Friday, March 11, 2016

`A City of the Lotos'

“Mobile is a city of intimacies that have stood the test of time. On Government Street the houses shaded by magnolias and Cape jasmines shelter families whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers were friends. Along the azalea-strewn road to Spring Hill, the old Episcopal college, today as a hundred years ago, a black cook bears a gift of wine and jelly from her white folks’ kitchen to the white folks next door. Affections are strong in this place, for they have been long depended on.”

Carl Carmer lays it on a little thick in Stars Fell on Alabama (1934). The cloud of magnolia-scented nostalgia induce swoons in the most skeptical readers. He calls it the “loveliest of cities.” Cootie Williams was born here, as was the author of the finest World War II memoir, Eugene Sledge (With the Old Breed, 1981). Dylan sang about it. Carmer writes:

“It is easy to become adapted to the rhythm of this city. Acquaintances gradually become friends. The processes of earning a living are slow and comparatively unimportant to the living itself. Mobile is a city of the lotos—bringing forgetfulness of everything except the pleasant passing of the hours.”

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