the price of everything

As the weather has cooled here in central Mississippi, I’ve been catching up on documentary films that I can download or stream as Jackson’s movie theaters mostly offer commercial/mainstream fare. Sniff sniff, sigh. Anyhow, one documentary I like very much is The Price of Everything by Nathaniel Kahn. This 2018 film parses where contemporary art and commerce collide. Or are manufactured–figuratively and literally. It’s sometimes uneasy stuff if you appreciate art, make art for a living, or know artists.


The uneasy part–there are many, actually. Some works fetch ridiculous amounts of money. (Gerhard Richter’s ABSTRAKTES BILD recently commanded a $32,000,000 purchase price at Sotheby’s.) Dealers who sell artists’ original works may collect up to 50% in commission. There are “financial interests of certain parties” that may influence the outcome of an auction sale, which seems a polite way of saying that some sales are gamed. Some art buyers purchase works not to appreciate them but on a speculative basis–to store and sell for a profit at a later point.

Kahn interviews artists, dealers, collectors, historians. There are interview moments I prefer to skip. There are others that cause pause. Stefan Edlis remarks of some art collectors:

There are a lot of people that know the price of everything and the value of nothing.


the manatees of homosassa springs

The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) might be my spirit animal, if I could claim one. Manatees prefer sandy coast lines, warm waters. They eat a ton of vegetation. Like me (at least for the time being), they move pretty slowly. They also look like they know how to relax.


It was a bucket list item to observe a manatee–multiple manatees if I was lucky–and the payoff was this past weekend in Homosassa, Florida. The freshwater springs at the wildlife state park in Homosassa attract manatees when Gulf waters start to cool–from roughly November through March.

My parents and I traversed our way over a bridge to find 40+ manatees warming themselves in the shallow waters of the Homosassa River. Pretty cool. In this photo, a pair can be observed in the lower right corner.

Manatee 1

These creatures are massive–weighing between 1,500 and 1,800 pounds each. They use their large, paddle-shaped back tails and front flippers for navigation. Every 10 minutes or so, they come up for air and make a fun snorting sound.

To read up about the state park in Homosassa and possibly plan a visit, click here.


Time in my adopted home state of #Mississippi is winding down, and I’ve been spending the last week or so visiting places I love. One thing I will miss very much when I leave Mississippi? All the beautiful trees. From Southern live oak trees to magnolias (so fragrant in the spring) to Georgia pines (so tall), the trees here are magnificent. And plentiful.

In downtown Jackson, there is a stretch of Pascagoula Street that unfurls east of Jefferson in a wonderfully stretchy way. And the trees on this street–some of which are adorned with Spanish moss–create the most lovely canopy. I pulled my car to the side of the street earlier today to capture this beauty. Might have to frame this photo so I can carry a little piece of Mississippi wherever I go.


mums the word

One thing I’ve learned as a Jackson-Mississippi-by-way-of-Chicago transplant: Gardening is a wonderful pursuit if it suits your interests. It sure does mine. I’ve enjoyed gardening in the Deep South as much as I have enjoyed bicycling in Chicago, which is a great deal. Planting flowers is not just helpful for your property’s curb appeal and enjoyment, it’s also a great strategy for reducing stress. A week or so after ankle surgery, I used a couple sunny afternoons to plant these mums and pansies. Navigating the front yard flower bed on crutches wasn’t all that easy and pretty slow going, but I like the process of digging and the outcome. The mums and pansies are so cheery. And low maintenance if that’s your thing.

Mums Belhaven gardening

Keeping up the lawn (freeing it of dead leaves and twigs) has been a lot more tedious than I remember from last autumn. This year I must have raked 13 oversize bags full of dead leaves, twigs, and fallen pine needles. Based on the amount of leaves still on the trees in my front and back yards, I probably have another 13 or so bags to go.

an afternoon in talladega

Two months ago I was heading east on Interstate 20 through Alabama. Cartersville, Georgia, was my intended destination but I had some time to kill. And then there was an upcoming sign for the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame. I don’t know boo about motor sports but thought the hall of fame could be interesting. Not my cup of tea, as it turned out. But the town of Talladega? Pretty interesting.

The courthouse square is a historic district, and you can find the Ritz Theatre there, which was constructed in 1936. An Art Deco beauty by any standards. The opaque structural glass exterior has been meticulously restored, and the lines and colors–so crisp.

