Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Yankee Enjoying Southern Culture OR "I can't grow lemons on MY deck!"

Ok. So who could conceive of it getting better? I don't think I am going to be able to leave here....Seriously. The beautiful colored leaves are on the trees and the sun is shining. All my fibromyalgia symptoms have subsided. And we are again reminded that IF we could convince our kids to move with us, we'd be here in a heartbeat!...Seriously....AGAIN!
It's everything, really. The charming homes with the rockers on long front porches and the twisting, narrow, grey rock bordered roads that weave up and down and around the hilly terrain. There are no shoulders on these two lane thoroughfares, only zig zagging cedar fences and in some places shallow stone walls built by slaves and former slaves long ago. The beauty on both sides distracts me from the fear I'd normally reserve for boarding a plane for a flight. People are used to the challenge of driving as though they are on a road rally. I mean, the two lanes are REALLY narrow, and there REALLY is no shoulder, just falls down into ditches or little ravines of brush, and when you approach the top of a hill, you hope, assume, pray that whoever is about to crest in the other lane is, in fact, IN the OTHER lane and not yours. Helen tells me that Eric sometimes terrifies her by turning his headlights off and speeding down the hills at night. That would be MY personal nightmare, but for today it is so unbelievably, glowingly gorgeous here that even I flip the "fear switch" to "off".
It's not only the leaves staying on the trees whose Michigan and Indiana cousins have lost's the adventure of enjoying the more exotic Southern landscape. The impressive, glossy Magnolias and the storey and a half tall "nosegay's" of Crepe Myrtle. People here have taken their summer plantings out and entry gardens are now planted with pansies and kales and other hearty decorative vegetation to make winter not seem anywhere near as desperate as "up north".
Sleeping with the windows open here means waking to the sounds of unfamiliar birds. This morning there were two North Carolina Wrens on the deck railing. I've admired them in my bird books, but had never seen them. They are adorable with their little, perky, upturned tails and pretty, pretty song. The two of them sat together on the top of a deck post and sang at each other.
Last night we had the BEST adventure! Helen and Eric had been invited to their next door neighbor's home for Gumbo along with several other neighbors, and the hosts told them to bring us along. Oh, Oh, Oh! We are talking about AUTHENTIC Creole cooking...and two big pots of Gumbo File ( pronounced Fee-lay. A Creole spice made of powdered Sassafras leaves) rice, roast, collard or "glory" greens and an evening that was one of a kind in MY life to date. Our hostess, Lorraine is one of nine children, and three of her four sisters were in attendance. They'd all gathered in New Orleans for a reunion and then, with a car full of luggage and seafood, they headed north to Lorraine and Charles home in Hermitage. Having met these women, it had to be a WILD trip, and it is also hard to imagine what a house full of nine such animated siblings growing up must have been like! Hospitality and humor and vivaciousness to the max! There were two huge pots. One with Gumbo File with chicken, sausage, crab and shrimp....the other with all these PLUS okra and oysters. ?WHICH do YOU think I selected? Pearl, Lorraine's sister,( a 67 year old woman I feel obligated to mention had a body any 25year old would die for...REALLY) prepared my bowl for me and carefully explained the gumbo to me in her beautiful Louisiana drawl.
I will try to be succinct. You know that is not my style. I really don't know how to describe those hours, but must try because last night's "Gumbo Party" was something I will NEVER forget! More dreamlike than real to me since NOTHING in it looked like my life except, of course, Steve and Helen and Eric were there too. I sat in a room crammed with people of different colors and cultures, eating the most astoundingly "out of this world...there just aren't words" food, surrounded by people telling jokes and laughing to the point of tears. At one point I actually inhaled a piece of rice from my Gumbo File and was choking. I thought how embarassing it'd be to have to have someone to call an ambulance, but I looked around and everyone was howling at the joke and I thought the real trouble might be that I'd slip to the floor unconcious and no one would even notice as another, even more hilarious joke was shared!
What I really like is the civility of the Bible Belt South. The "Yessir" and "Nomaams"and the shaking of hands and the friendly waving on the street to strangers. The courtesy shown and expected. Extending a trusting friendliness, even to strangers as opposed to an aloof and defensive nature.
We're staying an extra day. Maybe we can use the time to come up with a plan to tempt our kids to move down here with us.....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Big Day In The Big City

We're back in Nashville with our dear friends, Helen and Eric and I am sharing a final cup of Teavana "Jasmine Dragon Pearls/Rooibos Tropica" with Helen and deprogramming from the day.
We didn't waste a minute this first full day in "Music City", deciding to start our vacation by trying something new. We traveled across town to see the newly released "A Christmas Carol" with Jim an IMAX theatre!!!!!!All four of us were impressed to say the least.Although I am an exaggerator, it truly is more accurate to say we were "blown away" by the experience. Five minutes into it, I didn't want the movie ( and it's effect on me) to end. About two thirds of the way through I admit I started to close my eyes in flying scenes because my stomach was beginning to flip in ways it hasn't since my last Ferris Wheel or Tilt-a-Whirl experiences. REALLY. After the movie, Helen took me to most definitely "upscale" Green Hills shopping area of Nashville. We had a wonderful lunch at "The Cheesecake Factory" and spent time caressing books in a terrific bookstore on our way to J.Jill.
Yes,Megan and Avery and Adam and Caity, I finally used my carefully hoarded gift certificates! I got a wonderful grey corduroy jacket that was SO SO worth the wait. I loved it so much that I wore it out of the shop...along with a new pair of earrings that look terrific with it ( and my grey hair). So, THANKS AGAIN for the treat! After walking past shops I've only heard of (L'Occitane!!!) we drove to a newer shopping development to make my first visit to ( ...drum roll, please...) ANTHROPOLOGIE!!! I don't even know how to describe that, except I was not prepared for the resulting "creativity overload" to my system. Colors, textures, whimsy, retro ( I mean the thrill of seeing the inspiration coming from the "30's and '40's...not the 60's and '70's. I've been THERE, DONE THAT, and don't so highly recommend dredging all of that up!) This was just the most incredible exclamations of delight, one after another ricocheting between Helen and I. It made me realize that I have been on a starvation diet as far as creativity goes for too long! This one visit to this wonderful place just may have given me enough motivation to power through the coming dark months. OH MY!!!! On our way home, we stopped at Vanderbilt so Helen could retrieve something from her office in the psychiatry building. It was nice, after all these years of imagining her working in a place to actually SEE it. I am happy that when we talk in the future, I will know what her office looks like. We trekked home and I chatted via Skype with my Australian pal, Judy who is kicking off her summer with a garage sale tomorrow. After Helen's wonderful soup for dinner, we played back to back laptops on the kitchen table and talked and laughed until the energy plug was pulled on this day.
I know that despite the total stimulatory overload, I will sleep very well. And tomorrow is another day! It's Eric's birthday so we are preparing ourselves for those festivities, and who knows what other big adventures!(Please insert R.apid L.ittle H.andclap's here) Steve was right. This IS going to be a wonderful vacation!

POST SCRIPT: Okay. I COULD NOT sleep. The last time I looked at the clock it was going on 3:30am. Maybe the delicious Teavana was alittle too high octane for late night, or laughter to the point of tears is too stimulating. Guess we'll have to think about acting in a more sober manner later in the day.