More South



Back on the MS-AR River Road for work yesterday. The first picture was taken just moments before I was chased down by one of my senior citizen volunteers who was driving an entirely inappropriate SUV so I thought it was just a country thug trying to confiscate my camera (because people know how powerful these photos are). It is hard to explain to a seventy-five year old woman who was born and raised in a small Delta town that you thought you were being chased around her sleepy village in broad daylight by a crazed assassin and that is why you ignored her flashing lights and car horn. No, no. I told her my radio was up really loud.

And the second photo was taken because I pulled over to read this sign:



Eight Miles a Minute For Months at a Time

Getting stuck in traffic sucks, yes. I lived in Los Angeles for long enough to earn pish-posh rights over everyone that complains about traffic. But there are certain times, certain circumstances, incidences, moments where I love nothing more than a giant going-nowhere line of cars on the ol’ H-way.  When all the cars have gone from five to two and then to no miles an hour, when everyone has sat inside their cars for a few minutes cussing and craning or checking their radio or finishing up their text messages for just long enough – the most magical thing happens: people start to get out of their cars, drivers first  (then backseat drivers, eventually a passenger will step out, then moms, maybe kids if it' has been long enough) and the random characters you have been sharing the road with reveal themselves.

Seeing rows of people step outside of their cars on the highway (or the Interstate as they call it in Arkansas) still gives me the kid-giddies of having breakfast for dinner. I’m usually not the first, but certainly the second, person in my vicinity to get out of my car during a real jam-up. I have a special way I put my hands on my hips so that people know that I too want to know what the samhell is going on.

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Today the hold-up was in Heath, Arkansas. I waited for a few minutes trying to find a radio station that had some kind of traffic report  but the only broadcasted information available in Arkansas on the I-40 is biblical analysis. Not post-AD traffic info around any side of the dial. After I  saw a few people flip uturns in the median, I knew the situation had to be big – like a traintruck full of armadillos (I like to imagine armadillos in Arkansas but I think they are more of a Georgia or ‘Bama thing). 

Lucky for the shy guy from Texas in front of me and the slow fella from West Memphis behind me, I knew enough to check in with the gent captaining the flat bed 18-wheeler next to me for the scoopdydoop. He told me that another flatbed has lost his load a few miles up and he jumped out and said, “Mites well check mine while we are restin.” And I thought about asking him for a Coors Light because he seemed like he might have a cooler next to him.

A young guy in a waiters black vest suddenly appeared and said “guess y’all better grab a book, we are going to be here a while.” And I told all my new friends that I had a class to teach at 5 in Forrest City and they laughed and I laughed and those of us that had watches looked at them and laughed again, “No sir-reee you are not goin to make it.” It was a road moment. I was sorry I had finished my PB&J made on skinny Pepperidge Farm bread before West Memphis because I would have shared it with them. I was about to share another recipe with this nice looking woman that finally got out of a Durango a few cars up when the line started to move.

“Bye y’all” I waived as we scurried back to our cars as if the line would leave us behind.  And for the next twenty five miles to my destination I looked at every car that passed and I thought, I know you.


Breaking Bad

You might have heard about the day of reckoning winds and flash flooding here in Memphis. Not a great day to change up residences, but we managed to move all of our belongings between the raindrops (more like rainbullets). That is how fast we are. Of course the movers helped and so did the intermitent storming.  We alternated between prehurricane and blistering southern sun all day. I acted busy covering wine glasses with the lightgreen foam Uhaul gave us.

I have a subconscious tradition where I break something I really like every time I move.  I move more than the average person and I have lots of things to be fond of so you can imagine how much I am affected by this.  Today I broke a handmade orange ceramic heart-shaped photo frame that I found at a Salvation Army in Lansing, MI about 14 years ago. It was the one trinket item I took with me on all of my hobo-light cross-country moves and today I let it fall to its death of a millionlittlepieces right near my car door because I didn't want to set a box down to get my keys out of my pocket.

The move out here I smashed a bud vase my mother gave me. The move back to Detroit from LA I busted up two tiny danish bowls (Pasadena garage sale find) that were shades of green and yellow only available during certain appearances of certain comets. And my move from Detroit I crushed one of a special pair of Arbys 1975 Astrological collectors glasses in the sign (my sign) of Cancer.  Oh and the list goes on, the next item being too painful to continue (sewing machine).

But it is usually only one item - just one. And this allows me to seek meaning in the loss. Like maybe the secret world of possessions is sending me life-changing messages.  For example, regarding the loss today, I'm starting to realise that unique photo frame was just a thing - a clump of earth glazed for decoration and for christsakes hearts aren't orange.


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Helena-West Helena, AR








Don’t let these photos fool you. There’s actually people all around Helena. In fact I talked to a fella at the Delta Cultural Center for a spell. He kept telling me to feel free to look around but then would explain every photo, map, exhibit, drinking fountain and elevator entrance I encountered. But who can complain about southern hospitality?


Renovated Juke Joints and Authentic Tourists

There is enough to do at the Clarksdale, Mississippi Juke Joint Festival to fill up all of the four and a half days on the program schedule but we only had a day to spend this year – and we cashed it in yesterday.

The highlight of the whole day was the Birdsong Bus Tour of the area. We got on the air conditioned bus nearly twenty minutes early and it was already near capacity so the time allowed for some good eavesdropping about all the expectations of the other festival goers. Everyone was looking for real – real authentic juke joints. The outfit you wear when you are looking for real juke joints apparently is a Hawaiian shirt. Anyway, the talented tour guide Mr. Birdsong grew up in Clarksdale and had anecdotes for just about every magnolia tree-framed house and yard we drove by. It was thrilling for me to hear stories about the bold Mississippian Misses  (all named fantastic things like “Gussie” and “Money”) of the past and how Tennessee Williams took revenge on one of the kids that “beat the stew out of him” by writing him into a play. Who doesn’t want that kind of information?

