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It is as cold as floogie.

At least that’s how Mama describes the weather we’ve had this winter — as cold as floogie.

She’s used this description for as long as I can remember, although the word “floogie” doesn’t seem to have any real meaning. It’s sort of onomatopoetic in a way. “Ooooo it’s so cold. Cold as floogie!!!” I say it myself sometimes. I never questioned it. I just thought it was a funny thing to say.

snow pic

Who likes the snow? Children. Here’s me frolicking in a winter wonderland with my dog Opie during an uncharacteristic snow in South Alabama in the early 70s.

Then I ran across this Mental Floss article, 11 Obscure Regional Phrases to Describe the Cold. Number 9 on the list quoted a line penned by Herman Melville, “Cold as Blue Flujin, where sailors say fire freezes.” Flujin? Floogie? Sounds pretty darn close to me. Sounds to me like a word that was quite likely misheard and put into use.

I can’t find any other reference to Blue Flujin other than Melville’s. Where did the saying come from? Where is this place? I hope I never find out. You see, I don’t like the cold. In fact, I pretty well hate it. I will take a hundred degrees in the shade any day of the week over having the mercury dip below 50, much less down into the [gasp!] single digits.

Like my Southern brethren who were absolutely hung out to dry in Blue Flujin a couple of weeks ago, I am not prepared for snowy or icy weather. I don’t know how to drive in it. I don’t like to frolic in it. I don’t have the clothes for it. And I don’t drink milk, which seems to be some sort of requirement for a snow day.

Here’s what’s nice about the heat of summer — no special driving skills are necessary, any frolicking that must commence can be done in the pool or the ocean, the fewer clothes you wear the better, and beer and/or fruity cocktails are de rigueur. Now that’s my kind of day!

“But this wintry wonderland is so pretty!” they say. “We can make snow angels and take pictures of our dogs!” they exclaim. “We can wait in endless lines to get some moo juice and make s’mores!” they titter.

“Have a big time,” I say. You’ll find me at the house counting the days until summer. I’ll like the cold when Blue Flujin freezes over.

Who’s getting ready for the Super Bowl? As you know, one of the most important parts of watching the big game is the snacks. While you’re planning your party, check out my list of snacks inspired by the last ten Super Bowl halftime shows in my latest guest post for Bourbon & Boots.

Anyone who knows me knows I’ll eat just about anything that won’t eat me first. Here’s a short list of some of my favorite Birmingham eating establishments in my latest guest post for Bourbon & Boots Eat Like a Local in Birmingham. I hope you see a few of your favorites and, if you don’t, I hope you share with me some of your favorite spots and insider tips.

Photo from steelcitypops.com.

Photo from steelcitypops.com.

For a couple of days now I have stared blankly at the computer screen trying to think up an amusing and entertaining New Year’s post. I talked about the traditional foods a couple of years ago and I don’t have much truck with resolutions, so for the first time in a great long while I find myself uncharacteristically at a loss for words. Surprising, I know.

Frankly, although this year has been at times wildly happy, at other times it has been extremely lachrymose. Death crept up on me three times in as many months, and while I, as all good Southerners do, have found ways to cope, it’s sometimes hard to put your face on and go out in the world with a smile. But still I try.

As anyone who knows me will attest, I have a tendency to launch myself into daily life with three things: lipstick, cute shoes, and a sense of humor. But there are some days, like today, when things just seem blah. There are days, like today, when inspiration plays possum. There are days, like today, when you stare at the screen praying that the goddess of humor will bestow upon you just one golden, witty phrase.

Where is my muse? Oh, Thalia, can you hear me?

Thalia, muse of comedy. Detail from the “Muses Sarcophagus,” representing the nine Muses and their attributes. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Thalia, muse of comedy. Detail from the “Muses Sarcophagus,” representing the nine Muses and their attributes. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I reckon not, because here I am, still typing, still waiting, still blank.

Mama often tells me to write about this or that. She sends me fascinating emails with snippets from her memory. She wonders why I don’t dash off a post from her suggestions, and I try to explain that I can’t write her stories. My stories just come. They pop into my mind out of the clear blue and usually at a time when it is inconvenient to write them down. It is as if my brain will explode if I don’t drop everything and set the words free. But if it is not my story, my memory, my experience, the words just don’t come.

