Thursday, December 2, 2021

10 Years Ago: On the Mississippi Blues Trail

 

Original post here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

On the Mississippi Blues Trail

Abe's BBQ, Clarksdale, Mississippi. December 2011.
Abe's BBQ, Clarksdale, Mississippi. December 2011.
 
 
 
Carol and I left for Jackson, Mississippi, this morning a little after 5:00 a.m. to take the secondary-road route.

Destination: Jackson, Mississippi

Purpose: Carol wants the free whiskey sour she's gonna get at the Cabot Lodge. This hotel brings fond memories of past free-happy-hours-with-room she's enjoyed when traveling to the Gulf Coast for vacations. Also, Jackson is closer to Missouri than Savannah and has more of interest than Hattiesburg, which were other destination contenders for this tiny holiday.

The bulk of our travel today was in the Mississippi Delta. The Delta is flat. Sometimes one can appreciate flat; sometimes not. We experienced both feelings on the way down to Jackson.

When we crossed the Mississippi River on the Arkansas-Mississippi border, it was swollen wide. We frequently saw high, lesser rivers that had breached their usual borders, flooding trees' lower trunks.

Til I did a little research for this trip, I didn't know about the Mississippi Blues Trail.  If I get an offer to join Teach for America and they place me in the Mississippi Delta region, I can see myself exploring the Blues Trail on many weekends. (Note to gods: New Mexico is still my first choice.) 

We stopped for lunch in Clarksdale with the plan to buy hot tamales (Delta style) for lunch on the road and to pick up dinner for later from Abe's BBQ.  We accomplished half our mission, Carol getting chili dogs and me a BBQ'd pork sandwich. Hicks Tamales, a famous tamale vendor, was closed. Sunday.

We agreed that Abe's makes tasty food.

That was the most eventful part of the drive down to Jackson. When we arrived at the hotel, I poured myself some delicious Georgian wine and Carol got her satisfying whiskey sour.

 

 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Word of the Year: Joy 12: Remembrances

 

A little rock reservoir, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. May 2016.
A little rock reservoir, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. May 2016.

A few years ago, I caught myself remembering a vivid experience. The experience - a particularly exuberant dance move with a partner - had been unexpected and joyful. Exultant! I remembered clearly how I'd felt during that dance move - delightfully surprised in the way of a child seeing snow for the first time. Think the final lift scene from Dirty Dancing.




Catching myself remembering those few moments, and observing the pleasure that the act of remembering gave to me - it was the first time I understood that remembrances are like water in a reservoir, a source I can drink from to replenish my spirit.

Death took three people in my circles this year. 

My mother.

A friend.

An aunt, unexpectedly, only a week after my mother's funeral.

 

Bulb in leaves. St. Louis, Missouri. December 2007.
Bulb in leaves. St. Louis, Missouri. December 2007.

It's odd to think that death can bring forth thoughts of joy. But I catch myself remembering pleasurable moments with lost ones, usually prompted by a sensory trigger. A snatch of music. The ticking of a clock. A pair of earrings. A color reminiscent of homemade butterscotch pudding. The creaking of a kitchen cabinet door. A small pair of scissors. An old television show. These memories make me smile, gladdened for the pleasure they give me today and gladdened for having had the original experiences with the family or friends who have died. 

Challenges overcome

As I walked home from downtown Mobile on a recent night, I remembered a time when I, a single parent of a very young child, was terribly poor. I hadn't thought of those years in decades, but as I walked home, the memories came to me of what I'd accomplished since then.

The trigger was a Head Start booth at Mobile's Lighting of the Christmas Tree event, which I'd just attended. Head Start was a marvelous resource for my young one (and me) during a time of great need for us. Remembering that era, I went to deep appreciation of my maternal grandmother, May, who - for several years, as I walked through that desert - sent me a $25 check each month, along with a brief note. In my financial poverty, that $25 check made a meaningful difference to me and my child. 

