Sunday, February 28, 2010

Busy day. Breakfast at Guadalupe cafe, amazing service, everyone irrepressibly cheerful all the time (how lucky are the children of these women?) great huevos, scrambled with chile, veg, and shredded tortillas. Homefries that needed nada, not even salt. On to the Palace of the Governators and the native american jewelry artisans outside. They lay their wares on cloths on the ground and you are hard pressed to pass any one of them by, so stunning is their work and so reasonable the prices for the time it takes to make these little works of art. We talk with them, they invite us to try on. We debate and buy something lovely from Eddy for a certain young jazzman back east.

The new museum at the Palace of the Governators is impressive. History of the area intriguing and honest. Nice quote on the wall from Agnes Morley Cleaveland (the contributions of women in the formation and history of the state are well represented here, maybe one reason this state is a little hipper than most), from her book No Place for a Lady (must read), publ. 1841: "A six-shooter makes men and women equal." Carlotta would agree, or as she put it, "If more women knew how to use a shotgun, more men would be better behaved." We saw a thin, delicate arrowhead about 7000 yrs old here at the 7000 foot high museum and lots of other cool stuff besides.

The beautiful San Miguel Church, where T helps an older man manage his new digital camera. Oldest one in the states.( pics above.) T took a moment to sit in the old confessional and forgive the entire planet its sins. So, start over now, shall we, and let the women run things this time, okay?

It's the local working people that are cool, that give the place its soul, while the multi-propertied class is well represented and definitely announces its presence with authority. There is serious moola wandering the streets, flashy too, witness the shiny high priced cars, folks de-ressed to the nines, I mean seriously turned out, ladies, and several pairs of most awesome boots on the feet of the well-heeled -- (wincing at the pun, sorry). I must admit to some shameful covetous moments there as the boots i bought in Paris, Italian though they may be, look really boring and staid by comparison. I have seen the most beautifully dressed people here I've seen anywhere in the states, including NYC. Plennya dough here, folks. We mooned over gorgeous thousand dollar blouses. Ridiculous, but I'm telling you they were true works of art in mud silk by an amazing Chinese designer name of Sophia Hong.

We hiked (poor T in her clogs) all the way up Canyon Rd in search of a tea house. Not worth the effort, I must say. But the patisserie in La Fonda was pretty cool, and voila! there I was in another french conversation with the proprietress. Two in one day? Charmante!

We picked up dinner at Whole Paycheck. too pooped to eat out. Whole paycheck is where you also encounter the non-working locals, the boulevardiers, and I'm here to tell you they have a whole different vibe than the locals who work for a living. It's the same trustafarian, entitled vibe that's everywhere the enclaves of the privileged exist. We don't like it. Give us da funk. The soul, the cool cooks at the Volvo dealership. The amazingly efficient waitresses and waiters in this town. Their souls are full of joy. They get the place. Probably cause it is their place. Everyone else just visiting, they are. The faces on customers in Whole Paychecks everywhere tend to the grim, or smug, except the checkout gals and shelf stockers who must be cheerful for a living. And I've no doubt there's some lesson there. I would think Santa Fe might need the occasional "smug alert" like that South Park show as well.

A little aside here. I am recalling that on the long drive over here from Santa Rosa Saturday, there were moments as the car climbed from less than 2000 ft to nearly 7000 that, as we crossed an endless high plain, I got the distinct feeling that just over the next horizon we would actually fall off the edge of the earth. ( A little empathy with the pre-Columbus crowd here.) It was very disorienting and a bit scary. (As I get older my sense of vertigo gets more insistent. Odd that.) Now New Mexico, and the southwest in general, will have its way with you. It certainly has in the past. It's what has always attracted me about the place. As one man said, it takes no prisoners. So if you have 'issues' of one kind or another trailing after you on your journey, expect to have them exposed at some point, and entirely without your permission. Last night was my moment. The full import of what I've done, the changes I've made and the 'security' I've given up hit me full force. Like T said, (and was there ever a better daughter a woman could have?) there is so much space here, you kind of intuitively feel, Yes, I can let it all go now without taking up too much space! And what do you hear in return? You hear this..

Yes, dear daughter, let it out. Cry til your eyes hurt. Then take a deep breath and realize that you haven't lost anything, you have only let your line out a little longer. Extended your faith in the universe. You've learned that fear is the mind killer. So relax. Everything is as you wanted it at this particular moment in time. All is well. Practice non-judgment, of yourself as well as others. Live in the dozens of smiles you are receiving. Breathe. Then breathe again.

So Monday we do a little giving to the spirit, ours. It's a few hours at Ten Thousand Waves nearby for "the treatment", instead of Ojo Caliente. It's closer and Japanese. A reward for our bravery. Silly? Maybe, but what do you know anyway? Hot, cold baths, massage, salt scrub. I am ready for some TLC. Then maybe the Georgia O'Keefe museum and a little something for Ms. A de la F? Nice to stay in one place for a couple days.

I be willin... to be chillin....

cozy and warm at the pueblo bonito. we luuuv kiva fireplaces and snappy pine fires!

Our Guide, he is.... Lead us, he will...

The road to Santa Fe, and I mean that figuratively as well as literally, was paved with spectacular mountains and high plains and wonderful people. We had the best (commercial) food since Philly at, you will not believe this, the Volvo dealership's upstairs cafe, Corley's, on the north side of Albuquerque. So! All you Volvo dealers out there! Here's what I got for less than 60 bucks, on a Saturday, on two hours notice: Oil change, car washed thoroughly, tires rotated, complete overall check of car, including computer readout, all the usual fluid topoffs, and extensive travel info from Chris in service. Big shoutout to Tony and Levi, the two black clad chefs who run the Volvo dealership cafe (??!!) and also have a restaurant in Abq called Quinn's Bistro. T had a to-die- for quesadilla and i had yummy green chile stew. I'd been tryin to find a decent bowl of soup for two weeks. Happy happy joy joy.

