Mississippi Meanderings

At the tail end of 2020—and into the New Year—I visited the small town of Lucedale, Mississippi, to meet my girlfriend’s family.  I flew in last Wednesday and we drove back Saturday.

I’ve driven through Mississippi before, and was in Jackson a couple of years ago for a friend’s wedding.  This time I was much further south, as Lucedale—located in George County—is very close to the Gulf Coast, and about fifty minutes from Mobile, Alabama.  It reminded me a great deal of my dear South Carolina—pine trees and deciduous forests; ample farmland; small, rural communities flung across open land between larger municipalities.  In many ways, it felt like my home, just with small regional variations.

For example, my girlfriend’s family eats black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, like any good Southerner does (for them, the black-eyed peas represent good luck; for us, they represent pennies and wealth), but instead of collard greens (also for wealth—they’re the dollars), they ate coleslaw.  I suspect that’s because none of her family liked collard greens, but the difference goes further:  my girlfriend’s father had never heard of Hoppin’ John.  For my Yankee readers, Hoppin’ John is a mixture usually consisting of black-eyed peas, tomatoes, and okra, and served over white rice.  It’s good.

Other than a world without Hoppin’ John, Mississippi also had some local chains I’d never heard of before.  My girlfriend’s mother kept raving about Dirt Cheap, which I think is like a Lowe’s-meets-Ollie’s that sells mostly “dirt cheap” home improvement supplies.  There’s also a regional chain called Foosackly’s, which is essentially a smaller-scale Zaxby’s with clever advertising and a hilariously bizarre name.  My girlfriend quickly became annoyed with my fascination with this obscure chicken joint.

One highlight of the trip was building a fire with my girlfriend’s dad.  He is a man of few words, clad in suspenders, and incredibly resourceful—he maintains much of their land himself, and has built several sheds and garages.  He also has added to their home, which has been in the family at least two generations, and will stay there (his mantra:  “never sell land”).

Read More »

TBT: The Joy of Autumn

It is—to use a Southern expression—hotter than blue blazes here in South Carolina, as it always is in early September.  Lately, the extreme heat and humidity have made any outdoor activities unbearable, at least for yours portly.  The air is thick and muggy.

But there is some relief in sight.  We’ve had some rainy days here and there that have given brief—fleetingly brief!—tastes of autumn.

Autumn is, by far, my favorite season.  After the brutal oppression of summer, autumn is a welcome relief.  Autumn in South Carolina is brief, but lovely—the days are warm, the nights crisp.  The season makes it stately arrival fashionably late, usually late in October or early in November (though Halloween always manages to be hot; just once I want an Indiana Halloween!).

The cooler weather brings with it better smells:  pumpkins and spices replace the persistent smell of cut grass and sweat.  Food tastes better in autumn, too.  There’s a reason candy apples are an autumnal fair food:  that thick, sugary, caramel coating wouldn’t last in the humidity of summer.  There’s also the pies:  pecan and pumpkin, of course, but also sweet potato.

Oh, and there’s college football.  The SEC hasn’t (yet) betrayed fans like the West Coast conferences.

So, here’s hoping autumn returns sooner rather than later to South Carolina this year.  With that hope—and prayer—in mind, whip out the pumpkin spice and enjoy November 2019’s “The Joy of Autumn“:

Read More »

Lazy Sunday LXXI: Road Trips

Well, we’re headed back from Universal Studios after a fun-filled visit (I’m assuming as such; I’m actually writing this post before the trip, so it may very well have been a disaster, but I prefer to be optimistic).  It seemed like a good time to review some of my road trip posts.

Back in Fall 2019—in The Before Times, in The Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus—I was on a festival kick.  Every small town has some obscure but beloved festival (here in Lamar it’s the Egg Scramble), usually dedicated to some local foodstuff or cultural group.  Most of my recent road-tripping has been on those kinds of excursions.

