Occupy Chattanooga — and Julie Darling Donuts

Normally I don’t get in on nationally historical & happening-right-now political events — I’m generally more of the heard-it-on-NPR type — but earlier this week I got a close-up look at the headline-making Occupy (Fill-in-the-Blank) movement while I was in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Occupy Chattanooga folks have set up their tents on the lawn of the Hamilton County courthouse, and Younger Daughter and I, being the nosy & curious journalistically inquiring people that we are, headed over to get the full story.  And the full story, as far as I can tell, is that we should eat locally and not step on the pansies bravely trying to brighten the sparse wintry landscaping. I didn’t pick up much political angst — it seemed more like a friendly campout where you borrow your neighbors’ chocolate bars to make s’mores — but I wasn’t surprised at that. See, the thing about Chattanooga is that it’s a pretty cool & laidback town where Patagonia, stand-up paddleboarding and organic coffee shops trump pearls, pantyhose and pumps.  So it’s entirely fitting that Chattanooga’s version of Occupy (Fill-in-the-Blank) is low-key. But, of course, it was difficult to get the full story since it was a weekday and the site was fairly empty because the protesters were at 1) work, 2) school or 3) back home taking showers, leaving Occupy Chattanooga in the hands of an address-less man who tends the fire and watches over the tents while everybody’s gone. He happily filled Younger Daughter and I in on why the government was out to get us, augmented by comments from another talkative man on a bicycle who offered opinions as he cycled around the tents and whom we later saw riding around town, still commenting loudly to everybody and nobody. But I liked the whole Occupy Chattanooga vibe. I mean, when Imyself Occupy Chattanooga, I tend more toward Julie Darling Donuts and Good Dog  beer & fries, but I’m glad there are other folks out there who are making me think about other things and reminding me that not everyone is so lucky — and not to step on the flowers.

Speakin’ and Sweatin’ on the Square

It was a party at the courthouse on Saturday afternoon in Corinth, Mississippi, for the election-year tradition of speakin’ on the square. In near-100-degree heat, folks hugged the shady spots under trees and awnings as candidates took to the podium and promised … well, all sorts of things.  (One candidate said, “I promise you can always get me on the phone and ask me anything you want. You may not like what I have to say, but I’ll always give you an answer,” which I thought was probably the most honest thing said all day.) Campaign workers manuevered through the crowd, graciously offering water and fans while a trailer from the local BBQ restaurant sold a steady supply of ribs and smoked chicken. It was hot, sweaty and miserable — and we all ate it up. How could you not love an event where folks come up to you and say, “Remember me? We talked in line at Wal-Mart three weeks ago? My uncle’s girlfriend’s cousin is running for office and would really appreciate your vote.” As a dedicated people-watcher and eavesdropper people-listener, I’d hit the jackpot here. What I especially liked was all the wheelin’ and dealin’ going on in the background while the candidates speech-ified. That’s where the stories were. Such as the two men in the photo above right, standing belly-to-belly and intensely discussing … well, they could have been exchanging recipes for all I know (we eavesdroppers do observe some boundaries, you know) or arguing over which sides of the square had the most shade (west and south were generally the top vote-getters) but these two sure seemed to be wrangling with something important. So if you’ve got the chance to vote in an election coming up soon, take it. You wouldn’t want all us Mississippi folks to have sweated in vain.

