Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Day Dinner: Southern Style

Here's a typical Southern New Year's Day dinner that will be served all over the South this Sunday:

Yummy Baked Ham!

Collard Greens - Slurpin' Good!

Candied Yams!  (Do NOT ruin them with marshmallows!)

Blackeyed Peas!  Gotta have 'em for Good Luck all Year!

What meal is complete without Sliced Tomatoes?

Hot Cornbread right out of the oven!

And, of course, Iced Tea with Lemon!

Ya'll Come!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Cat Caught in Cat Trap!

Isn't she Pretty?

These cat traps work every single time!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes

for a Very Happy New Year!

To one and all


The Prettiest Ornament

This is the prettiest ornament I've ever seen in a Christmas tree.

In truth, I miss seeing these fabulous birds and hearing their sweet "chink! chink! chink!" as the pair of mates call to each other every morning and evening just before dusk.  There are none of these birds in Washington state, alas.  But I found this photo this morning and thought I would share it with you.

Such a lovely ornament.  How could man ever hope to compete?


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AngelMay's Tips: Never Buy Shampoo Again

My hair used to be dry and lifeless.  You would not believe how dead and dry it looked.   And I wondered how on earth that could be.  After all, I was spending a fortune on every brand of shampoo touted in every commercial on the planet.  They all promised miracles and delivered nothing.  In fact, they stripped the natural oils from my hair and scalp such that my scalp constantly itched and I had to used conditioners on my hair to try to "save" it, somehow.  The conditioners simply made it overly oiled.  Why all this expense for no results?

Now I have discovered the answer.  One day I was surfing the 'net and discovered someone else who was doing this.  At first, I wasn't sure it was going to work and so I have waited until now to reveal my little "secret".  For months now, I've been shampooing my hair in nothing but baking soda and water.  I haven't spent a cent on regular, commercial shampoos.

I have found the most wonderful little bottle (you could use any bottle you like, of course).  I found this bottle at the Whole Foods Market here in California where we are currently on a vacation in our RV.  This little bottle is SO marvelous that I have bought FOUR of them.  Well, if one is good.... four would be even better, right?

I put about 1 level Tablespoon of the baking soda into this 3 oz. bottle and then fill it the rest of the way with warm water.  Shake it up to dissolve the baking soda - and that's my shampoo.  I use all of it each time I shampoo.  First I "shampoo" with about half of it, and then rinse.  Then I use the remainder of it for the second cleaning and rinse.

This is absolutely the cheapest "shampoo" you will ever use.  It cleans your hair and scalp beautifully and does not strip the natural oils.

Next, I use a "conditioner" made of aloe vera gel and water.

This one I mix about half gel and half water.  I want it to still be gel-like after it's mixed.  I squeeze out a good palm-full of this mixture and put in all through my hair and let it stay in my hair while I shower the rest of me.

It stays in for about two or three minutes.  I don't dawdle in the shower.  :)

Then, I rinse the aloe vera gel out of my hair and give it the final treatment.

This rinse consists of apple cider vinegar diluted with water.  You can dilute to whatever strength you like.  I usually dilute about half vinegar and half water.  I put the diluted vinegar into a spray bottle and have it ready in the shower.  Once the aloe vera gel is rinsed out I give my hair a good spritzing with the apple cider vinegar.  I run my fingers through my hair to be sure the vinegar covers all the hair, and then I rinse it out clean.

That's it.  You won't find a cheaper way to have beautiful hair.  I can't even begin to tell you how dry and awful my hair looked before I started doing this.  And, even though I'm not so young any more and my hair is getting rather thin, I think it has never looked more beautiful or healthy.

What do you think?

And that's AngelMay's tip to save you money and let you in on how to have healthy, shiny hair - whatever your age.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Theme Thursday: Inside

Such a lovely word:  Inside.
It’s where you yearn to be when it’s raining or snowing or just really cold outside.

The warmth of the lights from the windows through which can be seen all the happy friends and families gathered to decorate the tree and share in food and laughter.

Snug and safe against the world of dangers that lurk “out there.”

Heaven when you are cold.
Heaven when you are homeless.

Heaven when you are friendless.
Heaven when you are standing in the dark looking in.

