over the span of 20 years, Tom, Wayne, Knox, John, Bart, Warren, Jon, and I converged on the 1048 Jazz and Blues Club in Montgomery to share cold beer, talk SEC football, tell lies about conquests, and raise absolute hell about politics. Adriane, Fran, and Donna always brought grace and class and laughs and extra beer, in case we needed to hit the dog track.  From what I've heard, Wayne, Tom, and Knox met each other when they stood on the right side of history during the Segregation Era at the University of Alabama. I could completely be wrong, but it wouldn't be the first time a 1048 Irregular took a myth and spun it into absolute fact.

Tom Cork at the one and only 1048 Jazz and Blues photo by Irregular Donna Davis of the Sunshine State Irregulars

  We’ve coached each other through life’s biggest defeats, and cheered each other through the smallest victories.  We discuss race and gender openly and honestly. We solve the world’s problems, and then we gossip.  We take up collections for friends in need. We visit each other’s kin in the hospital.  We are not like family. We are family.

Portrait of Wayne Greenhaw by Artist and Irregular, Adriane Butterfield Duvall

Tom was the first of our group to pull up a barstool at The Big Happy Hour in the Sky. In May, Knox passed away, and sadly, our beloved Wayne died an hour before Knox’s funeral.  My heart is overgrown with the kudzu of unspeakable grief from losing my brothers.  I now live 730.3 miles away, but I know in a place called Alabama there is always a barstool, a cold beer, and a friend waiting for me.

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