There’s No Place Like Home

Meaning, there’s no place like where your home is. The home that has your actual shit in it. Your bed. Your favorite toilet. You hidden stash of chocolate. But alas, for the next 24 hours my “home” will be in a rented Chevy Suburban since Jerimiah, Jackson, the dogs, and I are leaving tonight to drive to Kansas to get my mom, to then turn right around and drive back. Twenty-four hours of being in the car with gas and bathroom breaks with my kid, my husband, my dogs, and my mom (for 12 hours). This should be fine, totally fine.

Listen, we haven’t seen my mom in over a year and she wanted to come visit for Christmas and while she is mentally well, she is physically not able to make it around an airport without help. Plus, she would have to fly into, literally, the world’s busiest airport in December. So that’s a no. Plus, who is flying right now? And if you are, why? That’s all. Why? It’s bad enough to have to chart out the gas stations on the way to Kansas and back that you think might be the cleanest (that is to say all the Quik Trips) but how could you navigate a small space like an airplane and not constantly be bothered by the fact that you are sitting so close to other people. Like those people who flew from Mainland to Hawaii against doctor’s orders because they had all tested positive the day before but I mean, fuck everyone else on the plane, amiright?

So we are loading up today to make the trek and hope to be home by Saturday evening. We are taking the dogs because otherwise we would have to leave them outside all night (with the doors to the screened porch open of course, for shelter) because Winnie hasn’t learned to not chew up all our shit when we leave them alone for an extended period of time. We would board them overnight but Winnie, being a quarantine puppy, isn’t well socialized with people. That is to say people terrify her. She shakes and hides. So there is that. As you can see our dogs rule our actual lives.

We have all been tested. We have quarantined since tests and we are not making stops, going inside people’s houses, etc. We might make a couple of driveway stops to say hello to my sister and best friend, who are also not infected with the virus, with our masks on, no hugging, to say hello. Otherwise, nah dog. There are too many variables and too many people have not been tested and are around people who are not tested and who are regularly not taking this seriously. This, we have deduced, is the safest way.

So wish me luck. Or don’t, doesn’t matter much to me either way, but I do hope that you are wearing your mask, avoiding excessive and unnecessary travel (do as I say, not as I do) and are considering getting the Jolene Vaccine (The Moderna One) in the spring when it’s safe to do so.

Love to you all!

M.

Seattle to Alaska

Listen, don’t ask why but Jerimiah and I were in a small dispute today about whether or not you could successfully navigate yourself from Seattle to Alaska in a “reasonable” amount of time. Now “reasonable” means two different things to us. “Reasonable” to him in this situation means wake up, eat breakfast, drive to Alaska, go to bed. “Reasonable” to me in this situation means wake up, eat breakfast, drive for a bit, see the “World’s Largest Fish” on State Highway 52, go about thirty miles out of the way to see the Fish Market and any pertinent filming locations for “The Goonies,” then grab lunch. Then head out of the US into British Columbia, where we rent skimobiles and explore the wilderness. That night we stay at an adorable bed and breakfast where bacon and maple syrup pancakes wake us in the morning.

The next day we drive for several hours along the coast, then stop to take a cruise on a whaling ship, wherein I am allowed to stand on the bow of the ship while a Killer Whale jumps over us “Free Willy” style. That night I compromise and we stay at a cabin in the Yukon.

By day seven we have seen most of the coast of British Columbia and are ready to start our twelve hour drive up toward Anchorage, where we spend several weeks exploring the city and the area all around us. At some point I ask Siri, “Hey Siri, how do I get to Russia from here?” It’s at that precise moment that Jerimiah loses his shit and starts screaming about with this amount of time and money we could have seen “ALL OF EUROPE!” and then I ask Siri, “Hey Siri, how do I get to Ireland from here?”

Yes Virginia, you can get from Seattle to Anchorage in a “reasonable” amount of time, either 42 hours of straight driving or three weeks of fun. The choice is all yours.

M.