As I walked home, remembering that time, I felt so .... proud .... of what I'd achieved since then, and the richness of the experiences that followed, both the exuberant and the sad. 

I felt joyful. 

 

The compilation of this year's joy

Joy 1: Word of the Year: Joy

Joy 2: Music

Joy 3: Surprise Vista

Joy 4: Happy, Joyous, and Free

Joy 5: The Science of Joy, Interrupted

Joy 6: Color

Joy 7: Birdsong

Joy 8: Here and Now, Boys

Joy 9: A Tomato and Onion Sandwich

Joy 10: Let in Light

Joy 11: Scentsuality

 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Gulf Shores, Alabama: Thanksgiving 2021

My original Thanksgiving 2021 plan was to hie myself to Lafayette for a splendid weekend of live music and dance and reunions with old acquaintances. 

 

 

Until my rational brain kicked in. Hold on there, Mzuri. There are too many folks in the Lafayette dance community who disdain the vaccines and masks AND who likely will have like-minded family members coming in from around the country to visit. And you've got a trip to New York City planned with one of your descendants in mid-January, which you do not want to fuck up with illness after already waiting so long to make this trip because of, you know, the pandemic that just won't leave. 

So I decided to stay local for Thanksgiving. 

I went to the beach! I chose Gulf Shores. 

Gulf Shores Alabama 10th Street Beach. Thanksgiving 2021.
Gulf Shores Alabama 10th Street Beach. Thanksgiving 2021.

'twas a gloriously sunny day, with fine music from my playlist on the drive down, and a pleasurable coffee surprise at a CEFCO. Bourbon pecan. Would that taste good? Well, it has the word 'pecan' innit, so it must be good. And who cares that I'd already had my usual coffee rations for the day. Or that it was already the afternoon, generally past my time to indulge. It was Thanksgiving! Do it! I did, and it was grand. 

 

Bourbon pecan coffee at CEFCO, Alabama. Thanksgiving 2021.
Bourbon pecan coffee at CEFCO, Alabama. Thanksgiving 2021. 


Sugary, putty-white sand. 

A lil rollicking wave action. 

Other people there, but not a crowd. 

Many black shells; rather elegant. 

 

Gulf Shores Alabama shells Thanksgiving
Gulf Shores Alabama shells Thanksgiving

 

 

Gulf Shores shells Alabama. Thanksgiving 2021.
Gulf Shores shells Alabama. Thanksgiving 2021.
 

It was just right. 

I did have sweet potatoes on The Day, too, so it was all Thanksgivinny.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Nomadic Thanksgivings

I marvel a bit at my Thanksgivings since I went rootless in 2010. 

In 2010, amazingly, I was in Playa del Carmen, Quintano Roo, Mexico. At a jazz festival! A brother and our mother had come down to spend time with me. One of the highlights: 

"...terrific music, a gorgeous orange moon that hung from a cloud, a starry sky, fresh breezes, warm sand..."


Eugenia Leon band, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. November 2010.
Eugenia Leon band, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. November 2010.

In 2011, on a layover en route from Caucasus Georgia to Missouri, I was at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. An excerpt: 

"Istanbul's Ataturk Airport ... reminds me of one of the original Star Wars movies where our heroes go into a bar that's filled with beings from all over the universe, with huge variances in how they look and behave.

"A better descriptor is that the Ataturk Airport is just a modern-day version of a stop on the ancient Silk Road, where Europe, the Asias, and Africa intersected at a daily bazaar of color, language, clothing, food, drink, and custom."

 

Layover at Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey. November 2011.
Layover at Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey. November 2011.

 

Note: Ten years later, I still use that backpack. It is my portable office when I'm on the road.

In 2013, I had landed only recently in Lafayette, Louisiana. An excerpt: 

I’m in a new place, now in Louisiana. Still building my nest, so there’s that as-yet unsettled feeling, but in the main, as I walk down one of my new streets, I have to stop sometimes and look around and wonder at the pleasure of it. Not just being here in Louisiana, but the experience of New Mexico, of Caucasus Georgia, of Ethiopia, of Playa.

