I have some friends from Florida who are taking their first trip to South Alabama—Fairhope in particular—this summer. One of their first questions? “Is it anything like Bluebell?” I laughed and assured them Fairhope was the inspiration for the wonderfully perfect, fictional town of Bluebell, Alabama from The CW’s foregone “Hart of Dixie”.
“Hart of Dixie” was one of those boutique shows that never should have succeeded yet hung around long enough that the mere mention of its name now brings a smile to the face of those comparing notes about the show with their friends. Thanks in large part to its fairly accurate representation of life in a small town in South Alabama.
While compiling a list for this article of ways the show misrepresented the area, I kept coming up with ideas but only to kept having to stop and say “nope actually that’s true, we do have things like strawberry festivals” or “oh wait, I can’t actually say that they blew the Iron Bowl rivalry out of proportion because really it was too mundane on the show” and of course “wow, I didn’t realize I knew that many girls actually named Magnolia”.
For a show that was built on, what some would call outlandish and outrageous, adaptions of the true Heart of Dixie, for four seasons the writers were kind and caring of our beloved state. However…it was still a Hollywood version and there were some things that would sneak into the script that had every native Mobile and Baldwin County residents laughing out loud.
- There is no way on God’s green south Alabama earth that Rachel Bilson’s hair would ever look consistently that good with this humidity. I might could begrudgingly give her a few days in February or maybe a couple in October—with lots of hairspray—but the curls fell too soft too often to be believable by anyone that has tried to blow-dry their hair for a wedding in June (impossible) and knowingly packed extra ponytail holders in their purse.
- For some reason there’s a misconception in Hollywood that if the setting is in a place where animals are commonplace that said animals must run rampant. On the series premier, Bilson’s Zoe Hart encountered an alligator on a road while walking into town. There were numerous other occasions that wild animals crossed paths with the townspeople, usually to amusement, but unrealistically so. In real life, alligators tend to stay in the swamp while cows and horses, shocker, stay behind the fence.
- The characters on Hart of Dixie seem to have a perpetual sheen of sweat glistening their faces because, well, they’re in south Alabama; but it persists even when they’re in a situation that should beget cool air. Then there’s the heat wave that causes everyone to go loco like it’s a full moon at Halloween, a ploy Hollywood pulls a lot for these types of settings. But those of us that are from here know to keep the air conditioner at 72 during the summer and have lived under enough August humidity blankets to not become psycho. Now sometimes southerners will try to make fun of northerners who are surprised by the heat by saying “Oh that’s just because you ain’t from here. You get used to it.” Well actually no, you don’t get used to; that implies you’re ok with the heat, which is never the case. But we do learn to live with it and we don’t act surprised when temperatures top 100 with 100% humidity…and our hair never looks as good as Zoe’s. I can’t get over that.
- One of the reasons “Hart of Dixie” was loved by Bay natives was the love notes the show would send the area. Shots of the Africatown Bridge, making the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion the Breeland home, correct geographical references, etc. But there was one episode when Zoe told her New York boyfriend, “Chickasaw? Ew we don’t go to Chickasaw.” Now I almost didn’t include this because for the past two decades it would’ve been true but any research a dramaturge would’ve done for the show would’ve turned up this fact. For the past few years, time during which “Hart of Dixie” ran, Chickasaw saw a return to the quaint town it was founded as cute cottages, sprawling oaks, and a beautiful waterfront park all are worth visiting. Plus Chickasaw has one of the few Whataburger’s in the area, which is worth a trip itself.
- The walls in the Rammer Jammer look remarkably like Ed’s Seafood Shack yet there is no Alabama Championship banner? Its absence is laughable. Sunday School rooms have championship banners and we’re supposed to believe A BAR NAMED THE RAMMER JAMMER doesn’t have one? Yea right.
When Life Hands you Grapes….Watch Hart of Dixie
Written by Guest Blogger- Kassidy
1.) The feeling of complete terror when you’re on I-10 heading to Mobile and traffic stops.
2.) Telling tourists it’s GULF Shores, not GOLF or GUF Shores. (While we’re at it, it’s not pronounced Mo-bull it’s Mo-beel)
3.) Avoiding the bayway between 7-9 am, 4-6 pm, and any Friday before a holiday weekend.
