Saturday, October 28, 2006

A n Out-of-Town Visit

Today I visited Philadelphis, MS with my sister. She was gathering notes for an upcoming article on the town for Mississippi Magazine. I'm her critic, editor, and sounding board.

What made this trip worthwhile for me was to see how the town has progressed from the days of the Civil Rights era. There was definitely a vibrancy around the town square. Gone were the hokey stores that once faced the town square. In their places were an up-to-date coffee shop serving just about any kind of coffee we're used to having at a local Starbucks; jewelry stores, antique corners, dress shops. An active theatre group uses the old downtown theatre.

Our job was to talk to local folks, including the shopkeepers, and get a sense of their continued interest in Philadelphis. The first person interviewed was eating at our table at Peggy's, a family-owned luncheonette in an old home two blocks from Main Street. Tony is about 40 years old and when he answered our question about his living there, he embarked on the story of how he moved from larger cities to this small town to raise his daughter. He felt safe, he said, to let his daughter wander around town on any given day without fear, how pleased he was of the school system, how comfortable it was to have withing the town square all the stores one could ask for, without going to any chains.

Next, we visited a store whose main attraction was hand-painted tees. A smiling owner warned us about tripping over the holiday boxes of garland and ornaments currently being used on the interior trees. She told us of her 6 year enjoyment of her store, which arose from the hand-painted signs she had created for years for owners of cabins of the Neshoba County Fair. The tee designs were most unusual, despite being the usual Santa and his reindeer.

We strolled to the coffee shop and was surprised to see how cozy the interior was. As most coffee enterprises, there were bags of flavored coffee beans, individual cookies, and any coffee, tea, cider, or chocolate milk drink available. We remarked on the stage area and were told they were for visiting bands. But the fact that the downtown area closes for the day at five p.m., it was difficult to have bands play to near empty seats.

Finishing our lattes we jumped into the car and made our way outside the area to where the Choctaw Indian compound was. This includes a school, museum, tribal council headquarters, Headstart, and a multiple of Indian businesses were located. The Choctaws today are the descendants of the approximately 1100 Indians who refused to move to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears. From that humble beginning and the leadership of Chief Martin, a multibillion dollar campus was created giving the Indians jobs. Two casinos and an outstanding golf course lures out of staters as well as Mississippians to this area.

Just down the road is the famous Williams store, which sells under one roof clothes, shoes, groceries, bacon and hoop cheese slice as you please. I failed to pick up sweet potatoes at thirty-nine cents a pound. This store has occupied the same spot sine the early 1920's. They like to boast that Archie Manning used to work there summers. Sister and I know that Archie didn't meet Olivia Williams until Ole' Miss days, but we didn't let on to anybody. I taught school with Archie's mother in Drew, a small Delta town. At that time Archie was perhaps elementary school age. Around her any and every one has an Archie story.

By 3:30 Sis and I were content that we had felt the tone of the town and hoped that after our generation had passed on, that the stigma of Philadelphia's past would
have faded and the town grown beyond expectation. We drove to the interstate on a two-lane road, watching beautiful rolling fields pass by, glad to know that this town was getting back on its feet.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig!

Two questions were posed to me last weekend: How long will it take you to acclimate to "regular" life in Mississippi? What will you do there?

Last year upon returning to the South after our first stint living off the grid, I was confused to locations of favorite stores, unable to find specific auto keys, ID cards to the fitness center and the library, and remembering names of people I've known forever.

My first day back in water aerobics class while the ladies asked about my experiences, a dense fog settled in my head and into my eyes. A tiny motor began racing around the crooks and turns of my brain searching for the names of those standing near me. I finally admitted my memory lapse and asked their names. One friend looked at me quizzically and said, "I know yours, why don't you know mine?" I admitted everything Southern had been on the back burner for five months, replaced by a new set of names and places eastern. That problem was solved this year by making a list of my friends' names here and there and reviewing the list enroute.

What will I do at home? this New Jersey lady asked me. I raced through my list: use the computer more to keep up with all the tidbits of world life I've missed; write frequently on my blog page and catch up on what my blogger mates have been ruminating all summer; exercise three times a week in the water; work on improving my jewelry techniques (although, I must admit I may never improve, but persistence is still my strong suit).

Mostly, I want to spend more time with my sister who graduated from chemotherapy classes in September. We love plays and good movies. We'll see "Hairspray" in Nov and travel to Montgomery AL to the Shakespeare Theatre. We grew up planning to tap dance and sing our way onto the Broadway stage.

One practice I keep while in Mississippi is twice a month take a different friend to lunch. Keeping in touch wth my women friends from college, church associations,past neighborhoods, and Friends of the Library remains a part of my daily life. We age together and share our full lives.

Husband R and son J will get their share of time. After the summer months visiting our daughter and son in the East, this will be J's time to share with us. After starving for television's golf games, R asked that I not assign him any tasks for the rest of the week so he can watch TV. With J we'll find new restaurants , talk about our computers, and listen to his adventures while we were gone.

We have an interesting life. Many opportunities abound in this age not to take advantage of them. I think participation keeps us young in thought and behavior, and keeps us in reasonably good health. What more could we ask of our time on Earth?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Numbers Game

I avoided college math and opted for foreign language many years ago. Now I'm paying for being numbers weak. I have to apologize frequently for miscounting my change and trying to correct the cashier, writing down my bank account instead of my social security, thinking I've a bargain purchase when after careful check I don't...

Wednesday I called to pay my telephone bill and arrange for disconnection here in New York. Again numbers played a game with me:

--Ma'm, what is your account number?
--Umm, 0000.
--No, that's your pin number.
--Umm, I guess I don't have one.
--Ma'm, it's 00000 000.
--Oh, that sounds familiar.
--Now, Ma'm, what are the last four numbers of your social security?
--Oh, that's 0000.
--No,ma'm, that's not what we have on file.
--Try 0000, my husband's number.
--No, ma'm, that's not the number. Can you tell me your birday date?
--That, I can do. August 30,0000.
--Fine, ma'm. Now can you recite your full social security number?
--Uh, 000-00, not that's not it; 000-00-0000.
--Well, that's not what we have here.
--Now,listen, I've had that number for upteen years; either someone there took down the wrong numbers or....look, I'm just an old lady who can't remember numbers...(my standard excuse).
--Ma'm, think again.
--Ok, 000-00-0000. That's it! I do get the last number mixed up with another one.
Whew! I have to say that combo several times before the right set of numbers click.
--Ok, ma'm, what is the nature of your business?

I needed a cold drink after that strenuous conversation...however, it doesn't compare with the Dell switchboard that moves me from one telephone no. to another, then having to haggle with someone in Timbuctu whose English needs ironing.

Now the Educators That Be are realizing that schools should return to the old math via rote. I was a product of the old math. I only stumbled with 8's in multiplication; per centage was a mire; division, easy if I wrote it out and then figured the answer. I loved high school algebra, failed geometry. So when I hit college I assumed any advanced math couldn't improve what I knew about addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

But I've paid the price many times since. Would I have been a better math student if I'd followed the college track?