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.

Bluebird

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.

Promise

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.

Rindal

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.

Kvanne

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

Food

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

Man hole cover

the exquisitely southern songwriting of jason isbell

Jason Isbell, seriously. I swoon. He’s a songwriter/guitarist/musician from north Alabama, and I can’t stop listening to two albums: Southeastern (2013) and The Nashville Sound, which he recorded with his band The 400 Unit in 2017.

Tales of heartbreak, drunken lovers, separation, and recovery litter his songwriting, and I relish every piece of debris, each musical note. Here he is performing “Cover Me Up” at Austin City Limits, which was recorded in December 2013:

And another–“If We Were Vampires”–which was recorded in 2017:

Isbell is quite the comeback kid, if a 39-year-old can be considered a kid. Early in his career he played with Drive-By Truckers and was on a one-way road to self-annihilation. I mean, each time he played live with the Drive-By Truckers, he was totally bombed. As he told a National Public Radio interviewer in 2013:

I had it timed where, by the very end of the show, I’d done just about all I could do standing up. I knew I needed two or three [drinks] before I went on, and then during the show, we’d just pass a bottle [of Jack Daniels] around between the band.

He’s since cleaned up, struck out on his own as an artist, and enjoys fans and supporters here in the Deep South and elsewhere–elsewhere as in everywhere. I had the chance to see him and the 400 Unit perform at Thalia Mara in Jackson last year, and it was an exceptional evening. Highly recommend.

donna’s #6

In the market for a quintessentially #Mississippi experience? You could spend some serious lettuce and make a reservation at one of our state’s finest hotels–The Alluvian in Greenwood, for example. Or you could hop into your car with $5 and get yourself to one of my favorite places–Donna’s #6 Produce in Florence.

Donnas Number 6 Produce

Donna’s #6 is a large, open-air produce market (I hesitate to call it a produce stand), and the staff there are some of the friendliest Mississippians I have ever met. Wander in and check out all of the locally grown fruits and vegetables. Like sweet potatoes? Mississippi has three different varieties, and Donna’s #6 also sells sweet potato rolls behind the counter. Need something to dunk your biscuits in? Hello, Ribbon Cane Syrup. Donna’s #6 has this, too.

Ribbon cane

Donna’s #6 also has an adjoining gift store where they sell homemade ice cream. And the ice cream is quite good. Good stuff.

miranda konstantinidou

I don’t favor necklaces, but beautiful earrings, rings, and bracelets are jewelry catnip for me. Meandering my way through the Denver airport last month, I visited a small boutique and my eyes fastened on one of the display cases. The most magical, intricately designed jewelry. Bright colors, sparkly. “What is the price point of that one?” I asked the staff person, pointing at a beautiful ring. It was within budget (the earrings and bracelets weren’t). Smitten kitten, that was me.

Miranda Konstantinidou

The artist’s name is Miranda Konstantinidou. She’s a Greek designer who studied fashion illustration and fashion design in Italy and Germany. Her designs range from antique:

Miranda 3

To dark and brooding.

Miranda 4

To funky and abstract.

Miranda 2

To check out Miranda’s other work, visit here. Prepare to fall in love.

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 a great 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.