Things are Getting Stranger Season Two

Another day in Stranger Things location land, and we made it to “Hawkins,” which is actually the downtown square of Jackson, Georgia, about an hour from our house. We went yesterday, so the square was decorated for Halloween too. They had a map of “Hawkins” so you could walk around and point things out annoying to your friends, of which Jackson did. Ha! It was really cute, and it didn’t take very long. Of course everything was shut down and the signs were all gone, but he recognized the buildings, even the spot in the alley where the boys got into a fight in season one. So please enjoy some more pics today and I’ll get back to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow, when I’m not tired as hell from Halloween festivities!

M.

Chief Hopper checking out the map at the pub that was used as the face of “Hawk Theater.”
The other side of the pub, headed down to the alley.
Finding the right spot to recreate the scene.
Peeved that there was a car in the lot, even though it said, “No parking in alley.” But you can see the Rental Solutions in the background, same as it was in season one, see below.
Melvard’s right next to Radio Shack! Where Joyce and Bob (season two) work!
The Probate Court building is under construction, but this was used as the outside of the Hawkins Library. Jackson recognized the clock tower as we pulled into town.
Don’t mind if he does. He is dressed up after all!

Happy Halloween

We have a kid obsessed with the Netflix series, “Stranger Things.” To be fair, only season one so far, but still. We also have a Halloween upon us wherein it is not safe to wander door to door asking strangers for Covid, err, candy, so we’ve been thinking up ways to celebrate this year while being socially conscious. Enter, visiting “Stranger Things” film locations while in costume! So far, so good. Living in the South’s version of Hollywood has been pretty interesting. Here, take a gander:

Chief Hopper at the Wheeler house (in East Point)
Hopper lighting a cigarette leaving the hospital. (Don’t worry it’s not real. The cigarette or the hospital, it’s actually a Baptist church by Tyler Perry Studios.)
Hopper “looking around” after finding Benny dead at his diner.
Looking for Mad Max and the boys (season two) at the Palace Arcade.
No sign of the kids at the Hawkins Middle School gym (and we had just missed them starting the set-up to film season four, got to see some new signs going up and a huge tent, before security ran us off. Oops!)
And then there was Hawkins Lab. Talk about spooky szn! It’s actually an old building on Emory’s campus about ten minutes from our house. It’s so close we are headed up in a week or so to get Covid tested there (before we see family for the holidays). Ha! I’m sure Hopper will make another appearance then too.

Today we are headed to a little town just outside metro Atlanta called Jackson, Georgia which is the setting for Downtown Hawkins. More pics tomorrow. Until then, Happy Halloween and enjoy more of his favorite location!

M.

It’s fake, haters.

Saturday at the Farm

We visited a friend’s farm last weekend. It is called Butts Mill Farm, and it is out in Western Georgia, near the Alabama state line. Our friend’s parents own it, and it’s less of a farm in the way you are imagining, and more of a family-fun farm, complete with peddle cars, number boats, and miniature horses that you can pet and feed and fall in love with and try to convince your husband to let you bring one home and get denied. Which is bullshit, but I just want you to be aware before you go.

Well, maybe you’ll have a nicer husband.

I digress. We had an excellent time at the farm, and not just because we visited for free and were fed pizza for lunch (although, bonus!) Yes, our friends are that nice. But really it was because we adore these friends and their family was so super nice, that we even got a super-special tour of their big collection of vintage cars and truck, which Jackson LOVED! Whew.

We got to play in a creek that has swings you can set in and watch the whole day go by. We got to feed goats, and go inside an antique Grist Mill. We got to ride a horse (well Jackson did, for the first time mind you) and play all day. Jackson was happy to be with his buddy Bella, whose grandparents own the farm, and Jerimiah and I were happy to hang with other adults and carry on conversations and not be inside our house. It was sort of the perfect day. Not too hot, overcast most of the day, and did I mention the 12-year-old rescued Macaw named River, who was just a delight, until he started screaming at me? Wow. It was a good day. Here are the pictures and trust, if you ever find yourself around these parts and wanna go check out the farm, let me know. We are always in for a trip out west.

