Lecture for Romania, part one

Due to unforeseeable circumstances, I will not be attending the International Book Fair this week in Bucharest, Romania.  I had so looked forward to the opportunity to talk with you about your beautiful country.  I further regret being unable to share with you some of the rich history of the Southern United States; reflections of growing up here in Alabama, coupled with excerpts from WE SHARE THE SAME SKY.

What I can do, however, is post an abbreviated version of what I’d intended to share.  I’ve not included the self-introduction.  The lecture is rather long, so there is the necessity of posting it in segments.  And, rather than moving through the text and rewriting what I’d highlighted in the chapters, I will instead post the entire chapter.

I will miss meeting you all.

Sincerely,

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

 

 

PART ONE, LECTURE FOR ROMANIA

I began writing WE SHARE THE SAME SKY following my return from a summer trip I took alone to Manhattan the summer I turned forty.  I was contemplating a major change in my life and knew that the time away would give me the space I needed to think and see things more clearly.  With children in the house, money spent toward a trip for myself –rather than a family vacation- filled me with guilt.  So, I needed a second reason, one that might alleviate what felt like self-indulgence.   I decided to write about my week in the city and include the history of the boroughs and enclaves of Manhattan, the cultural beauty of the place, the ever-changing neighborhoods that continue to foster a sense of belonging for our immigrants.

While I expected to get caught up in the magic that is New York City, I didn’t expect my mind to constantly jump back to the South.  Throughout these days of wandering, images of home and memories of my childhood kept pressing in on me, as if demanding recognition.

You see, I was missing family; I was missing place. There simply is no getting away from who you are or where you are from.  Place retains its significance to the human spirit because we tie to it the emotions of our memories.  Being Southern means having a relationship with the land, a relationship with nature.

Being away, immersed in that immense, fascinating city, I could more easily reflect on the past, the people and events that made me who I am.  The week in Manhattan actually helped me reconnect.

I’ve heard it said that as children, we are closer to our true selves, that we know our passions.   I think this is true.  It is only later when we are busy being adults that we slip up and forget.

 

(Excerpt from WE SHARE THE SAME SKY)

“There is as much dignity in plowing a field as in writing a poem.”

—Booker T. Washington

Awakening, I move about in a stupor and realize that the bed is unfamiliar. The pillow is unfamiliar. The sounds coming from outside my window –all are unfamiliar. Slowly remembrance sinks in and settles like freshly poured concrete. I am snuggled safely within the city I adore! In the subdivision in Rainbow City where I live, there is a small farm down the street that sits so charmingly out of place. Grandfathered in when our neighborhood was developed, the old farmhouse and tiny field remain. Every morning I am graced with the sounds of the family’s rooster trilling and the donkey baying for his morning meal. Here, the glare through the window forces me awake. And yet, thanks to the sound ordinance, rarely does one hear the frustrated, incessant blaring of aggressive horns. I have over-slept and awakened with the capricious nature of an unruly child. Pulling aside the curtain, I take a peek outside, mouth a quiet thank you to Him.

Late last night, I listed everything I want to cram into my day. Far and wide, my desires are spread from Upper West Side through Midtown and Upper East Side. Locating my list on the map, I realize that I will be all over the place. But really, who cares? It is not as if I am following a dreaded agenda. Flip of a coin, shake of the Magic 8 Ball; perhaps I have been going about my decision making all wrong. So, sensibility will not dictate my path, at least not today!

 

Morningside Heights

Is there anything better than sliding into a taxi when you know you are in for a long day? I don’t think so. As I get in and arrange my things, I notice the driver is talking on the phone. Hating to be rude, I jot down the address and hand it to him, trying to smile. He never makes eye contact and never hangs up the phone. Ill-mannered people get on my nerves and my pet peeve is rude cell phone use. Maintaining my silence, I sit behind him and seethe, wanting to tell him to please get off the phone and drive because frankly, he is scaring the hell out of me. I fantasize about reaching from behind and snatching the phone from his hand and flinging it hard out the window –something my father would do. And yet, I know that when he lets me out, I will tip the inconsiderate ass any-way. My mother reminded me several weeks ago that unless one speaks their mind when they are displeased, they have no right to be resentful. Regardless, I am full. And, I am irritated with myself for letting something shake the sense of inner peace I awakened with. In the South, protestant church signs post words of wisdom each week. My favorite is the adage “He who angers you, controls you.”

The driver drops me intact at The Morningside Heights Greenmarket located at 116th Street and Broadway. While planning, I discovered that the market is sponsored by Columbia University and Barnard College. Amazed by the selection of fresh produce in the city, I find myself constantly comparing it to what we have back home. Surprisingly, it seems there are many more open markets available here.

Quickly, I purchase a pint of the plumpest blueberries and wish for some fresh yogurt. The apples are gorgeous. There is one variety that looks similar to those my grandmother Libby called horse apples. Although the skin of these apples is not the prettiest, they always have a good tart taste that makes them perfect for apple pie and apple butter.

Looking over the boxes before me, I think back on my fifth grade year when before morning announcements or even the pledge was completed, I was hauled into the Principal’s office to stand before Dr. Leftwich.

“It has been rumored,” she said “that you have been stealing apples from a nearby yard and selling them on the bus. Miss Mozley, being industrious is one thing, but thievery is quite another.”

My grandmother always reminded me to pause before answering and so I did. I knew that the man who owned the place had seen me a couple of afternoons as he sat out on his back porch. The tree I had chosen the day before was close enough that I had noticed he was drinking tea and cracking pecans as he read The Gadsden Times. I also knew that he didn’t mind or he would have said something. I even hoped that he liked me, although I never saw him smile. Yes, he liked me and he appreciated the fact that I enjoyed his trees, his apples. After all, he had dropped the paper to below eye level and watched as I gathered them in my shirt and climbed back over his fence.

He was not the one who reported me. I knew this. But regard-less of who had, I was either in for a good scolding or a paddling. But, not both; Dr. Leftwich was known for giving one or the other. My only hope was that she wouldn’t call Papa. Double or nothing I thought, then replied, “Yes, ma’am. I’ve been doing just that.”

The following day –because she did not paddle me or even call my father –I left a rosy store-bought apple on her desk. I didn’t think a note was necessary.

What is it about picking your own produce that makes the taste more intense? My children swear that the apples they pick from our trees to bake each morning are better than those from the store and I believe them.

Apples purchased from the grocer sit prettily in the glass dish on our dining room table almost forgotten. It is as if they are there for the eye rather than the palate.

Each year, the children and I look forward to visiting an orchard. For years, we picked our own from an elderly gentleman’s backyard in Riverside. Posted near the bushel baskets was a sign listing the cost, and sitting below on a porch step was an old rusted coffee can where you deposited your money. Some of the trees that grew along the back row of his orchard seemed to be as old as the man himself. Laden with a full load, the sagging limbs were propped up with felled hardwood. When the old man passed away the property was sold, his bountiful trees cut, the land leveled and landscaped. The children and I mourned, then set out in search of another orchard. We headed north.

I had found a listing for a large family-owned orchard in North, Alabama. After a long morning drive, we arrived to find the place boarded up. Disappointed we turned back, but decided the return trip should be a different route, in the hope of coming across something of interest along the way. What we found was a North Alabama Indian mound. The gate, drawn shut and locked, held a sign posted no trespassing, but the children and I pretended not to see. We quickly parked the car and walked to the mound by way of a neighboring cotton field, full and white.

