Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Memphis!

Memphis was our final stop last week.  Once again, is was one of those places I’d been to before, briefly, but the boys had only driven through.  And all I’d seen was a quick walk through down Beale Street and Graceland (Yes, I’ve been to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee).

Stayed in a great Residence Inn downtown – Residence Inn has several properties in older hotels or apartment buildings (like this one in midtown Atlanta which I like a lot – big apartments) that are quite spacious – even more so than the usual Residence Inn.  After three days of staying in the same room with them and sharing a bed with the youngest, I was ready for space, especially since I had a Living Faith devotional due the next day and really needed a closed door behind me to focus on that.

(It worked! Got it done! Met the deadline! While traveling!)

"amy welborn"

View from the hotel – Mississippi River down the street

Wednesday night, we walked down to Beale Street, which was something else – there was some kind of motorcycle convocation going on, which added to the cacophony, but I think it’s always fairly crazy at night – I wouldn’t have kids there after nine, definitely.  It’s like people are trying to get their entire New Orleans jam on right there on one street instead of spread out through the Quarter.

"amy welborn"

Beale Street, the calm part.

Ate dinner at the Blues City Cafe which was decent.

(The thing about going to BBQ restaurants is that they’re quick, since most of the food is already prepared – good for traveling with kids. If they’ll actually eat the food, that is.)

Thursday morning we:

 

"amy welborn"

Memphis on the Big Muddy

 

"amy welborn"

Finally reached the Gulf

 

Took the monorail over to Mud River Park and walked the 1/2 mile long scale model of the Mississippi River.  Very interesting and well-done.  A good thing for them to experience and learn from. The museum, while being a little dated in its 70′s-80′s design and feel, is surprisingly good.

Retrieved our stuff and our car, then started back home.  With stops at:

"amy welborn"

Lorraine Motel, site of Marin Luther King Junior’s assassination

The Lorraine Motel/Civil Rights Museum.  We didn’t go in.  Honestly – we have been to three important Civil Rights-related museums the past months – in Birmingham, Montgomery and Atlanta – so right now, at this time, with home looming on the horizon…just coming to the site of MLK’s assassination, and reading the material outside was enough.  Maybe another time:

"amy welborn"

Lunch across the street at Central BBQ.  Good, probably not the best – not sure if it’s classic Memphis BBQ or not.

Quick drive down to Graceland – we didn’t get out of the car, but I was curious, as ever, to do even some quick people watching around the site.

"amy welborn"

Imagine there’s no Elvis….

And have conversations about idols and reverencing and real saints.

Super quick drive-by of Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo – had never seen it myself.  It’s tiny.

"amy welborn"

Elvis birthplace in Tupelo

Then back through miles and miles of gorgeous, undeveloped rolling hills of northwest Alabama.

And now…good morning?

"amy welborn"

 

(Not Birmingham. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram to see more!)

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

That trip is done – we returned home about 6 this evening, relieved to see that Rocky was still with us.

"amy welborn"

No, he wasn’t left loose while we were gone. He’s just chillaxin in his freedom.

(When you watch videos related to “my snake won’t eat” as I have been doing lately, you see how many snake owners keep their ball pythons in nothing more than Sterilite plastic drawers with torn up National Enquirers for bedding, so you think, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t worry…”  But you still do.  Because he’s growing on you and you have NO BLOODY IDEA what you’re doing.)

(Speaking of snakes, my exercise podcast this evening was almost a parody of BBC earnestness, which is like NPR earnestness but far more charming and far less pompous.  It involved a woman accompanying a herpetologist who was going to show her adders that live in Scotland.  So they tramp about the moors or what have you looking for the adders – which he knows are here because this is where they live – but without seeing them.  It’s fifteen minutes of two Brits, in hushed tones, breathlessly talking about how lovely the adders will be when they finally come out.  It was, indeed….breathtaking. But perhaps not in the way they intended…)

(Yes, they finally saw an adder, but the buildup was something else.)

— 2 —

We last left the merry party in St. Louis.  The next day found them till in St. Louis, at the City Museum:

"amy welborn"

 

For those of you who don’t know about it, the City Museum is an extravagant, lush, stimulating play space that encourages exploration and daring.  The place is full of tunnels and mazes, and chances to (safely) climb to great heights.