We are headed to the Grand Canyon in a coupla days as sun promises to shine by then. Here in Santa Fe, which may be the hippest place in the US, I know, I know, but you can't deny the blissful artistry that just rages everywhere here, and in a most amiable way. People here, as I told T, seem simply happy to be alive. T cannot believe how friendly and open folks are. Strellsa, our native born guide here at the Pueblo Bonito Inn, is a riveting storyteller, cluing us in on all the best places to eat, see, visit. The Inn is 130 years old, adobe and tile everywhere, kiva fireplace in our room too cozy for words; a welcome respite at the end of a long, exhausting drive. The Blue Corn Brewery is a gem of a place, with the best Margarita I've ever had (the secret I think: Grand Marnier instead of the usual Triple SEc) and a roasted corn and chipotle soup that was a meal in itself. A later salad and dessert at the Pink Adobe (?) was pricey but ok, but the folks that work there are terrific and very helpful. Nice conversations with Ladonna about life possibilities and a very friendly young couple from Gloucester, MA as well. The bar there, the Dragon or something, is, so I"m told, legendary. For what I ahve no idea. Later for that.

Today what would pass for a spring snow shower in Maine welcomed us at breakfast. Just a nice gentle flakiness, the kind that lands on your eyelashes and makes you feel like a newborn a little. We are very content here. Have decided to stay for another couple days just to feel a little settled and wait for the cloudy, snowiness to pass before moving on. We have already made friends in NM and T is thinking about moving here. Can't say as I blame her. Such a welcoming sense of place (and to my mind that goes for the entire state) is rare in the US these days, what with everyone so depressed. I have felt the same friendly openness in Europe as well. In fact, I would say that (not having been to New Orleans) Santa Fe is the most Euro feeling place I've been in the US. DC used to feel that way to me, what with the L'Enfant design, classical architecture, but it's hard to be there and not want to storm the barricades nowadays. Speaking of euro, I had breakfast this morning at the Inn with a lovely woman name of Nadia from Switzerland who was passing through on her way to Phoenix, then flying home. It was a real treat to have a french speaking breakfast for an hour, talking about teaching, Rome, Italy, coastal France, food! She was a soul sister for sure. Been awhile as I miss watching my TV5monde in Maine, which was about all that made me feel connected to the human race for the last couple years, but it's like ridin a bike, comes back fast once you get your throat going right.

Out to explore the town on foot today. The Inn is only gentle blocks from everything, so we walk, we eat, we marvel at the amazing artistry everywhere. Of course you just want to buy everything, but don't. Watercolors to die for, beautiful, outgoing people, warmth amidst the cold. Just can't rave enough.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

We left just luvin Texas, and Texans. So nice to be called "you ladies" rather than "you guys" (everyone knows how much i despise that lazy moniker) and you just never tire of hearing that friendly "howdy" everywhere you go. I highly recommend the ride on route 287 from Wichita Falls to Amarillo over traveling the interstate. Yesterday we went from 1400 ft above sea level to over 4400 feet and you end up with a sense of vast space that is easy on the mind.

I have to say though, if you wanna see what's really happened to America, drive through the small towns along these biways all over the country and you'll see where we are really at. Americans let their downtowns die for the sake of convenience, or just to save a few bucks at Walmart where they end up buying crap they wouldn't have bought shopping more purposefully downtown back in the day. Yeah, I know some of this is boom and bust local economies, but it didn't have to happen. Despair led to lazy thinking, and now it's all Dollar stores (yes, we'll suck you dry too a dollar at a time) and fast food joints. It is unbearable to see these crumbling remains of what were once really inviting places in small towns across the map. There are almost no real food places anymore, it's all chains now, or meat, meat, meat. Now I like some good beef now and again, but this is supposed to be the land of choices! Drive on out here and see if you don't find that's a lie for most people. If you have money and live in one of those elite enclaves where companies like Whole Foods tend to bind themselves to the earth, well, you're all set. But most folks choices, at least as far as I can see, and I can see pretty far lately, are limited to Walmart supercenters and fast food. It is sad beyond belief, and we did it to ourselves. These fine small towns lay there with their cunning buildings 80 percent empty and rotting, like some poor neglected relative, some teenage crush that didn't measure up. It actually pains me physically when I drive through them because no one that's left in those towns seems to care enough to change things.

Headline: A massive earthquake strikes Chile that is felt from Japan to Argentina? Tsunamis all along west coast of hemisphere expected today? The crazy cold/hot weather swings in the southern US, snow in all the traditional winter warm spots? It's been warmer in Maine than in Texas lately. What's going on? Weather extremes the likes of which I've never seen in my lifetime anyway. Weird. Maybe it's just that we have the 24/7 news folks tryin to make a buck by keeping us in a constant state of alarm so we'll tune in all day, but I sometimes imagine that all the oil and water and minerals we suck voraciously out of the earth with our massive, efficient machines leave these huge, dry crevasses beneath the surface that end up irritating each other or caving in. What the earth needs is a good lube job, or inhabitants that pay attention to her needs as well as their own...

So, a little hotel commentary here: I have not, so far, been very impressed with the Hampton Inn experience. The hotels, even new ones, are cheesily built: light filtering from the hall through the door, loud air conditioners/heating, highway sounds at night when you asked for a quiet room away from that noise, and at 5 this morning, the screaming baby across the hall whose parents are, apparently, deaf. You expect more from the Hilton people, but I guess Paris has other things to think about than my comfort these days. I can't imagine what life is like for folks who stay in these places pretty much for a living. Sure made me lonesome for the Lonesome Dove Inn and its comforting amenities.

Haven't heard back from south of the border yet, so I guess we'll carry on from here in Santa Rosa, NM. If I have to eat anymore crappy road food I will surely die, so maybe a quick trip to Albuquerque's Whole Foods and Trader Joe's to fill the cooler might be good. Live on fruit and nuts and yogurt awhile. Or maybe we'll just head up to Ojo and float in the water for a bit.

At least it's warming up. And I know that the Rockies are just west of here, my beloved Rockies. Can't wait. T is gonna blow her mind.

Friday, February 26, 2010

because space is the place...
(don't forget you can click on pics to enlarge them... xoxo)

Trying to get my brain around the sense of paralysis I detect across the nation so far: you see the signs of decay and despairing disrepair everywhere, hear it in the bitter tone of voice on the radio and in roadside eateries, the listlessness and fatigue in the faces of older people in Cracker Barrels. You see it in the sheer size of rotund americans, killing themselves with bad food, a slow suicide of sorts. You can't call it anything else really as the information is clearly out there, how to be healthier. So the paralysis, mental and physical, is willful, voluntary, and heartbreaking.

The smug, cutting voices on talk radio, like the lash of a whip, as they diss the president (and you do sense they wouldn't be so bold in their disrespect if he were white) and insist that government is the problem... still offering up that as the answer... counting on the fact we've forgotten that we are the government ("by the people, of the people?) or are supposed to be, and that if the government isn't performing to our liking that it's our fault for not paying closer attention for the last 30 years. The talk radio people are confident their audience isn't awake and informed enough to connect the dots, to blame themselves for voting for these millionaire clowns, especially those on the right, although blame for ineffectuality certainly lies on both sides of the isle.

