Macon Love

“Do Not Attempt To Play Little Richard’s Piano. He Will Know.”

Recently Dear Husband and I took a trip that we are calling “Autumn Back East 2021”. Our goal was to visit friends and family, and I wanted to show DH what autumn leaves really look like in a region that isn’t primarily covered in evergreen trees, and introduce him to our nation’s capital.

We flew to Atlanta, picked up a rental car, then drove to Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and then drove to Washington DC by way of Virginia. Then we flew back home.

It was an amazing trip which lasted 15 days, and since I’m now only blogging every other day, if I gave you a day to day account like I have on trips past, it would take a month, and you’d be heartily sick of the subject before we even left peach country. So I’ve decided to focus on highlights, which I’ll do my best to keep in order. You can find the first post in the series here, and a link to the next post in the series, when it becomes available, below.

I never thought I would wax nostalgic about anything related to the state of Georgia, but I have to say, Macon has really caught my eye. It could be love. There’s definitely chemistry going on. For a city with a population of only about 157,000, it sure has a big… art, music and historical community. (What did you think I was going to say?)

Not only does it have a gorgeous antebellum historic district, which I wrote about in my last post, but it also has a rich Native American heritage. We visited the Ocmulgee Mounds, which are on the Eastern edge of the city, and it was fascinating to learn that there has been about 17,000 years of continuous human history in the area.

From the Paleoindians to the Archaic, Woodland, and Early Mississippians, right on down to the Lamar Culture and today’s Muscogee (Creek) Nation, each one has left its mark upon this land. Today, you can visit Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park and see many remnants of the various cultures at the visitor center, and if you enjoy a good hike, you can visit a village site, a variety of trenches and mounds, a trading post site from the late 1600’s, and, best of all, an amazing earth lodge that’s right near the visitor center.

Approaching the earth lodge from the parking lot, it looks like a mound with no significant features other than the fact that it is unnaturally mound-like. But when you go around the side, you encounter a doorway. To say that the doorway and the subsequent tunnel are low is putting it mildly. I cracked my head a good one on the way out. But that’s probably because I was already stunned by what I had seen inside.

The clay floor has been carbon dated to the year 1015. It has a bird shaped platform that seats 3 people, and benches along the wall with indentations for 47 more. There is also a ceremonial fire pit.

While the above-mentioned things are the originals, the roof, walls, and tunnel are reconstructions by the Civilian Conservation Corp and the Work Project Administration in the late 1930’s. This earth lodge may have been originally used as a temple or a council house, and the reconstruction makes you feel like you are right there, waiting for the ceremony to begin. Truly, I kept thinking they’d be along any minute.

Also during our wanderings through Macon, we visited several little free libraries and deposited some books that we had mailed ahead of us to Dear Husband’s father’s house, which was one of our very first stops on this journey. I love the idea of the library stewards opening the books and seeing my little free library’s stamp inside. “How did these books make it all the way out here from Washington state?”

There seems to be public art everywhere you look in Macon. That, in my opinion, is the sign of a sophisticated city. Art can be controversial sometimes, but I believe that cities that try to suppress it point blank are hyper-conservative, paranoid, and at a bare minimum, lack a sense of humor. Here’s some of the art I saw around town.

We also checked out the Tubman Museum, which is right near the historic train station that I discussed in the last post. We were expecting it to be a museum about Harriet Tubman. They even use her image on some of their promotional materials. That’s confusing. But it turns out that Harriet Tubman never stepped foot in the state of Georgia. Go figure.

The museum does house a hallway dedicated to Ms. Tubman, with a statue, some letters, and some Tubman-inspired art, but that’s only a small portion of this interesting place. (Incidentally, if you’d like to read what the letter from Frederick Douglass shown below actually says, the text can be found here.) The actual mission of the Tubman Museum is more encompassing. It is to educate people about African American art, history, and culture. And I have to say that they do an excellent job of it.

