Author Expo ~Gadsden, Alabama

Put something on the calendar, and I’m sure not to do it. But, isn’t life about stepping out of your comfort zone? Being somewhat reclusive and shy (although those who know me well roll their eyes and mumble just beneath their breath “whatever”) it is often difficult for me to participate in an event where I am expected to be verbally outgoing and open.

Writing it is one thing, doing it another.
The quiet folks know what I mean. You are just so “exposed” when you are right there in front of others….talking.  What I didn’t anticipate from this social engagement was – well, any of what actually took place. Allow me to explain.

This year, Gadsden Public Library hosted the Alabama Library Association Annual Convention. Being a hometown girl, I was graciously extended an invitation. This in itself garnered a smile. But, the idea of an Author Expo which is hosting 32 Alabama authors, companies from across the country -who graciously sponsor the authors -and more than 500 librarians, was enough to make me hesitate and then take two steps back. That is a lot of people! And yet, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that deep down, I absolutely couldn’t wait to attend. After all, I would be surrounded by people like me –writers and readers who eat, breathe and live for a love of words!

 

Arriving early, I had to smirk and acknowledge a blonde moment; I eyed the jam packed parking lots and wondered how many blocks I’d be walking in heels, carrying a heavy box of books. So THAT is why it was so important for my assistant to meet me when I arrived! I noted the city’s kelly green trolley car shuttling folks to and from the event.

 

Gadsden was going all-out and it filled me with a deep sense of pride!

 

This year’s theme for the convention is “Libraries ImPOSSIBLE” and it is improbable that anyone will leave displeased. There are a list of events sure to draw a crowd and delight everyone who attends. For example, the Reception Block Party downtown on Broad Street with live jazz and a performance of Imperial Opa. Tuesday night, out-of-towners joined the regulars for our Literary Pub Crawl where those who gather get to sample the amazing beer at Back 40 Beer Company and discuss a particular literary great before strolling over to Blackstone Pub & Eatery to continue the fun.

 

Then today, Wednesday, filled with bestseller speakers and the Books-A-Million Author Expo at 210 at the Tracks.  I arrive and find the place packed. The vibe is amazing –beautiful bare bulbs sneak down from the blacked-out high ceiling. Music of the Etowah Youth Orchestra fills the air and already I can smell something spicy and….could it be chocolate wafting from the back reception area? Harp & Clover, Gadsden’s newest, trendiest –swankiest even – Irish Pub, located within walking distance over on Court Street, has catered the event. I also notice that folks are meandering about with food in hand; several sipping wine and a few others cold beer. My assistant, Megan, and I introduce ourselves to our sponsor, set up books, arrange seating and head to the reception area to fill a plate and find a table.

 

Neither of us it seems knew exactly what to expect. I’d wondered at the necessity of an assistant but after we sat and caught up on senior life at SHS (my old alma mater as well) a swarm of readers buzzed about, and time began to fly. We would pause, talk, laugh and share stories with these women –some from Alabama, others from across the country -before they moved on to another author; then another swarm would alight. And so flowed the events of the night.

 

I found in collecting my things afterward that, while I was light on books to carry back to the car, I was filled with stories, their stories. I couldn’t help but smile. It was a wonderful thing to have a woman point out something in particular that spoke to her from the memoir and then share with me a story of her own. Other than the Russian from NY and our friendly Spaniard, Tito, who would wander over between signings to discuss culture, tradition, family –most of my readers were women and I was delighted because the book was written for US, after all.

 

Just two cobblestone blocks away, I wrap up my evening with a Guinness at Harp & Clover and chat up my dear friend Dee as he moves back and forth through the establishment, deftly working the crowd. Such an exquisite end to a most enjoyable evening. From now on, all of my pub crawls in Gadsden, Alabama will end right here! I recommend the Dubliner, a burger topped with “house-made bacon jam & Cahill’s whiskey infused cheese” and of course the Bread Pudding.

 

*And, I do believe I’ve just claimed a new place to hide away and write…the little niche in the back corner should do nicely.

Thank you –Amanda Jackson and Carol Roark Wright with Gadsden Public Library, and also Megan Potts, my assistant, for a wonderful evening!
Already I’m looking forward to the next Writer’s Expo in Huntsville and Chattanooga. And, Megan, I’m going to hold you to the agreement to go sight-seeing, history hunting and helping with book sales.

