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What You Can Do

January 23, 2020

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Traveling through 30 states has taught me something: a lot of the United States is starting to look alike. Certainly every town has a Dollar General. Hell, every wide spot in the road has a Dollar General.

You know the biggies. McDonald’s. Burger King. WalMart. But there’s creeping uniformity in everything else, too. Planet Fitness is everywhere. Pearle Vision. Home Depot. Come off an exit into a town and you could be in Ohio or Florida or Arizona. Only the trees give a clue what region you’re in.

If you want your town to thrive and its unique local culture to thrive, shop locally. Yes, I know it can be more expensive and more inconvenient. Start small and have patience. Get your coffee at a local place. Have lunch at a mom and pop cafe. Send a bouquet from a flower shop, not from an online service.

Then branch out. Go bigger. Get your tires from that local guy. Find a local tax preparer instead of using H&R Block. A local gym. And so on.

I beg you. Appreciate your local treasures. Go there. Spend money. The money returns to the community instead of going off to stockholders. They support Little League teams and donate items for fundraisers and let you use their parking lots to sell Girl Scout cookies.

In Salt Aire, Alabama, a cafe owner stood on the porch of his shop with me for 15 minutes, telling me about his business, the neighborhood, and where my next stop should be. We only stopped talking because he had other customers he needed to catch up with. Try THAT at Starbucks.

I have been 17,000 miles and too much of it looks alike.

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Gullah Land

January 17, 2020
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Sandy Island’s longleaf pine and turkey-foot oak forest, carpeted with fairy dots of deer moss

Julie Dash’s luminous film “Daughters of the Dust” stuck with me. I saw it when it came out in 1991 and it captured me with its beauty and unique voice. I knew instantly I wanted to visit the South Carolina sea islands and learn about Gullah culture. It took me almost 30 years to fulfill that dream.

 

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Capt. Rommy Pyatt, Sandy Island’s official tour guide

In early December, I found myself hopping out of Gladis at the distant end of Sandy Island Road in a dirt parking lot, getting greeted by a tall, smiling man named Rommy Pyatt who was going to take me on a tour of his homeland – Sandy Island.

 

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Pyatt’s General Store

Being the off season, it was just me and Rommy’s nephew on a pontoon boat to the island on a cool and sunny day. The trip of about a mile was up a smooth wide canal through old rice fields. After brief introductions, Rommy launched into his tour patter, filled with jokes and misdirections. Rommy is a prankster who mixes fact and fiction with glee as he tells the story of his island.

 

Despite being from across a continent and of different cultures and races, Rommy felt like someone from my own family, who love to tell stories filled with goofs and exaggerations. He also has a ghost story he tells, complete with photos, and the story of why the store is located where it is due to some ancestral spirits. You have to hear him tell them, because they aren’t mine to share.

Arriving on Sandy Island – at 78 feet above sea level, the highest point in Georgetown county – you see the bright yellow Pyatt’s General Store. It turns out that Rommy is related to everyone who still lives on the island, just a few dozen remaining residents.

At one time, thousands of enslaved people who worked the nearby rice plantations lived there, and the docks were a busy rice processing area, with that grain feeding Europe.

The bricks from the ship ballasts that weighted the ships on the way to America were left on the island, and some homes, including Rommy’s uncle’s tidy home that would fit into any suburb, are made from those bricks.

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The church is bathed in beautiful blue light from the turquoise windows.

Rommy gave me a comprehensive tour, from showing me a little video and artifacts at the Pyatt store, to visiting the old schoolhouse and the island’s church, New Bethel Missionary Baptist. If you’re in the area, be at the Sandy Island dock at 10:30 on a Sunday and a boat will meet you to take you to worship. Rommy gave me a warm invitation, but I never made it back due to duties at my own church.

 

The island is covered in long-leafed pines, turkey leaf oaks, and magical beds of greyish deer moss. It’s a haven for some rare birds, including the notoriously shy red cockaded woodpecker. Many people come out to the island for day hikes. At one point, the island was threatened by a golf course development, but was purchased by the Nature Conservancy for preservation in perpetuity.

The Tour de Sandy Island is a glimpse back in time, a visit to a place unlike any other. It scratched a decades-old itch in my soul. I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to meet Capt. Rommy and see his family’s island.

 

Holy Cats, I Have Become One of Those People

January 1, 2020

I have been tired. I don’t mean a little tired. I have been so, so tired for so long. It has been creeping up on me for years. I go to bed tired and I wake up tired. I nap as often as I can, and when I wake up, I am only slightly less tired.

It has been bad. I have had no motivation to do anything. Being on the road has made it seem like I am doing more, but movement isn’t necessarily doing. I have avoided making plans for anything more than the smallest things, because I didn’t think I’d have the energy to follow through. I was too tired to exercise, which led to being even more tired.

I didn’t know whether it was hormones, or aging, or what. I didn’t really have the energy to even worry about it.