So what does all this tell me?

It tells me that I want Folkways Nowadays to be different than many blogs you may read. I want to give you words that make you think, remember, and learn. Words that capture little moments in time, share secrets, strike a nerve. Most of all, I want to give you words that entertain and make you laugh. If I can’t give you the stories you deserve, then we’ll all just have to wait on Thalia to pay another visit.

It tells me I need to get out into the world more. The muse doesn’t come to you when you are all alone behind a desk, just you and the computer. She comes when you are out amongst ‘em. She comes to you at the party, the beauty parlor, the DMV. She comes to you with a side of gravy at the local diner. She comes to you on the back roads, in the small towns, and in a pot of collards. If I’m not doing anything, neither is she, so it’s time for me to get right or get left.

And it tells me that you just can’t fake funny. You can fake happy. You can fake sad. You can fake sentimental and mad. But if you have to think about it too long, if you have to try too hard, if you just have to wrassle those words onto the page, then just give it up. If it doesn’t make me laugh, then I know it won’t make you laugh. And if you don’t laugh, well, what’s the point?

And that’s exactly what you might be wondering here some 600 words later – what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is my point?

Good question. And one I don’t have an answer to (thanks for nothing, Thalia!).

I’ll just take this opportunity to let you know how very much I appreciate your reading Folkways Nowadays and giving me your never-ending support and encouragement. Forget that old Thalia. It’s really you who inspires me every day to share my stories, and for that I thank you.  Here’s to a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014 filled with funny!

No faking.

Even though the railroad tracks through Citronelle have long since been taken up, once a year the Train still rolls through town. It is a phenomenon I’ve heard about for years from Mama’s friend Annie Bell. You see, the Train stops at her house, just like it stopped at her mother’s house, every Christmas morning.

This isn’t any ordinary rail line. The Train is what locals call a group of men who gather early on Christmas morning and travel from the northeast side of Citronelle down three miles or so to the community known as Russell. There might be eight merrymakers or there might be twenty. It depends on the year, the weather, and who all is in town. As the Train rolls along, they stop at various houses spreading Christmas cheer.

From Ideals, 1955. I found this issue in Granny's piano bench.

From Ideals, 1955. I found this issue in Granny’s piano bench.

Every host along the route waits for the Train’s arrival with great anticipation. It’s a big honor, Annie Bell says, to be a Train stop. The visitors are offered specially prepared holiday refreshments, and everyone enjoys a light repast. A slice of ham here. A piece of pound cake there. A cup of coffee. Maybe something a little stronger. Maybe not. As with any train, new folks join in and others drop off as they make their southbound journey through town. And although the stops only last a little while, they are plenty long enough for a happy word, a hug, a handshake, a little libation, and a lot of goodwill and laughter.

The Train doesn’t bring presents. It’s no sleigh, after all. What this train delivers is a group of people who enjoy each other’s company, who take the time to actually show up and let their friends and loved ones know how much they matter. No quick text. No e-card. No tweet. Only the true spirit of Christmas, live and in person.

Now no one knows how long The Train has gone on. No one knows how it started. Annie’s brother, who is ninety, says he remembers being too young to go. The Train just is and always has been. Riders have come, riders have gone, and the stops have changed, passing down through several generations now. But one thing remains the same — the Train still rolls merrily along every Christmas morning.

***

Dearest readers,

Thank you all for reading my stories this year, for sharing yours, and for your never-ending support and encouragement. I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Fondest regards,

Audrey

Over at Bourbon & Boots you can read my latest guest post and get the recipe for Pam’s Apple Cake. It is to die for. While you’re there, read my other guest posts and pick up a few last minute Christmas presents made by Southern artisans. As always, I thank you for reading and hope that you enjoy!

Apple cake

The cold and flu season is upon us — at least it’s upon me in all it’s snotty, wheezing, hacking glory. As I snuffle about trying to think of something, anything to make me feel better, I can’t help but remember some of the home remedies Mama and Granny inflicted on me as a child. Home remedies usually consist of one part tradition mixed with one part placebo, but little did I know as I gagged my way through many a “cure,” that they were actually onto something.

