Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Graves of Famous Dead People

Aunt Hilda--feel free to rag on me about this later.

Since I have lived in Oxford, I have not been to visit Rowan Oak, or William Faulkner's mansion. Shame on me, I know. However, last night I made a different sort of pilgrimage in honor of the Mississippi writer. A Fulbright scholar here from Russia was visiting our campus and asked one of the PhD students (Pip-who concentrates in Faulkner studies) to take him to Faulkner's grave before he left to go back home. But any ole graveside visit wouldn't do-- leave it to Pip to turn it into a seance.

The invitation:
Visit Faulkner's grave at midnight tonight! Ivan's bringing a reading and I'm bringing moonshine!

The tools:
warm, warm clothing
Library of America's collection of Faulkner stories
Pip's moonshine that he procured in Jackson, TN from a recently freed prisoner
a flashlight

So, Ivan started reading from Light in August and Pip passed around his moonshine. (--which I tasted, but since I was the DD, it was just that--a taste. Amy said it had a weird aftertaste of butterscotch. I don't recall a flavor, but it did make my ears warm for a second.) He gave the toast, "Olé, Grandfather." Going along with tradition, we poured some for "Mr. Bill" and some for Estelle. It is hard to tell in the picture, but Faulkner's stone absorbed the whiskey while we were there, and Estelle's just left it as a puddle, because as a lady, she doesn't drink in public, of course.

After we enjoyed Ivan's reading, we learned some Faulkner trivia from one of our professors who showed up to christen our visit, and then we traded cat stories. Then it was over. But here is the event sketched out for you in photographs. I think we gave the Faulkners quite a tribute that perhaps they would have appreciated.

"Olé, Grandfather."


Friday, January 29, 2010

Small Town Amenities

Recently, I have discovered something in the small, semi-rural place called Oxford that has renewed my appreciation for Northwest Mississippi. Not that I ever had any bad feelings toward it--I just always considered it a temporary living space. A tiny store on the outskirts of town called "The Farmer's Market" has single-handedly managed to paint Oxford a sunnier color for me (does anyone else feel like it rains here more that it does in London?). This isn't a real farmer's market--that is only open from April to November, and it's more like a parking lot bizarre with tents and roadside vendors. This store is amazing, and I am addicted to it!

Here's where it started: I looked in both grocery sources for some leeks to make a soup with, and neither conglomerate had them! Go figure! So I told my facebook community about it, and one of my classmates says, "Have you been to the Farmer's Market?" She explained what it was, told me where it was, and I went, hoping to find some measly leeks. And I lived happily ever after. (Well, I did find the leeks...and an amazing assortment of other goodies!)

Not only is there a hoard of produce to gather (some local, but right now it's too cold for that), but there are also local meats, eggs, milk, bread, and cheese! I'm taking baby steps though. I bought the eggs, but I think I'm going to hold off on the milk, meat, and cheese for a while--after all, I am still on a graduate student "salary," and I can't get too crazy. But who says you can't splurge for special occasions!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Post-break blog

After the longest holiday break I have ever had (something like 7 weeks and some change), it's back in Oxford and back to work. But first! Vacation highlights!

I had a great trip with my parents and Uncle Russ to Scott County, Tennessee, the famed home of my dad's Great Uncle Jack, someone I never met, but has been made a legend in my mind thanks to my dad's stories. One involves Uncle Jack swimming down the stream in front of his house with a knife in his mouth to steal back some fish that his neighbor stole. Another is when the Hamblens had electricity wired in their house. The lightbulb in their lamp burned out, and since they'd never had electricity and didn't know what to do, they just threw the lamp away.

One of the daughters of Aunt Zoa (Uncle Jack's sister), Sandra, still lives on the old home place, and we went to visit her. She was very gracious and fed us a hearty meal of cornbread, white bean soup, hot dogs and sauerkraut, buttermilk, unsweet tea, meatballs, and millionaire's pie. It was quite the smorgasbord. After we ate, we walked down the hill to the old barn where my granddad had carved his initials several years ago. I joined my dad and my brother in the exercise.

After Christmas and New Year's celebrations (which were absolutely wonderful even though I'm not going into any detail), I went to France! If I only had two words to describe the experience, which is ridiculous because I'm obviously going to say more than that, they would be tasty and cold. I had a great time visiting Meagan in Brive la Gaillard, a town that is 4 hours south of Paris and 2 hours east of Bordeaux. I rediscovered the joy of simple roasted vegetables, ate my weight in bread and baguettes (after nibbling the end off, of course), and indulged in a variety of cheeses, wines, and sweets from the local boulangeries. We spent 2 days in Bordeaux, learned a little bit about the wine culture there, and walked our frozen feetsies off. For brevity's sake, these two photos are probably the best representations of my France-ifying.

