Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘mississippi’

I don’t even know what to call this piece of furniture. Spice cabinet? Spice drawers? During its long tenure in my grandmother’s house, it was simply the blue drawers in the hallway; for adults, the holder of telephone books, for kids, the source of puzzles and books, pencils and paper.

I brought it home after my grandmother’s funeral last week, stuffing it into my tiny car along with a few photographs and a handful of handwritten recipes from the bottom kitchen drawer.

I asked for this piece long ago (my grandmother had been assigning artifacts to children and grandchildren alike for nearly three decades), choosing it over the fancier formal china cabinet that resided in the den and didn’t match my personality or decorating style any more than pineapple-topped bedposts.

Seriously, what’s with the pineapple-topped bedposts?

It’s in my office now, slightly cleaner thanks to a brief encounter with Murphy’s Oil Soap, but still bearing evidence of its age. Rather than puzzles and phone books, it holds the essentials of a perpetual graduate student. Mostly, though, it just holds memories, and I’m grateful that my husband maneuvered it into my car with mere inches to spare.

Read Full Post »

OK, I know I sound like a shill, but you should totally buy a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program this summer.

I had the best time last year with my weekly pickups from Dennison’s Family Farm in Elora, Tenn. It really did turn into my own version of Iron Chef, having to work with whatever ingredients showed up in the box each week. And since there are few things scarier for my husband to hear than the statement “I made something new for dinner,” it’s somewhat of a miracle that he had a blast with it, too.

It’s a lesson in the natural cycle of crops for those who aren’t used to the whims of Mother Nature. For example, last year’s rains made for a very short corn crop, so I didn’t get nearly the amount of corn I had expected, but I got tons of tomatoes, chard and peppers of all varieties. And strawberries. Not those tasteless baby-fist-sized strawberries you get at the grocery store, but juicy, delectable berries, so many that you can’t eat them all and will be forced to make the best ice cream ever with them. Darn the luck.

Some folks tell me that they just prefer to go to the farmer’s market, which is cool if you like rolling out of bed before 9 a.m. on Saturdays. Which, truthfully, I have been known to do. But what I find myself not doing at the farmer’s market is buying something I’m unfamiliar with, or buying so much of something that I have enough to freeze for later. (I’ve got two more servings of zucchini/onion/garlic soup base in the freezer, and I just ran out of frozen bell pepper slices in January.) Even if you’re not going to get into canning, you can still have a little taste of summer when it’s 30 degrees outside.

Seriously, it was the best summer food-wise that I’ve had since that summer in the early 1980s when my grandfather and I grew a huge patch of watermelons and I ate my weight in fresh tomatoes.

Head to Dennison’s page on LocalHarvest for details on its 10-week program, or search for a CSA closer to you.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been trying to get my mind around murder since I was 10 years old.

We were at my grandmother’s house, about 2.5 hours from our home in Kiln, Miss. The phone in the hallway — the only phone in the house at the time, the phone that, over the years, continually brought horrific news, news of fatal fires, news of shootings — self-inflicted and not — news of heart attacks and cancer diagnoses — the phone rang while we were having breakfast.

It was the principal of the high school where my dad was band director. One of the members of the band’s flag corps had been brutally murdered, along with her mother and father, the night before.

This was in the early 1980s, a time before parents (at least my parents) felt the need to shield their children from bad news. My brother and I were quiet, inquisitive, analytical kids, and we instinctively knew that if we kept our silence and blended into the background we would eventually learn everything there was to know about any topic.

K’s brother had systematically beaten her and her parents to death with a hammer (a sledgehammer, maybe – this detail escapes me). (I call her K because this case is so old that there is no reference to it on the Internet, and I would hate for this to be the only link that shows up in a search.) Another brother survived; he had spent the night at a friend’s house.

I remember being told that the murdering brother had what we would now call a history of mental problems; the term used back then was likely “crazy.” I remember hearing that he had moments when he claimed to be Jesus.

I have long pondered the effect this had on my young psyche, especially when events occur like last week’s shooting at UAHuntsville. Anytime I see news of a multiple slaying, my mind returns to that breakfast phone call and then starts flipping between two questions: How could anyone do this, and how could no one have seen it coming in time to prevent it?