4.) Knowing exactly how many seconds you have to listen to static in the tunnel. (And holding your breath in the tunnel)
5.) Going to the Shrimp festival, Jubilee festival, Strawberry Festival, and Arts and Crafts Festival (and eating way too much).
6.) Waking up in the middle of the night to go check for a Jubilee.
7.) Explaining to tourists from up north what real humidity is.
8.) Knowing not to speed through Robertsdale on Hwy 59, ever.
9.) Explaining to tourists (Especially those from New Orleans) that Mardi Gras was truly originated in Mobile. (And what Joe Cain Day is)
10.) Going to the Grand Hotel for holiday meals. (And feeding the ducks)
11.) Rooting for your high school football team well after graduation. (Even though they’ll never be as good as they were when you were there)
12.) The feeling of pure joy when you leave Mr Gene’s Beans with your coffee and ice cream at the Lighting of the Christmas Trees. (Yes we eat ice cream year around)
When Life Hands You Grapes……Move to Baldwin County.
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- Jubilees only occur in two places: The Eastern Shore of the Mobile Bay in Alabama and Tokyo Bay in Japan.
- A Jubilee occurs because hypoxic (low oxygen level) water forces bottom dwelling animals to the surface searching for oxygen.
- A Jubilee is more likely when the Bay is calm, because stagnant water causes the salt to settle at the bottom. This causes a salinity spike in the Bay bottom and poor oxygen levels.
- A Jubilee is more likely when it is hot outside because warm water holds less oxygen then cold water.
- A Jubilee is more likely after an afternoon shower because the rain washes alternate food sources into the Bay, leaving a higher level of phytoplankton than usual. Phytoplankton need dissolved oxygen to sustain life. (Especially at night- see #6)
- A Jubilee is more likely at night because phytoplankton cannot perform photosynthesis at night and use even more dissolved oxygen than during the day. (See how the oxygen level continues to get lower and lower?)
- A Jubilee is more likely when there is a gentle Easterly wind because the East wind will cause a surface current pushing the hypoxic water towards the Eastern Shore and forcing the animals in front of it. Remember, this has to be a gentle wind in order for the areas of dense salinity to not mix with the areas of fresh water and cause oxygen to circulate again.
- A Jubilee is more likely after low tide because as the water comes back out, the animals are forced closer to the shore with the tide to find oxygen in the water.
- The Mobile Bay is a good environment for a Jubilee because the water is shallow, allowing it to heat up quicker.
- The Mobile Bay is also a good environment for a Jubilee because it has several fresh water rivers around it that can cause layers of fresh water to pile on top of stagnant, high salinity water, making it so the water does not circulate (or mix).
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When Life Hands You Grapes…..Go To a Jubilee.
When I was a little girl I would hang out with my grandmother at her beach house in Orange Beach. She had a yellow convertible named Daisy and she loved to spoil me. She cooked great meals and would buy me those Disney books at the grocery store every time we went. Edna(my grandmother) was always working on some sort of project. She once ran a pretty successful vacation based child care business called Beach Kids. I remember when she was creating her ad for the yellow pages with a picture of me in the ad! I was famous!
I tell you all this so you know I love my grandmother. She holds a special place in my heart and I choose to remember her in the ways above, not the way I see her today. Her behavior is just too damn funny to not share, though.
My mother, we will call her Mother Theresa Cindy, takes (mostly) excellent care of my grandmother. She may bitch and moan about it, but the old lady is taken care of none the less. Edna is a handful. It’s like having a toddler, but without the cute pigtails and no one will let her stay the night with them to give you a break:
Reason number one Edna is like a toddler: She won’t buy her dang food. While Edna is willing, sometimes, to go to the grocery store with you, you would prefer she didn’t. Think of the two year old you saw throwing a tantrum because her mother wouldn’t let her have the sugary cereal. the Good Toddler Mom tells her no it will rot your teeth or your brain, or make you have ADHD or whatever good moms tell their kids.(my kids just get the damn sugary cereal cause that’s what I like) The toddler then sits on the floor in protest and refuses to leave the cereal isle until she gets the Sugary Diabetes Cubes in a box. The Good Toddler Mom then proceeds to pick up the cute little protestor and carry her down the isle kicking and screaming. Now picture that scene with a 72 year old woman, only Mother Theresa Cindy can not pick up a 72 year old woman without someone calling Wal-mart security.
