With Trepidation, I Went To See The Film AMERICAN SNIPER

I wasn’t sure but I went to see this film anyway . . . by myself, a matinee, $8, the midtown theatre that serves wine (thought I might need some).  I have a military cognizance, and my husband not so much so.  My dad served as a US Army truck mechanic in India, drafted in 1942.  My husband’s dad had a deferment, and my husband had one also.   I have a film degree, and my husband does not.  All things considered, I felt the cultural stir about this film, and needed to check it out.  The controversy this academy-award-nominated film in six categories has generated may stem from the political right wing’s ruckus about patriotism.  Of course, that would stimulate the left wing to confront.  The political right wing may be behaving as a usurper of the film’s high value– the film is excellent.  It is long, two-and-a-half hours, and must have cost a fortune, blowing up sets, equipping so many actors with armaments, teaching actors how to be machine-gunners.  Watching credits roll, I learned that some of the filming was done in Morocco.  I can imagine that one of those Oscar nominations is for the set: the pale orange hues of a desert sandstorm, the stucco-looking structures having faint resemblance to a Tuscan landscape, the creamy American helmets capping crisp, green-streaked camouflage fabric, in contrast to dark colors of the opposing flowing apparel.  The giant white military Humvees powering through the towns stirred my heart through my screening eye.  A huge scary skull stenciled on a rotating shield atop them added a strange beauty to the shots.

One of the Oscar nominations is for best actor.  Bradley Cooper deserves it; I cannot imagine the role of Chris Kyle, legendary sharpshooter, better played.  Funnily enough, I can relate to the Chris Kyle character.  I too got narrow beliefs from my family and church.  Anyone who knows me or read my memoir knows I was steeped in Christian ethics.  I wasn’t a rodeo rider like Chris, but I am a Texas girl.  Cowboys and cowgirls were continual metaphors.  As a junior-high Eaglettes Captain, I wore white vinyl gauntlets over white gloves, and got fit and strong for marching in white boots across the Dallas football fields for half-time shows.  This is my take on the main character of AMERICAN SNIPER Chris Kyle:  he became a SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) to express his gifts of mental strength and supremely developed physique to serve a desperate need his country had.  A quote from Coretta Scott King fits this character:  “There is a spirit, and a need, and a person at the beginning of every great human advance.  Every one of these must be right for that particular moment of history or nothing happens.”  Chris Kyle left the Texas rodeo scene as a thirty-year-old for sharpshooting in Iraq, committing spirit, mind, and body to the need.  Terrorists had penetrated his country.  They flew passenger airplanes into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.  The Chris character said that it was important to keep them out of Los Angeles, right?  You don’t want them in San Francisco or farther in, right?

THE CHRIS KYLE CHARACTER WORE A BASEBALL CAP AND PHONED HOME FROM A CELL DEVICE HE CARRIED WHILE PERFORMING SHARPSHOOTING The Chris Kyle Character Wore A Baseball Cap and Phoned Home on a Cell He Carried In closing, when we go to the movies, let’s call to mind the teaching channel that the movies provide.  We must also remember that each pair of screening eyes sees individually.  A powerful film means different things to different people.  To end this essay, instead of including the instigative quotes of the more “black & white” thinkers, I choose one from a seasoned linguist, one in his last years as writer and lecturer to university-oriented audiences of thousands, an academic renown for studying our country’s cultural wars, Noam Chomsky.  According to a January 29th article in The New York Times, Professor Chomsky was aware that Mr. Kyle noted in his memoir that he was fighting “savage, despicable evil.” Mr. Chomsky added, “We’re all tarred with the same brush . . . for largely keeping silent about official policy . . .”  He was particularly referring to the USA “global drone assassination campaign,” but not having studied this initiative, I am hesitant to close with that view.

A closing thought I like resembles the one I began with– if you feel an opinion heating up in you about this controversial film, go and see it.  Exercise a freedom, and do not lay aside critical mindedness; same way you treated your teachers.  Then, do what I did: write down your feelings about the character of Chris Kyle (b. 1974, d. 2013).  Mr. Kyle did not succumb to terrorists.  He did four tours and holds the record of kills among sharpshooters.  At home stateside, figuring out how to live as a husband, father, and giver of community service to veterans in hospital, he was shot dead at the hand of a disturbed veteran he had volunteered to help.  The newspaper article mentioned above addressed this irony with a ring of truth, “Are guns useful for self-defense?  Here was one of the most skillful shooters in American history holding guns, surrounded by guns, and was unable to protect himself.”  Oh, and one more from the producer, Clint Eastwood, “The biggest antiwar statement is what it does to the families left behind.”  I do not mean to present an antiwar statement, rather I mean to herald writing, and in writing, aiming small for the particular expression of meaning.

MEMPHIS PULLED OFF SOMETHING FANTASTIC FOR WRITERS!

Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

In my own hometown of my small city by the majestic Mississippi, those of us who write, collect books, know publishing, and otherwise have a passion for literacy experienced an opportunity of a lifetime.  We met Newberry-winning author Vance Vawter (Paperboy, Random House), author Amber McCree Turner (Sway, cover designed by SHREK artist of Dreamworks, + Circa Now, both by Disney Hyperion), and Barry Wolverton (Neversink, Harper Collins imprint).  They told me things I wondered about:  getting lucky with finding an agent after perusing Children’s Writers Market, that editors think globally and thus ask for removal of words and phrases easily misunderstood, and wait patiently for six months after submitting pages of a finished manuscript.  The three panelists, together with moderator Julie Lester, agreed that big-house publishing is a strange business.  Authors submit to guidelines precisely.  Authors must realize the agents talk among themselves (this is scary)!  In addition, a good tip came:  a would-be agent who asks author for up-front payment is not “real”– an author’s agent payment comes through the publishing house when author’s first installment is paid.