The radio mendacitors know their listeners are tired, scraping by (thanks to Reaganomics, RHINOplasty in Congress -few real Republicans left - and ridiculous, costly war mongering and profiteering by the few) and use people's faith in a reward in the afterlife to manipulate them. It is unforgiveable. I actually heard one talk show host claim "the American people don't want" the president's proposals (single payer or a public option) for health care reform (yet Obama was clear that was his first priority if elected -- and they elected him!).

So this is just a baldface, shameful lie. According to every poll taken (and it does depend on how you ask the question) nearly 3/4 of the country thinks a single payer, government sponsored system like the VA or quasi-single payer like Medicare would be the best, most cost effective thing for all of us. So if you listen to that lie on the radio in rural ARkansas, trusting that a person who had a radio show, loves his momma, and goes to church wouldn't lie over our airwaves, and what are you to think? That you are not mainstream if you aren't against your own president; you aren't a real american, part of the majority! This is the opposite of what constituted a real american during the Bush years, isn't it? Then we were told to believe anything he told us or we were unpatriotic. And here's the thing: a well informed person doesn't need anyone else to tell him or her what constitutes patriotic behavior.

I didn't vote for this president (I have voted for the same guy for the last several elections to no avail, but he was the only one I felt consistently told me the truth), but I wouldn't dream of disrespecting him. I might make fun of him, and I think political satire is essential in a democracy, but I wouldn't diss a man or woman who held that office in earnest, because then you are dissing the office, and then you are in dangerous, in this case racist, territory. Obama should probably get some award for patience. It is a virtue after all.

The long and short of it is: I just despise a lie. It's the one thing that will infuriate me beyond reason. Like Carlotta sez: "If you have to lie to make your point, your point ain't worth takin."

Ok, i'll get down off my soap box now and get back to the business of breakfast here at Mary's Lonesome Dove Inn. Oh, Larry, we do love you so, we girls. One thing, your last couple books did seem inordinately preoccupied with one particular activity, as were the Loop Groupers. Now I'm as lusty as anybody, but what's with that? A rage against the dying of the light? Trying to shake things up with the readers? Put them off? Turn them on? Is that really what's on your mind, or is it just your take on what's on America's mind when they should be paying more attention to what's goin on in DC?

Just wonderin....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Greetings from the book capital of Texas, Archer City. Tonight we're at the Lonesome Dove Inn hosted by Mary Webb, who is a wonderful woman, and who was kind enough make me a real cup of tea in a porcelain cup today, milk and sugar and a real teaspoon. It was divine. Then a real bath, the first in weeks, in the longest tub I've ever seen. Not much of a shower fan myself.

Texas is GINORMOUS, the horizon just seems to pull the eye as far as it can stretch. T was pretty blown away I think by so much sky and space. Black cattle dot the land as we watched the weather move in to the west, managing to avoid predicted snow in Oklahoma City of all places. I guess Dallas has seen an inordinate amount of snow this year and everyone sits scratchin their head wondering why as they move on to tinker with or de -ice the next oil well.

Walmart owns the west and it's sad. Today we looked up which corporations are the biggest employers in the US and, yep, you guessed it: Walmart's at the top(with nearly 2 million employees, and second, McDos. This will come as no surprise to folks traveling interstate 40 and its biways. T and I decided today that Arkansas and Tennessee accents are all fake. They just don't sound right like real southern accents do, you know,

the ones EASt of the Mississippi (not including TN) and west of, well, Arkansas. Listening to the local talk radio guys today, and don't think that wasn't a penance, there's just somethin real Saturday Night Live about them, you know? You really do expect the talker to just suddenly slip into normal speech as though they were from, oh, Connecticutt or somewhere.

There's an edgy and deliberate defiance in the Ozark-into- west TN twang that is a little nasty, not gentle like other southern accents. (Even my Nanny and her sharp tongue sounded sweet with her Mississippi drawl.) Although I do have to commend the cheerfulness of the housekeepers at our hotel in Clarksville, AR this morning (the new Holiday Inn Express). You have never seen a more cheerful bunch of ladies, inquiring eagerly after our well being, wishing us luck on our travels, as we were leaving and they went about pushing their carts of linens and hotel type toiletry supplies to replenish the rooms and tidy them up for the next people. Seriously cheerful, and earnest, it must be said. We loved them. The women west of the Mississippi smile with the top half of their face, especially with their eyes, and so squint mightily when they do it. Eye cream companies could thrive here.

Oh, we want to mention to the Dunkin Donut people (America runs on Dunkin? I think not!) we haven't seen a single one of their places since Atlanta. Helllllooooh! Coffee please! We don't do McD's if we can help it. Where are the corporations when you need them?

Anyway, Texans talk more like I'm used to with my relatives and all. It's like, when Al Gore talks, he only has an accent when he's down here, not in DC unless he's talkin to an audience that is longing for that accent somehow. Arkansans say "home loan" like it was spelled "hayome lawn". It's just wrong.

This is the home of Larry's Booked Up, a bookstore of nearly 40o,ooo beautiful books. You would need days, maybe weeks, to even begin to appreciate the lovely books in this collection. As I walked the isles and leafed through some gems I felt like weeping, don't know why. Mary has custody of Larry's Oscar for Brokeback Mountain on her mantle downstairs. It weighs a ton. And his Golden Globe Award too. He must like her a lot. He stays here sometimes and T and I thrilled to be in his room for a minute and soak in the vibes. Above is a picture of me holding Larry McMurtry's oscar and pretending it's mine for the screenplay to the book I haven't even managed to publish yet. I call that picture Wishful Thinking in my i Photo file. I felt blessed anyway...

More later on today's travels and thoughts. Thanks to Will in Chat for keeping tabs on us. Such a gentleman. We may head south of the border soon.... just not sure, cause we're flexible. Right, Lex? Tans and I really really LUV Texas!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


ok so pictures have finally been added to almost all the posts. enjoy!
"It's called The American Dream cause you have to be asleep to believe it." George Carlin


Sloggin our way through ARkansas. So cold in Tennessee along with snowflakes, so, knowing those No-Snow drivers there we thought it best to take off for points west until things warm up in the hills. Besides, we were pooped from two days spent digging through the archives at the wunderbar Gordon Browning Genealogical Museum in Mckenzie (while staying at the luxe Hampton Inn Paris (Tennessee, that is). And yes there is a 65 foot model of the Eiffel Tower right there in the town park where we stopped to take a quick photo. Wave at the camera, T!