Heaven when you are always outside.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Theme Thursday: Tomorrow

Yesterday - Today - Tomorrow

At any moment in our lives we can look back, over our shoulders, at all the yesterdays we have experienced.  We can recall, often with great clarity, the things we did and the feelings we felt and the people we knew.  Sometimes we have photographs that prove we were there and that we lived and experienced those things we recall.

We can look at today and know how we will use it, if our plans are played out as we hope they will be.  We can mold it. We can share it and taste it.  We can simply wander through it with no plan at all.  We can even take photographs of ourselves doing the living of it.  We can use it up however we please to do.  And then we wave it good-bye as it becomes our most recent yesterday and we turn forward toward tomorrow.

But -

In one split-second, at midnight, tomorrow shoots 24 hours away from our grasp like a frightened squid leaving before us a dark, inky cloud and we find ourselves facing yet another today.

No matter how many yesterdays we have already experienced and piled up behind us it becomes clear that we have, to use as we will, only today.  This day.  Today.

We will never have tomorrow. Tomorrow is always just out of our reach.  Tomorrow is to dream about and wonder about.  Tomorrow is to imagine.  No one has photographs of tomorrow.

Tomorrow never comes.
Today is all we will ever have - one long endless today.
What will we do with it?


Monday, November 21, 2011

A Word of Praise for Perfection

It isn't something we are used to seeing.  But when it comes along, unexpected, we are given pause - even taken aback - and find ourselves in stunned silence for that single eye-opening moment.

This happened to me with, of all things, the humble soup spoon.  What you see in the photo above is a place setting of my own tableware:  Variations V by Dansk.  I chose it for its elegant simplicity for I'm a form-follows-function kinda gal.  There are no ornate carvings and patterns within which to catch bits of food that will turn into a cleaning nightmare once dried.   These are just the finest, smooth stainless steel eating utensils.

And yet...
And yet they are not just ordinary eating utensils.  I learned this the first time I dipped into a bowl of soup with this spoon and placed it in my mouth.  As I drew the spoon from my mouth I became aware of the spoon itself.  Who does that?  Who ever thinks about a soup spoon?  I certainly had never thought about it before.  But this - this amazing tool - was not just a soup spoon.  It was a miracle of design though you'd never know it just by looking.  It FELT amazing in the mouth.  It FELT like silk.  It was smooth and perfectly shaped.  There is no sharp edge.  There is just a smooth continuation from the bowl of the thing to its edge.  It is beveled into a perfection of form that I had never experienced in a spoon, of all things.

I found myself thinking about the spoon.  I found myself actually looking at the spoon - amazed.  Wow.... I thought to myself.  I took another bite.  Silk!

I've owned this tableware for about 15 years now and I never take a bite from these spoons that I don't marvel at them...  That I don't notice them... That I don't think of them. 

Sometimes it's right there under our nose.
In the design of a humble soup spoon.


 *Just need to add a note:  I'm speaking here of the original flatware - not the current product which is made in china.  If you are moved to ever try this flatware, do try to locate some of the original pieces made in Scandinavia, Japan, or Korea.  I understand the later version made in China is an inferior product.  And that is a shame.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Theme Thursday: A Nine Word Philosophy

Is his treasure
Not the measure
Of the man?

(This goes for the woman, too)
Something to think about on a random Thursday....


Sunday, November 13, 2011

What. An. Idiot!

Ford’s Theatre on O’Reilly ‘Lincoln’ book
The historical study of ‘Killing Lincoln’ by the deputy superintendent of Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site.

Seems to me that if you are going to write a book about an historical figure you would, at the very least, want to get the history correct.

O'Reilly is an idiot.
Why would anyone buy his book? Or listen to anything he has to say about anything? Wake up, people! Your brain is at stake here!

It's one of the great mysteries of the universe: How does this man stay on television? Or tie his shoes, for that matter?

(having a political moment)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hey! Hi! Yoo-Hoo! Here I Am!

Didn't recognize me, didja? Well, I'm not surprised. I've been in the dental chair getting two new implants. Ouch! Two uppers in the back. Double Ouch!

Everything went fine and no pain at all afterward - until now, that is. Today feeling very touchy in the roof of my mouth. Maybe it's healing. OMG, I hope it's healing!

I had this done on Tuesday so this next Tuesday will be a whole week - and that's when I get the stitches out. Ouch! Again.