Catching sight of the mound, Anderson and Isaac stopped at once. I walked to where they stood, looking on with awe at the vision that lay before us.

A prehistoric Native American relic of the Mississippian culture, it was an amazing thing to see, just sitting there modestly in a field of lolling green pasture, surrounded by a pearlescent ocean of cotton and the distant emerald foliage of hardwood trees. In silence we climbed the mound, stood and gazed across the land. With unspoken reverence, we turned and descended quietly, then walked back through the high cotton to where we had parked.

Several miles down the road, we happened upon a very small family owned orchard. Although we didn’t get to pick the apples ourselves, no one seemed to care. We bought several bushels and an antique apple peeler to make our work easier. That evening, we set about slicing and filling the dehydrator racks sprinkling each layer with cinnamon; the remaining apples we baked and then topped with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Memories of time spent with my children bring only happiness. I say a quiet thank you. Because of them, I have much to be grateful for. Isaac’s cotton seeds are still in the backseat compartment of my car! When this thought comes, I cannot help but laugh outright.

I continue to pick up an apple from each selection, admire its uniqueness and fresh smell. I think of a quote from Walden, of Thoreau and his reflections on the farm he almost bought but didn’t. He laments, “I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only.” Now this I under-stand. But, when he admonishes “…As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are com-mitted to a farm or the country jail.” I am want to disagree. To own and work a piece of land is to take pride in something that becomes an extension of self; a sense of accomplishment fills the soul of the weary possessor at days end.

Moving around the selections, I watch and listen to the interactions between the farmers and the locals and wish that I was staying somewhere that would allow me to purchase what I really want so that I might cook a meal early in the evening. Within arms reach are the most delectable Roma tomatoes I’ve ever seen accompanied by a beautiful purplish heirloom. I wish I could gather them up, take them back to the room, slice them, dehydrate them and pack them in oil or buy a couple of crisp ones still good and green, to fry.

There is also pineapple, freshly cut. If only I had several slices of a good homemade white bread and some mayonnaise. Is it only Southerners who eat pineapple sandwiches and hot tomato biscuits? Recognizing true hunger, my stomach rumbles at the thought.

The idea of dinner alone makes me miss being at home, cooking and dining with the children. They would be thrilled with this marketplace.

We often shop the farmer’s market in Birmingham. Not so much for the fresh produce –even though the offerings are amazing with over 200 farmers participating- but for all the other phenomenal vendors. Isaac’s favorite is a table of sliced cakes, presented by The Bakery at Cullinard. Anderson heads immediately for the croissants and chocolate sauce offered at another stand. Shelves of homemade preserves, jellies and jams call to me.

 

In our area, the weekend flee markets are where most folks shop for serious produce purchases. These are located closer to Gadsden, our hometown. We frequent Collinsville on Saturdays and Mountain Top on Sundays. Visiting a trade day in the South requires rising early. The best vendors arrive and begin setting up around 4:30 a.m. then pack up around noon. Collinsville Market is located in a small rural town of the same name. It is surrounded by beautiful green sprawling hills of farmland and the distant ridge of the lower Cumberland Plateau. Prettiest in the lambent light of the early hours, the view competes with the winsome sounds of farm animals. The smell of sausage biscuits and fresh coffee drift far and wide.

Regional pride has led to many a foolish notion. Admittedly, I always believed that Southerners held a closer relationship to the land and therefore held the prime pickings when it came to pro-duce. Looking about, I acknowledge that I’ve been proven wrong on both counts. Before walking away, I watch a small family load their purchases into four worn arm baskets; supple, they easily bend and allow the carrying of much weight. What is it they will cook for dinner tonight? What are their traditions, and is this trip to the market one of them? I think on our family’s beloved catfish Sundays. Grandpa farmed and fished all week. GrandMosie began cooking early that morning while we attended our various churches. Gathering at their house after services, we children fought over the fried fish with the longest crisp tails. We gnawed them down to the nub before beginning on the flesh, filled our plates repeatedly, then lazed away the afternoon waiting for stomach pains to pass. It was a happy gathering. What a shame that in today’s haste, many have let the tradition of Sunday supper with extended family all but slip away.

I watch the father help his wife, guide her gently through the throngs of people. He is protective of her, she of the children. The

Breathing deeply and enjoying the early morning air, I decide to move on. It occurs to me that all of this walking, where the wander-ings of body and thoughts meld, has helped clear my mind. Physical exertion, be it callisthenic or aerobic, alleviates depression and anxi-ety. Wandering is much like pacing in that it requires constant yet thoughtless movement; while the body moves about as if by its own accord, the mind is free. For me, this is proving therapeutic and provides time to reflect on the important things, to examine what exactly it is that has brought me here, not just to this city, but to this juncture in my life. Perhaps with realization, healing and creativity can begin again. It is not that I have become blind to the limit-less joy God places in the smallest of things, rather I have become distracted by circumstance. Time to wander, to think, to remember and reflect –without these we lose something fundamental and vital to self.

 

Days That Ran Long

 

Standin’ here,

Hands spread

Across faded green,

I listen undeterred

To moans and groans behind me

Of ungodly ugliness.

I care not

For I’ve found a treasure

That’s less than grand sight

And slick worn feel

Bring back dusty memories

Of skinned knees, stringy hair,

Days that ran long and knew untold endin’s.

Who would’ve known

That city folk congregated in search

Of fine Wedgwood and walnut

Would find themselves subjected

To grandeur so rural,

That’s beckonin’ calls to those

Whose memories once held rough edges

Hewn by hard work and time.

It stands there inquirin’

Remember me? Remember

The gatherin’s…

I become absorbed

In its green flat formica

And long since lost its shine chrome-

Where many times did

Families coagulate

When such things were so,

To feast on meals

Pulled from the ground, wrung by the neck

Then presented to kin whose presence

Represented true survival

Of hell and brimstone storms

Characteristic of a glorious

Southern Sunday morn.

 

EM 2004

 

*Please join me on Facebook at WE SHARE THE SAME SKY and also on Twitter @ElizabethMozley and @CentipedeYAread

 

Thank you all! ELIZABETH

 

Image result for we share the same sky

“To Travel is to Live.” Hans Christian Andersen

6A8E2A01-94A9-455B-9AB2-1F160C02DCD4In Out of Africa, after listening to a beautifully spun story, Denys Finch Hatton asks Baroness Karen von Blixen if she has traveled to the places in her tale. Regretfully, she admits that until her purchase of a farm in the Ngong Hills of Africa, she had been only an armchair traveler.

Wandering exploration and travel by armchair are two very different things. But we cannot label one as better than the other for science proves that escape within something enjoyed, especially books, brings a great relief of stress, moving one beyond the day-to-day components of life.

But oh, the joy of real travel! There is something glorious in the discovery of a new place –and there is the knowledge that when one returns home, they are somehow changed for the better. Just as a student’s growth is visible to the knowing eye of the teacher when they return from summer vacation, others notice the change in a friend who returns from sabbatical.

Travel gives birth to new thoughts, and reflections on memories perhaps otherwise forgotten; moreover it fosters creativity. In seeing more, we become more; in experiencing another culture, our souls stretch and grow. Moving beyond the steadfastness of our present lives, we once again recognize that we are more than our profession, more than a parent, someone’s child, or sibling.