The only way to find –is to seek.
Nothing worth having just happens; you have to go looking for it!

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*****

 

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmcgrady

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Avondale, Alabama ~ soul food & country haute cuisine, wood-fired pizza at the P.O. & suds @ a microbrewery!

This past week when the rain slacked off and the skies cleared, the husband and I hit the road heading west to Birmingham, Alabama to try the BBQ at SAW’S Soul Kitchen in Avondale.  Why, you ask?  It’s simple.  2 Reasons -this tiny hole in the wall joint has smoked meats, seafood and soul food that is lauded, loudly!  And, the one little block where this soul food haven is located is a loaded little block.  It has it ALL.  From one corner to the other you have, elbow-to-elbow: SAW’S Soul Kitchen, Post Office Pies & Avondale Brewery.

Another hop skip and a jump and you’re at Good People Brewing Company, a favorite I will elaborate on in a later post.

By the time we arrive, the rain has let up, the sun is out and it is deceptively warm in the car.  We drive around and park behind Avondale Brewery, thinking the walk will do us good, both coming and going.avondale saws building

But, it is frigid cold and when we get to SAW’S and wiggle through the front door, I realize we may be standing for lunch.

All the tables are full!  I remember reading somewhere that because everything is prepared when it’s ordered that a short wait is to be expected.  It works out well; by the time our food arrives we have claimed a table in the corner.  Locals fill the place –you can tell by their demeanor that this is their local grazing hole.  “Blues in the Night” plays on the radio.  The laid back feel of the place worms its way into my psyche.  Immediately, even before taking the first bite, I am hooked!

     “My mama done tol’ me when I was in pigtails, My mama done tol’ me, “Hon a man’s gonna  sweet talk and give ya the big eye…”  Ella belts out those lyrics like she knows.

avondale saws pulled pork sand

I order the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich topped with slaw and a pile of fried onion rings.

avondale saws carolina burger

Travis orders the Carolina Burger.  Lord what a burger!  It arrives covered in chili and topped with slaw.  It is unbelievable.  I try a bite and really don’t want to hand it back over.          avondale saws blt

We foolishly order a Fried Green Tomato BLT too.  It is good but I’m as funny about my fried green tomatoes as I am about my cowboy boots.

A man seated nearby is presented with a plate piled with cheese grits, greens and pulled pork.  Again, I want another’s food.  Thankfully, I am beyond full.  I also pass on a deep bowl of Homemade Banana Pudding.  Then comes the knowledge there is a cooler in my trunk… I could get a large container to go!

avondale saws pork and greens 2

avondale

Had it been warmer, we would’ve ordered our food and had it delivered to Avondale Brewery just a couple of doors down and eaten out back under the hardwood trees.  We notice as we walk up that the back patio is deserted.

avondale eleph

Miss Fancy the Elephant, the brewery’s mascot, was a gift bestowed to the city back when Avondale Park was the original site of the Birmingham Zoo.

Raise a trunk!

The offerings are:  the Spring Street Saison, a “Belgian-style farmhouse ale; Miss Fancy’s Triple, a Belgian ale; Battlefield IPA “hoppy citrus and floral”; Vanillaphant Porter, a light-bodied ale with “chocolate, roasted nut flavors & a vanilla twist”; and Mr. Todd’s Brown, a dark ale (Just say, hell yes!).

avondale beer

Now, back to the Post Office…

avondale post office sign big

I’ve always been a huge fan of Eudora Welty and still smile when I think about the first time I read “Why I Live at the P.O.”

I know why I would live at the P.O. –because I am weak for wood-fired pizza!

Remember now, I am a Gadsden girl and therefore my heart will always belong to MATER’S on 3rd & Locust when it comes to my favorite pies.

avondale post office swine pie

But, this Swine Pie is something else!  The crust is chewy, and while I like it this way too, I wish I’d asked for it to be charred.  There is just something about the added smokiness when it is.  Top the crust with marinara, sausage (made in house), pepperoni, bacon and fresh basil leaves –Voila!

Tell the world I am happy here at the P.O. seeking refuge, isolated and well fed.