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.

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.


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.

the blue skies of meridian

Took a quick impromptu trip yesterday to #Meridian, Mississippi, which might be one of my favorite cities to visit. I don’t know what it is about Mississippi, but this state generates some of the bluest skies ever.IMG-4789The Queen City happens to be home to the oldest restaurant in the state. And let me be the first to tell you, if you think you need to go to Katz’s in New York City for great Jewish food, you’d be missing out. The food at Weidmann’s is phenomenal. I had the best smoked salmon and then chicken salad on rye sandwich in my life there. Highly recommend.IMG-4788Meridian is also home to many relic buildings and signs, like this one. Who wouldn’t want space age shirt finishing when you take your finest to Perfection for dry cleaning?IMG-4780

il gelato

Man, time flies. In 2015 I had the good luck to travel with 7 friends to northern Italy and it was TOAL–trip of a lifetime. Everything in Italy is exceptional. The people, beautiful. The food, amazeballs. The sights, my goodness. Early in our trip was Varenna, which is a tiny town. A tiny town that has two gelato shops within a stone’s throw distance of one another. You might think it strange that a tiny town could support two gelato shops, but Varenna does.

I resisted getting gelato the first day or so because although the gelato looked incredible, I thought it would be heavy and not worth the kcal intake. I finally gave in and, to quote Chicago Cubs’ announcer Harry Caray, HOLY COW. The gelato was light, fluffy. It was a marvel, for reals.


Other parts of northern Italy were just as wonderful as Varenna even though the weather was mostly overcast for our stay. There was Verona.


And Venice.



sometimes the detour is your destination

I’ve been busy the past couple weeks so have done a fairly lousy job of writing a post each day, my apologies. I’ve been on the road interviewing members for the summer 2018 issue of a quarterly magazine that I write for/manage.

En route to Gulfport two weeks ago I took a wrong turn and found myself headed to New Orleans. Oops. I backtracked, heading north, and then exited at Highway 13, which eventually dead ends at Route 49, and that would get me to Gulfport. Highway 13 is far from a dead end, let me tell you. It is drop dead gorgeous. Hello, #Lumberton. I had to stop and take a photo. The lush trees, quiet sky, warm sun.


Mississippi is chock full of places like Lumberton. Sleepy quiet. Not a lot of cars. Trees and more magnificent trees. I could drive this state endlessly, honestly. It’s very contemplative. It reminds me of my long drives to Gustavus but the landscape of southern Minnesota is different. Flat fields for days. Still beautiful, but different.

Yesterday I wanted to visit the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton County. Newton County is located east of Jackson on Highway 20 and I exited at Newton (the city). I saw this and, as with Lumberton, I had to stop and take a photo to memorialize the detour. Sometimes it’s the destination.


unlikely cousins: miss missy and la louisiane

I have a niece. She’s 4 and some change, and she can’t pronounce the state where I live. She calls it Miss Missy. I’m good with that. I haven’t asked her to pronounce the name of our neighboring state to the west, but I prefer La Louisiane. Beautiful, yes?

But I digress. Let’s get to it: The unlikely bond of Mississippi and Louisiana. They’re like two unlikely cousins at a wedding. Here’s a visual:

Source: Suong Photography via Flickr

Can you tell who is Mississippi and who is Louisiana? I totally can. Miss Missy is the lady on the left wearing a fuchsia top. Serious, prim. La Louisiane is the gentleman who’s ready to toss back his drink. Outgoing, social to his detriment, perhaps, and garrulous.

Mississippi and Louisiana are like two unlikely cousins. Related but so freaking different. I rented an Airbnb in the #Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans earlier this year to do some exploring and have dinner with my friend Brei Delahoussaye. I love New Orleans so much. I’d love to live there someday. It’s an exquisite city.

But again, I digress. I was walking around the Garden District, getting some shopping done. It was a Saturday afternoon, maybe 2 p.m. There were two older women walking ahead of me, or attempting to walk. They had open beers in hand. Talking loudly. They were tanked.

I don’t drink anymore. I got off the broomstick (gave up drinking) last September, and I’m totally at peace with the fact that I’ll never drink again. It made me feel so witchy (hence the broomstick analogy). But as a Mississippian by way of Chicago, I couldn’t help but guffaw at the two ladies in front of me with open containers. WTH. Then I remembered, New Orleans allows open containers. No big, as in deal.

That’s when it occurred to me how different Miss Missy and La Louisiane are, even though we’re neighbors. Cousins/les cousins. Mississippi is a state of counties, churches (predominantly Baptist), and teetotalers. Bible Belt stuff. Louisiana is a state of parishes, churches (some very beautiful Catholic ones), and bars. Don’t get me wrong. Louisiana is much more than bars and drinking. It’s just what struck me on that Saturday.

the smell of sun

Driving from Nashville to Jackson earlier today was like traveling through two seasons. It was wintry damp when I left Nashville. And early, about 6 a.m. No sun.

Heading south from Memphis, my car wheezed and stretched into north Mississippi. It was greener, sunnier. Open skies and trees for days. It was also noticeably warmer.

Arriving in Jackson (#Belhaven to be specific), my car window was down, and the breeze was almost hot. I pulled into the driveway of Clearance Special (what I call the 1940s bungalow that is home), unloaded my bags, and settled onto the back deck to unwind my limbs and lay out.

Truthfully, I shouldn’t ever lay out. I’m pale. I burn easily. But the smell of sun on my skin–how can I describe it. It smells like sunscreen, sweat. And freckles. I’m sure 20 years from now I will regret these moments. But for now it brings me a tired happiness and a little bit of peace.