If I were invited to a dinner party with my characters, I wouldn’t show up~Dr. Seuss

It’s not that there probably aren’t better pies out there—although I am sure there’s no better crust. It’s not even that the blueberries were Violet Beauregarde-plump and the color of a Moroccan night.  It was about the memories wafting off it.

You see, I have these friends….

Carol, the pie czar who whipped the cream into submission and hand patted the crust into the perfect vessel for delivering those blueberries; her sommelier husband, Gary, who takes care of each one of us by throwing in just the right amount of pithy reply that keeps us from filling with too much hot air; and Kathy, who delivered the stand-up and praise-the-little-baby-Jesus prayer to kick off the whole evening are scientifically proven to be the best dinner companions.

No, really.

In a “Food, Culture and Society” journal article called “When I’m doing a dinner party I don’t go for the Tesco cheeses,” the researchers go on for pages about social and cultural capital, middle class hierarchy and the displaying of social and emotional connections. They found a common theme for most dinner parties was about displaying cultural competence and generally dependent upon women for their success.

Check. We’ve got that.

Scholars Warde and Martens talk about how food plays an important role in the maintenance of friendship. Hunt’s anthropological research on friendship and home entertaining also connects food to good feelings, social connectivity and significant impact upon individuals’ life chances.

Yep, yep. We’ve got that.

Carol, Kathy and I are at various stages in our careers as journalism professors and Gary is a database replicator genius who has built and sold a company so impressive, he would tell you about it, but he’d have to kill you afterwards.

We are all living the dream as we do every time we get together. We have enough in common and just enough differences to fuel conversation to last course after course of our “Big Chill meals.” Our dinner parties are the right combination of people, conversation, intimacy and, of course, food. On this night we began with a sweet potato soup that Carol threw together because she had found sweet potatoes in her pantry and had bought the sweetest onions, because she heard they rivaled Vidalias, but she didn’t believe it. The main course consisted of fresh Salmon we bought from Gay’s Fish Market just down the street. We also had squash, green beans and corn from Dempsey’s U-pick farm in Frogmore. The aforementioned and now legendary blueberry pie topped off the meal. (Tonight we will be having shrimp fajitas, homemade tortilla chips and guacamole with a homemade mixed berry sorbet as a finish.)

We are all pretty good cooks in our own right, but Carol J. Pardun is a genius. I half believe she and Gary have the beach house on Coastal South Carolina simply to prepare fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables to beguile their guests.

And we have been beguiled.

They entertain on their intimate screened-in porch that overlooks a lagoon where several wildlife inhabitants provide dinner music and the ocean breeze drifts in from the starboard side.

It all belongs in one of Pat Conroy’s ever surprising passages he writes about his beloved South.  So much so, that the enterprising young Pardun managed, by some strange twist of fate and rowing club membership, to get Pat Conroy’s email address.

In an email to Mr. Conroy, Carol made a humble, yet enticing offer for the author to join us for dinner one night this week as we are all Southerners, writers, cooks and fans and are having dinner one island over from his home on Fripp Island.

Seeing as how Carol is world famous in some circles herself and we all know of his culinary delight, we just knew he would join us….

He didn’t.

You see, we briefly tried to step outside our intimate dinner party and imagine ourselves as dinner companions to a different set; but scientifically speaking, we might have altered the universe in a way that tarnishes the ease of conversation and the down hominess of the meal—A butterfly effect that we just might not want to set on its alternate path, no matter how much we love Pat Conroy.

But Mr. Conroy would have been entertained. And he would have eaten well. We are convinced we would somehow make it into his next book. However, in the end none of us really wanted to miss even one magical moment of our evening meals in our own storybook narratives.

Or share our portion of the blueberry pie.

I am sure we all have heard of “Flat Stanley,” the educational character that elementary school students send around the world for people to take pictures and send back to the students to teach them about geography. I personally have never received a “Flat Stanley,” but I was lucky enough to receive a journal from a third grader in Oregon. The object of the exercise from young Julian Garcia was to write in the journal about your city or region, then send it to someone else. I received the journal from my college roommate Natalie Whittington in Maryland and then sent it on to Gina Jones in Tennessee. We all also sent postcards to Julian’s teacher so they could keep up with where the journal travels.

Below is what I told Julian and his classmates about Dubuque and Iowa.

