How did I get here? I often (Daily) ask myself this question. I am one of those people that never said, "I can't wait to get outta here," when I was growing up. I always loved my home town of Tuscaloosa. I saw myself maybe living in Birmingham...you know, going off to the big city...but never, ever saw myself, living in Los Angeles! GOOD HEAVENS! That is just way too far from my Mother, and my Crimson Tide! I never dreamed of Hollywood, or yearned for the bright lights of this big city. Yes, I wanted to be an actress, and a talk show host, but I figured I would be so rich there would be no question that I would always have a house in Tuscaloosa! So how has it happened that I have lived here not once, but THREE times. Imagine a push-me-pull-you..you know the mythical creature for Dr. Doolittle. That creature is me and my Yankee husband. As all true Southerners know...a yankee is anyone not born and raised in the South. It doesn't matter where you are from, as long as it is not the South, you are a Yankee! And it is a constant battle, that no matter where he takes me, I always want to go home to my Tuscaloosa. Even if my town has changed a bit from the recent tornado, it is still the same at the heart of it...and all the things, and people I love about it are still right there. That is my spot on Earth...and everyone who knows me knows about Tuscaloosa, for it stays on the tip of my tongue and at the front of my mind everyday. So how can I survive living here without losing my mind? I use my "southerness" and sweet-talk my way through it. And of course all the beauty-pageant traing comes in handy!
I know y'all know how friendly the South is. Why, we never met a stranger. I am talkative anyway, but to a person from the huge city of LA, well I am almost a freak of nature! I go in stores from Walgreens to Nordstrom, saying, "Hey Honey", and offering a big hug to anyone I know. At first I heard some people thought I was on drugs. Between my friendly chatter, and the way I drive, I am sure they were placing bets on that. But one day at the ice rink several years ago, (my son has been a competitive Pairs ice skater for over 10 years) I actually heard a woman explaining for me, "Oh no, she's not on drugs, she's from the South and they're just really friendly." Then it was like, suddenly I was so popular, but kinda like a zoo animal...people wanted to come view me and ask me questions so they could hear my accent. What accent?
Years ago, when I was auditioning all the time, I always remembered I was from the pageant world of the deep South. I knew this was an advantage over practically everyone here, and I tried in vain to use it as such. Sometimes it just didn't quite play out like I had hoped. During my early days here in Hollywood, I got a bunch of "Under Fives"...thats when the role has less than five lines but you are very necessary to complete the scene. It's a good place to start. So I got a part on my very favorite soap..it was the whole reason I wanted to be on a soap...The Young and The Restless. I was playing a college student! My ego was psyched because I was in my late 20s. I am, and have always been, a teeny bit...plump...ahem...and so, I bought a special girdle for the occasion. On the day of the shoot, I arrived at CBS with my "underwear" in my bag...I mean I couldn't wear it for long , you know, because I had to breathe and all.
I checked in and was assigned to my dressing room and given my call time. Okay, time for the girdle. I had been to make-up and hair, had waited till the last second to get into it so I wouldn't appear blue on camera. I began to push and prod myself into this magical transforming garment. As I began to perspire, because, as you know, Southern Belles don't sweat, ....we glisten...I realized I had never put one of these on by myself before. I had my Yankee trained well to "help miss Scarlet with the corsett" HELP!!! How will I make my call time...my dress would not FIT without my pressure cooker of a foundation piece! I stood on the couch and tried for physics to help me...it did not. I laid up-side-down on the couch and tried for gravity...nothing...OMG! I am about to be called to THE Young and The Restless set, and I am naked! I pulled a chair over and pushed and pulled and prodded, holding one foot at a time, up on the wall, till all of me was in this garment that looked like it was made for a poodle. My face needed dabbing off...okay, my make-up needed to be completely re-applied. I had brought my caboodles kit! A good Pageant-trained Southern Belle is never without her caboodles! I was ready....not breathing well...but ready. And vowing to join Jenny Craig when this was over!
I was called to the set, in my beautiful dress and high heels. I was given a couple of books to look like a student, and shown my mark.
ACTION.....I began to walk out on camera, rounding a corner of the hallway, just as I made my turn...my grand entrance, I felt my girdle SNAP...and my right boob flop to sweet freedom....the girdle just couldn't take the pressure. It broke WHILE the camera was rolling! I did what any well-trained Southtern beauty pageant girl would do, I slowly, gently, eased the text book up over my flopping boob and covered my girl right up! And a big pageant girl smile certainly didn't hurt! No one ever knew. Then the director yelled, "Again, from the top."...I kept the books in place, and that's the way it aired. I knew why those books were being held so high that day!
When I got back to my dressing room, I realized at least I wasn't blue, my right lung had been set free. So it all worked out. My Pageant training came in quite handy that day durning my wardrobe malfunction!
I use my Belle-ness all the time. It helps me survive the traffic out here as well. Twelve lanes of stopped traffic can drive a person to use some pretty fowl language...not me, I just stick my head out the window and actually say to the driver next to me,, in my thickest accent, "Hey would you be a Sweetie- Pie and let me over?"...How can they be mean and impersonal when I am so, well,... SOUTHERN? And Sweet! My Yankee and my son are always pushing me to do this, but for some reason, they scootch down in the car when I do...hmmmm.
