soiled christmas cards
From as far back as I can remember, until I reached 12, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, after he’d delivered groceries to the people on his part of the Sunday School’s list, Dad took me with him to see his “unofficial friend.”
We drove down an alley far behind the foundry, to Shorty’s, bearing four bulging bags from the local Jitney Jungle…
may all your dreams come true
Do you have one Christmas past that stands out from all the others? My son and daughter say the happiest Christmas they ever had was the one when they were seven and eleven years old — Christmas of 1977. At the time, we were living in Tukuyu, a sleepy little town located on top of a dormant volcano in the southern highlands of Tanzania. Obviously, our lifestyle was not that of a typical American family. The children grew up in Africa with only periodic visits back to the states. I was often amazed by the contrast in their behavior…
wagga wagga, wiradjuri
It was about 6am when the passing trucks interrupted my sleep. I had turned off the air conditioning and opened the motel window to help me sleep after a long day driving the back roads and exploring the Monumental Cemetery. A hamburger washed down with a few cold beers in an Irish bar helped me go to sleep until the noise of the early morning traffic brought me back to reality. There was a lot to do and more roads to explore.
Inspired by Tom Poland’s great stories about his travels on the back roads I decided to drive some country roads in search of a little piece of history. I didn’t want to go too far from the small inland cities and towns because I needed a little comfort at the end of the day. Camping out and cooking on an open fire no longer interested me, especially when alone.
Unable to find someone to share the experience I left home early on Sunday morning to navigate the freeways and toll roads out of the city.
a book by matt taibbi
In The Great Derangement Matt Taibbi looked at several contemporary phenomenon: The War in Iraq, Fundamentalism as exemplified by a Texas Mega-church and, in his words, the great sausage-making in Washington, D.C. The 911 conspiracy buffs come under scrutiny as well.
He makes no bones about the deception in Iraq accomplished by the usual methods: jingoism, cowardly congress, compliant press…
Like all good books, Paul Theroux’s Deep South got me thinking about things beyond the book’s covers. As the service wrapped up at an African American church Theroux visited (the congregants called him “Mr. Paul”), he picked up a Bible and turned to a passage in Proverbs he remembered. It read, “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief. A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”
The canteen hung from a nail in my parent’s attic for decades. My father brought it home from Hiroshima. He brought back, too, Earth Superior binoculars and a Japanese rifle and bayonet. The rifle is missing. Its bayonet remains. War relics.
Look closely. You’ll see the designation U.S. A.G. M. Co. 1942 on this World War II canteen. A.G. M. stood for the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company. Check eBay. Folks are selling history, war relics.
the decades astonish and steal
A notice on the front door warns that you look at the church at your own risk. The church stands empty. Closed. Nothing new. Trinity Episcopal closed during the Great Depression. “When my mother and aunt came back here to live in retirement, they tried other churches and it just didn’t work,” said May. “So, they got some friends who had grown up in the church with them and reopened the church. The first service was on November 1, 1948.”
candidate ga psc
Republican victories in Georgia Public Service Commission races have been so predictable in recent years that Democrats haven’t bothered to field a candidate in three of the past five elections. Next year is shaping up to be quite different for the state’s asleep-at-the-wheel all GOP regulatory agency, however.
Nov. 6, 2017. My name is Stephen Wingeier. Wouldn’t it be great if all Georgia citizens had the day off to participate in their democracy today? Luckily for me, Monday is my day off. But by holding this so-called “public hearing” during the workday, you are excluding the vast majority of Georgians.
Long after Monsanto Corporations’s own secret studies revealed the toxicity of DDT, they kept right on selling it. Long after the tobacco industry did secret studies proving that cigarettes are carcinogenic, it kept on pretending cigarettes were safe. And long after the plastics industry secretly knew it was poisoning its workers, it kept right on poisoning them. None of these corporate crimes was halted until government regulators stepped in.
the decades astonish and steal
Owing to the need to save money for their daughters’ college tuition, it took May and her husband fifteen years to move to Abbeville After her mother died. That was in 1977. “We came and never looked back,” she said. Her husband took early retirement and she quit teaching first grade. “No more,” she said, but more was in store. A school in the country urgently needed a teacher. “I pitched in and ended up teaching four more years, but that gave me four more years of retirement money.”
