10 songs of the moment

I’ve been away from the blog for a little while (life gets so busy, you know) and I’m working on a new post, but in the meantime I thought I’d get back in the swing of things by sharing ten songs I’ve been really into lately.

Traveling Riverside Blues, Led Zeppelin

I’d been searching for this song for a long time with only two criteria: it had part of the Lemon Song in it and it was on a live album. When I finally heard it again, I listened to it ten thousand times in a row.

Tessellate, Alt-J

This song really freaks me out for some reason, but I listen to it at least three times a day, no exaggeration.

Love on the Brain, Rihanna

Because why would I not?

Lotus Flower, Radiohead

I used to be way more into Radiohead, but I rediscovered them when a coworker put on their Pandora station at work. Everyone complained that the music was making them fall asleep, so I went home and listened to it in spite of them all.

God’s on Vacation, Black Tusk

Black Tusk is from Savannah and the drummer works at my favorite bar, so it was only a matter of time before I started getting into them heavy. Sometimes I find it difficult to stick with metal this heavy, but I like the balance that Black Tusk strikes.

Pretty Pimpin, Kurt Vile

I just went through a taxing breakup and this song, among others, has gotten me through it really well. The dichotomy he sings about is definitely what I felt, so I feel like he’s singing it right to me.

Hey Tonight, Creedence Clearwater Revival

Didn’t think it was possible for any song to top “Bad Moon Rising” as my favorite CCR tune, but here we are.

I Gotta Try You Girl, Junior Kimbrough

I’m an admitted Black Keys superfan, so they turned me on to Junior Kimbrough’s music when they put out Chulahoma, but I never listened to any of his original work until this song and I got immediately hooked.

My Last Mistake, Dan Auerbach

Hey, speaking of being a Black Keys superfan…

Faded (Odesza remix), Zhu

This is not even close to the kind of music I usually listen to, but I’m really into this song; it always puts me in a great, kickass mood.

NASCAR and Trump

While I was in Daytona, Donald Trump was winning the South Carolina primary. The week after, Brian France endorsed him.

It’s easy to write off his win by saying, “that’s just how Southern people are.” But that feels at once too easy and partially untrue. 

After spending a very long time with so-called rednecks, I both understand and am baffled by Trump’s victory.

Firstly, Southern people are some of the kindest people I have ever met. I’m not talking fancy Southern, like people who read the Bitter Southerner. I’m talking rednecks. Jorts-wearing, NASCAR-watching, tractor-driving rednecks. People at races are often some of the kindest people I have ever met. I think of the women who watched over me, as a 14-year-old, while my dad went down to get beers, or of the people who saw a kid liked Kyle Busch and tried not to boo him too much when he came around. I think of the fellowship of buying beers for your whole row or sharing your binoculars or informing the guy next to you what you just heard on your scanner.

Yes, Southerners are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, but with one caveat: only to each other.

Remember the Confederate flag controversy last year, where fans refused to take their flags off their RVs in the infield? Remember when Darrell Wallace, Jr., a black driver, took over NASCAR’s Instagram account at the BET awards and got pelted with racial epithets? Ever heard a fan discuss what they think of Danica? There’s a really strong xenophobia that undercuts the fellowship at these races. If you’re not a white Southern man, we’re not talking to you. Our arm of kindness only extends so far. 

At Daytona, my dad and I were in the massive crowd for driver intros, right by the end of the walkway. A woman wearing a hijab and her son, wearing a Kyle Busch hat, wove through the crowd and stopped right at the end. Immediately, everyone around me turned to stare and whisper about her. I even heard someone say, “If there’s an explosion there, you know why.” I really regret not going up to her to offer a hand of kindness, but the crowd was so big it swept us apart. 

After seeing something like that, it’s really easy to understand why Donald Trump won South Carolina. The hatred for minorities is as strong at a NASCAR race as it is at a Trump rally. NASCAR tries hard to distance itself from that image by championing its Drive for Diversity program, where Wallace, Kyle Larson, and Daniel Suarez all got their start. But the attempt at inclusivity falls completely flat when you actually go to a race. Nobody cheers for Suarez or Wallace, and they give you dirty looks when you do.

The attempt falls even flatter with France’s endorsement of a hatefully racist candidate. It’s sad to see such a public figure not have it figured out. Just half a year ago, France called the Confederate flag an “insensitive symbol,” and now he’s endorsing an insensitive symbol, if you will, of a lot of pent-up aggression and hatred. The Drive for Diversity initiative doesn’t make a lot of sense if you endorse a candidate who would like to see a lot of your diversity drivers deported. (Pandering has always seemed to be France’s talent.)

