Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dixie and all that

This past week was our big trip to the Deep South—Americus, GA to see our son and his girlfriend and of course, their house. Before we left, we asked our local son for a AAA triptik and the book for Kentucky and Tennessee. I also mapquested every leg of the trip. When we left, I plugged in the GPS (nicknamed “Penny”). So we had three sources of directions, and they didn’t always agree.

This is what our trip looked like:
Cleveland to Knoxville
Knoxville to Americus
Americus to Seneca,
SC Seneca to Chattanooga,
TN Chattanooga to Lexington,
KY Lexington to Cleveland

In Knoxville, the restaurant hostess was from Binghamton NY; the server was an underemployed Psychology grad from the University of Tennessee and the hotel clerk regularly drives up to the Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio. It was fun driving further and further south and seeing stronger and stronger signs of spring. In Kentucky, the dogwoods were in bloom and in fact Knoxville was getting ready for their Dogwood Festival.

Kathy was not pleased with the crowded bypass around Atlanta, but soon we left that behind for the empty country roads heading into Americus. I did not realize that Andersonville, the notorious POW camp run by the Confederacy was located in Americus until we drove right by it. I added that to our list of things to see later.

The house was wonderful: a “Craftsman” (no, it did not come from a Sears kit or anything).It has three bedrooms, two and half baths, a ginormous kitchen, a big comfy living room, a formal dining room, a sitting room off to the side, a nice big porch out front and a screened in porch out back. They put a lot of work into it, staining the woodwork and restoring a lot of its former glory. It used to be a group home, then the owners just previous to our son knocked out some walls to enlarge the kitchen, and were in the process of removing all the paint from the woodwork. They pleaded with our son not to just paint over the wood but to stain it as they had planned, and he was fine with that.

During our stay, we walked over to an “Art in the Park” event. There was a Shakespearean troupe strolling around in costume, promoting their production of “Taming of the Shrew” for that night. A woman on stilts was a hit as she effortlessly glided through the throng, occasionally stopping to juggle bowling pin-like objects. We watched glass blowers in action and bought a nice vase made by one of the college students raising money for a trip to China.

We got a glimpse of southern gentility when we bought tickets to a Porch Walk—another fund raiser, this time for the Americus Historical Society. We walked up and down Lee Street, visiting a total of six houses with grand wrap around porches. The hostesses had prepared finger sandwiches and cakes and provided liquid refreshment (vodka was a popular choice). We met some nice people along the way and saw some great houses.

There are 62 churches in tiny Americus, Georgia. Of those, 38 are some variety of Baptist. There is one Catholic church. I called the church one night before we left to get the Mass schedule. They had two Masses in English and a few more in Spanish. So we planned to go to the English 10:30 Mass. Instead, we sought out Maranatha Baptist church in a town right next to Americus. We realized that it was not often that we’d have a chance to go to a Sunday School session taught by a former President of the United States. Sure enough, Jimmy Carter was our teacher for a lesson on the last chapter of Luke. Of course, he spent about fifteen minutes talking about politics and his upcoming travel plans—he’s going to Lebanon, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. He was funny and warm and engaging and we all had a great time. After the service, we walked outside and waited for a moment to get our photo taken with Jimmy and Rosalynn.

I am not making this up.

Kathy’s favorite story about this adventure goes like this: We pulled into the church parking lot where a large black man in a suit stopped us. He told her to roll up her window, as he was about to have an explosives sniffing dog walk around our car. Of course he was Secret Service, not the valet. At the front door of the church, there were more agents searching purses and wanding everyone before they entered the building. Kathy was a little embarrassed when she realized she had a pair of panty hose stuffed into her bag. The agent rummaged around in there but handed it back to her without comment. It could have been worse, I suppose.

The jaunt to South Carolina was to visit some retired friends, then we backtracked to Chattanooga, staying at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Holiday Inn. Trite, I know, but an interesting place.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Way more important than Christmas

On Holy Saturday, Kathy and I were in the flower shop buying something for her sisters as an Easter present. The cashier was wearing bunny ears. I wondered (to myself) if a crown of thorns might be more appropriate. I suppose it would be, but it would also be somehow less festive.

Happy Resurrection Day!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Check your local listings

Lately, we have been deluged with coverage by the television stations and newspapers since the economy is the big news these days. One station taped a staff meeting a week ago; on Monday I have to call a reporter about a question she had. So who comes to our Government Career Day? A television crew! They wanted to interview me about what we were doing that day, since they didn’t have anything like it in their country—Russia! So I was interviewed by a Russian TV crew. A woman would ask me to explain what all the people were doing at the event, and I tried. Then, she would ask for clarification, since the concept was so foreign to them. I’m still not sure I was able to communicate in terms their audience could understand. Later, I thought it was kind of funny that they didn’t know what I meant by a government “agency”—come on—you’re from Russia! Surely you know what the word “government” means. Later, Kathy said I should have said, “Bureau” and that would have made more sense.

All this meant lots of standing and walking, and by Saturday, I just couldn’t move anymore. I slept a lot, went to Mass with Kathy. I read the part of the “Speaker” in the Passion. I scheduled myself deliberately for that part, since all I have to do is say “I will not betray you!” a couple times, and a few other lines, with conviction, of course.

Today will not be a day of rest, though. It’s Palm Sunday and food packing day for Social Justice. With the change in the Mass schedule, we can start an hour early, and we should have plenty of help, since the cub scouts have again offered their services.