The GB museum is so much fun. Jere Cox is a running fountain of information about early settlers and the movements of folks west after the REvolutionary War. The Cumberland Trail, the southern trail through south carolina, the flow down the Natchez Trace, which I think my people took into Yalobusha county. He's a total blast to listen to, knows everything about everything from back then, and then some. We are very fond of him and plan to go back and fill in some blanks there after a trip south to warm weather, a little r and r at Ojo, maybe a trip to Mehico to visit a pal. That last part, a maybe. Genealogical work can fry your brain.

If you do find yourself in Paris, TN be sure and stop in on the sweet town square at Jack's Java and flowers ont he corner and say hey to Ronnie Robbins who is just one helluva nice guy and bought us the only good cup of real coffee (he has the only espresso machine for 50 miles or more), lattes no less. REally nice fella. The local teenage 'characters' hang out in his place, the ones with pierced ears and stuff.

Not much else happening there. Not bad food at the Fresh Market on Rt 79 for suppa. But man, America really is one depressing place, just the sameness, sameness, asphalt paved walmarts, lowe's, and dollar stores galore. Just no creativity anywhere. The monotony of corporate life choices. Driving across Arkansas today was a struggle, so very been there done that at my age. But T seems to enjoy the driving, driving flat expanses. We head into Oklahoma tomorrow, then the TX panhandle and on to New Mexico, where I really want to be.

Tired tonight. Keith Olberman is going on about his dad's illness and health insurance. People here and there try to drag you into political conversations with snide comments, but I don't go there cause I feel sad for how gullible people are. The number of churches and porn superstores is a little alarming, continues to be anyway. It'll let up in NM some. I'm lookin foward to that.And the to hot springs... ahhh......

TYhe GB museum in Mckenzie has two ginormous Nazi flags taken off the headquarters in Berlin at the end of WW2 and, get this, Mr. Browning also brought back a cigar he snatched off Hermann Goering's desk. That freaked us out... I love the GB museum and the dedicated folks who sit there every day filling in the blanks of the past for people like me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Should mention that we did notice on the drive across the state of Tennessee today that there were billboards in pretty much equal numbers of both religious messages and ads for adult superstores. Again .. you gotta smile, cause it's the american dichotomy, isn't it? Ever since Plymouth, or was it Salem?

Who knew Chattanooga was the hippest, slap-a-smile-on-your-face city south of DC? It's very walkable, manageable, youthful, green, hilly so you can see everything all the time. The Aquarium is said to be fab, the pedestrian bridge over the Tennessee River? Don't look down, if heights aren't your thang. Lots of Civil War history everywhere, it's alive here. The Hunter Art museum is a worthy and rather amazing collection by inspiring other -than- the-usual artists, hanging over the awesome Tennessee River as it winds its way north, south and every which way. It's a beautiful, important river. I'm blown away.

The Arts Bluff District of Chattanooga is charming. We had coffee and pastry at Rembrandt's and don't think it wasn't pure pleasure to sit outside in the afternoon sun sippin real good coffee and eating a very acceptable chocolate eclair, followed by a meringue, knowing the week before I'd been shoveling snow! There was a gorgeous B and B nearby. And North Chat is just as cool, just over the bridge, where W and Linds and darling Chad live. W was the perfect host, squiring us all over town, knowledgeable and fun. The chattanooga choo choo area is way funky, and I highly recommend the Terminal Bar for an impressive brew collection and to die for bison burgers, veggie burgers and plenty of other goodies. The city is flatiron building central, one after another. And hey, whatever you do, start your day at Aretha's in North Chat with an Eight Ball, a pint of creamy draft Guinness with a shot of espresso in it. Now THAT is the way to start your Sunday. Then order off the southern menu, the usual biscuit combos, but buttermilk pancakes 3/4 of an inch thick (this from the thin pancake freak, k? so you know it's good), real applewood bacon perfectly cooked, eggs, yaddayadda. REally the most fun place i've been in in a long while. Phunky, seriously phunky. Must mention the mexican place where we had dinner first night. Taco Mamacita? (Again, North Chat) Yeah, just a fabulous caldo de something (soup) and the freshest guac i've ever ordered anywhere. And of course (eat your heart out) sweet tea sweet tea everywhere.

We never made it to Lookout Mt. Next time. Big woof to Chad the friendliest, most -well-behaved- on- a- walk dog ON EARTH -- I mean he just breezed by those barking monsters and crazy squirrels -- and to W for showing us such a fab time. Missed you Linds!! xoxoxo

Needless to say, I luuuuuuved Chattanooga. I could live here. There's a very cool old bar that was a popular joint on the old chitlin circuit back in the day just waiting for someone to fill it with customers and music once more.....

I am eating like a horse and loving it. Today I had fried catfish for lunch with fried apples, yesterday, fried sweet potato. Like Aunt D said, if the South can fry something they will. And fudge, maple walnut. Lots of mexican... heaven. So give me credit: at least I haven't bought any peanut brittle ... yet. And that's only because I'm scared of what it will do to my old teeth.

I'd say the car is running well, but that's like saying "Aren't the kids being good" -- not a good idea. Ever. Those huge Tennessee hills west of Chat today took their toll. Up onto the Cumberland Plateau, we are in high country now folks. Sealevel is a thing of the past. Farms for miles and rolling miles. Back where my ancestors were the first settlers of this territory, Carroll County, Tennessee. We are here to solve a mystery, arriving with an hour to spare before the genealogical museum closed for the day because of the time change, we gained an hour! Then Jere was so so kind to keep the place open an extra 45 minutes and such a great help. More on that tomorrow. Cause tonight..

I am writing to you from a hotel in PARIS.

