when tiny souls collide

Parsing what I experienced earlier this week and one thing lingers. I learned that one of my mom’s cousins passed away unexpectedly last week. This cousin I barely knew. I met her once–in 2015 at a family reunion in rural Wisconsin where our shared relatives from Norway built a life, family, and farm.

Trempeleau County

The time I met my mom’s cousin–I found her to be a lovely person. She had a bright way about her. Her eyes sparkled and she laughed easily. We hit it off the bat, as the English expression goes. The conversation was easy, fluid. She offered to give me a ride to the farmhouse where one of our relatives lived. She drove. We talked.

At some point our discussion turned to her mom and she began to cry. She shared that her relationship with her mom was difficult and her mom sometimes treated her poorly. I remember asking myself, Why is she sharing this with me? But I nodded and listened. There were decades of hurt feelings rushing to the surface, bursting perhaps, and in the tiny enclosed space of her car, our souls–tiny as they may be–collided.

A week later we traded emails and she wrote: I wish I could have talked to you more about what is going on in your life. Time was too short! Take care, sweet girl.

Take care, C. Rest easy.

lost and found: the unbelievable journey of vickburg’s guy brown

Mississippi Public Broadcasting is a treasure trove of interesting radio programming. There’s the stuff you expect as a public radio listener anywhere in the U.S.: NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, for example. And then there’s stuff that’s unique to Mississippi–the hourly call-in gardening show to Felder Rushing (it’s such an interesting show).

Occassionally MPB will offer a program called Conversations. The host, Marshall Ramsey, is a celebrated Mississippian. He’s an author, a guest speaker, and cartoonist for our state’s newspaper, The Clarion Ledger. Sometime back in November I was puttering around in my car, as I am wont to do, and Marshall had the most interesting interview. It was with John Mosely, I believe. John was explaining the most incredible tale of a World War II pilot from #Vicksburg. His name was Guy Brown.

Guy Brown

John bought a TBM Avenger, an old U.S. Navy bomber, with the hopes of restoring it to its former glory. And in the process of restoring this plane, John found Guy. John did more than find Guy. He found that Guy’s mom kept a diary of his military service on a wall in the basement of Guy’s childhood home, which is located on Drummond Street in Vickburg. This wall captures Guy’s last tour–the day he died–July 28, 1945.

Guy Brown wall

You have to watch this video to appreciate this exceptional history.

 

sam and the goat

When I commuted by bicycle in #Chicago, my favorite part of my commute was wheeling into the loading dock area that sits directly behind one of Chicago’s most famous taverns–The Billy Goat. (I call it The Goat.) The Billy Goat of Cheezborger, Cheezborger fame.

The Goat was founded in 1934 by William Sianis, a Greek immigrant. This guy was a true publicity hound. In 1944, the Republican Convention came to Chicago so he posted a sign saying “No Republicans allowed.” The place was packed with Republicans, of course. What a crafty marketer.

The current owner is William’s nephew–Sam Sianis. I call him Sam. I would see him every Tuesday morning when I trekked in and out of the Goat to go to a yoga studio on Hubbard. Sam would see me and give me a wink. I would nod in return.

Sam

One time he was in the back parking deck where I was locking up my bike. In a very thick accent, he asked me, “What are you DOING?” I couldn’t help but laugh. I explained that I was locking up my bike and scooted on my way to work.

the inky blue hues of edinburgh

Edinburgh, Scotland, is a centuries-old city of walls, streets, churches, and one fantastic looking castle. I visited Edinburgh back in August 2010, but not the castle. The city, however, did not disappoint. Art and theater abound in Edinburgh–they’re everywhere. And in the capital city of Scotland, you’d never know that there is an endless variety of shades of blue. The blues are everywhere. The Scottish flag is a bright azure blue. Very pretty. I am more drawn to the inky blue hues, which I admired in jewelry, clothing, accessories, and pottery. Adam Pottery at 76 Henderson Row is a gem of a pottery studio a thousand times over. The owner, Janet Adam, is a cool lady. I bought a navy blue piece of pottery of hers that I still enjoy.

There is also the deep marine blue that Glasgow-based illustrator David Fleck uses in a print called The Skating Minister. It’s not often an illustration stops me in my tracks, but this one did. I bought a copy and had it framed when I got back to Chicago. I utterly love it. Treasured possession stuff.