Today was very difficult eating. The roof of my mouth above the implants has become very touchy and is giving me fits right now. But let me tell you, this is worth it.

I already have two implants on the bottom of the other side of my mouth and, believe me, people should be born with these things. They don't hurt. They don't rot. They just sit there behaving themselves and chewing good stuff like ... steak! Yeah! Steak! Or crunching on a chilly little salad with carrots and cucumbers! Yum!

Can't wait till I'm all healed and feeling in the pink once again.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Spendin' Money: All Revealed

If you haven't read it, read the last post first for background here.

Then....Since you asked.... ;o)

As I said (in the last post).... there I was scrolling down the pages and then I saw "IT". And here "IT" is:

Can you see why I had to have it? Isn't it gorgeous?

I can't believe I got it for five dollars. Well... lucky me, I did. And it wasn't smashed or broken. And now it sits on my vanity awaiting my every touch on its silky black surface...and is filled with my moisturizing cream. Just because.

And then when that other package arrived containing the small amount of perfume in a very lovely bottle that I had wanted.. and I took a sniff and fell in love....

I ended up buying this (but not for five dollars, I can assure you!):

Then I bought more. (Ha! I do not want to run out until the day after I die.)

This is truly heaven in a bottle. Made in 1937 by Paul Vacher of the house of Le Galion which is no more. One reviewer that I happened upon while trying to learn about this fragrance said that it was an unmistakable reference to Chanel No. 5. She goes on to say that she is "struck by its sexy intensity, yet it never overwhelms.... This lady knows how to keep a secret to herself. Even one drop lasts for many hours of pleasure. It's one of the most light-infused of all the classic scents I have ever smelled, and somehow it's never too 'bright' or intrusive in the way of other more modern floral bouquet perfumes. This is one of the fragrances that most represents classic French perfumery.... effortless beauty and chic with a warm heart and a little mystery for good measure. For many people the ultimate is Chanel No. 5, but just give me Sortil├Ęge."

You can find the review here if you are interested:

I must agree. I have Chanel No. 5 - yet I much prefer this scent. As I said in my last post, you put it on and suddenly you are just in love with yourself. That's a pretty heady feeling if I do say so myself. At the moment, my Joy is taking a back seat to this "newcomer" on my pink crystal vanity tray. And the most amazing thing about it is that you don't even have to wait until dry-down to be enchanted by it. You start off enchanted from the second it hits your skin ... and you stay that way all the way through to dry-down and for hours afterward.

This particular scent was "adopted" by the Stork Club in NYC and was given as gifts to their patrons.

Wiki says:

Owner Billingsley was well-known for his extravagant gifts presented to his favorite patrons, spending an average of $100,000 a year on them. They included compacts studded with diamonds and rubies, French perfumes, champagne and other liquors, and even automobiles.

Many of the gifts were specially made for the Stork club, with the club's name and logo on them. Some of the best known examples were the gifts of Sortilege perfume by Le Galion.

Well, if it was good enough for the Stork Club, it's good enough for me.

Actually, I had never heard of it until my little nearly-empty bottle arrived and I smelled it and put it on and then began doing research on it. Most people today have probably never heard of it. But I can tell you than I'm awfully glad I found it. I'm glad there was a Le Galion and a Paul Vacher with the talent to invent it.

I've had a hard and upsetting past few months and if spending this money on myself makes me feel better then what the heck! It's my money and sometimes I just feel like going a little bit crazy.

And one of the best parts (besides smelling divine) is that almost no one else will be wearing this fragrance. It's mine! All mine! My Precious....


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Spendin' Money

Ha! Betcha you didn't think you would ever see me again, huh? Fooled ya, I did!

Is it possible to be so bored that you just decide to spend money? Whether bored or no, I've been spending money like I had a printing press. Just little stuff. Stuff other people don't want. I know they don't want it because they have put it up for sale on eBay for foolish people like me to come along and buy it.

I have found all manner of lovely little doo-dads. I'm a sucker for little bottles and jars and now I have a drawer full of them. I also have a lovely new vanity tray and some salt and pepper shakers. I have a wonderful green bottle and a brown bottle (those will go into the kitchen) and a sterling silver bell. The bell will go beside my bed so that I can summon help in an emergency - like needing my back scratched.