I have seen that it is just good to be a Southerner, no matter where I am. Good manners, a taste for good food, a friendly way, a discrete manner, a wonderful lullabye of an accent. I am so proud of my Southern roots, and thank the good lord above for all my pageant training!
Monday, May 23, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
SUMMER DAZE: THE DAY I DRANK PART OF THE WARRIOR RIVER! (And while lovely to look at, does not make for a tasty beverage)
I have to admit, in the aftermath of the tornado that ravaged one seventh of my home town, it has been difficult for me to think of what to write. I am not one to EVER be at a loss for something to say. EVER. And I wasn't. I just did not want to write. I had to grieve. I had blogs planned for the next several weeks until April 27th changed things. I have grieved and raised money and talked about Tuscaloosa to my friends and family here in LA, but to most, I am sure, they don't get it. I am part of Tuscaloosa in a way that is hard for them to relate, since I don't live there anymore. Ahh, but see, that's where they are wrong. I still live there. My heart is there every minute. I have looked at videos and pictures and talked daily to friends and family there. I am there. And I will be there physically, soon, to help in rebuilding and putting us back together. And as we have all suffered a terrible, seemingly insurmountable loss, life DOES go on. And that in and of itself is why WE ARE TUSCALOOSA. We Know this. We will rebuild and go on and count our miracles. And Summer is coming!
The heat, the bugs, the lakes and rivers, all still right where we left them before April 27th changed the landscape. And we do need to laugh. It makes life bearable, after all.
Summers in the South, like everything else down here, are a little different. The heat is wet. Like a prickly wool blanket just from a hot tub, it is thrown on top of you as you go out into it, from a nice cool air-conditioned room. Or, it can feel like the inside of someone's mouth. It is just purely uncomfortable.
And it would be unbearable if not for the lakes and of course the wonderful Warrior River. On any given hot Summer day, the lakes and rivers are busy with folks cooling off from the intense Southern sun. And there's always the annual trips to the gulf. More on that in a future blog.
One Summer, years ago, when I was just a teenager, I was on my uncles boat on the Warrior River. We were down near Greensboro where he lived. It had been a wonderful day, cloudless sky and bright sunshine....and the endless river stretched out before us toward the horizon and kudzu. It was so hot, my skin was stinging with sun drops within the first 20 minutes. My uncle was very well-known in Greensboro. We rode the river and everyone waved to him and called him out by name. We had loaded the boat with lots of food and snacks. I slathered myself in what was probably pure baby oil with a hint of delicious coconut scent, and took my perch along the very front of the boat, like I was a pageant winner in a parade. I waved at everyone too, like I knew them, but didn't.
I was the only girl on the boat that day. My brother, and my two uncles and me. They decided it would be a great idea if we water-skied. Uh...No....I am happy just sittin' here wavin' at folks, thank you very much. The skiing might mess my hair all up, then I wouldn't look pretty while I waved. No, thanks, I'll just stay here.
Men! They didn't give up. My brother decided to show me up. Nothing new. He volunteered to give it a try. I think he was 12. We had just moved back from living in Oklahoma, and at this age he thought he was macho, about to start middle school. He knew he could get up on those skiis and he then could tease me the rest of the day, or the rest of my life. It was a ploy. A manipulation. My uncle threw him the skis and after a couple of tries, he was up! And I was getting agitated.
"Hey look at your brother," my uncle said. "It was easy for him. Come on you know you don't want him to be the only one." Uugghhh. Really! Ok fine. I was 14 and not to be out done here. To say I am competitive is to put it rather, mildly. I left my perch.
First of all I really didn't even want to get into the water. It was dark and deep and I knew I wouldn't be able to touch the bottom. Ok, I am not a great water baby like my brother. He is now a trained and certified diver. Whoopee. So I slid, gingerly, off the back of the boat. The water was so warm. Hot almost. Like bath water. My uncle dropped the skis into the water. They SAID they explained to me what to do, but,I beg to differ. So I leaned back in my life jacket, trying to figure out how in the world I would reach my feet to get those skis secure . In leaning backwards I accidentally rolled over...backwards into the water. Like a water ballerina doing a turn. I surfaced and tried again. They were all laughing at me from the back of the boat. "Where'd you go, Beth" My uncle said. "Doin' a little dance for us?" I did not find this amusing in the least! I finally got the skis on and looked for the ropes. This certainly did not feel very lady-like. I was missing my perch.
"OK, my uncle shouted, "you ready?" I felt my heart stop and my stomach drop like I had been pushed out of an airplane. "Here we go. I'm gonna speed it up. Just hold on and pull up." Oh Goody!
Yeah, right. Uh Huh. Just push me out of the air plane now. It would be easier. In that moment, I was so filled with fear, and such anger at my brother, whom I could see at the back of the boat, standing there laughing at me.