Rick and Bubba and Friends

Yes, this is my friend Bonnie. Standing on a car. It looks as if she’s miraculously balancing on top of a huge Rick and Bubba sign — and if anybody could do that, it would be her — but she’s actually standing on top of her car, which is holding up the huge Rick and Bubba sign with help from assistants Jana, left, and Cheryl. And this was 5:45 a.m. In the morning. I’m there, too, taking this photo. And why were we in this Birmingham, Ala., parking lot at 5:45 a.m. standing on a car holding a huge Rick and Bubba sign? Of course, it was all Bonnie’s idea — and it was a good idea. The whole thing was a surprise birthday party for our other friend, Cathy Layne. Cathy is a huge fan of the Rick and Bubba radio show, which is broadcast from studios in Birmingham, where Bonnie and Cathy live. So Bonnie concocted an elaborate scheme to surprise Cathy with tickets to a broadcast. She couldn’t get tickets for Cathy’s actual birthday — the closest was almost a month later — so of course she was hoping that would really throw the birthday girl off. Then she told Cathy that Jana, Cheryl and I were stopping in Birmingham to spend the night on our way to Florida and we had to get up early the next morning to make it to Pensacola by noon and we wanted to go to Panera Bread (love their Cinnamon Crunch bagels) for breakfast before we hit the road. Cathy was suspicious but went along with it. She met us — along with Angela and Karen, a couple of their other Birmingham friends — and by the time she walked into the parking lot, she said later, she had it figured out. But we all had fun anyway. Who wouldn’t with this crew? And the sign? It had hung at Rick and Bubba’s former restaurant, where Cathy’s son had worked. He rescued the sign when it was thrown out after the restaurant closed and kept it at his mom’s house. Bonnie thought it would be fun to take the sign to the studio and give it back to Rick and Bubba, but she was frantic when she found out Cathy’s son had taken the sign to Auburn for a recent ESPN Game Day, although it didn’t get on camera. So she had to devise some complicated maneuvering to secretly get the sign back so Cathy wouldn’t know — and, of course, she succeeded, because if Bonnie puts her mind to something, she’s going to do it. I’m so glad we’re friends! Actually, she and Jana are long-time friends since they practically grew up together. But Jana is so generous that she even shares her friends, so we northwest Alabama friends of Jana luckily get to be friends with her Birmingham bunch, too.

It was so much fun to sit in on the Rick and Bubba show. Even if you disagree with their politics, you have to admit that they are master entertainers and so good at what they do. I also admire Rick’s strong faith in light of the accidental death of his young son. They were hospitable hosts, and it was fascinating to watch the behind-the-scenes proceedings of a radio broadcast. Visit their Web site, http://www.rickandbubba.com/, to learn more about their show. I think they were tickled about getting their sign back, although they assured us that we really didn’t have to go to all that trouble!


So many choices! So options! So many decisions! This is why fall is my favorite season. In summer’s heat and humidity, things sort of slow down and we (and by “we” I actually mean “me”) get lazy and bored and boring. But once September’s here and October’s only a calendar-page-flip away, we get re-energized. And we do need energy, because after weeks of not having anything to do, we suddenly have too much to do. Of course, by “anything,” I mean things that are fun and I want to do versus things that are not fun and I don’t want to do — think eating chocolate chip cookies versus cleaning out closets. Anyway, fall weekends mean choosing. Do I go to the concert or the football game? Do I visit the arts and crafts show or watch the homecoming parade? Do I hang out at the street festival or go hunt for the perfect pumpkin? Of course, money, time and gas availability are factors, but it’s still fun to have choices.

Friday night, I had to decide whether to be part of the debate crowd in Oxford, Miss., or watch on TV  — and the uncertainty of whether the debate would go on or not didn’t help. Anyway, I dilly-dallied around until it was too late — which is my usual way of making a decision — and so traded the excitement of downtown Oxford for the comfort of an indoor screen. Naturally, in my typical contrary way, I immediately wished I had made the effort to go! Oh, well. Anyway, you can feel as if you were there by reading the blogs at http://www.djournal.com — the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal newspaper in Tupelo, Miss. I’m not sure who “won” the debate, but I am sure it seemed more of the same big talk, vague promises and it’s-not-my-fault excuses. Oh, yeah, and the classic I-predicted-this-years-ago-if-you-all-would-have-only-listened. The closer we get to November, the surer I am that I’m choosing to take a pencil with me to the polls. I’m just saying.