No lie...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hey-dee ho, boys and girls! We’ve been out of easy wiFi range for a couple days. Now headed north on 75 from Atlanta after a wonderful visit with Aunt D, the Blount cousins, spouses, second cousins, and yes, third cousins. As Tansey said, “Mom, everyone here my age already has four kids!” And those kids are gorgeous. Aunt D looked exactly the same as the last time I saw her over 20 years ago. Beautiful and kind, warm and loving, and skin any woman over 30 would envy. Plus, she sent us to her hairdresser for haircuts, and here’s a tale whose irony is too much to believe:

T1 and I have searched Maine in vain for a decent haircutter. Money spent galore, haircuts that sent us into hiding for months, just one disaster after another. And who do you think Aunt D’s haircutter was? An amazing, talented woman from, of all places, Belfast, Maine, minutes from where we’re from! She gave both me and T1 great cuts at a very reasonable price, all the while all of us enjoying the unbelievable irony that she was the ONE hairdresser it would seem that we hadn’t tried in Maine. I’m still not over that one.

Cousin L, who organized a wonderful spread last night for us all, everyone brought something, has become the most amazing artist, painter. Looking at her paintings, which gave me chills, I asked her what medium she used. And she answered in a low tone, “Oh, oil of course”, nodding her head as if to say there simply was no other medium worth her time. I loved that. The sign of a serious artist, but that’s just me being old fashioned. The visit with all of them and with Aunt D warmed my heart. Going over old family photos from way way back, stories with D, and laughter and gorgeous babies all round with the cousins. I loved it and T1 did too.

Ok, Georgia tips: first of all, Georgia drivers get our vote as Most Polite so far on this trip. Rush hour (7 pm) Atlanta was a breeze. None of that ruthless cut you off at the knees, advantage seeking driving you see in New Jersey or Boston. Everyone here driving in full faith that they will get where they’re going in good time, few folks changing lanes to gain advantage, and not a holdup anywhere, smooth despite zillions of cars, more than I’ve ever seen on a ten lane highway anywhere.

Second tip: boiled peanuts are not all they are cracked up to be. But I have this peach cider I’m looking forward to, and some peach preserves for breakfast tomorrow, and of course, corn chow, like they only make down here.

We are just now at the foot of the Appalachians, the Tennessee hills. Tomorrow in Chattanooga we aim to climb Lookout Mountain with Will. Both me and T1 could use some exercise after all this driving and sitting and visiting.

Shoutout to Fritzy, Aunt D’s dauchshund, who let us take him walking and was a perfect host, and who, whenever he spoke his mind, sounded like someone moving furniture across a wood floor! We adored his sweetness and enthusiasm.

Thanks again to Aunt D. We love you and can’t thank you enough for all your patience and time spent going through old family info to set us on the road to genealogical enlightenment this week as we head toward western Tennessee and, hopefully, some answers to the missing link ggggg-grandfather.

Here’s a bit of family lore I picked up from Aunt D: according to her there’s an old photo somewhere in her things of I.T. and Wm. Faulkner playing in a band together when they were at Ol’ Miss. You just gotta love that!

It’s only been 12 days on the road and feels like we’ve been traveling forever. And I love it. Every now and then I do the dishes somewhere just to plug in to domesticity. We miss T2 and D and hope she’s enjoying her new throne.

Life is good.

Evening: Who knew Chattanooga is the coolest town ever? I could live here in a heartbeat. Artsy and airy and greened and the fab Tennessee River, more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vanity plates in South Carolina: "In God We Trust", seriously... like money.

Wow, what a gorgeous town Charleston is. Did I neglect to mention that the last time I was here was 30 years ago with the late, great Pee, number one soeur? And that I was preggers with T1 at the time? So that much nicer to be tooling around rubbernecking at the amazingly fabulous frenchified architecture here with T2 and T1. Me driving, gawking, holding up traffic, don't care. You could live here and be happy just by virtue of the amount of blue crab available on a regular basis and the charm of nearly every building within sight. Porticos that looking like something on a roman palace, pediments and filigree iron gates climbing with tiny vines and camelias in bloom. Like Brittany this time of year. T2 was blown away and we all three stopped at every house with a for sale sign and just imagined it for awhile, dreaming ourselves right into that space. Courtyards so cunning you just have to look in, stay studying the gardens, transfixed. Such easy grace and elegance, with a goodly dose of funk and humid leisure easily imagined along the sleeping porches facing the sea. I do love this town. Softshell crab for lunch and sweet tea, endless sweet tea. A lavender scarf for T2 at the old slave market. I swore I saw my old english teacher pal Don Evans, cute as ever and not a day older, sitting in the market. Dementia may not be so bad when it brings you back to those you loved long ago.

D bought a collar shirt at T1's coaxing; look out, ladies. He looks sharp! A shame not to have more time here, but we'll come back on the return leg, I hope. Tomorrow on to Atlanta and Auntie D's, who I haven't seen in years and do adore. T1 has never met her and I know that will be a treat for her. T1 is the lovingest niece you can imagine with T2, by the way. Tender and sweet they are with each other. Does my heart good. We are all softened in T2's presence, made more loving, funny, and generally at peace with life. Bless that girl. All we do is laugh I swear. I'll miss her. Not right to be so far from someone you love this much.

Above is the swamped entrance to a plantation we attempted to visit. The road in was creepy and muddy and very Stephen King, winding bumpily through the gnarly trees draped with spanish moss. NO ONE around. And we finally get to the parking area and the sign on the little bridge to the mansion is floating in the swamp. Maybe next time...

This is the ultimate planned community environment here. Everything is brick, with breaks of woodframe porches or columned facades. I must admit it's less offensive than, say, Jersey development, what with the palmettos and other unidentifiable groovy flora. And I have looked everywhere for more info on the pine forests and wild holly and stuff and no one seems to actually KNOW anything about what grows here in the Low Country. You get used to the land really fast; it's lush and easy, flat, dense with foliage.

Yesterday was mall day. My first (and I hope to say last) experience at a Lazy Boy megastore. We got T2 a new lifter recliner. She prettymuch lives in the one Brother got her years ago and it's had it. This new thang is plush and motorized and really well made. I'm just sorry she has to have it at all, but the folks at the store couldn't have been nicer and they'll deliver it Thursday and T2 is really really happy about it. We took her shopping , settling in at the Bed, Bath and Beyond for an urgent heart to heart about all that's goin on for her just now. I'm sure passersby didn't give us a thought, as we occupied the space around the lawn furniture at the store and held hands, an island of sincerity and love amidst the bargain mugs and chairs, and talked for a good ten minutes before moving on to the task of shopping for 'domestic items' she needed. She's fun to buy for and I recall fondly how Mom would do the same for me when I was short of cash. She will always carry on....