I have a new old sugar shaker that works just fine for sprinkling sugar on strawberries and I have a second pair of salt shakers that I ended up with after I changed my mind and no one else would bid on the damned things.

Then there was The Jar.

I was scrolling down the pages - page after page - looking for vanity jars when suddenly I spied "it." OMG! It was lovely. It was enticing. It was smooth, black glass with a lift-off lid of the same smooth black glass. I was in love. I started to drool. This was something special. This was no ordinary jar. This was magic. Black magic. I began to shake. I must have that jar, I thought. I must! I looked at the price and my jaw dropped. What's the matter with this seller?, I wondered. Is she daft? She was asking $5.00 for the most wonderful jar on the planet in an immediate buy-it-now transaction. I could scarcely contain myself. I would have paid a hundred! My heart was beating (and a damned good thing, that, too) and my head was spinning. I carefully moved the mouse over the "buy it" button - and pressed! It's mine! MINE!

For days I worried that it would arrive broken or smashed (there's a difference?). But the gods were with me. It now graces my vanity and I love it still. Who says love at first sight doesn't last?

Then, one afternoon one of my other packages arrived. (It's been like Christmas every day for the past two weeks - and all for ME! - because I'm worth it...) I opened it to find several miniature perfume bottles with partially-used contents. I had just wanted the bottles, but I decided to give the perfume a sniff before dumping it all. One of them was like pulling the stopper on heaven. I think I've never smelled anything quite so wonderful in my life. I put some on. Oh. My. God. In love again.

I had thought no fragrance would ever enchant me quite as much as Joy. But this one did. And the most wonderful thing about it - besides it making you fall in love with your own self when you put it on - is that it is long discontinued. Created in the 1930's - oh my. The 1930's must have been a fabulous time - assuming you didn't lose everything you had in 1929. But today, that wonderful house is no more - long gone. Lucky for me, there are still bottles of this fragrance to be had if you keep an eye open. And I've been buying it up like the well is going to run dry any minute. And who knows? It might! So I'm after a life-time supply - and, at my age, that is not all that much I can tell you.

But HA! I know you are wondering what this fabulous fragrance might be - but it shall remain my little secret for the moment. You see... I have a bid in on another bottle and I just don't want the competition. It is my precious....

Besides... I need to get it now before I run out of money. And, if the stock market treats me tomorrow as badly as it did today, perfume may be all I'm wearing for quite some time.

Here's lookin' atcha.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Still Alive!

Oh My Gosh!
I just checked and....
I'm still alive!

Doin' stuff here.
It's all complicated and time-consuming.
But I shall return!
Just can't say exactly when.

For those of you who are tired of waiting, I'll understand if you delete me.
For the rest of you nice peoples - thanks for keeping me in the queue even if it's not very fruitful at the moment. You are pretty special.

~ AngelMay ~

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Worst Hard Time

AngelMay rates it: 4.9 stars

Oh. My. Gosh. This was a jaw-dropper. I can NOT imagine living through what these people endured. I discovered that I don't think much of Herbert Hoover who would not release a single penny of government money to help these people. It was not until FDR came to office that they received anything in the way of help.

This book must be read to know what life was really like for those who lived in the great Dust Bowl of the United States during the late 20's and early 30's.

I cannot give it 5 stars because the author misspelled a word - and the editor (if there was an editor) didn't give it its due attention so that it was corrected. I have great respect for the printed word and I am very unforgiving of grammatical errors within it.

Having said that, this is an amazing book that details an era in the United States we should all know - and vow never to allow to happen again. The strength and endurance of the people who experienced this catastrophe is nothing short of phenomenal.

Read it. You won't be sorry.

~ AngelMay


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nothing To Envy

AngelMay rates it: 5 Stars!

This is an amazing read. It's shocking and horrifying. It's like the worst train wreck you've ever seen and you just want to look away -- but you can't. You have to keep looking. And as you look you pull your warm comfortable quilts and pillows ever closer to you and remind yourself how very lucky you are to be here. To be home. To be safe. Warm. Fed. Above all.....Fed.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Is A Friend?

What is a friend?
I'd like to know.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Deadliest Sea

AngelMay's Rating: 4.8 Stars

This is the exciting, true story of a factory fishing trawler in the Alaska seas - Bering Strait - and the brave people of the Coast Guard who rescued them when their ship suddenly began taking on water and sank in the icy, 20-foot wave seas.

