Lazy Afternoon Reruns: “The Winding Back Roads of Southern History”

This past summer, I went out to Arizona to see my Uncle David, my mother’s older brother who left Montgomery for Phoenix in the early 1970s, a few years before I was born. I hadn’t seen David and my Aunt Laurel in seventeen years, but the visit would still have to be a brief one. We arrived on a Friday, and my wife’s birthday was coming the next week, and moreover Alabama’s primaries were, too— and I wasn’t going to be out of town for either. Two days seemed like enough time to catch up, and for my two children to get to know them a little bit, but not enough to impose too badly.

While my kids and I were at their house that weekend, Dave and I mostly sat on the back porch by the pool, swilled cold beer in the dry heat, and swapped stories and observations about his Alabama and mine. Dave had come up in the 1950s and ’60s, during a wild-and-woolly time, while I am a product of the 1980s and ’90s, which had its own wild-and-woolly-ness. We covered quite a few topics in a short time, including our family and my work as a writer, and about the latter, Dave asked me something that I’ve been thinking about in the months since: You’ve spent a lot of time writing other people’s stories, he said, what about yours?

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