Reason number two Edna is like a toddler: She won’t make her own food. Although Edna once was an excellent cook, she now refuses to make anything in her own kitchen short of coffee. Mother Theresa Cindy prepares dinners for her. We learned the hard way that you cannot prepare more than one or two days worth of meals at a time. Think about the 4 year old who gets left unsupervised with his bag of Halloween candy. He tears open every Butterfinger and Jolly Rancher and eats them as fast as he can before someone can catch him and take away his precious sake of deliciousness. When his parents find him, he is passed out in the bag with candy wrappers and crumbs all around him. You can see a few pieces of candy, probably the licorice or something else gross, next to the trash can where he tried to throw them away, but missed and was too lazy to get up and actually put them in the trash. When his parents find him and ask him what happened he claims he didn’t eat the candy. It’s obvious that the cookie monster has broken in his room with the single intention of eating candy to get him in trouble. The cookie monster also stuck a half eaten Jolly Rancher on his shirt and rubbed chocolate on his teeth. Oh He’s goooood. Now picture a 72 year old woman passed out in a recliner with her hand in a bag of chips surrounded by 12 half empty tupperware containers. (Half empty, mind you, because she refused to eat the vegetables.) Those tupperware containers contained 6 days of food. There are two banana peels by the trash can, where she tried to throw them away, but missed and didn’t want to waste her tupperware opening energy to pick them up. There is also a can of Vienna Sausages opened, laying on their side, with the sausages missing and the juice dripping onto the glass table that is covered in chip crumbs and half eaten pieces of bread. When I wake Edna from, what I am sure is a mini diabetic coma, I find two sausages stuck to her clothing. When I point them out to her, she proceeds to eat them instead of throw them away. She was apparently saving them for later. When I ask her, “What happened to all the food” she proclaims meekly “I don’t know”. Again, I ask, “Edna, you don’t know who ate all this food?” She responds (a little louder and more sure of herself this time) “Nope”. BD says, “Ms. Edna, you expect us to believe someone broke into your apartment and ate 6 days worth of food while you slept through it?” Then Edna says in her best baby voice, “It must’ve been me, I baaaaady” BD and I look at each other as we spend the next hour cleaning up the mess while she watches us and complains because she’s not allowed in the kitchen until the floors dry. (True Story)
Reason Number 3 Edna is like a toddler: She only plays/ does what she wants to do- Picture a family sitting at the dinner table with a board game set up: Quality Time Dad, Family Night Mom, and their 3 year old daughter, They’re Gonna Let Me Win Susie. Near the end of the game, QT Dad is about to win so TGLMW Susie quits. She refuses to play anymore. FN Mom decides to get out a puzzle. TGLMW Susie refuses to do the puzzle. She wants to play a different board game. As FN Mom gets the next board game down TGLMW Susie starts doing the potty dance. QT Dad suggests that TGLMW Susie go use the restroom before the game starts and she refuses. In the end no games or puzzles are harmed but TGLMW Susie ends up wetting her pants and going to bed early. You know what I’m gonna say next…..Now try that scenario with a 72 year old woman playing cards with my son, age 6 and my daughter, age 13. They’re playing a riveting game of GO FISH. Edna refuses to leave her recliner and come to the table so the kids are sitting in the crumbs on the floor around her. 75% of the way through the game, Edna is losing, so naturally she quits. The kids continue to play so I, being the magnificent grand daughter that I am, get out a puzzle. I ask Edna to help me build the puzzle and she says “No”. I ask her why and she says in her best baby voice “I don’t want to”. BD chuckles in the kitchen and then says “Edna, she only wants to help you keep your brain strong”. Edna doesn’t respond and proceeds to open a bag of chips she must’ve had hidden in her chair. That woman’s chair is like Mary Poppin’s bag. Every time I look she is pulling another snack out of some secret crevice in the chair I didn’t know existed. Then as we are about to leave I ask Edna to put on some pajamas and brush her teeth. This time I don’t even get a response, just a head shake of no. So I bring the tooth brush, tooth paste, a bowl, and a cup of water to her chair and brush her teeth for her. I end up leaving her apartment with wet pants and go to bed early.
There are dozens of more comparisons to make here, but I am going to cut this short and go visit my Nanny. I love the woman dearly. There is never a dull moment with her around and she always keeps me and my family on our toes. Remind me to tell you the story of taking her shoe shopping one day!
When Life Hands You Grapes……Visit Your Grandma.