the pulse quickens

Chicago. I lived there for 25 years and still call it home. For the time I’ve lived in Mississippi, I have made a point to visit home several times a year to spend time with friends and to check on my brother. And there’s just something about Chicago, or perhaps big cities, that makes my heart beat faster. The pulse quickens.

I visited last month and saw beautiful lights at O’Hare:

Holiday lights O'Hare Airport Chicago Illinois

Escaped the chill of December a couple times to get hot cider and coffee with friends. This is the Avondale Coffee Club (excellent cider), a newish coffee shop on Elston near Belmont:

Avondale Coffee Club Chicago Illinois

And Buzz Café in the Arts District of Oak Park:

Buzz Cafe Oak Park Illinois

To get my fix for flowers and plants and to appreciate all things green, I headed to the Garfield Park Conservatory where the theme of the Holiday Flower Show is Tickled Pink:

Garfield Park Conservatory Chicago Illinois

Heart.

the egg & olive sandwich at brent’s drugs

The best thing to happen to two slices of whole-wheat toast? It’s the Egg & Olive sandwich at Brent’s Drugs in #Fondren. It’s egg salad with chopped green olives mixed in. I order it every time I visit and never regret my choice. Never as in ever.

Egg & Olive Sandwich Brent's Drugs Fondren Jackson Mississippi

Brent’s has been in operation since 1946. Originally opened by pharmacist Alvin Brent, this drugstore was–and still is–a staple gathering place for Jacksonians. Brent’s is now a diner with a lovely soda fountain counter. If you’re super hungry, you can order the E&O with a root beer float on the side. Or milkshake. Nom.

Brents Drugs Fondren Jackson Mississipppi

bon hiver (good winter)

Although winter is my least favorite season (too cold, not enough daylight), I quite enjoy winter in the Deep South. It’s chilly for two weeks and then abracadabra, it feels like spring. What a lovely gift.

This winter has been a good one, I think. My orthopedic surgeon cleared me to walk without a brace, and I’ve greatly enjoyed the freedom. And then THIS.

I have two camellia trees in my backyard, and one of them bloomed much earlier than I expected. January 1, 2019, in fact. Good winter.

merry, merry

When you think winter wonderland, you don’t necessarily think Mississippi, but the Magnolia State really knows how to rock the Christmas spirit from what I’ve observed. Down the street from where I live, Belhaven University offers a Singing Christmas Tree event each December. It’s not a tree that is singing. It’s 100 alumni and students who stand on a 35-foot-tall structure, forming a tree and performing Christmas classics like “O Holy Night.” It’s the world’s oldest singing Christmas tree and draws thousands of attendees each year. Cool beans.

Need to buy a cool gift and want to #shoplocal? Head on over to Farmhouse in Canton, which is about 15 miles north of Jackson. I’ve visited a number of stores throughout Mississippi. This might be my favorite. Exquisite chandeliers and housewares? Check. Artisanal eats and goodies? Check. Friendly and helpful staff? Check.

Farmhouse is located on the historic Canton Square (165 W. Peace Street). I visited yesterday and was pretty much ready to move in the moment I stepped inside.

Farmhouse

Another lovely store if you’re in Meridian is the Crooked Letter at 2120B Front Street. This marketplace sits across the street from the new Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience center and is packed to the gills with items by Mississippi artists. Enjoy.

Meridian

1109 pinehurst place

At 1109 Pinehurst Place in #Belhaven sits the home of one of Mississippi’s greatest authors–Eudora Welty (1909—2001). If you visit Jackson, the Welty House and Garden Tour is a must-experience experience. The tour takes about an hour; admission is just $5.

Constructed in 1925, this two-story Tudor Revival is where Miss Welty wrote her most famous works–The Robber Bridegroom, The Optimist’s Daughter, and Delta Wedding in addition to short stories and essays. The house is largely intact as Miss Welty inhabited and left it before passing in 2001. Books and manuscripts are everywhere. There’s even her Smith-Corona typewriter at her desk in her bedroom that overlooks the tree-lined grounds of Belhaven College (now Belhaven University).

Welty House 2

Source: Eudora Welty House and Garden, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Photos are not permitted, unfortunately, so you have to commit this house and its garden rooms (containing more than 30 varieties of camellia shrubs and trees) to memory as you move throughout. For those who cannot visit in person, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History offers an online photo tour, which you can experience here.

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.

Price

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.

Touché.

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.

Manatee

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.