One of my goals while I was here was to see a doctor. I booked an appointment with a functional medicine doctor because my BFF has seen one who has helped her a lot.

Functional medicine doctors are medical doctors. They work differently than most doctors, though – they consider all the body’s systems working together and don’t just treat single symptoms. They look at the person as a whole and work to create health, not just to cure illness.

She’s very expensive and in glowing good health herself. Kind of a cold fish, but she’s serious about what she does. She conducts every test you can think of (and I’m dreading the bills for those when they begin to arrive. I have a huge health savings account that I HOPE will cover it all). I had to give many vials of blood and pee on test strips and look at eye charts and spend hours going over my health history with her.

I had the typical things you’d think are wrong with a fat lady my age: elevated cholesterol, too much bad cholesterol, markers for inflammation.

I left with a binder of stuff to try. Whole 30 diet. Sleep study. Some nutritional powder to make shakes from. Bulletproof coffee for breakfast. Adjustments to my vitamins, my hormones, a cholesterol-binding drug, and an $89 bottle of CBD oil to help me sleep.

I came home and tossed out all the grain-derived food in the house, weeping a little at the half-package of really good Italian pasta. I squirted some CBD oil under my tongue. Waited. Went to bed.

And woke up 8 hours later, refreshed.

I WOKE UP REFRESHED.

Not feeling like I needed another half hour of sleep. I woke up and got up and felt good.

What the hell.

CBD oil. I have become one of those people.

I’m not 100% better, of course. I have tired in my bones. I have a long way to go to be healthy. But for 2 days, I have awakened refreshed, and I feel, for the first time in a long time, that things can change. It’s a whole new decade and a whole new world. Let’s do stuff.

PS The type of CBD oil I use is only available by prescription. My doc likes it because it is tested and certified. The link is to the consumer version, but the kind I take is labeled “Professional.”

 

 

Déjà été

December 29, 2019

One of the oddities of traveling is a form of déjà vu that manifests when one place has a feel that is exactly like another.

I first experienced it when I went to Teotitlan del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. Looking up the valley and into the mountains, it matched Fillmore, California as if one had taken a tracing on a tissue paper and moved it around over a drawing until the lines snapped into place together. It has happened four or five times since.

It’s not about how somewhere looks, though that helps – it’s mostly a feeling that two places are somehow the same. The way the light falls, the curve of a hill, the height of the trees. There’s a momentary confusion and then a gasp of recognition as the  two places connect through a wormhole in my mind – it’s like I’m in two places at once.

Does this happen to other people?

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The mountains of Oaxaca

 

What Made Me Laugh This Morning

December 28, 2019

A flock of 30 Canada Geese comes flying and honking over the house.

I’m sure they are going to land on the pond behind me, and one goose is, too. He makes a clumsy descent, his big goose-feet out in front of him, aiming at the water.

He didn’t get the message, though – they aren’t landing.

He pulls out of the dive, flapping mighily, barely clearing the house on the other side of the pond.

The geese all wheel around and make a crashing landing on the pond.

The goose who aborted his landing honks at the rest of them. I think he is yelling “What the hell, guys? Did you not see me back there?”thumbnail-2

Stay and Go

December 23, 2019

IMG_20191221_182208I woke up in the middle of the night and thought “How did I ever get here? I’m in South Carolina, sleeping in a house with 11 Christmas trees.” I was dogsitting for my new friends Marilyn and Abbie, but sometimes I just have to stop and wonder at how I got where I am.

Stopping for winter has been good and bad. I love my snug little rental with the pond behind me. I look out the window at a pair of swans who have become MY swans, and a turtle who pops his head up and I swear looks for me every morning. I holler at the security guards when I come in – something inane about the weather or getting ready for Christmas or how busy it is or isn’t – and they holler back.

I go to church every Sunday and do the Facebook live videoing and take classes and pray holding hands with people who now know my name. I know which grocery checker wants my carrot tops for her bunnies. I joined the botanic garden and get a discount in the bookstore. And glory hallelujah, I found decent Mexican food!

All that good is also the bad, because now I kind of don’t want to leave. I know I would feel differently when the temperature hits 88 degrees with 97 percent humidity in July and the streets are crawling with drunk tourists, but right now, it’s cool and cozy and if I squint, I can ignore the Trump 2020 flags (to be fair, even upstate NY had Trump flags).

I’m either staying here in a different place (this place is rented starting Jan 1.), going to Charleston, or going to Savannah. No idea.

While I decide what to do next, enjoy some photos from Nights of 1000 Candles at Brookgreen Gardens. A nice man gave me a free ticket when we got into a deep discussion of local history and he took a shine to me. It’s a super extra light display in a sculpture garden. Behold.

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Psychic Dogs

December 21, 2019
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Murphy, left, and Zeva

I always find it amusing that I am a church lady. My younger self never would have anticipated that. Since I have been here, I found a Unity that I have attended every week, taken over the Facebook Live broadcasting duties, taken classes, been invited to a Thanksgiving party, and performed at their coffeehouse.