McCree Turner’s chosen genre of “magical realism,” defined by her as the fine line between fake magic and “this side of heaven” magic, segways the thoughts in this essay to Daniel Wallace’s hour-and-a-half talk.  In his easy demeanor with us listening, he chose to deal with an author’s ability to follow what comes unconsciously, what continues to interest, what keeps on continuing (obsessively).  For example, Wallace discovered a passion in himself for glass eyes.  He noticed more interest in these than any other thread possibility for his novel, except for perhaps his relationship with his father.  He has collected 75 of them, and passed one around in our session.  The obsession with glass eyes appealed to filmmaker Tim Burton, who cast Albert Finney as amazingly big-imagining storyteller, mixing things magic with things real. Jessica Lange  was cast as his wife, together with Ewan McGregor and Billy Crudup, popular actors of many known roles. I watched BIG FISH The Movie (2003, Columbia, rt 2 h 6 min) on Amazon, and am beginning to understand more from Daniel Wallace.  It will be fun to scan through the book in my hand.  What do you think . . .  Is it true?  Some say, “The book is always better than the movie.”

 

Three Nights In City of “Big Shoulders,” The Windy City

The Aon is the third tallest building in Chicago, within walking distance of Millennium Park

The Aon is the third tallest building in Chicago, within walking distance of Millennium Park

Chicago is the second largest city in the country, if you speak from history and don’t mention that johnny-come-lately western megametropolis that has outgrown the City of Big Shoulders. Travel to the great city of Chicago has prompted me to write. Hubby and I spent three nights there vacationing in late June. For a vacation highlight, after Millennium Park and The Art Institute, we chose the AIA-designed Architectural Boat Tour down the Chicago River, having first, early in the morning of our boat tour, doing our spin mini-workout in the hotel’s fitness center two levels down. Dear readers, come with us now, in present tense, as we are perked, motivated, and ready for the rave-reviewed Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, boarding at noon.

The Chicago “First Lady,” a member of the river’s finest fleet, is our safe, US Coast Guard-inspected vessel. We have a knowledgeable volunteer architect with a good personality and a nice summer fedora as our narrator. I am at the ready with my ballpoint to snag on paper any unfamiliar architectural terms I hear. “Cladding” and “pediment” I know, but I jot down “dark recessed spandrels,” and “chair effect.” I was also off and running to the bar and back. Thus I am very busy, sipping iced raspberry-flavored gin lemonade, listening to the brilliant narrator, and spotting the first buildings depicted on the excellent brochure received with ticket purchase. The narrator, introduced by the ship captain, varied his presentation slightly from the brochure’s pictures of skyscrapers rendered in six major delineations of architectural styles. The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) docents are one of the most respected volunteer groups in the world, receiving hundreds of hours of training about Chicago architecture and history.  Our guide seemed to be interested in Beaux Arts period, not listed, as are these: 1) Early Warehouse of 1910, 2) Historic Revival, taking hold by 1925 with the Chicago Tribune Building as the amazing example, 3) Art Deco of the next two decades, (may overlap with the Beaux Arts category), and 4) Mid 20th Century Modern, under the indelible influence of Mies van der Rohe who believed “less is more.” Noteworthy eye-catching twin towers of this era are Marina City, a multiuse complex.  It has semicircular residential balconies above high-rise parking, and was completed in 1967 by Bertrand Goldberg. Continuing the genres depicted on the brochure: 5) Post-Modern of the 1980s, whose architects believed “less is a bore,” and 6) Contemporary, as evidenced by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang’s Aqua at Lakeshore East Building completed in 2009. That same year, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill built the Trump Hotel and Tower of over 90 stories.

The Chicago Tribune Building, 1925 is an example of "Historic Revival" architectural style.

The Chicago Tribune Building, 1925 is an example of “Historic Revival” architectural style.

Entrance to Tribune Building

Entrance to Tribune Building

The Tribune Building embellishment at front entrance is unique, as are other embellishments from around the world.

The Tribune Building embellishment at front entrance is unique, as are other embellishments from around the world.

I could not possibly write all of the many anecdotes that amused us as we cruised down the Chicago River for 90 minutes, but I will mention a favorite building of mine that was next door to our Fairmont Millennium Park Hotel: The Aon, third tallest skyscraper in the city, first constructed with Italian Carrera marble cladding for about $120 million. During the first year or so, to the building’s insurers’ regret, it was realized that the marble could not withstand the Chicago winters, and it was removed. The second cladding was done with North Carolina white granite for about $80 million.

I also liked the skyscraper built next to Chicago’s tallest. The tallest is the former Sears Tower, renamed Willis Tower, at a height of 1,451 feet, built by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. The pretty pink building with blue glass, next to the Willis, was described as wearing a tiara. She is affectionately referred to as “Pink Lady.”

Pink Lady Stands Next To, in Contrast To Chicago's Tallest Skyscraper, Willis Tower, 1,451 ft./442 meters.

Pink Lady Stands Next To, in Contrast To, Chicago’s Tallest Skyscraper, Willis Tower, 1,451 ft./442 meters.

