Have you ever lived elsewhere or visited far away places and experienced the misguided notions people have about Alabama? “Alabama huh, do you guys eat a lot of squirrel down there?” “Did you grow up on a farm… are there cities?” I politely respond with a quip, “I am from Mobile - down on the Gulf of Mexico - where the beaches have sugar sand and the girls are sugar sweet. If anything, most folks down there are beach boys, not farm boys - but we have both and it only adds to our charm.” You all know what I mean, show of hands, who has a pair of flip-flops parked alongside a pair of boots in the closet? Ok, so despite being somewhat of an introvert, I am always eager to jabber about my birthplace. I see no need to be reserved when you hail from one of the best places on earth, the other LA, Lower Alabama. Here you have pitcher plant bogs, “America’s Amazon, ” pine savannas, a battleship, historic forts, the finest beaches, Conecuh sausage, Gulf seafood, and friendly people, even a Mayberryesque barrier island just to highlight a few of our amenities.
I recently moved back after being away for several years. During my hiatus, I have been fortunate to live in the cypress swamps and mangrove estuaries of southwest Florida; among the giant sequoia high in the Sierra Mountains; and most recently off the grid, deep in the canyons and high plateaus of southern Utah. Many have asked me, “Why would you move back here?” Well, I subscribe to the philosophy that you can live any place, but you only call one place “home.” My home is here, in Lower Alabama. The running joke is: I thought my southern twang started to dwindle, so I hauled tail back to Dixie. The truth is I left to hatch a career, discover what different places offered, gain perspective, and explore new things. I always intended to return to the Gulf Coast and what my experiences showed me was this is indeed where I want to be. Fortunately, timing and desire aligned and here I am at Mobile Baykeeper.
What about you, ask yourself: Why not Lower Alabama? If you assess the pros and cons, I believe the verdict falls in favor of LA. After all, life is about finding balance, like Goldilocks and the three bears balance: too hot - too cold - ah just right. People juggle this concept everyday in marriage, work, relationships, and life. Balance for me starts in having some proximity to the water. We are blessed with water in LA. Bountiful, sometimes-torrential rains literally pour water from the sky. Rest assured there are not many places that receive several inches of rain in one afternoon as often as we do and then have the sun return while you skimboard on your lawn underneath a rainbow - I bet we get more rainbows than just about anywhere. Here our world-class network of rivers, creeks, deltas, and bays provide a myriad of options to enjoy time out on the water. Consider, this is one of the only places where you can tube a blackwater creek, paddle a backwater slough, pull a trawl, throw a cast net, wet a line or pleasure cruise among so much diversity and travel so little to do it all. And when nightfall approaches and distant storms fade, fireflies dance about and heat lightning glows in the summer sky; that is LA.
A major and often-overlooked advantage here is that we have access to water, nature and the outdoors all within a respectable distance to modern civilization - again think balance. Art, music, history, global cuisine, a happening social scene, microbrews (thank you Free the Hops) and then there are some events emblematic to LA: Mardi Gras, Mullet Toss, Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, cook-offs, low country boils, and festivals for every food and fruit known to man, the list goes on. Also, a must do: gumbo crawls. For those not aware of a gumbo crawl listen up, it is simple. Drive around the west and east sides of the Bay, stop in at every joint serving gumbo and savor the varying flavors of the delicious concoction that only LA can house. I declare, New Orleans cannot offer as many different gumbo bowls to slurp down as LA. Have you visited downtown Mobile lately? It is chocked full of opportunities to fill your glass, belly, and ears and enjoy fellowship with friends and strangers alike. The Saenger Theater and other local music spots are bringing in top shelf talent; the History Museum of Mobile is renowned and it is free. LoDa Artwalks, Food Truck Fridays, and fun community-centric events are becoming the norm. What more can you ask for? Water, nature, history, and metropolitan amenities all wrapped into one. And for those of us that still enjoy rural living with access to all of the above, it is easily attainable in LA.
Let me finish with a final thought: I am not oblivious to the fact we have flaws. I would argue though, that if we continue to move in the current direction and learn from the past, we could build a better tomorrow. I am thrilled to see momentum for smart, sensible change in our community already catching wind - it is inspiring. Imagine launching new stereotypes like “they keep a clean city” or “LA people care about their waterways.” Following this course I envision us one day being touted as a community that rivals any in the nation. So what can you do? Simply think about the future you want to see for you and your family and take action to help shape it; get involved with community planning, volunteer to aid issues you care about, and most of all let your voice be heard. And the next time you leave our slice of paradise and venture out into the world answer with unabashed pride when asked, “Where you are from?” because you are blessed to reside here in Lower Alabama, the other LA.
- Jason Kudulis, Communications & Outreach Coordinator