The images we retain from a meaningful trip are colored by the emotions we experience when traveling. While we cannot possibly recollect it all in great detail, we bring back with us snippets, souvenirs of sorts –be it an appreciated object, purchased or found; notes on a napkin or postcard; photographs.

Then when the time between travels grows too long, we seek out the objects that they might transplant us to that special place again.

Go~ make plans, fill the heart with anticipation!

 

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

One addiction leads to another~ Antiques & BBQ

There are chaotic days. There are boring days.

And then, there are road trip days! So, when the promise of hours spent riffling through antiques in Atlanta, Georgia was waved beneath my nose like a tasty morsel, I took the bait, completely!

At forty-eight I still don’t know my way around the city.  It is one thing to set out on foot around town with a general idea of where you’re heading; it is entirely another to navigate around Georgia’s capital city, dodging idiots and taking back-roads to avoid road construction.  Needless to say, I laud the finesse of my driver.  Not only was it hot as hell in Atlanta this fine July day, the traffic was unbelievable.

I think for me the love of rummaging through old things began as a child.  Clearly I remember slinking away to my GrandMosie’s back bedroom to pull out her collection of Sarah Coventry jewelry.  It was the same in her closets –and thus began my love of vintage clothing.  She didn’t do away with anything.  My cousins and I tried on her dresses from the 30’s and 40’s and fought over her pointy crocodile pumps.  Another layer was added to my obsession when I began attending antique auctions with my parents.  Here, I fell hard for furniture.  A summer or so later, my sister, Suzanne introduced me to a salvage store in Cullman, AlabamaSouthern Accents Architectural Antiques.  Forever since, I’ve been owned by this infatuation with all things rusted, antiquated, collected! Today’s destination promised to feed these passions, well.

FullSizeRender (4)

Without scratch dent or even a bump, we arrived intact at Scott Antique Markets.  Mind the (s) in markets, as there are two!  The antique show is held the second weekend of each month.  Admission is $5 and tickets are good for the entire weekend.  I admit I cheated and checked out the website prior to our trip.  It boasts that it is the “World’s Largest Monthly Indoor Antique Show”, with over 3,500 booths filled with antiques and collectibles.  I couldn’t wait to wander around and get thoroughly lost!

1

The North Building is located at 3650 Jonesboro Rd; 3850 Jonesboro Rd, Atlanta, Georgia is the address of the South Building.

*****

*A few things that caught my eye~

german spoonsand forks

more silver

Silver spoons, German.  My mother would have a fit for these…

******

French posters and other poster art are a strange love.  I just can’t get enough of them!

french poster art

music box

A gorgeous disc music box marked, The Detmer Music House.  The sound was incredibly clear.

windows

An entire section of nothing but stained-glass windows that made me want to purchase an old home to renovate.

WWII memorabilia –

Buy War Bonds, plant a Victory Garden, A Gallant Leader.  So many posters, pins, photos…

wwII memWWIImem1

More of the same in Civil War memorabilia.  I would never get my Papa out of this booth.

CW memcw and other mem

*****

And…flags galore!

13 stars, 13 barsflags 1

A rare 13 Star Centennial Era Flag, Circa 1875-1890 “Symbolic of the star arrangement used on our 1st flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes.  Ordered by George Washington; made and designed by Francis Hopkinson a signer of The Declaration of Independence.”

bunting1bunting“Bunting used in decorations during the last Confederate Reunion in

Birmingham, Alabama. – Mary J. Lanier”

fishing lures and flags

And antique fishing lures! Literally there is something for everyone.  You could come with twenty people, head in different directions upon entering and never cross paths.

lamp fullThese gorgeous demijohns made into lamps were incredible, so large and rich in color. Italians know it is a sin to store wine in anything other than glass.  In Italy, demijohns are passed down from family to family; and they still fill them annually with their favorite local wines.

Traditionbordeau tag

lamp and paintingI can’t believe I didn’t get a  photo of the chandelier I fell hard for.The only negative thing about being a window shopper is not purchasing.  I always recognize what I should’ve bought by the time I return home.

painting

The etched water glasses and a seascape painting with a rough, hewn wooden frame were sure purchases.

Could’a, Should’a, Didn’t…

…Until we arrived at 1811 Piedmont Ave!

And then, one addiction was followed by yet another!  I’d known in advance that we were going rummaging through piles of antiques in conditioned air.  A late lunch at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, however, was a sweet surprise!

photo (4)

fat matts ext

We arrived to find the line had not yet snaked its way around the building -or if it had, we’d luckily missed it!

Opening the door, we were immediately met by cold air and the lingering, seductive smells of Southern food; above the hum and drone of those feasting, Sam Cooke crooned.

“I was born by the river in a little tent/ Oh just like the river I’ve been running ev’r since/ It’s been a long time, long time coming…”       

I felt I had truly died and gone to heaven.  fat matt's blues

The ribs were indescribably good.  We ordered ½ a slab –it and the sides combined were more than I could handle.  The meat fell from the bone and I don’t even think I touched the extra sauce they sent out!

And, the potato salad…I’d drive the two hours from Oxford, Alabama for it alone. We also ordered the Rum Baked Beans –they were divine as well.

...take a little of the potato salad on your fork, a little of the beans as well…

Talk about being bewitched~

ribs1
ps

I looked long and hard at the mac n cheese -the South’s favorite vegetable.  I also cast a wanting eye toward the collard greens; Lord knows I longed for them both.

But does this not make a second visit in the very near future necessary?!

Perhaps next time I’ll brave an evening visit for the live Blues!

*Due to severe cravings and BBQ withdrawals, this is a very delayed post. Please forgive! All I know is that I craved those ribs for two days after the fact and found it impossible to write about them; every time I made the attempt, I had to stop and find something lackluster to eat from the kitchen.

********

photo of me for blog

 

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

 

More than I bargained for ~ Selma, Alabama 2004. Dr. Hardy Jackson & Mrs. Kathryn Tucker Windham, Alabama’s Finest Storytellers

There is a certain thrill that comes in experiencing the unexpected, visiting the unknown.  Perhaps we are born with a yearning to explore new places.  Once fed, the hunger to roam becomes more urgent, as almost unwittingly there is the construction of a new appetite.  I have this appetite.

Although my mantra is any road trip is a good road trip I was not overly intrigued by the idea of visiting Selma, Alabama.  I was, however, motivated by the possibility of any unforeseeable events that may lay in store along the way.

Our little group had agreed to meet up early that Wednesday.  There before the others, I remember parking and looking about, wondering if in fact our vehicles would be the first in any parking lot on JSU’s campus.  Jacksonville seemed eerily silent before sunrise.  Leaning against the car, I sipped my coffee and enjoyed the solitude, knowing it very well could be the only quiet moment of the day.  Admittedly, I was anxious.  This was the first time I’d ever ventured off with a group of folks I did not know and although I fought against it, my mind kept whispering trapped in a car for a long period of time.

One by one they began to arrive.  Quickly I slid in behind our driver for the day –a highly intelligent, unpredictable, fun-loving fellow who also happened to be our Southern History Professor, Dr. Harvey Hardaway Jackson III.  The remaining crew consisted of three female students all of whom I’d already labeled as “talkers”.  For this I was exceedingly grateful as I tend to be overly quiet around folks I don’t know.