Lastly, 333 West Wacker Drive, a 1983 debut in Chicago of Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects, represents “contextualism,” and is a favorite of the area said our narrator. It presents a curved, shimmering, green-tinted façade flowing in harmony with the river’s hue.

A curved building, 333 West Wacker Drive flows in harmony with the river's hue.

A curved building, 333 West Wacker Drive flows in harmony with the river’s hue.

Skyscrapers evoke emotions. As I walked past a favorite, the third tallest, the perfectly pristine minimalist Aon Building on the way to explore the Millennium Park, Art Institute of Chicago, The Gage Restaurant, and Potbellies for lunch, my widening eyes scanned the thousand plus feet of the clean, narrowed rectangle’s creamy surface. The overall effect is one of immaculate grooming and unsurpassed excellence of “punctum,” a word for the artist’s way to penetrate an image.

Chicago, I love you, and yes, I would move to live in you, if I am not too old to change from a smaller Southern city to the “second” greatest American city (Chicagoans do not like becoming third after Los Angeles that outgrew them). Chicago, you grew from an onion- and garlicky-smelling swamp the Native Americans lived close to but apart from to a grand urban place. Chicago, you became the meat-packing and mail-order giant of the New World. You launched the muckraking novels of Upton Sinclair with your industries needing reform. Montgomery Ward, the retailer, started the first catalog in 1872 to benefit farmers needing supplies. He coined the phrase “money back guarantee.” Chicago, your river, Chicago River, had to be reversed to overcome its toxicity spoiling the drinking water from Lake Michigan decades back. Current Mayor Ram Emmanuel, in his fifties, announced that in his lifetime, the river will be free of pollution. Our guide told us that the mayor belongs to the most elite fitness club in the world, the East Bank Club, Barack Obama’s club. He said the club was built, in times past, to turn its back on the river, so toxic the river was. Times have changed, and the structures across the river from East Bank Club now face the river, no longer toxic but somewhat polluted. The culture of Chicago embraces and appreciates the continuing potentiality of the Chicago River. Developers, taking their cues from San Antonio, Texas, have begun their own River Walk for tourists. Each new construction is required by ordinance to include a walk-by design. This is an inspiring city. Chicagoans know how to change, problem-solve, think up good, democratic for-the-people plans and complete them. Chicago, you are a complete, huge, vibrant, attractive urban community.

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) (architecture.org) offers education in design of buildings on a 90-minute boat tour.

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) (architecture.org) offers education in design of buildings on a 90-minute boat tour.

Aqua Building, hotel and residences, designed  with wave-like balconies

Aqua Building, hotel and residences, designed with wave-like balconies

 

 

A STORY TO RENEW FAITH IN PUBLIC GOODNESS

A Chicago Getaway being a road trip, I decided to pack my computer in hopes of getting the typing done while I was documenting Chicago travel with my husband. Here is how the writing/typing went:  Today is Day 3 of the Getaway, and I am watching hubby sleep. He deserves a long morning sleep, not just because he loves to stay up late, but on this particular day because he rescued me from a seriously inconvenient potentiality. Here is the story; it will renew your faith in public goodness:

I left my beige, lightweight-polyester fanny pack on a resting bench in Tenza Piano Park outside The Art Institute of Chicago. I had the fanny pack to be able to carry only essentials– driver’s license for ID, a credit card and cash, a lipstick, a Kleenex, and a ballpoint. The fanny pack wasn’t perfect, and I had to hold a small camera, so I bought a perfect lightweight tote for over the shoulder and deposited the fanny pack into it. Exhausted from a full day of viewing, three hours before lunch, then another three hours after, we exited the Art Institute. I lay down and used the fanny pack for a pillow. Still tired, needing a cool drink of water and also planning for a gin and tonic for revival before dinner, I got up and walked toward hubby to depart the area. I was a definite Grumpy Cat until we did find a cool bottle of water for sale from a vendor. Then we sat for a while watching young acrobats show off in a groomed public-art area dotted with metal statues. The statues were wonderfully engaging in that, of all the dozen or more, their demeanor was depressed. Most individuals entering the area felt the engagement, went to them, put an arm around them, or sat on their laps. One person rested his hand on the statue’s thigh seated next to him. I also felt drawn to the standing statue close to where we were sitting, and so I stood beside one, mimicking his posture.

 

A Public Sculpture Needing A Friend To Stand Beside Him

A Public Sculpture Needing A Friend To Stand Beside Him

After that pleasant rest, we walked on our “last” legs toward our dinner destination, agreeing that a drink in an ancient and accepted hotel, Hotel Congress, would be where we would order the gin and tonics, which we did begin to enjoy. Thus, about an hour had passed since departing Tenza Piano Gardens, and I dug into my lightweight carrybag bought at the museum, and immediately realized the silly undersized fanny pack had gone missing! My second realization was that the contents, my life essentials, of the missing fanny pack were now available to whichever “finders-keepers” type had picked it up from the bench! Note: Here is one reason why a girl needs a bloke—he immediately set out to the careless spot, never thinking twice about our fatigue level. In just a short time, he called to say, “I’ve got it! You are a lucky girl!” Lucky indeed I was, and totally surprised. This was a grand shared moment. Good ol’ Chicago people of public life. No needy thief had selected my silly tan headrest left on the bench in the garden! Chicago, I think I love you.

