Here in the South, we are in the middle of that lovely season when every day week there’s a tea or reception or shower or some other similar gathering where you show up and bless everybody’s hearts profusely and come away with 1) a new egg salad recipe, 2) details from Person A on where she bought those adorable shoes and 3) details from Person B on what Person A did after she bought those adorable shoes and who she did it with. And there are at least two food items that MUST be present to make it an official Southern party. Both of those items are in this photo. Southerners were raised on
these two items; non-Southerners have never heard of them and don’t really understand them. Can you spot them in this photo? Bonus points if you can name the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, party classic that is not present in this photo but no Muscle Shoals tea/shower/reception is complete without. The flower arrangement is essential Southerness, too. Sadly, my mother did not bestow upon me the love-of-gardening gene and all I know is that this arrangement has some green leaves and pretty flowers and looks really nice? On the other hand, I can tell you every single detail about every single food item on that table. Priorities! But also possibly the reason my jeans seem to have a little trouble zipping up lately. Sigh.
This is the one spot in the world — that I know of, at least — where three of my worlds collide. And, strangely enough, I’m pretty much the only person who takes notice of such a significant location. Everybody else just hurries past because they have Things To Do. But not me. Well, I usually do have Things To Do, but whenever I’m here at this spot, I always stop and consider that I have at one time worked and/or am currently working for all of these newspapers. I just think that’s … well, I’m not sure what I think about it. Only that these three papers represent a huge chunk of what I do and who I am and, as different as they are from each other, it’s sort of jarring, I guess, to see them all lined up. It’s the majority of my working life, lurking outside of Jack’s in Iuka, Miss. And then, of course, I get to thinking about newspapers (see “the demise of “) and friends & talented journalists who are moving on before they get moved and the painfully irretrievable loss that is. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. On the other hand, each of these papers serves its community brilliantly, and I’m honored to be a tiny part of that success. (Also: They all have “Daily” in the title although one of them is lying.)
If you’re wondering where all those wonderful food items have disappeared to from your favorite T.J. Maxx, here’s the answer: They’re all at the Decatur, Alabama, store. I regularly (look away, husband John Pitts) check two T.J. stores with a couple of others on semi-regular rotation. And if you’re a Maxxinista (always wanted to have the chance to actually use that word), you know that the food aisle is one of the chain’s best-kept secrets: balsamic vinegars, olive oils, flavored salts, chocolates, dried fruits, healthy crunchy junk food, salsas, soft drinks — all with fancy gourmet-like labels not usually find on the Wal-Mart discount shelves but with Wal-Mart-discount-shelf prices. However, for the past year or so, seems as if the food selection at my T.J. Maxx stores has been shrinking. Used to be both overflowing sides of an aisle. Then, all of the food migrated to one side. Then it was just half of the side Now it’s even less than that. I couldn’t figure it out. Where are all the Stonewall Jackson jams? The Barefoot Contessa brownie mixes? The Turkish Delight from actual Turkey. What was going on? Turns out it’s an insidious plot to send all food items to the Decatur store. Or that’s what it looks like. More (shopping) research needed.
If you live anywhere in the 11-state region of the hallowed ground known as the SEC, you know exactly what this photo means. And if you don’t know, you’re in luck because I’m going to tell you in one word: Football. This. Is. SEC. Football. Because we girls know that an SEC football stadium is the biggest runway of them all. New York Fashion Week? Yeah, that’s nice and all, but an Alabama football game trumps any designer’s catwalk any day. I know that dressing up for football games is sort of a Southern thing that some folks may unflatteringly link back to so-called Southern belle-ism, but I prefer to think of it as a way to be stylish and comfortable and show team loyalty all at the same time. And another excuse to go shopping. So it’s all good. (And, please, y’all give Vanderbilt some time. It’s a rebuilding year, you know.)
This is the job I want — Vice President in Charge of Naming Stuff. You know these folks took their afternoon business meeting/strategy session to the open-air beach bar where pitchers of beer are $2 and the boss had told them “We need new names and logos for our soft drinks so DO NOT LEAVE THAT MEETING UNTIL YOU’VE COME UP WITH SOMETHING,” and they didn’t. I just hope that dr. perky and mountain lion (Capitalization, people. CAPITALIZATION.) never get together and have babies.
Creative, artistic, super-nice people. Don’t they justinfuriateannoyinspire the heck out of you? Jaylene Whitehurst, of Corinth, Miss., is one of those folks. She is a painter, storyteller, poet and counselor. Energy and compassion are her native languages. She sees the world differently from everyone else and knows how to make you see it differently, too. And she does it all in that lilting-yet-deceptively soft Southern-woman voice that greeted the damnYankee officers who broke into the finest home in town and found the diminutive hoop-skirted lady of the house pointing Daddy’s hunting rifle at them. But if it were actually Jaylene in this situation, after she had their attention she would put the gun down and gently led the DYOs in a heartfelt discussion about why they felt it necessary to break into her house and steal her food and wouldn’t they rather just go back to their homes in Ohio or wherever and live peacefully? And they would say “yes, ma’am” and be out the door and on their horses and headed back north with no strong grasp on what had just happened to them. That is Southern women. Luckily for us, Jaylene lives in the 21st century and can spend her time painting instead of Protecting Her House Against Marauding DYOs. An exhibit of her endlessly fascinating work is at the Crossroads Museum, in Corinth, and on Saturday she invited friends to meet her there for a gallery talk. I know nothing about art but I’m constantly amazed at how artists can create something out of nothing. Jaylene uses texture and collages (that’s what you call layering things on top of other things, right?) to tell her stories. I especially liked this piece, where she used buttons, doilies and clothing patterns from her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother along with flowers from a poster she’d designed a few years ago. This work is more than a family tribute, though. It explores our fascination with circles — a fascination that connects people throughout time and all over the world. That’s the power of art, I think: gently nudging you to think about mandalas, crop circles, rose windows and Jung while looking at vintage buttons and old crocheted doilies. And footballs. Because after the gallery talk, the group ate lunch at a downtown Thai restaurant but I had to go help Vanderbilt win its bowl game. That makes five of seven SEC bowl wins, with optimistically six of eight after tonight. We shall not speak of the Recent Unpleasantness.