I built my first coffin as an eight-year-old in 1952, a time when dogs still trotted freely in the street in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. They had full reign of the neighborhood. Sawdust and Timber, my two young beagles, slept in my bed with me. We had to jockey for space. At that age, I didn’t mind rolling over on a wet and slimy shard of chewed bone. One summer afternoon Sawdust ran under a speeding Buick Roadmaster. Trailing a few steps behind, Timber only heard the thump.
the decades astonish and steal
August 31. Rain from Harvey’s remnants made the driving tough along Highway 34. The wipers met out a metronome-like beat as log truck after log truck slung sheets of water across my windshield, a clattering collision of water against glass. My destination? Abbeville, South Carolina to meet photographer-writer-historian Bill “Big Sky” Fitzpatrick. A gusty, gray rain seemed fitting for a mission to see who and what might halt the crumbling of historic Trinity Episcopal Church.
hiking the at
Since my early teens, I have loved the out-of-doors and spent many a good moment there, sometimes in the company of others, often in blissful solitude.
At the age of forty, beset by an unexpected urge to solo trek, I strapped on a JanSport backpack large enough for a bathtub, filled it with fifty-four pounds of gear and sustenance, and hiked north on the Appalachian Trail (AT) out of Damascus, Virginia, bound for the high country of Mt. Rogers and Grayson Highlands. After a schlep of nine miles on day one, mostly uphill, I collapsed and camped right beside the trail, too exhausted to search for a better spot. Each day thereafter, however, I grew stronger…
Without fanfare the bass player, Bob Keller, stepped to a microphone and introduced the first song.
“Here’s something by Bob Dylan.”
The wall of sound unleashed from those speakers was unlike anything we’d ever heard. Maybe like a two by four upside the head. I swear the wind from their opening notes blew my hair.
Caught without my emergency notebooks, not even a book, I found myself with 45 minutes to kill before the East Atlanta library opened. Fortunately Joe’s Coffee Shop is nearby.
Browsing their little book shelf I found a John le Carré novel. With coffee I read ten or fifteen pages, marveling at his superb writing. Coincidentally the hold books I was there to pick up included a le Carré memoir, a collection of magazine articles he published over the years, a unique form of memoir…
In my mom’s back yard stands a red and black birdhouse on a white pole. Its roof holds iconic words. “See Rock City.” If it had not been for Garnet Carter and Clark Byers, that birdhouse wouldn’t exist. Times were, you could drive along a back road and sooner or later you’d see a barn with its roof turned into an advertisement.
You’ll be hard pressed today to find a barn’s roof declaring “See 7 States from Rock City.” In case you’ve never heard of it, Rock City is a roadside attraction in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Gigantic rock formations, a Lovers Leap, and caverns with black lights I recall. I remember, too, Ruby Falls but that’s an attraction inside Lookout Mountain.
education by tv
Popular on British and American TV screens, the series ”Victoria” about the reign of Queen Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman, is a great way to become familiar with the history of England without reading books. Only a small percentage of the population reads history books, and even there, some issues are not fully covered. For many British viewers it was the first they had learned about the horrors of the 1840s Irish Famine…
protecting class privilege
Timely to have happened on the book, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden, at the library just as the Ken Burns’ Vietnam: A Television History began on PBS. I was curious to see what perspective was brought to both the book and documentary. The factoid that especially interested me: Vietnam was one country, temporarily divided by the Geneva Accords …
a deeper observation
It is obvious there is anger throughout the league from world renown athletes to the general managers of those professional teams. Professional athletes such as LeBron James, professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, have spoken out about racial injustices throughout our nation and have exemplified their frustration for our current president, Donald Trump. LeBron does not stand alone …
in the past
Used to be customary for folks to take Sunday drives. I don’t think people today tend to do that as much as the older folks did but they should. It’s enjoyable and revealing. Of course we still use “Sunday driver” to describe a driver who dawdles, and dawdling is in order when the drive itself is the destination.
