Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Monday, June 28, 2010

The BTC Old-Fashioned Grocery Store

There's a new store in Water Valley, and it is my kind of place. I read about it in the MissPres roundup last week, so I thought I would go check it out this afternoon. It is like stepping into a store from when I was a child, back in Newcastle, Texas. (Well, except for that shelf full of micro-brewery beers and ales, that is.) A few shelves line one side, and the produce (mostly local) is in bins in the center. There are refrigeration units for the local Brown's Dairy milk in glass bottles, and the cheeses, eggs, and vegetables. A small freezer unit holds pork from the nearby Pontotoc Farms.

The back of the building still bears the name Wagner's. At one time, there was a Wagner's Department Store in Water Valley (in the 20s, and until Mr. Wagner was killed in 1931). Per MissPres information, the building dates from around 1860. There is a picture on the Water Valley Main Street Association dated 1879 (see it here, under history) that appears to be the building, and the buildings along side it look accurate. However, the historical picture shows a third floor. Interestingly, the windows and the boxed vents above them, appear the same in both the historical picture and the current picture. It leaves me wondering if the upper portion was somehow destroyed and not rebuilt? Having been to Water Valley very often, I don't recall any other building on Main Street across from the railroad tracks that looks like that. I guess I will have to check that out now.
This photo is from last summer, and shows just the far right of the building. It gives a glimpse of what the building looked like prior to the current paint.

I have been in a cooking mood lately, and the menu for the evening is shrimp with jalepeno cheese grits (made with my stone ground local grits), sauteed patty pan squash, and mini-blackberry and plum galettes for dessert. I'll be pouring Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc. Stop on by and get a plate.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Playing the Enemy AKA Invictus

Back in December, a friend lent me the book Playing the Enemy. She knew my love for South Africa and thought I would enjoy it. I saved it for my trip to South Africa, departing the US Dec. 31, and read it on my way over and back. While I was there, my South African friends and I discussed it: was it true to their experience? What about the movie?

Finally, tonight, I watched Invictus--the movie version of the book. I know there were things in the movie that were not like my experience there, and things that were not like the experience of my friends there. No doubt, things that were not like the experience of Mr. Mandela either. Still, it was a poignant (there is that word yet a second time for me this week) reminder of why I love the people of South Africa.

I made my first trip to South Africa in 2001. I just randomly selected pictures (by scrolling down the list and clicking on the numbers) of some of the shots over the years. It seemed fitting to illustrate my experiences there, and the contradictions that are South Africa. Indeed, the contradictions that are the world.

This is Alfred & Victoria Wharf, in Cape Town (Kaap Stad), with Table Mountain (Afrikaans pronunciation taafelberg) in the background. It illustrates the colonialization of South Africa: the influence of the English and Dutch in names and architecture.
This is a vehicle used by the South African Police Force during apartheid. This photo is from my 2004 visit, and while I was visiting the South African Police Service, in Black Heath, out of Eersteriver. Eersterivier (First River) is located between Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
This photo comes from Khayelitsha, one of the black townships near Cape Town. This was during my 2004 visit as well. As I was visiting the community with Tututhela, we passed this family, who wanted me to take their picture. Mother was getting ready to cook dinner.
In 2002, I had the first opportunity to visit Robben Island, where Mr. Mandela was first imprisoned. This was his cell. Like Francois Pinaar in Invictus (or Playing the Enemy if we want to be correct) I was struck by the size and how in spite of spending so many years here, Mr. Mandela could emerge willing to forgive his captors.
This was my first view of Khayelitsha, in 2001. As Jeanne (my student then, and tour guide) and I pulled up to a stop sign, I took this picture through the windshield. I just remember being overwhelmed at the size of the township, and truthfully, my fear. I was afraid to even step outside of the car to take a picture. Many years later, and many trips later to South Africa, I understand this fear, and yet, do not. I suppose like most people, the fear of the unknown can be overwhelming. On the other hand, every person, family, organization that I have met in South Africa has been warm and welcoming to me. That just makes me wonder: why is it that our experiences are like that? Why do we simultaneously fear and love?
Also during my visit in 2001, we visited a pre-school (creche) in Kayamundi, outside of Stellenbosch. Over the years of my visits, I would come to visit this community many times. What was impressive in this visit was the joy of the children first of all, the commitment of the women in the community who taught them second of all, and the responsibility of the government to supply curriculum and resources. Looking at the walls (where the curriculum is displayed) we might not be so impressed. What this represented (according to these women) was the commitment of the government that every child would be ready for school, having mastered the necessary pre-requisites to be successful.
In 2002, I spent 3 months in this community. This was a rainy day out in the township of Khayeltisha.

