Friday, June 16, 2017

I've Been through the Desert on a Horse with no Name...

Actually, after leaving the desert of southern New Mexico...


When I arrived in Mississippi a year ago, just as June got underway, I looked forward (with some trepidation) about what the summer and humidity would be like. I knew (intellectually) that even if the temperatures were not in the triple digits in the summer in Mississippi, the humidity would be in the high double digits and that it would be a different but just as uncomfortable heat—maybe worse. In the desert in the summer when it rains (and I might add at higher altitudes there) the rainfall can be cold, and after a good rain, the air is cool and there is a respite from the baking temperatures and relentless sun. I didn't think the rain would bring as much respite from the summer heat in Mississippi.

I've only lived through one complete summer here in Mississippi, and we're moving into my second summer. June has turned out to be hot and muggy, but I was delighted that a cloudy day and a little gentle rainfall does wonders in a different way than the rainfall in the summer in the desert. Yes, it feels wet after a rain, and no, even if the temps don't plummet nearly as far as after a cold desert rain, it can still be quite pleasant. So, I'll go with the hope that, unlike last summer, we get more rain. Last summer much of Mississippi suffered a drought, but as Fall came on and through the winter, the drought lifted. The worst day I can recall from last summer was when I traveled to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in July to attend a book club meeting. I wouldn't have missed it, because they were discussing one of my novels. The sun was relentless that day, and the meeting took place in a strip shopping center in a Metropolitan Church meeting room. The L-shaped center faced right into the afternoon sun, and I can remember sucking in the hot, wet air before scurrying into the building.

There were also soul-sucking, muggy and hot days here in Columbus, when I stepped out of my air-conditioned car on my way into the post office, and thought, "yes, this is really miserable heat." But I'm really not complaining. I was grateful that I didn't have a job that required me to work out in the heat, and my heart went out to construction workers that were roofing a house or mowing the grass, and I hoped that they were getting plenty of water. Even here, I noticed that people seek the shade to park their cars under and pedestrians walk on the side of the street when they can to get under awnings or walk on the shady side of buildings. When I have to do yard work (now that I finally have my lawnmower and edger and other garden tools) I only do it in the mornings when it's not quite as hot or at dusk, just after sunset.

But this all adds up to the fact that if I made it through all four seasons last year, I can do it again this year. Winter was mild here, but not as mild as southern New Mexico. Even then I welcomed the rain and the clouds, but perhaps the very best difference between here and the desert of southwest New Mexico is the lack of incessant wind from the west, and a companion to that blessing is that here the dust doesn't blow non-stop and coat everything.

Now...about those tornadoes, warnings, and sirens...


Thanks America for your haunting lyrics

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Deconstructing the Past

Finding bones in the closet and other discoveries...


The demolition stage of the house that Cliff bought here in Columbus and my on-site work and viewing of the demolition has revealed the house's past, including the bones that were laid bare in a closet we demolished to create one leg of an L-shaped hallway. We found more bones in two of the rooms behind the paneling which, when removed, took the house down to the studs.

No, this is not a picture of the bones of Cliff's house...whew!
I hope I got your attention. Ok, the "bones" are the skeleton of the house, but it reveals just how the house is put together and what changes were made from the time the house was built around 1905 through its evolution to the almost 2,000 square foot structure it is today.

It was both an ugly reveal once the paneling in two of the rooms was removed and a godsend that behind the paneling there was nothing but studs and insulation. It was an ugly reveal, because that meant...unexpected expenses for sheetrock (drywall). It was a godsend, because it meant that the new interior walls in those rooms would be smooth and seamless and easy to paint. We can create a crisp, fresh look to what might have otherwise been a tired but painted look. Even modern renovations for a historic home to be lived in should be allowed with no fear that the historic house police will come knocking.  You should be jailed, however, for destroying the period elements of a historic house that has not lost its original elements and seek to not only replace windows with period windows and materials. Such a renovation will cost many times over what the original home cost to build. Columbus has many such houses.

Uh...no. This is not a picture of Cliff's House,
but it is a good graphic of what Victorian
elements can be included in the design of a
house.
Anyway, the house was built as a Queen Anne Victorian in about 1905 but since then much of the decorative features have been lost; we especially believe on the outside, where fretwork (gingerbread) might have once graced the front porch. The stately and large Queen Anne windows have been replaced with smaller, metal-clad windows, and inside, more history is revealed. The house used to have five fireplaces, but when the first remodel was done to turn the place into commercial offices, the fireplaces were covered over, and so when we were removing the paneling and inset, built in (ugly) shelves were removed, we all hoped that the fireplace mantels had just been framed over and the fireplaces were intact. But just as there was nothing  but bare studs behind the paneling, the overzealous remodelers and destroyers of history demoed out the fireplace mantels, leaving only a gaping brick maw...the jaws if you will of the bones we discovered behind the walls. They destroyed two of the five fireplaces.

During some time over what has to have been several years, the house must have been vacant, and we think that was before the building was converted to offices; during that time, a leak had developed in what we call the center room (might have even been a wide center hallway originally that let off into the four principle rooms of the house, a parlor, a music room, a dining room, and a bedroom). The leak got worse, and when we took down the drop ceilings in that room, the ceiling had suffered a lot of damage, as no doubt did the hardwood floors, there. As a result of the water damage, we believe that a sub-floor was placed over the hardwood and tiles laid on top. We do know there's hardwood under the tile, because we removed a single tile and there it is...hardwood flooring, but we might find, once the tiles are removed that the hardwood flooring in the center of the room, where the roof leaked possibly damaged the hardwood. We're hoping not, but we'll have to remove the tile before we know.

In Cliff's house there are three fighting doors, which we've
alleviated by walling up one of the doors and, just down
the hall, we've walled up another door. By removing the
closet, we opened up that area with much better traffic flow.
What is now a long room off the main bedroom to the back of the house, which we're converting to a laundry room and walk-in closet, was once an outdoor porch, and I believe what is now the hallway at the back of the house might have also been partially an outdoor wall, because there is a transom window over the south door out of the center room leading into the hallway. While the kitchen may have been original to the house, it was cannibalized at some time to create a second bathroom. The kitchen, hallway, and both bathrooms are linoleum, but like the center room, we believe there is hardwood underneath. Our goal is to reveal all the hardwood throughout the house and marry them all together at the doorways, so that the house flows from one room to the next, using the hardwood flooring as the medium that ties the rooms together. We have also removed many of the doors and have demoed out the door sills, so that we're not beset with a house of doors, many of which fought with each other in some of the tighter spaces. For example the short hall had five doors, three of which when fully opened blocked the back door entrance. You had to keep two of the doors shut, just so you could fully open the back door. We've at least removed one of those three doors and will close the doorway into a wall.

So, what we've learned about the history of this house and what the bones tell us is that the house is built like a tank with good wood being used for the original walls, on true 16-inch centers. The wood is actual 2x6, rather than the cheating "2x6" lumber you get now, or worse, some homes are built with 2x4 outside walls. Truly "stick" building. The house was originally floored with hardwood and that has not been removed, there was a moment in time when the house must have stood vacant and the roof leaked, causing some damage to the center room. There have been small additions to the back of the house, and that area was not nearly as neatly designed as the original. Some of the architectural elements have been removed over the years, but what is left is a solid, strong, and a "young" hundred-year-old house. The house has a marvelous crawl space that runs under the entire house with lots of room to maneuver, and the plumbing, duct work, and venting are all under the floor. The house sits on a solid foundation on a rise of land, so it isn't subject to flooding; further, the roof now has architectural-grade shingles and should last for several decades.

The video for this post is once again one of the "Stormy Monday Blues Band" live performances. People here in Columbus were treated to their appearance last week at the Riverwalk.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Final Steps Toward...

House closing, renovations, final acts...

I don't know how many of you have been following the year-long history of me saying that Cliff will be moving to Columbus, once he settled his property in Las Cruces, but all that has been accomplished, and now we are in the final acts...

Cliff's valuables have already been moved to Columbus
The closing and change of title took place on May 17.

Renovating his house before he moves is now underway. This activity has shifted to me in overseeing the renovations. Turns out, while the house is solid as a rock, we had a rude surprise once we took out the dropped ceilings (you know, those fluorescent banks of light and Celotex tiles) and once we removed the paneling from the walls. There was no drywall beneath the paneling, just studs—and I'm glad to say lots and lots of insulation, both in the walls and blown insulation in the attic.

This is the parlor BEFORE the paneling was
removed.
Yes, it's kind of scary having the whole house in what appears to be utter chaos right now, and those who don't know Cliff's knack for renovating might think that the house was move-in ready. In the photo of the parlor, you can't see the drop ceilings, but by removing those, the ceiling will go from 10 feet to 12 feet.

The contractor is soldiering on, despite the fact that we had to move the furniture into the house, because it was delivered before the closing. A snafu occurred so that the original closing was delayed, and had that taken place on time, the contractor would not have had to work around the tons of furniture and several hundred boxes, making the chaos even greater.

The red paneling is hiding the
fireplace.
In what will be the dining room, once the paneling was taken off an interior wall (not complete, here), we saw that the fireplace had been demolished, leaving only the brick structure. Same with the parlor fireplace. We were, however, able to gain a few square feet in each room. In this picture of the demolition (to the dining room), you can see that once the dropped ceiling was removed, conduit and wiring were exposed. This is currently being removed or rerouted. There will be lots of sheet rocking (drywall) work. From floor to ceiling the height will be 12 feet. I hope to get more pictures of the work-in-progress and then be able to take photos of the finished rooms. Stay tuned. This is almost like a "Flip this House" episode.

We're trying to get this project finished, including painting, refurbishing the hardwood floors, installing new appliances in the kitchen and utility room, and getting the house thoroughly cleaned before Cliff gets here. We only have five weeks to do it! Once he arrives, there will also be further work, like designing his walk-in closet, replacing the front door, turning it from a commercial entrance to a residential entrance.

And here is a picture of the front of the house. It is virtually ready as it is, but a good power-wash and porch rails (period to the house) will transform the look of the house from the street. I will be mowing and trimming the yard, as well.

Architecturally, this is a Queen Anne Victorian; however, the windows have been messed with during its past renovations, and while Cliff calls it a "mutt" house, I call it a modified Victorian. Inside, we're also going to add crown molding, and with the tall ceilings the crown molding should add a cozy feel to the otherwise stark height of the ceilings. There will be a chandelier (French Empire) in the dining room, as well as several other chandeliers in some of the other rooms, including the foyer.

Again, stay tuned! Time is passing quickly both for finishing the renovation and for Cliff's arrival here, with our 12-year-old cat, Julia, in tow.

Got news today that Greg Allman, who developed Southern Rock to a great degree died at the age of 69. Here is a video tribute just posted on Youtube:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Events On My Birthday 2017

The Market Street Festival, Columbus, Mississippi...

Yeah...Right!
I got up around 4 a.m. on my birthday to witness the last day of my 69th year, the day when the odometer turns to exactly 69 years, 0 months, 0 days, and then at midnight becomes 69.0.1 (69 years and one day...69 years and 2 days). You know the countdown here. Kids know it when you ask them how old they are: "I'm six and a half!" On days like this, I like to think about my parents and how old they were when I was 40 or 50—and Heaven forbid—how many years I have left if I die at my mother's age or my father's age, or for all that will I outlive my longest lived aunt or uncle or be among those who died relatively young? I'm sure a life insurance agent could pinpoint my death day to the nearest month and year, but I'm not interested. I like to see for myself, and NO, I don't dwell on how long I will live or how soon I will die, but on birthdays, this inevitably comes up for review.

On my birthdays, however, I also like to anticipate the day ahead and plan how I will spend my "special" day, which of course I probably share with millions of people around the world, because they were born on the exact day and month and year that I was.

So, I got up before dawn, got my girls fed, turned on my computer to see what was going on in the world, showered and shaved, and then I anticipated the 22nd Annual Market Street Festival here in Columbus. By about ten o'clock, I could see that the day was going to be perfect with sunny skies, just a slight breeze, low humidity, at a maximum temperature of just 74 degrees. This time of year, as well, everything is green and lush and homeowners have been mowing their lawns, so the walk to downtown was stunning and lovely.

This is from an earlier festival, but it's typical of what
I saw.
Market Street Festival has been named a Top 20 Event in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society for 20 years. A crowd of nearly 40,000 gathers each year to enjoy the two-day festival and offers over 250 arts, crafts, and food vendors, as well as dozens of special events, musical acts, and activities throughout the festival. Considering that Columbus is only around 24,000 people, it's easy to see that the festival gets thousands of out-of-town visitors for the event, as well. There were over a dozen musical groups performing around the area during the two days of the festival, including two groups at the Riverwalk, just west of downtown.

The downtown grid that was laid out for the festival included twelve square blocks, and the street nearest my house where I entered the festival area was only two blocks west and one block north. I entered there, and the first thing I saw was the train, which at first I thought was a kiddy ride, but there were adults getting on board. The crowds were not yet evident...

I wandered the familiar downtown streets where the festival was underway, around eleven o'clock, and I was surprised to see that every street was filled with people from sidewalk to sidewalk, filling the street, along with the hundreds of vendors with everything from food to arts and crafts to book stalls, home remedies, and even a stall that specialized in creating exotic birds out of old tires. That they were old tires was not evident until I got up close and felt of them.

One of my goals was to get a piece of cake for my birthday at the Cafe on Main. I had seen previously that chocolate Coca-Cola cake was on the menu—a more perfect cake is hard to imagine, unless it was my mother's white cake with chocolate fudge icing. Just because the festival was mainly outdoors didn't mean that people stayed on the streets. When I walked into the cafe, virtually every table was full and those that weren't were still dirty from the previous customer. It took awhile, but I did get served. I had chicken spaghetti, candied yams, lima beans, jalapeƱo cornbread, and my cake and coffee. I sang "Happy Birthday" to me under my breath when it was time to dig into the cake (hehehe), even though the whole idea of my needing to sing to myself and celebrate my birthday was tongue-in-cheek, because I don't really feel it's necessary to celebrate my birthday. Now the day the odometer turns over to 70.0.0...yeah, that will be a milestone.

As I continued to walk from one street to the next, all filled with people, the smell of the typical food wafted through the air and as I walked from street to street where performance stages were set up, one song diminished and another came into hearing range. I took time to listen to a set performed by Rachel McCann and the Carnal Echo on 5th Street South, just around the corner from where last year I had attended the annual Stella Shouting Contest.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Momentous Writer's Event

Dispatches from Pluto author Richard Grant...

Before I even moved to Columbus, Mississippi, I had the distinct impression that it was a place where people loved writers and turned out for book-signings and other author events. Since I've lived here, I've attended two events sponsored by the Columbus Arts Council where well-known writers spoke about themselves and their writing. One was by a local writer, Michael Farris Smith, who is gaining a good reputation as a writer. I believe he teaches at the "W" here in Columbus. The other such event was for Richard Grant.

Both writers' events were well attended, but Richard Grant's event had to be held in a larger venue, which took place at Mississippi University for Women in Parkinson Hall. 

The MSMS high school is housed on the MUW college
campus.

An Aside

Now, the thing I was delighted to see about this venue had nothing to do with the room where the event took place, but rather that it was held in the science building for the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science—which is the two-year high school for Mississippi's excellent students—one of the top high schools in the US. That's right a Mississippi school with an impeccable reputation.

Bright Students of any Ethnic minority are welcomed
into MSMS
Another important point about MSMS is the fact that it is a functionally integrated high school, which again just might detract from the notion that Mississippi schools suffer from a lack of integration. Well, there are schools here that are vast-majority white or vast-majority black, just as you might find in other schools in the US (not limited to the South) that really have nothing to do with a hold-over policy of segregation but has more to do with demographics and where people choose to live.

But I digress...


Author Richard Grant ended up moving to Mississippi a few years ago by what he described as a circuitous route. He went to high school in London, wandered the world, and by chance ended up in Oxford, Mississippi, during that time when he was working as a writer and ended up doing a few pieces on the music of Mississippi. He lived in New York City for a time when he was working on his writing career, but on one of his trips to Mississippi a friend of his gave him a tour of her hometown of Pluto, Mississippi—or rather the Mississippi Delta region. Long story short, Richard Grant chose to move to Pluto and convinced his wife that they should leave New York. It was while living there that Grant wrote Dispatches from Pluto. It is a New York Times bestseller.

The other thing about Columbus, Mississippi, that was evident when Grant spoke was that while Mississippi has a reputation as being deeply religious and some would assume almost puritanical as a result, the audience thoroughly enjoyed his sometimes graphic and earthy talk. Of course Dispatches from Pluto is also about Mississippi and the Delta region, so the audience was also delighted to have an outsider be able to capture the essence of that region, as some people in the audience attested having read the book beforehand. Here he is in a video interview about Mississippi and specifically about the Mississippi Delta region. The video is over eleven minutes, but readers might be interested by its range of coverage about Mississippi and its culture. Richard Grant narrates.

Monday, April 24, 2017

More Cafes, Local and Nearby

Food for the Soul...

There's only one month before my one-year anniversary living in Columbus. I closed on my house here in Columbus, Mississippi, on April 20, 2016, and I just passed the one-year milestone three days ago, and now within a month (by May 26), I will have been here for a whole year. Spring was also a season I had not lived through until now. Well, I did see the end of May and the tail end of spring when I moved here. But now that I'm living through the spring from the beginning, I've discovered that this season is by far my favorite time of the year here. Back in the desert, Spring is usually relentlessly windy and dusty, so this is a nice change. The fall here was also quite pleasant.

I feel more like getting out and about, even when it's raining, and so since my last post, my friend Pat has shown me more restaurants. Following the dinner and concert in Starkville,  Pat and I went to West Point to Anthony's Restaurant, where the menu selection is deep for all manner of food. I had usually been trying the catfish at various places, but at Anthony's I ordered a ribeye, a whopping 14-ounce hunk of meat that usually costs as much as an 8-ounce steak elsewhere. I was able to get four meals out of that single steak, since I've learned that white rice is a medium for all sorts of food items cut into bite-sized pieces. Anyway, the restaurant offers a full line of food, appetizers, and deserts. And the owners of Anthony's is going to open "Magnolias at the Ritz" just around the corner from its present restaurant. The Ritz location will be an upscale eatery, and so of course I want to try that when my partner has moved here. I had only been to West Point once by myself on an antique hunting expedition. But now that I see where West Point's downtown is located and caught glimpses of the historic neighborhoods as we drove into town, I can bring Cliff with me for that as well.

And then...

I had been wanting to go to Proffit's Porch just outside of Columbus, and so Pat, her friend Rebecca, and I made a Saturday date for that trip. It overlooks a small lake where Pat said she used to come to when she was a kid for swimming. The road to Proffit's Porch winds around that lake, and offers what I've come to realize is typical, beautiful scenery in Mississippi. The restaurant evolved over time, according to Pat to what it is today. You can sit either outside (on the porch) which overlooks the lake or sit indoors (which we did). Basically the restaurant offers soups, salads, sandwiches, and dessert. I had intended to eat light, but I wanted to try the gumbo, and I ordered that, as well as a thin-sliced steak sandwich, and the cheesecake. The bread is made at the restaurant. All three items were good and filling, but I had skipped breakfast that morning, so I had little trouble eating most of everything I ordered.

This is an inside view of Proffit's Porch. My friend Pat is on the left, and her friend Rebecca is on the right. I forgot to take a picture of the food when it was served, so I kick myself about that. But I did take shots of the restaurant and the setting.

As this photo shows, the outdoor seating is pleasant and would even be quite nice during a rain. The lake is in the background, and when we were there, a couple of boats were on the water, children were exploring the quite substantial sandy beach, and the setting itself was bucolic, quiet, and the air cool but not cold. So this is another place I will be bringing Cliff. Proffit's porch is only about five miles outside of Downtown Columbus, and if you get there early enough seating is not a problem.

So here I am having already experienced over a month of this year's spring, and there are so many other restaurants, funky cafes, and hidey holes I want to explore. In May comes the blues festivals, Market Street festival, and a continuing number of events.

One of the local bands (from the Golden Triangle area) will be performing in Columbus, soon. Stormy Monday Blues Band has gotten quite a reputation and regularly plays at area venues. Rebecca told me about them, and on the way back to Columbus from Proffit's Porch, she popped their newest CD in her cd player. I was able to find a YouTube video of one of their performances. If you like traditional blues, you should enjoy this music by the Stormy Monday Blues Band.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Columbus, Mississippi, 77th Annual Pilgrimage Home Tour

And...The 27th Annual "Tales from the Crypt" Event at Friendship Cemetery


RiverView, Columbus, MS
The beginning of April in Columbus, Mississippi, is so full of events and celebrations that it is almost impossible to do them all. For example, the heritage home tour is not just one event over several days. There are so many historic homes and buildings that they have had to break the tours into areas of town, each with multiple dates for the tour. During the same period, there are parties, carriage rides, food in the "Catfish in the Alley", artisans display, the half-marathon and 5K Run, a picnic, book signings, and a formal garden party.

In addition, during the same time, the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science (one of the top rated high schools in the nation), which was featured in The Atlantic, put on its annual "Tales from the Crypt" program. Each year Juniors from the MSMS spend a year researching particular people that are buried in the Friendship Cemetery (a cemetery that existed before the Civil War and of course exists today). It was the site of the very first Memorial Day celebration, where  both Union and Confederate soldiers are interred and who were honored by four women from the town of Columbus after the war.

Columbus was a hospital town where both Union and Confederate soldiers were treated. There is also a poem, "The Blue and the Gray" which was written for the soldiers buried here.  From the New York Tribune:
Southern States: Columbus, Miss.
The Blue and the Gray
Francis Miles Finch (1827–1907)
          “The women of Columbus, Mississippi, have shown themselves impartial in their offerings made to the memory of the dead. They strewed flowers alike on the graves of the Confederate and of the National soldiers.”—New York Tribune.

Read the Poem, here.
The MSMS students choose characters they will bring to life during the tales from the crypt program, turn in a research paper, and write a script for their presentation at the cemetery. Only nine student skits are chosen, and those who do not get selected then become tour guides and support for the presentations. Groups of tourists take the tour and listen to the students who become the person who has been buried there. They don't have to be soldiers and they don't have to be people from that era who are brought back to life to tell their stories. As the groups stroll from one presentation to another, guided by a student from the high school, other students perform music, and one can hear the strains of music throughout the cemetery. The tour begins shortly before dusk and continues into the growing darkness. On the opening night this year, over 700 people took the tour. I went on the third night and at least 200 people were divided up into smaller groups and as dusk came and then darkness fell, I could year the presentations all around, though distant enough from my group that it wasn't a distraction. Nor do the personalities buried in the cemetery have to be noble or well known; they can be anyone, and one of the livelier presentations was a personality who married several times, attempting to better herself, and the student did a good job of bringing this complex personality to life.

I decided to spend my time during these few days attending another annual event in Starkville, which I wrote about in my last blog post. And I attended the "Tales from the Crypt" event. Next year, when Cliff is living here, I am sure that we will enjoy the heritage home tour together.

But April and May and on into the summer are very lively times here in Columbus with the annual Market Street Festival, Juneteenth Festival, the Southside/Townsend Park Blues Festival, the Crawford Cotton Boll Festival, and on and on. For me the coming of April and the beginning of all these events heralded the one-year anniversary of when I closed on my house, here, on April 20. A month later, in late May I moved into my house, and I will celebrate that anniversary, as well.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Adventure in Starkville, Mississippi

Ragtime Jazz Festival 2017


My new friend Pat Matthes, who works at MSU in Starkville, Mississippi, invited me as her guest to attend both a dinner and the last night of the Charles H. Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival, an annual event, hosted by the Mississippi State University Libraries. Both the dinner and the concert later that evening, April 1, was one of the most memorable adventures I've had since moving to Mississippi, and truly a great topic for my Postcards.

The last time I was out of Columbus I attended a book club meeting in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, during the summer of last year. The weather on my way to Starkville was a direct contrast to my trip to Hattiesburg. I left Columbus around 4:15 and while the sun was moving toward the western Horizon, it was well above my windshield, and so I was able to see with clarity the now resurgent greenery as Spring takes hold. Starkville is one of three small cities in what is known as the Golden Triangle region, which is experiencing an industrial renaissance, and on the way from Columbus to Starkville (about 28 miles), the industrial activity is evident. There are community colleges and tech schools, the Golden Triangle Industrial Park, and the airport, off the highway amid lush greenery, and the sides of the highway was freshly mowed. Again, one of the beautiful aspects of Mississippi are its highways and the fields and trees and large and small bodies of water.

Starkville, of course, is a college town, and much of it is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of the student population. The dinner I attended was held at Restaurant Tyler right downtown, but there are several coffee shops and restaurants all around the downtown. There were four such businesses within my view as I entered the Tyler. As Pat and I visited, I pointed out the "mason jar" water glasses and said "rustic" as we looked around the restaurant. She countered "sophisticated rustic" and I agreed. The dinner is part of the program for the ragtime festival, and is attended by faculty from the library and, I imagine, from other university departments. My friend Pat is next to the gentleman in the tuxedo, and had I not been taking this picture, I would have been seated between them. The gentleman in the tuxedo is Matt Musselman, the trombone player for Dan Levinson's Roof Garden Jazz Band, from New York City. They perform around the world. Anyway, we had a choice of three entrees, and of course I chose the catfish entree, which was complemented with garlic potatoes, fried okra, and hushpuppies. And I do have to say that I will be returning with my partner when he gets here, because the catfish at this restaurant is second only to the catfish one can have at the Friendship House restaurant in Aberdeen, Mississippi, about 30 miles north of Columbus.

The concert held on the campus of MSU, just outside of Starkville had two musical components. The first was a piano concert that surveyed early Ragtime from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Part of the reason for the historic survey of piano music, performed by internationally renowned pianists Brian Holland and Jeff Barnhart, is as a relevant part of the Charles H. Templeton, Sr. Music Museum at the university as a means of enhancing research in the area of ragtime music and increasing awareness of the Templeton Collection housed in MSU Libraries. The second musical component of the concert surveyed early twentieth century jazz, performed by the Roof Garden Jazz Band.

Both jazz and ragtime are two of my favorite musical genres and Mississippi and other southern states were directly responsible for the advent of both types of music, along with blues and early rock 'n roll. There's no denying that the South is one of the most active generators of uniquely American music.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More People of Substance

And more hidey holes...

I read about a new locally owned restaurant that opened up in North Columbus called Nana's Country Kitchen, which had opened in a location that used to be a BBQ joint. The building was long and low-slung  with just the right kind of atmosphere that promised an interesting experience. I arrived in the dark and couldn't readily get a good picture of the outside—just think red tin walls.

Inside the cafe, along the outside walls, had I been much over six feet, I would have had to duck, but toward the inside of the cafe, , behind which was apparently the kitchen, the height of the ceiling approached eight feet, but not quite. There were plenty of tables, a salad bar, and on one end of the room a fireplace. There was only one other customer at this fairly early hour, but it was dark out and the restaurant was warm enough that I could remove my jacket.

The other customer was reading a book, apparently waiting on her order, and so I zeroed in on the menu, specifically the catfish, but when the waitress asked me how I wanted it, I asked what the choices were. She said fried or blackened. I had seen "blackened" catfish on other menus, but until that night I hadn't explored what that meant. About that time another waitress brought the other customer her order. And then I asked the waitress what "blackened catfish" was. The waitress for the other customer overheard me, and she said, "Come over here and have a look," and I did. The customer smiled as I looked down on her fish. I could see a few black spots on the filet, which looked like pepper...hmmm. I thanked the customer for giving me a chance to see her entree, but when I sat back down, I told the waitress I'd stick with the fried.

My meal was brought. I dug in, but I looked up at the other customer and asked how it was. She smiled. "I should have also ordered the fried." We started talking across our tables and how I had become addicted to it and how she liked it, too. We ate our meals, but at one point, after we had visited for a little while and given the usual elevator summaries of who we were, Pat decided to join me at my table.

She talked about knowing all the little places around Columbus and in nearby counties where she knew many of the kind of cafes we were now in—little hidey holes as I have been calling them, and she was soon reeling off all kinds of places, telling me about a cafe in Amory, Mississippi, that had been in continuous business since the late 1800s, where all you had to say when you walked in was "with" or "without." It was a hamburger joint, and if you wanted onions (cold cut or sauteed) you said "with." Apparently the only thing they serve in the way of an entree is a hamburger. She told me about the "Tin Lizzie" in West Point, Doug & Hazel's Drive In in Columbus, and a whole host of other places.

Pat Matthes is a Librarian at the Mississippi State University Libraries and works with Collection Development Services. That department orders books, newspapers, and journals in print and electronic formats. Access is provided to these materials via an online catalog. Pat has lived in Columbus since 1964 when her father was stationed at Columbus Air Force Base. Her family is from Booneville, Mississippi. She graduated from Caledonia High School and from the Mississippi University for Women (right here in Columbus) with a BS in Library Science. She got her MLS from the University of Alabama. She's both a strong Mississippi State Bulldog fan and Roll Tide Alabama fan.

I gave her my quick summary of degrees and the kind of work I've been doing for over thirty-five years, but the most significant (in this present context) about her is that she's got the inside track on hidey hole cafes and restaurants from here to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and from here to Tupelo, Mississippi, and points in between—and more. We have been getting together for dinner as the winter has given way to spring, and the last place we ate was just this past Friday at Doug & Hazel's. I've discovered other cafes and one of my favorites is The Cafe on Main, which serves up multiple entrees, along with scrumptious desserts, which I usually don't have room for. I was there for lunch one day as soon as I saw that catfish was on the menu that day. In fact, the owner told me that The Cafe on Main will be including a purely Southern line of foods, and I'm looking forward to trying every one of them.

Maybe this week or next I'll venture farther afield and head over to Starkville to a place(s) Pat knows there. We both agree that the chain restaurants are convenient and some of them good, but nothing beats the locally owned cafes in these small Mississippi towns.

Ellie is sacked out on
Mae's nice soft tummy.
An update on Cliff's progress getting to Columbus. He closes on a house he has found here, March 31, and I've been working with the realtor to line up a contractor and other individuals that will turn this office back into a residence. While it's a small house, it's bigger than mine and will accommodate a lot more of his furniture and artwork—and his family's grand reproducing piano. Pictures will appear in this blog just as soon as the work starts in earnest. And we can watch the transformation from office building, back to a residence.

My twin girls are now the ripe old age of one year old. And while they probably think they know all there is to know, I'd say they got surprises ahead of them. I now call them my little yearlings, or stout farm girls, or little squirts, depending on just what they're up to.




Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pushing Spring

Meeting People of Substance...

I know. It's still winter and will be for another month, but on these warm days interspersed with Southern Winter temps in the 50s and 60s, when they rise into the upper 70s, I can't help but think of Spring. The daffodils are already blooming in my back yard, which makes me feel that it's pushing into spring. It's a kind of feeling of renewal, and it seems that all of a sudden, I've begun another round of meeting people.

It was my pleasure one night at Harvey's restaurant to see Fred Kinder and his partner Ralph Null come into the restaurant. I knew them both on sight from their various appearances in the Commercial Dispatch. I had been wanting to meet them both since I first arrived here in Columbus in late May of 2016. As people here know, Fred Kinder was the recipient of the Book of Golden Deeds award in 2016, presented by the local chapter of the National Exchange Club. These are the kind of substantial, inspirational people I've been wanting to meet.

The National Exchange Club – a service organization with 700 clubs and more than 21,000 members throughout the United States and Puerto Rico – celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011. Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Michigan by businessmen who wanted to “exchange” ideas on making their community better, the Exchange Club moved its headquarters to Toledo in 1917. For a hundred years, Exchange Club volunteer efforts have supported the needs of the country and of local communities, making it the country’s oldest American service organization operating exclusively in the United States. Its second oldest club is the Exchange Club in Toledo, Ohio formed in 1913. (source: Wikipedia)

The fortuitous meeting at Harvey's led to invitations from Fred and Ralph to visit in their home, and then on another night to meet a group of men from the area who meet weekly at Zachery's, a local cafe.

In March my twin calico girls will be a whopping one year old, and now, any time I go through all my pictures of them, it's almost melancholy to see the two pint-sized squirts running through the house like they own the world and then seeing them now, each a gallon of cat. But they bring to mind life burgeoning as spring does.

And on the home front, pushing spring and its renewal, my partner is set to close on his house in Columbus next month, sell his house in Mesilla, NM, next month, and close on an apartment complex in Las Cruces, NM. These things need to unfold like clockwork, however, and he will be under stress to get all the loose ends tied up. All I can do from this end is make room in my house for the furniture he will be shipping to Columbus—that is if he isn't quite ready, when the movers come to send it to the house he's buying. At least when he gets here, he won't have to blaze a trail as I did, and I'm hoping with the renewal that spring offers is a renewal of his life's options in a less stressful place.

The post's video is of Eden Brent (born 16 November 1965 in Greenville, Mississippi[1] She is an award-winning American musician on the independent Yellow Dog Records label. A blues pianist and vocalist, she combines boogie-woogie with elements of blues, jazz, soul, gospel and pop. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tragedy Strikes

Five hundred dollars later...

The other day I was looking at a house that my partner was interested in buying, a beautiful 1920s house up in the hills close to downtown Columbus. In fact, he put an offer on it that day, shortly after I gave him my report, and the good news is the offer was accepted. This has solved our on-going problem of finding a suitable house for Cliff to buy when he sells his house in New Mexico. And in fact, also, he has sold that house. We've had a series of good steps being accomplished in his work to move here. We're each going to have a house, because we're not ready to merge our cats—all three calicoes, but my two girls are young whippersnappers and Julia (our long-term cat who now resides with Cliff) is a senior citizen. We do not feel that she would welcome the young-uns, and we don't want to make her feel displaced.

Anyway, when I was ready to leave and go take a look at another house, my car would not start. I called a towing service (real nice young man who grew up here and had quite a few good things to say about Columbus) took me to the car care place I've used before, called Precision Tune and Auto Care, located up on Highway 45 next to the local Applebee's. I was there a couple of hours before they determined that it was the starter, but that they would not be able to get it until the next day, which left me needing a rental car. That turned out to be fairly inexpensive because of my insurance coverage and I got a discount.

But the starter and sundries, along with labor at the car repair place was not cheap. I didn't expect it to be, so add that to the rental car, and I was out over $500. It was not really a "tragedy" in the classical sense of drama, but it was more than a simple inconvenience.

Once again, I felt I was treated well and fairly by all concerned here in this beautiful, friendly, and busy small town of 24,000. At least I can feel spring coming on as February wanes. By May, Cliff should be here, and we can continue our lives together. He will have a beautiful house to enjoy in his post retirement, a chance to destress after several long years of a thousand cuts.
WCBI Television in Columbus, Mississippi, provides a short history of Columbus's very own university, established in 1884, the first university for women in the state. It is now co-ed:

Friday, February 3, 2017

An Evening Out in Columbus, Mississippi

The Screening of Michael Williams' The Atoning...

I started my evening out with a stop at Books & Boards bookstore - Three Sisters Pie Company, for a couple cups of coffee and what the pie company calls a pie-ette. This one was pecan. I needed to bolster my appetite so I wouldn't be tempted to snack on popcorn and sodas at the theater.

The Malco Cinema in Columbus, Mississippi, held a 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. screening of the new film, The Atoning, by Michael Williams , on Thursday, February 2nd, to a sold-out crowd. This 90-minute feature length film is Mr. Williams' second such endeavor. In the coming days, the film will be shown at film festivals in Starkville, Mississippi and Oxford, Mississippi.

Synopsis from the Shendopen web site:
Vera, Ray, and Sam, a seemingly normal family, are haunted by more than mere ghosts. The lingering horror of their past threatens their ability to function as a loving family until they become enlightened by a mystical encounter. From that moment on, they’re thrust into a horror worse than anything they’ve ever experienced. Personal demons manifest and tear the family apart from the inside out as they come to terms with their past. 

I don't want to give anything away about the film, but I can say that it was thoroughly enjoyable with surprising plot twists and back-of-the-neck, hair-raising moments throughout the film. As with a new screening, there was audience participation, and Michael and his team of actors conducted a Q&A after each of the two screenings. As you will discover from the Shendopen web site, work is currently being done on a film The Hidden Few by Michael Williams and executive producer Michael LaCour. Nothing yet on what this latest film is about, but I plan to check it out when there is a screening.

My bad, but I didn't stick around for the Q&A, because I left home at 5 p.m. and it was approaching 9 p.m. by the time I left the theater. I wanted to stop in at The Elbow Room Lounge. I hadn't planned on eating, but when I arrived, I decided I would get one of the bar's signature pannini sandwiches and a Henry's hard orange soda. Barbara was there, the owner of the pub, and a two-man band was rehearsing for the next night's show, so between eating, talking with Barbara, and listening to the musicians, I spent a final hour of what was a great night out.

While it has taken me almost nine months to make acquaintances and to know people on sight and by name,  when I'm out and about, I feel that I am slowly fitting in to the community. Both my partner and I are frankly on pins and needles about his eventual move to Columbus, but boy do I have a lot to show him when he gets here.


And then, of course, there are the jazz/blues festivals held on the riverwalk in Columbus I'm looking forward to attending—with Cliff, who loves jazz.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hidey Holes and Local Folks Part Two

Three Sisters Pie Company and The Elbow Lounge...

This is one of Three Sisters Pie Company's pies,
but not the pie I had today.
In the Books and Boards bookstore, which just opened in December 2016 (I've already written about), a new business inside the bookstore has come online, as well. It's called The Three Sisters Pie Company, and as the name implies it sells pies. It also sells pie-ettes, which is a good way to salve a sweet tooth without the sin of eating a slice of pie. Three Sisters also sells specialty drinks, coffees, and they always keep a pot of regular, no frills coffee for people like me. I like to go in, have a dessert and drink more than a single mug of coffee, and read the Commercial Dispatch, or browse books. The owner's name is Rachel. On Facebook, there is the story of the pie company and how it came about, which you can access here. I would suggest visiting Facebook to find out more.

The whole store is well lit and both the bookstore and the pie company stay open until 10 p.m. every night except Sunday, when they close at 7 p.m. Both businesses are closed on Monday. The new pie company draws customers. I was in there today and almost every table was filled with customers; the store was full of browsers, and one of the local authors, whose reading I attended a couple of weeks ago will be having an event in the store when his new book comes out...

Rachel is the owner. She's the
one with the apron.
But I digress. Today I had a slice of the salt and honey pie, topped with cashews. How to describe its taste and texture? It sort of reminded me of one of my elderly aunt's pies, where you just get this delicious filling. It's light of texture, bursting with flavor, and goes away all too quickly.

I was there another evening in the bookstore/pie store, because it was the first night the pie shop was open. As things usually happen, I met another interesting person, who struck up a conversation with me. His name is Rob Swindol. He and his mother own The Elbow Room Lounge, just off 5th Street North and 2nd Ave North (a side-street entrance), and neither Rob nor his mother took offense when I said I would include it as another of Columbus's "hidey holes."

Anyway, small town, it turns out that Rachel, the owner of the pie company also makes the crust for the pizzas they serve at the Elbow Room, so guess what? After I left the pie store that night, I went over to the Elbow room and ordered a pizza and a Coke (don't drink alcohol, me-self), and of course, Rob and I continued our discussion of Columbus, where Rob had come from.

One of two rooms in the Elbow Room Lounge. The
other room is where the musicians play and is also a
game room.
He and his mother bought the Elbow Room three years ago, when they returned to West Point, just slightly north and west of Columbus (about 18 miles). Barbara, Rob's mother, returned from California; Rob returned from Boston. He said that he wanted to recreate the pub atmosphere like those in Boston. Rob grew up in West Point. The bar was established, circa 1952, though Rob says no one is sure of the exact date. Nonetheless, Rob and his mother have brought new life to the bar.

I returned there on a Wednesday night for open-mic night. That's where musicians sign up for the evening and each group or individual does a few songs. Rob had said that some of the people who perform are quite good, and I have to say that he's right. As I've learned and now experienced in several ways, music and literature and art are part of the state's DNA. If for no other reason than to get away for a couple of hours, I will no doubt return to the Elbow Room Lounge for a break from my solitary evenings with my twin calicoes.

On my first time at the Elbow room, as Rob and I were talking, a young man by the name of Michael Williams came in and asked permission to put up a poster announcing the screening of his latest movie. My ears perked up, because I wondered if Michael might be the film maker I had read about who lived in West Point and had already produced an award winning film called Ozland, and as it turned out, he was. The new film is called The Atoning. I watched the trailer on YouTube, and I have included it below in the usual video section of this blog.

The screening for the new film will take place at the Malco Cinema here in Columbus. Tickets to the screenings are $10, available in advance at "shendopenfilms." The screening at Malco Cinema is Thursday, Feb 2 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hidey Holes and Local Folks

Columbus, Mississippi Slowly Revealing Itself

As of this writing, I have lived in Columbus, Mississippi, for almost eight months. In some ways it feels like I've just arrived; in other ways it feels like home to me. My house is familiar, although I'm still discovering little things to repair or thoroughly clean. I'm still stunned that surfaces don't gather dust the way they do in southern New Mexico.

Let's call this Airline Road, although it
could also be Bell Avenue.
As for Columbus, itself, parts of the town are intimately familiar to me now, but I'm still discovering little hidey holes, small locally run business in unexpected places, and even more cafes and watering holes that I discover from just taking different streets I haven't been down, yet. It's a bit confusing sometimes, because it seems that Columbus has a penchant for giving several names to streets that are also highways, or along a street, part of it might be one name, while another part might be another name...I know. That's the mystery and discovery that often confuses. On the way to a cafe a neighbor told me about the other day, I took her directions, and ended up on either Airline Road or Bell Avenue. I'd been this way before to get my driver's license. The road passes by an animal shelter, a city or county jail, across a creek, and finally intersects with Highway 69. A strip of it has over-arching trees, and it's one of the delights of discovery that constantly surprises me.


Cafe Unique in what must have been a
residence at one time.
There are at least eighty-four restaurants in Columbus, although I'm sure that includes everything from locally owned to chain restaurants to fast-food joints. But the total number is always shifting as it does anywhere, so who really knows the tally? A couple of days ago I discovered (actually my neighbor told me) a locally owned Southern food cafe called Cafe Unique. It's at 94 Airline Rd and intersects with Highway 69. Cafe Unique sits on a corner of the intersection. Yes, it looks like a home was converted to the restaurant, and that's okay, that makes it one of the delightful places to experience a great meal. I've also heard about another great place to get beer and sandwiches somewhat out on the edge of town, a place called Proffit's Porch. Maybe later. And none of this involves the kind of eateries I suspect are on the other side of the Tom Bigbee waterway. Maybe one of my posts will actually be a list of all the home-grown cafes in town.

But back to Cafe Unique...

I had the turkey, lima beans, sweet potato casserole, cornbread, Southern sweet tea, and for dessert homemade pecan pie. The servings were so large that I have made three meals out of that visit. I will go again on a Friday for the catfish. There were only two people running the place, which appeared to be a mother and son. They were both friendly and politely indulged my gushing about moving here from the desert, discovering I love catfish, and other bits of conversation. But I mean, really, I was delighted with this place, just as I have been with other eateries around town.

I passed up the chance to try the pig's feet, okay? I just might one of these days, but not now. The meal, which included a meat and two sides, as well as cornbread and sweet tea was a whopping $7.33, so I can stretch my dining-out dollars, because I'm sure I can leave with leftovers. I cut up what was left of the turkey and alternately had some of it, along with the lima beans in a white rice dish, and there was even enough of the chopped turkey, to which I added sweet peas to dress up a Ramen Noodles bowl. I didn't claim I was always eating healthy, but nonetheless I've trimmed down three belt notches.

On the west side of Columbus, Mississippi is the Tom Bigbee River, which connects to the Tennessee River and is sometimes called the Tenn-Tom waterway. Here's a rather quaint video explaining the importance of this waterway system. North of here, in Aberdeen, MS, the waterway was a good way to move cotton; today, it's even more commercially viable in Columbus, with their lock and dam system. Some readers might find this video interesting. To me it's just another discovery about my chosen home.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Books & Boards Event

New Downtown Bookstore has "Spoken Word" Event

Spoken Word Event at Books & Boards
1/12/2017
Open just a little over a month, the Books & Boards bookstore held a well attended event January 12 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. I was glad to see that three other members of the Writers and Storytellers' Guild of Columbus showed up for the night. I thought it might be similar to a poetry slam, where members of the audience take the mic and read poetry. It was like that, but anyone could put their name in a jar. At the event, the emcee drew a name and called on the reader. I attended but hadn't even remotely thought of reading anything, but then I found out that the other three members of the writers' group had decided to read, and having my Android phone, I was able to open my Kindle Reader and I chose an essay that I recently included in my book, Slices of Real Life.

I won't dwell on the fact that I read, nor that the first name out of the jar was mine, so I had a chance to open up the readings. I'm not a very good impromptu speaker, but the essay I chose to read part of was about my parents, why I had returned to my hometown to "take care of them" when in actual fact, they took care of me just as much as I did them. So I had to stop reading occasionally and fill in a few details.

The bookstore had received another part of their backorder and had also set up a couple more shelves, so it's looking better and better, and with well over thirty people attending the event, even the somewhat large space was comfortably abuzz with laughter and conversation before the readings began. I was also glad to see that a reporter from the city newspaper, The Commercial Dispatch, was on hand talking to people, taking pictures, and I presume with the intent of writing an article for the newspaper.

Richard Wright, one of Mississippi's most
famous authors, perhaps best known for his
novels Black Boy and Native Son
Maybe in another post I said that I moved to Columbus with certain expectations, after having visited here, researched the town, and gotten a good feeling about the kind of environment the town and its people create. I have not been disappointed, and even after almost eight months, I find very little to change that impression. Part of the expectation was that Columbus would be a place that is friendly to the arts, music, and books. Even though until December First there was only one main bookstore in town, in the mall, Books and Boards has come in with guns blazing, and they have a busy schedule of events and plan to feature local and Southern writers. Last night's event was an opportunity for about a dozen readers to share their work.

Southern writers are recognized throughout the United States, of course, but they are also recognized throughout the world as unique and powerful writers. I look forward to attending the events when Southern writers are in the store. I have a lot of discoveries to make, aside from the usual, well-known writers like William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams.


Jill Conner Browne was born in Tupelo
Mississippi and focuses on women's
empowerment issues.
The unexpected and what I thought was the most enjoyable reading of the night was a last-minute person that the emcee encouraged to read after he had emptied the jar of volunteer writers. This last reader wanted to make sure, before he read, if there would be any objection if he read something...erotic. He said if anyone objected he wouldn't read it. No one objected, but even then, he held the room in suspense, reading other poems, and teasing that now he would read the poem he had promised, making sure once again that no one objected. Everyone laughed. He read his erotic poem and parts were a bit graphic, but...

...no one objected. And that was a major expectation I had of what people in Columbus, Mississippi, would be like—open minded, intellectually energetic, and of course polite.

I'm looking forward to attending other events at Books and Boards and also watching the stock flow and building up my library of Southern writers. I'll never be a Southern writer, even though I now live in the South. No matter, one of these days I hope to have gleaned enough of Mississippi's character and soul to place a novel here. I also hope I learn a thing or to about writing from these southerners.


I've included a biographical video of Richard Wright. I discovered his work when I was in college and I have never forgotten the power of his words.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

New Downtown Business in Columbus, Mississippi

Welcome to Books & Boards..."A Clean Well-Lighted Place"


A Clean Well Lighted Place
This is one of the newest locally owned businesses to open up in downtown Columbus, Mississippi. Books & Boards is a bookstore that also sells board games. You can also rent the games. The store carries a select inventory of new books and is heavy into local and southern writers. It also carries used books.

The store is located at 422 Main Street, Columbus, MS 39701

In addition to the bookstore, there will be an in-house pastry and coffee shop. These are joint business ventures for this new enterprise. You can get more information about this newest business on their website: booksandboards.com. B&B has only been open for a little over a month, as I write this, and they are still working on their inventory, but it is fun to visit the store even as they are expanding their stock and about to open the pastry/coffee shop.

I discovered this delightful addition to downtown Columbus, when I was searching for a parking place, so that I could attend the event at the Columbus Arts Council—a reading by Michael Farris Smith of his latest book at the Arts Council's Southern Writers Series, which will be going on all year. I just happened to park near the Books and Boards store on the same side of the street, and as I was walking past, I saw that it was a bookstore. Of course I went in for an initial look around, and then after the reading at the Arts Center, I returned for a closer look.

The owner of the bookstore is Ashley Gressett, and the phone number for the store is (662) 798-0859. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. I was delighted to see that Ashely wanted to provide the downtown area a late night place to hang out. Most of the downtown businesses close shop at 6 p.m. and few are open on Sundays. The exceptions of course are the downtown restaurants, like Huck's Place and a couple of others. But to me, nothing is more enjoyable than being able to hang out in a bookstore that also has coffee and treats. Add to that the potential of getting involved in the board games there, and your evening is complete.

I visited with Ashely at length last night, January 6, on my way back from Waffle House. It was around 20 degrees outside, and it was great to be in a warm environment. The night before, when I first discovered the store, there was a surprise birthday party going on inside, and last night when I went there, people were sitting around one of the larger tables playing Uno. I think it will take a little while for people in Columbus to discover that there is a late-night place to hang out that is quite different from the atmosphere in a restaurant. I come from a much larger town than Columbus and one of the things I've missed about a larger city is businesses that stay open past 6 p.m. Books and Boards is one of those places in Columbus, and I'm glad to see it open.

What better way to end this post about a bookstore than to also present a surprising high school right here in Columbus. It is among the top five high schools in the United States. That's right. Mississippi might have the reputation for sub-standard education, but that's not always true. The presenter for this video lives across the street from me. One of the retired professors at Mississippi University for Women (which is now co-ed) lives next door to me.