If the multiple murders at K’s home occurred today, there would have been counselors swarming our tiny school the next week. As it was, we were supposed to simply take it to heart that this was an anomaly, something that could not happen to any of us, so long as we didn’t know any crazy people.

The problem that I recognized then and now is that “crazy” is not as easily defined as everyone would have had us think.

I also learned that the “stranger danger” line fed to us after the Atlanta child murders and the murder of Adam Walsh was not the entirety of things we had to worry about. Not that I suspected my 8-year-old brother of murderous intent, but the realization that someone K knew and loved was capable of such atrocity was a game-changer for a pre-teen.

The idea that you might not ever REALLY know someone, that there might always be some part closed off to you, no matter how close you are, was not that foreign to me, but the idea that the closed-off part might harbor such unpredictable anger and violence was alarming.

The world was a little less safe, and for the past three decades it seems to have become a LOT less safe.

School shootings, workplace shootings, murder-suicides … it seems like our closed-off parts are more dangerous than ever.

I couldn’t make sense of it when I was 10, and I’m no closer to understanding it now. I just have to hope that events like this really are anomalies, and that the hidden parts of strangers, friends, associates, and even family members aren’t as dark and dangerous as others have proven to be.

Read Full Post »

photo

I took my new Chuck Taylor All Stars out for a test drive last night. Good news: They still make my feet look 1.5 times bigger than they really are, and they totally remind me of seventh grade, when I was on the junior high basketball team.

I was tall and I could shoot, but I just wasn’t that good at basketball. The fast pace of the game frustrated me – I’m a planner. Plus, it was hard to be a cool outcast when you’re with the incast.

Turns out you can also wear your Chucks while you’re hanging out with the drama club and smoking under the bleachers, where nobody notices that your feet seem a lot bigger than they should be.

Read Full Post »

It’s been four years since Hurricane Katrina hit, wiping out nearly all of my childhood haunts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and causing unimaginable destruction in New Orleans. It also did thousands of dollars in damage to my home in Mobile, Alabama, but that’s an afterthought considering what happened to folks west of there.

The dichotomy of kindness and chaos during Katrina’s aftermath did a number on me. At times, my faith in the innate goodness of people was strengthened, but then another tragic headline would tear that faith to shreds.

I didn’t know where my mom was for two days. Turns out she lives on the highest part of Biloxi and just had wind damage, but the only images of Biloxi on television showed blocks of flattened houses. The last image she had seen of Mobile before she lost power was the appropriately named Water Street, filled with so much water that there were waves cresting over street signs.

Fears on both sides were put to rest when Mom, her boyfriend and their two bad little dogs pulled up in my driveway on the third day.

Not two years earlier, I had scattered my dad’s ashes in the Mississippi River from the levies near the French Quarter, returning his remains to the city he loved, the city whose music inspired him. The Mississippi River had, in turn, scattered itself all over the Crescent City.

I had left two of my dad’s saxophones with a horn dealer in New Orleans a few months before the storm. After his death, I had decided that they needed to be in the hands of someone who would use them.

Several weeks after the storm, I made a halfhearted attempt to track down the dealer and check on the horns. I found out that his warehouse had been destroyed, and my best guess was that his delicate old home had, at the very least, sustained massive wind damage. I was close to being ashamed of myself, checking on $1200 worth of horns when parts of the city had virtually been wiped from the map.

The thing is, I didn’t really want the money (though it would have bought a good bit of non-squishy carpet), and I certainly didn’t want the horns back. I just wanted to see if they survived the storm.

My fiercest hope is that they survived the wind and the water and the looting, that someone picked them up and gave them to a down-and-out musician, or hell, SOLD them to a down-and-out musician for Sheetrock money, and that they’re making music on the streets of New Orleans to this day. My worst fear is that they’re rusting away in a landfill, or entangled in debris at the bottom of a neglected waterway.

00026_n_9acfp83mt0550

The last time I saw my dad play was at my wedding. He was the kind of guy who needed an assignment to make it through four hours of socializing with strangers, and putting him on stage was a great move. He knew how to blend in with the band without upstaging anybody, though he threw in some ass-kicking solos when the moment was right.