I also offered to dogsit in the home of a church couple over Thanksgiving, and did such a stellar job of keeping the dogs alive that I got invited back last week. The first time, there were just two dogs, Murphy and Zeva, both big dobie mixes (with natural ears, which I love so much more than the typical Dobie chop).

Since then, they took in an elderly Boston Terrier, Roxy. On the last night I was there, I knew the couple was due to arrive home about 4 a.m.

At 3:15, the dogs awoke me. Roxy and Murphy were rustling around in their kennels in the living room. I got up and let them out to pee. I know how it is being an old dog, as I am one myself.

They didn’t have to pee, and they didn’t want to go back to their kennels. They would not settle down.

Their people arrived right on schedule. That’s what they were waiting for.

Question: how do 2 dogs (Zeva kept sleeping) know their people are coming home when their people are still 45 minutes away on the highway? They KNEW.

Dogs are magic.

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Roxy, the dear little thing

Paying the Penalty

December 10, 2019

I don’t have many travel hints. I just bumble my way along. But here’s one – if you have the chance, go to Farmer’s Markets. You get to rub elbows with the locals, pick up some fresh produce, and see what artisan foods are being produced in the area. It’s a great place to talk to people – everyone seems to have time.

With that in mind, when I spied a parking lot market in Virginia Beach, I swung in. Soon I was clutching a bag full of beets, a tiny pie pan filled with the “world’s best bread pudding,” and some local peanuts.

A man was sitting behind a knife-sharpening booth, so I retrieved my dull chef knife from Gladis and dropped it off for him to work his magic on.

When I returned, he demonstrated the knife’s sharpness by holding up a piece of paper and slicing through it with one swoop.

“That’s $8,” he said.

I fumbled for money and his wife took over the cashier duties. Suddenly his head jerked as if he was remembering something awful.

“What did you do that knife?” he said. “It was in bad shape!”

“I live in my RV. I just had it in a box with a bunch of other stuff…” I lamely explained.

“Eight dollars,” his wife said.

“Ten!” he yelled.

“You said eight,” reminded his wife.

“Eh, she treated that knife so bad. Ten!”

I got a dull knife penalty of $2! I learned my lesson!

Sing It

December 8, 2019

Scene: Suebob walks along a sidewalk in a shopping area. A tiny toddler walks in front of her, bobbing an Olaf the snowman plush figure next to her.

Mom: Oh, honey, don’t get him dirty. And there’s a lady walking right behind you.

Tiny girl turns around, shocked, worried she has done something wrong.

Suebob, warbling: Do you want to build a snowman?

Tiny girl, grinning: Do you want to come and play?

Tiny girl, belting: I neber see you anymore! Come out da door! Iss like youb gone AWAAAAY!

Mom: Sing it, girl!

Collecting Memories

November 16, 2019

 

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Hirschorn Museum, Washington, DC

My internet friends Kizz and Cindy inspired me to visit 100 museums. At the time they proposed this idea, I had visited about 40 museums in my lifetime.

Now I’m up to 91. (If you go to the link, keep scrolling down. You’ll get there). I’m thankful that Kizz and Cindy came up with this very fun challenge.

My mom started taking me to museums when I was a little kid. One early, memorable experience was at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The show featured kinetic art, which in the 1960s was something new and strange to us. When we got to a piece made of styrofoam blocks moving and squeaking together, the noise made me lose my damn mind and launch into a tantrum so epic that it is engraved in Davis family history. I vaguely remember someone doing a fireman carry to remove me from the building.

Despite that early mishap, I eventually made friends with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and have visited many times since. It is a very fine small museum, partially thanks to the wealthy who live in the area. It’s the first place I saw a Monet and an Isamu Noguchi.

That Noguchi sculpure gave me the experience that keeps me going back to museums – that feeling of completely relating to the work so I can feel it in all my bones and also simultaneously lose the experience of self, so the work takes me beyond ordinary reality. It rarely happens, but when it does, it’s like art heroin.

My most memorable museum experience was at the San Diego Museum of Art, where I was so captivated by a wooden Guanyin Bodhisattva that I lost track of time and myself as a separate being and took a trip through time and space and had a mystical experience of mind-meld with the artist, who lived thousands of years ago. It really doesn’t translate well into words. Mystical experiences so rarely do.

So let’s make a list.

Favorite Collection: California impressionists at Crocker Museum, Sacramento
Most Fun: Exploratorium, San Francisco
Closest to My Heart: Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum, Santa Ynez, CA (has artifacts from my family)
Coziest: Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, Taos, NM
Most Enthusiastic Volunteers: National Heisey Glass Museum, Newark, OH
Best Gardens: The Huntington, San Marino, CA
Most Annoying Exhibit: Yoko Ono One Woman Show, MOMA, NYC (The SCREAMING!)
Most Inspirational: Bill of Rights at the National Archive, Washington, DC
Most Amazing Museum Overall: Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY

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Harwood Museum, Taos, NM

 

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