Posts Tagged ‘Mobile’

I am at a loss as to what to say about the recent tornadoes that carved a path of destruction throughout north Alabama. Our home is fine, but I have the same feeling that I had after multiple hurricanes took aim at Mobile, Alabama, when we lived there: It’s as if Mother Nature has drawn a bead on me and the people I care about.

But whining and worrying don’t do anybody any good, and they’re both really just luxuries when my own home remains standing. There are entire communities of people and animals that need help, and helping others can be so exhausting that you don’t have the energy to wallow in your own fears.

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The “Do One Thing” series chronicles my yearlong effort to tackle one project every day to organize my life and home.

Day 13: Reorganized a particularly troublesome kitchen cabinet area. My house in Mobile, Alabama, had laughably little cabinet space, so I’m still getting used to maximizing the larger space I have now. I have this obsessive desire to keep all the baking items (mixer, cake pans, muffin tins, etc.) close together, but that just doesn’t work. I accept this limitation, and now I can reach the small loaf pans without interference.

Day 14: Cleaned out a box of hair accessories that was mysteriously stored in the nightstand in the guest room. Discovered that elasticized hair bands deteriorate and lose their stretch when stored in stupid places for long periods of time.

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It’s good to have friends who help you maintain a positive attitude and healthy habits. It’s also good to have friends who urge you to make questionable choices every once in a while.

When I emailed a photo of a surprising food find — Little Debbie Banana Pudding Rolls — to a former colleague earlier this week, he responded immediately:  “My professional advice to you is to buy two boxes of them right now. Why two? Because you’ll eat one box on the way home from the store.”

How could a girl resist?

I grew up eating Little Debbie products at my grandparent’s house in South Mississippi — my brother and I could always find a box of the treats on top of the refrigerator. I am the Forrest Gump of Little Debbie products, with a readily accessible running list of the different varieties taking up valuable space inside my brain. Ask me about nearly any of the company’s products, and I can run down a quick review for you. Here are just a few that popped into my head this very minute:

Devil Squares: Their substantial filling and sort of weirdly textured chocolate coating combine for a unique and delicious culinary experience that made me, as a child, feel slightly more sophisticated than my tomboyish habits generally merited. (more…)

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Ever manage to inadvertently start following a healthy eating pattern?

This weekend, I realized that I’ve established two useful food guidelines over the past few years: I don’t eat in the car, and I don’t eat in front of the TV.

Both situations came about entirely by accident.

I purchased a car with a manual transmission six years ago, meaning that the “extra” hand required to eat while driving is only accessible when cruising speed has been reached on the interstate. City driving does not free up this hand. As a bonus, the car’s tiny cupholders are a marvel of engineering; the two up front are too small for anything but a 12-ounce soda can, and the larger one between the buckets seats requires the flexibility of a Cirque performer to reach.

The living room embargo is a bit more complicated. As we watched the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina approach our home in Mobile in 2005, we grabbed our table from the dining room and flipped it onto the bed in hopes of keeping it dry. We ended up with only the back third of the house flooded, but the teardown, rewiring, rebuilding, re-everything meant that the table was taken apart and stored in the bedroom closet for the better part of two years.

What I discovered during this time was that no matter your intentions, eating dinner in the living room off of the coffee table pretty much ensures that you WILL turn the TV on. It’s just what happens. And once the TV is on, conversation is off.

The first thing I set up upon arrival in Huntsville, therefore, was the table. There have been no dinners in front of Smallville, no breakfasts in front of The Soup. Just talking, newspaper-reading, and, occasionally, a subtle Pandora soundtrack.

Not eating dinner in the living room leads to not eating much of anything in the living room except for the rare bowl of movie popcorn. Nobody heads to the kitchen and grabs a bag of chips to mindlessly munch on; nobody sits down with a sleeve of cookies to polish off.

Focused eating is more likely to be healthy eating, and dining without distraction makes for much better family time. And you don’t have to buy a manual transmission or wait for a flood: Declare the driver’s seat off limits for noshing, and insist that nothing crosses the dining room border but popcorn. In both cases, your seat cushions and your waistline will thank you.

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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.


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.

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Pity the do-it-yourself mattress haulers of Alabama. Tasked with toting an unruly bed across town, armed with only a station wagon or minivan and cheap rope, they bravely soldier on, carrying out their duty with a degree of ineptitude and inadvisability usually exhibited by sugar-stoked, undersupervised 7-year-old boys with bottle rockets and short attention spans.

I can’t go two weeks without seeing a mattress on the side of the road, liberated by wind and poor rope skills, whether I’m driving within city limits or on county roads.

These mattresses are always used. You can tell by the – well, you can tell by the stains on them. I’m assuming they’re being moved from house to house, from apartment to apartment. Because who in their right mind would buy a used mattress? I mean, other than the dozens of people who, in the mid-1990s, purchased used (mightily used, some would say) mattresses from the Gone With the Wind Hotel in Mobile, Ala., a hotel located in a colorful part of town (a colorful part of town that I lived in, BTW).

The Gone With the Wind Hotel’s going-out-of-business sale meant that for several weeks, Dauphin Island Parkway was strewn with used, stained beyond stained mattresses, a graveyard of comfort coils and bad planning. Apparently the price was so good that people didn’t even care when the mattresses blew off of their vehicles; either they turned back around and tied another one on, or just motored on back home a few dollars lighter and, frankly, probably not that much wiser. They were buying used mattresses from a discount hotel on the side of the interstate, after all.

What exactly is the psychology behind attempting to tie a relatively heavy, incredibly floppy item to the top of one’s vehicle? What is the owner of a pickup truck thinking when he balances a large mattress across the top of a medium truck bed and leaves stability to chance, rather than proper tie-downs? Is this a Southern thing, or do people all over feel compelled to stack one of their most personal and useful possessions atop their ride, a la The Beverly Hillbillies? Why is it so much funnier to see a mattress sagging over the roof of a minivan than it is to spot one on an SUV?

The questions, they never end. Me following a vehicle going more than 25 mph with a mattress tied on top does end, however, even if I have to take the long way home.

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I hate that a decade of living with near-constant rainfall and annual hurricanes in Mobile, Ala., has ruined thunderstorms for me. I’m always on the lookout for leaky roof shingles or dodgy tree branches instead of enjoying the sound of rain hitting the back deck or watching the lightning.

Stupid Gulf Coast.

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