it's arbor day

This is an all-too-common sight that makes me very sad: hedge rows cut down in the name of better fencing or clear electrical lines. Such rows of stumps, many of which were mighty oaks, stretch along roads all over the Ozarks. Not that we are hurting for trees in southern Missouri—the Mark Twain National Forest covers some 1.5 million acres in our neck of the woods. Makes up for some of the carbon credits I'm burning getting to town. But still. There is something about a very ancient oak.



 The hotels, all over the world. Soaps from St. Petersburg (with VP and Tipper Gore) and Yugoslavia and China. Sewing kits from Milano (en famile), Vietnam (with Chien-Chi Chang) and Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas (with Celine Dion). Toothbrushes and shower caps and combs.
   And then there are the condoms from the sex club (doing group marriage video with Donna Ferrato). The handy dandy mirror from the sports magazine editorship in the late '70s that I used to snort coke. The remains of the coconut oil I used to wear as perfume while living on the beach in Hawaii wearing little else.
   The toiletry kits from business class (including razors and black socks) and the one Coca-Cola handed out when my husband and his sister and brother-in-law and I raced the length of Mexico in a '55 Porsche and '54 Jaguar (I think).
   Why was I saving them? I can barely remember the stories or the hotel rooms. All those toiletries down the toilet now—or rather in the trash.


block island style

Island denizens will note that in this pic the boat is leaving Block Island, not the mainland.
Apparently last night, election night, the last boat waited at the dock on the mainland past departure time so that more paper ballots could be rushed to Block Island. Here is an article about it. Such a Block Island story. I remember voting there with Hannah clinging to my leg, making x's on a paper ballot that I stuck through a slot in the small wooden, padlocked ballot box. Later on, we all went down to the bar to watch the returns posted. With total polling at like 120, many local offices were won by just a few votes. Gasner City was quite the bloc. Wonder if they carried the day for Bernie, per PBS.



Do you recognize this landmark? Here's where I am now—aaaand, with a parking spot right in front of the building. I mean, not that building. My building.



This is where I was this morning. Now, 12 hours later, I am safe and sound in Zanesville, Ohio, birthplace of Zane Grey of Westerns fame (though the town wasn't named for him, but for one of his ancestors). Must lie down.

hellos and goodbyes

 Farewell to all this. Yesterday, my little Treyton, now tall and handsome and a high school freshman, came by with his mom to clean out their Thomasville house and say goodbye. They have moved to the outskirts of St. Louis, surely a more suitable place to grow up than Thomasville, a town mainly inhabited by old people and ghosts.
   And I stopped by to say goodbye for the nonce to Frank and Dianne, and to watch them watch their cow, hoping she would go into labor. She did, finally. Why do brths seem to happenb in the middle of the night? And at 4:28 am, Dianne sent the following: "Twins---one dead, one alive & one very PO'd cow that wanted to kill me! Left everything in the field & finally to bed!!!" And now, I'm off.


the quick and the dead

Same field, different trees.  Which do you like better? I couldn't decide.
   And speaking of Prince, here's the Minneapolis paper's compilation of The Artist's best live videos.


love come quick

home improvements

I was tired of holding onto the umbrella with one hand and typing with the other hand, so I invested in a new table. The base plus table appears to stabilize the thing enough to keep it from blowing over, thank goodness. So it's a whole new world on the canopy of the gas station.
    In less savory household news, I have shocked the well and sent in a new water test. However, the man in charge of the lab at the health department informs me that the coliform count will vary with every rainfall and rise or fall of the river, so I should keep my mouth shut while showering and continue to carry in my drinking water. Country life.


what a view

My son-in-law, Chris Garrison (google him up!) took this picture. Can you tell where it was—if not in Fairyland?


west plains national

Frank (center) packs bags at his new job, between giving hugs.
West Plains made the national news for the first time since teachers were encouraged to carry weapons to school (for safety!) )(terrorists in schools!). This was a better story, so much better that People magazine picked it up from Facebook. A checker at Walmart was fired two weeks shy of his 20th anniversary there. Walmart claimed that it was because Frank pressed price matching on customers ("You can get it for twenty cents less at Hermann's!"). But many people thought that it was because he hugged customers. As a child, Frank had been thrown from a pickup truck, He emerged from the head injury with a way with numbers and great compassion. "Hugs for Frank" became a rallying cry (literally). A followup article in the Quill reported that Frank had a new job at another grocery store in town, and that customers were following him there. I caught him on his second day of work at Ramey's. The other checkers seemed somewhat bemused by the hoopdedoo.


what's for lunch?