This is an excellent read. The names are real. The events are real. A wonderful job by the author of pulling everything together for an informative and exciting experience for the reader.


Friday, February 4, 2011

A Dawn Like Thunder

AngelMay rates this one 4.5 stars.

Good book. Makes you wonder how we ever won WWII - so many accidents, misdirections, goof-ups, incompetent officers, blunders, and just plain bad luck. Yet, somehow, through all of it we made it.

And that's why we still speak English today. :o)


Monday, January 17, 2011

A Map And A Flashlight

A Map And A Flashlight

Often, I will meet the dumb
The incorrigible
The numb

And they will bellow nice and loud
Quite unbowed

And then my patience, sorely tested
Leaves me fuming
And unrested

Until I claim they can not find
With map and flashlight
Their behind

Even with their hands in pants
They wander lost
Within their stance

Is it too much for one to ask
With all these aids
They find their ass?

A Tenth Daughter of Memory Post


Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Read A Book

AngelMay Rates It: 5 *

I read a book.

That, in itself, is not extraordinary.

It is the book that is extraordinary.

It’s a marvelous book. A thoughtful book.

A horrible book. A book of nightmares and hopes.

I still find myself trying to wrap my head around it.

The thing is… I was alive during most of it.

A little tot when some of it was going on and I grew up in parallel (and geographically very close) to some of the characters – real people – in this book.

While I never experienced the horror and humiliations of the people in this book, I did share a certain culture. And even more so because I came not from the wealthy or the low-class scum that visited the horrors and humiliations upon these people, but because I was from a very modest family in the same geographical area – only miles from one of the people in the book – and we shared a culture of food and manners and ties to that earth that lives to this day.

The book, of course, is the one pictured above. The Warmth of Other Suns. It’s informative. It’s thought-provoking. It’s horrifying. It’s amazing in its honesty and carefully-documented and -presented individual three lives out of the millions of black people who were a part of the “Great Migration” that took place between the first world war and 1970. One of those three lives was a physician (a surgeon) who left Monroe, Louisiana for California. Another was a Mississippi woman who went to Chicago with her husband. The third was a man from Lake County, Florida who picked oranges and grapefruit and who ran for his very life out of the state and up to New York.

As young as I was, and as far from the reality of a situation as you can possibly be, I never knew of this “great migration” until I read this book. Yes, I knew that black people sometimes moved up north and to other places, but I never gave a passing thought to the scope of it all which was enormous. It was monumental. Its impact was felt all over the south.

As I said, I was born and grew up within miles of one of the people this book documents – George, who escaped to New York from Florida. We lived in different Florida counties, but not all that far apart. George was an adult and I was just a little thing and I did not know back then the horrors that black people – colored people, then – endured at the hands of people with skin color like my own.

I didn’t know it back then – back when I watched the black people go to the back of the bus to sit down. And I didn’t know it when I watched an elderly black man stand at the end of the soda fountain waiting to get something for take out because he was not allowed to sit down at the counter beside his fellow human beings.

I didn’t know the horrors. I only knew these small differences that, in the grand scheme of things were not small at all. Yet even as a young girl I knew these “differences” were wrong. I don’t know how or why I knew they were wrong. I just knew. The “why” of it never came to me until now. Now I, at least partially, know. It was because my own privileged place in society (humble as it was) was undeserved. Unearned. Unjust. By virtue of the color of my skin – something over which I had no more control than did they – I was allowed to sit at the counter and take any seat on the bus that I wanted.

I knew it was unjust for others to have less – to be able to do less – because of their color. But it never occurred to me that it was unjust that I had more. It was not about me in my mind back then. I never compared me to them because I was unaware of just how much I actually had, and, in all honesty, I never really had the opportunity to personally know any black people but I benefited from their work – like the absolutely yummy food prepared by those wonderful black ladies in the elementary school cafeteria. I simply saw, from a distance, the wrongness. I knew it. I felt it – even at my very young age.

Still, I don’t want to give the impression that the injustice went only in one direction. While it was amazingly unjust that I had certain freedoms and privileges because my skin was white, the overwhelming injustice was that these “others” did not have such freedoms and privileges because their skin was black.

