RANGER AGAINST WAR: Helen, Georgia <

Monday, September 03, 2012

Helen, Georgia

 --Helen, Georgia

The note said, "Mrs. Johnson,
you're wearing your dresses way too high
It's reported you've been drinking and a-runnin' 'round
 with men and going wild 
--Harper Valley PTA, Tom T. Hall

It was good to leave town, and your Ranger team has returned just in time to avoid the Labor Day rush, and to enjoy the balmy 96-degree Florida sunshine and humidity.  My neighbor reported hopefully that it hadn't much exceeded the upper-90's for most of August ("a mild summer"), though it did rain a lot, so Lisa is spending Labor Day diligently removing mildew from wood, leather, fabric, etc. in her abode.

We will be cranking up to speed shortly, but for today, a glimpse into the final days of the trip spent in North Georgia, specifically, the town of Helen in the aptly named county of White, touted as Little Bavaria in the Appalachian foothills.  Helen is the mistake that happens when Germans meet rednecks -- an incendiary combination of ethnocentric ignorance.

Coming from Florida -- home of Alligatorland, Weeki Wachee mermaids and body parts found in auctioned storage units -- little should faze us.  But the absolute tattiness of this town was a surprise.  Disneyworld's Epcot knows how to do the erzats foreign experience; Georgia does not.

Most of the stuccoed, faux timber-framed guesthouses are in varying states of decay, belying their hasty construction 40+ years ago when someone had the cockamamie idea to resurrect a dying Georgia logging town as a Bavarian Alpine town.  Not a bad idea as they go, but the Georgia inclination to decrepitude has taken over.  Now, the Korean "So Me's" lines the main drag, along with places like "Cafe La Pizza", restos with no recognizable cuisine besides that horrid hodge-podge -- "Americana".

We ate first at the Bodensee, arriving at an off-hour in the middle of a photo shoot of the owners and a table laden with the house specialties.  They were all smiles as Ranger overheard them plotting their escape back to Germany for the following day.  The proprietress boldly made for our table and asked us if we would like to enjoy any of the featured dishes, "Half-price!"  

She escorted us to the table and we selected two schnitzels, and were charged exactly half-price as promised and not a penny less; that monetary precision was to be the most authentic German experience of the trip.  We were to discover most actual German influence had made like the owners of Bodensee and gotten the heck out of dodge, or had just faded away.

While dining at one of the "Olde Bavarian" houses, the Southern lass in a non-convincing landhausmode explained that the founder of the joint had once ran a tight ship but was now in his dotage, the new owners obviously not landsmen, Ranger's favorite cucumber salad but a thin veneer of non-marinated cukes covering a bed of iceburg lettuce.

An authentic Hamentaschen was enjoyed at Hofer’s Bakery and Café, but breakfast the next morning disappointed.  

An authentic Bavarian breakfast should have hunks of meat and cheese, butter and marmalade, not little pimento cheese paste balls and thin slices of olive loaf.  Like so much in the Southeast, it was the simulacrum of something substantial.  It is why the Bed & Breakfasts in the U.S. are often such dismal failures: Someone read Martha Stewart Living and Better Homes and Gardens and scabbed on Paula Deen to render something not-quite filling. (More on Southern food in a later post.)

So it was with most of the town, the ersatz establishments run (feebly) by locals with little care of approximating an authentic feel; the tourist shops could have been on Daytona Beach, selling as they did "Support Your Local Militia" and "WWRD" (What Would Reagan Do) wristbands. The town seems to exist for the three months of Oktoberfest, and the $2 Margaritas at the Alpine Village Inn.

This suits Georgia, as it is the ethos of any good Southern Baptist to not drink at home establishments.  It's all to the good to take a cruise and do the wild and crazy, so long as one lands primly back on one's home turf.  "I didn't WANT to do that" is the call of plausible deniability heard everywhere.  "It's not like me; you made me do it."  And so it goes for generations of maladaptations.

And hence, places like Helen and the Panhandle's Redneck Riviera will always serve a purpose.

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Blogger FDChief said...

Sounds utterly appalling, like a performance of Wagner's Die Nibelung performed by the waitstaff and busboys at the Fayetteville Waffle House with musical backup from the Charlie Daniels Band.

We seem to be fortunate here in the PNW that our German food is genuinely German. Admittedly the decor is the same horrible gemutlichkitsch but I can take a lot of dirndls and lidded steins if my rotkohl is tangy and my jagerschnitzel is tender and smothered in rich mushroomy sauce.

Mmmm. Now I'm getting hungry.

Anyway, glad you're home after the adventure. The mildew, though...reminds me of why we had airconditioning in the barracks in Panama 24/7. When I spent a month in the old tropical barracks over at Ft. Sherman I had to wipe the damn mildew off my boots every morning, that's how quickly it covered everything. Ewwww.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 12:10:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

I love your Wagner staging :)

I also love rotkohl, and have no love for mildew.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 11:33:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Peter of Lone Tree said...

Should not the title of your piece be:
"Hell in Georgia."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 12:49:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...



Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 12:58:00 PM GMT-5  

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