The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘georgia’

Toastmasters Speech #6 – Vocal Variety

Speech six in the competent communicator manual (the traditional set of speeches people give first) is called ‘vocal variety.’ The purpose is to focus on your voice – adding pauses, good language, volume changes, pace of speaking changes, things like that. I thought accents would be a good way to force myself in to accomplishing some of those goals … and when I think of accents I think of when I went to Georgia Boys State.

You’ll have to make up your own accents when you read this.

Georgia Boys State

My family had moved from New York to Georgia over winter break my freshman year, and I was sitting in my first class, English, at my new Georgia high school. I was feeling overwhelmed by the move, but I had just learned some good news – at my new high school they had just finished reading The Old Man and the Sea, and I had already read that.

The teacher asked some question and called on a girl, she began to answer.

“Whale …”

WHALE?! There’s a WHALE in the book? When was there a whale!?

She continued after a pause, “ya’ll know … he was like … trying to catch a fish or somethin’?”

That’s when three thoughts hit me – 1, ohhh, she said well; 2, she clearly didn’t read the book; 3, I love a good accent.

Fast forward two years and the summer after my junior year of highschool I was treated to a buffet of Georgia accents at Georgia Boys State. I’d like to share a few stories, and attempt a few accents from Boys State – but first, who here is familiar with Boys State or Girls State?


Boys State and Girls State are weeklong camps put on by the American Legion. It’s a sort of mock political event. Kids after their junior year of high school are selected, a few from each high school in the state, and then you attend this camp where you are split up into cities, and counties. You learn about state politics because you have to elect someone to each major position – city councilors, positions at county levels, and up.

Every day you meet people from your city, and county. People give speeches in the hopes of winning elections.

The camp was about as opposite as possible for things I was interested in. Politics? Nope. Public speaking? Nope.

But, what the camp lacked for me, it more than made up for with amazing accents from all over the state, and oddball experiences.


We begin on night one. The camp was run on a tight schedule, and we had hit lights out for the day. My roommate and I were tucked in to bed.

“Night James,” I said to my roommate, “night Brad,” he said back. A few moments of silence go by before James says, quietly, “hey Brad?” I respond, “yeah James?” And then a question everyone wants to hear from someone they have just met and will be rooming with, “how do you feel about your relationship with Jesus?”

This time I paused before answering, I wanted to make sure this question got the due attention it deserved. “Oh, pretty good, thanks for asking.”

Then I laid absolutely still, not sleeping a wink, doing my best impression of how I think my breathing sounds when I’m asleep. James didn’t pipe up again, I guess he was just dipping his toes into the pools of evangelism.


The people in charge of Boys State did a good job of mixing people up – I knew other people there from Savannah, but we were scattered across different cities. Each city had a good mix of folks from all over. And I spent the most time with people from my city.

I had come to Georgia from New York with an ignorant but well-formed set of assumptions and stereotypes. Southerners, in my mind, spoke slowly and were a bit dumber than northerners. Thankfully, I learned time and again how wrong I was to assume the south lacked smart folks.

One guy who embodied that reminded me most of Adam Sandler’s character from The Waterboy, and I remember him distinctly talking about the SATs. “Well my mama said that, if I got over a 1400 on my SATs she’d get me a truck. So, I got a 1450.”

….WHAT. That’s not how it works! You aren’t motivated by a TRUCK to do well in school. You can’t be smart AND one of those guys who sneaks a guns and ammo, or truck magazine into class. (Yes, some of my classmates really did that.)

The slow accents though, sometimes that was true. That was demonstrated by another guy in my city “who’s daddy is a pea-nut farmer. And he’d just sorta … stroll through a sentence real casual … and ya’ll can come along and pay attention if ya’ll want, but ya’ll don’t have to neither.” It was like mind numbing poetry. He could make one sentence sound like a story.


Last, but certainly not least, is David Ballard.

All the kids from my county had met in a big hall to elect the district attorney, sheriff, and other positions. These were coveted positions.

One of the guys in that room was David Ballard. David was not terribly attractive, he looked like a shy nerdy fella, he was definitely not the best speaker, but he was persistent. He was very persistent.