Hardy –forgive the informality, but many years have now passed and the friendship is surely sealed, forever tight –Hardy had offered up an open invitation in class that anyone who cared to join him should, as he was scheduled to speak at the Selma Public Library regarding his latest book Inside Alabama: A Personal History of My State.  Dog-eared copy in hand, I was the first to sign up.

Once on the road, we fell naturally into the previous day’s discussion on why it is we Southerners think and act as we do.   I can honestly admit that prior to his classes, I’d never paused to question such things.

Before we knew it we were nearing Montgomery.  Hardy detoured through Lowndesboro, explaining it was “not so much a town as a string of historic buildings”. The 2000 census placed the population at 140.  As we followed the route taken on the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965, he explained that it was just outside of Lowndesboro that Viola Liuzzo, a young civil rights activist from Michigan was chased down by the KKK and shot.  Liuzzo was driving Leroy Moton, who had recently participated in the second march, to the airport.

Hardy eased the car off the road, stopping at an old white church.  It immediately reminded me of the Baptist Church my grandparents had attended when I was a child.  Oh, how many sweltering summers my cousins and I spent in those small back Sunday school classrooms, making crafts, memorizing Bible verses and sweating bullets during Vacation Bible School.

As he parked, Hardy gave us a brief summary on the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, formerly the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.  Built in 1830, the structure is capped with the dome from the 1820 Alabama Statehouse in Cahaba.cem church

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church ~ Lowndesboro, Alabama

After walking around and taking a few photos, we loaded back up and headed to our next stop.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built in 1857 from a popular pattern found in a book by Richard Upjohn.  The Episcopal church in Jacksonville, AL was based on the same plan.   “You usually find Episcopal churches in settlements where wealthy planters from South Carolina and Georgia settled,” he further explained.

e church selmaSt. Paul’s Episcopal Church ~ Lowndesboro, Alabama

Our last stop before making our destination was Sturdivant Hall.  Built in 1852-1856 as a townhouse for Colonel Edward Watts, the Greek Revival neo-classical architecture is breathtakingly beautiful.  Hardy walked us through the house, discussing various objects and artwork.  A woman nearby explained that workers were brought in from Italy to complete the plaster and marble.  Never did she whisper that the house is allegedly haunted by former owner and banker, John Parkman.

st hall selma

Sturdivant Hall, 713 Mabry Street ~  Selma, Alabama

Before leaving, we all gathered in close for a photo.

hardy's girls

With Hardy Jackson at Sturdivant Hall 2004 ~ Selma, Alabama

Selma Public Library

selma public library

 

 

 

By the time we reached Selma Public Library, I already felt as though the trip had been worthwhile.

While Hardy was busy socializing, the girls and I all went our separate ways.  Longing for a quiet moment, I walked around the library admiring the paintings.  From the corner of my eye, I noticed an older lady had come to stand close by.  There was an ease to her that I still cannot describe; she too seemed caught up in the combination of beauty and quiet separateness.

“Sunflowers are the most beautiful flowers, don’t you think?” she asked admiringly, indicating a nearby painting.  I recognized the softness of her Southern drawl.  She noted the difference in mine as well and as we wandered along she inquired as to which part of North Alabama I was from.  She asked if I gardened and we chatted about growing up in the South.  The sound of her voice was lulling, soothing and it was with disappointment that I realized we had arrived in the area where Hardy was to speak.

Although I was looking forward to listening to my professor’s tales of the South, I was disappointed that my time with her had ended.  As we took our places, she slid in beside me and another girl from our group.  I smiled, pleased that she was joining us and realized with a start, I’d not asked her name nor introduced myself.  I happened to look beyond her to my fellow traveler whose eyes were now weirdly wide.  What the hell is she doing, I wondered.  She mouthed Kathryn…Tucker…Windham, nodding at the woman I’d been chatting with.  Suddenly I understood the peculiar expression on her face.  The knowledge was devastating, as if I had been hit full in the chest with a crowbar.

I’d been wandering about, passing the time with my favorite childhood author and had not even known.  Mrs. Windham had surely been saved from much gushing and stammering.

Feeling equally blessed, I sat and listened as Hardy recounted family tales of courage, feuds, Good Ole Boy politics, his daddy’s poutin’ house, Southern chivalry that was not dead, and all the glorious things that had once separated Southern culture from that of the remaining nation.  I listened to Hardy, but could not keep my eyes and thoughts from Mrs. Windham.  Had the chance, lost it, kept running through my mind.

With his talk completed, Hardy walked about shaking hands and hugging necks.  I noted that the majority of the audience was indeed female.  This garnered a well-deserved smirk; smart man, when he caught my eye, he knew exactly what it meant.  Mrs. Windham joined us for a moment before we left and I learned that she and Hardy were ‘cousins-in-law’.

Before heading north, we made one more stop at Old Live Oak Cemetery.  If only the wisteria had been in bloom, large white magnolia blossoms scenting humid air.  Though these were not yet visible, we Southerners knew they were there and could smell them just the same.

“There is glory in the graves” read the inscription on a nearby Confederate monument.  In 1879 Colonial N.H.R. Dawson purchased eighty Live Oaks and eighty Magnolia trees in Mobile, Alabama and had them planted throughout the cemetery.  Spanish moss drapes down from ancient oaks as if trying to enshroud the chivalrous dead; their cannons, still close at hand, aim northward.

live oak cemetery

Live Oak Cemetery ~ Selma, Alabama

I rode to South Alabama with one storyteller, and ended up meeting another.

It was a charmed meeting.  But, as we made the return trip, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d been cheated –I’d have asked about her favorite memories, the foods she longed for when she was with family… With a slow smile I realized exactly why she had skipped the introductions.  Was it not so much more to wander, admire the beauty before us together and speak gently, proudly of our South?

On 231, just north of Rockford, Alabama we passed Sears Chapel Methodist Church.  Hardy slowed the car and we lowered the windows.  I imagine each and every one of us held our breath, thought of Mrs. Windham and her love of ghosts and listened for the baby crying in the road.

 

sears chapel

         Sears Chapel Methodist Church, 1860 ~ just north of Rockford, Alabama

*****

It had indeed been a road trip to remember.  Looking back, I am reminded how quickly a moment can pass and how we do not know the moment for what it is until much later. That trip was a catalyst that sent me down another road; a conglomeration of memorable moments those two years with Hardy have become.  They are firmly cemented as well.  While meeting Mrs. Windham was a true gift, it was the tutelage of Dr. Hardy Jackson that took my life in an unexpected and better direction.

How often the unexpected moments become the focal point, rather than the destination. Sometimes you set out on a jaunt, and bring back a little more than you anticipated.

Thank you, Hardy

hardy

Dr. Harvey Hardaway Jackson III.

Mrs. Kathryn Tucker Windham

Mrs. Windham

  • 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (1969)
  • Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts ((1987)
  • Jeffrey Introduces Thirteen More Southern Ghosts (1987)
  • Thirteen Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey (1987)
  • Southern Cooking to Remember (1994)
  • Encounters (1998)
  • Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories (2004)
  • Alabama, One Brig Front Porch (2007)
  • Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another (2009)
  • She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life (2011)

Mrs. Windham was a reporter for Alabama Journal, The Birmingham News and later the Selma-Times Journal where she won Associated Press awards for photography and writing.

Mrs. Windham also performed her stories on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Alabama Public Radio’s Alabama Life.

