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STARS FELL ON ALABAMA
March 26, 2004
 
We'll drive home a different way, my hostess says, turning right instead of left on Government Street. This was so I could see the houses and public buildings on this beautiful old street in Mobile. Each one is lovelier than the last: tall white columns and long windows, beautiful old doors. Or stucco with Italian tile roofs. Or riotous Victorian jumbles of cupolas and gables. Here and there among the mansions, a tiny workman's house sits, unapologetic, shutters modestly covering windows propped open at the bottom to admit the soft light and sweet air. Each garden, too, is lovely: the azaleas are out here, growing like weeds, splashing pinks and purples everywhere, and the camellias. The dogwoods layer white blossoms like white mist against their dark wood.
None of these things is happening in New York. We're still on our first crocuses. It will be another month before we see the dogwood blossom, longer for the azalea. And yes, we have no camellias.

The car in front of us has an Alabama license plate. Oh, look, I say, you have the song on your license plate! "Stars fell on Alabama," it reads. That's so cute, I say. I have a record of Frank Sinatra singing that song.

They used to say "The Heart of Dixie,' my hostess says, and we turn into her street.

Ah. No more Dixie. No more Confederate flags. The South is different, now, and some artifacts from its past don't fit anymore. In the airport, the business-suited descendants of slaves walk briskly to their planes, talking on their cell phones as they go, and the corridor is lined with smiling photographs of others who are college sports heroes. A small group of colleagues stands in the sun outside an office building, talking and laughing about something: men, women, black, white. A group that could be anywhere.

Well, we're not there yet, someone says when I bring this up. There's lots of separation.

And so they changed the license plates. No more Dixie. But I would hate to see the whole of the Southern past lumped together and dismissed. Dixie was built on the back of enslaved people, it is true. But the social arrangements that produced the Italian Renaissance were not all anyone could have desired, either. Most achievements of human culture have depended on the exploitation of someone. And, insofar as a pair of Nikes or a DVD player are achievements of human culture, the same is true today.

Can we have art that does not depend on slavery of some kind? Prosperity innocent of blood? Wealth that does not rely on someone else's hidden poverty? Sure, we can. We will - God willing, we will have only those kinds of wealth and art on some future day.

"Stars Fell on Alabama" is a silly love song. It is not a major cultural treasure. But it is sweet: the warm, soft air, the flowers. Two people falling in love. Simple human life. You can live here, and you can love. You can have a family and seek happiness. Everyone wants these things and no one can be denied them. No matter what has gone before, in a past that is profoundly mixed: the sweet things of life.

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Stars Fell On Alabama
By: Mitchell Parish, Frank Perkins

Moonlight and magnolias, starlight in your hair
All the world a dream come true
Did it really happen, was I really there
Was I really there with you

We lived our little drama, we kissed in a field of white
And stars fell on Alabama that night
I can't forget the glamour, your eyes held a tender light
And stars fell on Alabama last night

Chorus:
I never planned in my imagination, a situation so heavenly
A fairy land that no one else could enter
And in the center, just you and me, dear
My heart beat like a hammer, my arms wound around you tight
And stars fell on Alabama last night

Chorus:
I never planned in my imagination, a situation so heavenly
A fairy land that no one else could enter
And in the center, just you and me, dear
My heart beat like a hammer, my arms wound around you tight
Ah, stars fell on Alabama last night

Yes, we lived our little drama
We kissed on the dunes so white
And stars fell on Alabama
Last night.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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