Ah, Waffle House. Photo: Kent Yoshimura
It’s more than copious amounts of butter. I know Tennessee is only one part of the South, but, where I come from, things were la-di-da, spacious, and simple.
1. Personal space
Nashville had plenty of room to roam among a wealth of coffeeshops, living space, and nature. Personal space is a rare privilege in NYC. Apartments are too small for hanging out, cafes are crowded, and if you do find yourself on a quiet street alone, the NYPD recommends you leave it.
2. Southern breakfasts
The Loveless Cafe in Nashville has the quaint country charm and good cookin’ required for any true Southern breakfast. Homemade preserves, scratch-made biscuits, and the freshest fried chicken aren’t easy to find in pretentious-brunch-filled New York.
Waffle House is also particularly missed on late Saturday nights in the East Village, when a slice of dollar pizza just won’t do. Delightfully greasy, so darn cheap, and literally always open, Waffle House should put that bright beautiful black and yellow sign in the middle of Meatpacking and just be done with it.
3. Preppy people
In Tennessee I lived among groomed Southerners in friendly uniformed pastel polo and sundress looks. Contrast that with the bitch in the black leather Versace dress and studded Louboutin heels who stole my cab in Midtown yesterday. I then watched a hobo in a Slipknot t-shirt pick off his toenail and flick it.
Most likely this wouldn’t happen in Tennessee. That said, I have also seen a tattooed bro with gold teeth gently scoop a baby bird from the bike-filled East River highway and move it out of harm’s way, which probably isn’t something that’d happen in Tennessee.
4. $4 drinks
Nothing says NYC like spending a quick $32 bucks on two cocktails, which is easy to do when you want to try the smoked sea salt and kale margarita and the chipotle-infused agave bourbon. In Nashville, I could buy a pint of Yazoo for $4. “Don’t forget to come getchu a free one when ya finish that, darlin’,” bartenders would say. “It’s happy hour.” And for my savins’ account, it certainly was.
5. Sweet Southern conversation
“Woodya like butta on your muffin, muffin? Sugah in your coffee, sugah?” People say things like “Jeet,” meaning “Did you eat?” Or “Ju let out the cayut?” Words in the South are practically pronounced in slow motion, and I miss being called food names on the reg.
Sometimes in the city I wish someone would ask me if I like the new “flares” planted in Central Park, or if I’m planning to visit “Grammaw” for the holidays. Instead people wear earbuds everywhere and curse at me on my Citi Bike.
6. Southern music
In Nashville honky-tonks are plentiful, and Broadway’s bustling with live music. Summer’s the best time to be a Tennessean. I’m not even country’s biggest fan, but when CMA Fest rolls around I’d put on my cowboy hat and happily drink Budweiser in a tailgate parking lot.
NYC doesn’t really have parking lots, and I have yet to find a place like Lonnie’s in Printer’s Alley where I can listen to the next wannabe American Idol play the gee-tar and belt “Wagon Wheel” in tight, frayed blue jeans.
In the South, there’s something very alluring about everybody knowing everybody’s business. If Patti got a boob job, the whole town knows how much it cost. In New York, I couldn’t tell you the first name of the neighbor I share a wall with, but I could tell you he listens to accordion music when he has sex, and it knocks the frames off my wall. But if I wanted to snitch about his odd sexual antics and multiple mistresses to someone, 1) I wouldn’t have anyone to tell, and 2) no one would care.
It’s hard to find a sense of “neighborhood” in NYC, and without it, gossip isn’t really possible. Despite what Serena van der Woodsen would say.
8. That slow-paced, easy lifestyle
In a rush to get my car’s oil changed in Cookeville, Tennessee, the mechanic told me I’d have to wait five hours. “We ain’t as fast as them Yankees,” he said. Unsure if I should remind him the war was over, I dilly-dallied away with no particular place to be.
This isn’t something I ever say in New York. And always having somewhere to be can be exhausting, even if that somewhere is just a boozy bottomless jazz brunch in the West Village.
9. Places like this:
In NYC a haircut is $75, and mine’s never come with a blessing.
In Tennessee, I’d walk barefoot out my back door into a clean, green, private yard surrounded by trees and birds. Now my backyard is Central Park, and it’s shared with eight million others — and I have to take the train to get there.
Let me be the first to say I adore Central Park. But once I arrive, if it’s a nice summer day, I’ll have to hunt through herds of people for a shady spot that may or may not be sprinkled with rat feces.
11. Driving for no reason
Sometimes I run on the East River and look back at the city I’m attached to and realize I’m actually trapped on this non-pristine, crowded island of Manhattan. Freedom to go wherever whenever isn’t something that exists in the city for normal people. In New York I’ve let my driver’s license expire, and my subway commute smells like hot garbage and piss. No driving on hilly, tree-lined back roads with the fresh air in my hair.
And whether it’s dumping rain or snow or so hot my shorts cling to my ass, I will have to carry my groceries home in it.