Welcome, one and all, to yellowdaisychickchat!
I am so excited to be starting this new blog. For the past year and a half, I have been working on Growing Green (www.anderson.wordpress.com), about a family trying not to suck at being green. And the truth is, we actually don’t suck at it anymore. We learned so much that being green is now a part of our lives, of who we are. While I enjoyed writing my green blog, I felt that it had run its course and am ready to write a blog about other topics. So, thank you, blog readers, for your support; R.I.P. Growing Green, thanks for the memories. You will live forever in our hearts.
Yellowdaisychickchat will cover a wide variety of topics, such as books, movies, food, drinks, pop culture, parenting, the environment, sports, health, pets, gardening, skeet shooting, exercise, college football, fashion, the meaning of life, etc. Basically whatever I feel like writing about, so it could be pretty much anything under the sun! I do try to avoid politics, not because I don’t care, but because I’d rather leave that to the experts. But please do vote this November! For yourself, for your kids, for all of the many people in the world who didn’t and don’t get a chance to.
Today, I want to write about my recent Southern Literary Tour to Mississippi. My traveling companions were my mother, Mama G, and my grandmother, Granny D. We have been planning this trip for several years and after many postponements, we finally got to go. We flew into Memphis and only had time to eat at Neely’s BBQ before jumping in the car and heading to Greenwood, MS. Have you eaten at Neely’s? Of Food Network fame? I must say, the hype is for real, because if I had been the only diner in there, I would’ve licked my plate, it was so good. The pork itself was tender, with little bits of the crispy crust, and the flavorful sauce soaked through to the bun. The slaw should have been a sidenote, but instead was a highlight on top of the sandwich. It started us off right; what other food could have possibly been more appropriate than Memphis BBQ to start off a southern literary tour? (Mama G and I have acknowledged our literary tour may have been a food tour in disguise, but nevertheless…)
Our itinerary was a stop in Greenwood, MS, then a trek to Oxford, then down to Greenville, over to Jackson, and back up the Natchez Trace to fly out from Memphis. I had to leave from Jackson and sadly, had to miss the Trace. My first impression of MS was “rural.” Not much in between towns to see but farmland, farmland, and more farmland. You better be sure you’ve gassed up, because there are miles between gas stations. We became BFF’s with our GPS. It is really a very poor area. Birthplace of the Blues. Some areas felt like I had traveled back in time. I thought often of the contrast between Mississippi’s historically bad reputation in the public education arena, against their incredible, international literary influence. I wanted to find out why and how there were so many writers from Mississippi. How could a place so poor be so rich?
Greenwood is a small town with big literary accomplishments. I don’t guess there are too many people there who AREN’T writers. It has a beautiful hotel, the Alluvian (http://www.thealluvian.com/), and a lovely bookstore nearby, Turnrow Books (http://www.turnrowbooks.com/). The hotel and bookstore are as modern as they come and could have both been businesses in Atlanta, but were, instead, in the middle of small town Mississippi. The bookstore was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Book after book, major bestsellers amongst many Greenwood and MS authors, had handwritten descriptions by their employees, and most of the books were signed. The workers were helpful, knowledgeable, friendly, and interesting to talk with. There is a cafe upstairs, where we met the ex-mayor having his morning coffee. The latest big Greenwood news was that the movie “The Help” (book by another Mississippian Kathryn Stockett) had just finished filming in Greenwood. We enjoyed the Delta Bistro, just a few blocks from the Alluvian, for dinner (yummy fried crawfish pasta salad with comeback sauce dressing and fried asparagus, Lazy Magnolia’s Indian Summer Ale.)
Our trek to Oxford was a pilgrammage to visit the home of THE southernest writer there is, Mr. William Faulkner. I must admit, my pea brain/undiagnosed-adult-ADD hasn’t allowed much Faulkner up in here, but I was curious to see what the fuss is all about. He was a bit nuts, as many writers are. He was a drunk. He lied about his war hero status. He was terrible in his job as a postmaster. He wouldn’t allow air conditioning in his home and the day after he died, his wife got a window unit. (You go, girl! Can you imagine?) But the man could write a good story, and he obviously has influenced people across the world, and put this area of farmland On. The. Map. We didn’t get a chance to get to his grave, where you are supposed to sip some bourbon in his honor, as well as pour some on his grave. We had to make up for it later at the hotel happy hour and toast him with our cocktails!
We visited another awesome independent book store, Square Books, and Square Books Jr. I asked some employees and customers why they thought MS produced so many writers. Some answers I got were “nothing else to do”, “the poverty”, “the history”, and “the storytelling tradition.” All of their answers made sense. But the most interesting answer I got was that in the Mississippi Delta, life moves at a slower pace than the rest of the world; there aren’t any of the distractions that you find in cities, and writers are able to really observe life down to the smallest details and put it into words.
We made a stop in Greenville, MS, where there are more famous writers, like Jim Henson of Muppets fame, Shelby Foote, William Alexander Percy, Walker Percy, and more. Greenville was a very sleepy town during our visit. Several of the recommended stops had closed. The McCormick Book Inn, another fascinating bookstore, was open and we enjoyed the books as well as the local and MS history “museum” in the back. There is a quote from Greenvillian Shelby Foote, describing Greenvillian writing: “it’s like drinking the brown water, it’s just what we do.” The book store owner actually had bottled their brown tap water because so many aspiring writers wanted to drink it. Sadly for this blog, he was out of brown water that day; alas, this writer will have to live out her days drinking clearer, but potentially less inspiring, Georgia water.
For myself, the trip more or less ended after a long, somehow even more rural, drive to Jackson, from where I flew out the following morning. I loved learning about the roots of southern literature and seeing a new part of the country. I’ve lived in the south my whole life but never been to the Mississippi Delta til now. I learned a lot about this area and from this area…mainly, to turn off the distractions, tune into the details, and find inspiration.
At the Alluvian hotel in Greenwood, I was drawn to the black and white photographs they had on the walls. They were taken by Mississippi native Maude Schyler Clay (http://www.50statesproject.net/maudeschuylerclay.html.) I realized the landscapes in the photos were the same landscapes I had seen mile after mile on the MS highways; landscapes that I found empty and lifeless. Looking at the photos, I saw rural Mississippi through her eyes, and it was beautiful. Maybe that’s another reason for the surplus of writers, musicians, and artists here; they want to show the world how beautiful their home is.
October 25, 2010 at 11:39 pm
What a fantastic trip to spend with family. I loved your details and obvious enjoyment of food, scenery and history. I know your Granny was groovin, too! Hope to hear more of your adventures and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Bless be the tie that binds.
October 26, 2010 at 1:50 am
Mississippi seems to be a world all its own, and I guess every little world all its own feels the need to express itself in its own unique way. Thanks for helping us savor the uniqueness of this cradle of great writers.