Dear Julian,

I feel so lucky to have received your journal and to have the opportunity to tell you about Dubuque, Iowa! I have just moved here from Murfreesboro, Tennessee so I am learning so much about Dubuque and Iowa and the Midwest myself!

First let me tell you about JULIAN Dubuque. He traveled up the Mississippi River and stopped along the bluffs in Iowa in order to mine lead. Lots of Indians and German immigrants all lived together along the river in order to get rich from the mines. Some of their houses still sit on top of the bluffs and look across the river where they can see Illinois. If they turn slightly left, or North, they can see Wisconsin. Dubuque sits right on the spot on the map where Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin all come together and where the Mississippi river makes a big turn to go up toward Minnesota.

I am a college professor at Loras College, which is a small Catholic College. It is the home of the first Catholic dioceses west of the Mississippi River.  It also has the longest continuously running theater group west of the Mississippi. They are called the Loras Players. I like teaching school in Iowa because the state has the highest literacy rate in the nation (99%).

I also volunteer at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. It is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute. At the museum you can learn about how important rivers have always been to transportation, energy development and commerce in the United States. Dubuque is very proud of its part of the river! In fact we call ourselves “America’s River Town.”

While Dubuque is very much a river town and has huge bluffs, which makes it very hilly, if you travel just a mile outside of town, you get to the Iowa prairie, which is very, very flat and you can see for miles. Because there is nothing to stop it, the wind blows really hard sometimes! Most houses in Iowa have basements because we average 34 tornadoes annually!

There is a lot of farmland in Iowa. We grow lots of corn around here! Most of the corn Iowa produces goes to making Ethanol-a clean burning fuel for your car, recyclable “corn husk” plastics and farm animal feed. Actually, Iowa produces more corn, pork and soybeans than any other state in the country!

During presidential election season, lots and lots of politicians like to visit Iowa because of the Iowa caucus. Basically that just means neighbors get together and  talk about politics and presidential candidates. It marks the beginning of the big race to the presidency for most candidates. Politics have always been important in Iowa.  After the Civil War, Iowa was the first state to give the vote to African Americans.

Finally, there are lots of interesting people from Iowa.  President Herbert Hoover, who was the 31st president of the United states is from Iowa, also Buffalo Bill Cody, a frontier scout and wild west showman; Grant Wood, who is a famous artist; and Ashton Kutcher, the movie star.

Thank you for sharing your journal with me! I am going to send your journal next to my friend Gina Jones, who lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which is very close to Nashville, Music City U.S.A.!

Dr. Marcie Hinton


A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.  ~Lao Tzu

As I work for a Catholic college, I did not have a proper spring break this year. Easter is so late that we take a “spring pause,” but then have an Easter break. My spring pause was for 2 days last week. My parents came for a visit in search of spring in the Heartland.

They didn’t find it.

Don’t get me wrong, a few bulbs have burst forth from the permafrost ground, hinting at crocus, tulips and daffodils, and there was quite the thunderstorm all of which suggested spring might arrive at some point in the future.

In preparation for this event called spring, my dad, bundled in a long sleeve T-shirt, fleece, boots and gloves worked, huddled in the garage, on a huge table that now sits bright and shiny in my gray, frosty backyard.

Mom and I shopped.

Both parties were working in an effort to create a space in my backyard that will invite friends, neighbors and passersby to partake in spring Southern hospitality in the heart of Dubuque, Iowa.

In an effort to stave off cabin fever and cold weather blues in my first winter in Iowa, my mind has been reeling with plans for a shabby chic garden, with bright blues and greens sparkling amid mint juleps and shrimp boils for my Midwestern friends.

My vision includes a mixed glut of folding bistro chairs clattered around the Jerry Hinton original table. Chairs full of character I intended to buy across Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois on the cheap in antique shops where perhaps Charles Ingalls-designed chairs might reside (remember when he worked in Burr Oak, just an hour and a half north of Dubuque?)

Turns out there are no antique stores in Dubuque despite lots of rumor and supplication.

I had been given vague directions from just about everybody about a warehouse which housed architectural salvage pieces “down there on Jackson, near where the feed store used to be” or the antique store “near Kmart where Judy’s cousin works.”