I was cool with the idea of not knowing exactly where my dad’s remains would lie. Really, I couldn’t wait to get the box out of the house after it arrived in the mail. I never had any intention of keeping ashes in a vase on the mantel.

Sometimes I have this vision of his ashes flowing through the streets of New Orleans in the floodwaters, landing here and there, making themselves a permanent part of the spirit of the city.

I miss my dad, and I miss New Orleans. But the thought that his saxophones might be helping entice tourists to toss dollar bills into a horn case on a street corner somewhere makes it all a little more bearable.

Read Full Post »

Since moving to Huntsville in 2007, I’ve been invited to go camping by everyone from co-workers and classmates to new friends and virtual strangers.

I’ve explained time and time again that as natives of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, my husband and I don’t camp. We rarely even discussed camping until two years ago, except to mock or feel sorry for those who felt the need to brave the sticky humidity, frequent rain, biting insects and frightful fauna of Southern Mississippi and lower Alabama.

Usually, these victims were fathers of Boy Scouts, lured into the wilderness by well-meaning but misguided troop leaders. Those who ventured out once got our pity, but those who went the next year after lodging a week’s worth of complaints about the first year’s mosquito-ridden disaster got nothing more than a good mocking.

Seriously, hotels are all around us. Use them. Love them.

The weather in Northern Alabama is admittedly more hospitable to camping. The humidity is lower (don’t even bother griping about the humidity here – I’ve been to Nicaragua in August), and at night, the temperature actually stands a chance of dropping below 85 degrees. There are still big checkmarks beside the boxes for biting bugs and snakes, however, plus coyotes seem well-represented up here.

There are, I suppose, a few events that could be made more fun by camping. I could get a really early start at the really awesome Tyrolean Traverse in Desoto Falls State Park. I could make it to some caves in Tennessee that local grotto members start exploring at ungodly times on Saturdays. Heck, I might even find myself at Bonnaroo next year.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m talking myself into camping. My love for indoor plumbing supercedes many adventure possibilities. You’ve got more selling to do, North Alabama.

Read Full Post »

I’m planning a trip to New York City and I am PSYCHED. People who grow up in the rural South usually have one of three reactions to urban life:

  • They are annoyed by crowded sidewalks, brutal traffic and the intricate layout of city streets.
  • They are terrified by the city’s sheer vibrancy.
  • They fall in love with said sheer vibrancy and begin plotting their way to a high-rise office and studio walkup.

I’ve loved city life since moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the early 1980s. My family’s home was an easy 20 minutes from the Louisiana state line, which was a mere 40 minutes from downtown New Orleans.

The Crescent City is a troublesome example, because it runs on its own rhythm. All cities do. But it introduced me to a world of close quarters, where strangers lived literally feet from one another, rode buses and streetcars, and many times, heaven forbid, WALKED. It was a world in which people ate dinner at 9 p.m., not 6 p.m., and they certainly didn’t call it “supper.”

It was a world of sophistication far removed from my home in Kiln, Mississippi, where I literally had to drive across a defunct cattle gap to get to school every morning.

I truly fell for city life when I was 21 and went to London for four weeks to take a World War II history class. I barely slept the entire time I was there because I didn’t want to miss a minute of action.

Between the Underground and an extremely well-run (read: on-time) system of buses, I could be anywhere in the city within a half hour. The crosswalks required traffic to come to a standstill for pedestrians to cross busy streets – and we’re not just talking crosswalks at red lights and stop signs.

After a lifetime of being accused of walking too fast, I was a welcome addition to the People in a Hurry on the city’s sidewalks. I learned the true people-moving potential of escalators, and I’ve been uncomfortable standing completely still on moving stairs ever since.

The restaurants, the shopping (note that my favorite destination in any foreign city is a grocery store, and a must-visit destination in any large American city is a foreign grocery store), the population’s ethnic mix … there’s just too much that I love to list it all.

New York has it all: subways, buses, foreign grocery stores, fast-moving sidewalk crowds, world-class restaurants, even non-stationary escalator-riders. And not a cattle gap for miles.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: