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.