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It Was Good Enough For Folks Like Annie
I left the Empire State of the South the day after Mother’s Day and headed to the Palmetto State. The border, mere minutes away, brought to mind the Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky.”
“Goin’ to Carolina … won’t be long til I’ll be there.”
Jeff Being Jeff
Warren Zevon’s “Play It All Night Long” comes to mind when reading The New Mind of the South, the recently published book by journalist Tracy Thompson. The New Mind of the South,an engaging and edifying work, illustrates that for all the changes the South has experienced in the last 50-60 years, old ways and long-held beliefs still die hard. Much of the book’s content could be discussed at the Dew Drop Inn, the shelter Zevon created for fellowship and lubrication.
Pass The Rice Please
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” —William Faulkner
Early this spring I spent two days in ricefield country over near Georgetown. Working on a new book, Reflections Of South Carolina, Volume II, (USC Press) I went to Mansfield Plantation to time travel. Turning off Highway 701 onto Mansfield Road I hurdled three hundred years into the past.
When Folks Made Do
A crisis or two from disaster … That’s how most folks live. Modern conveniences have spoiled the self-reliance right out of us. Thanks to stores like Kroger and Publix you can get most anything you need. Ease, however, extracts a price.
We’re nowhere as self-sufficient as our grandparents were. They lived in an era when folks made do. Not us, we drive to the big box grocery stores and plop down a credit card or sign a check. That’s how we keep life moving forward. It’s a tenuous way to live.
O, come all ye faithful. The latest must-see Florida attraction to compete for your tourist dollars is The Holy Land Experience. It is comfortably situated in the Greater Orlando-Kissimmee theme park district chock-a-block with hotels and “family dining” style restaurants. Owned by mega-giant Christian broadcasting network TBN (the T is for Trinity), this biblical theme park features a recreation…
And that meant a trip to Bud Hawes … I can’t quite place exactly where Bud Hawes’s pit-cooked barbecue operated when I was a kid but I still see the place. I know it was close by the telephone office off South Peachtree. My sister, Deb, tells me a parking lot covers the spot. What a shame.
When I was a boy Saturdays were special and not because school was out. No, they were special because…
A dessert class at a time when people are obsessed with losing weight and staying fit and trim? You mean such a class will be waddling in soon like Daisy Duck and her little ones just prior to swim suit season and at a time when I’m already under pressure to lose a few pounds and give some slack back to a tight waistband?
Despite all the warnings, though, I am duty bound to follow the directions of the family kitchen goddess. With powdered sugar sprinkled about, I will belly up to our family baker’s well-floured table and once again be Jody’s factotum and in-house taster! As an old sailor friend used to tell me, “It’s a hard life, the sea.”
You didn’t have to plug it in but it worked like a charm… all you needed was sunshine. Who can forget the clothesline? Starchy, fresh, and sanitized by sunlight, the blue jeans, shorts, T-shirts, and sheets of today hang out with the clothesline no more.
Today’s jeans, Ts, and sheets tumble round and round. Throw in some synthetic fabrics and static electricity glues the whole mess together. Clothes hiss, pop, and cling as you separate them. Sometimes it’ll make your hair stand up on end.
A few years ago, a small mob of us had converged on Greenwood’s on Green Street in Roswell for a Thursday evening dinner. It’s a down-home place, noted for being the home of (among other things) an infamously rich chocolate pie. Normally, dinner at Greenwood’s involved a considerable wait, but with the economy being what it was at the time we had no trouble getting a table for our party of twelve.
It was after dinner, as we waddled with leaden bellies back to our car, that I noticed a powerful flowery scent, a scent that enveloped us like a cloud. Honeysuckle!
Flower to the People
We, the people of the United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services, have been issued a patent for Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. According to the abstract:
Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases…
Irrational v. Rational
Discussions with an instructor over a class I recently took on Darwin have led me to again wonder about “religious” matters and the role they continue to play out in our lives. Amongst other places, my wanderings took me back to the writings of Robert Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and his equally good book Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.
What forced the issue was a final sentence in the descriptive summary of the class: “The course will touch on ‘evolutionary Christianity,’ one approach to making peace between science and faith.”
It’s like 2011 all over again.
It was two years ago that, after Republicans claimed big gains in state legislatures across the South and country in the 2010 mid-terms, lawmakers made a national push for changes to voting laws, with one of the most controversial being restrictive bills requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.
Now, with the 2012 elections behind them, state GOP leaders have again pledged to make voter photo ID a priority this year. But has the debate — and public sentiment about voter restrictions — changed this time?
Behind the Gates
The perception that modern day crooks, in addition to having figured out how to manipulate the law to their advantage, are ostentatious came to me overnight. I suppose it’s a consequence of tracing how and by whom some of our so-called “gated communities” were acquired and developed to hide what are surely ill-gotten gains.
Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that medical doctors, when they are lured into purchasing building lots on the edges of marshes and meandering streams, nature’s nurseries for crustaceans and fish, are investing ill-gotten gains.
Lake Waters Bury An Unparalleled Political Record
Growing up I watched old cowboy movies about ghost towns out West and even went to Ghost Town in the Sky up in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Tumbleweeds rolling through Dodge City kept me glued to the television. Well, I was a clueless lad. Little did I know that if you grew up in Lincoln County you lived in an area with ghost towns nearby and they were real, and what politics and history once lived there.
The Great Mystery
Way back in the late 80s my late wife Lilian got a good chuckle over a quip she heard when she was studying psychology with the goal of becoming a marriage counselor. It went like this…
“Marriage is like the cat: those who are in, want out; those who are out, want in.”