There is wonder, too, at the deep benefits of technology that allow family and friends to connect on important days of the year, despite the physical miles that are between them.

 A simple day today.

At home, ate some roast chicken, sweet potatoes, and pumpernickel toast. Drank pumpkin spice coffee. Listened to some trance-inducing, bone-reverberating music from Tinarawen.

 

In 2016, I did one of my favorite things - go to a big parade! In El Paso here, here, and here. It was a big parade. 

 

El Paso Thanksgiving Parade 2016
El Paso Thanksgiving Parade 2016

 

I spent 2017 Thanksgiving in Missouri with my mother, two siblings, and a niece along the Ozark Scenic Riverways. Echo Bluffs State Park was our base. An excerpt: 

There is a herd of wild horses at Echo Bluffs. The horses wander through the campsites at will. They poop there, too. Under normal circumstances, this might be an annoyance, but it's wild horse poop, so it has some panache.

Wild horse, Echo Bluffs State Park, Missouri. November 2017.
Wild horse, Echo Bluffs State Park, Missouri. November 2017.

Thanksgiving 2018 found me in Mexico City, where I spent a month at a guesthouse that welcomed tourists like me, academics doing research in Mexico, and at times, like when I was there, refugees. While Trump spewed his pus-filled rhetoric about the members of the caravans coming up from Central America, I broke bread with some of those nefarious "criminals" from Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. An excerpt

A young woman from Honduras, [a refugee] from one of the caravans, will give birth in about two weeks. Where? She does not know. She and her husband have a cheeky, chortling one year-old who loves to kick a ball in our community room. Can you even imagine what would prompt a young couple with a small child and another due, to leave everything they know behind, to walk into an uncertain future?

On Thanksgiving, a group of us from the guesthouse - tourists like me, guesthouse volunteers and staff, and refugees - attended a theatrical performance. That was pleasant, yet not as memorable as the chicken soup that the Salvadorean men shared with me one day at lunch.

 

Salvadorean chicken soup for lunch, Mexico City. November 2018.
Salvadorean chicken soup for lunch, Mexico City. November 2018.


In 2019, with the COVID an alarm not yet sounded, I was on the road to Texas from Tucson. Missions: Become a Texan + test out ChezP as a "caRVee," as I'd be overnighting at an interstate rest area for the first time. An excerpt about the Thanksgiving Day leg of the trip: 

I left Tucson early Thanksgiving morning, amidst dire weather warnings swirling about the nation. I'd kept my thumb on the forecasts for my route, and for the most part, it looked cloudy, yet dryish.

Although my drive began dry as I left Tucson, much of the first day was a tense slog through light and middlin' rain.

No matter. Such things are like painful labor and delivery - a bitch during the process, but the moment one arrives at one's destination, all is forgotten in the delight of a journey safely made.

Texas-I-10 EB Pecos West Rest Area near Ft Stockton. Thanksgiving 2019.
Texas-I-10 EB Pecos West Rest Area near Ft Stockton. Thanksgiving 2019.


Last year, in 2020, I packed a car-picnic lunch and went for a hike at Tannehill Ironworks Historical Park, in which is the southernmost terminus of the Appalachian Trail, as pronounced by a road-hugging sign. An excerpt:

Alabama does not like shoulders: I walked carefully to the sign after I parked my car in the lot beyond the fee booth. I walked carefully because Alabama disdains shoulders, and maybe pedestrians, too: If we wanted y'all to walk on the road, we'd'a built y'all some shoulders!

Appalachian Trail Terminus, Tannehill Historical State Park, Alabama. Thanksgiving 2020.
Appalachian Trail Terminus, Tannehill Historical State Park, Alabama. Thanksgiving 2020.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Mobile, Alabama: Laundry Economics

 

El Paso Laundry building, Chihuahuita, El Paso. November 2016.
El Paso Laundry building, Chihuahuita, El Paso. November 2016.