Within its walls, you can see the works of contemporary African American artists, as well as an exhibit that shows the works of African American inventors. In particular, I enjoyed the art of “Mr. Imagination” who makes sculptures out of bottle caps. It was all fascinating.

In addition, there’s a large room that highlights Macon’s rich musical heritage. One of this city’s most famous native sons is Little Richard. One of the best things in the entire museum, in my opinion, is a sign on Little Richard’s piano that says, “Do Not Attempt To Play Little Richard’s Piano. He Will Know.” James Brown, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band also have Macon roots and are represented in this room.

This next section, I should warn you, might be uncomfortable for those who wish to suppress the ugliest parts of our nation’s past. But I found this exhibit very eye-opening. It makes me sad that such things exist in this world, but here they are, and there’s just no denying them.

My overall impression of Macon is that it is a vibrant, creative city that is not afraid to confront its past. It’s a place of good food, better music, and a vibe that I won’t soon forget. It was a pleasure to visit, and I highly recommend that you do so as well.

And can I just say that this is one of my better post titles? Thanks to DH for inspiring it.

Read any good books lately? Try mine!

Miraculous Macon

Living in this town must be a strange balancing act.

Miraculous Macon

Recently Dear Husband and I took a trip that we are calling “Autumn Back East 2021”. Our goal was to visit friends and family, and I wanted to show DH what autumn leaves really look like in a region that isn’t primarily covered in evergreen trees, and introduce him to our nation’s capital.

We flew to Atlanta, picked up a rental car, then drove to Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and then drove to Washington DC by way of Virginia. Then we flew back home.

It was an amazing trip which lasted 15 days, and since I’m now only blogging every other day, if I gave you a day to day account like I have on trips past, it would take a month, and you’d be heartily sick of the subject before we even left peach country. So I’ve decided to focus on highlights, which I’ll do my best to keep in order. You can find the first post in the series here, and a link to the next post in the series, when it becomes available, below.

The next leg of our journey had us headed to Macon, Georgia to visit my sister and her husband. This is a rare treat, since we now live on opposite sides of the country. I was very excited and focused primarily on that visit, so I didn’t really think about being in Macon itself, even though I had been there once before, briefly, decades ago, and I remember thinking it was a pretty city.

We decided to splurge and stay at the 1842 Inn, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. But then most of that part of Macon seems to be on the registry. I hopped over to their website and started counting all the Macon, Georgia listings, and lost count at fifty.

The inn consists of an antebellum, Greek revival style mansion that was built in 1842 by John Gresham, a former mayor of Macon who was also a judge and a cotton merchant. A Victorian cottage was added out back by subsequent owners. There are 19 rooms in the main house and cottage, each with a different design and named for a different aspect of the area’s history. For example, our room was the Nancy Hanks, which was a local passenger train that was named after one of the most famous racehorses ever. I could get used to this place, with its four-poster beds and its beautiful artwork and its elegant complimentary breakfast in the parlor.

When you step out of this inn, everywhere you look, for many blocks, you see mansion after mansion after mansion. These stately homes are beautiful to behold, and suggest a genteel and romantic past, the past many Southerners prefer to remember, but these homes also come with the awkward fact that most were probably built by slaves or at least by the money they produced. Macon’s primary source of income, prior to the Civil War, was cotton. And the cotton industry at the time was dependent upon the labor of slaves.

As a matter of fact, we were staying at a home that once housed 8 slaves. And John Gresham had 43 additional slaves on his farm. I couldn’t help but wonder if our ground floor room at the back of the house, with it’s outside entrance, was once occupied by a house slave.

It’s a really odd dichotomy, admiring the beauty of a town’s historic district, and also being well aware of its dark and racist past. In fact, Macon’s historic train station still has a room off to the side which has engraved into the very stone above its door, “Colored Waiting Room.”  From 1916 to 1960, African Americans had to enter the terminal by that door. The sign was covered up for a time as the building passed from one owner to the next, but it was exposed again not long ago so as not to deny the history of the place. I am not sure how to feel about that. Is there a way to remember your dark history without being a constant source of pain for those who live in the present?