After an hour of driving up and down Jackson looking for any sign of the architecture salvage store we gave up and went in search of Judy’s cousin’s antique store thinking she might know of said architecture salvage store.

Judy’s cousin, Joan, who actually works in a consignment store where the many purses and side tables were circa 1992, seemed to recall a man named Ken who used to have a store on Jackson, but was now in Galena, Illinois.

Excited about HAVING to go to Galena—about a 20-minute trip—Mom and I head across the Mississippi River to the historic community, which exclaims it is the oldest city in Illinois. Another claim to fame is they turned down the offer to be a railroad hub, which a little town 2 hours north, called Chicago, quickly volunteered to accept within in its city limits.

Mom and I had no problem finding a fantastic lunch that used all local products from the beef and the barbeque sauce we had for an entrée to the popcorn that was available as an appetizer.

After lunch we wandered up and down Main Street, finding a few antique specialty stores—one specializing in toys another in pretty pink linens, vintage clothing and hats (stacks and stacks of hats)—but no architecture salvage shop.

A quick stop by the visitor’s center, where spring had actually sprung with a row of orange crocus between the concrete parking lot and brick wall of the train- depot-turned-visitor’s-center, put us on yet another hunt for the infamous Ken. The very friendly staff at the center, told us Ken used to have a store in Galena “where the Henley’s General Store” used to be, but he now had a place out state route 20 in Elizabeth, Illinois, in the heart of Jo Daviess County. They gave us directions—go straight out route 20 about 12 miles where we would find an Antique Mall and then Ken, 8-ish miles beyond, on just the other side of Elizabeth.

True to our directions, the Antique Mall rose above Eagle Ridge as a peak in the middle of miles of barren winter farmland. It was small compared to those stretches of Kentucky Antique Malls we were used to, but there were neat, relatively clean booths that harbored farm implements, milk jugs, my beloved Peanuts’ Gang glasses, and, yes, two fantastic wooden, folding bistro chairs—One a fresh spring-bud green and the other awaiting a coat of sea-glass blue.

Encouraged by our cheap garden chairs and the hint of sun shining on the top of the ridge, we worked our way further down Route 20 in search of Ken. Through the sparsely populated, but eternally hopeful downtown Elizabeth, we drove.

And we drove, and we drove.

Our faith in the Galena Chamber ladies fading, we passed over one more hill until alas, an “Antiques” sign clattered, hanging by one chain, in the winter wind. The old house standing behind the sign certainly could have been construed as housing an architecture salvage store.

As we parked and made our way up the walk, we stepped over broken fence pickets and passed overturned planters until we found ourselves standing beneath a portico propped up by what looked to be an antique plank circa 1482. At the front door we were greeted by a runny, handwritten sign just above a doorbell and just below one of those homemade light decorations, where you glue plastic cups together, butt to butt, around a colored light, until you have a ball of…well…lighted plastic cups.

“Ring the door bell, then give me a minute,” the sign read.

We complied and we waited, although my mother causally edged her way out from under the portico, just in case.

Finally a grinning, gray-haired man with a waft of old, and perhaps overcooked, fried-chicken scent, opened the door.

“Ken!” my mom enthusiastically greets the man.

“No,” he says.

After a delightful conversation about our western Kentucky accents, his high school, football coach who was from Paducah, Kentucky and a fruitless inquiry about where Ken’s store might be, we hastily dug through what must have been generations of gas station china, broken picture frames and well-worn toys.

With one last inquiry about any antique store he might know of in Sharpton (where we now were, having driven far, far away from Elizabeth) we gave up on finding bistro chairs or Ken and his infamous architecture salvage store and took ourselves back across the ridge and the Mississippi clutching the only two garden chairs in the whole of the Midwest.

My shabby chic garden party might have to wait another month or two on the weather and the chairs, but I do have a terrific table, two perfect chairs, and a drive across the Mississippi and Illinois’ Eagle Ridge, which wasn’t a bad way to wile away my wintery spring pause.

  This week I have watched as my neighbors have donned their tall furry hats and industrial boots. They have rosined their snow blowers, tuned them to each other and started the ballet that I imagine occurs on snow covered streets across the Northern United States. The whirring of the motors has been kept in rhythm with the scrape of shovels and the flop of snow from trees—the symphony and the dancers perfectly in sync.

