USA – The Low Down Adventure
I’ve traveled far (South Africa) to hunt down office supplies. I’ve traveled to remote places (Atacama Desert, Chile) and random places (Paraguay) but I’ve never explored the American South. The time felt right for a mission trip to Paradise Garden – an Outsider Art mecca located in smalltown Americana that’s been callin’ my name.
Summerville, Georgia be unlike any other place I’ve been. We arrived at dusk, slowly creepin’ into town. We passed estates sitting on acres of perfectly manicured lawns. I wondered out loud if Crayola named their grass green crayon after their lawns. Then we drove through some real-life True Detective swampland shit that gave me chills.
It’s no secret that we M’THR F’IN love to grub. It’s a big part of sourcing trips, sometimes more than huntin’ down office supplies! Our first taste of Summerville – peel ‘n eat Gulf shrimp, fresh oysters, chicken wings with a side of tortilla chips (??), and deep-fried dill pickles – at the only restaurant crackin’ on a Friday night. But the real winner of dinner? The heavy dose of locals. That syrupy-sweet drawl? Bonafide real. And the only other non-white person kickin’ back drunk with his feet up on a stool had me all sorts of confused.
We hit up the corner gas station. Another slice of small town Americana, another spot where we commanded silence the moment we walked through the doors. Townies wonderin’ what we wanted, we wonderin’ why there was only one cider option but two different Four Loko flavors? WTF? Purple Hooter and Pink Scorpion probably woulda turnt up the night but we were deep in the south. We didn’t need the night to go south.
We grubbed on grits and barbecue for breakfast at Henry’s BBQ, the spot that locals get their mornin’ grub on. They line up at 5:45 am, 15 minutes before they open. We rolled in at 1:45 pm, 15 minutes before they closed.
One of the waitresses, Caitlan, took our order. What she really wanted? To get our story. She pegged us as outsiders and wanted to connect. Turns out Caitlan was feelin’ like an outsider herself – lookin’ for a sign from afar. We left loaded with leads, exchanged phone numbers, and promised to keep in touch. Later, we hit up one of Caitlan’s tips – hello, Mentone, AL!
But the prize of the STMT x USA sourcing trip? Paradise Garden – Howard Finster’s twisted-fairy-tale-turned-real haven (more about this magical spot later this month!). The preacher-turned-artist called himself a “visitor from another planet,” and walkin’ the grounds was like entering another world.
Everyday items transformed into art – merging real with fantasy. My head was spinnin’ from all the rad… It’s bizarre, a bit creepy, and a whole lot of awesome. Even the insects were otherworldly – ginormous bees and massive dragonflies hovering all around us, nature proving its strength in Paradise.
Nonstop surreal and out there moments. Outsiders hangin’ with outsiders. We all out here. Who’s left inside?