I desperately want to believe that this subset of Southern people aren’t full of such hatred. I believe that we, as NASCAR fans, have the chance to reverse all stereotypes that people hold about us. But after witnessing both Southern hospitality and Southern hatred in one weekend, I’m not sure that will ever happen.

In short, I’m surprised at how unsurprised I am about Trump’s popularity in the South and in NASCAR. It seems like the racism and xenophobia trickles down from the top.

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Daytona

This year’s Daytona weekend may have been one of my favorite weekends to date. I’ll admit I attached a lot of significance to the trip: I’ve been working without a true day off for about two weeks at a time, and I don’t see that changing any time in the near future, so this was my only real vacation for a long time. Add in the fact that Daytona is my actual happy place and weeks spent listening to Southern rock to prepare, and I think it’s obvious that I got emotional when I got there. I literally teared up when Dad and I ascended the stairs to see the track for the first time Friday night. The view was gorgeous, to boot:

In my favorite place 🏁💞

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“You didn’t earn this”

Today was a really hectic day at work — it was pretty obvious we were struggling after one of our servers had to leave. I was the manager on duty, which means a lot of big decisions land on me. Do I call in another server? Do I put the restaurant on a wait? What can I do to help? Is this huge chaos my fault? Managing is all about making the tough decisions, and sometimes we make the wrong one.

Today’s missteps had me worried well before I clocked out. In the midst of the melee, I got every server’s favorite thing: a mean note on our receipt.

The table in question gave me an almost-20% tip, which was nice. Their note said, “You didn’t earn this, but we feel sorry for you. Try harder!”

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Exploring the “quirky, embattled server” trope

As a server, I have so many stories to tell, and as a writer, I can write them.

It sounds corny, but working as a server has opened my eyes to a lot of different societal issues just within my small, mostly vegetarian restaurant. I see a lot of inequity in a lot of different forms, but most of it revolves around people thinking that people who work in restaurants are unworthy of common decency and respect. That’s almost a “duh statement,” as one of my English professors would put it. The struggle between lowly service industry folk and anointed professional people is such a common trope that I don’t think it needs any more attention.

There’s always a certain narrative following a young female server. They’re putting themselves through school, or working to support their kids, and their pluckiness and “daring to dream” makes all their regulars love them and maybe leave them a huge tip. (Or fall in love with them, depending on what movie you’re watching.) In some way, we’re all just trying to put ourselves through, regardless of what job we work, but the same pluckiness doesn’t really apply to retail workers or bankers or writers or virtually another job. There’s almost a glorification of young female servers, but more of the trope, not of the person. There’s always a special interest story in some newspaper about how a girl saving money to go to college receives an exorbitant tip and freaks out because now she can buy books, or a young mother receiving enough cash to fund her baby’s birthday party. But for every feel-good story like that, there are hundreds upon hundreds of people stiffing their servers for some flimsy reason, or snapping their fingers or waving or shouting, or leaving a nasty Yelp review calling a server out by name.

Why this disconnect? Why do customers know that they could change a server’s life with generosity (or even just 20%), yet treat many servers like absolute dirt?

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Exploring the spectrum of Hillary’s likability

This week for Connect, I wrote about “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox,” a book recently published by The Broad Side editor-in-chief, Joanne Bamberger and including writing from a local Savannah author, Lisa Solod. The book is a collection of essays that delve into the issue of Hillary’s likability. Anyone who’s paid even a lick of attention to current politics knows that everyone hates Hillary, and this book does a great job of trying to unpack why. I won’t get too much into the reasons why, because I think my article does a pretty good job (I hope!), but I’d like to address a point that I wasn’t able to include in my story.

Since Lisa and Joanne are both feminists who are familiar with politics, I wanted to talk about women’s involvement in politics, particularly among my own generation. I’ve heard a lot of women my age say that politics intimidate them and that they don’t want to get involved, but they decline to say why they don’t want to get involved. I find that curious and a little troublesome, so I wanted to ask these two ladies, who weren’t the least afraid to “get into politics,” their opinion on it. Lisa addressed the issue from the perspective of a woman trying to understand politics more, and Joanne addressed it from that of a woman trying to break into the political world.

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“The other mass shooting”

Today, there were two mass shootings that got attention, one first and one as an afterthought.

In San Bernardino, Ca., fourteen people were killed by three gunmen. In Savannah, Ga., where I live, one person was killed and three were injured by at least two gunmen.

After the initial terror of the California shootings, the Washington Post ran this story, calling Savannah “the other mass shooting.”