Sunday, September 17 my sister, Deb and family friend Teresa took me to an old cemetery I’d never seen. Across the Savannah …
“Jimmy Joe, ground ball back to you, I got the throw at second.”
I joined a Greek fraternity at the University of Virginia in the fall of 1976. Like most large schools with dozens of different houses, an incoming freshman had a lot to choose from. There were old Southern houses that dated back to the Civil War. There were heavy drinking houses. Other houses preferred…
Labor Day I labored. I wrote the photo captions for my new book due out next spring about lesser-traveled road, a familiar refrain. By now you readers surely can tell what I’m working on by the columns I write. I’ve often written about my expeditions into the countryside. I drove over 10,000 miles deliberately avoiding interstates. I chose to take the long way home as Supertramp famously sang.
a sooty middle finger
I was stopped for a red light while on my way to the grocery store when it pulled up in the lane next to me. I heard its rumble and felt its shadow fall like a partial eclipse before I actually saw it. When I glanced left from the window of my medium-sized sedan, I was eye level with its underbelly – the pristine wheel wells, the giant tires, the gleaming chassis, a concentration of chrome like a buck-toothed teenager’s orthodontics. The reflections of my car and the car just ahead of me in its side panels didn’t even reach as high as its door handles…
climate change is real
Hurricane Harvey has brought death, unfathomable destruction, loss of homes and a deeply distraught community of caring people throughout the world. How can we help? What do we do now?
We will reach out, and offer whatever we can. I particularly love the #cajunnavy and all the out-of-state volunteers from California and New York rushing to our side.
fight them at every turn
I can’t really help myself. It just happens. Whenever I see images of Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, or reasonable facsimiles, I think of Groucho Marx. The comedian from my dad’s generation famously stated that he would never want to join an exclusive club that was willing to accept him as a member.
While viewing photos from KKK members, Confederate sympathizers’ mug shots, or watching the footage from places like Charlottesville, I can’t help but think: This is supposed to be an example of a superior race? Really?
staring at the sun
For one brief, shining moment, we gathered near strangers, didn’t fear for our lives, and watched the moon blot out the sun. The moon & sun were gliding all over fly-by land, giving us a quick peek at our natural selves; amazed, amused and/or otherwise distracted from the chaos of our own creation. We thought about our place in the universe, among the other animals making noises and clustering together.
context is not pc
Henry Kidd, who identified himself as a former national officer of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, objected to adding context. “Every tourist who comes to Richmond wants to see Monument Avenue; they don’t want to see a politically correct Monument Avenue,” Kidd said. – Richmond Times-Dispatch
I will give Levar Stoney’s credit for appointing the Monument Avenue Commission to determine the fate of Lost Cause monuments …
who will it be?
The good folks in my home state of Alabama aren’t too sophisticated when it comes to voting excellent people into office. Consider that Jeff Sessions has been our senator for a long time, mostly running unopposed, or infrequently against some poor Democrat with no idea what he’s about to get involved in.
Sessions perfected the religious fervor that doesn’t quite slip over into craziness …
Down near Yemassee, South Carolina, is a country club like no other. Harold’s Country Club proclaims that it is “in the middle of nowhere but close to everywhere.” That’s true. You’ll find it off Highway 21 at 97 Highway, 17A. I did when I pulled up in front of a faded sign that’s seen its share of Lowcountry sunlight. Nonetheless it’s colorful. A grill full of ribs, chicken, and a huge steak fill one side, a frosty mug of beer …
more a direction
On July 17, 1936, five months before I was born, an area of 393 acres of wilderness in Alabama’s Talladega County was established as a U.S. National Forest. One of its many glories is Cheaha Mountain, Alabama highest point, visible from our front porch. Dad and I camped out at many different spots in the park throughout most summers while I was growing up, and often we encountered no other human being.