GO TO www.createspace.com/3693096 TO ORDER MY MEMOIR

T I T L E   O F   P A T R I C I A ‘ S   M E M O I R   I S :
Ann, Patricia, Zelma, Beulah: Our 42,224 Days

Zelma Louise (upper) and Older Sister Eunice, 1941

The company providing me publishing/order-fulfillment service is CreateSpace Independent Publishing.
Hello, Readers,
I T   I S   F E B R U A R Y 18,   2 0 1 2.  An order placed today will arrive on February 29th (Leap Year).
MY MEMOIR,  A n n,  P a t r i c i a,  Z e l m a,  B e u  l a h: O u r  4 2, 2 2 4   D a y s,             WRITTEN BETWEEN THE
                                                YEARS 2006 and 2010
                                     HAS  LAUNCHED.  
                 The journey is the reward.  FINISHING A BOOK TO BRING IT TO MARKET TOOK TIME, FIVE MONTHS, and all of the time required has been put in.  
MY PUBLISHER HAS GIVEN ME AN  e-STORE  URL  FOR THE FASTEST ORDERING OF  Ann, Patricia, Zelma, Beulah: Our 42,224 Days, 170-pages, a trade paperback with thirty-nine black-and-white images, priced at $14.95.  To order:  copy and paste this into your search engine’s bar and hit the return key.
  •  http://www.createspace.com/3693096
You will then see the cover of the book and some verbiage.
All you need to do is hit “Add to Cart.”
Amazon will sell my memoir in about two weeks.

MY MOTHER, LOUISE, A 1940s BEAUTY

For some photo buffs of old photographs, good-looking, fashion-conscious women who came of age in 1940 hold a mystique.  In my mother’s case, south-central Texas girls finished high school at age seventeen, and knew they could attract an ambitious man, even if war service had to be factored in to a marriage.  This was a time in American history when young ladies pulled up their nylons that were not pantyhose and fastened them to restraining undergarments (girdles and garter belts).  Slim ankles did not go unnoticed, accented by pumps and gracefully hanging skirts that graced the tops of calves.  And who wouldn’t appreciate the cascades of curls or waves swept back with bobby pins?  My mother’s face, fascinating for its hazel eyes, skin tone, and countenance, resembled the young Katharine Hepburn (b. 1907, d. 2003), Hollywood star, recipient of four Academy Awards.

Young Women of Early 1940s: Inez, Mary, Dorothy, Louise

Postage Stamp of Katharine Hepburn (Date of Issue 05/12/2010)


MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, My View From Out East Over Twenty-six Years

Going back through files in Word to finalize chapters for the publication of my memoir, I decide to post some of the writing about Memphis on patnotes.com, writing that is neutral in flavor or slanted toward the positive.  I have to admit, after reading this particular post, I must have a fondness for, and enjoy living in Memphis.

A reason for posting the Memphis writing on the first day in September is that Labor Day Weekend is upon us, and people may be visiting relatives and friends in Memphis.  Labor Day is the public holiday of the US and Canada held in honor of working people on the first Monday of September.  Labor Day is celebrated on May 1st in some countries.  If you are a patnotes.com reader and headed to Memphis, write me a comment, please.  I would enjoy hearing from someone out there, now and then.  Thank you very much!

Sculpture in Seattle, Washington, In Homage To Labor Force

THOUGHTS ABOUT MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, PLACE OF TALL TREES

            Memphis, Tennessee, my home for twenty-six years, is tree rich.  Tall, straight trees, deciduous and otherwise, abound.  Memphis is reputed to have the longest growing season of any major city.  This means that a twelve-year-old tree can get up to thirty feet in height, as compared to, say, Texas, a place of less plenteous soaking rains.  Even before the 2011 drought, Texas trees would tend to scratch out a height of a dozen gnarly feet in the same number of years.  Memphis rains come in any style.  They come gently, come as soakers, come as downpours, and come as severe thunderstorms.  They sometimes come with straight-line, gale-force winds, and occasionally with the twisting winds as do the tornadoes of Texas and Arkansas or the hurricanes of Florida.  Lightening lights up the sky, and the thunder booms and frightens, and yet, from my perspective, all seems well, for the most part.  This is different from the Texas big-sky gully-washers that scare people to death and yet do not end the droughts.  Memphis is much farther east than Dallas, my city of birth and rearing, and much farther east and north than San Antonio, my second home because of in-laws there that we visit several times a year, and it being our home for five years in the 1980s.  My opinion of the climate of Memphis, Tennessee is that these unexpected variations in weather through the four distinct seasons are a strong point of marketing this city.  I enjoy the changes the weather here brings to daily life.

Going back to the descriptive trait of tall trees, I will bring up a negative resultant trait:  the grey squirrel population.  It is worrisome, the number of healthy, muscular, bushy-tailed mating pairs that populate the numerous tall trees.  If only these invasive pests could be the cute red squirrels of Britain of the past!  What a difference a property-owner would feel if the scampering, tree-spiraling, acorn-burying critters were the slower, red-coated animals, very much favored in England, now overrun by the large greys.

I like to contrast where I live to New York City, which claims to be green, yet long ago cut down its trees to build skyscrapers, except for Central Park.  The Big Apple does have claim to other parks, and does indeed have a lighter ecological footprint than one would imagine. New Yorkers are said to have a smaller carbon footprint than other states because New York City dwellers do not keep cars as a rule, a big factor in air pollution, a big factor in the footprint. To my way of thinking, a city’s carbon footprint is related to how alert and at the ready the movers and shakers of a place are.  Mayors, Governors, investors in the private sector, well-run conservation societies for land and structures, and leagues for grassroots influence make a difference.  Sometimes when I try to overcome a burgeoning tree-squirrel population, in a battle for the dominance of my property, I think of those supremely urban New York City folks, walking among the skyscrapers and riding the subways, and their talk of soot tracked into their homes on their shoes.  What a contrast to the lawns and streets of Memphis, Tennessee.  I wonder if Central Park affords New Yorkers complete satisfaction in communion with wildlife and wild plants.

