A few years ago, a new neighbor stopped me while I was on a run.
“Hey, I know you. You’re Christopher Schwarz,” he said. “What are you doing here, visiting?”
No, I told him, I live here. Then he looked confused.
“I thought you lived in New England, what with the way you write, look and talk,” he said. And that’s when I looked confused.
Despite 11 years of writing blogs and 21 years of writing for woodworking magazines, I’m always amused by people who think they know me but have it mostly wrong. So to mark the launch of my personal website for my furniture work (check it out here), I offer you this concise summation of me.
Though I was born in St. Louis, Mo., I grew up in Arkansas on Wildcat Mountain and did all the things that redneck kids do: fishing every day after school, hunting, hiking, camping, blowing stuff up (we made our own napalm) and cruising in souped-up crappy cars. If I had my way, every meal would feature a combination of the following foods: grits, barbecue, brisket, fried chicken, biscuits, sausage gravy, cornbread, greens, smoked ham and anything from the other allied Southern cuisines – Cajun, Creole or lowcountry.
I don’t have an accent; my three sisters do. But I am Southern to the marrow and have spent the majority of my life below the Mason-Dixon line. I am comfortable with Southern politeness (false as it may be), Southern insecurities and our hyperbole.
I attended segregated public schools. The mascot for my high school was a morbidly obese Confederate soldier; our school song was “Dixie.” I refused to sing it at pep rallies or convocations and, like most Southerners I know, am disgusted by our shameful history of racism and slavery.
I left the South to attend college outside Chicago, thinking I’d find a more enlightened place. I was wrong, and the day after graduation I moved to Greenville, S.C. I don’t fit in up North.
I’m a redneck. I have a master’s degree, but I lack the Southern accent. I drive a pickup truck, but it’s a Toyota. I love the South, but I am at odds with the backward ideas sometimes peddled down here.
— Christopher Schwarz