In addition to multiple musical performances and southern culinary treats, the festival had many many fine fashionable offerings. B wanted to hunt down the 6th grader that drew this impressive chalk portrait of Paul McCartney (featured at the Festival art show). I wanted to buy a guitar tie for every guy I knew:

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Our tour let out just in time to see the last of the three o’clock pig races:



Inside the dusty WROX Museum:


Red Top Lounge from the window of the tour bus:


And in a picture at the museum:



I had an authentically good time.


No Finger Biting Insurance


Suffering In Near Silence

Conditions I still need to have diagnosed and treated: Always having something in my right eye (and no sir, it’s not my finger), chronic paper cuts, glistening t-zone, numerical dyslexia, psychological aggression toward authority, email and text misinterpretation, slow-then-fast driving, fear of cuticle pushers, OCD/lip gloss hoarding, creaky right ankle, production of excessive tears while laughing or walking in wind, anxiety when around people biting their nails, generalized line anxiety, and fear of getting trapped in a drive-thru.



Last night we were invited over to a friends house for a delicious home-made roast with asparagus, brussel sprouts, and succotash and this evening over at my east-side friends house, I enjoyed another home-cooked meal of bone-in chicken breast and polenta. I know that if I added the phrase “yummy” to any of that it would sound good enough for a Facebook update, but it is my real life. And food happens.

Here is more evidence:

Last week I ate one of these from the Lamplighter:


And some kind folks brought these back from an archeological rock interview (they are from the home of a rock legend – a southern gent –who else would use pecans?):


This is what they give you at the Indian place down the street when you get your check:


This is what my friend Emma’s in-laws call “Cinnamon Rolls CanyoubelievethisisaSingleServing”":


This is some weigh-it-yourself-yogurt my friend Cara made us get because she insisted it was the exact same as Pinkberry:



Hit Early, Jamd Late: On Track

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(both winners by the way)

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Gambling offers many metaphorical life lessons. For example, on Friday at the dog track I learned that it isn’t worth the money to pay for "Insider Tips" no matter how cheap. Your own gut instinct and love of funny names will take you just as far. This lesson also applies to dating and ordering off menus in foreign countries.


I liked the shorthand individual dog race recaps on the betting pages - like little epitaphs for each race:

"Late challenge ins"

"Almost fell first turn"

"Dead heat for win"

"Kncked arnd first turn"

"Much Improvement"

"Set Rapid Pace Ins"

"Never Gave Up Ins"

“Hit Early, Jamd Late”


Enjuice Yourself, It’s Spring


I don’t know if it was the baseball magazine the fella was reading next to me on my first flight, or the buzz about opening day, or what  --but the grass-lined runway at the Cincinnati airport had me hallucinating baseball diamonds. No really, so much that I mentioned it to the middle-aged woman sitting beside me and she just said, “I fly a lot so I don’t really notice these things” and then she started plowing into her bag of Queen City Popcorn with her face. Well well well look who knows everything I said and then I said well I’ve traveled a time or two and you know what? The last time I was in an exit row there was a QUIZ so you better study up sister because obviously you wouldn't know the heat of spring fever or a metaphorical baseball diamond even if it was edible and I would hate for the safety of all the people on this flight to rest on whether or not you have finished your popcorn before we crash land.

The trip to Michigan was great because I got to see my family and do a whirlwind baby tour of my friends’ most recent offspring. Lots of cuteness and screaming. I like when people put sunglasses on dogs and hats or bunny ears on babies. It is hilarious. Midwestern people are still able to do this without much irony so it is especially entertaining.

Also entertaining; the tv show “How the States Got Their Shapes”, pastel colored mens suits on Easter Sunday in Detroit, Easter brunch with mimosas, and of course, those refillable coffee cups that look like paper ones.


Marching Out Like A Little Royal Lamb

What have I been doing? Why have I not updated in a whole week? I have been filling out my census. I really overanalyze standardized tests (or forms in this case, I guess). I wouldn't take the census so seriously if I hadn’t caught a couple episodes of Who do You Think You Are. I am convinced the census people are sponsoring those heredity shows so that you will equate filling out the census with having eternal life, your name marked in time for all of your future ancestors to track back and wonder at the glory of our interconnectedness and the diverse path of the adventure we call human life.  At the very least it could be a valuable target marketing tool, this knowing who-lives-where-and-by-what-relation business.

What else have I been doing? Check out this list – presented in list form because I’m in a terrible hurry to pack and get to sweet, sunny Michigan:

…watching PBS monkey specials, Hot Tub Time Machine, buying powerball lottery tickets (true sign of a person accepting the fate of working in an office), traveling to Oxford, amassing brain damage from multiple migraine attacks, organizing receipts in size then date then font or upcoming tax audit, watching the original Clash of the Titians, wishing for Medusa’s powers, reviewing emails from Nixon Library email list, and getting a speeding ticket.

Oh, and – venturing on the road behind the AmVets on Elvis Presley because my friends told me there was a real castle amongst the trailer park homes.

It looked like this when they went:


and I guess ever since the moat dried up, the crocodiles got out and the dragons got in, and they started serving pizza:

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It’s the Warren Mart now kids. Meet me there for pizza next week when I get back and I will fill you in on all the stuff I forgot to put to web this week!

May your Easter basket be full and your castle moat stay moist, Happy Holiday to all!