When it comes to gardening and yard work, Memphis’s wild violets, a groundcover so rampant as to illustrate the concept of perfect natural selection, reign supremely and  ubiquitously over well-tended gardens and manicured yards.  The wild violet is a four-stemmed, heart-shaped-leafed weed.  A yard-worker in Memphis has two options for pulling them up by the roots:  you pull by the mature root ball (when the plant says you can), because it has lived sufficiently, or you use a forked thin probe, a “weeder.”  There may be one exception—sometimes a dozen or so of the wild violet babies can be rolled up out of damp soil, several at a time, because their tender roots have not dug deep.  It is dexteritously satisfying to the gardener to grab the mature stems of the five-inch green plant low down close to the moist soil and feel the roots let go.  I have pulled so many of these at one sitting (I sit on a wooden wine box), that the tips of my fingers become sore and my brain indelibly printed with the image of the plant.  I have drawn it, watercolored it, and sent the art to a friend on a postcard.  The wild violets grow in between cracks in the brick walk, and they grow all through the landscaping– nestling in with the Creeping Jenny and Ajuga groundcovers.  Wild violets find their way into potted plants—it is irrational.  They pop up in a fertilized, herbicided, mown front yard of grass.  These lively and tenacious green critters, sweet when looked upon individually, are entirely too aggressive.  I suppose the Texas equivalent would be the Spanish moss in trees.

Having established that my city is green, green in the sense that a Memphian meets nature coming and going, I progress to describing a business view of Memphis, a view that a Chamber of Commerce or public relations firm would release:  Memphis is America’s distribution center, having sprung to life almost two hundred years ago on the banks of the Majestic Mississippi River as a gateway to middle America.  Memphis was the cotton planter’s launch pad to the world.  In about 1870, fifty percent of all U.S. cotton crops were bought and sold here.  Cotton turned the wheels of the Southern economic engine at every step of the way.

Three-quarters of the nation's cotton was being grown within 200 miles of Memphis at the turn of the twentieth century. By river and rail, cotton rumbled into the city.

Memphis is promoted as excellently suited for companies wanting to consolidate inventory at one multi-regional base.  Many millions of tons of logs and other bulk commodities are shipped out of Memphis on barges every year.  “Memphis is the largest hardwood lumber market in the world . . . and The National Hardwood Lumber Association was founded in Memphis in 1898 and sets grading standards for hardwood lumber.  The inspection school trains more than 240 students each year,” states a 1984 promotional booklet published by BellSouth Corporation.

The most famous public-trading company in Memphis is Federal Express, whose multitude of airplanes come and go seemingly continuously out of a hub near the Memphis International Airport, a medium hub size facility, home base of Delta-Northwest Airlines.  For a Memphian lunching on the patio of Bosco’s, a midtown pub and grill situated in the flight pattern, she or he would count nine Fed Ex planes overhead during a one-hour lunch.

Another well-known company relocated to Memphis from Connecticut in recent history—International Paper.  Thought of as a conservative group of white-collar workers, the administrative branch of the company built an alluring campus of blue-toned highrises.  The pretty surroundings, obviously with tall trees, have peaceful walking paths, flowerbeds, and shrubs for workers and persons doing business there to enjoy.

There is much development in medicine and the health sciences in Memphis.  New buildings have increased the outreach.  The University of Tennessee Health Science Center serves our state and the entire country in the training of doctors, dentists, nurses, physical therapists, and other health providers.  The faculty have achieved a high ranking among medical schools.  Regarding hospitals, our “Med,” serving three states, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, is known for cutting-edge technology and for treating trauma cases in rapid time.  Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center has expanded and built a state-of-the-art treatment center.  Many other strengths abound in Memphis:  a vibrant downtown emphasizing residential restorations, an excellent baseball stadium for Redbirds, feeder team to St. Louis Cardinals, The Peabody Hotel—“The South’s Grand Hotel,” Beale Street for Blues Music, bars, and strolling late at night, Grizzlies NBA Fed Ex Forum, Trolley Ride from the bluffs to “The Pinch,” an old émigré neighborhood near St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  The trolley passes the National Civil Rights Museum, one of a kind in the world.  The downtown area has Mud Island featuring a paved miniature Mississippi River, a Mark Twain-themed museum, an outdoor concert arena, and a monorail to transport you to the island.  Furthermore, downtown has a stunning Chinese Art Museum on Main Street, near the antique Orpheum Theatre, which has a gilt ceiling and immense glass chandelier.  The Cannon Symphonic Hall is modern and thoroughly appreciated by music lovers and ballet goers.  Out east, in a suburban area approximately a dozen miles from downtown, the Wolf River Trail has been built with private money.  This is a wonderful outdoor-exercise addition to the popular Shelby Farms, a huge preserve with buffalo, too many geese to count, Patriot Lake with canoeing and paddle-boating, and hiking and biking trails.

PATRICIA’S FAVORITES – SIGHTSEEING  (updated 03/11)

 1)  Lobby of The Peabody Hotel, “The South’s Grand Hotel”

Whether or not you see the trained ducks march to or from their Italian Marble Fountain, carved all from one piece and topped with a live floral magnificent display, come to this space, so memorable architecturally and for people-watching, listening to piano, and sipping a beverage.  Be sure to look up at the ceiling!

