Saturday, October 22, 2016

Deeper into Fall, Soul Food, and Ellie-Mae

Cooler Weather and the Need for Comfort

I got up this morning at 4:44 a.m. The temperature inside the house was 65 degrees, and for a couple of hours I just wore a long-sleeved shirt to alleviate the cold, but I knew I had to take a shower and so I wondered if the heater would work. It's part of the AC/Heat package, and even though the gas company had checked to make sure the electric pilot would work, I just had to see for myself this morning. So I turned the thermostat to Heat, raised the setting to 68 degrees, and it worked! I still need to have the gas company check on the carbon-monoxide, but I figured I'm not going to be running the system regularly for quite some time. Temperatures are supposed to go up after today, back into the 80's.

Mae is on the left, Ellie is on the right
My girls, Ellie and Mae, also need to be kept comfortable, so, I've increased their blanket nests around the house, but even with the colder weather they're mostly content to play and explore, within the confines of the house, little "birds" in a gilded cage, I guess, but unless I can ever come up with a way to partition off part of the back yard, where they can't get out and stray cats can't get in (yeah...right), they must remain indoor cats. They do get a lot of exercise, but they also have their powered-down moments throughout the day. They're how they are growing. They're just seven months old, and just look at them!

This drop in temperature reminds me, too, that it's getting close to time for some soul food, a much better alternative than the usual fast-food and high-sugar snacks. I also found a Mexican food restaurant here that I like. I've tried three others, here in town, but I was very pleased with the latest one—very good red sauce for their enchiladas. I had a bit of fun with the owner, however, when I asked him if he ever heard of putting an egg on top of the enchilada, over-easy, and a dollop of sour cream. He had not. I guess that's a New Mexico thing. That's the southwest US equivalent of soul food.

Glenn's BBQ: catfish filet, coleslaw, mac and
cheese, and hushpuppies.
While I've been here, I've been trying all the Southern food cafes and restaurants I can find. I have a new favorite in catfish. And if anyone has ever read my essay, "Mississippi" from Slices of REAL Life, they will know that before I moved here, I didn't think I would like catfish. All that was shattered when Cliff and I ate at the Friendship House restaurant in Aberdeen, Mississippi, in 2014. And so now, catfish is one of my favorite soul-food meals. At the moment, my favorite place for Southern cooking is Glenn's BBQ in east Columbus, but another place is Little Dooey's up on 5th Street North close to downtown.

And I was delighted to find another Southern food restaurant called Jones Restaurant, right in the heart of downtown. They have been in business since 1940; they closed briefly in 2015/16 due to illness in the family, but I stumbled onto the restaurant about a week after they re-opened. And the good thing about this restaurant is the price of a lunch. It's a great place to eat when I'm a little short of cash.

Jones Restaurant: smothered pork chop, mashed potatoes,
corn, yams, and cornbread.
The thing about Columbus's downtown is the more I explore it, the more cafes and restaurants I find within a three-block radius, including The Cafe on Main, Thai by Thai, Jones Restaurant, Huck's Place, J Brussards,  and Zachary's, and just a little farther out on Main, Harvey's. These are all great places to eat, and not one of them is a chain (except for Harvey's, which is a small chain with only two or three locations). So far, all I've had at the Thai restaurant is their sticky rice and mango and their great coffee, which I like to have before I go to the writer's group meeting just next door at the Columbus Art's Council building.

Consider that Columbus, Mississippi, is only 25,000 people, and it amazes me that there are so many restaurants to choose from without once setting foot in a big-box chain. Farther out, but well within a couple of miles of downtown are numerous steak houses, Chinese food places (locally owned, each with its own style of Chinese), and Mexican food places. But, yeah, there are the chains: Applebees, Cracker Barrel, Subway, Popeye's, McAlister's, Buffalo Wild Wings, and really for a small town, the list is endless.

So I'm looking forward to the real fall weather, once most of the days are in the 70's and lower. Maybe I'm even looking forward to winter, but I'll get back to you on that.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Change of Seasons

Something in the Air...

So I survived my first summer in the Deep South, and I do have to say that had it not been for a very good AC system on my house, there were days this summer that would have been unbearable, especially when combined with the humidity. But Fall is here and already I have gone at least three weeks without using the air-conditioning, nor has the humidity been a factor. The mornings are cool and with the temps only reaching into the 80s, now, I've been able to get out and work in the yard. I also see that several weeks have passed since I posted to this blog. Instead, I've been finishing a few writing projects:

  • Three volumes and the final books in my Common Threads in the Life Series. For a look at this series and my thoughts about completing it, visit my writing website.
  • A new and expanded collection of autobiographical essays called Slices of REAL Life.
  • The Columbus Writer's Guild and each of us editing work by other members.

There's just something about the serene days of fall weather, when the days are beautiful and the nights are peaceful that allow me to concentrate on my post-retirement avocation of writing. I've even thought about writing about this Reality TV Presidential Election (soontobeoverthankgod), but there's no sense in driving away readers who might be as sick and tired of this most disgusting election cycle in American history as I am.

Now that my twin calico girls are getting a little more mature and don't need to hang onto every thing I do, I don't have to escape their incessant curiosity by hanging out at the local coffee shop to do any serious reading or writing. For example, right now, they're not locked in the prison of the master bedroom/bathroom while I'm at my computer. They're free to come and go as they want, and usually, these days, they just hang out on top of the computer desk, staring upside down at the computer screen and allow my fingers to move over the keyboard or move the mouse without their help. I've also been able to work in Photoshop again and I've come up with an apropos cover for Slices of REAL Life. This book will only be available as a Kindle book and will sell for $3.99. It contains essays I wrote for three literary anthologies, two of them published by Dutton, one published through a grant from the New Mexico Arts Division in a literary anthology, titled, The Deming Six: Voices of the Chihuahuan Desert. And several more of the essays are those I've written and never published anywhere until now.

Several people have told me that it can get quite cold in Columbus, Mississippi, in the winter, and if the humidity has something to do with making it feel colder, I'll tend to listen to those people, so I hope the heater works as well as the AC did this past summer. But for now, there's just something in the air that has got my creative side working overtime.

For those who want to traverse Mississippi on one of the most beautiful highways in the state, consider the Natchez Trace Parkway that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville Tennessee, over 400 miles of uncomplicated driving without Semi-Trucks. There are plenty of exits off the Parkway to visit historic towns  along the way.