 Hardy Jackson & Kathryn Windham TuckerHardy and Kathryn

**********

photo of me for blog

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

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, friends 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 my friends and I 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

My friends order 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.

 

 

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

 

Wandering around Manhattan & pondering growing up in the South~

An Excerpt from Chapter 2, WE SHARE THE SAME SKY

 

Who would think that wandering aimlessly throughout Midtown

could be calming? It is not quiet, it is not serene. Perhaps it is a

melding with the constant movement of the masses that is tranceinducing.

Whatever it is, I find it odd and pleasant. But, why

question what works?

 

Rizzoli Bookstore catches my eye. Here I am in the city at last,

and I can’t shake the habitual need of a good book and a place to

crash. Rizzoli’s is the quintessential bookstore. Built-in oak bookshelves

run from floor to ceiling in the three storied space. The open

staircase and rooms are lit with chandeliers, although the interior

is flooded with natural light from windows that make up the entire

front facade. I would shop here for no other reason than to take

pleasure in the sheer beauty of the place.

 

I browse the children’s section and try to find a gift for the kids.

Some of my earliest memories are related to books. Curled up in

her lap, Mother would read to me, coax me into following with her;

running my finger across the words, I trailed her motions from left

to right. Moving through the book, we spent as much time discussing

the illustrations as we did the meaning. Always busiest during

those days before I entered school, I knew this was precious time

she set aside especially for me.

 

I cannot help but smile when my random search is interrupted

when I come across the Miroslav Sasek collection. This is

Rome reminds me of a dear childhood friend. How many times,

I wonder, did she carry it and others back and forth between our

houses tucked away in an old yellow Samsonite suitcase she had

covered with stickers?

 

Scanning the section further, I notice they don’t have a copy of

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. There

isn’t a bookstore in all the South that doesn’t have it and Harper

Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird up front and on display. With good

reason, gifted storytellers are held in much esteem in our region.

Storytelling seems a talent bestowed before birth, rather than being

acquired with time and knowledge.

 

Books brand within the heart a place that is all their own. As a

child, Beatrix Potter was my favorite author and was an easy bribe

that Mother would use to get me to behave during church services.

If I managed to mind my manners throughout the sermon,

she would let me visit the tiny library while she straightened her

Sunday school classroom.

 

One afternoon she took longer than usual and as I sat there turning

the glossy pages, I thought how wonderful it would be to take the

book home. Not check it out, but take it, for it to be mine. Sliding

off my Mary Janes so they didn’t click against the hardwood floor,

I tip-toed to her classroom and peeked through the door. Sure that

she was thoroughly preoccupied arranging art projects and cleaning

away the paints, I took the book and slid it under the backseat of our

car. After my bath that night I reread it, ran my fingers over the same

glossy illustrations then tucked it away underneath my bed. But,

when I rolled over to say my prayers, I realized I couldn’t.

 

The following Sunday I returned it to the library and apologized.

Home from church and still filled with guilt, I walked down

the road to my best friend’s house. Since it seemed we often wound

up in trouble together, I thought she might be the best person with

whom I should confide. Sitting at the kitchen table, we made pineapple

sandwiches and listened to her mother carry on a conversation

with Ricardo Montalbán who was on TV.

 

We slathered mounds of mayo on soft white bread, tore

slices of pineapple to fit, then crammed our mouths full. These were

our favorite summer time sandwiches and they had become an

afternoon ritual. In between mouth-fulls, I told her what I’d done

then asked her the all consuming question. “Do you think I am

going to hell?”

 

Laughter in the living room rose above the noise of the TV. Her

mother came into the room, walked to the table and sat down with us.

She asked if I would make her a sandwich.

 

I nodded yes and was glad. It gave my eyes a place to go, helped

to ease my embarrassment. She took the sandwich then and tried

it, saying between bites “People from Alaska don’t eat pineapple

sandwiches.” I almost reminded her that she was Mexican, but took

another bite instead. I knew that by trying my sandwich, she was

being nice. Besides, she couldn’t fuss with a full-mouth.

 

“Now, your people are Baptist, right?” “Yes mam,” I said, trying

not to look down. “And you are saved, isn’t that right?” “Yes mam,”

I responded quickly. “Then why do you worry that you will go to

hell if you are saved and your church believes that once saved always

saved?”

 

I had to think about this a minute. I had heard this quoted

often enough, once used in defense after a certain man in my family

stated without thought that Sunday morning fishing was better than

fishing any other day of the week. And, then I told her the truth,

“Because, I don’t believe that people who keep doing bad things get

to go to heaven just because they once got saved. Unless people

who do bad things are really, really sorry and pray for forgiveness, I

think they go to hell with all the other people who do bad things,”

I explained. Putting her hand on top of mine, she laughed and said,

“Child, you are not Baptist at all! You are Catholic!”

 

It would be years later before I realized that, for me, comparing

the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church and conservative

Protestant Church was much like comparing the platforms of the

Democratic and Republican Parties. While I agreed with many

beliefs and issues from each, I could not agree with all from either.

This shared meal and conversation is my last memory of the family

with whom I was so close. At the end of summer, my parents purchased

land for our new home and we moved from our small neigh-borhood out into the country.

My friend and her parents returned

to Alaska. But, our common, once shared love of books continued.

***

Back outside into the city and noise, the sun is shining and I

decide that sightseeing, squeezed in with the few stores I want to

visit, might not be a bad thing. On Madison Avenue, I pause to

take in the Roosevelt Hotel New York. Built in 1924, it was dubbed

the “Grand Dame of Madison Avenue”. I make my way inside. A

stairway leads guests up into the lobby. A magnificent chandelier,

marbled floors and the black ironwork immediately remind me of

New Orleans. How wonderful it would have been to be a guest here

during the twenties, engulfed in the bustle of gay nightlife!

 

Not having anything else nearby I care to see, I head for Bergdorf

Goodman, and wish again that it was the holiday season, that

their famous store-front windows were decorated for Christmas.

Basement Level, I find the beauty department and perfume.

 

I think that my love of perfume began with an obsession for

bottles. Later it was an association of scent. There have been times

when I have caught a sliver, a hint of a scent; I remember it, but

cannot at that moment place it, rather it is only the pleasant sensation

of association I recall. Chanel No 5, fox fur and pointy high

heels remind me of my GrandMosie readying to go out on the

town; short platinum hair curled and pinned. Lemon and verbena

lotion mingled with an earlier dabbing of Chloe remind me of my

Grandmother Libby, always elegant, even when tending her flower

beds; auburn locks tucked beneath a wide brimmed straw hat.

 

Looking about, I could make a wish list a mile long. Everything

about this place calls out to the female in me; white marble floors,

colorful glass jars set atop white, French-style cases. The place is

both very modern and chic. Moving from counter to counter, I find

myself lingering over the Coco Mademoiselle. Hints of patchouli

and orange have me walking away wanting.

 

Next I head to Takashimaya for the flower arrangements, tarry

for a while admiring the gardenias and orchids, ponder a pot of

ginger tea and finger sandwiches, then decide I’d rather have real

food and so hail a taxi to Lower East Side.

*****

 

Arriving at Katz’s, I pile my belongings onto the table and slide into

a chair.

 

Katz’s Delicatessen opened in the Lower East Side in 1888.