When I was in South Africa in January 2010--some 9 years after my first visit--in many ways it had not changed. You can still drive down the N1 or N2 into Cape Town and see communities like the above--in sharp contrast with the places in which tourists or wealthy or even middle-class people stay.

Watching Invictus tonight was both inspiring and hard. It was inspiring because it is a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. I remember in 1990 when Mr. Mandela was released, and being astonished and proud that he would walk out of prison after his whole adult lifetime of incarceration holding a clenched fist. I would not know until many years later that the clenched fist held aloft and over the heart represented a sense of loyalty and commitment, rather than defiance, and that commitment is a defiance--a resistance to the status quo that believes we cannot be better than we are.

2007. The commitment continues.

So, as I watched Invictus tonight, I had mixed emotions. I was tearful throughout--partly for my love for this country and her people and their forgiveness and resilience and how so many of them have welcomed me and love me and supported me. And partly, because of my feelings of loss--for this country and her people, and for my country and her people. There are so many parallels between us.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Red headed step child

It has been a busy week. I have been glued to the computer--either at home or in my office--working on conceptual frameworks, tweaking syllabi, and doing research for my next research project. And of course, I cannot stop my current fetish of investigating architecture and historical buildings in the area. I really think I was supposed to be in some Quantum Leap life, and I would have just gone from one profession to another, bringing my own unique perspective to it, while trying to figure out what the "owner" would have wanted and valued. Fix a problem and whoosh! I'm leaping to the next life.

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon with a student. While I was helping with research, I also was just listening. It was a poignant reminder about how hard is the work we social workers do. I have such respect for what child protection workers do, and teaching this class has been a reminder of how hard it is for them to face the issues on a daily basis of child maltreatment. We pay them less than we pay a truck driver or a shrimper--even though they have college degrees and are on call most of their lives, and expect them to deal with deaths and maltreatment without it interfering with their work.

This week, I have sent a letter to my congressional representative to support the social work reinvestment act, and one to my senator to support the moratorium on off shore drilling. I have to be honest, I doubt either of them will result in "my" representatives expressing my voice. That is what is known as the tyranny of the majority. The fact of the matter is that social workers are aging out; we do not have enough social workers to meet the demand for service right now, and in a few more years, it will be even more dire. The need for social workers keeps growing, yet, we pay these people who work with the most vulnerable, most damaged, most hostile, most ill, most "fill in the blank" people among the lowest salaries of any professional. Many people probably do not even know that they are professionals: to be a social worker, one must complete a minimum of a 4 year degree, and at advanced levels, 6 or more years, and then pass a national license exam, followed by securing licensure in the state in which one lives and practices.

An issue on MissPres this week has reminded me (along with writing Senator Wicker) of my concerns about how decisions are made that affect us all, but do not benefit us all. I spent some time researching the 1979 Jackson flood, and located an article I have to read. It means I actually have to physically go to the library, but it seems that important. The article was published in 1982, and calls the flood "a public policy disaster." Given that my last publication (with my colleagues from UTA) was addressing the public policy disaster of Hurricane Katrina, I just have to read it. My guess is we have not learned anything , but I may be just in a pessimistic down turn due to the Gulf oil fiasco. I can't call it a spill--a spill is what happens when you drop the milk carton, or even crash the Exxon Valdes into the shore. A giant hole intentionally drilled without adequate precautions is not exactly an accident.

What does all of that have to do with the red-headed step child, Libby? Libby is like my canary in the coal mines. When I am getting too near the danger zones, she comes to the end of the bed and alerts me. It tends to pull me back into reality and to reassess what is important, what demands attention right now, and what just needs to take a nap. I'll let you know what the congressman and senator had to say, if I hear back from them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

St. Charles Cabinetry and famous architects

I have become enamored of technochic in recent years, and though I have not yet taken the plunge, it's coming. I am in the process of downsizing and simplifying my life and my possessions. I want clean lines and clean materials, and the appeal of stainless steel is overwhelming with 4 dogs in the house.