2)  Trolley Ride:  On June 29th of 2007, ran until 1 AM

Stand at any corner on Main or Riverside; trolley runs every 10 or 12 minutes all day, every day; fare = $1

To “Ride The Loop”, which gives you a look from “The Bluffs/Bluffwalk”, get on the Yellow Line, between “The Pinch” District (north) and G. E. Patterson (south), where Arcade Restaurant (540 S Main) serves, near National Civil Rights Museum.

3)  Chinese Art Museum in Peabody Place Museum, 119 S. Main Street, Pembroke Square, Concourse Level, 901 523-ARTS, www.belz.com, 10 AM – 5:30 PM and Noon till 5 on Sat/Sun.

See a breathtaking private collection of the Belz Family– Fu Dogs, Jade, rich woods, reds, so beautiful!

4)  Cotton Museum, 65 Union Av., 901 531-7826, $5, Tues-Sat 10 – 5, Sun Noon – 5; Cotton ran the Southern economic engine.  This museum is new.

5)  The Orpheum Theatre, west of Beale Street, has been restored to old grandeur with gilt walls and a magnificent crystal chandelier.  Film series in summer.

6)  Redbirds Stadium, Union St. @ 3rd & 4th is a local source of excellence architecturally. As I understand it, private money built it, and it got all the state-of-the-art designs. Memphis’ AAA Redbirds feed the St. Louis Cardinals.

7)  Completed in 2011, Wolf Trail, Humphreys Blvd. @ Shady Grove/Baptist Women’s Hospital area, attracts walkers, bicycle riders, moms with babies in strollers, dogs on leashes, and nature lovers in general. A beautiful bridge of Ipe wood, rusted iron, and silver wire span the Wolf River.

8) The Racquet Club, Sanderlin between White Station and Mendenhall, hosts a professional tennis tournament each February. It is easy to park for $5 nearby, walk to the facility, and buy a ticket for the day or night, priced at $30 or $40. I get up-close-and-personal with famous players.

9) Lifetime Fitness Center of Collierville, Just north of the intersection of Poplar and Houston-Levee Rd., this big place has many members. I spend several hours each week with inspiring coaches in dance class or core work, or just riding the elliptical machine and doing mat work.

RESTAURANTS

1)  Huey’s for a juicy “World Famous” Burger; try the thick breaded red onion rings; try anything for “Pub Grub”; extra-casual; so casual you can write on the walls.

2)  The Rendevous, for barbeque, has astounding “Southern” Black Culture effects.  This restaurant is amazing, attracting dignitaries constantly.  It is in an alley near Holiday Inn Select.

3)  “Daily Grill” at The Westin offers a comfortable meat & veggies dinner or lunch with excellent service.  You look out at the Fed EX Forum.

4)  Encore has one of the best chefs in town and is elegant and pricey.

6)  Paulette’s (formerly in midtown) is a local treasure for French Country Fine Dining.   901  260-3300.  Relocated to River Inn, 50 Harbor Town Square (in downtown) March of 2011, (riverinnmemphis.com).

7)  Boscos, for a thin-crusted pizza and Famous Flaming Stone Beer, 2120 Madison Av., 901  432-2222.

8) Swanky’s Tacos, Poplar @ Kirby, southwest corner, never disappoints foodwise, and has a lively vibe. Their enchilada plate is good.

9)  Humdinger’s, behind Chick-Fil-A on Poplar @ Massey, serves African-spiced fillets of fish:  Tilapia, Red Snapper, and other. Sauteed zuchinni and other sides are delicious as well.

10) Interim Restaurant, Sanderlin near Mendenhall, across from The Racquet Club, has a pretty bar area out front of dining area. Dining room shows well because of its modern kitchen on view to diners.  901 818-0821, 5040 Sanderlin Av.

About Louise

 

My Mother, Louise, About 1940

What makes a writer write?  We are geared for reflecting, and we value putting language onto memories, and some of us do it for the sake of helping others keep tuned to the positive traits of their humanness, such as kindness.  Writers in the memoir genre may involve ourselves in nuanced descriptions of a childhood memories, which helps readers tap into their feelings of love, appreciation, or other emotions about their mothers or parent figures.  If I write human-interest stories (interesting enough to attract readers) that build a backstory on behalf of mothering, I will have helped our society’s next generation.

It is hard to put language on the intense love daughters have for their mothers.  One could start by saying that we daughters came out of our mothers’ bodies and suckled from our mothers’ breasts, which says quite a bit.  And then, we suckled our own babies and understood the unique bond.  But beyond those biological realities, it is next to impossible to describe what it feels like to be a daughter thinking about her mother, living or deceased.

I cannot imagine a mother of reasonable health unable to identify the immense positive emotion that accompanies the carrying, birthing, suckling, and rearing of a baby.  And even beyond those wonderful experiences, a mother of a daughter stands to gain something great later– another woman friend for life.  The two have an eternally braided history.

Daughters love their mothers. I honor the mother-daughter relationship.

My Mother Louise With Her Mother Beulah, About 1940 in South Central Texas

My mother was good at being neighborly, and she was a strong communicator as a sibling, disciplined in regular telephoning.  Mama was the seventh of seven children.  Like clockwork, she would put in a phone call to some of her brothers and sisters or their spouses.  “Tell everybody hello!” was a common expression among our relatives, used to close out every phone chat.  “I love you” was also freely spoken in our family.