After reading this book, I have finally felt a real shame for my own race. I’m ashamed of them. I’m ashamed to have been related to any of them – except my daddy (in the south we call him “daddy”) who was a Kennedy Democrat and who would never have hurt a single soul. I still have relatives there who are free and loose with the n-word and having not a clue in this world why they are so hatefully prejudiced.

As I mentioned above, I knew some of it.

I knew black people made less money than whites – and did harder work for it. What I did not know was that their employers often cheated them out of part of their pay since many couldn’t keep track of the work and wages they were entitled to. And they couldn’t keep track, not because they were stupid, but because the whites built beautiful schools (with many of the black’s tax dollars) and then did not allow those same blacks to attend those schools. Often they (the whites) would steal (misappropriate?) the money coming to the blacks for the second- and third-rate schools they attended. The black students and faculty would drive to the white schools every year and load up their cast-off textbooks – often with torn or missing pages.

The black sharecroppers were at the mercy of their white landlords who robbed them of entire seasons of pay. Yet no black could dispute what the white landlord had written down as his “share” for all that labor. To dispute would be to end up hanging from one of the very orange or grapefruit trees he had spent backbreaking hours picking.

I lived so close, yet never knew the horrible events that happened in Florida. I grew up only miles from one of the stories told in this book. Yet I might as well have been a half-world away from the suffering of the blacks at that time because I never really saw it. I only saw that they had to sit at the back of the bus and weren’t allowed to go to my school. And I saw the wonderful old black men in tuxedo-like jackets who carried our trays of food to our tables in the Morrison’s Cafeteria. Beyond that, I knew little. My small family (I was an only child) was too poor to afford “help” so my exposure to the indignities suffered by those people was minimal.

The only orange groves I was personally familiar with could scarcely be called groves. They were more like several consecutive lots that had been hacked out of what was once a large grove and were now mostly filled with small wooden houses set on cinderblocks with, perhaps, an acre or two of orange trees all lined up neatly in their rows beside and behind the houses.

In fact, the place where I grew up had formerly been orange groves that had been cut up, mostly cleared, and sold as individual lots. We had orange and grapefruit trees in our back yard. We also had a huge mulberry tree that I could climb and get onto the roof when I felt adventurous. But the best trees were the guava trees and the loquat tree that grew at the very back of our lot. Living where I do now I will probably never taste a guava or a loquat again. These don’t pack and ship very well. But I get oranges and grapefruit up from California – only rarely from Florida.

I think, though, that after reading this book I will never again be able to look upon an orange or grapefruit without thinking of the horrible price paid to get them to people like me by another, separate but very unequal (as if you could ever be separate but equal), race of people.

The South, I’m ashamed to say, was particularly bad. And Florida, I now believe, was among the most egregious of those southern states.

If you read this book – and I hope you will – you will read of unspeakable horrors. And you will read of the bravery and suffering of these very real people who migrated north and west leaving the South behind them forever. The hardships of these trips (escapes) alone are mind-boggling. Some of these people who were a part of this great migration you will recognize. The famous Bill Russell of basketball fame is just one that comes to mind. Go to Wikipedia and read of his “Early Years” there.

I found myself asking “Why?” a lot as I read this book. Why did the whites treat the blacks so abominably? Why? So far, I have no answer. Maybe there just isn’t one. Many of the whites were quite well off and the blacks were in no way a threat to them – yet they exploited a helpless people as even law enforcement would not investigate and would look the other way (if they were not personally involved in the atrocities – as many times they were) when a black person bore the brunt of beatings and lynching.

And then, when the blacks left the south by the millions, these same white people looked around and wondered who was going to do the back-breaking work they had demanded of those who left. And, stupidly, instead of doing the right thing – the thing that would have actually worked; that is, paying them an honest wage for honest work and affording them the freedoms they were already entitled to by law (and which the whites ignored) – they threatened them. They caught them at train stations and tore up their tickets and arrested them. They beat them. Sometimes they killed them to send a message to others. But the message the blacks heard and felt even louder was “leave the south.”

Did you know that blacks were made to sit at the back of the bus, but ride in the first train car – even though they paid the same as whites for their tickets? It was because the first train car was the one that caught all the soot and smoke from the engines. Humiliation upon humiliation.