M.

Andalusia: Part Three

You’re possibly fed-up with me at this point. Couldn’t this have been one blog post? Sure, but then I wouldn’t have the space to tell you about the Hungarian Bible Salesman that came calling on Joy/Hulga, err, I mean Flannery O’Connor, when she lived at Andalusia. The Bible Salesman loved Flannery, but the love wasn’t reciprocated and she sent him broken-hearted back to Hungary. Without an artificial limb.

Flannery and her mother inherited this farm as a dairy farm from Flannery’s uncle sometime around 1940. He wasn’t the first owner of Andalusia, which had been a plantation when he took it over in the early 1930s. He made it into a dairy farm, then when Flannery’s father died in 1941 from complications of Lupus, her mother made the decision to run it alone as a widow. Righteous.

The only piece of furniture in the house that predates the family is an absolutely hideous and disturbing sideboard that Flannery’s entire family hated and wanted removed, but she begged her uncle to keep it on account of the “pleasure of the hanging pig,” and so he did.

A dairy farm proved to be too demanding for Regina Cline O’Connor, so she made it into a beef farm. Beef cattle are easier to run than dairy cattle. She hired a family who moved into the house behind the main house, Hill House, and much like Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman, the ladies would chat in the kitchen in the mornings as Flannery readied herself in her room, before entering the kitchen to make her way to the bathroom.

Flannery and her mother lived on the first floor of the house, as Flannery couldn’t successfully navigate the stairs. The original parlor of the house was turned into Flannery’s room and a second parlor was added on. The women’s bedroom’s were separated by Regina’s office, which housed, among other unique artifacts, an artist’s rendering of Jesus Christ that was signed by a Pope. Which Pope I can’t recall. I wish I could.

The second parlor housed a set of bookcases that her family hated so much, they sold them to a man in Savannah who drove up and picked them up while Flannery was away. When she returned, she immediately called the man in Savannah and purchased them back from him and he returned them post haste.

Thanks for going down this rabbit hole with me. I hope you are learning things you never knew before and I hope you don’t mind my foggy memory and horrible literary jokes. Remember, you are what you read…

M.

Andalusia: Part Two

Flannery O’Connor was an odd bird, pun intended. She once took a census of her Peafowl (plural of peahen and peacock) and she stopped at forty. Forty. She also hated classical music, stating that, “All classical music sounds the same.” True that, Flannery. But there was one particular song she liked her mother to play for her on the piano. It became somewhat of a party trick. When their house was full of guests, just after dinner, Flannery would open the hand-stitched peafowl curtains, and her mother would play this song, the name escapes me now, but the notes were so sharp that the peafowl would come running into the front yard screaming at the top of their lungs. So yeah, Flannery was my kinda lady.

As a child Flannery had a penchant for dressing her pet ducks up in little costumes that she made herself. Her mother, worried about her daughter’s odd behavior but was assured by many that she would outgrow it.

There were many small trinkets throughout the house, but the majority of the knickknacks were birds of some kind. Chickens, ducks, doves, and peafowl.

Bookcases and birds. That was the extent of Flannery’s bedroom. She kept a tight ship with all the rest. Her bed, desk, and chair were all within an arm’s reach so she wouldn’t need to rely on her crutches when she got around. Her bed was a single, with one small quilt on the top, and a cross next to the cradle Catholic’s window. Make that bookcases, birds, and God.

At one point she moved an armoire in front of her desk to shield her mother from her usually habit of slamming though the adjacent door when Flannery was trying to write, of which she did every day from the from between the hours of nine am and noon, just after a two-hour mass, just before she went into town for lunch. Because she refused to write looking at a window on account of possible distractions, as one might assume with 40 peafowl roaming, she didn’t mind staring at the back of the armoire when she wrote.

There are two peafowl at Andalusia now, Ms. Shortley and Astrid. They didn’t much care for me, and I for them. They are a particular bird, with a certain opinion of themselves that I did not share. Funny, peculiar, opinionated. The birds.