The recent stunning downfall of the Ole Miss football coach has all the elements of a Southern Gothic tale. I’m surprised this wasn’t based on a Faulkner novel. Hugh Freeze resigned abruptly after being caught with incriminating evidence of sexual hanky-panky. The story had all the true elements of a southern tragedy; sex, religion, and football. What better way to spend an Autumn Saturday afternoon.
The word “authentic” is being tossed around a lot these days … another empty-calorie, tasteless ingredient in today’s word salad. The kale of the word world.
The other day, a leaking pustule of a man, Anthony Scaramucci, took over the job of White House Communications Director from the former dripping abscess, Sean Spicer. During one of his attempts at deceiving the press and the public, Scaramucci, started rambling on about just how great Sarah Huckabee was, saying,
people need to know
Breaking Newz: A quickly unfolding scandal has revealed that Hillary Clinton colluded with millions of democrats nationwide to vote against Donald Trump during the 2016 elections.
In a statement today, Satan’s BedBug, Kellyanne Conway, said “We hope it is clear to America now how unfairly Donald Trump was treated. When Donald Trump ran for president, Hillary purposely tried to win. We see this as proof she colluded with American Democrats…
it all comes down to this
I swear, I don’t know what gets into people.
This latest head scratcher starts when the morning’s news feed flashes a headline about an American from Virginia Beach, Virginia who gets ‘run through’ – i.e.: seriously gored – by a bull last weekend as he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
She kept the old churn in the kitchen. I see it vividly, even now. I watched my Grandmother Poland churn butter, a memory that sure seems old-fashioned in this digital age. I have no idea who made that churn. It vanished with the years, nowhere to be found, but I can tell you this much: baseball bats and butter churns share a connection.
For me, this story begins in Apex, North Carolina where I was visiting my daughter and her family the weekend of June 10. The occasion was my grandson’s graduation from high school…
Late in the afternoon a strange noise came from the vegetable garden beside the house, it was the sound of a bird in distress. The bird was squeaking, flapping its injured wing and hopping frantically around to escape from two large black birds attacking it. The boy grabbed a straw broom and waved it at the black birds until they flew away.
The little bird continued to squeak and hop around as the boy tried to catch it…
throwback to another era
“The pump don’t work ’cause the vandals took the handles,” wrote Bob Dylan as he closed out “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Vandals have yet to get the handle of the pump you see here, but I don’t know if it works. I didn’t try it. Wish I had. Let’s just say that it works and that’s why it didn’t end up in the scrap metal pile. Let’s add that if you work the handle enough, your reward will be gurgling, spurts of water.
like before fox news
Make America great again
Make America great again
Lift the torch of freedom all across the land
Step into the future joining hand in hand
And make America great again…
even uncle sam has bad days
On the Fourth of July, we naturally think of Uncle Sam, our nation’s favorite icon. While I try to keep a positive attitude about Uncle Sam in July, I can’t forget the day the old man hurt my feelings in October.
Let me explain: Back in the day, Fairfax (AL) Cotton Mill chartered a bus to take the mill-village Boy Scouts to the Southeastern Fair in Atlanta. As a proud member of Fairfax Troop 10, I was thrilled at the prospect of such a magical journey. Going to the Southeastern Fair was like a trip to Mars…
bona fide bbq
A bona fide barbecue joint should be way out in the country. It’s best if it isn’t open seven days a week. People need to wait on it. They need to anticipate the approaching banquet. Moreover, a bona fide barbecue joint needs to sit where you can see the smoke rising off hog drippings and coals as red as magma. It needs to have ample parking because patrons will pilgrimage to their preferred porcine shrine as faithfully as the rising sun.
may we be enlightened
This is going to be a long and rather convoluted essay. I will be long, because as a Southerner and a quasi-historian I can’t do with one word what twenty would do; it will be convoluted as my feelings on the issue I am writing about are convoluted.
While not a huge fan of William Faulkner, I have longed admired his ability to put the South and the past in perspective. So here is the obligatory Faulkner quote, which at the end of this essay you reader can judge whether I put it all in perspective.