The first position came up and a number of people got up, gave speeches about why they should be elected. David got up and gave his speech, “Hi, my name is David Ballard, and I would like to be your district attorney.” David didn’t win.

The next position came up and again a small set of county citizens got up, gave speeches, and even David participated. “Hi, my name is David Ballard, and I’d like to be your sheriff.” He didn’t win.

Again, and again, and again, David got up and ran. I loved every minute of David’s speeches. It was like watching an injured Olympian limping across the finish line an hour after the other athletes.

His winning speech began as such, “Hi, as you all know, I am David Ballard.” There was no shame, no hesitation, he tried, and tried, and eventually succeeded. It was beautiful, and inspiring, and because I am a jerk, pretty darn comical to me.


I was not excited to head to Boys State. And when I left, I was happy to to be back home and surrounded by my friends. But, despite my best efforts to sit back and be a smart aleck and poke holes in everything around me – it was truly educational.

Accents are beautiful, people are great, and there are life lessons hidden everywhere if you let them hit you.

Weekly Wacko (66)


Something that happens a lot more often than I’d like is having a joke fall flat. This could be because people didn’t hear me (I can sometimes mumble), the joke was not right for the audience (know your audience) or, let’s be honest, because the joke stunk (no comment).

My sophomore year of high school I hung out with my neighbor Ryan a lot. Ryan had a CD of “The Hot Boys.” For a while he was big on playing this CD when we’d drive to Media Play and Krispy Kreme (just your typical Friday night). One of the songs had the following lyrics, “ah-whatcha need boy? [I need a hot girl] ah-whatcha want boy? [I want a hot girl].” The song is called, aptly enough, “I Need a Hot Girl.” It’s on YouTube, you can check out the video for its great lighting … right, great lighting.

One day, my mom and I were the only people at the house. The cat and dog were also around.

The cat meowed.

“Whatcha need, girl?”


“Whatcha want, girl?”

In almost perfect synch with the song, my mom had basically duplicated one of The Hot Boys hits, except instead of meowing you’d say “I want a hot girl”/”I need a hot girl.”

Realizing this, I sang loudly, “she wants a hot girrrllll.”

My mom didn’t laugh, but I think my cat and I were at least on the same page, so we laughed about it lots.


Go to about 55 seconds in for the brilliant chorus.

Weekly Wacko (64)

Ya’ll Ok, Sweety?

My family got in the car and left West Point, New York for Savannah, Georgia on January 1, 2000. The day all the computers were supposed to blow everything up.

When we arrived we made our home at the Hunter Army Airfield guest housing. Essentially, a hotel for Military families.

Sometime during that initial period in Georgia I had my first experience  with southern charm (that I could remember – I was born in North Carolina but don’t remember any of it).

Naturally, it occurred in a Waffle House.

To those of you who have never experienced a Waffle House, I’m sorry. They’re not the cleanest restaurants, or the most delicious, or the best-staffed but … you love them all the same.

The waitress came up to our booth and asked around the table to see what we wanted to eat.

One by one the orders were made.

Eventually, I believe I was last to order, she got to me.

“How bout you sweety?”

… Sweety … Really? … I … I mean my family’s here and you’re a lot older and clearly a heavy smoker but … I mean I guess I … Sure I try to be sweet but … I mean for you to realize that just by looking at me … All right, yeah we can go on a date sometime but … Well let’s not call it a date let’s just say we’re “hanging out” and we’ll see … Sweety? … Well, you’re sweet too and …

I was taken aback.

I had never been called a sweety before by a stranger. Possibly only my mom and some other friends of hers had called me a sweety.

But for this stranger to call me sweety! How nice!

There were a number of moments like this where I adjusted to the switch between New York and Georgia. It turns out, the North and South are different in a few ways.


At a diner near our home in New York the guy behind the counter would yell at you to see what you wanted. This my family loved – what’s not to love? Table-side manners are out, yelling is IN. But you know, I think I’m also ok with being called sweety.

Soapbox? Well, world, we’re all not so different, you know? Cultural differences and what-not, but what’s that? That’s something to appreciate! Take it in! Love it! It’s amazing how different we all are. If ever there was a reason to be impressed with mankind it is because of the amazing complexity of the human race. Between one person and the next. Seriously.

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