My wife and I created the small town of Crow Creek in a novel we wrote together in 2001 called Points South. The book takes its name from an antique store in Crow Creek owned by Deborah and Tony DeVito. Their son Anthony was killed on 9/11 in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Shortly after, Deborah and Tony left New York to start over in North Carolina. As much as you can start over after your child's been killed, anyway. Tony spends most of his time hanging out at the Crossroads, the bar where he meets Santo Natale, the owner's bodyguard. There's an affair. A kidnapping. Organized crime. Exactly what you'd expect from Italians trapped in a Southern town.
But Points South ultimately tells the story of what it's like for Northerners to live in the South. We're foreigners, really. It's been almost 15 years, and I still misunderstand so much of what is said to me when I'm at the bank, the pharmacy, the auto shop, the grocery store. Pretty much every place I go. I need an interpreter. Prior to our move, we lived just outside Phoenix. I got a job and sold our home in six days. My family didn't quite know what to think. We're watching my nephew's tee-ball game one weekend, the next we're packing into a U-Haul and heading Back East. (Said nephew now plays baseball for MIT, by the way. I'm quite proud, can't you tell? I'm also his Godfather, which means a lot to Italians. You've seen the movies.) It was culture shock, to the say the least. When we stopped for dinner at Bob Evans on our very first night in town, the waitress asked me if I wanted sweet tea. I politely told her, "yes, I'd like some sugar in my tea, sure." I didn't realize I had ordered tea-flavored syrup. Since then, I still haven't been to Biscuitville, the Waffle House, or Bojangles, and they're all less than a mile from my house! Couldn't tell you what grits are. What are greens? Not sure. OK, I took my Steel Magnolias cast to Mama Dip's last fall. I tried hush puppies. I guess that's a start. Don't ask me why I define a culture by its food. Maybe that's also an Italian thing. Maybe it's why I still can't find a decent Italian restaurant down here.
Crow Creek is the fourth novel I've set in Crow Creek, actually. I love that fictional town and all its people. Well, not the villains. I love to hate them. Deborah and Tony have been in all four books, I'm happy to say. My wife pictures the two of us when she reads the stories. I don't. I always picture an older couple. James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, right? I guess I just don't picture us as old yet. That's a good thing. But, we're getting up there. Our son just spent 10 days in Mexico City. I asked my wife how the fuck the little boy we once kept swaddled like a Cuban cigar found his way into another country without us. She only shrugged. I guess we're both wondering what's eating our time.