Here you can see that, with tasty delights in hand, I am still 1/2 bundled in my winter gear and my feet are glued to the heater.

And in this photo we have been furiously cooking in Meagan's kitchen, which simultaneously warms our bodies and subsides our voraciousness. Yum yum!

So ends my winter vacation and begins the spring smack-down, brought to you by the institute of higher education.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Relatively-Interesting Updates

(This post is for you, Aunt Betty.)

During the past few weeks, my little world was filled with paper-writing and frantic researching, so I haven't really had motivation to write anything I didn't have to. But now that's temporarily over, so I'm in a much calmer place. Let's write!

The first notable thing happened on game day at the LSU v. Ole Miss football game. This was the second (?) home game in which the band did not play "From Dixie with Love." (To update yourself on that story, go here.) To protest the withdrawal of the song, the KKK donned their creepy hoods and appeared on campus. This story was all over ESPN, the local news, and the student newspaper, (see this article or this one) so I will spare the details, and just say that I was dreading the national notoriety that Mississippi would get for this. The appearance of the Klan was slightly unnerving, only because it would add to that southern stereotype, and to quote Thomas, "C'mon! It's 2009!" But more so than the Klan's appearance, it was this video taken at the rally that floored me.

To the loudmouth in the red polo:
Are you serious?! Why are you yelling?? Good job. I'm glad that you made Mississippians seem more hateful, obnoxious, and ignorant than members of the Ku Klux Klan who, despite their label of "white supremacists," seemed more docile and humanized than you. Way to go.

On a much lighter and completely unrelated thread, the second notable thing that happened over the past few weeks was Thanksgiving at the Richardsons'! I was a little nostalgic for the Hamblen/Nance family gathering, and I especially missed that pineapple turkey. But once we got to Charlotte, my future family greeted us and assuaged those feelings. Over the course of that weekend, had plenty mini-adventures, and I even got some work done for my finals. Our activities included:
  • Playing horseshoes
  • Seeing The Blind Side
  • Eating "Russel's Products" (Grandma Brown's code word for barbecue)
  • Playing hide-and-seek with Isaac
  • Meeting more family members
  • Eating tasty tasty foodstuffs
  • Interpreting Lia's sign language
Thomas also took me to his grandmother's house (on his dad's side) in Manly, North Carolina. It was a sweet little town, and of course I took some photos with my phone.

This is the sign in front of a very small, but a very Manly Presbyterian Church across from his grandmother's house:
And here is the nifty sign in front of their house:

It was indeed a happy thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Exciting news!

Thomas and I are engaged!

Gather 'round children, for a little story time...

We had planned to go to Jackson, MS for our homecoming, which consequently, was also on the same weekend as my birthday. So on our way to Jackson from Oxford, Thomas asks if, during the hulla balloo of alumni events and reuniting with friends, that we can have some alone time for birthday presents. Of course, I say, and we go our separate ways as soon as we park on Millsaps' campus. Later on in the afternoon, we get back together, and Thomas suggests that we do the gift giving at the old observatory on campus, which, some of you already know, is kind of special to us for it's location and it's lending itself to good metaphors. (that's another story).

Best birthday ever. My first gift: gummy bears! 2nd gift: a framed piece of paper that Thomas painted and fashioned to look like an ancient scroll, which turned out to look like this:

Very neat. So he tells me what it says and that it's from Song of Songs, the verse that begins "Set me as a seal upon your heart"---very touching. And if you look at it through squinted eyes, it kind of looks like the United States, but that's beside the point.

Then down he goes, and the rest is history. I couldn't have planned it to be better.

I can't actually wear the ring just yet, thanks to my larger-than-life knuckles. So next weekend I'm headed to Nashville to get the official jewelers of the Tennessee Titans (you didn't know I was so special! haha!) to get it re-sized. In the meantime, for you who are curious, here is a photo:

In this light, it looks gold, but it is actually white gold. I took the pictures with my iPhone, so not the best quality, but there will be plenty of time for that! If I may say, I think Thomas deserves kudos for picking out such a pretty thing! *applause*

We aren't quite sure yet when the nuptials will happen, but we have been telling people that the summer of 2011 looks most likely, and it will probably take place somewhere in Tennessee, but probably not Jackson.