In Mobile, I have access to washers and dryers that are onsite and free. I've not been blessed with this amenity since Alamagordo! 

Such luxury means a return to a weekly regimen instead of the biweekly routine of Birmingham. 

It means a year's direct cost savings of $221 and an opportunity cost savings of 65 hours in sitting-around-waiting-for-laundry-to-process time. 

Because the appliances are in the same building as my apartment, I don't even have to factor in the inconvenience of inclement weather. 

Because the appliances are in the same building as my apartment, I doubt if something dramatic like these two incidents (one on the laundry shed roof in Opelousas and the other in the laundry room a few doors down from my apartment in Alamogordo) will happen, as it requires a key to access the building. 

Lavanderia (drop-off laundry), Mexico City. November 2018.
Lavanderia (drop-off laundry), Mexico City. November 2018.

Related posts

2020: Laundry Economics of the South (Birmingham)

2020: Laundry Economics Revisited (Tucson)

2019: Volunteer Laundress (El Paso)

2018: Mexico City: My Laundry

2013: The Economics of Laundry (Lafayette)

 

Clothes drying on line, Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. September 2011.
Clothes drying on line, Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. September 2011.





 

 


 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Mobile, Alabama: Rutabagas

 

 

An altar of rutabagas. Mobile, Alabama. November 2021.
An altar of rutabagas. Mobile, Alabama. November 2021.

When I was a teen, I enjoyed several weeks-long stays with my mother's mother, May. She liked to cook me lunch. May introduced me to two vegetables, boiled, that I'd never had at home.

A turnip. 

A rutabaga.

Each was a curiosity and mildly pleasing in an almost-sour sort of way. Alt-potatoes, you might say. 

May prepared the exotic-to-me vegetables one time only. Since those two experiences, decades ago, I may have experimented with a boiled turnip once, but otherwise, I never ate either again. 

But now I'm in Mobile, Alabama. And in the last two months, I estimate I've eaten a pound of rutabaga a day. 

This is because I have become accustomed to do my weekly produce shopping at the Mac's Produce Market over on Old Schell Road. There is a bin of rutabagas there. Fifty-nine cents a pound. 

I slice the wax-and-skin layer from this graceless, blobular root vegetable, chunk up the yellow flesh (which requires some muscle), boil it, then sear the chunks in my skillet to put on a little char and coax its inherent sweetness out some more. I season the rutabaga with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and some Splenda.

Because of the weekly pile o' rutabagas at Mac's, I thought there was a connection between Alabama and rutabagas, but I find no evidence of same. 

How long will my rutabaga run last? Dunno. Prolly til the local supply disappears or the price jacks up.

Sidebar: Note my little herb garden of rosemary and basil. 


Related posts

2019: Tucson, AZ: Food Rescue

2016: Antigua, Guatemala: Inside the Municipal Market

2016: El Paso: Back in the Kingdom of Ants

2013: Lafayette, Louisiana: Oil Center Farmer's Market in Winter

2012: Istanbul: Larceny and Spice (and leeches)

2011: Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia: At the "Big" Market


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Pensacola, Florida: An Afternoon at the Beach

Sunset, Pensacola, Florida. October 2021.
Sunset, Pensacola, Florida. October 2021.

 A new friend took me to Pensacola, Florida. 

I'd never been. To me, "Pensacola" has always been synonymous with "spring break" - college students swarming the beach, drinking, and .... swarming the beach and drinking. 

What else is there in Pensacola? 

Well, I still don't know, because my friend and I plopped our chairs in front of the Gulf of Mexico and we simply sat and chatted while we periodically pulled out a cold beer from the cooler between us. Heck, we didn't even stand up and put our feet in the water. 

Sunset, Pensacola, Florida. October 2021.
Sunset, Pensacola, Florida. October 2021.

 

Or even go to the restroom. 

 

Sunset, Pensacola, Florida. October 2021.
Sunset, Pensacola, Florida. October 2021.

 

We saw a pretty sunset, though. 


Sunset, Pensacola, Florida. October 2021.