One of the running “legends” in American life and art (yes, snobs, I know that “American art” is held by the cognoscenti to be an oxymoron) is that of what I’d call the “rube moving to town,” or better the big city. He or she leaves the farm or other small places and goes through a traumatic transition to urban life. In the process they lose all kinds of things: their virginity, their money, their religion, but most significantly their “illusions.”
Personally I’ve always found this tale hard to take. My father came from a successful family who hadn’t seen a farm in a long time. My Arkansas raised mother, like Bill Clinton, proved more than a match to the “city slicker” family she married into. In my family, it was the urban bunch who came out on the short end of the stick!
In the case of Mississippi raised Todd Starnes, anchor and reporter for Fox News Radio, the loss of moving to town was 150 pounds.
He describes his adventure in his book They Popped My Hood And Found Gravy On The Dipstick. Starting with a stint at a talk radio station in Jackson, TN, he hits the “Rush Limbaugh” trail, first in Sacramento (at the same station Rush was at) and then onward to Fox News Radio in New York. (Todd, if you keep following Rush, call me before you hit Palm Beach, it’s my hometown.) But while just a few kilometres away from Rio Linda he discovered that a) he had a genetic defect in his heart and b) his rich Southern diet had pushed him with in conjuction with (a) to within a few weeks of death.
Most of the book is taken with the process of coming back from that. He tried to be a bad patient, but the outstanding support network from his Baptist church wouldn’t let him do that. Then he was faced with the task of weaning himself from the gravy he found on the dipstick and adopting a leaner (and certainly meaner) diet, a struggle for any Southerner. While he was becoming half the man he used to be, he moved to New York, participated in the Marathon, adjusted to life in the Big Apple, and lost both of his parents.
The multiple transitions he faced would have been enough to disorient just about anyone. But Starnes, in a hilarious and laid back way, shows how faith in God makes a difference in one’s life, irrespective of the fact that many of the bad habits he had to break were acquired in church.
It’s a joyous trip to take, and you will want to find out what happened after They Popped My Hood And Found Gravy On The Dipstick.