Sunday, October 15, 2017

It was a dark and stormy night...

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in Columbus, Mississippi, that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. 

                             Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. wasn't dark the day we discovered Eggleston Hall, nestled in among overgrown trees, set back aways from Third Street North; nor was it stormy, since Columbus seems to be caught up in a mini-drought. Nonetheless, unless you're looking for this old ante-bellum two-up/two-down, you probably will pass right by it. As the sign says it was built circa 1847, which just might make this old house one of the oldest in Columbus. But it's one of the forgotten, hidden historic houses that has seen much neglect and ruin in the last few years. It was obvious (from the satellite dish) that it hadn't been completely abandoned too long ago, and there is also evidence that someone had made emergency repairs to the back of it, probably to make it habitable (barely) for whoever the last tenants were.

I couldn't find any extant photos of the house as it must have been in its heyday or later when photography made it possible to capture images for newspapers. Like many old homes in the antebellum Columbus, it survived the Civil War.

There are Egglestons in Friendship Cemetery, as well as references to Egglestons in Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi. But I've been unable to find any other information about this house. There are other Eggleston Halls in the U.S. and the U.K. Whether or not there is a direct family history (ancestor immigrant) to the Eggleston Hall in the U.K. and the home in Columbus is obscured by time—at least as far as access through Google goes. I'm not much of a researcher on genealogy, so I hope this post will inspire those who are to do so. And if any Eggleston family members have more information on the house here in Columbus, contact me through this blog and I will expand the information.

I could imagine a multitude of stories when I saw this house, a film perhaps with Gone with the Wind music and the drama of a young Eggleston daughter awaiting the arrival of another prominent family of Mississippi for a few weeks of visiting (as Southerners were won't to do), because she had met the young man of that family in a colder month, and the two families were betrothed through their daughter and son. Maybe it was cooler here in Columbus than it was down near Vicksburg, and so the visiting family came to escape the harsher heat. Maybe one of the Eggleston daughters attended the Columbus Female Institute, a private school founded in 1847 and the future site where the Mississippi University for Women would be established in 1885. Eggleston Hall, whatever its condition is today has seen a lot of history, even though it now crumbles quietly and forgotten amid the overgrown trees and bushes along 3rd Street North.

In my year plus four months in Columbus, I'm always discovering new places, but among the very best are those that are obscured by the overgrowth around them, lending an air of mystery and the passage of time from a languid and deep history. I've seen two other antebellum homes of the same era as Eggleston Hall rise from the ashes of decay and ruin when they were renovated, which now stand proudly, imbued of new life through the hands of dedicated renovators who love the old homes and buildings here in Columbus and Mississippi as my partner and I do.

But about those dark and stormy nights, there will be those, along with lightning and thunder and the sirens of tornado warnings, and maybe I'll be caught out in such a storm and when lightning illuminates the hulk of a building in front of me...abandoned and forgotten...I will think of stories to tell about it.

A little more about Mississippi...Enjoy.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Poets, Storytellers, Writers, Books

Thursday Nite and Friday Nite Events in Columbus, Mississippi...

As I might have indicated in earlier posts, there is virtually something going on in Columbus, Mississippi, and many other cities and towns in the state every weekend of the year—but the best part is how easy it is to get to many of these events within a five-minute walk, a short jaunt to the next town, or an hour or so drive time. Sometimes, the problem is that it's difficult to decide which event to attend to the exclusion of other events.

Looking out from the Coffee Shop at the back of Books &
Boards during a busy night.
Thursday night, October 5, at the Books & Boards venue on Main in Columbus was Open Mic Night, where poets, storytellers, and writers read their work before a nice crowd, filling up all the chairs and tables in the store, as well as standing in the aisles. During this entire time, people kept the pie and coffee shop at the back of the store busy, as well. The readers covered all manner of genres, from poet-rap (with audience participation) to dystopian poetry read with a soulful cry to one reader bursting into ribald song as his piece called for, which delighted the audience. I took advantage (again) of open mic to read from one of my published works. I've been doing this once a month as I work my way through Book I of the Summer's Change trilogy. My purpose for these readings is to introduce many of my character sketches.

Friday, October 6, at the Rosenzweig Arts Building, several writers of the Columbus Writers and Storyteller group presented writing, in poetry and stories, in front of an appreciative group of listeners about "Livin' Mississippi." Angie Basson introduced the program to the audience and then read her piece "Mississippi You're a Crazy Quilt," and then because Deb (another writer in the group) couldn't be there, she read Deb's contribution to Livin' Mississippi. Jeanette Basson followed her daughter and read her piece about how her family came to Columbus, when she was a preteen and living on the west side of Columbus, and even how she ended up marrying the annoying boy on a church bus. Jeanette's piece took us back to a different time and evoked memories in the listeners, no doubt, of their own past. Jamella followed with an autobiographical sketch of her life and how she made it through as an adult, with beautiful daughters, after a lifetime of physical challenges, operations, and was inspired to be strong. I'd worked on my piece for several weeks and on the day of the presentation, I threw out everything I'd written and just spoke from a set of quickly jotted notes, which I used to initiate a thread that I could follow. It worked, and so I could spend more time engaging the audience than keeping my head buried in text. Donna Both, a retired teacher and grandmother used her time to read a poem she had written inspired by a local southern writer who had collected writings of her high school students into a book. Donna's poem, "I Know Things," hinted at a student in deep trouble, with a kind of cry of the lost, trying to brave her secret pain with bravado. And Donna's second entry was a children's story she had written for her grandchildren, complete with pictures about "Santasippi," a Mississippi version of Santa Claus. If I've left any of our writer's group readers out, I will correct this story.

Both events back to back on two nights is just one of the usual kinds of weekends we have around Columbus. This coming Friday at the Elbow Room Lounge is a free music night by a renowned blues musician—and this is just one venue.

I launched an ebook last September called Slices of Real Life, which is a collection of my essays written over several years and appearing in several literary anthologies. This year, this month, I launched a paperback edition of the same book. I worked for Amazon for many years, and now I am using their unique publishing venue to take care of a few of my writing projects in a way that makes them accessible to readers and to permanently capture them in book and electronic form. One reason I published this collection was to show readers of my fiction that my Common Threads in the Life Series, now seven volumes long (and finished) is not autobiographical. Slices of Real Life is autobiographical, and if anyone who likes my fiction wants to discover who I am (in part, maybe) my collection is now available. Slices of Real Life and the rest of my published work is available on Amazon. I'm currently working on spin-off novels for my Common Threads series and the next books in my fantasy series Twilight of the Gods.

One of the long-established southern bands from Houston, Texas, is ZZ Top. Their musical range spans several genres, including rock and blues. Enjoy!