I recently ran across an ad in Food and Wine on vintage chic and it carried a picture of metal cabinets with the caption "St. Charles recently relaunched its colorful metal cabinets, a favorite of architect Miles van der Rohe's." First, who was Miles van der Rohe, and second, why did he love St. Charles cabinets? Van der Rohe was called one of the most important architects of the 20th century, creating "visionary products" using glass and steel. He designed Farnsworth House, in Illinois, and installed St. Charles cabinets. While the versions depicted in that house were very simple, the newly relaunched designs seem to combine the clean aesthetics with modern functional design; the result is stunning. See the gallery of photos here. (http://www.stcharlescabinets.com/index.php).

St. Charles cabinets were also featured in some of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs.

St. Charles was acquired by the Viking Range corporation, headquartered in Greenwood, Mississippi. They just relaunched the range in 2007, after stopping production in 2004 to work on new designs. These babies are a far cry from the old metal cabinets churned out by Montgomery Ward and Sears in the 40s and 50s. I still admit to a certain nostalgia about them as well, and especially those that had a porcelain sink with an integrated drainboard on either side. We had one of those in the house I lived in from age 5-7. The first house that Rand and I moved into together had blue metal cabinets in the kitchen. I always felt like Lucille Ball walking in each morning in my pale robin's egg blue bathrobe, though there was the slight difference of not being in a high rise in New York.

Right after I finish the hall bathroom remodel (ETA July 5), the kitchen is next. I want those St. Charles cabinets.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More Lafayette, Yalobusha, and a little Calhoun

I woke at 5 this morning, unable to return to sleep. It seemed like a good day to finish the list of historical places I compiled yesterday. Randy always says I will do anything to postpone my real work.
Orrwood is not in the GPS system, so I had to use Google to locate the general area as I had no street address. Many curving roads and wrong turns later, I finally found the Sand Spring Presbyterian Church. Records differ as to Spring or Springs, and whether it is Orrwood or Orwood. The cemetery sign says Orrwood, and it was supposedly named after the Orr family, so I am going with the double r spelling.
The church was built in 1854, and the architect/builder is identified as William Turner, per the National Historical Places Registry. A William Turner is also identified in conjunction with Rowan Oak, following the description of the house architectural style (Walker & Graham, 2000).

The Orrwood Cemetery, next to the church.
According to the address and the GPS, this would be the Newberger House, though I could not find any confirming signage. Subsequent research shows it was delisted by the MDAH in 2004, though I do not know why. The NRHP identified it as Stick/Eastlake Gothic Revival, Italianate, and in the period of 1850-1874.
Coffeeville was named after General John Coffee and the first courthouse was built in 1837. There is also a courthouse in the second judicial district of Yalobusha County, in Water Valley. Both the Coffeeville and Water Valley courthouses burned, and Coffeeville's burned twice--it kind of makes one wonder. This building is the third replacement, built in 1890 by W. E. Mooring.
Crumbling brick on the back of one of the buildings in downtown Coffeeville.

This mural depicts the old Coffeeville Hotel, also known as the Hamblet Hotel. The Historic American Buildings Survey completed by the National Park Service, around 1983, reported the hotel was important from 1906 until World War II. It identified it as "a local landmark due to its prominent location and distinctive architectural design." The builder was Hall of Water Valley.
Building on main street of Coffeeville.

I left Coffeeville on 330, toward Bruce/Water Valley. Just after stopping at the York barn, I turned the GPS back on. Instructions had me take a left on a dirt road. Never one to pass up an adventure, I thought I would see where it led. I was starting to get a little worried, when I ended up back on 330. Apparently, Nuvi cannot just say "make a u-turn." I ignored her, as I did not want to go back to Coffeeville to go to Water Valley. I should have listened.

Having gone way out of my way to avoid Coffeeville again, I passed a wooden sign that simply said Tabernacle. The road led in the middle of the cemetery, and there was a small church at the top of the hill, but with no identifying marks. Because I have no idea where I was, I have no idea where I was other than on the old Water Valley Road.
Just a little further toward Water Valley, I was surprised by the Pine Valley School sign.

I had noted much bridge work on the road, and just within sight of the highway to take me back into Water Valley, the road was closed--no bridge. Yet another detour to attempt to get back to Water Valley. Shortly after, it began to pour rain. One of my favorite pass-times in Mississippi has been driving the very narrow two lane roads that make up this rural area: they have no shoulder, often deep ditches, and people here seem to have a propensity to driving on the wrong side of the yellow lines. Add to that pouring rain, and you could have peeled me off the steering wheel by the time I finally reached Water Valley.