M.

Discovering Andalusia: Part one

I finally did it, I finally made a visit to Andalusia, Flannery O’Connor’s farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. It’s been on my list of places to visit since I found out about it a few years back, and it turns out to be about an hour and a half from my house now that we live in Atlanta. I’d planned to take a day trip over the spring, but Covid set me back, and it wasn’t until I had this looming Flannery O’Connor project for school that I decided to buck up and go. It turned out to be a lovely visit, with a knowledgeable docent and an all around pleasant , albeit warm, morning and early afternoon.

It’s just now apparent to me that I have so many pictures and so much to share, that it would probably be best if I told this in parts. So let’s get started.

I left Atlanta alone about 9:00 am, as I couldn’t talk Jackson into a trip to a dead writer’s house in the middle of Trump-Country Georgia on an unseasonably humid Southern day. Weird, I know. But it was best. I can’t say he would have enjoyed sitting on the front steps re-reading Good Country People, as much as I did.

I got to Andalusia just about ten minutes before the hourly tour started. It was very easy to find, just a straight shot down I-20, then onto Milledgeville Highway. There are ample signs the closer you get.

Traffic was light, and the drive was relaxing, even with the alarmingly high number of Trump signs I saw. These were my favorites…

The American flag really sets them off, huh? Basically, I could tell I wasn’t in Atlanta anymore. I had my windows down and was enjoying the nice back country roads vibe of Milledgeville Highway, until a man at a stoplight rolled up in a big lifted Chevy, looked over at me and said, “DeKalb County, huh?” With a cackle. I was waiting for the banjos to start as the light changed.

A little while later I was safely on the Andalusia grounds, where one would assume big Chevy truck guy was not headed.

Andalusia was gifted to Georgia College by the O’Connor estate in 2017, and since then they’ve been working hard to restore the farm. The house sits right off the Highway, just about a quarter-mile down a quaint, tree-lined dirt road, and although I had looked at pictures before going, I was still a little surprised at how nice the farmhouse had been kept. It’s quite pretty from the outside. And sets you at ease, putting you to mind of the old farm houses you picture your great-grandmother growing up in. Well, if she was a wealthy, white, Southern woman that is.

It’s getting late, and I have some tea to sip on the porch, so I’ll leave you here, with some more pictures of the outside of Andalusia, where after the tour I enjoyed some quiet reading time, while a noisy hawk nested on the large tree beside me (they most know birds of all kinds are always welcome at Andalusia), before heading back to the safety of the city.

Enjoy!

M.

Rest in Power

I was excitedly texting a friend Friday night about the new season of “Pen15” when she wrote, “Fuuuuck.” I Haha-ed it and she said, “No. RBG.” “What?!” I texted frantically. “Yeah,” she wrote back. “CNN just reported.” And then the curtain sorta fell. Only it didn’t, because Jerimiah and Jackson had downloaded the new Tony Hawk and were pumped to play it with me. So we played Tony Hawk, while my phone lit up. Text after text. “Can you believe it?!” And “Now what do we do?” I turned my ringer off and tried to master a Kickflip.

I haven’t had the bandwidth to process this and I’m not sure when I will. But it will come. Until then, we answered Jackson’s questions the best we could today. We talked about standing on the steps of the Supreme Court a couple of years ago. Jackson remembered the “big, bronze door” and how we waved to the building, hoping RBG was looking down at us. We watched the RBG documentary on Hulu as a family tonight, then we watched “Twins” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, because sometimes you have to laugh when you want to cry.

Jerimiah reminded me not to say Rest In Peace to RBG, after all she’s Jewish, wouldn’t care much for it anyway. I told him I’ll say rest in power then. But the important thing is just that she rests. She did her job, one hellava one at that. And we are so appreciative.

Rest in power, Notorious RBG. We’ll be down here picking up where you left off, and waving like crazy. I hope you can see us.

M.