The building is symmetrical, so there’s another room on the opposite side of the station that is the exact same size and design as the Colored Waiting Room. It, however, says “Baggage.” Wow.

The Station itself is so grand that weddings are still held there.

Another startling visual is this stone that commemorates the now nonexistent Baconsfield Park, which was given to the city by a Senator from Georgia and was “for the sole, perpetual and unending use, benefit and enjoyment of the White women, White girls, White boys and White children of the city of Macon.

Living in this town must be a strange balancing act. Elegance and injustice. Hoop skirts with shit on the hemline. Bless their hearts.

But oddly enough, I have good reason to love Macon and to want to come back. Somehow, magically, it has transformed my sister. She and I have much in common, including the fact that we’re both introverts. She even more so than me. People are not our favorite things. They never have been. We are both childfree, and I credit her with giving me the courage to make that choice despite society’s constant criticism. She paved the way for me. It was the right choice for both of us.

We both lead relatively isolated lives even now, but ever since I moved out West and met Dear Husband, I’ve become a bit more social. Not that that is a superior state. It’s just how it is. And I know I’m much happier now, even when alone, and it’s obvious to anyone who looks at me. It took me 50 years to come into my own, and I was so focused on that, I think I overlooked the obvious hints that my sister was blossoming at the very same time.

It’s a wonderful thing, watching someone bloom, like a gorgeous Queen of the Night flower that shows its beauty but one night a year, and is therefore all the more stunning to behold. My sister, in Macon, is a rare flower, indeed.

We walked around the historic district, ate meals outdoors at places called Parish and The Rookery (try the Solid Gold Soul Rolls!), stopped in at the Hummingbird Bar, and enjoyed the quirky inventory of a shop called Travis Jean Emporium where I wished I could buy one of everything. People knew her. She talked to them. She was happy to see them. Even the homeless smiled and waved. Total strangers talked to her on the street. And I could tell that she was really and truly happy. And it was a pleasure to watch her husband look on in wonder after 32 years of marriage.

As a matter of fact, I have never seen my sister happy like this, ever. It was fun to watch this Yankee girl, taking up all the space she deserves in this Southern world. She has found her place. She has become the person I always knew she could be, and it brings tears of joy to my eyes every time I think about it. It also makes me want to say, with delight, “Who are you, and what have you done with my sister?”

For a while now, I’ve been trying to convince her and her husband to retire near me, because I miss having them close by and I love Washington so much. From now on, I think I’ll keep my mouth shut. It seems that for the first time in our lives, we both have things figured out. And at the exact same time, too! I do believe I’ll just bask in that knowledge for a time.

For the younger readers out there, never give up hope. Serenity can smack you in the forehead at any age. There’s no deadline. You just never know.

Life is good.

But wait! There’s more! While visiting my sister, we also went to the Tubman Museum and the Ocmulgee Mounds and saw some amazing public art… I’ll tell you about all that in the next post.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

Paying Respects at Andersonville

Of all the Civil War prisons, Andersonville was the worst.

Recently Dear Husband and I took a trip that we are calling “Autumn Back East 2021”. Our goal was to visit friends and family, and I wanted to show DH what autumn leaves really look like in a region that isn’t primarily covered in evergreen trees, and introduce him to our nation’s capital.

We flew to Atlanta, picked up a rental car, then drove to Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and then drove to Washington DC by way of Virginia. Then we flew back home.

It was an amazing trip which lasted 15 days, and since I’m now only blogging every other day, if I gave you a day to day account like I have on trips past, it would take a month, and you’d be heartily sick of the subject before we even left peach country. So I’ve decided to focus on highlights, which I’ll do my best to keep in order. You can find the first post in the series here, and a link to the next post in the series, when it comes available, below.