As such, this edition of Lazy Sunday will have a good bit of overlap with “Lazy Sunday XXXII: Festivals“—I mean, it is Lazy Sunday, after all.

  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Aiken Amblings” – This post is about the annual Aiken’s Makin’ crafts festival, which my hometown hosts every September.  It’s a huge draw, bringing tons of vendors and visitors to downtown Aiken’s parkways.  I have many fond childhood memories of running around at the festival, though it’s shifted its location (to its detriment, I think) and its spot in the calendar (because it’s earlier in September, it’s hotter).  It’s still a great deal of fun, and I always manage to find some fun gifts for my train-loving nephew.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Yemassee Shrimp Festival 2019” – Since I was a young boy, I’ve been riding through Yemassee and past Old Sheldon Church on my way to Fripp Island, which is out past Beaufort, South Carolina.  Yemassee is an old railroad town that straddles the line between Hampton and Beaufort Counties.  The Shrimp Festival is fun, sweltering festival with—you guessed it—lots of friend shrimp (and fried everything, for that matter).  I highly recommend making a day of it for reasons stated in the full post.
  • Road Trip!” – This post is about heading down to Orlando (a nice bookend to today’s post, while I’m heading back) and some of my meager backroad explorations around rural South Carolina.  There are a lot of hidden gems if you’re willing to get off the Interstates and look around.

That’s it!  I should probably stop typing while driving (just kidding, just kidding).  This return marks the beginning of the end of summer vacation—the tempo of back-to-school preparation will just pick up from here.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: Bologna

When you’ve been blogging daily for over 500 days, you sometimes get writer’s block—or just don’t have anything interesting to say.  It’s rare, as there’s almost always something happening that ticks me off.  But as I’ve noted, in The Age of The Virus, it’s a more common occurrence.

Think about it:  politics right now boils down to the media misreporting President Trump’s statements about The Virus, and to the question “should we reopen or stay closed” (the correct answer:  reopen)?  There are no major cultural events.  In general, it’s a bit of a blogging malaise.

A wise woman, fellow blogger Bette Cox, once advised me to write when I had something to say, not just merely for the purpose of churning out content or to meet an arbitrary daily counter.  She probably has a point, but in my youthful impudence, I’ve ignored her and have slammed out post after post, some good, some terrible, and a few truly great.

This week’s TBT is one of those posts that grew out of a need to publish something to keep my WordPress daily streak counter going (there are days where I feel enslaved to that arbitrary computer counter, which is really just me being enslaved to my own expectations).  It’s a test of a writer, though, to see if one can turn straw into gold—or, in this case, bologna into filet mignon.

You be the judge—did my ode to America’s lunch meat rise to the level of blog-worthiness (keeping in mind that the bar for blogging is pretty low)?  Or is it just cold cuts twisting in the wind?

Regardless, here is December 2019’s “Bologna“:

The long national nightmare is over.  No, not the impeachment farce; it’s the end of the semester!  Grades are in the books, work is done, and teachers and students are heading out for two weeks of glorious Christmas Break.

It’s been an eventful week.  As the House was fulminating about Trump’s alleged “crimes,” I was playing a gig with our community jazz band.  I play second alto sax with the group, but I asked to sing a song on this concert.

It’s long been a dream of mine to sing with a full jazz swing band behind me, and that dream came true Wednesday evening.  I sang Andy Williams’s “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and was a nervous wreck (if you’ve seen the lyrics to that tune, you’ll understand why—what a mouthful!).  But I got through it admirably enough, even with a low-grade sinus infection.

The gig was during the dinner hour at a large church in town.  The first alto player indicated how hungry he was, and wondered if he could get a plate.  I told him (unhelpfully) that I’d eaten a bologna sandwich in my car before coming in (which sounds like a joke and/or the most mundane, pathetic detail in the world, but it was true).  All the old guys in the band—it’s a swing band, so there are a lot of them—expressed their enthusiasm for bologna sandwiches, and asked how it was prepared:  did I use mustard?  “Nope, Duke’s mayonnaise, with cheese.”  Murmurs of approval followed.