The songs of birds, cicadas, and katydids really make Southern summers special. Quickly, can you tell me the difference between a cicada and a katydid? Which sings by day, and which sings by night … Ponder that.
Unlike past summers, this one brings rain. So far, at least. And with the rain comes life. Lawns are lush and for whatever reason I’ve noticed that fireflies seem more abundant. Come dusk, they float over and around my deck, something they’ve never done before.
If you’ve driven South Carolina’s Ocean Highway (Hwy. 17), perhaps in hurrying from Georgetown to Myrtle Beach, you’ve probably noticed the ruins of old buildings on the east side of the road catercorner to the Fresh Market in Pawleys Island.
The mouldering, vine-tangled ruins look like the setting for a Tennessee Williams play or a novel by William Faulkner. The whole property, in fact, has the look of a long-ago Southern yesteryear, or as black poet Langston Hughes might have put it: the look of a dream deferred.
I have a perennial burning urge to grow beans and lettuces, tomatoes and zucchini. I missed the season last year, moving house and garden, but I’m back on track. Although I garden on a modest scale, inadvertently I’ve embarked on a bid to grow the world’s most expensive vegetables.
A preference for growing vegetables over flowers is proof of my prosaic side, but also illustrates a romantic approach to harvesting and cooking produce straight from the soil…
life was simple
Our house was only 10 yards from the railroad tracks and 50 yards from the end of the train station. It was a small rented cottage, one of five allocated to families of track workers. We had waited several years before the two bedroom cottage became available. The bedrooms were small and I was allocated a bed on the enclosed porch. There were no windows, only a wire screen to keep out the insects and a large canvas roller blind to keep out the light. It was cold and noisy.
a fairy tale
Nothing prepared me for the shock discovery after months in a writers’ group where I now live in Ireland, that several of our members firmly believe in fairies. Nobody dismissed them as figments of the imagination. I had to look into this.
Joining this group had opened a new window for me into a writer’s world. We meet weekly on Sunday afternoons in a village coffee and book shop serving excellent latte…
In December of last year the Camden County Planning Commission considered an application for a “hardship variance” to allow a group of Cumberland Island property-owners and family members to use 87 acres on the island to create a 10-lot subdivision. That area, zoned “conservation- preservation,” is less than a quarter-mile from the Sea Camp ferry dock, where nearly all visitors arrive from the mainland. Even though the applicants failed to meet all five variance requirements, their request was granted by the county planning commission.
the slow lane
Beautiful wreckage along the back roads. It’s a chest of tarnished treasure. The key is that red, white, and blue shield you see in the photograph. Rather than speed from one destination to another, I follow old roads into the past. And it’s there that I ramble, detouring and losing track of time. It’s there that mysteries occur, something that never happens on a rough-surfaced interstate where road noise drowns out your thoughts.
Something about old gas pumps pleases me. I think of them as elder statesmen, as senior citizens left behind by the rush of time itself. When I see a proud old pump, its dispensing days behind it, I feel a surge of pride tinged by sadness. Veterans of another era, they have been put out to pasture.
I have a long history with gas pumps, and I’m sure you do too. Ever wondered how many hours you’ve spent by a gas pump…
The first time I heard of Branchville, South Carolina, I was a ticket agent at the bus station in Athens, Georgia. A passenger bought a one-way ticket to this hamlet and I ran the white-yellow-pink carbon-paper ticket through a machine like those that once processed credit card transactions. When the call to board the bus came, the passenger got on. Never saw him again. That was forty-four years ago.
eu could learn a lot
There has been some strong language from some European Union representatives about Great Britain’s planned exit from the EU. Great Britain’s politicians have responded with strong words as both sides position themselves for the “Brexit” negotiations. Some of the 751 European Parliament members will be happy when Great Britain departs the scene because “they were never one of us!” Others will be concerned about Brexit because the EU will become more of a “GEU” with the weaker economies…
“A man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” – Muhammad Ali
Sitting in Cafe Lafitte’s in Exile on a recent March morning, enjoying the best Bloody Mary in that foodie town, I wasn’t thinking about Ali. I was talking to Harvey, the guy on the next stool. But the words of The Greatest were appropriate.