The aroma, so wonderfully rich, is agonizing. I look about. It seems

nothing has changed since I was here in the early 90s! The establishment

opened over a hundred years ago and became a favorite

neighborhood eatery. They even provide the same military shipping

for our soldiers oversees that became so popular during World War

II with the slogan, “Send a salami to your boy in the Army.”

 

The menu offers too much! New York Egg Cream with chocolate

or vanilla syrup” jumps from the menu. Mixed with milk and a little

seltzer it is listed as Heaven on Earth. Surprisingly, it doesn’t contain

egg. Smiling, I notice it is only offered in Large or X-Large, so dessert

will be first. When it arrives, the waiter pauses to ask, “Well,

what do you think?”

“It is very similar to an old fashioned ice cream soda, but better,”

I tell him, not just being polite.

 

It is impossible to be unhappy while eating anything that holds

even the slightest semblance to ice cream. I remember stopping at

a cafe for a sundae after a day of shopping with my aunt Karen

on my first trip to New York. The waitress had set before us a

monstrous dessert unlike any sundae I had ever seen. Of course,

this was long before there was such a thing as Cold Stone Creamery

or Maggie Moo’s where ice creams and toppings are blended

into strange and wonderful confections. My favorite way to eat

ice cream, however, is the way my Pop-Pop prepared it. He would

pack a tall glass with store bought chocolate ice cream, then fill

it with cold milk and place it in the freezer. He left it there just

long enough for the milk to ice over. The chocolate took on a thick

frosty consistency, icy around the edges. The mix of almost frozen

milk against the icy chocolate was incomparable. I wonder how

many valuable memories I have lost along the way. So many I am sure.

And yet, the memories where food and family are intertwined

are most often remembered.

 

Scanning the menu a second time because I cannot choose, I

notice they offer tongue. I thought only Southerners still ate these

things? Tongue, tripe, knuckles, ears, feet or snout, some things

are meant to be thrown out! That is unless they are cooked down,

rendered unrecognizable, and provide the rich base for black-eyed

peas, pintos, or stew. Liver is a delicious exception.

 

I decide on the corned beef, which the menu states requires a

full month of dry curing. A gentleman seated at a neighboring table

is presented with his Cheese steak just as I’ve placed my order. If

he were still within earshot, I’d recall my waiter, but he is too far

away and caught up in conversation with someone who must be

a local. I sit and sip my dessert. People watching, I try to pick out

other tourists. We are easy to detect. Nearby, a couple argues and

it is apparent by the disdain with which they regard each other that

an agreement may not be reached any time soon.

 

For every problem, is there a solution? I have been told that

there is and I have sat long in debate on why so often it is that

people refuse the answer. Dismissive of the solution, people instead

cling to anger or personal agendas. My friend and I had discussed

it at some length when in closing he tied the answer up neatly,

stating, “For there to be a compromise, something has to be more

important than self. In choosing one thing, you must be willing

to give up the other. Rarely do you get the cake, the platter it sits

upon, the china, the silverware and someone to feed it to you.”

 

Elbow deep in corned beef, I’ve yet to eat so much that I cannot

hear when I notice the already raised voices of the impassioned pair

rise yet higher. The next question comes quiet and fierce, “What do

I have to do for this to be over?” The query matches the scowl on his

face. She says nothing, just stands and walks away. And, I look past

them to the waiter who lingers, as if searching for something to say.

 

What is necessary to gain emotional independence? Can it be

removed like shellac, this film of need -scrapped away, flaked off,

filed down, down to nothingness? In reality when you are guarded

from the pain that can be inflicted by another, there is only so much

happiness you can allow. When you begin to deaden an area of

the heart, can it be contained? Or, once allowed to set in, does the

deadening continue to spread like Gangrene and rot away at what

little good flesh is left? Packing away the remaining majority of my

sandwich, I head back out into the streets, southward again.

 

The streets become more brilliant in color, and heavy with scent.

Teenagers loiter around the storefronts. No one attempts to send

them away. Chinatown! Fish and turtle fresh from the boat line

the walkway and crabs with brilliant unbound blue claws move

about within tattered baskets, hapless, oblivious to their demise.

Rummaging through the piles of trinkets in a souvenir shop, I realize

I am at a loss. Shuffling things, I call the children. Telling them

where I am and describing everything, I ask what they would like,

then purchase a flat screen print fan for Anderson and a variety of

Chinese coins for Isaac.

 

A sign in a restaurant across the street advertises crispy fried soft

shell crabs and steamed mussels. Another lists Dim Sum. I will

have to return! The streets are full of people and full of stuff. I like

this overcrowded, busy feel, with people smiling and chatting in the

warm sun. The place seems so contained; a contradiction I admit,

because you side-step something strewn across every curb.

 

A fantastic shop catches my eye. From floor to ceiling, there are

wares stored in clear plastic containers and bins. The place appears

almost a mix between an herb shop, modern apothecary and a

county farmer’s Co-Op where planters purchase feed and seed.

One could teach science from this shop or Macbeth!

 

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

 

 

Bins are everywhere, filled with waxgourd, cassia bark, abalone,

tiandong, turtle shells, shark fins, dried octopus and sea cucumber,

cordyceps! All these would seem so odd had I not grown up in a

region chock-full of home remedies and medicine based on so much

tradition and mountain folklore. How I remember afternoons spent

foraging for persimmon to rub on skin blistered with poison oak or

ivy, digging up sassafras root to steep for a cleansing tea, rolling slim

rabbit tobacco and clove cigarettes to smoke so that our lungs would

be strong. Queen Anne’s Lace and honey are supposedly wonderful

for ulcers -which it is that truly aids, who knows. For years, we

kept English honey bees not just for the love of that golden sweet

substance but also to ward off regional allergies and treat burns. The

idea is that the honey produced from the same pollen laden plants

will reduce one’s allergic reactions during hay fever season.

 

Many of the plants we used as medicine were toxic in their raw,

natural state. So, as children, we were taught to be wary. Foolish

it is to go foraging and prepare the unfamiliar. I once knew a man

I will not name who kept a jar of Clay County moonshine laced

with wild bilberry that floated around bruised in the bottom. It was

reported to be an ailment for the eyes, but somehow the concoction

seemed to defeat its proposed purpose. And, of course, there

is Southern Elderberry wine made from the plant’s delectable fruit.

Certain species are as noxious as the polk weed we boil off in the

beginning preparation of polk salat. A rule of thumb learned early

in rural life is that if you don’t prepare it yourself, you don’t eat it.

Old Man Waldrop used to pluck the poisonous berries from

the polk stalk and chew them. “To cleanse the blood,” he would

explain. Our mothers said this was foolish. But in this case, we children

were the wiser; we knew that man was so mean the devil didn’t

even want him.

 

Last year, when I began planning this trip, I purchased three

guide books of the city. While mapping out Chinatown, I was

surprised to find that there are almost 300 restaurants within the

neighborhood’s boundaries. Some sounded better than others, and

although I had my list of wants written out well before I left home,

 

I have found that once I get into an area several things tend to

dictate choice. The first two are my mood, and the prolific bragging

of locals. Often as not, however, I choose a place to dine based on

nothing more than the way a place feels.

 

Today, I am looking for an eatery called Sweet-n-Tart Cafe. My

new friend Karen suggested I try the congee, a type of rice porridge.

In the South, there is a particular fondness for a dessert that is

also considered a staple. In our home that staple was rice pudding.