Mama Dialogue:  Mama, we had warmth between us.  It stemmed from your keen eye and ear.  You were a constant psychologist/psychoanalyst, never missing anything of the heart.  You were not in a hurry.  Your key trait was availability.  Your children and husband had you 110%.  Nothing interested you more than giving attention to your children and husband.  If we needed guiding or correction, you had the background of the issue at hand, because you had been alert to its development.  The things that you did were plain and simple good mothering.  I do not know how to thank you or detail to anyone what it has meant.  Even when my older sister Glenda and I have tried to describe your skill in mothering, we end up sounding like elite braggarts.  We just thank our lucky stars for you and Daddy, and the love that you gave each other that created us and our little sister, who we got to “mother” along with you beginning in 1956.

The kind of love for mothers by their daughters I am attempting to describe is akin to the gratitude someone might feel toward an insightful physical therapist or chiropractor that has a healing gift.  Although never licensed as a nurse, Mother’s nursing orientation showed itself frequently to me, a school kid who caught every sore throat that came along.  Every cold and flu season I was one infection away from going to the hospital to have my huge tonsils taken out.  This went on from first through third grade.  Once my fever was so high I lay in bed talking about the things I saw on the wall that were not really there.  Much later I learned the term—“hallucination.”  What I knew at that tender time was simply that Mama watched me when I was at home sick, missing school.  Whether sore throat, ear ache, three-day measles, three-day measles again, red measles, or chicken pox, I went to bed, and Mama watched me closely, checking my temperature with a mercury thermometer under the tongue and bringing me liquids ranging from water, to chicken noodle soup, to warm Jell-O.  These accompanied my saltines for easy digestion.  In those days, tonsils were swabbed with merthiolate on a six-inch-long wooden Q-tip by some mothers.  I had that kind of mom-nurse.

In the years before school, Mama, without a shadow of a doubt, checked on me, keeping me from harm, as she went about her remarkable sewing.  She had a gift for it and loved it for many years.  She did so many things to make a clean, happy home out of that little house on Avenue I, the house I was born into, and that my sister Debbie was born into eight years later.  It was a good neighborhood.  What a kind and engaging family Carl, Nadine, LaWanda, and Sandy were.  We would never be able to express the huge good fortune lasting two generations that was the experience of living next door to that family.

There, you now have a few words from my memoir about my mother, Zelma Louise.

HISTORICAL BITS OF SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS

Clarence and Beulah in 1902

Clarence and Beulah in 1902, Happy Texas Couple

Texas history has much to do with railroads and cattle.  During the life of my grandmother, facts of land development tell an interesting story:  Beulah lived in Tom Bean, established in 1887, and White Mound, towns in Parker County, Texas, west of Dallas.  White Mound, originally spelled “Whitemound,” which was bypassed by the railroad, lost its post office to Mr. Tom Bean’s euponymous city in 1888, and many Whitemound settlers moved to the new town.  Mr. Bean’s estate began to sell town lots surrounding the routes of the railroad in the 1890s.  The town school was moved in 1891 from a one-room structure to a two-story building with an auditorium.  Several Christian denominations, including the Church of Christ, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist, established churches in town.  The city charter was signed in 1897.  As time progressed, the sharp increase in automobile travel and transport, and the decline of cotton as the principal crop of the area, led businesses to the larger nearby cities of Denison and Sherman.  Although never again the railroad boomtown of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the community enjoyed a growth spurt in the 1950s and 1980s, celebrating its centennial in 1987.  The city of Tom Bean continues to thrive, according to a “Community History” section of The Handbook of Texas on the internet.

Another Texas town I heard about from Beulah herself, her voice animated at the mention of it, was Yates, also called Yates Crossing, of Kimble County.  It was here where early settlers held camp meetings under the live oaks and Joseph A. Yates opened a post office in June 1907.  Between the late 1860s and the early 1880s, herds of cattle, averaging up to 2,000 head, crossed the Llano River at what was called the Beef Trail Crossing.  Not having the success of the town of Tom Bean, Yates reached a population of fifty-one, and its last reported population in 1958 was ten.  Beulah also lived in Weatherford of Parker County (near Fort Worth) where she was married, and in Temple, of the Temple-Belton area.  Belton is the County Seat of Bell County in central Texas, located on the famous Chisholm Trail for cattle drives.  Thousands and thousands of cattle walked the miles upon miles from the Rio Grande Valley or thereabouts to markets in Kansas.  [Wording found in The Belton Journal “Belton City Guide,” 2010 Edition.]  Today, Belton and Temple are on I-35 midway between Dallas and San Antonio, just over an hour north of the state capital of Austin.  Belton is home of The University of Mary Hardin Baylor, chartered by the Republic of Texas in 1845, the Quilting Queens of the Belton Senior Center, and in ages past, The Sanctified Sisters of the Belton Women’s Commonwealth, generally referred to as The Sanctificationists. Temple is home of the famous Scott & White Hospital, and the Temple Symphony, now in its seventeenth season.

The influence of my grandmother on the south-central Texas place to which she migrated took hold of my fascination, and I used this as motivation to write a story for submission to a contest sponsored by National Public Radio (NPR).  The word limit was six-hundred words.  I enjoyed imagining a scene wherein Beulah and her sister struck out in a buggy pulled by a contrary mule.  I changed some names around to suit my own ear, and have  included it here in patnotes.com.