As I said, the south was particularly bad. But the north was not that much better. These people who came – sometimes with everything they owned in a paper sack – were not hired in jobs available to immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and other countries – in other words, people with white skins. When they bought a drink in a bar, the bartender would break, beneath the counter, the glasses from which they drank so that no white person would ever have to drink from them in future. Even in the West they were refused accommodations when they traveled. They were forced by riots and pickets and sometimes by their homes burning down to live in certain sections of the northern cities and not venture into areas where white immigrants lived. They suffered more than other immigrants because of the color of their skin. Immigrants from Slavic countries, for example, could change their names to more common American names – leaving their pasts behind them since the color of their skin allowed them to melt into the vast numbers of people in those cities. No name change could so camouflage the black person.

Years and years and years after this great migration of blacks from the South, I found myself also leaving it. And I, too, did not look back – at least not as we left. I faced forward and gave it not a backward glance. After reading this book I feel a great kinship with those others who left long before me because, like them, I’m a southerner and so much of the south is still with me. I miss the food, mainly. And the memories of soft summer nights with cicadas whirring loudly in the trees. I miss Spanish moss hanging from the oaks. I miss the easy manners. The people whose lives are documented in this book carried the south deep within them their whole lives. And so will I.

I see parallels today in my own life with this great migration from the south. Today it is not racial. It is political. I left and moved to a state where my Blue vote is finally counted. I left the bigotry and the heat and the bugs and the intrusive, hate-filled fundamentalist controlling religions. I left the politics of hate and greed and intolerance. Did I find a politics of less hate and greed and intolerance? I’m not sure. Perhaps not. I only know what I left.

But like those blacks who migrated and tried to take their culture with them, I suffer the same unique kind of isolation and loneliness. This never occurred to me when I left Alabama (where I had lived for the biggest part of my adult life after growing up in Florida) that sunny day and laughed and said, “I’m not looking back.” I thought then that it would be a whole new adventure with welcoming friends who would appreciate me for the good person that I am. But I have discovered, as those migrating blacks discovered, a unique kind of loneliness since there are few people here who share or understand the culture from which I came.

Those blacks took their culture with them. They planted collard greens and sweet potatoes and other southern delights in their tiny little gardens. They longed for the foods they had known all of their lives and tried their best to maintain them. Soul food restaurants grew within the northern neighborhoods in the big cities. Oh! If only one would grow here in the Pacific Northwest! I’d be in heaven with some grits once in a while – or fried catfish and hush puppies. Collard greens and cornbread – real southern cornbread (not the sweet, yellow cornmeal cake-like stuff that southerners call muffins) – would be totally wonderful. But, alas, if I want these foods, I must make them myself – when I can get the ingredients. (Even I must confess, however, that I use self-rising cornmeal to make my cornbread and do not work at it the old-fashioned way described in this book.)

Today, there is a reverse migration going on. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who were a part of the great migration (which, according to the book, lasted officially from the first world war to 1970) are beginning to look again to the south and some are moving there – to a place they have never been; a place they did not grow up; a place with a culture they only share by some kind of distant default.

Those original immigrants mostly did not ever return to the south except for funerals or family emergencies. They left for a freedom to which they were entitled by law but denied by custom. And they, mostly, proved themselves by becoming doctors and lawyers and city planners and teachers and laborers and hospital workers and…

Only the later generations have suffered the drug-riddled neighborhoods and the prostitutions and the hardships of living person-on-person packed tightly into high-rises and decaying buildings.

Here is a Poem by Langston Hughes that describes the feelings of those original people who decided to escape, to leave, to do whatever it took to get out of the Jim Crow South:

One Way Ticket

I pick up my life
And take it with me
And I put it down in
Chicago, Detroit,
Buffalo, Scranton,
Any place that is
North and East?
And not Dixie.
I pick up my life
And take it on the train
To Los Angeles, Bakersfield,
Seattle, Oakland, Salt Lake,
Any place that is
North and West?
But not South.
I am fed up
With Jim Crow laws,
People who are cruel
And afraid,
Who lynch and run,
Who are scared of me
And me of them.
I pick up my life
And take it away
On a one-way ticket?
Gone up North,
Gone out West,

Read this book.

It doesn’t matter what part of the country you came from or in what part of the country you currently reside. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin. You can only be better for the reading of it.

As I said, I'm still trying to get my head around it all. It has made a profound impression and has touched me at the deepest levels.



27 December 2010