Edinburgh

Fleck is one cool cat. He’s an illustrator and an architectural designer. If you like The Skating Minister, you should check out his other work here.

arthur ashe: an appreciation

Every July and August, I get nostalgic for the tennis of yesteryear. And heroes. Arthur Ashe is one of those for me. The Wimbledon men’s singles final in 1975 in which he swiftly vanquishes Jimmy Connors is the stuff tennis dreams are made of.At the beginning of the third set (and after smoking Connors in the first two sets, 6-1, 6-1), Ashe eyes Connors squarely and with determination.AsheTo watch Ashe compete is pretty breathtaking. He was a master tactician; he had fantastic skill at the net; and he knew how to uncork his opponent with a backhand slice or well-timed lob. And uncork Connors he did.A few years ago UK writer Paul Newman parsed the drama and context of this championship in an article for The Independent:

Before they contested the 1975 Wimbledon final, Connors had beaten Ashe in all three of their meetings. The tensions between the two men had been heightened earlier in the year. While the United States were losing to Mexico in a Davis Cup tie, the country’s best player, Connors, was in Las Vegas, where he won $100,000 by beating Rod Laver in a much-hyped exhibition match.

Ashe, a future Davis Cup captain, said that Connors was ‘seemingly unpatriotic’ in repeatedly refusing to play for the United States. Connors filed a libel suit, demanding millions in damages, which he dropped only after losing the Wimbledon final.

The 1975 Wimbledon men’s singles final was Ashe’s last Grand Slam, sadly. In 1979 he suffered two heart attacks and experienced surgeries over the following years. One of the surgeries exposed him to HIV. His illnesses and compromised immune system did not diminish his fiery capacity for advocating for civil rights, community health, and health equity. Just two months before he passed away in 1993, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. What a legacy, what a lasting impact.

different (better) here

I was in Colorado last weekend catching up with friends who asked me what the food is like in #Mississippi. For starters, the fried chicken, the biscuits, the vegetables (all vegetables), they’re just different (better) here. Things I could eat every day: Butter beans and black-eyed peas. The butter beans are typically served with ham, which is sliced and mixed in. Serve butter beans with a side of black-eyed peas and you kind of have a meal.

Mississippi doesn’t have the reputation for BBQ that Tennessee or the Carolinas do, but I love myself some Pig & Pint in Jackson’s #Fondren neighborhood. They have a smoked chicken BBQ sandwich I order every time. So. Darn. Good.

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In Greenwood, there’s a place called the Crystal Grill, which is a stone’s throw from the train station. If you visit Mississippi, you need to get yourself there. Trust me on this one, order the fried catfish. The catfish is Mississippi raised; Belzoni (pronounced Bel-zone-uh), Mississippi, is the catfish capitol of the state. And maybe the country. And leave room for dessert (pie). THE PIE. Enough said.As for biscuits, which I prefer with butter (salted) and strawberry jam, which I’m sure is heresy, there is Primo’s in Jackson. Primo’s is a Greek family-run diner that serves all manner of Southern staple foods and dishes. I love everything there and especially the biscuits. Must love biscuits.

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the language of flowers

A year ago the thought of working on the flower beds at my house seemed a daunting proposition. Surely I would screw it up. Surely I couldn’t tell if my efforts were successful. Well I could not be more incorrect. Two months and who knows how many pairs of gardening gloves later, this flower bed/gardening thing is actually a fun adventure. And plants and flowers will tell you pretty quickly if they like their new home. They have their own language, if that makes sense.My backyard is mostly shade so tried a haphazard mix of Boston ferns, hydrangea, impatiens, and ornamental grasses. The impatiens really took off. I water this part of my backyard every morning and am smitten with this hydrangea. So pretty.

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The flower bed in my front yard is a bit more slow going, growth wise. It also gets more sun than the back yard so some of the plants are taking a beating with the heat of central Mississippi. I laid down a bed of pine straw to keep the flowers and plants from scorching and so far, so good. After I water the front yard flower bed, the leaves of the crotons stand upright as if to shout, “Hey thanks! I’ll have some more.”