If you are within five hours of this place…it’s totally worth it.  Your kids will thank you, love you and be super grateful.  For five minutes before they resent you again.

I knew we would spend a good deal of time there on Tuesday….I didn’t anticipate it being all day - from just past opening to almost closing time.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

Yes, you can climb in the planes.

"amy welborn"

Very Gaudi-esque, I thought.

 

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

Even the aquarium is quirky.

— 3 —

After we left the City Museum, we stopped at the St. Louis Science Center, just blocks from our hotel, and advertised as free.  We’ll go for free, especially if we just have an hour to kill before that closes.

Well…yes…free admission…but with a $15 parking fee.

Oh, well.  We’re on vacation.   We took it in anyway, and at that point, an hour was just about right. As far as those damn places go, it seemed okay.   They played around with some structures, but what amazed me was the fact that they spent probably 20 minutes on math puzzles.  I mean, they’re both sort of mathy – but I didn’t think they were that mathy.

"amy welborn"

Finally.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

— 4 —

The next day, we hit the zoo, also “free.” Yes…”free” because of yet another $15 parking fee. (You could park on the road in Forest Park of course…but then you’d have to walk a mile by the time we got there…..). The St. Louis Zoo also has several attractions that cost money – a stingray petting tank, the children’s zoo…so “free” goes out the window pretty quickly.   (We didn’t do any of that stuff, anyway.)

It was a good zoo, albeit with a confusing layout.  The highlights for us were hippos, one o which slipped in the water and spent several minutes masticating a fish, without much success, as well as the reptiles.  Of course.

(I learned that Marlin Perkins – he of MUTUAL OF OMAHA’S WILD KINGDOM! fame had been director of herpetology at the zoo back in the ’20′s.  They had a huge python that refused to eat, so they had to force feed it, and they did so publicly, drawing thousands to the spectacles.  

That story gave me an odd sort of hope for our Rocky, who has yet to eat for us….)

The Herp building was old, classic and gorgeous.

9-year old Michael, the animal lover in our group, did remark on the way to the zoo, though, “You know…now don’t think I don’t want to go because I’m saying this, but sometimes..well, sometimes I feel sorry for the animals in the zoo.  They say it’s good for them because it saves endangered species, but I don’t know…I still feel bad for them.”

And who can disagree?

— 5 —

In my preplanning, I’d thought we would hit the art museum after the zoo.  But then I looked at the museum’s holdings and thought…I don’t know if it would be worth it at that particularly juncture in time with this party.  So then I thought we’d do the history museum, partly so we could visit the exhibit on the 1904 fair and by doing so, do some sort of homage to our own Vulcan.   

But the zoo took longer than I’d expected, we were all a little weary and were going to be moving on to Memphis afterwards, so I made an executive decision that we needed a different sort of space before we hit the road again, and so we went to the Basilica instead:

"amy welborn"

 

— 6 —

Now, some of us have done one or all of these St. Louis sites before.  We went to St. Louis about 9 years ago – both boys were born, I know – and we went to the City Museum then, but Joseph, who would have been 4, didn’t remember any of it.

The time before that, as I mentioned in my last post, occurred when Joseph was a tiny baby and I was speaking at the St. Louis Eucharistic Congress.  The three of us were touring the Basilica, and as we reached the area behind the altar, we encountered a Cardinal.  I don’t remember who it was, but he was European, and must have been there for the Congress.  I think it must have been Schotte.   And so there we were, Mike and me with our two-month old, and the Cardinal stopped, said hello, and blessed the baby.

Yesterday, I walked behind that altar again, Joseph, now 13 at my side, and another Michael. I paused and told Joseph the story, and felt a slight twinge, but not a terrible one. Mostly I felt gratitude and hope, because if I didn’t, what was the point of being there?

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

— 7 —

Our meals improved during those last two days, thank goodness:

Lunch on Tuesday at Rosalita’s Cantina down the street from the City Museum was good, higher end Tex-Mex.  There was a statue as well as an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the wall at the front door, with a big plastic box affixed, inviting donations to St. Cecilia parish.   Invitation accepted!

