Southern Syncope


Some things stick in my memory. Maybe that is what memory is – a stickiness with time where certain events float through one’s consciousness. Like flotsam, but with people drifting in its midst. The 1959 Bethlehem Steel strike is one such piece of detritus. Involving a dozen steel mills across the US, it was a strike that lasted six months. My stepfather was one of those strikers. I remember him and my mother living in a housing project near the children’s home me and my siblings were in. My mother and stepfather lived off of the union’s strike fund, a coffer that grew slim as each month ticked by. I was flipping through Ghostly Ruins: America’s Forgotten Architecture looking at photos of abandoned buildings. I am soothed by black and photographs of things from my past and earlier – cars from the ’50’s, prisons, mental institutions. Maybe it is because I am of that era; perhaps it is due my being a Southern. A malady in and of itself, my sense of time lopes along at a pace that is out of synch with other parts of the US. I think this is the Southern illness. Born and raised there, it was not in synch with the rest of the country. It is as though it has a stuttering relationship with time preferring to dwell in its own past. It was in that book that I stumbled across photos of Bethlehem Steel. It was then that I fell into my rabbit hole of memory.

There’s more to be said on this syncopated sense of time that is so much the my experience of being from the South. But, for now, I thought I might just give you a link to the photography of the Southern author Eudora Welty and leave it at that.