tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 16

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.

Jim Clyburn elected president of South Carolina’s Young Democrats, 1972

Though Clyburn is not a GenXer, his election in this case shows a marked difference between the Southern politics that the Boomers were familiar with – in South Carolina, that meant Strom Thurmond – and the politics that Generation X became familiar with. For older Southerners, the Democrats were the party of segregation, but it had become the party of Civil Rights by the 1970s. Clyburn rose through the ranks of the party, and as a congressman has been credited with garnering many Southern black votes for Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.

Mississippi University for Women in the 1970s and ’80s

Showing perhaps some degree of change in Deep Southern culture, Mississippi State College for Women was renamed Mississippi University for Women in 1974. Then, MUW began admitting male students in 1982, and in 1989, the school got its first female president, Clyda Rent. Since its founding in 1884, there had been three female interim presidents who served brief terms before her. Since 1989, only one of the six presidents has been male.

The Todd Road Incident and Leadership Montgomery, 1983

Montgomery, Alabama is well-known as the site of Rosa Parks 1955 arrest and as the destination for the 1965 voting-rights marchers, but fewer people know about the city’s ongoing racial divisions, which continued. The Todd Road Incident involved the shooting of a black teenager by police officers who did not identify themselves as such. In the wake of the controversy, the organization Leadership Montgomery was formed, in hopes of addressing the issues that led to these situations.

“Flashback photos: 30 years ago, 1990 in Georgia” from ajc.com

level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 11: the skateboarding edition

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.

“Rodney Mullen – Freestyle Contest Oceanside 1986” on YouTube

This nearly-five minute video shows skater Rodney Mullen in a contest in Mississippi. This was one of his many wins in freestyle contests like this in the 1980s. Mullen is a legendary skater who was originally from Gainesville, Florida.

“Old School History of Skateboarding in Lafayette, UNCUT EDITION,” from 2012

This 10,000-word full version of an article that appeared in The Independent Weekly in 2009 offers a lengthy narrative about skaters in Louisiana from 1970 through 1990. The blog Psyouthern, where the article is posted, has as its subtitle “Deep South Blasting.”

“Skateboarding in Birmingham, Alabama (1995 – 2000)” on YouTube

This three-minute video shot on an old camcorder shows a group of skaters doing tricks, falling down some, and also getting run off by a sheriff’s deputy at the courthouse.

“Early 90s Old School Skating (Atlanta, GA 1990 – 1993)” on YouTube

Similar to the one above: three minutes of skating, this time in Atlanta.

“Old School Skateboard Contest 1987 Greenville, SC” on YouTube

Rather than live video, this is a slide how of pictures from a skate competition that appears to have taken place on a rural two-lane road.

level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

The Temple of Oxford on Pharr

by Francie Klopotic

It’s a hot summer night in 1993, and it’s one o’clock in the morning. I am a 27 year old in Decatur, a suburb on the eastern edge of Atlanta, and I need a reading fix.

Keys in hand, I jump in the car and drive to Buckhead. The radio is tuned to 99X. The station feeds me “How Soon Is Now?” from The Smiths.

Interstate traffic is light on this Saturday night as I wind my way up I-85 and take the Piedmont exit. My destination? That miraculous and awe-inspiring spaceship-shaped bookstore, a beacon of intellectual light perched on the edge of Pharr Road.

She is my favorite professor, my companion in the darkest of times, my trusted confidante. As long as I can make it there by closing time at 2:00 AM, I’ll be fine.

Parking is scarce, even at this hour. I pull into the driveway and find a space behind the building. I kill the engine. Music pours from a building nearby. I walk around to the main entrance, my feet keeping time with the beat.

The glass door opens with a gentle tug, and I make my way past rows of bookshelves that greet me in the entryway. Folks lean in to browse new titles. A soft scent of paper and bookbinding fills the air. The interior lighting is just right, not too dim and not too bright. The sound of pages turning under a blanket of soft jazz lulls me into a meditative state.