I have watched from the bay window in my living room as the family across the street—a mother and two girls—grab color coordinated shovels, and with a flourish begin clearing their driveway in a well-practiced choreography. They go from left to right three feet from each other and push the snow to one side, then step-turn back, pushing the shovel to the other side. I am mesmerized, as I start planning my own choreography.

I decide I am not going to go from left to right, I am going from my garage to the street. I decide I am going to wait until it quits snowing, because isn’t it better to just shovel once? I admire their chorus line coordination, but why oh why are they starting so early? Why are they going across, wouldn’t you just need tire tracks to get out of your driveway? Maybe they are just doing what they have always done and maybe it takes a newcomer to revolutionize the process….

Yep, that’s right, I was an arrogant American in a foreign land! You can only imagine what a calamity of errors occurred in my driveway the next morning from the moment I raised the garage door. With the first push of the shovel I hit such the wrong note on my first attempt at this winter symphony.

In my defense, I have a narrow short driveway with retaining walls on either side, so it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility to be able to push snow to the end of the driveway. After all it was the softest, most powdery snow I had ever seen. And the retaining wall certainly had to change my mode of operation compared to the folks across the street who are sans retaining walls.

Well, 10-ish inches of snow, piles up pretty quickly! So after about 5 feet of my “tire track” every single thing I had watched the night before clicked into place. Start early and shovel often, then the snow isn’t quite so heavy! If you shovel out to the street there is nowhere to put the snow, so you have to pile it up at either side! Genius!

My learning curve continued and expanded to include my wardrobe. I started in my chin-to-ankle parka, which quickly became very hot. Half way through the job, I went in and changed my coat, ditched the earmuffs for a hat (because the tree over the driveway kept throwing snowballs directly on top of my head!) and changed from my rain boots to something with more traction. I also changed from sweat pants to jeans, which held up against the wet snow better. The costume change revolutionized my proficiency!

By the time I reached the end of my driveway, I was exhausted, but not finished. I have 152,000 steps from the street to my front door and the mailman will not deliver the mail to my mailbox perched at the top of those steps, if they are not cleared (rain, sleet or snow, my eye!). Additionally, the city will charge me $35 for every hour they note I have not cleared the sidewalk in front of my house.  Luckily my neighbor, who has a snow blower saw me sliding down the front slope of my yard as I struggled to shovel the steps, so he performed and a la seconde and cleared the sidewalk in a matter of minutes!  He also “shaved” the piles of snow on either side of my driveway, informing me that those would be there until March and close in on the driveway with each snow. He is my danceur noble and will be receiving a world of baked goods for these kindnesses!

Before the second big snow, I assessed my tools and determined that perhaps I should look at a snow blower, maybe find a sharper shovel that will scrape the concrete and find some salt to see if I couldn’t clear the driveway completely before the new snow.

I took an intermission to Theissens (pronounced Tysons) a farm store. It was the biggest of educations so far. There were clothes, sleds, snowboards, ice fishing shacks, boots, snow blowers, with heated hoods and handles (all very expensive) and a myriad of shovels that didn’t even look like shovels. I started there— lifting shovels, examining handles, miming shoveling motions, talking with other patrons who were full of advice. I loaded the recommended shovel into my cart and then made my way across the store. Apparently I drew an audience with my accent and my novice snow shoveling banter. As I made my way with my chosen shovel in my cart across the store, others stopped me and commented on the conversations they had overheard and corrected the advice I had received previously. After being stopped by three other people with advice, I went back to the shovel section and exchanged the shovel I had chosen for an ice chipper, which is indeed what I needed….

I must say the second attempt at shoveling has gone much better. I performed an overture, starting early, shoveling the first 2 inches and will probably go out again before bed and shovel it again.

Meanwhile Mr. Beuchle (pronounced Beakly) is already out there performing his solo dance with his snow blower on my sidewalk, so I have some Molasses cookies to make this evening too!

I suspect this will be my song and dance until March!

I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.  ~Mark Twain<

Gina Lage Jones and I have traveled far and wide together. The highlights include my first trip abroad to London, a camping trip involving campgrounds in 3 states, a mountain biking adventure in North Carolina, visits in Florida, Alabama, Illinois….

