Before air-conditioning, on some full summer nights in Atlanta occurred a black physics less rarely than you might have imagined. Precise and intricate, matter itself reorganized; it began with a circulation of heat, humidity, and imperceptible motes of red clay that hung in the air suspended. Hung endlessly like Ernest, Red, Hickey, and the other winos at Lou’s bar on Edgewood Avenue, who, with a mere precession of their shoulders, could fend off the gravities that would pull them away from their King Cotton Peach, and down.
Into that circulation spilled the attars of wisteria and honeysuckle, the sweat and stink of cars and trucks and animals and sex and race, and other ingredients too many and too ordinary to mention. Cricket rhythms massaged the flux and cicadian crescendos pressurized it, irritating component after component until each abandoned its identity and the mixture condensed into a sweet, thick, elemental Dark. This Dark spread everywhere, broaching no resistance; whatever It touches It became and it became It until everything cohered in its flavor and murk and listlessness.
By morning the Dark itself dissipated, but left a sticky residue on things and people that could not be rinsed off for days. Despite all efforts to take up life again at a normal pace, the viscous coating retarded all motion, and it is this more than anything else, It and its ruddy patina, that was being named when one said ‘Southern.’
Jeffrey Kipnis, ‘Southern’, Log 17, Fall 2009, p.136.