OK. This is where I get to complaayne about what passes for a good meal. Last night we wanted to take numbet 2 son D out for suppa as he works all day making nice deli food for others. As Jacob's Inn at I'on wasn't open, and Coco's cafe appears to have relocated to Georgia, we ended up at Langdon's hoping for a good meal. Landgon's is the kind of pretentious restaurant that makes me, as a professional cook, so mad I could spit. Where some horse's ass gets off charging 29 bucks for two lamb chops with mashed potatoes and 5 teenie asparagus (yes, i know the teenie ones are better, but they don't COST more than bigger ones, so...??) that had no particular merit in the flavor dept. is a perfect example of the kind of arrogance Americans are world famous for. D had a seafood concoction over grits, two shrimp, two raw scallops (that these pretentious fools think everyone wants raw seafood is laughable) and a forgettable creamy mess holding it all together that was equally overpriced. This "chef" is one of those guys who looks in the mirror and always likes what he sees. Once I saw the unimaginative menu, gluggy stuff -sigh- with the usual self important overdescription, and OH did I mention the miniature raw oysters? 6 for 12 bucks. They were so diminuitive they needed finger encouragement to provide the WEIGHT required to slide them off the shell into your mouth! I suggested the waiter tell the "chef" about our mouthwatering, not to mention satisfying, Pemaquid oysters from Maine. Now THAT's an oyster! Here we are in South Carolina, reputed to have good oysters, and this fool had ordered his from New Brunswick, or so the waiter informed us, I presume he meant Canada. People just get dumber and dumber.

I just can't bring myself to order yet another plate o' slop that's overpriced, but I did catch that the fish of the day, which the chef seems to think cannot stand alone, is fresh North CArolina flounder. NOW you have my attention. Unfortunately the chef feels compelled to layer it with crap and crab and sauce and whatever else he can pile on there, when my mouth is watering for a nice, simple flounder a la meuniere. I wonder if the guy knows what that is, obviously if he doesn't he's a fraud. So I order that, and ask for a bit of grits and collards on the side, as they seem to be handy already on the menu. What arrives is a piece of nicely sauteed/ pan fried flounder with a slice of lemon plopped on top and two geriatric looking ceramic containers ON THE SAME PLATE, cafeteria/diner style. I was mortified, and he had the gall to charge 27 bucks for that. I mean it was a MEGADISH of grits, enough for three people. Not unlike what you get if you order a plate of two side dishes (say, baked apples and mac and cheese) at a Cracker Barrel chain restaurant. I could just see the chef back in the kitchen calculating that this broad who ordered plain fish was a cretin carb consumer... and he would be wrong.

Dessert was unremarkable. Coffee ice cream on top of a brownie. I have had the real version of Bouche a la reine in Paris and this one was a dry brownie. Best part? little bits of toffee around the plate. It killed me to tip the waiter, who was one of those guys who takes one look at you, decides you're not gonna spend enough money or tip well, is condescending until you do spend some money, then obsequious, but not really paying attention. I wondered if he actually TOLD the chef what i ordered: "Flounder a la meuniere". Doubt it, but even so, the friggin grits and collard clunky dishes ON MY PLATE were a blatant insult.

Do not eat here. Next time we'll try Mustard Seed or definitely Jacob's, whose menu on line is to die for.

We are headed into the old city today, Charleston, to the museum. Not very manyof the old houses are wheelchair accessible, so we'll tool around. Tina will love it, no matter what we do. Bless her.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents' Day

Well that was some Valentine's Day, eh folks? Sorry to be behind but it's been a whirlwind. Comfort Inn University in Wilmington (a completely charming river town, palm trees and funky bungalos) was a little rundown, and not in any kind of groovy retro roadside motel kind of way. But the people were nice and the town is cool, houses with porches , porches, porches. Weather nice. We got coffee at Port City Java, which is a private NC concessions that had run Starbucks in NC into the corral of malls only and taken over the local trade. They are fair trade conscious and tres cool, and should you find yourself in Amman, Jordan, they have a franchise there too. I like their expansive thinkin. I'm sure the folks in Jordan have fair trade coffee at the top of their agenda now.

So HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY to anyone who didn't get a valentine. My heart, in a big way, goes out to all of you. We drove south along route 17 headed to Charleston, stopping to cross the grassland bridge to lush , tres privee Pawley's Island, NC, a place I've always been curious about and wow was i impressed. I could definitely rent a l'il ol' whitewashed shack there on the beach someday just for some r and r and peace and quiet; I mean big time funky charm in the historic district; everything for rent pretty much and not a hint of pretense. Bet the surf fishing is grand. Maybe I could meet some cool fisherman who would teach me how to do that at long last. Something to aspire to. There's just SO MUCH you wanna do in life, isn't there? I think that's nice, to have dreams. To make them real...

Yeah, so Route 17 Myrtle Beach (home of Vannah White- need I say more?), really, don't bother, unless you're into "gentleman's clubs" as they like to euphemize them down this way, and what I can only describe as extreme miniature golf, giant locations with water features you never dreamed anyone could invent; all resembling that pile of stuff from Close Encounters. Here are a few of the clubs that caught my eye, rating very high on the blatant sexism scale:

Bottoms UP
Crazy Horse Gentlemen's Club (Ba-da-bing) [no joke, it said that on the sign]
The Doll House
Suck, Bang, Blow Restaurant and Saloon for Bikers

Those were in Horry County, and you just have to smile at that.

Tee called the area "a whole new level of tacky, has the Jersey shore beat." But then there are the sweetgrass basket weavers along the road, selling their wares from makeshift lean tos. I am, of course, forbidden to even stop and look at anything resembling a basket...

Last night at Tee Two's was a blast. We ate chinese and laughed until we couldn't keep our eyelids open. Good to see number two son, D, and Tee 2 is more beautiful than ever, despite wheelchair living. She is funny as ever with the best, most heartfelt laugh in the world. It's such a comfort to be around a sister like her, one who gets every single joke you crack. Unfortunate sideline issues with the hubby we trust he will remedy post haste or he'd better start wearing a sturdy sports cup. We'll see how all that unfolds.

Today shopping for a few kitchen goodies for T2, and a new 'chair' for her. Tomorrow we will drive her into old Charleston, where she says she has never been as yet, and it's only 5 minutes away. Quoi? Well, we'll make a day of it. Take her shopping, lunch, schmooze the old city. Just sooooo good to see her looking so well. She's a saint really. Really, she is. Not a drop of bitterness or self pity in her veins, unlike some we could, well.... you know. All drunks reek of self pity.