The boat sped up, the water rushed by and within seconds, my skis were off. And the boat kept going, faster and faster....and I WAS STILL HANGING ONTO THE ROPE FOR ALL OF DEAR LIFE AND LIMB!....like I would most certainly die if I let go. My uncle who was trying to "coach" me , and I use that word very lightly, was screaming something to me but with the waves and rush of water washing over my ears and face and eyes I could not make out what he was screaming. I was in my moment of death and had switched to survival mode. I do remember seeing my brother doubled over. At the time I thought he was weeping hysterically for me to be saved. I learned later he was hysterical....but not actually WEEPING.
The unbelievable thing, well beside the fact that I did not, in my moment of death, have sense enough to LET GO OF THE ROPES, is the fact that my uncle KEPT DRIVING THE BOAT!!! Faster and faster. No one told him I was skimming, at lightening speed on my stomach, down the Warrior River! I drank a lot of river that day. And while I LOVE that river, it really does not make for a delicious beverage. After what seemed like an eternity of body surfing, being dragged behind a boat holding onto ski ropes like death would be imminent if I let go, my uncle finally cut the engine. I was alive. Coughing and full of the river, but alive just the same. My uncle, the "coach", jumped into the river and swam over to me, shouting,"Good God, why didn't you just let go? What the hell?" I could not answer at the moment. I was coughing my head off and saying a prayer of thanks that I was actually alive. My uncle finally got over to me and, after seeing I was OK, said, "Beth, this might be proof that you have to be the stupidest person on earth! he was still laughing as he swam. Why did yo not just LET GO? I was yelling at you didn't you hear me tell you to let go?" I'M SORRY, I WAS BUSY DYING AND COULDN'T THINK! I know he meant well as he dragged me through the Warrior River back to the boat. They all had a fabulous laugh, and I returned to my perch, drenched with messy hair and, a very bruised ego.
Needless to say, I am not a skier to this day!
And I still love the Warrior River. Especially looking at it, writing about it, and watching it roll on by me, as the sun sets in all its misty, liquid, brilliance....while I am dry, and safe upon its shores.
Don't forget, Tuscaloosa sill needs your help. http://givetuscaloosa.com
Please give generously
Posted by Beth Albright at 11:41 AM
Monday, May 2, 2011
|My Grandmother's neighborhood last summer|
|My nephew Corey and me last summer|
|My sister-in-law Joyce|
A disaster like this could wipe some cities off the map. Not my city. When I say Tuscaloosa is like no place else on earth, I'm not joking. Remember, I have lived nearly every place else and it's Tuscaloosa that pulses through my veins. Why? Most of my family is long gone from there now. Could it be the meandering Warrior River and it's misty liquid sunsets? The historical BAMA campus and their National Champion Football Team? The lyrical downtown, with it's fabled old movie palaces are the stars twinkling in this bright magical city. But it's none of these things that keep me falling in love and now weeping for my town. Though all of these are stars in it's crown, what keeps me so mesmerized is the people here. Filled with different races, different political beliefs and different religions, hell it's even got a few Auburn fans... its a diverse small town. You don't find that very often unless its a world renowned college town like Tuscaloosa. And as different as everyone is, the very fabric, the nature of Tuscaloosa is to exhibit great togetherness. We help each other no matter what. So they will not be down for long here. No, Tuscaloosa is resilient to put it mildly. And filled with grace under fire. A quiet Southern grace. They have set up, organized and neighbors are helping neighbors. Church volunteers riding through the ravaged neighborhoods and handing out power bars and water bottles to people who were total strangers last week...that's my Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa is not just any city. The people who call it home and those who have left and still call it home, like yours truly, know this. I find it hard to describe to outsiders. It's the fact that generations of families have all lived here for a hundred years and so what for me is a thing of pure myticism, we have all become FAMILY. And what do families do when one is in need or hurting, we all hurt together, and then we pull together like nobody else on earth. So I know we will not be down for long. It is not the way of Tuscaloosa to accept defeat on any level, not just on the football field. It will take time...and hundreds of millions of dollars...but the people that call Tuscaloosa home..ALL of us, will do anything in our power, to put us back together...as best we can. Because we understand the speacialness of this place. The businesses will rebuild, probably in the same spots. The homes lost will be rebuilt, new subdivisions will form. AND FOOTBALL SEASON will come like a beacon in a darkened sky to give us all something to cheer for, to smile about, something to help us feel normal again. Never before will football season be looked forward to like it will be this year! I saw Coach Saban visiting fans in the hospital in some pictures the other day. They needed that more than he knows.
The helplessness one feels when so far away is painful beyond description. I wanted to run home immediately and volunteer. Flights out were the most expensive I have seen. I decided to raise as much money as I can and I will come home soon and be part of the re-building. I have to. I am running home to hug and soothe and be soothed and help. My job of raising my son is changing as he heads to college in August and when I kiss him goodbye, I will drive the 2300 miles to my sweet home Alabama and help Tuscaloosa. Because I love this place like no place else on Earth.
|The Alabama Crimson Tide "A" hangs is window of a destroyed car near campus|
Please give generously. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Posted by Beth Albright at 6:31 PM