By the way, Water Valley and Yalobusha was the inspiration for the Lottabusha County Chronicles, but that is a story for another day. Now, I really do have to do some real work. Grad class is tomorrow.

Lafayette history in an hour

While reading my favorite Mississippi blog on Mississippi Preservation, I linked to the National Register of Historical Places, Lafayette County. I scrolled all the listings for the area, some of which I have visited, and others which were new to me. I had a couple of hours to wait before an appointment, so I decided to check out the sites I had not known about previously.

First up was the Hopewell Presbyterian Church--which was no easy thing to find. It is a bit over 5 miles out of town, and is now used as part of a church camp. The significance is identified (by NRHP) as architectural, and it represents mid-19th century revival style. This building was built in 1866, after the first log building housing the church burned.

Next up was Ammadelle. I knew by the location on Lamar Street that I had to have seen it, but I had no idea which house, or why it was listed. There is no place to park on Lamar, and in 100 degree temperature, I was unwilling to park and walk. This photo is from Joseph's collection. The historical significance (per NRHP) is in the architecture, which is Italianate. The architect was identified as Calvert Vaux, and apparently, this is the only house in the South that he built.
Relying on GPS, I also found the Isom Place--another building with no street parking. This photo is from the archives of the federal government (and thus in public domain). Apparently, it is not the architecture, but the historical importance of the person who lived in the house that merits the historical designation. (I was glad to learn that, as I was concerned when I was not unduly wowed by the house itself after locating it). Dr. Thomas Dudley Isom was an educator, and Howorth's site indicates that the charter for the University of Mississippi was signed in the dining room of this house. It currently houses the Barksdale Reading Institute, which seems fitting given the history of Isom. The Barksdale Institute is doing important educational work in the Mississippi Delta. Given that from my perspective since moving here, many of the issues in this state are related to inadequate education--and literacy in particular--it is a fitting use of the house.

It took forever (almost all of my remaining time) to find the Lamar House--the Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar House. I have rarely been in this section of the town, even after 7 years. Streets in this area are sometimes one-way, sometimes broken up by dead ends or other oddities, and it took a good deal of perseverance to finally locate it.
Again, the significance is the historical value of the individual. What I did not know until later research, was that the house has only recently been restored, partly due to efforts of the Oxford Lafayette County Heritage Foundation.
These two photos are from the OLCHF. The first shows the condition of the house prior to the renovation efforts, and viewed in that light, it emphasizes the importance of saving historic locations.
This photo was identified as the house in 1929. To my untrained eye, it does appear as if there have been changes over time. (Shutters and the porch roof and columns in the current renovation differ from the 1929 photo and the one prior to restoration, for example).

The point of the excursion was just finding out what was in my own back yard.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mirror Cardinal

NOTE OF EDIT: I added a movie of the cardinal and it appears at the bottom of this post. He does this for hours.

I have been fascinated the last few days with this cardinal's apparently unending ritual. He starts out sitting on the mirror of Rand's truck.
Then, he flies down to perch on the edge of the door, and looks at himself in the mirror.

A few seconds later, he flies up and pecks at his image in the mirror, then lands atop it, only to repeat the process over and over again. The mirror has little streaks from where he has pecked it, and of course, he tends to poop down the door.

He only utilizes the passenger side mirror, and if the Avalanche is gone, then he does his ritual on my car mirror. After several repetitions, he flies off to a nearby bush for a few seconds, and then comes back to start all over again.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Getting Closer

I know what you are thinking: enough with the cat pictures already. I am of the opinion though, that one cannot have too many cat pictures, especially when they are so unaffected (that's un AFF ected, not un a FECTed).

While I was out feeding the birds after filling the cat dish and getting fresh water, Mama and Babe were eating, paying me no mind. I was within 10 feet of them. When I came back outside with the camera, though, they weren't sure what to make of it.
Clearly, Babycat was less concerned than Mama, who kept a sharp eye on me the entire time.
This is a not cat picture, to break up the routine. It reminds me of Mississippi politics: at least 2 reds for every blue in the state.
Okay, one last cat picture. Who could have resisted this one?