Apropos Andalusia

Jerimiah sent me an article yesterday: “Apropos your paper,” he said. It was from the New Yorker, it was titled: “How Racist was Flannery O’Conner?” Great, I sighed toward him, sitting across the room from me. Thanks for this. He smiled. Seemed appropriate. He’s not wrong. I’ve been assigned Mary Flannery O’Conner for my presentation next month in my Southern Fiction class, and I’ve decided to use “A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories” as my in, as I also have to do a scholarship review of her work, and a semester-long paper on her as well. I’d been debating, as late as this morning, whether I’d hit the road for Andalusia this week.

Andalusia is O’Conner’s estate in Milledgville, Georgia, a two-hour drive from my house. I’ve decided, as I approach my 39th birthday and await the test results for this autoimmune disease I’m battling—likely Lupus (O’Conner died at 39 from Lupus), that I should make the pilgrimage. But I’ve been dragging my feet, for reasons above, and now this.

I’ve always been a fan of O’Conner. Always stood up for her, always sidestepped any unseemly information, but this time I can’t. What I can’t decide, and what the articles ask us to consider, is whether O’Conner was just a product of her raising. Or if something more sinister went on there, between her writing about racism, and plucking along among the peacocks.

I read the article. I looked at the stack of scholarly reviews I have sitting on my desk. I tapped my fingers on my chin. I cursed my husband. Misdirected anger.

I’ll go to Andalusia because I want to see for myself. Because I’m just curious enough to want to turn the knob on the old farmhouse door, just naive enough to believe an old cotton plantation in central Georgia will fill me in on the past.

Besides, it appears I have a deadline now. And it’s coming up fast.

M.

Just a List of Beaches

Feeling like I deserve to be on a beach today. Feeling like I want to be on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, or maybe on the rocky shores of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Perhaps walking along the water with my friend Beth in her small town in Rhode Island or laying on a water trampoline off the coast of the British Virgin Isles as my son bounces around me. Yes, any of those would work today. Instead, I wrote my name in the sand on the side of the road, while I walked incredibly close to my neighbor’s sprinkler to get hit in the face, like when the waves come at you out of nowhere. Yeah, that’s a thing I did. So today, in honor of me wanting to be at a beach somewhere, here are a list of beaches I have been to that I would love to go back to again, right now, at this moment. Any of them will work, because at this point, let’s be real…

  • Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
  • Folly Beach, Charleston, South Carolina
  • Lullwater Beach, Panama City, Florida
  • Emerald Isle, Outer Banks, North Carolina
  • E-Beach Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia
  • Ocean City Beach, Ocean City, Maryland
  • Pitcher Point Beach, Gulfport, Mississippi
  • Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida
  • Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach, CA
  • Playa Pena, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Juniper Point, Salem, Massachusetts
  • Surfside Beach, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Cable Beach, Nassau, Bahamas
  • Coronado Beach, Coronado, California
  • Whitecap Beach, Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Newport Beach, Newport, California
  • Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, Rhode Island
  • Sandbridge Beach, Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Ocracoke, Outer Banks, North Carolina
  • Biloxi Beach, Biloxi, Mississippi
  • Cypremort Point Beach, Cypremort, Louisiana
  • Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington, North Carolina

This is not an exhaustive list. We are beachgoers. Always have been, always will be. So many more to see. So many more to dream about. One day. Where would you go if you could go back to one of your places?

M.

The Ozarks

Dollar General and Jesus. Lakes and guns. Fishing and methadone clinics. Oh my! We just got back from the Ozarks yesterday and I wanted to share some pictures I took while I was there. I’ll let you form your own opinions about where exactly some of these were taken, but I’ll give you a hint: Very near Arkansas. It’s important to keep an open mind about what is beauty up there, but some things you just have to see to believe. Glad to be home. Hope you’re all well, let’s touch base about our mental health tomorrow, today take a gander of some of the wonders of the Ozarks.

M.

Jim Bakker’s home! Is it two “K”s or three in Bakkker?

