aig, obama, bay of pigs, and the south

There’s a passage in Schlesinger’s book, a Thousand Days, in which the author recounts how Kennedy felt burned by the CIA, who told JFK that everything was in place for the overthrow of Castro.  Reflecting on the failure at the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy concluded he was set up by the CIA.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Obama is harboring the same feelings toward AIG that Kennedy harbored in the aftermath of Bay of Pigs.  Obama worked with AIG for all the right reasons and this is what AIG does to return the favor?  No accident if you ask me.

In fact, all of America is feeling burned by AIG: I was on a roadtrip through the South last week, and, at a motel in Pooler outside of Savannah, Georgia, a bunch of hard-hat construction workers were talking out loud about their disgust with AIG.  So Obama is doing the right thing by going on Leno, 60 Minutes, etc.

Speaking of my roadtrip through the South: my significant other and I started in Nashville, TN, went to Asheville, NC, then the next day on to Columbia, SC, then Myrtle Beach for two days, and from there to Charleston, SC, then to Savannah, GA, then Atlanta, GA, (visited the MLK Center among other sites) finally circling back to Nashville via Chattanooga, TN.  Here’s a map.

I really enjoyed this road trip for the reasons I enjoy all of our road trips.  The chance to visit and see other places, walk through historic districts, take photographs, enjoy the scenery, and, well, drive, drive, drive.  Here’s a photo montage of a waterfront promenade along Charleston’s historic Rainbow Row residential area.  (That’s Carrie in the distance).  Here’s a stitched-together panorama shot of a historic Savannah, GA neighborhood surrounding a quiet tree-filled park — straight out of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

But the South we visited last week in a few ways was and is very unlike the many places we’ve road-tripped to, and I say this not so much in the vein of  “this is right” or “this is wrong.”  I know and respect the fact that it is what it is.

What am I getting at, you wonder.  Well, let me put it this way: on all our roadtrips, we map out where Costco is, stop there to stock up for the road trip and motels, as well as to snack at the food court.  We’ve visited so many Costcos I can tell you that, in Canada [Toronto and Vancouver] , Costco serves french fries, in the Pennsylvania-New York region, a super-sized italian sausage, along with the regular hot dog and polish sausage.  A row of caskets stand upright next to the food court at the Naples, FL, Costco.  Costcos in southern California serve hotdogs in a yellowy sweet bun, whereas most everywhere else it’s the standard issue bun.   But I am digressing . . .

 . . . [August 12, 2009: Note: San Diego’s Costco serves three flavors of gelato at the food court] . . .

. . . At the Costcos in Myrtle Beach and Charleston, I got not just a bunch of stares and head turns, but also several comments directed in my way.  Not racial epithets, mind you; but clear mutterings (if you will) about me and my s.o.  You see, my s.o. is white.  She didn’t pick up on it like I did. Funny thing is, this didn’t happen in the Super Wal-Marts we stopped in, or during our various walks through the downtowns we visited.  But I distinctly felt that something was very, very different in these two particular Costcos.

Why these two Costcos?  I’m not sure but I think it might have to do with the fact that generally this is a membership store and maybe this results in a dynamic peculiar (in a non-Kenneth Stamp sort of way) (August 12: note: in retrospect, I’m starting to think that maybe I am correct to use “perculiar” in a Kenneth Stamp sort of way)  to Myrtle Beach and Charleston.  In other words, perhaps in the context of these respective communities, Costcos are “white stores”, whereas the Super Wal-Mart is for the mixed crowd, so to speak.  I do not know.  This is just a supposition, a perception or perhaps even a mis-perception. . . . A maybe . . . or a maybe not.  (By the way, I felt right at home in the Nashville, Tennesse Costco).

Is this “good”?  Is this “bad”?  “Right”? “Wrong”?  I don’t actually know.  It might be that trying to frame my particular experience in terms of binary opposites of “good-bad”, “right-wrong”, or even “white-not white” to make some universal comment or judgement is incidental to what matters most, that people like me and my s.o. are free to travel like we do, be served and accommodated generally in the manner we expect, and always have fun.


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