Sunday, January 22, 2012

Growing up Poor in the South (or, The Southern Cross)

So, just a little while ago I was reading a nice Talk of the Town piece in The New Yorker by Tad Friend about the actor/comedian David Cross.  Cross apparently just moved from the East Village to "Dumbo", which sounds like it might be the Gotham equivalent of  "B. F. E.", but turns out to actually stand for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass" in Brooklyn, which, if you ask me, is taking this whole SoHo, NoMa, etc. thing way too far.

Anyhow, the thing that grabbed me was not the silly acronyms but rather this line: "The comedian grew up poor in the South."  Actually, what really grabbed me was not the line itself but rather what surprisingly did NOT come after it, which was an explanation of where it was in the South that Mr. Cross grew up.  It's not like Cross has a distinctive Texas drawl or one of those rapid-fire Piedmont Carolina accents that immediately nail down someone's hometown.

The geographical description "in the South" is simply too vague and non-descriptive, not quite so bad as saying "from North America", but certainly not too much more precise.  Perhaps to a New Yorker it's all the same, but to me, at least, there's a huge difference between, say, growing up poor in Miami, Florida, than there is in Elkins, West Virginia, or Houston, Texas, or Demopolis, Alabama.

Cross, if Wikipedia is to be believed, was actually born in Atlanta and grew up mostly in Roswell, an Atlanta suburb, broken up with a few stints in New York and Connecticut--and, his father is British.  Which may help explain why when I asked my wife (who, as it happens, lived briefly as a child in Elkins, West Virginia) where she thought David Cross was born, she said, "I don't know. Canada?"

I'm heading to Manhattan on Wednesday for work. I doubt I'll find time to visit Dumbo, but when people ask me where I'm from, I'm just going to say, "the South."  I'm curious to see whether that'll satisfy 'em.  Hell, they might assume I mean Red Bank, New Jersey, and just leave it at that.

1 comment:

Doug said...

True. Robert, I am a fellow blogger who enjoys your work ( I purchased "Barbecue: The History..." for my brother last year and he loves it. He lives in Chicago and is a Steven Raichlen disciple. At any rate, this post floored me when you referenced Elkins, WV. It's like where did that come from. We relocated to the Lowcountry from of all places, Elkins, WV. Funny stuff. Thanks, keep up the good work

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