Gi and I are the yen and yang of traveling….She’s organized and some sort of map whisperer and I am….well….compliant. She tells me where to go and I get in the car. And yes, mom, if she jumped off a cliff, I would surely follow.

This time she traveled to see me in Dubuque and now that she has been here and seen it, Dubuque and I are validated. This is a cool place!

A small crime spree notwithstanding, we were “good” tourists all weekend in Dubuque.  We ate, drove, walked and relaxed our way through an entire 11-mile area that is Dubuque proper.

Dubuque really rolled out the red carpet atop Eagle Point. The 164-acre park–which costs a dollar to drive through, or is free if you can park by the back entrance and jump the fence (okay that is an exaggeration…there is a free back entrance, with a gate that you can walk right through)–follows a bend in the Mississippi River from a 500ish-foot bluff.  From this back entrance, high above the river, you walk right into a rock garden of sorts. Paths, natural rock benches, a koi pond and small waterfalls that splash in and out of leafy patches of sun overlook the Mississippi at Lock and Dam number 11.

We followed a part concrete, part dirt path along the fenced bluff to take in unique views of the Mississippi as it dodges in and out of coves, around islands and up against Wisconsin. Benches, pavilions and walking paths offer Jesus-Mary-and-Joseph views at every turn. People with picnic baskets dot the park along the river and birthday parties, tennis players and wheeled vehicles weave in and out of the trees more inland.

Our red carpet welcome really was quite the feat considering Eagle Point Park sprouted because Dubuque wasn’t quite rolling out the red carpet for anybody….

Legend has it, Charles M. Robinson, who was famous for designing urban landscapes in Virginia during the early part of the twentieth century, visited Dubuque and said, “I have never seen a place where the Almighty has done more and mankind less, than Dubuque.”

Turns out Dubuquers didn’t much appreciate that. Judge Oliver Shiras and the Dubuque’s women’s club bought, collected and donated the land around Eagle Point.

It is called Eagle Point for a reason….Although, Gina and I did not see any Eagles when we visited, neighbors say once the leaves are off the trees you can see “flocks of eagles” around the point. There is an Eagle statue at the old streetcar turn around, which surely stands as evidence that the birds are present around there somewhere.

Streetcars and trolleys are still seen around Dubuque, but mostly as tourist attractions and rental vehicles for special occasions. There is a streetcar elevator to help climb the bluffs to a lookout point just above downtown. Gina, the consummate runner that she is, ran her way up the bluff and took some pictures of the 4th Street elevator and the river. (I stayed in the flats by the river and WALKED around, while she iron manned her way to the top!)

I won’t tell you about all the wonderful food we had while she was here—from the Naughty Dog, which will get its whole on blog entry later, to L. May and Café Manna Java—I will just say we were not starved for things to do or places to eat within our 11-mile radius.

What also makes Dubuque worth the trip is the trip itself. Gina flew from Nashville, changing planes in Chicago, flying right into the Dubuque Regional Airport, where I met her the minute she stepped off the plane. One gate, one provider—American Eagle. In the lobby waiting area, where you can see the arrival/departure gate and the baggage carousel, there is a library of books that you are welcome to take and donate to while you wait! Gina’s round trip ticket cost around $300 when all was said and done. She got free room and board and a personal chauffer for that price. I am willing to work the same deal for you if you would just get on the plane and get here!

“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner

Sometimes, when my 4-year-old friend Andrew and I would part after a day out in Murfreesboro, Tenn., we would recite the little dialog—

“See you later, alligator.”

“Afterwhile, Crocodile.”

“See you in the 50s!”

Well, Andrew…. I am in the 50s.

I bought a 1956-constructed home. It has held only the Cherrier family since then. Mr. Cherrier, the one-time Assistant Fire Chief in Dubuque, built, maintained and lived in the house with his family until his death in 1996. And Mrs. Cherrier, employed by the telephone company for more than 25 years, lived in it until she sold it to me August 10.  It has all the stability and charm that you might expect from such a responsible, Midwestern family.
It wasn’t love at first sight. There was a spark of warmth, but no ring of fire. I lusted after a Queen Anne right downtown Dubuque—an interior designer’s dreamy interpretation of the mine-rich Victorian Era, when Julian Dubuque staked his claim on the Mississippi River.