After a rather abrupt and, in my opinion, overly-religious welcome to Georgia at the state line, we headed into cotton and peanut country. We had a rapid COVID test scheduled for later in the day, prior to visiting my sister, so we decided not to stop at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, although it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years.

But Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia is the only part of our National Park system that serves as a memorial to all American prisoners of war. Since we were going to be in the general vicinity, we thought it was fitting to stop in and pay our respects. I’d been there before, but this was Dear Husband’s first Civil War site.

There are three parts to this site. The National Prisoner of War Museum, the Prison Site itself, and the Andersonville National Cemetery. We only had time to see the first two, but I highly recommend them.

The museum has displays that describe not only Andersonville, but also the conditions that Americans have endured as war prisoners throughout history. So many wars. So much inhumanity. So many sacrifices. Prison camps, by definition, are horrific places.

Andersonville, during its 14-month operation, can only be described as hell on earth. During that time, 13,000 Union soldiers died and were buried in trenches in what is now the National Cemetery. Many died of disease or starvation. Some died by crossing the “Dead Line” which was a flimsy fence that was 19 feet inside the stockade walls. If you crossed it, you were shot by a guard. Others died while trying to escape, many of those due to tunnel cave ins.

Neither the North nor the South were prepared for the number of prisoners they would need to house during this war. Because of this, prison conditions on both sides were overcrowded, and there was a deficit of food, shelter, clothing and medical supplies. According to the National Park brochure, you were more likely to die as a prisoner of war in this conflict than as a soldier in combat. Fifteen percent of all Union POWs and twelve percent of all Confederate POWs died. There were 150 Civil War prisons scattered across the country, but Andersonville had the worst reputation of them all.

Originally, Andersonville was a 16 ½ acre prison pen that was supposed to hold 10,000 Union prisoners. It had a swampy creek running through its center. That creek was supposed to supply the men with drinking water, and at the other end, where it flowed out of the pen, it was used as a latrine, called “The Sinks”. The waste was supposed to flow out of the compound, leaving the water upstream fresh, but the stream quickly proved inadequate to the task, the waste backed up, and the water source became a disease-laden muddy trench.

Both North and South were expecting to rely on prisoner exchange to reduce the number of incarcerated men, but when the South absolutely refused to give up Black Union soldiers, the negotiations broke down. Andersonville quickly swelled to 32,000 men struggling to survive. No shelter was provided. Prisoners had to make do with makeshift lean-to’s of sticks and scraps of clothing, which were called shebangs. Lice, fleas and vermin were everywhere. It was said that you could smell the stench of Andersonville 10 miles away. Georgians were not pleased. But that didn’t stop some of them from coming to gawk at the fetid sea of misery, chaos and death from the sentry towers.

African Americans, of course, had it even worse than the Whites. If they hadn’t already been killed by their Confederate captors before reaching prison, or returned to slavery, or sold into slavery for the first time, then they were dumped in with the rest of the prisoners. But they didn’t even receive the substandard, grizzly medical treatment that the Whites got. They were also forced to work hard labor. They were more likely to be put into the stocks and/or whipped than the White prisoners were. Of the 100 African Americans at Andersonville, 33 percent died, rather than the 15 percent death rate of the Whites.

Even making it to the end of the war did not ensure that you’d survive Andersonville. Hundreds died trying to make it back home. Others died later of the diseases they got from the vermin and putrid water of Andersonville. These men are scattered everywhere, but their loss is just as heartbreaking as the loss of those who lie buried in trenches in the cemetery just north of the prison. It’s one of this nation’s worst tragedies.

An Andersonville Survivor

So what do you see when you visit Andersonville today? Mostly, you see a beautiful rolling field of expertly maintained grass. It actually looks rather peaceful, if you don’t know the history. It would make a great place for a picnic, or a golf course, except that that would be disrespectful.