It ranked right up there with the various biscuit topped cobblers:

blackberry, peach or sweet potato. Rice pudding even held its own

at the table when presented along with butter pound cake. All

these family recipes were handed down over the years. Along the

way, others crept in. Some were come across accidently and yet

others long searched for -like the recipe for Lillian Carter’s Peanut

Butter Pound Cake.

 

Rice pudding back home is a buttery, dense pudding loaded with

vanilla, sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. The overall consistency can

be described as velvety. Usually it arrives at the table crusted with

a browned sugar and butter topping. It is wonderful hot from the

oven, at room temperature and even straight from the fridge, ice

cold. Like banana nut bread, rice pudding is a staple breakfast food

as often as it is dessert.

 

During my childhood, rice pudding appeared most often when

times were lean. Those were the days when a summer evening meal

consisted of fresh scrubbed vegetables from the garden and fish

from the trotline. Lean dinners in the winter were often bowls of

pintos and cornbread or skillet fried potatoes with onions. As the

seasons changed, fish gave way to game: fried dove or quail with

gravy, braised rabbit, smoked turkey or venison. All of these could

be taken within a five mile radius of our home. The variety may not

have been great, but there was usually plenty. Biscuits with butter,

cornbread with sorghum, molasses or honey -these were present at

almost every meal. Other times, they were the meal. More staples.

How often I sat at the kitchen table during the late evening with

Grandpa, feasting on only this and black coffee. I wish I could

remember the things we talked about and the stories he told as

clearly as I remember the food. Just as there was always Grace before

dinner in one grandparent’s house, there were always stories in the

other. Rice pudding, however, was common at both dinner tables.

 

Cash Only is posted on the door to the tiny restaurant. As of

yet, this has been the hardest adjustment I’ve had to make in the

city. Thank goodness the guidebooks warn tourist up-front. If not,

it would probably be as close as you could get to having a Southern

woman in true distress. At the counter, I order the Congee with

Hong Dou. “Good for you,” says the man nodding his approval and

making a circular motion with his hand around the stomach.

“Thank you,” I tell him. It is all I know to say.

 

Congee is made by cooking rice with water until it breaks down

into a porridge-like consistency. It is usually flavored one of two

ways: salty and robust with flavorful meat, or glutinous and sweet

with red beans, dates and palm sugar. I am in want of the latter.

 

The congee arrives and the serving is more than I anticipated.

It is a meal and has the wet consistency of porridge rather than

the thickness I associate with rice or bread pudding which, when

scooped, holds together. I have to admit to being somewhat putoff

by the addition of beans. Trying it though, I am pleased and

notice a chewiness that regular rice pudding does not have. It is

warm, sweet and heavy, very much a comfort food. Admittedly, it

is probably healthier than the rice pudding I grew up on because it

is cooked without butter and cream.

*****

 

I hail a taxi, but after several blocks the feeling of being caged con-

sumes me so I ask to be let out. I need to move, to walk. There are

so many people out and about. It is hard to get used to.

 

Rosy peaches the size of my fist catch my eye. Walking through

the open store, I concentrate on breathing in the clean smell of fresh

produce. Although the rich scent of dirt has been washed away,

there lingers another that calms; describable only as the scent ofsummon. There are so many packages! I purchase a box of fortune

cookies, pay and walk back out into the crowds.

 

This visual shopping, or window shopping as Mother calls it, is a

method I use to fill my tank. When I find myself stuck in a funk this

uncomplicated appreciation supplies a quick jump-off, a charge that

sets me back on track. I do not need to own these things to enjoy

them and because there is no predetermined direction or reason,

only leisure, it provides relaxation. The textures and colors I absorb

and inadvertently my needs are filled.

 

The warmth of the sun is veiled again by the gathering of storm

clouds. Collectively they attempt to blanket out the last sunlight

of the day; as if in protest, colors along the street burst against this

ruddy light.

 

Are there fixed stages to this madness we call life, I wonder. At

varying times we are consumed by different needs, different worries

and different desires. Is there a pattern? I believe there is. My life

is not as different, has not been so different, from that of so many

women. Many of us face similar obstacles and we draw strength and

understanding from each other’s experiences. The discoveries that

lie between us, between the layers we create together –this is life!

Yes, I believe there are patterns, just as there are with the weather,

the seasons, the stages of life.

 

But, why is it that I have spent the majority of my mature existence

trying to improve myself, my place in life, only to look back

longingly for the person I used to be?

 

As a child I did not worry about the past or the future. I did not

look so severely upon myself. Nor, did I fret over the actions of others.

Every day was looked forward to.

 

Journal Entry

The trip so far is proving relaxing, but I am far from understanding

what I need or even being sure how I feel. I cannot let go of the

immense disappointment I feel, the anger or even the resentment.

My confidence has been destroyed. Everything had seemed just as

it should.

 

Journaling is supposed to help, but I can feel waves of angst rising

within me, threatening to overpower all rational sense. Emotions –

how quickly they can consume! When happy they elate the soul,

when unpleasant they can drown even the strongest. I must focus

on the positive –I am healthy. My children are healthy and happy.

I have wonderful parents, a brother and sister-in-law and nephews.

The city is exciting and I am here on a trip I’ve always dreamt of. I

have had two good days. I will have another tomorrow. I will be o.k.

This feeling will not last; the bad passes just as quickly as the good.

It only seems to remain longer.

 

Recognizing that I must have something to distract myself until

I am able to sleep, I quietly put away my journal to read, think

on the words of others for a while, then discover my old journal,

unknowingly packed and so I begin to read and reflect on it as well.

Back and forth I move between the novels I love and the journal,

trying to find some understanding without getting too caught up

in the memories. It is impossible to see things clearly when you are

too close. Clarity comes with distance and time.

*Note 57th Street’s Rizzoli Bookstore was demolished; the domed ceilings, woodwork, chandeliers –all of it, gone.

RIZZOLI TO USE

 

 

 

 

 

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMPHIS!

I started daydreaming about Memphis a week before the trip was even a sure thing.

Because I’ve always loved New Orleans, the history of the place, the sound of jazz and smells of rich food wafting into the streets, I thought I might also enjoy Memphis.  Besides, who isn’t a fool for BBQ & Elvis?!

I still haven’t forgiven my mother for not letting me go to an Elvis’ concert with my best friend in 1976.  Yes, I was in the 4th grade, but it was a birthday gift from her mother!  As I researched and planned the Memphis trip, I realized that visiting Graceland was not an option –too structured for a road trip.  Generally, I choose a few things I’m interested in and just go with it, letting the rest of the trip spontaneously unfold.  For some reason, the idea of keeping a ‘schedule’ seems to suck the fun out of things.

However, the route to Memphis, Tennessee took me straight through Tupelo, Mississippi –Elvis’ birthplace.  At the time of Elvis’ birth in 1935, the town was commonly known as “the roughest town in north Mississippi”.  It was a great stop.  In less than twenty minutes I saw the house and rode around the town where Elvis had wandered the streets as a kid.

The two room shotgun house was built by Elvis’ father, uncle and grandfather.

plaqElivis birthplace

 The Presley family car, 1935.

