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.)
This is my husband. This is my husband on vacation. I offer it as photographic proof that he actually can get away from his office occasionally and relax. Like most newspaper folks and especially like most newspaper editors and doubly especially like most newspaper sports folks, he is dedicated to and enthusiastic about his job. To him, following sports stories online for six hours straight isn’t “work” — it’s just what he does. And he does it well. He also is an exceptional boss. He supports and encourages the sportswriters and copy editors he works with and never asks anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Like be at the newspaper 12, 15, 20 consecutive days. In a row. Now, he and I both are pretty independent people — having a commuter marriage for several years will do that to you — and I rarely invoke a wifely clause but sometimes I just have to insist we Get Away. Luckily, there’s a window of relative calm that comes after college baseball and before SEC Media Days when he’ll agree to sneak off for a week, provided he can take 1) his laptop, 2) his cell phone and 3) my laptop, tablet and smartphone for back-up. He even wandered out to the beach a couple of times. But at least being almost 400 miles from the newspaper prevented those “I think I’ll just run over to the office for a little bit” moments.
You know that we are a newspaper family. My husband is the sports editor at the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss., and even though I’m a former practitioner of
an escapee from daily-newspaper writing, I still love it when he needs my help. He’ll say, “Sweetie, what are you doing on such-and-such a day? I really could use an extra hand,” which I’m pretty sure is not how he makes assignments to DailyJournal sportswriters. But I’ll take it. Some of the things I help him with are 10K runs, such as the annual Coca-Cola Classic Corinth 10K. Even the most organized runs — which the Coke Classic is — tend toward managed chaos at the finish line. This is especially true for sports reporters as they try to identify and interview winners whose top priority is to find shade and a shower and why-are-these-folks-following-me-and-sticking-cameras-in-my-face-when-I-really-can’t-breathe? Very tricky stuff. So when my husband covers one of these races, he hires me as his assistant. And while secretly I consider it my job to keep an eye on him as he interviews attractive young women as he runs around in the Mississippi heat and humidity, at the Coke Classic he wanted me to 1) photograph winners as they crossed the finish line and 2) keep up with where they were in the finish-line crowd so he could get quotes. For this past Saturday’s Coke Classic I managed the second assignment perfectly and helped my husband get a good story. The first, as you can see, not so much.
What a nice surprise in March to be driving along a street and round a corner and come across an otherwise empty space that’s bursting with cheerfully waving
daffodils buttercups narcissus paper whites yellow and white flowers of some type. Thank you, city of Tupelo, Miss.
Oh, I love the holidays — the visiting, the parties, the chance to get a closeup view of other people’s decorations. Luckily, folks don’t seem to mind when I whip out my camera, even though my husband warns the hosts, “You’d better be careful because this will turn up on her blog.” But the homeowners here had a couple of nights previously opened their doors to an annual fund-raising holiday home tour, so I figured they’d be okay with a little publicity. The thing is, this family has spent years — YEARS — renovating and restoring this wonderful cottage in Tupelo, Mississippi. Soon I want to show you some of their non-holiday work, but since Christmas is … wait, wait, don’t tell me … four days away, we’ll stick with the festive touches now. I love the fresh greenery and whimsical details mixed in with vintage pieces, such as these post-office boxes the husband bought from a going-out-of-business post office. He cleaned and shined them and built the wooden case for them with access to the backs as well as the fronts for one incredible storage unit. Amazing! And made festive with a Santa collection resting on the top. Everything in this house was bright and cheerful, the food was good, the company was fun, the wine never stopped and I even heard firsthand the story about a dad who delivered his baby in the car at the hospital because his wife unknowingly has a condition called precipitous labor, which means she gives birth within three hours of the first contraction. In this case, it was 20 minutes. I repeat, this brave woman who is my new hero gave birth in the front seat of her car in the hospital’s driveway a mere TWENTY MINUTES after she felt a contraction. That calls for another Christmas cookie — and sort of makes me glad I’m out of the birthing-babies business.
This spring I’ve been helping my husband John Pitts, sports editor for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo, cover local races. I think he mainly wants me involved so I’ll make sure he gets up and out to the starting line in time, since runners and sportswriters seem to have different interpretations of what “early in the morning” means. (One thinks 5 a.m. and the other thinks 10 a.m. You be the judge.) But I’ve honestly enjoyed the up-close-and-personal perspective I’ve gotten from helping cover both the Corinth Coca-Cola Classic 10K and Tupelo’s Gum Tree 10K Run. I mean, I do not run. It hurts. It makes me cry. It’s painful. I do not understand why people do it. I remember somebody who ran explaining it to me once. She said, “You know that feeling when you can’t move your legs and you feel so sick and dizzy and you have to stop and throw up? I love that!” This is madness with a capital “C” for crazy, too. Because whenever I feel like that, I immediately go lie down. And perhaps call the doctor. I do not think, “Only four more miles to go!” That’s the difference, I guess, between those who run and those who buy a pair of Nikes maybe once every five years. Or the difference, perhaps, between those at the front of the race pack, poised to spring into record-breaking action as soon as the gun goes off, and those at the back, who are, like, “Has it started yet? Are we supposed to be moving?” As an experienced race reporter now, I can tell you that there’s quite a contrast between the intense anticipation at the front of the line and the relaxed gathering going on in the back. But that’s one of the most surprising things I learned: There’s room for all. Maybe even for folks who don’t even like to run.
Here down South, we’ve been doing a lot of un-Southerly things lately. Like trying to figure out how to get 6 inches of snow off our cars. (“Do you have an ice scraper, by any chance? You know, it looks like a little squeegee thing.”) Trying to dress for 20-degree weather. (Layers.) And watching hockey games in real live person. Well, OK, it’s true that you can watch hockey throughout the South almost anytime during the winter, but the threat of snow and ice outside seems to add to the authentic hockey experience. A couple of nights ago, Dear Husband and I watched a hockey game in Tupelo, Mississippi, between Mississippi State University and Louisiana State University — schools better known, admittedly, for football than hockey. The teams were club teams, not NCAA-sanctioned, but the young men on the ice had all the heart of top NCAA athletes. Maybe more. There was no glory. No TV cameras. No big fat checks. (In fact, the games were fundraisers for the hockey programs.) But there was an enthusiastic crowd and plenty of MSU cowbells. And to readers still puzzled by the idea of ice hockey in the South: Arenas and coliseums, such as the Bancorp South Arena in Tupelo, turn their floors into ice rinks during the winter for hockey and public ice skating. Sadly, though, Bancorp South had to cancel its ice-skaing sessions this past weekend … because of, you know, snow and ice.
If your Fourth of July plans call for some barbecue this weekend, I hope it’s as good as this plate of finger-lickin’ goodness I got at Bar-B-Q by Jim in Tupelo, Mississippi, this week. Now, I am not a barbecue fanatic. I never get up in the morning and say, “I’ve got to have some barbecue today.” But when good barbecue falls in your lap — and anybody who eats with me knows I mean that literally — you cannot refuse. Bar-B-Q by Jim is moist and succulent with a faint woodsy flavor. It’s perfect on its own, but a dribble of the molasses-based sauce makes it even better. The cole slaw is crunchy and crisp and not drowned in mayonnaise, the potato salad is firm and savory and not drowned in mayonnaise and those rolls — light and rich and buttery all at the same time. Thank you, Jim Beane, for making barbecue that even non-barbecue folks like me can love. Go to http://bbqbyjim.com/ for details.