Dubuque’s charm lies in the Victorian laced bluffs and I would have loved to invest in the young renaissance of a largely dilapidated population of grand homes. However, while I am a dreamer, an optimist and a Taurus, I, for once, managed to plant my feet a little more firmly on the Cherrier’s front stoop.

Once I came to my senses and opted for the more sensible home, I fell in love with the kitchen first.  It reminded me of the one my mother grew up in, in Madisonville, Kentucky. It has the flickering buzz of an exposed circular florescent light. It has an oven that looks like the front grill of a Corsair fastback. And the stainless steel sink is set on the corner, framed by windows that wind out to both the back and side yards.

Once the kitchen charmed me, so too did the warm, maple-ly wood floors that I imagined were underneath the carpet. It took me longer to cozy up to the wood trim, which has always been white in my Southern Living decorated world.
Well, Andrew, it’s wood, it can be painted, right?
I started with my bedroom. I chose the smaller of the two bedrooms, because of the crazy built-in closet. Not that I was going to keep the closet, but I just knew they could become built-in shelves and could be painted white. My dad, who was a college administrator for most of his life, could build them, right? Dads just know how to do that, right?

Turns out, my dad can build shelves, but his daughter can’t paint the maple trim. My friend James Manning, who is the executive director of a historic house and museum, and a general aficionado of historic houses, was horrified that I would even attempt to paint the trim and warned me against its lack of porous surface. After sanding, then painting with kilz, then painting with white paint (and then again and again and again with the white paint), I gave into the retro-cool buttery trim of the rest of the house.

It would seem, Andrew, there is compromise in every relationship.
My raised ranch house is in the middlest of the middle class neighborhood that seemed to sprout 1,200 foot houses with semi-finished basements around 1956. The dark trim, roughed-in closets and shelves are in all the houses within Dubuque’s city limits.

You can follow Dubuque’s success through its homes. The Victorian Era opulence shines from the reflection of the river. Large Brick homes sit atop carved bluffs, some polished and refined, some peering over the edge of the same bluffs, threatening to jump.

It seems fitting that the very year Queen Victoria began her reign is the same year Dubuque became a city—1837. And just as her monarchy was often characterized as peaceful, so too were Julian and the Irish and German lead miners that followed him up the Mississippi as they lived and worked amicably with the Meskquakie Indians, both digging into the bluffs and residing on top of them.

It almost seems all of Dubuque was facing the river and the land that drifted beyond the bluffs to the prairies was largely ignored until the 1950s. When the town filled with meat packing plants and the industries of post World War II, smaller, more middle class housing developed. My house, toward the prairie side of the city is so typical of the rest of Dubuque one wonders if anything was ever built outside the two time periods.

So even though my house is going to show its age a little, it is still going to be retro cool, much like Dubuque itself. Besides, both my house and the houses on the river are what attracted me to Dubuque. It is Americana, family, sustainable living, and a faint memory of childhood. It all feels as if I have been here before.

Besides, Andrew, I always wanted to live in a little house on the prairie!

Well, here I am again. Piled on the sidewalk, just how Jack Keraouc described. The sidewalk upon which I have landed is right outside 1860 Chaney Road in Dubuque, Iowa. Sally the dog is on her leash and Peanut the cat has already made her way up the winding steps to the 1950s-era door.

Sally and I have looked up from 5 sidewalks since we have been together, albeit, this one is the furthest away and the most drastic of changes.

I know most people do not understand our yearning for change, our interest in moving, even as we grieve over leaving the people and places we love.  I do it usually for a new job and new adventure. Sally and Peanut are the battered luggage, not necessarily wanting to leave their spots in the sun on distant floors, but they do it for me anyway because they know I can’t do it alone. Frankly, I don’t even know why I do it myself, but I think Jack gets it—“the road is life.”

I have decided to document my change, even though it is not extraordinary to anyone, but us. Friends and family in the Southeast might find it informative and I hope at times interesting, but really I just want to understand why I am so intrigued by “places.” As I get to know Dubuque, Iowa and the surrounding places, I want to share it.

So for a while I will write about my introduction to the Midwest, part travelogue, part personal journal, part apology for leaving my beloved South and my
friends and family still there.

We are going to start right here on this sidewalk and take a tour of the house, the city, the state and beyond. I am going to get settled first though, chase the cat down and find Sally a spot in the sun, then I will show you around….