Hello, Internet…My name is Danny

Posted 7/19/10 by Danny

Dave wanted me to write an introductory post to warm the WD readers up to a less seasoned generation.  This is my first foray into the world of internet commentary/scatological pop-culture humor, and if I’m going to give it a shot, I should probably provide some background.  Don’t worry, I like my introductions like I like my sex…quick and unenjoyable.

I grew up a wayward son, a vagrant, a child without a home…no, not in a social services kind of way.  I mean I was a military brat.

Being the child of a military officer affects your life in several ways.  It means spending 6-8 hours every four years caught in red tape and staggering inefficiency to get a military ID.  It means using that ID to get access to sweet Air Force base discounts on CDs and junkfood.  It often means Draconian parenting tactics.  But above those things, and farther reaching, is the feeling of not having a real home.  Moving every few years makes it difficult to establish a solid circle of friends or any sense of continuity.

These effects were much more potent for my sister than they were for me.  She’s six years older than I and did a lot more moving around, in much more formative years.  I actually got to have a pretty solid run in one location, because in ’94 my dad retired from the Air Force and we settled in the last place he was stationed.

Despite the consistent location, I never really felt like I belonged.  It could have been my ineptitude at anything sports related.  It could’ve been my obsession with comic books and horror movies.  I prefer to excuse myself for any social maladjustment and place the blame on the fact that we settled down for the American dream in Alabama…of all places.

In 1990, we moved from just outside Washington D.C. to Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery is an interesting choice for a capitol city.  From a city planning aspect, it could be described as a series of strip malls and pasture.  We have a downtown area with heavy roots in the civil right movement, but beyond being famous for racism, Montgomery doesn’t have much of what you’d call “culture”.

“And if you look to your left, you’ll see another place where minorities were beaten”

So to cohabitate with your average Alabamian, I realized early on certain concessions would have to be made.  I would have to pretend not to be bothered when half the kids in the neighborhood dropped the n-bomb.  I would have to curry favor with those same kids by reassuring them I was a frequent Baptist church attendee, and not the son of an atheist who didn’t even know what the inside of a church looked like.

Thankfully, like minds eventually attract each other.  I ended up attending junior high and high school at a creative arts school for kids who (for the most part) didn’t step off the deer stand and onto the school bus.  But despite fostering an appreciation for all things creative, my progressive high school couldn’t overcome some of the backwards thinking ingrained in my peers.  Certain conservative roots run too deeply to be exorcised by an art history class.

High School is a funny time.  We’re all trying so hard to establish an identity of our own, especially the “artsy” (weird) kids I hung out with.  There was such a drive for rebellion, but it always seemed to manifest in groups and cliques that were effectively being “different” together.  Sure, we had the typical goth crowd, and the hippies, and we even had the elite…well, as elite as you can get at an arts school.  Even the most rebellious still had their southern sacred cows.  Artsy kids actually purchased and enjoyed country music.  Stoners and Goths were planted in pews every Sunday dressed in khakis and button-ups.  The elites could be found slaughtering woodland creatures and mud-riding on Saturday nights.  It was a bizarre juxtaposition.

I may have spent most of my life in Alabama, but I am not of Alabama.  The rest of my family shares the same thinking.  My sister moved to New York City as soon as she graduated high school.  Her drive to get the hell out of the south was much stronger than mine.  I stayed behind and went to college at the University of Alabama.  Here I didn’t have the “arts” filter to shield me from the typical backwoods simpleton.  Students attended class in full camouflage.  Evangelists with bullhorns would shout at passing co-eds that their clothes were too revealing.  I couldn’t walk down the strip of bars on the edge of campus without hearing “Sweet Home Alabama” echoing from a dive or passing car at least 12 times.

Bonus story: Lynyrd Skynyrd actually performed a concert on the U of A quad while I was a student there.  How could a band that had most of it’s members die in a plane crash perform a show, you ask?  Well, the band is now a Frankenstein version of past members and new recruits basking in the reflected glory of deceased Van Zants.  Once word got out to all the trailer parks in the tri-state area that the ultimate redneck band would be playing on our campus, the show quickly became a debauched spectacle of drunken white-trashery…so, of course a big group of my friends and I were in attendance…can’t miss what’s sure to be a colossal shit show, right?  The highlight of the event was a middle aged lady asking me and a few buddies to make a human privacy fence around her so she could squat and take a piss right there on the quad.  Y’know, instead of walking the 20 feet to the row of port-o-johns.  Alabama = nothing but class.

Anyway, after graduating and contemplating my future working as an auto parts supplier or sales representative at Woods-N-Water, I succumbed to the pull of bigger and better things and followed the trail blazed by my sister to the big city.  Here I am today, working a corporate job in a cubicle, trying to get into the music industry, and (by virtue of my love for this site and for writing) taking a crack at internet commentary.

After living here three years, I feel like I’ve found kinship with the residents of the city.  It feels like a place that fits me, much better than Alabama, at least.  The further I get from Alabama, though, the more I start to notice my own southern sacred cows.  Take the whole marriage and kids thing, for example.  In NYC people stay single until their mid-late thirties.  There is so much importance placed on the individual: career, growth, ambitions…to get married young would be too self-sacrificial.

Contrast that with Alabama where most of my friends got married younger than 23.  And these days, every time I get on Facebook, I see status updates entitled “Meet Otis” followed by 90 pictures of a newborn.  I have to say, something in me thinks the idea of a little Danny running around sounds appealing…It’s like my Alabama self is long overdue for a wife and kids, while the New Yorker is expecting 5-10 more years of bachelorhood.

Bonus side note: Southern people are so family oriented that the latest trend is to create joint Facebook accounts, as in “TomandJenny Smith” or “CletusandBobbieSue Yokel”…I can’t even imagine the testicle-shriveling level of codependency you have to sink to for that to sound like a good idea.

So the battle continues.  On one side, I have my metropolitan self content in the cold shadow of NYC high rises.  On the other side, I can’t help but enjoy football and bluegrass music.  I guess no matter where I live there will always be a nagging voice telling me to buy a tractor and a 12-pack of PBR and have myself a party for one.  Certain roots run too deeply to be exorcised by a move to the big city.

Maybe I’ll never feel like I belong in any specific location, but if I can vent from time to time on the internet, then maybe I will have a home…or at the very least add to the number of societal rejects on the internet.  There can’t be that many of us on the web, can there?



2 Responses to “Hello, Internet…My name is Danny”

  1. Kimberly Says:

    Nice to meet you Danny… I liked your posting a lot! I look forward to following you on WD. Keep up the good work

  2. John Says:

    Well, having lived through most of these experiences with you I am not surprised to read this post. And although a native of Montgomery, Alabama and having said most of those things myself once, I am not surprised to see them reiterated here. I will however add this; it is only now in our adulthood that I can look past the superficial hang-ups of post modern southern culture (of which the media driven CMT inspired redneck caricature is but one part). Montgomery and the south for that matter is very diverse. It is a region with a strong history but also a promising future, a dark past but also healing, rednecks as well as intellectuals. One of it’s historic buildings once held starving union troops captive and now holds young entrepreneurs in comfort within posh riverfront condos. It is magnolias and it is also high-rises. My point? The south like all of us southerners (and southerners at heart) is changing, albeit at its own charmingly slow pace. What is needed now is for it’s own true unique culture to be preserved from exploitation, and slander by the media.
    Excellent post my friend, and very honest regarding your past. Few will know what it took to be written. All the best to you my friend, and have a glass of iced sweet tea for me.