The weather is nice, 50s. Not a wink of sleep last night at this godawful comfort suites on isle of palms connector. Do NOT stay here BTW. We're moving today to another hotel.

okay, big day ahead. Last night when we left T2's, she hugged T1 and said "You're not just a memory!" I thought my heart would break.

Left: Wilmington NC is a cool town...

Headed south on 95, we’re about 10 miles from the North Carolina border. It’s cloudy, had a little dusting of snow this a.m. but just a sneeze really. The city of Atlanta, GA, according to the weather channel this a.m. is out of it’s collective mind with icy roads. Living in fear and loaded with accidents. No one there seems to have the sense to avoid the road in the morning til the black ice, the little smidgen of it they do get, melts. I have yet to see any salt on roads anywhere. Someone should tell them about the salt.

We were going to spend tonight in Fayetteville, NC, on the way to Tee Two’s house in Charleston, SC tomorrow. Tee one, my travel companion, was taken with online info regarding Fayetteville’s charms until we talked to Will in Chattenaooga on the phone and he, who travels the south pretty much for a living, said Fayetteville was crack ho central and we should avoid it like the plague. So we’re headed to Wilmington, a seacoast town in NC for the night and from there will take a leisurely meander down 17 on the coast to Tee Two’s house.

We’re here at Walmart, I’ m ashamed to say, looking for a cassette plug in device to make the ipod work on the car stereo. According to my Will, Walmart is better than radio shack for these outmoded technical supplies because they stock them forever for their customers who tend not to be yuppie type owners of the latest apple technology.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Here we are on the Purple Heart Highway headed toward Baltimore. Holy nightmare! Was that my ex mother in law in that white car?? She looks young. Just a memory floating by, a mean woman. The Tee is driving as I totally tweaked my back yesterday shoveling the three feet of white off the car with the aid of the absolutely gorgeous oriental guy from a few doors down the row on Norwood. His two adorable little girls watching as he dug in, superhero style, with his MASTER shovel and pitched volumes of snow away from my car onto the sidewalk, rescuing me from being buried alive. Unfortunately his shovel was metal and the roof of my car is now covered with giant scratches running in all directions... oops.

We have Joni For the Roses singing away and the sun is shining and life is good. I can’t see the computer screen cause its’ so sunny. Call me at the station, the lines are open!!

We’re thinking some historical sights in Virginia would suit as we are both such history freaks. Will get past DC on the infamous Beltway that separates those crazy craven, politicians from the regular people. We are in mothership territory again, home depot, ikea, after some pretty country along the Susquehanna. God I love that river. Prettiest river on the east coast imho.

Headed into the Baltimore tunnel now. Drowning.. drowning. Was that a leak? Hey there’s a Volvo wagon from Princeton NJ!! Man, it’s nice out, still plenty of snow though.

Later.. We have Chopin on the box. Everybody pull over and ronde de jambe!!

Holy mother of God. We are at the junction of 495 and 95 south just south of DC and you have never seen so many cars and trucks trying to move in the same direction and merge together without giving an inch. It’s worse than rush hour Lincoln tunnel. Tee cannot believe there isn’t some major malfunction happening here as there are a million overpasses winding around and over each other like a basket of writhing snakes and still there isn’t enough blacktop capacity to keep things moving smoothly. Five lanes. Six wide. Still not enough. And of course all that snow melting and spraying all over each other. Mud flaps notwithstanding.

A little better now. But get me outta here! How do folks DO this every day? No wonder Americans are angry. Then again, and perhaps what's worse, I know that for many folks this time alone in their car at the beginning and end of the day stuck in traffic and doing whatever they do, is the best time for day for them. Especially for women. What does that tell us?

We are haded for traders joes in Springfield to stock up on supplies for the cooler. Maybe find a bowl of soup somewhere. Seven lanes. Eight. Clogging the great aorta of America, exudation from the heart of the nation’s capitol. Sludge of traffic. Just like bill clinton’s heart. They say he’s in perfect health now that he’s had a quad bypass and and removed a blockage from his artery yesterday. "Perfect health" now they say, a relative term it seems. In this great country of ours….The nation in denial.

It’s only 2;15 pm and the traffic is stuck in the mud.

There are, by the way, NO signs anywhere to indicate where the hell we are as we creep along. We seemed to have missed Springfield, a bummer as that’s the last Trader Joe’s til, North Carolina. At the moment we hate Virginia, a state in which I spent a good portion of my adolescence and one I used to love. I hold all Virginians personally accountable for the lack of signage.

At 4;49 we are still in traffic. Only now we’re on route 1, known hereabouts as the Jefferson Davis Hwy south outside of Fredericksburg, VA. And it’s rush hour on a Friday, holiday weekend (we neglected to take that into our thought process when planning the trip). How could we be so dumb? We still cannot figure out where the hell all these folks seem to be going. All headed south. I asked a guy in a nearby truck and he said “well, maybe they’ve just been cooped up all week and are headed out of the cities.”

Well, I guess. Seems strange to me. Why not just go home? He had a Virginia accent, so I guess he knew what he was talking about. Nice to hear.

Mary Washington U is a very nice campus, lots of VA brick and white pillars. T sez welcome to the land of anti choice license plates. Snails pace.

Over there’s Karen Radley’s Saturn dealership. She’s a relative of Boo’s I guess. Entering Spottsylvania county, and there’s a local cop. I wonder if he has trouble being taken seriously with an employer named Spotsylvania, home to Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris and Nastasha? Virginians are quite vain, as we are seeing more than the average number of vanity plates. All the AM stations are in Spanish. Who knew?

We manage to refind Int 95 south and get on it. It’s getting dark and we are headed for what seems to be the only actual restaurant north of Richmond where we might get a decent bite to eat, some bistro or other that claims to be in Glen Allen, Va. Which is also home to a Whole Foods (or Whole Paycheck, as Tee’s pals call it) where we think we might stock up on road food as we’ve missed the Trader Joe’s.

Glen Allen is an awful place at night. At this point we are GPSing every turn trying to locate cafes that don’t exist or are actually in Richmond. We’d hoped to avoid driving in Richmond at night. Frustrated after many twists, switchbacks, and phoquitalls, we are headed south on 95 again, starving, it’s 730 pm and we pull off the hwy in Chester, Va to the comfort of the Comfort Inn (very nice folks and great service, nice rooms for the money as well) and pretty good Mexican food as Don Jose’s right next to the Inn. Believe it or not, a good meal with Coronas and very good flan (from the crème caramel snob) for twenty bucks. Can’t beat that. That bed looked mighty good. Fell into it full and happy by 9 pm.