I have mixed feelings on this. I’m glad that Savannah’s skyrocketing crime rate is getting some national attention (seriously, guys, this town is riddled with crime), though I’m sad our town is getting attention for something like this. Mostly, though, I’m angry at the Post’s shoddy reporting when they say this:

The local media barely acknowledged the murder: One local television station covered it in three paragraphs.

And the world spun on.

Full disclosure: I am technically a member of the “local media” since I edit the listings for Connect. We do a pretty decent job of adding crime stories like this to the News Feed, which is why this claim first struck me. I decided to do a bit of independent research and rely on my trusty friend: time stamps.

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Darlington 2015

One of my absolute favorite things about NASCAR is its adherence to tradition, so I was thrilled to win two tickets to the Bojangles Southern 500 via a Twitter contest (thank you, STP Racing!). Besides the fact that I never win anything ever, I was excited to witness the return to the traditional Darlington/Labor Day slot. It was also my roommate’s first race ever. My roommate is more into Vogue and weddings and fashion, so I was hesitant to bring her, but she actually loved it.

I loved all the throwback schemes, but my favorite was probably Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s just for how brilliant the blue was on the track under the lights. A sentimental favorite was Mike Bliss’ Harry Gant theme, and Clint Bowyer’s hand-painted car gets an A for effort from me (we cringed every time the car went by, hoping it didn’t have any damage).

There was nothing fancy about this race — no pit passes, no sitting atop the pit box, no driver sightings, no photo ops, and backstretch seating — but it’s always invigorating to go to a race with someone who’s never been, and watching my roommate be thrilled by the speed and get goosebumps from the sound really reminded me why I love this sport in the first place.

🏁🍻🇺🇸 #southern500 #labordayweekend

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as seen at Darlington #southern500 #labordayweekend #mericayall 🇺🇸

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#WDBJ

As a journalist based in Savannah, I have a small tie to the tragedy that happened yesterday in Virginia. The gunman reportedly worked at one of our TV stations, WTOC, and while I have no desire to do broadcast journalism, I know and work with some who do.

However, sitting in front of my computer at work on Wednesday, I felt such a raw connection to the story. I was watching it unfold. I will never forget the shock I got from clicking on the alleged gunman’s alleged Twitter feed and seeing it had been updated just three seconds ago. I figured it was a hoax but took a screencap and posted it to a Reddit thread. With one refresh the gunman admitted it was him. With another refresh the video of him shooting the reporter popped up and began to automatically play (thanks a lot, Twitter). I was so in shock I had to physically sit back from the computer; I never have reactions so visceral and physical, but I never have stumbled upon something so graphic and disturbing. I haven’t watched either video and I’m not sure if I ever will, though the gunman’s videos have rightfully been deleted from the Twitterverse.

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a little racin’ reflection

This Sunday’s Pepsi 400 marks the ninth year that I’ve been a NASCAR fan. I watched the 2006 summer Daytona race with my mom and grandma, mostly against my will, and then I was hooked. Since then I’ve been to Daytona plenty of times, including the past three Daytona 500s, and claim it as my favorite track.

And this year, this happened.

I was there for Kyle Larson’s wreck in 2013, which was terrifying on its own. We were pretty far from the point of impact, but we knew people sitting there and heard from them that it was a bad, bad scene. I’ll never forget how quiet the place got, how many ambulances left the track as we boarded our tour bus, and the frantic texts I got from friends and family asking if we were okay, if we’d been injured in that scary crash they saw on TV. Of course, fans were injured and safety improvements were taken.

But then, I was also there for Kyle Busch’s wreck last year, almost right in front of where he hit the wall. We watched him careen towards the wall, watched the wall physically crack with the impact, borrowed binoculars to see what was going on with him.

I wasn’t there for Austin Dillon’s terrifying wreck, but for me it just kind of wraps up this general idea: Daytona is dangerous. I love being there on those hallowed grounds; I feel like I know the town like the back of my hand. But it’s dangerous and I don’t think anyone knows how to fix it.

When Larson wrecked, they secured the fences. When Busch wrecked, they installed more SAFER barriers. What will they do after Dillon’s wreck? What can they do? What more is there to be done? Some have offered up a Plexiglas wall as an option, which takes me right back to my Zoo Tycoon days of building exhibits out of crappy chain-link fences until I had enough for the clear glass walls. What would it be like to watch the race like a zoo, like the cars were animals that we couldn’t touch? Would it be better or worse? Would it be safer but not as enjoyable?

I don’t think anyone really knows what to do except improve the specific thing that has been breached, which is an appropriate response but not always adequate. We have no idea what terrifying wreck will happen next, which is part of the thrill as well as the dread of Daytona.

I’ve got to say, though, I’d still love to be there next year.