I cadged an invite to a rare seafood extravaganza yesterday. The draw was percebes, also known as goose barnacles or gooseneck barnacles, for obvious reasons. Their  culinary use derives, geographically from Spain, where  barnacle fishing is a dangerous practice, and the price of the delicacy is concomitantly high. Apparently percebes have also become a trend on the West Coast of the U.S., where indiginous peoples have long consumed them as a delicacy. Those sampled yesterday were flown into landlocked Missouri from British Columbia. David, the judge/chef, put them in boiling water for a flash, until pink, and then chilled them in ice water. The judge/sommalier then selected Gallician wines to pair with the Gallician treat: Nanclares AlbariƱo Soverribas 2012, Daulny Sancerre "Clos de Chaudenay" 2012; Lubentiushof Alte Reben Gans 2011. (Like I had the faintest clue.)
    Now all we had to do was figure out how to eat them. It might have helped to watch this how-to-eat demo, but none of us had. Winging it, we discovered how to pull off an outer sleeve and eat the remaining, penile extrusion, dipped in aoli. Quite tasty in a lobstery, clammy sort of way. And that wasn't all, the judge/horticulturist also produced his homegrown tomato with scallops ceviche, and the hostess an avocado and mango salad and shrimp on the barbie, rounding off with strawberry shortcake. 
   The food was divine, but the highlight was the company and conversation.


end of an era

Steps to the former back door (and Frank's office) next to the loading dock.
 Frank, editor and publisher of the West Plains Daily Quill sold up last year. It was a sad day for the old guard, who left, for the most part. Some remembered Frank's father, who ran the paper before. They were literally ink-stained wretches: The editor's office had two doors, one into the newsroom and the other into the pressroom, where the papers were printed. A gaggle of newsboys with canvas bags used to gather outside awaiting their bundles to deliver on their bikes
   The new owner of the Quill owns several small papers and has bundled their printing into one plant in Arkansas. Readers receive the paper the next day, but since it is dated the day it is mailed rather than the day it's printed, they have the illusion of getting their news hot off the presses. I can't help but mourn the passing of the old ways.
The snazzy new office, sans press, a block away from the old building.


outdoors/outsider art

Billy and Jamie admire sculptures of wood treated with creosote.

Saul Haymond with inside art in progress.
 We drove to the middle of nowhere Ebeneezer, Mississippi, to check out a painting Billy wanted to buy. Saul Haymond came up from working in the cotton fields as a kid to winning a Guggenheim fellowship. You can read more about his biography here. He was generous with his time and welcome, and it was a beautiful dy. Billy got his painting, and Jamie started wondering how she could get a giant wooden sculpture home to California.


spot the typos!

Bill Dugan asks you to play "Spot the Typos!" It's ironic that someone so deeply into letterpress is also so deeply dyslexic—so you have to invert thinking backwards twice, if I am grasping that correctly. Anyway, it's very hard and, if infuriating to a former copy editor, part of the charm of his work. I keep meaning to ask if this can is actual printed roadkill-can or a rendering of roadkill-can. Either way, brilliant.


highstyle delta

Peter and Jamie at Button and Aubrey's house, which was moved there in sections.

Jamie, girl photographer on porch
 His name is Billy, but Jamie is his sister, and she calls him Button. I do too, though it probably isn't any more appropriate than calling John Johnny, which I also do. Anyway, this is Button's house in Greenwood, Mississippi. The exterior starred as a location in The Help, if you ever saw that movie. The interior could star in, I dunno, a cross between a Fellini film and a horror movie? It is amazingly weird in a wonderful way. No way to do the environment justice in a still photograph.
   Anyway Button and Aubrey were the supreme hosts, putting us up at their Tallahatchie Flats shacks, giving us Cou Rouge (Redneck) Honey. Button even flew us New Orleans for lunch. During planting season no less.
Jamie and Peter enjoying takeout bbq in the formal dining room.


radio mississippi

WABG sits in the middle of Billy's corn and soybean fields. It's his homage to the blues country where he grew up. When you pull into the Tallahatchie Flats, Billy's guest cottages, the transistor radio inside is tuned to 960 and wailing away.


tallahatchie flats

The Tallahatchie River is nearing the shacks.
Pulled into Greenwood, Mississippi, yesterday and wound up on a film set with a crew shooting the Jericho Road Show, a folk act, staying at the shack next door and a tour group stopping by to check out the scene. Surreal, baby.
Jamie and videographer Travis watch the tour group watching us as Peter reads.


they laughed


Yeah, so, some spirea crept in when I planted a privet hedge. Privet for privacy. But mighty 12-foot bushes have grown from those tiny transplanted slips. Now I need somebody with a chain saw to come prune them!
   And I'm off to Mississippi today. By the time I get back those privets will be fully leafed out.



Frank and Dianne miss their old donkey, who died of old age at around 40. Dianne likes to visit this group of donkeys who live on a back road and feed them whatever she has in the car. Last time it was brownies. This time she had nothing but a tin of mints. They were not as popular, but the jack (lighter in color) was a big spearmint fan.


a question

Does anyone read this blog in Italiano? And if so, how is the translation?


another vacant gas station

Rodney came to mow the lawn yesterday. (Every man in this town is named Rodney or Randy, FYI. I have never met any women from this town so I don't know what their names may be.) He and his wife, Kim (oh, I do know her name!), were working at the former gas station, which was being run as a kind of antiques/cokes/chips store. No gas was for sale. The gas price on the sign is from the last time gas was so low; tthe tank apparently needs expensive repairs. They probably bought the few food items from Walmart, a half hour away, and brought them to town. People used to spend hours playing pinochle in there, but nobody bought much. Apparently the folks running it decided not to reup their lease. Rodney and Kim wanted to take it over, but the owner's children ("They're like judges and stuff.") didn't want to lease to them.
 The price wasn't too stiff: $500 a year. And it has a nice doublewide outhouse.