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There Aint No Place Like Birmingham

Posted by FretlessinTexas on Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Got a big black dog his name is Dan. He lives in my backyard in Birmingham. Meanest dog in Alabam. Get'em Dan." -- lyrics from the song, Birmingham, by Randy Newman.

Well, the wife and I will be headed back to Birmingham for Christmas to visit with her family. It's a place we lived for most of our lives.

If you were to take an objective look at Birmingham, you would come away thinking it's a pretty screwed up place. It has one of the highest murder rates per capita of any city in America. It's schools are woefully inadequate in providing a quality education.

Jefferson County is flirting with filing for bankruptcy with a $3.8 billion debt and if the filing takes place, it would be the largest for a municipality in U.S. history. Five county commissioners have been indicted on federal corruption charges since 2005, the latest being the current mayor, who was president of the county commission. Four of the five commsioners have been convicted, again with hizzoner's head now on the block. He's decrying politics as to why he's been indicted, but he'll get his.

There is a history of racial division as Birmingham was once known in the early 1960s as "Bombingham," with the death of five little girls in 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by Klansmen. You've probably seen the archive black and white newsreel images of fire hoses and dogs, and Freedom riders, mostly northern white college kids, getting the crap beaten out of them. Then there is Dr. King's letter from the Birmingham jail.

Today, Birmingham is probably 70 percent black, largely because of white flight beginning in the 1960s to outlying suburban towns.Even today, the politicians, black and white, continue to play the race card, although they deny it. The good news is that black and white folks in Alabama by and large talk and listen to each other, not something I have noticed so much here in the enlightened Great White North.

Yep, it's a pretty scewed up place alright  ... and I miss it.

It's where I could play music with five different old-time fiddle players. It's a place where two talented friends are now building very nice quality open-back banjos. While in Birmingham, I will be picking up a Stewart Thoroughbred on this trip from a friend and Hangout pal. I didn't have to send a check ahead of time.

Birmingham is where I savor my barbecue. Now the folks up here in Fort Wayne, Indiana, they try, God bless 'em, but they can't make barbecue. When I get to the Ham, I'm headed to Golden Rule one day, and Dreamland the next for my ribs.

So despite the problems of poverty, crime and corruption, I'm looking forward to this trip. Yep, there aint no place like Birmingham, and it will be good to be back home.






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