With love from Selma, AL

20 May 2010

To anyone willing to listen,

There is a tragedy which occurs each morning in the coffee shops and diners of the South. It is egregious and horrific, but with knowledge it can be avoided.

Allow me to paint a picture. I awoke in a tent pitched on a grassy knoll in the parking lot of a Walmart in Selma, Alabama. It was sunny and hot and a couple of fellows fished for “mud bugs” (a.k.a. crawfish) in a drainage ditch nearby. Still groggy and very hungry, I asked them where to get a quality breakfast and they directed Alex and me to the local truck stop. I was incredulous, but I shouldn’t have been. The reason why to come.

We arrive at said truck stop around 8 am, but before entering discovered Alex’s wallet to be missing. We promptly left to search for it, going back to Walmart, another gas station, and other places visit in our short stay in Selma. Then we found the wallet in the car, right where it always was.

Returning to the truck stop at about 9 am, we sat in the little diner portion and watched the townsfolk, come, sit, talk between tables about local affairs. Tables filled with families, congregations of grandfathers, old farmers and their wives. It became clear, as we dreamed of the reasons we came – grits, biscuits, gravy, in short, the Southern Breakfast – that this was the town’s agora. Here is where Selma’s populace gathered to bullshit and eat and learn the news of the day. Here is where the Selma’s soul is maintained.

A theory: Selma lies 47 miles west of Montgomery and the nearest interstate. Far enough away so that the truck stop, which sits on U.S. route 80 sees very few trucks. Much less since rte. 80 was the major highway. All patrons arrived in cars, not a trucker in sight. The diner was simply re-purposed.

So once we figure out that we must come to the waitress instead of the other way around, we do. She calls us darlin’ about 15 times before dashing our hopes and dreams to pieces.

“We’re all out of biscuits for the day. Grits too.”

Out by 9 am??

“‘Fraid so, darlin’. If you had come in when I saw you drive up ’bout a hour back, you would’ve gotten some.”

A tragedy. Not only was this the perfect place to have a Southern Breakfast, in spirit and location, but they make their biscuits fresh and from scratch each day. There’s a limited amount. Such potential, wasted. I was crushed.

The eggs we ordered we, well, ordinary. The sweet tea not sweet enough to lift the spirits back to their once lofty heights. We were forced to have a breakfast of fresh watermelon bought from the back of a powder blue pickup down the road a spell.

Do not let this happen to you. If you see a truck stop with more cars than trucks, it’s a good bet. Always arrive early.

With love from Selma, AL,

Truck stop restaurant
Rte 80 just south of Old Montgomery Road
Selma, AL


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