The Lounge: Tinman's Alabama Memories

by: Adept2u

Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 12:38:35 PM EST

Hiya MOOOOOOOSE!  I wrote this originally in the aftermath of the BP oil spill when I was feeling a bit moody.  Reading Cassandra's excellent piece on succession today motivated me to share some of my Alabama with the herd.

My parents would bus or fly me down south for the summer.  The most fun I would have is when I would go by bus with my Aunt Bobby.  There's a clue to the first Alabama memory.  They call women Bobby and Coo and those are just my aunts.  Me they called Tin man and they called me that because I would pronounce the word as aunt instead of "aint".  When I was younger the neighborhood would swarm me and point to parts of their bodies and ask me what it was.  They'd point to their behinds and I'd say buttocks or they'd point to their stomachs and I'd say abdomen, and they'd laugh and say you talk so proper you sound like a tin man.  

Adept2u :: The Lounge: Tinman's Alabama Memories
My grandparents moved to Mobile in the early part of World War II.  They were attracted to the city in order to take advantage of the new opportunities afforded to Black people to work brought on by the need for labor as the regular work force went off to fight.  They settled in a neighborhood they called Plateau which is about a mile maybe two off the Mobile Bay.  I could never understand why they called the place Plateau it's low, but anyway my Grampa went to work for the Scott Paper Company and set about raising a family.  

That brings to mind another Alabama memory the smell.  Paper companies use sulfur in their processes and Plateau smelled like a mixture of swamp, rotten eggs,  and three to four day old unwashed funk.  I was actually supposed to be born in Mobile, but my mom couldn't take the smell pregnant and they had to go to her home to have me.  When I got older I could tell when I was in an Alabama state of mind when I could no longer smell it.

Mobile was a terrific place for a city kid.  There was a man Mr. John Robinson, and you better say it all, he didn't go for that nickname nonsense who built 12 foot fishing boats in a lot in the neighborhood who would tell you stories as he taught you to plane wood.  We were taught how to handle guns like we were taught how to handle the wood planes and we would hunt rabbit and other small game.   Well they would hunt the rabbit and small game I would shoot at them.  Things are surprisingly hard to hit even with a shotgun.  Fireworks are legal and they sold them to kids I probably spent full days trying to blow my digits off, But most of all we would fish.

To this day my Pops hates shrimp, crab, and most food that comes from the sea.  When I'd ask him why he'd say son when I was growing up that's all we ever ate.  They really had the opportunity to make the bounty from the sea a major part of their meal plans.  I actually can't imagine how people go actually hungry on the bay.  All it takes is a dead fish and access to the water and you can have as much crab as you want.  My Grandma's stand alone freezer was always packed with fresh fish.  Someone was always going or coming back from fishing and for the most part you couldn't give the fish away.

I lost my Grandfather in my 10th grade year, but I'm still blessed to have my Grandma with me and even in her advanced years she still loves to fish, but she can't now.  I spoke with her and she tells me that due to the BP disaster the fish and the shrimp and the crab are safe, at least from human consumption against the oil is a different matter.  I can still remember catching my first fish with Grandfather about half a mile off the stern of the battleship Alabama.  That bounty allowed my father and his siblings a university education is most likely gone.  My new Alabama memories are going to have another layer of smell on them.  A petroleum based stink that already permeates the neighborhood that I doubt you can get used to.

It is apparent the management of BP is not handling any of the issues surrounding their disaster in any sort of a competent manner.  I now have the fear that they have idiots for management and as opposed to making real decisions to make real impact they are in CYA mode and they are only making decisions for looks.  Its all show and no go.  The fact that they've spent millions of dollars for make great PR and are known by real experts in the field to be a failure means to me BP is captured by failures.  

I know I'm going back to Alabama, but now I have to wonder if I'll ever be able to achieve an Alabama state of mind, and the prospect of that just makes me want to cry.


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Thanks for sharing, those memories are the (2.00 / 16)
most precious.  Tin man... you shouldn't oughta told us that :)

"Pin your money to your girdle and don't talk to strangers."  My Grandmom's advice when I went away to school.  I don't wear a girdle and have never met a stranger.  Sorry Grandmom!