Over all these years I’ve never forgotten that clever little simile as I’ve watched the passing parade of friends, young and old, single or widowed, married for a long time, or newly weds. I’ve also watched myself, especially during the years when I was a widower, tempted a few times to go down a path I know I would have regretted.
In more than three decades as a reporter with the AJC, mostly covering cops, crime and other forms of wrongdoing and public idiocy, (see legislature, Georgia) what I wrote was seldom funny. I guess that’s why the rare exceptions stick with me years. There were two, and both took place in the south metro Atlanta area near College Park.
The first was an attempted robbery of a Taco Bell by a 20-year-old guy with a shotgun and wearing baggy, low slung pants drooping around his butt…
It's Better To Give
“Not bad,” I say to myself, taking inventory of this year’s Christmas spoils. It’s the “night after” and I’m standing next to the nine-foot loblolly pine felled from the woods out back. I’d had my eye on the thing since the dog days of summer and finally gave it the axe the day after Thanksgiving. After a good, proper and practiced “TIM-BERRRR”, I managed to wrestle the tree along with its sticky, cumbersome limbs through the front door to a spot inside, a few feet from the fireplace.
North v. South
The Song That Started A Feud
It’s one of the more popular Christmas songs. It’s also a song that lends itself to all sorts of versions and lyrics. Back in my boyhood school days, classmate Carl Ivey would sing “Jingle Bells” come Christmas time. He’d alter the lyrics to go “Jingle bells, shotgun shells,” and from there memory fails me. Carl, however, was not the first fellow in Georgia to experiment with the words of this popular Christmas song.
Brothers can be quite the trial. I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, the youngest of four children. We were all expected to help with every part of the farming process from milking cows to baling hay, cleaning calf pens to feeding the chickens. We all worked hard, entertained ourselves and of course had the usual childhood arguments: he’s sitting too close to me, she’s touching me, he’s breathing my air, and so on.
Every year as Christmas approached, I prayed for snow, lots of snow. I wanted it to be cold too so that when you walked on the snow it snapped and crunched loudly under your feet. I loved that sound. When I hear it now it always takes me back to my childhood on the farm in winter.
Growin' Up Southern
There are many days, while I’m prepping at the cutting board, preheating our oven or rattling them pots and pans around the stovetop, I stop and think about Mama’s cooking.
How I love the thousands of dinners, breakfasts, sack lunches, snacks and treats she tirelessly assembled, not only for me, but for our whole family. The sheer volume of food she prepared, the ingenious use of the ingredients available to her, leaves me awestruck. Putting it mildly, the butchers, green grocers and shelf merchants were good, but limited, so mom had to improvise like a jazz soloist. Dad worked hard to provide, and mom’s economy did him justice.
Holiday Scents, Sights, Sounds & Flavors
In late November, a sign of the approaching holidays is the appearance of bright red panettone boxes in shops. These days, this holiday delight seems to be for sale everywhere except gas stations and hardware stores. This wasn’t always the case, however. For years, one of my favorite personal holiday traditions was buying panettones for family members and friends as an extra Christmas gift. I went to some effort to find this annual specialty to top off my piles of wrapped presents. These ornately packaged large Italian cakes (panettone means “big bread” in Italian) make a showy presentation.
Daughters of the South
“With the loss of honor the depths to which we may sink are unfathomable.” – Tertiam Quidd, 1972
In the Old South, ladies are prohibited by custom and by fashion from crawling under trucks and buses just to have a look around and assure themselves that everything down there is just the way God intended it to be. My lovely daughter in law, Ms. Trisha, was born in the South and born a lady. A genuine Southern Belle and native of Charleston, South Carolina is what she i
This fall marked the 50th anniversary of the “last battle of the Civil War,” the 1962 integration of the University of Mississippi, when President Kennedy sent the National Guard and ultimately the U.S. military into Oxford, Mississippi to force the school to enroll James Meredith, its first African American student. That fall, the Ole Miss football team went undefeated and untied and finished ranked third in the country, and the program hasn’t reached a similar level of success since.
“The view was always fascinating, bewitching, entrancing. The eye was never tired of gazing, night or day, in calm or storm …” —Mark Twain
All sorts of things stand out on my 2012 Nevada summer vacation (more spider webs and dragon flies at the desolate and shimmering Walker Lake than I’ve ever seen in one place) from Las Vegas to Carson City and back again by way of Convict Lake and U.S. Route 395 in California.
Slays & Resurrects
First you boil the eggs. I like to avoid the outside of the yolk turning green which I vaguely recall comes from an over long cooking time. Then you stand at the sink and peel the eggs, simultaneously trying to keep the egg in one piece and not get one of those painful slivers of shell under a finger nail. Put the eggs on a paper towel and let them dry.
I learned what I know about making deviled eggs from my mother, Doty.
Eating to Carson City
I recently returned to vegetarianism—not super strict, seafood allowed, the occasional cheat—after a 15 year glut of barbecued ribs, cheeseburgers and fried chicken, often as late as 11 p.m.
Diet and its exacting drill sergeant—exercise—have long been the last outposts of self-preservation. I long ago gave up this and shortly thereafter forsook that. But at 54, with a penchant for Pop Tarts and gas station hot dogs along with an aversion to vegetables, this new asceticism didn’t come a moment too soon.
It preceded by a fortnight a 4th of July road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Carson City…
I came near to having an argument with my son last night. I made a comment about one of our family members who is less than empathetic with others, especially me, and he snapped at me, accusing me of being self-centered. We were both right and we were both wrong.
I went home feeling sad and irritated, which slipped into depressed. I watched two films in a row on TV. I couldn’t go to bed until 1 a.m. because I knew I’d lie awake, hurting. I love my son and it is beyond endurance to have a spat.
Worthy of Comment
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