It's so exciting! I'm happy to finally be able to share this with people! (I had to write a blasted paper this week, one that I just now finished, so I felt like it was about time!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

La la la la la la la

Sunday was my first visit to a church here in Oxford, and my first visit to church (in general) in a while. On Dr. Coker's recommendation, I went to the Oxford-University United Methodist Church, where the Chamber Singers actually sprinkled our choral delights while I was still at Millsaps.

My motives, admittedly, were not primarily spiritual--I have been wanting to join a choir again, so I went to hear the choir sing and meet the choir director, Lee, and I happened to receive some spirituality along the way, which was fine by me.

And even though I went to hear the choir, I probably have the most to say about the sermon! (Granted, the choir only sang one song without the help of the rest of the congregation, so I wouldn't have much to work with in that respect, anyway). The minister's open remarks were simultaneously surprising and somewhat typical, and I will paraphrase them now: "Yesterday was a great day for Ole Miss football! What a great thing to play Alabama two weeks in a row [University of last weekend and UAB this weekend...wherein lies the joke] and come out triumphant in the end!" I have to say that I wasn't expecting a sermon introduced by football, and yet I should not have been surprised--knowing that football itself has its own religious followers! (See this post)

The minister seems like a good guy, and I will look forward to hearing more from him about football and other matters of spiritual concern--I have decided to join the choir, and I do look forward to singing regularly (somewhat) again! I joined at a good time: All Saints Sunday is November 1st, and apparently there is quite the repertoire planned.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Busy Weekend

I'll start this long, unattended blog with a list of diversions that I took part in this weekend: greek food, football, blooper reels, (crazy) people watching, seeing friends from college, a book reading, a book signing, and lots of sleeping in.

This weekend, Ole Miss hosted the largest audience in MS football stadium history. Over 62,000 people attended the Alabama/UM throwdown, and were lucky enough to see the UM quarterback, Jevan Snead, throw a grand total of 11 completed passes out of 30-something. 4 of those were interceptions. (Cue Benny Hill themesong).

With the game, comes The Grove. There were lots of typical grove-sightings--people dressed in clothes that weren't exactly appropriate for the misty, chilly weather, wooden lattice tents with large flower arrangements and red and blue decorations, flat-screen plasma TVs connected to mini-satellites, and cooky Ole Miss decorations (an old-timey red and blue car, with a license plate that said COL REB and an inflatable colonel, just to name a few). Because of the weather, there was also a lot of mud. And people braving that mud in their high heels.

After that game, Thomas and I had tickets to go hear David Sedaris give a talk and read from some of his diary entries and from his new book. Sedaris=hilarious. I wrote an email to a friend about the book-signing experience, so here is a little bit of that so I don't have to repeat myself:


I wanted to tell you about the amazing and hilarious "Evening with David Sedaris" that we had last night--coincidences and all.

First, when we got there, somebody calls my name in the lobby, and it's Jessica Nelson! Her sister lives in Oxford, and they were there together. Then, we go find our seats, and we see Laura Cost and Kate Garand (Thomas taps my shoulder and says, "Hey, those are Millsaps people!") and then, we look to the opposite side of the room and see JP, Katie, and Allison Purves. Crazy. . . .it was really good to see everyone.

I want to tell you the story of getting our books signed. We (Thomas and I) went up there together, and the first thing he said was, "Have you ever set anyone on fire?" To which I replied, mostly because I didn't know what else to say, "I'll have to think about that." Then he starts drawing a picture in my book, and it's a turtle. So I say, "What a nice turtle!" to which he replied "I drew it because I knew you would like turtles, since you're a Sagittarius." Well, I'm not, but I said that was close. Then we sort of chatted about us being in graduate school for this and that, and he asked Thomas if there could be a case for an obese Jesus (something he talked about in his reading) and we were on our way. It was so fun! I wanted to ask him if he knew of this town in France called Brive something, but that didn't really come up.

He read some really funny diary entries, and I want to tell you one of them. His "theme" for this tour was stories about rude behavior, and this was one of those stories he told about that: A woman was working at a Starbucks, and this customer comes up to the cash register, so the woman says, "How can I help you?" to which the customer doesn't really respond. So the cashier starts talking her her supervisor who's right next to her, to which the woman customer irately replies "Hello! Excuse me!" And the cashier says "Yes, I was just talking to my boss" and the woman customer says, "I am your boss!" Haha! There were lots of funny stories---I'll have to tell you some more later."

Well, it's that time again--time to fit a bunch of work into a small amount of time!