Talladega Ritz Theatre

And there’s also a Silk Stocking Historic District. The term silk stocking sounds potentially tawdry, but this type of district generally refers to a part of town where wealthier citizens are politically influential or active.


Some of the properties in this district are lovingly maintained. Exhibit A:


And Exhibit B:


How lovely.

bimalleolar fracture: a user’s guide

Given the right conditions and correct stresses, bones–and sometimes spirits–wither and break. Earlier this month I had returned from visiting my sister who lives north of Atlanta to help her and my niece who had broken her elbow. En route to Georgia, my car experienced engine failure. The mechanic’s assessment: blown head gasket. What a not-so-great run of luck. My job-search efforts to that point weren’t successful; I recently replaced a couple tires; and I had no idea how I was going to find the $ to replace the engine (about $4,000). I am sure that I was stressed.

I could not have anticipated what was waiting for me when I got back home to Jackson. It was Sunday evening and, crossing my front lawn, I slipped and fell. It should have been an ordinary fall, but it wasn’t. My body fell right, and my left foot and ankle took a hard left. I felt a snap, saw my foot flop limply while an ankle bone popped out and bobbled around. I was in shock. I was in a world of physical pain but all I could think was, Holy buckets. I have neither any health insurance nor the foggiest clue on how I could pay for a broken ankle. The pain was stabbing and the ball of my foot was wobbling independently of my ankle bone, so I crawled on one knee to my house to call my neighbors for help. I knew my situation was serious enough to go to the E.R., which I did and where my ankle was temporarily reset.

Fast forward a week and a second visit to an orthopedic doctor and his assessment: bimalleolar fracture. Surgery was a must and was performed on the 18th. The surgeon plated and screwed the bits and pieces of the lateral malleolus (pictured at right) back together. Once that was complete, the medial malleolus popped back into place, and the surgeon secured that with two longer screws.


And now for the user’s guide if you experience a similar fracture. The second day after surgery is kind of grim. Unpleasant. If you tolerate pain medication, this is the day to take it. If you have the financial means, consider getting or renting a knee scooter. The knee scooter vastly improves your ability to get around the house. I also recommend getting a pair of training gloves initially–these reduce the blisters you’ll experience from using crutch handles.

If you’re uninsured like me, prepare yourself for a small mountain of hospital bills. It’s a bit overwhelming to see what I owe. But hopefully if you’re like me, you live in an area of the country where the medical care is excellent but doesn’t cost what you might pay in a larger metropolitan area. I truly have to find any silver lining these days can afford me. My spirit kind of depends on it, for the moment.

And if my luck turns a corner, which I think it might, I’ll get fitted for a walking boot in a couple weeks, and I might be able to walk my dogs again, albeit slowly and extremely carefully. Fingers/toes crossed.

norway we go

It was late July and I experienced change. Job change. Change as in becoming a full-time job seeker. I was unemployed and had an upcoming trip to visit relatives and the farms in rural western #Norway where my great great grandparents were born and raised. I could ill afford Norway, to be honest. And my first inclination was to cancel. But then I gave myself some pause (about a day or so) and thought, heck no. No one is going to steal my joy. Certainly not me. So on a mid-September morning I boarded a plane at the Medgar Evers Airport in Jackson, Mississippi. Trondheim, Norway, would come some 28 hours later.


It must have been 10 p.m. by the time I arrived in Trondheim. My aunt and uncle from Los Angeles had arrived some 30 minutes earlier and, groggy as we all were, we found our car reservation and started our journey to Rindal, which is located in Møre og Romsdal and perhaps a 90-minute drive from Trondheim. The roads were dark and winding. The air was chill.

We found the property where we would be staying the next five nights–Saga Trollheimen. I made it to my room, unloaded my bags, and slept more peacefully than I had for weeks. The next morning I awoke to this–the promise of autumn.


On our first day, we met with a local historian and distant relative to learn how my great great grandparents, Ole J. and Gjertrud Romundstad, made their way from Rindal, Norway, to Strum, Wisconsin.

Ole and Gjertrud

My uncle and I meandered our way through Rindal, which is a village of some 2,000 Norwegians. The streets were unlittered, and the skies so blue.


We quickly found Norwegians to be polite, kind to the core, and friendly. And navigating western Norway was a fun adventure. We took a ferry from Kvanne to Christiansund on the coast.


The highlight of the trip was visiting our Romundstad relatives. We were greeted so warmly and served the most amazing food. Amazing.


We ended our trip with a day of exploring in Trondheim. Jeg elsker Norge (I love Norway).

Man hole cover