Two years prior, Suzy and I had stumbled into Lafitte’s asking for directions to a voodoo shop…
5 decades of public service
Sculptor Rick Weaver captured the body language of Fritz Hollings just right in a new statue unveiled Monday as former colleagues heaped praises on the retired senator, now 95.
Three things stand out in the bronze figure – the warm, but determined, look on Hollings’ face; how his left hand is grasping a rolled-up document; and, most notably, an outstretched right hand, a familiar gesture to many of the senator’s former staffers and friends.
earth day message:
On this Earth Day, it’s fitting for coastal Georgians to reconsider the importance of strong ties between our economy and environmental health. Too often, outmoded, poorly-informed viewpoints unfairly portray environmental quality as being contrary to jobs and a robust economy.
Yet, coastal Georgia’s economic vitality thrives on the protection of marshes, fisheries, and waterways. According to estimates of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, at least 40,000 jobs and $2 billion a year in commerce depends …
bear on the square
Bear On The Square Mountain Festival in Dahlonega, Ga., has added a new special event, the Moonlight Jam, for its 2017 festival lineup.
The Moonlight Jam, sponsored by Jekyll Brewing Company of Alpharetta, Ga., will take place on Saturday evening, April 22, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the festival’s MainStage festival tent. The tent will open at 7 p.m., and the jam will start at 7:30 p.m. and will continue until around 9:30 p.m. Like other Bear on the Square events, there will be no charge for admission.
start without me
I haven’t read Uecker’s book but did see him catch Warren Spahn when the Braves lived in Milwaukee. The regular catcher was injured, tired or given a day off and Uecker, usually a reliable knuckle ball catcher, started the game. Uecker went on to become an excellent baseball commentator, actor and a funny guy…
robber barons on a trump scale
The release by the White House of the financial worth of President Trump’s top advisors, in a Friday night dump timed for underplaying bad news (an April Fool’s joke on us?), was a face punch that we needed. While we were all staggering to understand Trump and his election – baffled, as Steve Bannon told us we were – this knocks us upright, a clarifying blow. These guys, Steve Bannon, son-in-law Jered Kushner, Gary Cohn, Kellyanne Conway and all, are worth hundreds of millions. Added to the billionaires on the cabinet, the West Wing cocktail party guests are worth a total of $12 billion, according to Bloomberg.
the knife of tax-greed
“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed.”-Wallace Stegner
Cumberland Island National Seashore and United Nations Biosphere Reserve is the largest of the southern United States’ sea islands. It is a paradise of eco-diversity and incomparable beauty. Visitors can only access the island by a private boat or the ferry from St. Marys, Georgia, and when they arrive, they find that they have been transported to a realm that is beyond all expectations.
President Donald Trump kept his campaign vow to put more Americans back to work by signing an executive order Wednesday that will ease government regulations against the surgical removal of testicles and revive the long-languishing castrato industry in this country.
“C’mon, fellas, you know what this is, you know what this says,” Trump said during a signing ceremony at the White House where he was flanked on stage by unemployed males with low-pitched vocal ranges…
Returning from South Georgia after attending a funeral this week, we got off the Interstates for a while, and enjoyed the less stressful driving on the back roads. All in all, it‘s much more enjoyable, too, as you see how the crops are doing (the Vidalias are green topped and ready for harvest), check out the small communities, and see Georgia in a way as it was in the past.
This time one particular element struck me: in much of rural Georgia, there are many, many homes, barns, and other outbuildings that are no longer in service, abandoned, deteriorating, and wasting away…
Consistent with the well-considered advice from Columbia University economist, Geoffrey Heal, Georgians need to get savvier about how state policies are being used to support business ventures and job creation. According to Professor Heal, “If we don’t make some changes in the way we organize our economic systems… we will see catastrophic environmental change in our lifetimes.” (Catalyst, Winter 2017.) He stresses that neglecting nature in economic decisions seriously threatens our prosperity.