The National Park Service does a great job of making the site come alive, though. There’s a narrative that you can listen to as you drive around to the various points of interest. There are also a lot of informational signs. You can see the many monuments that many Northern states erected in memory of their fallen soldiers. You can visit the two parts of the stockade walls that have been reconstructed. You can see remnants of the star fort just to the Southwest, complete with rusty cannons. There are poles marking where the rest of the walls used to be, and shorter poles indicating the dead line which you could not cross.

The most substantial edifice is the building that surrounds Providence Spring, which was a spring that miraculously appeared just north of the creek, 6 months after the prison opened in 1864. That spring provided what little clean water the prisoners were able to obtain. Water still runs there, even though the creek has long since dried up. Throughout the fields, you can see short concrete posts that mark where the prisoners desperately tried to dig wells to get even more water.

So you stand on this now beautiful site, taking in the green rolling hillside, listening to the birds chirp, but you can imagine a time when it was mud and filth and desperation and disease. The ground practically vibrates with trauma. You can all but hear the moaning and the crying and the praying and the dying. You feel the ghosts of a war that never should have happened. And you are reminded of how atrocious people can be to one another.

Many people I know in the South try really hard to romanticize the Civil War. They try to say it was about states rights, but even the documents left behind by their own politicians and generals come right out and admit this was a war about slavery, pure and simple. They wanted the free labor for their farmland, and they didn’t care about the abominable suffering and horrifying injustice this caused. They decided that their stance, on the wrong side of history, was the right one, and they took up arms to defend it.

The Insurrectionists of January 6th of this year were equally wrong-headed, and are equally confused that their violent actions are considered crimes. If you don’t like the majority stance in a democracy, you don’t get to just up and steal a chunk of the country. That’s treasonous. And you certainly don’t get to storm our nation’s capitol and vandalize it and try to lynch people who disagree with you.

On that January 6th day, I’m sure all the ghosts of Andersonville rose up in horror and protest. I’m sure they wished they could make those insurrectionist idiots see the errors of their ways. And I’m sure the ghosts of their captors were cheering those same idiots on.

Will we ever learn?

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He Had a Bad Day?

I hope no one ever short sheets his bed.

I just read an article entitled “Outrage After Georgia Cop Suggests Atlanta Mass Shooter Acted Because He Had a ‘Bad Day’”, and it has thrown me into a recurring fit that is brought on when people in this country refuse to see violent white males for what they are.

No, I am not saying that all white males are violent. Far from it. But when one is violent in this country, such as this guy who killed 8 people, by virtue of being white he’s not called a domestic terrorist. No. He’s not even called a nut job. He’s called, at worst, misunderstood or frustrated or both.

If a black guy or a Muslim had killed those people, there would have been riots in the streets, calling for the guy’s head on a pike. There would have been racial backlash of epic proportions. Heads would roll.

Instead, this guy, who apparently has shown no remorse whatsoever, is given a free pass because he had a bad day. Poor guy. Give him a break. It was only 8 people, and 6 of them were Asian women, so they don’t really count. (Insert sound of my head exploding here.)

For all our sakes, I hope no one ever short sheets his bed, or he might blow up a freakin’ building. Because, you know, bad day…

End of rant.

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Poor, poor Stuckie. What a story.

True confession: I’m equally drawn to, and repulsed by, the macabre. It has always been thus. I think it’s because when the disgusting exists in the world, I want to find out why and how.

Because of this, if I ever find myself in the vicinity of Waycross, Georgia again (please, God, no…) I will have to stop in to see the Southern Forest World Museum. I do love a good Environmental Center, and from the looks of it, this is a good one, indeed. It seems to get universally fantastic reviews, and the images on the website are intriguing.

But I’d go there mainly to see Stuckie. Poor, poor Stuckie. What a story.