I got off lucky (2.00 / 16)
The next door neighbor kid was getting a haircut and the barber hit him with powder but didn't dust it off.  Before age 10 and "Powder Head" was born.  

"I honor the place in you where Spirit lives
I honor the place in you which is
of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,
when you are in that place in you,
and I am in that place in me,
then we are One."  Namaste Friends!

[ Parent ]
LOL! (2.00 / 13)

"Pin your money to your girdle and don't talk to strangers."  My Grandmom's advice when I went away to school.  I don't wear a girdle and have never met a stranger.  Sorry Grandmom!

[ Parent ]
Great diary here, Adept2u (2.00 / 14)
It is very evocative. Such fine writing of personal narrative. I've only got a moment online right now, but I wanted to comment on how much this elicited for me, and also, how well it works to frame the stink at the end.

What a wonderful diary, Adept2u! (2.00 / 15)
(and thank you for the hat tip!)

Mr. Carolina and I drive through Alabama several times a year on our way back and forth from Texas to our NC home where we will be moving this year. The Gulf Coast is a fascinating place, quite different from the Atlantic coast where I grew up.

The vulnerability of our oceans is something we misunderstand at our peril. Even the drought in Texas affected local shellfishing, as the significant reduction in freshwater reaching Galveston Bay resulted in an increase in salinity and the proliferation of parasitic diseases in shellfish.

Thank you for sharing your memories of Alabama, a state with many wonderful people and beautiful landscapes.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

-- Oscar Wilde

lovely story (2.00 / 12)
I'm familiar with the smell from paper plants. There was a paper mill in a neighboring city where I went to school. Every once in a while when the winds blew right, you could smell the stench.

I've been through Mobile while driving on I-10 between Texas and Florida. There's a hairy curve before it goes through a tunnel, on the interstate!  

I grew up on one of the Sea Islands of the coast of SC. (2.00 / 10)
My folks still live there so I am able, despite what Thomas Wolfe said, to go home again on a regular basis. My entire family was at the family home for wife and I, 2 brothers w/ wives, 6 nephews & nieces, and my 'little' sis. The house was groaning at its seams...but, it was a most wonderful visit. I am 40+ years old but at times like that I feel like a kid again...home with those I love and comforted by the familiar.

I can relate to the fishing and crabbing with the freezer full of our success and the shrimp that our neighbor who worked a trawler would ply us with. The year round fireworks easy to obtain (bottle rocket and roman candle wars on seemingly endless summer nights...damned lucky we all still have 10 fingers and 2 eyes).

The smell of paper mill and marsh are part of home to me. They are 'comfort smells' to me. The sulfur 'stench' that summer winds would drag our way on humid summer days...the odor of salty decay that would rise and fall as surely as the tides.

When we visit home in the warm months, I take time to drive along the winding roads while the rest of my family sleeps. Windows down so I can breathe in the air redolent of my youth...marsh and papermill and pine and gardenia (and the occasional whiff of growing 'weed'). All those odors and more are held blended together by the warm humid air and settle like a blanket over the island.

So, I hear ya...hell, I feel ya. For me, though, it is a Carolina state of mind.

One that I am so very thankful I can call forth with right now.



So glad I read this diary and this beautifully poetic comment :-) (1.33 / 3)
Our childhood memories are often so inextricably linked with our senses.

One person can make a difference if that one person is committed to making a difference. - James Hood

[ Parent ]
Excellent diary, Adept.... and vivid. (2.00 / 8)
Greatly appreciated by this native Alabamian, though I'm more centrally located. Spent a lot of time in Mobile as a kid though (had a close cousin who lived there). I loved visiting and looked forward to it every time. I've only been back to Mobile once since Deepwater Horizon, and that was just for a late night concert I was attending with my brother.

Many of my fondest childhood memories involve the Gulf (in both Alabama and Florida), and the BP spill broke my heart. It got to where I couldn't even watch it on the news for a while. The whole thing turned my stomach and made me feel physically ill when I focused on it for too long. We don't really "feel" the impact of the spill here where I live, but my heart still breaks for those who live with the ongoing realities and devastating results of the spill from day to day.

I hope that in your upcoming time here, today's Alabama resembles the Alabama of your childhood as closely as possible.  

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.


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