 

NATIVE TEXAN BRINGS TEXAS CACTI HOME TO PLANT IN MEMPHIS

Texas Cacti Planted in Tennessee

WHAT DO YOU SEE ON AN I35E ROAD TRIP THROUGH TEXAS?

Have you driven up Interstate Highway 35, traveling east between San Antonio and the remaining ninety miles of the State of Texas before reaching Arkansas?  If you like a road trip of many hours, say ten, then read on, you may have fun.  Frequently, as native Texans with interesting relatives who still live there, we head to Texas via I30W out of Memphis, take the 440 Loop around Little Rock, Arkansas, pass through Texarkana, stop for a barbeque lunch at Ramage Farms in Hooks, Texas, and before you know it, have spent seven hours and arrive in the Dallas area.  We recently went on to Fort Worth, instead of stopping in Dallas, for a change.  We spent a couple of nights, and then headed via I35 to San Antonio, and ultimately Boerne, a country-living small place in the Texas Hill Country.  A neat bumper sticker for sale at the Flagpost Cafe reads “Life is too short NOT to live in Boerne.”  Returning home to Memphis after a few days, I jotted some notes of what my eyes took in on I35E on that familiar Texas highway.  I hope readers enjoy imagining a road trip in Texas, headed east from the San Antonio area.

If you left the Boerne Hill Country/San Antonio Urban area before 10:00 AM, you exit toward Austin by 10:15 AM.  That is your first segment, allowing for a good bit of traffic, which is common.  You may desire a coffee break just past the billboard advertising Gruene, a historic town geared for tourist activity, and past New Braunfels’ Rueckle Road Exit.  New Braunfels is an old German city, larger than the old German town of Boerne.  For the tasty java from the approaching Starbucks, take the Niederwald Exit.  Time will be about 10:55, or less than an hour from departure.  That particular Starbucks has the biggest round logo sign you have ever seen.

Back on the highway again with your Grande bold and vanilla scone, you are not far from Austin, a popular large city, next in size to Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.  Occasionally, traffic on I35 through Austin is horrific!  I take care to have a pit stop before entering greater Austin.  You can choose the high road or the low road, as both are I35 straight through.  Either way, you see some of The University of Texas campus, some skyscrapers, and the dome of the Capitol Building.  The capital city of Texas is a residence desired by many Southerners, Midwesterners, and others who think of Austin as rather freewheeling.  After all, this is Tour de France Seven-time Champion Lance Armstrong’s home town and home of The University of Texas, which has over fifty thousand students.  It goes without saying that big universities impact an environment.  Even small ones do.  Austin bears the claim to fame of “Live Music Capital of the Country,” not to be confused with Nashville’s distinction as “Country Music Capital.”

Leaving Austin headed toward Waco, home of Baylor University, traffic thins out.  I saw a billboard stating that I need the info to be found at Texasbytrain.org.  The billboard surprised me by promoting the light rail concept.  Good for Texas!  I did not know Governor Rick Perry was interested in the “separate country” of Texas adding light rail transport (jus’ kidding).  Coming toward the cities of Belton and Temple, I notice that a town named Moody, and one named Lorena are in McClennan County.  I am familiar with the neighboring Hill County, where my maternal grandparents settled.  My paternal grandparents lived in McClennan County.  In that stretch of road, at a seventy mile-per hour drive-by, I noticed some giant concrete statues– a pig painted pink and a rooster.  These were huge; you could not miss them.  There were many other shapes, but I was past them in a high-speed flash.  I also noticed the trees became bright green and thick in foliage coverage, so thick it reminded me of the “Music Highway” between Memphis and Nashville, very green, claustrophobically lush for me, a lover of the Texas scrub landscape.  The live oaks and cedars with their scrappy, worn-out trunks, look like antiques, some close to death and discarding, eaten up by moss balls.  A billboard lettered with stately block style reads “BAYLOR + WACO = PROUD PARTNERS.”

As driver-passenger team, we tend to take note of road construction.  Living away from Texas, our birth state, we go gaga at the forty- or fifty-feet-high overpasses engineered by Texans.  Rumor has it that the Texas government has run out of funds for highway construction.  Those funds lasted a long, long time.  If you haven’t seen such unspeakable tons of concrete, the Texas overpasses will amaze you.  On down the road a bit, I see three more billboards.  I am not sure I believe the message on one of them:  “Great things are happening in Texas Public Schools;” “Fossil Rim Wildlife Center;” and “Taqueria Arrandes.”  We sometimes stop in Waco and eat at Taco Cabana for a TexMex flavor treat:  tacos with picadillo, frijoles refritos, rice, chalupa with guacamole, or fajitas, chicken or beef.  The price of Exxon gas in Waco was $3.59, same if bought from Valero, and the Brazos River looked high.  A most interesting fact about the unusual part of Texas that is Waco is this– a miniature Brooklyn Bridge exists there, as a historic landmark.

Driving on, a billboard advertising a Texas fruitcake tradition originating in Corsicana reminds you:  mail order plenty of Christmas fruitcakes to friends and family from Collin Street Bakery.  I have tried to like them, through the years, but . . .  Next site popping up is LoneStar Windmills, wherein dozens of faux windmills are for sale, some as tall as twenty feet or so.  Next, I notice Superstar Fireworks as we head into West, a Czech town near Hillsboro, a larger town.  Do you like Czech pastries called “kolaches?”  Pull into the Czech Inn, the Czech Stop Bakery & Deli, the Czech American Restaurant, or the Village Bakery (Their claim:  since 1952– “The original Czech pastries”), all conveniently accessed from I35E.

(More to come.)