Back in 1980, a chestnut oak was chopped down and sawed into logs, and then placed on a lumber truck. That’s when Stuckie was first discovered. He was a hound dog, and he was mummified in the hollow of the tree.

It’s estimated he had been trapped in that tree for at least 20 years when he was found. And he’s still in that tree to this day. He’s on display in the museum. (I first learned of him by reading the amazing book Lab Girl, which I highly recommend.)

We’ll probably never know how Stuckie got in that tree. The most plausible theory is that he chased a racoon and got stuck. I hope he didn’t suffer much. After that, it was perfect conditions, wind that blew away the smell of his dying body, which meant that destructive bugs weren’t attracted to the site, and dry conditions within the stump, that caused Stuckie to arrive at his present state. It sure makes me wonder what is inside the trees that I pass by every day.

I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the 50’s, some poor family lost a beloved member, and never knew why. They probably searched and searched, and maybe even came heartbreakingly close to finding him. That makes me very sad, indeed.

RIP Stuckie, if you can, with so many people staring at you.


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Civil Trade War

So now Trump thinks Canada is a security risk? Oh, come on. Those people won’t even jaywalk at an intersection. Seriously. There could be no cars for miles, and they’d still patiently wait for the crossing signal.

Trump imposing tariffs on Mexico, Canada, and the European Union is like walking up to your three best friends in the school yard and punching them each in the throat. Just ‘cuz.

As if we weren’t already convinced that this man is an idiot, he now decides to do something that has absolutely no upside, even for him. But oh, yeah, it certainly has taken our focus off of Russia, hasn’t it? He does like to stir shit up.

Smoke and mirrors. It’s all smoke and mirrors. The next election can’t come fast enough.

For some reason, though, a lot of people don’t quite get (yet) what a global pissing match Trump has just set off. So let’s scale it down a bit for easier comprehension.

Let’s say the Governor of Maine doesn’t like the Governor of Georgia. So Maine decides to impose a tariff on all peaches. This means that it gets a lot more expensive for Georgia to get their peaches to consumers in Maine. This causes the Governor of Georgia’s head to explode, and he says, “Fine! We are now putting a tariff on Lobsters! Take that!”

Well, messing with Lobsters in Maine is like touching the third rail. This cannot be borne! So Maine says, okay, now we’re going to put a tariff on airplanes. (You may not know this, but Georgia’s top export is airplanes.)

But hold on. Airplanes are also the top export in California, Arizona, Washington, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, and Connecticut. So they all sit up tensely and blink, too. What’s going to happen next? They all start looking around to see how they can hurt other states who might hurt them. Everyone is poised for battle.

That’s really how the civil war started. Only back then, the commodity was slaves. Not only won’t we buy your slaves, but you can’t have them either. And before we knew it, hundreds of thousands of Americans were dead.

This trade war? Worst idea ever. Thanks, Trump. Way to go.

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My Jacksonville to Seattle Odyssey—Part 2

It was really hard saying goodbye to my sister this morning. I don’t know why. It’s not like we’ll lose touch. But it was kind of comforting, knowing she only lived 4 hours away. And I probably won’t see her for a year and a half. So it was hard. Still, off I went, just me and the dogs, who got right down to the business of sleeping.

We officially traded cars, and now I’m driving a 2000 Dodge Caravan with a whole host of quirks. The windshield wipers forget to work sometimes, and have to be reminded. When you hit a bump in the road, the radio turns to CD mode, which means the music stops. And the CD player doesn’t work. The air conditioner doesn’t really work in stop and go traffic. All of these are things I can live with and be rather grateful for, because without this quirky car, I’d be in deep trouble. And as I drove along I thought that if I were on one of those dating websites, I’d come off as the human equivalent to this vehicle. Quirky, but I can make it from point A to point B, and in the end, that’s all that matters, right?