I am a great lover of bologna.  My brothers still express frustration that, as a child, I would often opine that on Sunday nights, I would rather go home and eat a bologna sandwich than go out to eat (eating out was a rarity in those days)—thus undermining their cause to eat a deliciously fatty meal at, say, Shoney’s (rest in peace).  It’s probably terrible for you—all the reject parts of the Big Three sandwich meat animals (beef, pork, and chicken) rolled into one beautiful, red plastic-lined disc of processed flavor (one of my students called it a “hot dog pancake”)—but with a slice of American cheese and some mustard or mayonnaise, it’s delicious.

My students hate bologna, and tend to express disgust if they discover I’ve been eating it.  I can only assume that, living in more prosperous times, they’re used to eating lunches full of kale and couscous, and deli-cut meat from a high-end grocer’s counter.  Material wealth has robbed them of the opportunity to enjoy an American staple.

My older bandmates’ reactions were telling.  They were all quite wistful about their childhood bologna sandwiches, probably back in those high-trust times when children who looked and talked like each other and lived near their extended families ran around barefoot in fields and neighborhoods until the sun went down.  Most of them look to be in better shape than me, and they grew up eating processed reject meat.

Being on a tight budget, bologna is a godsend.  It’s cheap (around $1.50 for twelve slices of Gwaltney at the local Piggly Wiggly) and filling.  It’s great fried with an egg for breakfast, or slathered in Duke’s on white bread at lunch.

All quite different from the congressional bologna served up earlier this week.  Talk about a bunch of overstuffed, fake trash.  I bet Nancy Pelosi would faint if someone asked her to eat a bologna sandwich.  GEOTUS Trump—a lover of fast food, and fit as a fiddle—would chow down with workmen on a construction site, no questions asked.

America should be for the bologna eaters, God bless ’em.  It’s the meat of the workingman.  Kale only ever brought anyone misery.

Lazy Sunday LIV: Coronavirus

It was inevitable—a Lazy Sunday dedicated to the coronavirus.  This may end up being a “Part I,” depending on what happens over the next few weeks, but I’m planning on shifting away from corona talk for awhile.  There are bigger and better things in life than a Chinese biological weapon and/or Chinese culinary disaster-turned-virus.

I’ve been trying to make the most of a generally bad situation.  It’s springtime in South Carolina, so for about two weeks, we’ll enjoy pleasantly mild weather before the oppressive heat of summer hits.  Z Man has an excellent, optimistic post up today about “Springtime In The Pandemic“; it’s a must-read, and follows some of my own ideas about the possible cultural consequences of everyone being at home and resuming more traditional roles.

So this Lazy Sunday, it’s time to look back at my various posts on the dreaded virus:

  • Phone it in Friday VIII: Coronavirus Conundrum” & “Phone it in Friday IX: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part II: Attack of the Virus” – What a difference a week makes!  Between these two posts, I went from writing off the coronavirus as a bad strain of flu to being much more concerned.  Even since the second installment here, though, I’ve come to reassess the situation again. How much of this shutdown is necessary to stem the spread of the virus, and how much of it is the result of panicked media reporting?  I think it’s possible it’s a threat and the threat is overblown.  We’ll see next week, when this fifteen-day experiment in social isolation has run its course—or gets renewed.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Coronavirus Prepping” – When I wrote this post on 7 March 2020, I still thought the coronavirus’s threat was remote, but I was concerned about the disruption to supply chains.  I detailed my steps for preparing for the possibility of quarantines and/or shortages.  Fortunately, it seems that now grocers are catching up, and unless you’re looking for toilet paper, you can largely find what you need.
  • High-Tech Agrarianism” – This essay explored an idea I’ve been kicking around for awhile, but that takes on new urgency in the Age of Corona:  what if we combined small-scale agriculture with high technology?  Using our lawns to grow grass seems like a waste of the land and of the effort to maintain it.  What if we applied the effort of mowing and weeding to growing easy-to-maintain crops?  In our normal lives, people don’t have the time, but as we’re shifting more to telecommuting and distance learning, it seems like we’d all be able to spend a bit more time in the garden.
  • The Revival of Traditionalism?” – In line with the previous post, this piece explored the social and cultural impact of the coronavirus on gender roles.  It was vindicating to see one of the greats write on a similar topic this morning.  The upshot to this whole forced shutdown is that we’re really reevaluating what truly matters in life, as I opined about at length above.