Let’s start with salt water nose drops.* When you’re all stopped up and can’t breathe, there’s nothing like water up your nose to make you feel better! Actually, a gentle mist up the old schnoz helps irrigate those clogged up nasal passages, flush out some of the goo, and keeps those mucus membranes moist. Not to mention that the salty taste in the back of your throat will remind you of last summer at the beach when that huge wave knocked you down, and you were sucked under by the surf and dragged through the sand until you managed to crawl up onto the beach panting and gasping and feeling like the whole Gulf of Mexico shot up your nose. But, hey. At least you were at the beach and not sick and shivering at home.

Along with the congestion usually comes a cough. You know what will help a hack? Honey. You know what helps it more? Garlic. Put them together and what have you got? The most vile cough remedy that will ever pass your lips. As a child, I dared not so much as clear my throat in front of Mama lest she come at me with a spoonful of reeking remedy from a sugar-crusted Ball jar she kept in the kitchen cabinet. But “they say” these supposed anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, immune boosting superfoods do pack a powerful punch. That is if you can just choke a dose down.

Photo:  Angel caboodle at English Wikipedia

Photo: Angel caboodle at English Wikipedia

Now Granny was a big fan of Mentholatum. It is an ointment. A salve. A petroleum jelly. A thick, greasy balm that when slathered on your nekkid chest and run by the fingerful up your nose is remarkably soothing and smells wonderfully of camphor and menthol. Now in my extensive minute(s) of research regarding the healing properties of Mentholatum, I have been unable to find any proof that it is in any way beneficial to someone suffering from congestion. In fact, I ran across several articles that intimated that it might not necessarily be good for you at all. Here’s what I do know for absolute sure, when your Granny slathers the salve on your chest, wraps a scarf around your neck to keep it all warm and gooey, and puts you to bed with a kiss, well, you just can’t help but feel a little bit better.

Now if all of this fails to drive away the demons, there is always steam — the last, worst resort. Get a big mixing bowl and a bath towel. Then put a kettle of water on to boil. When it’s good and scalding hot, pour that water in the bowl, hold your head over it carefully, and drape the towel over your head and the bowl creating your own little sauna of healing. For a double whammy of medicinal mojo, put a dab of Mentholatum in the bowl before you add the hot water. Try to take deep breaths of the steam for as long as you can stand it. Yes, the snot will flow freely from your nose and into the bowl. Your eyes will burn. You will feel like your flesh is melting from your skull. But after just a little while, you will actually be able to breathe easier. Bonus: your complexion will appear remarkably clear and dewy.

As an adult, however, during those times when phlegm abounds, I choose to heal myself with phlegmonade, otherwise known as a hot toddy. This magical elixir combines honey with hot water, lemon juice, and the granddaddy of Southern cure-alls, bourbon. You’ve got your superfood, your steam, your Vitamin C, and a little something to make it go down easy. You should be feeling better just reading about it! Now don’t think that my toddy is just an excuse to drink during the day, a little nip for “medicinal purposes,” wink wink nudge nudge. There are some who say that because the alcohol dilates your blood vessels somewhat, your mucus membranes can better combat the infection. That bourbon is fighting for you. It’s science, y’all. And who am I to argue with science?

Unlike a comforting warm beverage, the home remedies of my childhood seem to mainly work under the premise that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  That is why I firmly believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of collards. Yes, collards. Whenever Sarah, who looked after me and kept house for Granny, would make collards, she would always give me a big cup of the potlikker. “Come here, baby, and drink this all up. It will make you strong,” she would say. And she was right! As you cook those magic greens down, the iron and Vitamin C  and all the other goodness leaches out of the leaves into the broth, where it is usually (gasp!) thrown away! Don’t let all those nutrients go down the drain; drink ‘em up! Salty, smokey, warm and vaguely greasy in a good way, potlikker was and still is one of my all-time favorite things. And I am strong. Just like Sarah said I would be.

At least I will be again. Soon. After one more toddy.

*The information in this blog is intended solely as entertainment for the reader. The contents of this blog are not intended to offer personal medical advice, diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on treatments and/or medications.

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