P car in Tupelo MS

It was late evening when I arrived in Memphis and not having any particular destination in mind I just enjoyed walking around downtown.  Beale Street was already blocked off and lit up like a Christmas tree.  Doors to the bars were thrown open wide and sure enough the heavy rhythmic sounds from local Blues bands lingered in the street.

abeal

But, I had other plans and headed into A. Schwab. When I was browsing the net I’d discovered the establishment had recently reintroduced an old-time soda bar. Immediately I’d set my heart on having an egg cream soda.  *An egg cream doesn’t have egg in it at all but rather cream, soda water, chocolate or vanilla flavoring.  As I strolled through the store, I found a couple of really nice hats and a metal paddle-car that would be great fun for the grandbaby. The place retains the charming feel of another time; perhaps it is the smell of old wood.  Abraham Schwab, a Jewish immigrant, opened the store in 1876.  In 1912 he moved it to its current location on 163 Beale Street where it is now the last original business.

True to form, I got carried away in my browsing -there are so many little nooks and crannies just filled with all sorts of things.  I decided to return after dinner, thinking there would still be room for dessert.

aaaaabealesstreetuse

­

Let me take a minute to say that if you have never been to Memphis, you may love Beale Street.  It is bright, loud and covered up with folks out to have a good time.  However, other than a stroll to take it all in, I am not a Beale Street kind of girl.  I am smitten with Main Street though!

 amain at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

aflyingsaucer

While roaming around Main Street I came across the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium at 130 Peabody Place and decided to have a small sample of a few. The perks of walking around downtown Memphis are indeed great!

aflying1

I fell hard for the Murphy’s Irish Stout.  I also had the small sample of the Belhaven Black and a Spatan Lager.  They were good, but Murphy’s was much better~

aaaaa

Beer finished, I headed back to 138 Beale Street & Blues City Cafe for the Gumbo Cheese Fries, a PBR & the tamales with a cup of chili -the bartender presented a plate that was monstrous.

photo (30)

I am now a huge fan of Blues City Cafe!  The atmosphere is great and I honestly think that sitting at the tiny bar to the back made it even better!

achiliThere is a huge plate glass window separating the little bar (so cozy) from the rest of the cafe, so you can see everyone dining with family and still be snug as a bug.  It was a packed house, but the bartender got my appetizer in record time and warned me about ordering more food before I had the fries.

The gumbo is poured across the top before they are topped with shredded cheese….

I can’t even begin to describe how good they are!

 

 

 

 

 Saturday Morning –

photo (32)  city market

Out and about the night before I found City Market Groceries & Deli at 66 Main Street and realized they had a coffee bar.  So that is where I was first thing -real espresso & real cappuccinos!   I grabbed fresh baked sausage and chicken biscuits and sat at the bar that looked out over Main Street to watch the early morning joggers freeze their crazy asses off.  It is truly shocking how many there were… If I lived in Memphis, I’d be here every morning, sipping cappuccino, doing a little writing and counting.

The first stop for the day was probably the thing I was most excited about.  I know how odd it sounds but I always visit a cemetery when I travel to a new city.  The information I found on Elmwood Cemetery had me rushing through breakfast.

aelmwoodgateElmwood Cemetery is open every day of the year 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and is located at 824 S. Dudley Street.  It was literally a hop, skip and a jump from downtown.  I arrived and pulled into the cottage and went in to purchase a driving tour.  I was not expecting a history lesson or for my new friends to pull out the copy of the deed.  Nor did I expect a rub-down from Howard the resident cat.    deed

The cemetery was established in 1852, but many of the tombstones are much older as they were moved from other cemeteries throughout the city.  Elmwood is an example of a garden cemetery, set up in a park-like layout that includes “sweeping vistas, shady knolls, large stands of ancient trees, and magnificent monuments.”  No kidding, it is beautiful.

aagravebest

An hour driving tour is not what you’re really in for, unless you never get out of the car.  I stopped and walked so often and hit replay on the audio because I couldn’t trust that what I had heard was accurate, that it took me almost four hours!   pan elmwood

beautiful elmwood

 

 

 

 

Some of my favorite stories were about a madam who later turned her ‘mansion’ of pleasure into a hospital during the yellow fever epidemic; a lesbian tryst that ended with a slit throat- poor Alice; the tale about moved Union coffins, chalked-in names and unexpected rain.  And, of course, Shelby Foote’s burial site. Every Southerner knows Shelby Foote –our Civil War historian.  He is buried next to Nathan Bedford Forrest’s family plot. The general and his wife are no longer buried at Elmwood. (…and suddenly I knew that my next novel would be set in Memphis & got the briefest glimpse of my protagonist!)

shhh elmaagravegreat

More than 75,000 people are buried in Elmwood. When the site lists “soldiers of the American Revolution through Vietnam, mayors, governors, senators, madams, blues singers, suffragists, martyrs, Union generals, Confederate generals, civil rights leaders, holy men and women, outlaws and millionaires” it means it!  There are over 1,000 Confederate soldiers and veterans buried in the Confederate Soldier’s Rest.

 

 

 

*****

LUNCH ran late…but there were several places I wanted to try!  Lucky for me THRILLIST ran their first issue on Memphis several days before I left.

aaainsidebar    pim cheese fries

I headed to The Second Line in Midtown for some “simple, authentic New Orleans fare”. I had roast beef po’boy on my mind -but I just couldn’t have one if it wasn’t at MOTHER’S in NO.  So… I decided on an order of the andouille, crawfish & pimento cheese fries. (And if I’ve neglected to mention it before, a take-home box is always presented with the meal. I have this thing about sampling and then taking much of it to go.) Besides, another place was calling my name – loudly!

 

***

Although I had not admitted it yet, my heart was set on eating at Hog & Hominy in East Memphis.

hog & hominy

 

I’d heard about the wood-fired Red Eye Pizza – with pork belly, celery leaves, fried egg and fontina.

 

 

 

The Red Eye PizzaJ. Cole with Southern Living Magazine ranked them  #4 in “The South’s Best New Restaurants” in 2013 with food created by chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman. (They won the 2013 Food & Wine Best New Chefs award.) The two are known for combining their  “Italian Roots with Southern cooking” and have just launched a new cookbook.

 collardsI agreed to their small samples of beer while I waited on the Red Eye, trying the Wise Kung Fu Draft, Mama’s LIttle Yellow Pill & Wise Tiny Bomb Draft.  The pizza ended up being one of the best I’ve ever had!! That’s saying a lot considering I grew up in Gadsden, Alabama feasting on Mater’s pizza.  The charred crust added to the smokiness of the pork and it was surprising how much flavor the celery leaves added. pb pie

My waitress made sure to tell me the recipe for the peanut butter pie was in the cookbook!  The bottom layer was like cheese cake.  It and a slight saltiness of the crust cut the sweet of the peanut butter; a layer of fresh sliced bananas separated the two.  It was ice cold & divine!

 Rather than venture out again later that evening, I opted to stay in and watch old WWII movies.  Sunday morning I awakened to a downpour, reevaluated & adjusted my plans and headed back to Bama.  A box of French pastries from la baguette on 3083 Poplar Ave & a couple of lottery tickets eased my angst at having missed the Peabody Ducks and breakfast at the Arcade Restaurant, Memphis’ oldest cafe.

So, another trip to Memphis will be necessary!   I intend to see the Peabody ducks parade through their grand hotel and there are several more places I want to eat.  Let’s not forget I didn’t get my egg cream soda!   And upon awakening, I’ve decided that Memphis is the perfect location for the novel I will begin working on…

…the reasons for another visit just keep adding up.

A moment of weakness

 

 

aaaticket

 

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU