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
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
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...

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

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.