More snow predicted.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

You know that snow-turned -to -rain I mentioned yesterday? We didn't get more than three blocks yesterday before the predicted blizzard arrived in force. We could barely see where we were going. Agreement all round that we should abandon trip into city, haircuts (boohoo) and all that for a hike to the grocery store for supplies and a whiteout hike back home. Before you knew it another foot of snow had accumulated. Now normally this would be nothing in Maine, you plow, you shovel, and you're good to go. But here, I swear, entire streets are lined with cars that have not moved since last week, I mean two, three feet under buried. Streets a slushy mess a foot deep, and sidewalks, well, let's just say there are those with a sense of civic duty and those without.

So, as it turns out, the folks headed the other way on the highway Tuesday may have been onto something. I dug the car out yesterday, and am headed out again later to do the same again, even though the thing won't move til tomorrow.

As a person who has spent the last 16 years of her life in a fairly snowy state, this whole non approach to dealing with snow blows my mind. As Lexy sez, and she may be onto something here, the general city wide attitude seems to be "phoque it. I don't want to go to work anyway." And I'm wondering if this recalcitrant mess isn't a perfect metaphor for the bitterness sweeping the country.

time to shovel.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Here's we are at Lexy and William's in South Philly. We managed to find a parking space on this tiny street. They apparently don't believe in snow plows here. I mean NONE of the streets are plowed in South Philly, these little sidestreets are just chockablock with two to three feet of snow. After a breeze of a drive down the good ol' Jersey Turnpike, ( and both of us agree, arriving in NJ is like arriving in Maine, it just smells and feels right, but then again, I felt that way is Paris too) managing to arrive just before rush hour, going the easy direction INTO the city while everyone else is of course exiting in the face of the coming 'snowmgeddon II" --(Does life ever get any better than watching the poor souls creeping at a snail's pace on the OTHER side of the highway while you're just whizzing along the opposite side?) -- when we got here, it was like an angel had just seen us coming and cleared ONE solitary parking space for us that someone had actually shoveled out not ten paces from Lexy's front door.


So we pulled right in, rather than park downtown garage style, a good hike and several subway stops away. Not to mention 50 bucks or so. They have NO RULES regarding parking here in south philly. It's a hoot. Last night we walked 12 blocks in the snow to a really really fantabulous mexican restaurant, AT LAST GOOD MEXICAN FOOD!! And William , whose dad is Guatemalan, is a huge fan and knows all the dishes and what's good. I had a ribeye with pickled cactus leaf and everyone else's stuff was fab. wonderful drinks, exc mojito. And fried plantains with cilantro cream were mouthwatering, rice pudding to die for, and a lively place with a great juke box. Cantina los Caballitos, on Passyunk Avenue. I can't believe after all those years in Jersey listening to radio ads about businesses on passyunk avenue i was ON the infamous avenue last night. And parking --- right in the middle of Broad St! Folks just park in the middle of the freakin road! total crackup and nothing anyone in Maine would tolerate for a second. There are no , like, plans here for dealing with snow. It's bizarre. Like there's no fundamental collective belief here that it might snow, as it's winter and all. Later walking home the snow getting kinda wet and sleety so we grab a cab, and the poor guy, from some warmer clime, has wipers that are all clogged with ice, so Lexy got out and wiped them for the guy, then I did and we tried to tell him to turn the defrost on. jeezlouise!

William has the most amazing video setup I've ever seen. He watches videos on the WALL, painted white, a projector on the opposite wall. Screen ends up being about four feet by six without the obnoxious FLAT SCREEN presence. That is to say, if you're not watching something, there IS no screen. I loved that. My Will would LOVE his stereo setup, two turntables, plenty of vinyl in groovy Ikea cabinets on giant casters, i.e., moveable. Big keyboard, amps, etc. My Will would be in heaven here. My next home will NOT have a flatscreen to recycle when it poops out, just a projector, computer, and a blank wall. I was seriously impressed. William is an AV guy at a contemporary art museum. He collects cool stuff, like miniature suitcases that open and have cunning stuff in them, you know, like 1/2 inch by 2 inches. And he is seriously funny and genuine and charming to older women, comme moi.

So we're off to explore the city this a.m. Happily the predicted snow turned to sleet and rain and not so bad now. A little shovel out eventually is all... Lexi has early Aretha on the box, time to get outta pjs and see what's out there. Haircuts in the offing i think. Later.

Monday, February 8, 2010

(Click on pics to enlarge them..)

We are liberated from the debt-encrusted shackles of home ownership as of February 4. A miracle considering the econ climate and one for which I am mightily grateful. Even the exclusive enclaves of coastal Vacationland, otherwise known as Maine, our home for the last sixteen years, have not been spared the downturn in real estate investment profitability. So we've been lucky,

Over the last few days we have enjoyed 'last things' we will actually miss, like Phil's yummy Wavos rancheros at Boynton; a really worth- the- money- they- charged, perfectly cooked and beautifully presented dinner at Amalfi (maybe the most underrated and least pretentious restaurant in an area inundated with pretentious and/or lousy eateries); a terrific day in Portland celebrating Amanda's birthday; and Sunday at the always amazing Jazz Jam in Waldoboro Theatre Annex on School St. (first Sunday of every month, complimentary wine, cheese and other yummies lovingly provided by Mary) , an event we NEVER miss. Really happening Jazz by musicians of all ages and nice crowd of savvy people to schmooze with. You will leave there with a smile on your face, guaranteed.

Really cherishing things like the smoke on the water these freezing mornings as the sun rises over the Bay and now over the St. George river thanks to John and Liz's hospitality for homeless pals like us. God bless 'em. Postcard promises via phone to Tim, who I'll miss more than it's polite to admit, Terry and Dot, who I wish I'd had more time with, and others. You know who you are.

And we're off to find out what in the Sam Hill is going on out there, where the wild things are, how are folks feeling? What's happening and why the only folks in the streets objecting are the crazy ones with soggy tea bags for brains? Would driving the highways of southern America and talking to folks along the way answer that question? Will folks tell me what's really on their minds?

Nothin to lose, I aim to find out. And see if I can't find that great, great, great, great grandfather's FATHER the whole fam damily's been trying to trace for years.

Come on along. I'd like to see if there isn't something decent to eat along the way as well.

Life is a puzzle. Let's go put some pieces together.