Well, that does it for now.  Stay safe, wash your hands, and God Bless!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: Social Peace Requires Social Capital

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Yesterday I wrote (in essence) that this whole coronavirus fiasco is going to clarify a lot of things.  For one, we’re seeing the lethal consequences of open borders thinking and political correctness.  We’re not allowed to say that it’s China’s fault, even though we all know it is.  Every prudent person knows that, for better or for worse, you should avoid Chinese people who are fresh from China.  Similarly, people are going to realize that throwing open our borders to anyone is a bad idea.

What I most fear, though, is what will happen if things get really tight.  Right now there’s a run on toilet paper.  That’s ultimately more humorous than dangerous; there’s always Kleenex, paper, or—if it comes to it—leaves and a hot shower.

But what if people can’t get food?  Or medicine?  The latter is far likelier, given our dependence upon China for ingredients and raw materials necessary for many medicines (a degree of autarky isn’t such a bad idea after all).  But the former could be a possibility if supply chains are seriously disrupted.  Again, I don’t think it will come to that, but it makes sense to prepare for the worst.

In the past, communities could rely on high degrees of social capital to safeguard social peace in times of trouble.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Phone it in Friday IX: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part II: Attack of the Virus

If last week was crazy busy, this one is moving at ludicrous speed (and yet also dragging by—last Friday seems like a distant eternity ago).  Since last week, panic over the coronavirus is spreading alongside the dreaded virus.  There have been a series of major cancellations, all of which have been well-advertised:  Disneyland, professional sports, etc.  The South Carolina Philharmonic, of which I used to be a season ticket holder, is closing its concert to the public, but will instead livestream the proceedings.  Our senior US Senator Lindsey Graham has self-quarantined.

My assessment up until this week has been that we should be prudent in preparing for the impact of the coronavirus, but that it’s a tad overblown—it’s just a nasty flu.  I still caution prudent prepping—and against panic—but after the events of the past week, I’m adjusting my assessment.  There is definitely something different about this pandemic.

Read More »

SubscribeStar Saturday: Coronavirus Prepping

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Yesterday’s Phone it in Friday discussed the coronavirus.  I mentioned some of the steps I’ve been taking to prepare (God forbid) a lengthy quarantine.

To be clear, I don’t think it will come to that.  The virus is dangerous, to be sure, but it seems like a deadlier version of the flu.  The United States enjoys the best medical system in the world, and I suspect the fallout won’t be nearly as devastating.

Nevertheless, it’s prudent to stock up, especially given our over-reliance on China for supplies.  If anything, that’s my biggest concern:  a shortage of medical supplies.  So here are some small steps I’m taking to prepare for the worst, even though I think the worst is unlikely.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Phone it in Friday VI: Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers!  Don’t try going out to eat tonight—it’s going to be a mad house.  Sensible couples will probably wait and dine out on a less sexy night, like Tuesday, or pick up Taco Bell.

We’re in the midst of a glorious four-day “Winter Break.”  The great thing about teaching is all the bogus holidays.  Valentine’s Day and President’s Day just happen to bookend the weekend, so why not turn it into a slightly-extended holiday?

In the spirit of Jay Nordlinger, today’s post is going to be a series of barely-related reflections, as well as some links to the stuff you should read or watch.  Speaking of Nordlinger, how do I land a gig getting paid to write about classical music in exotic parts of the world?

But I digress.  Here are some reflections on this Day of Love:

Read More »