Heading Home

We’re heading home today. I’d normally say we are heading back to reality at this point in a vacation, but this time reality never really left us. Or maybe it didn’t leave me. I was keenly aware, all day, everyday, of the realities of life. That masks were necessary, and that even in outdoor events, social distancing is key. It wasn’t part of the original plan to leave so soon, but plans change. You get new information, you make educated decisions. Our new information came like this: 1. Jerimiah was suddenly thrust into a large corporate deal (think a bidding contract worth millions) that he needs to be “present” for. “Present” here doesn’t mean in actual person, as of now anyway, but there’s a chance. He does need high-speed internet though, an issue we’ve been battling out here in the country, and he needs a shirt with a tie, and some semblance of an office (he’s currently working with a large, blow-up dartboard behind him). 2. This global pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Not sure if you’ve seen, but uhh, it’s here to stay awhile, and things are changing daily. A week ago, the state we live in (Georgia) was “steady” and the state we are currently in (Missouri) was on the decline. Now, two weeks later, things have changed drastically. Covid-19 is running rampant again, in both states, and the truth of the matter is I need to be at home, socially distancing from others, in the safety of our bubble, with my immune-compromised husband and my asthmatic kid. It’s the only way. The way of life here is too lackadaisical, and that’s okay for some people, but not for us. The risk, in this case, is not worth it.

So goodbye Table Rock Lake. Goodbye family! Thanks to those of you who were able to visit with us. Thanks for self-isolating for a couple of weeks, thanks for taking our safety concerns seriously. Thanks for the late-night talks, the boat rides, the floating and laughing and singing. Thanks for the best version of a summer vacation we could ask for this year, hopefully we will see you all soon, but if not that’s okay. Your safety, our safety, the collective safety is the most important, and besides, one day life might be back to normal, isn’t that neat? Something to look forward to!

M.

Hashtag Blessed

Woke up this morning thinking that I’m too stressed to feel blessed. You read that right: I’m too stressed to feel blessed. My stress level is off the charts. I’m not home during a global pandemic. I’ve got my kid traveling all over, seeing people who have not been taking this pandemic seriously. The lack of masks, social distancing, and isolation here is crazy. People are totally pretending like the numbers aren’t spiking. They think wearing a mask is sufficient. What the what? I want to be back at my house, alone, ordering my groceries again. I’m scared. I’m stressed. And if you aren’t, you are not paying attention.

Don’t get me wrong I’m having a good time, occasionally. Occasionally I forget that the world is a shitbag, upside place. Occasionally I drink so much wine with my husband and best friend that I forget. Or I’m on the lake, enjoying a boat ride. Like yesterday when we rolled up at the marina to get gas and snacks. It’s called “What’s Up Dock” and it’s cute, and lively, and had all the gas, Sprite, and potato chips we needed. They also has a ton of people. People walking around aimlessly, asking about jet ski rentals, and trying on “Table Rock” t-shirts, buy one, get one free. For a split second I forgot about Covid-19. It all seemed so normal. So free. So every, other summer of my life. Then I remembered.

I saw a bumper sticker on a car coming up here: “Too Blessed to be Stressed.” I smiled and thought, wouldn’t that be nice.

M.

The Portrait

This is a short, necessary story. Yesterday my husband and son made a quick trip over to the Tulsa area to meet up with my father-in-law. I didn’t go for a multitude of reasons, which means I wasn’t there to see my son drive his papa’s 1970 Chevy Blazer all over Hell’s creation. I wasn’t there to see him shoot the 45-magnum revolver. But I did get to hear about how his ears were still ringing when he got home. And lastly I wasn’t there to say, “Ohhh, no thanks,” when Jerimiah was sent off with this creepy portrait that his Uncle JR (Jackson and Jerimiah’s namesake) had commissioned of a preschool Jerimiah in 1985. What’s that? Yeah, that’s a for real thing.

There you go. Now we have this portrait, the same one I had nightmares of the first time I saw, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to hang it over our fireplace because why not? Why not indeed.

Have a safe, creepy-portrait-free day, y’all.

M.