So I headed up into the Appalachian Mountains, where my soul has always resided. It felt strange knowing that I’d be driving right on through them, because usually when I head this direction it’s to stay a while. If I could live anywhere in the country, it would be here. (With the exception of Butts County, Georgia. Sorry, but there are limits.) Maybe some day.

But I did have the distinct pleasure of stopping for lunch in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can’t be in Tennessee and not sample the bar-b-cue, so I went to Sugar’s Ribs. My friend Carole joined me. What a blessing this blog is. If it weren’t for this, I’d have never met her. And yet here we were, having lunch. And she drove an hour and a half to do so. We got along like a house afire, but I knew we would.

A strange thing happened when we left the restaurant, though. I had parked the van on a dark shady side street with the windows open. It was 75 degrees out and overcast. And my car was now flanked by two Chattanooga Police cruisers. Uh…

The officer said he thought the car had been abandoned with the dogs inside. We had been gone for 20 minutes. The car is in excellent condition, full of my possessions, and the dogs had water and food and the windows were open in full shade. They were fine. He said he assumed someone had walked off into the woods and shot himself. (Seriously? Isn’t that a bit of a leap?) But he was nice enough. He said if I hadn’t come right then, he’d have confiscated the dogs, though. That would have ruined the trip, to say the least. Believe me, I’d never leave my dogs in a hot car, and I’m tempted to kill any human who does.

After that, I headed North again, through the comforting, cozy mountains with their solid, reassuring rock outcroppings, and mildly disturbing fireworks emporiums, but somehow my GPS led me briefly back into Georgia, which had me worried for a second there. I’ll have to look at a map and work out how that happened, but before I knew it, I was back in Tennessee and then on into the rolling green hills and grasslands of Kentucky. I got this huge surge of pure joy when I crossed into this state, because it’s the first part of my journey that is parts unknown for me. I have officially crossed out of charted territory. If my travel experiences were an old map, this part would say, “Here there be dragons.” How exciting!

I passed several signs of fascinating places that I would have loved to have checked out, but traveling with dogs limits one. And of course time and money play a factor, too. Instead I’ve opted to hibernate in a hotel in Paducah, Kentucky.

A note about Paducah: It has always sounded to me like a small boy’s slang for defecation. A friend says it sounds to him like a teenage boy’s slang for his naughty bits. Either way, it makes it awfully hard to take this town seriously. But if it weren’t for the dogs, I’d be out exploring it right now. It’s got a waterfront art district, an historic district, and a National Quilting Museum! How can I resist? Alas…I’m off to bed.

Next stop, my niece’s house in St. Joseph, Missouri!

Check out part 3 here!

PisforPaducah! cover

Cosmic Pinball

I am always amazed at how the most random encounters can change the trajectory of one’s life. It’s as if we are all pinballs in a great machine, bouncing off this or that obstacle, and being propelled to greater and more dizzying heights. You never know when you wake up in the morning if your life is going to change for good or ill by the people you meet. In a strange way, I love this about the universe.

Here’s an example. I used to be very active in the art community in the virtual world called Second Life. This gave me the confidence to become a fractal artist. You can see my work here. Because of this, I met a young man who lives on the other side of the world in Viet Nam. I helped him get his first art show in Second Life, and we became good friends. I am very impressed by this young man’s talent. Not only does he do drawings and photography and 3D virtual sculptures, but he also writes quite well. you can see his work at his deviantart page.

He’s 19, and wants to study abroad. One night while we were chatting on facebook, I mentioned the Savannah College of Art and Design, because I had always wanted to go there. He looked into it, and is now applying. So there you have it. A random and improbable encounter between a 48 year old in America and a 19 year old in Viet Nam has sent him in the direction of Savannah, Georgia, a place he had never heard of before this. I hope it works out, because my young friend has an amazing talent and a bright future.

So, without further ado, here is some of the amazing art of my dear friend Cong Le Nguyen. I’m proud to know him, and I’m glad our paths intersected. Enjoy!