Friday, September 9, 2011

The wind, the waves, the Redneck Riviera

(art from "Southern Reader" online)

How I define “redneck” is in the same ballpark of how I define pornography: it’s tough to put into words, but I know it when I see it.

Some people are offended by the “R” word but I’m not and I don’t think the true redneck is. True rednecks in my mind sort of wear the label as a badge of honor. They are the “I’ve Been To Pigeon Forge” crowd, the people who have kitchens that smell like Pabst and linoleum and cathead biscuits, the people whose jeans are ripped because they got caught on rebar, not because it’s the style. Their scent is Pledge and motor oil and Old Spice.

The rednecks I’m talking about are of the Jeff Foxworthy variety, the ones who put their new television sets on top of their old television sets. A friend from redneck lineage told me this week that back in the day when their TV practically gave out and was down to getting picture only, Uncle Lester brought over his TV because – talk about a match made in Redneck Heaven! – it would get sound only.

Stack the two and bam! -- Redneck Entertainment Center. Just fry up the bologna sandwiches, adjust the rabbit ears, recline in the duct-taped easy chair and stay tuned for “This Week in NASCAR.” Anybody got an onion?

I am hopeful that the Griswold Family franchise will eventually put out a movie called “Redneck Vacation.” There is a fertile field to plow here. The setting would be your greater Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area, I would hope. The Redneck Riviera.

The French Riviera has resorts like Cap-d’Ail and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, with yachting and real French people. The Redneck Riviera has Shoalwater Condos and parasailing off the fishing dock and a real Cajun who’ll scream “Jellyfish!” just to try to make the guy standing next to him in waist-deep water spill his beer.

My spousal unit wondered for years why many of us call this beckoning stretch of sand the Redneck Riviera. What? All these years, had she missed seeing the wind and waves and tattoos? The unfiltereds and the red lipstick mixed with Coppertone? The vacationing truckers in cut-off blue jeans?

Oh, how blind we can be…

Sometimes, to establish themselves, the redneck gods have to play hardball. So in July, not 20 feet from her little sandy beach chair, my wife watched a senior citizen in Bermuda shorts put a beach towel around his waist, right there by your lapping Orange Beach waves. He had a pair of swim trunks in his hand. Suddenly, one hand went sort of under his towel at his waist area. The Bermuda shorts dropped to his ankles. Hello!

Then he bent and attempted to put on the trunks. The towel slipped a bit. Or maybe the towel cracked. It was supposed to stay up, I guess. It didn’t. Was this a circus act? Were we on Candid Camera?

Suddenly there was a full moon, and not the pretty kind, at 9 a.m. But the (redneck) gentleman just pulled his trunks up and set about enjoying the rest of his day at the beach with his family, who didn’t even look up from reading their Popular Mechanics while he was changing because I suppose they’d seen it all before.


“I understand now,” my wife said.

Hate it took that, but life is filled with hard lessons. And I can’t wait to go back next summer.