I grew up in the south, so I know where guns reside in the pantheon of life's virtuous pursuits, and it's pretty close to godliness. Where I grew up, if you weren't packing some kind of heat by the time you were 11, they sent you to the guidance counselor.
(Voice of Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tim Roof") "Somethin' just ain't right with you, son, you seem less than a man, and I think I know what it is."
"You ain't got a big enough gun."
"But, Daddy, I love my Daisy BB gun."
"Son, I'm takin' you over to Kmart right now, we gettin' you a 12-guage and a 30.06. You gonna learn to shoot like a man, boy, so hep me God, or I'm sending you to the Holy Land to work on one of them kibbutzes. "
All of which is by way of introducing the magazine Garden & Gun, a glossy, upscale magazine along the lines of Southern Living, but one that describes itself as "the Soul of the New South." I'm not sure what that means, but I won't ask unless I'm armed, 'cause I sense a veiled threat, as in "the South's gonna rise again!"
But last time I was down South -- and I grew up in the DEEP South, in Tallahassee, Fla., so I'm a credentialed Southerner -- it looked to me like the New South took the Old South, shook the pecan trees, antebellum houses and live oaks out of its vest pockets, and filled 'em with condos and strip malls, but that's my take.
Garden & Gun would like to tell you otherwise. The September issue has a range of stories, from "Bo Diddley Saved my Life" by Jimmy Buffett (with whom I shared a stage once, but that's another story), "The Lost Confederados, and why they are singing Dixie in Brazil," and a cover story asking whether country singer Miranda Lambert is the next Loretta Lynn. Lambert is a winsome beauty who, by the way, looks a lot like Mary-Kate Olsen on a healthy diet.
There's also an article on "Charming Atlanta, the secrets of the city." They must be secret indeed, unless there's charm in the number and variety of uses for the term Peachtree. Wait, I take that back: There's charm in the Varsity, if it's still there, a burger drive-in next to Georgia Tech, where we used to go after hard drinking in college, but that's also another story.
As for the physical quality of the book: it's a lovely magazine, that much is certain. A mix of "Cigar Aficionado," "Martha Stewart Omni-Living-Manifesto" or whatever her latest is called, and "Guns n' Ammo." The art director deserves some sort of prize, and I mean that. The photography is wonderful, the layout is clear and uncluttered, and it's attractive enough for a coffee table, but in an unaffected way.
The articles are also a pretty good read. Last issue had a piece on a place I recently visited: Cedar Key, an island off the West Coast of Florida. The fact that Garden & Gun wrote about it says a lot for the mag. Nobody but locals know Cedar Key.
And there are, in this issue, two pieces I recommend highly, as I prefer eating and drinking to shooting, though I recommend doing all three at once -- Hunter Thompson style -- but make sure you're at the clay pits.
One piece is on the Cochon Bloody Mary -- again, great art direction. I got tipsy just staring. The other alimentary article is on Okra, prefaced with a quote from the late James Dickey, who says "For who but a God could have come up with the divine fact of okra." How about the devil? Okra is the most disgusting vegetable, one that certainly evolved to nauseate mammals. It has the consistency and taste of airsick monkfish.
Garden & Gun is also the only magazine I've seen do a story on Datil Pepper Sauce, which you wouldn't know about if you don't know St. Augustine, Fla. For music, there's an article on The Carolina Chocolate Drops, whom I saw play recently in Brooklyn, NY. They get around. So does the magazine.
But there might be a truth-in-title issue, at least in this issue: There really isn't much in the way of guns OR gardens for that matter, in "Garden and Gun." No articles on firearms that I could see, and most of the advertising is for high-end whiskey, lodgings, apparel, cars, the kind of thing you'd see in shelter books. It's as if Smith & Wesson and Ruger and the rest pulled ads because they figured out that on the first day of hunting season, G&G's readership is probably getting geared up... to go sailing.
Published by: Evening Post Publishing Co.
Frequency: 10 issues a year
For another view of the pub, click here.