I have entered the temple of Oxford Books, Atlanta’s sanctuary of the written word. There is no store in the whole of the city more sacred to me than this. Like others who are drawn into her literary cathedral, I find myself a devotee.

High ceilings in this former car dealership give the building a church-like feel. The cashier counter sits in the middle of the store like an oversized pulpit. Employees in blue vests engage a throng of shoppers in light banter. The soft sound of happy voices makes sweet music. It is the Oxford choir.

I look at the customers. A greasy-haired teen in flannel shirt sits on the floor reading Kerouac. There are others like us in this congregation of book lovers, young GenXers in ripped jeans and combat boots scattered amidst the throngs of beatniks and hippies, academics and scholars. We have come together to worship at the altar of knowledge and inspiration housed within the southeast’s largest indie bookstore.

The massive staircase to the round-as-a-doughnut top floor tempts me with its vast selection of metaphysics, philosophy, and mythology books. Normally I’d hit the upstairs first to scour the titles for a Nietzsche or a Campbell, but my holy place on this pilgrimage is the newsstand on the ground floor. This is my Mecca and it holds a huge variety of publications. Glossy covers draw me in as I approach the rows of magazine racks that seem a mile long. One section of publications flows seamlessly into the next. From poetry chapbooks to soft-core porn, there is something for every taste and predilection. Anything and everything a person can imagine sits waiting to be discovered in these tightly packed racks.

Arts, literature, and poetry draw me in like a siren’s call, and right here on the bottom rack of the shelf nearest the window is where I first met Utne Reader.

It’s a new month, which means there’s a new issue. Dressed in cover art worthy of the Utne name, this “best of the alternative press” has become something akin to forbidden fruit, opening both my eyes and my mind to thoughts, philosophies, and politics that lie to the left of age-old Southern traditions.

They are the same age-old traditions in which I was raised.

Here in these pages I learn what people in New York are thinking, what people in Los Angeles are doing, and what people in Chicago are making.

Every new issue excites me to the core and stretches my imagination. I envision what it must be like to live, work, and play in such a huge city. These thoughts, however, draw me back to the city in which I find myself.

Atlanta, “a city too busy to hate,” a city on the brink of greatness, is adjusting well to her status as the Big Apple of the New South. She is growing up, expanding, welcoming. She knows all too well her complicated past and has chosen to set her sights toward a future filled with hope.

Each and every month, Utne Reader helps me do the same. The magazine is there as a comforting ally, taking me by the hand and easing my innocent-to-the-ways-of-the-world mind into a wider and all-encompassing perspective.

Letters to the editor are always the first bits I consume. The letters remind me that I’m not the only one in the world with an insatiable appetite for culture. I feel less alone. The letters provide something of a subversive edge to the magazine and this excites me. Utne is also my go-to for book reviews. It is within these pages that I first discovered “Pigs in Heaven” by my new favorite writer, Barbara Kingsolver.

I grab an unread issue from the back of the stack and head to the register.

The cashier takes my copy of Utne and smiles. She offers me a knowing grin and rings up my purchase. Under the soulful sounds of John Coltrane that emanate from unseen speakers, she slips the magazine into a bag and hands it to me.

I take my treasure and exit the assembly. The door opens to oppressive heat. The humidity hasn’t let up since I entered the store. I walk into a wall of wet air and plow through it toward the parking lot.

Once seated in my car, I set my Utne on the passenger seat and turn the key in my old Chevy. The stereo awakens in time for Robert Smith of The Cure to ask his fervent question: “Why can’t I be you?”

Francie Klopotic is a visual artist and a writer. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, she lives with one foot in the mundane and the other in the mystical. Francie has been creating stories for most of her life, weaving tales that blend aspects of the arcane with personal experience and dreamy flights of fancy. She currently lives in Augusta and spends her time between Atlanta and Savannah, sharing her life with her husband and their two cats.