Dinner that night was on The Hill – Anthonina’s Tavern, mostly because I told the boys they had to have toasted ravioli if they were in St. Louis.  They were doubtful (because they always are), but actually loved  and devoured it.

Wednesday lunch was the Courtesy Diner after the zoo – it’s right across the interstate – a diner experience is always fun with kids.

Wednesday night in Memphis, we walked down to Beale Street, just because that’s What You Do – there was some sort of motorcycle convocation which was interesting but deafening.  We made it quick at the Blues City Cafe which was nothing special, but nothing awful either.

Thursday lunch, also in Memphis, was at Central Barbecue, right across from the Lorraine Motel, which was kind of odd, but I guess okay…


"amy welborn"
 
 
 
(And don’t even scold me about not finding the perfect Memphis BBQ…I do what I can where I am with the people I’m with….)

More on Memphis in the next post…

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Contemplation

 

At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

Lit Road Trip

"amy welborn"

 

Late last week, I decide that we’d take a little road trip.  Camps were done and over, Scout trip, Florida & South Carolina family trips are around the corner and here were these few days….

Let’s go!

We have read a lot of Twain this year.  Joseph read “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and The Prince and the Pauper on his own and we’ve read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as read-alouds.   I’d never been to the Twain boyhood home in Hannibal, it’s not horribly far…

Let’s go!

We have been to St. Louis (Hannibal is about a hundred miles north of St. Louis) before – a couple of times, but they were both pretty small, and neither remember a bit of it.

(I was telling Joseph today about his first trip to St. Louis.  It was 2001, He was about two months old, and I was speaking at the St. Louis Archdiocesan Eucharistic Congress.  As per usual, we decided to take in a sporting event.  In this case, we walked into a Cardinal’s game the very moment Mark Maguire hit (I believe) a Grand Slam (or at the very least a regular home run…but I do think it was a Grand Slam).  The place erupted, there were fireworks, and poor little tiny Joseph lost it…and still is not a baseball fan to this day….)

We left Sunday after Mass and were in St. Charles by 6.  Joseph slept all the way through Tennessee and most of Kentucky. I had “St. Charles” and “picturesque” associated in my subconscience for some reason, but what I didn’t realize was that it was the actual starting point of the Lewis Clark expedition, marked by  many plaques and a super-sized statue, with dog.

"Amy Welborn"

 

"Amy Welborn"

 

"Amy Welborn"

Missouri River

 

 

 

"Amy Welborn"

A bonanza of toads in the tracks.

 

 

A nice evening at the Missouri river-front park, although I can’t say much for the absolutely mediocre and fingers-drumming-on-table- slowly-appearing meal at the Trailhead Brewery.  Strike one for meals!

Up early to head up to Hannibal.

A librarian friend of mine asked if it was “touristy.”  Well, every other business is “Mark Twain” this or that, but is that surprising? Other than that, it doesn’t have a touristy vibe at all.  The little riverfront main street, while as typical as you’d expect isn’t a developed as the St. Charles equivalent, with far fewer restaurants and shops.

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

On “Lover’s Leap” – name comes, of course, from Romeo and Juliet-ish myth with a Native American setting. Hannibal and the Mississippi down below.

We hit the cave first, though.  I didn’t know how admission to the cave worked, how the tours were timed or how busy it would be, so I wanted to get it out of the way so I wouldn’t be wondering about those issues all morning.  We arrived just as a tour was getting started – we missed the movie, but go the rest of the tour.  It was your typical cave tour, with scripted corny attempts at humor and the ritual pointing out of formations that seem to resemble animals.

While pricey, it was worth it if you’re interested in getting a better sense of Tom Sawyer – for this was the cave Twain based the story on, with several landmarks, including the cross that marked the treasure spot, clearly seen.

cave

For his illustrations, Norman Rockwell came to Hannibal for research.  He was struck by the cave, for all other illustrations up to that point, had depicted a cave dripping with stalactites and so on – it’s not the case. It’s a mostly dry cave marked by stack-like formations of rocks and narrow passageways. 

Now back up to town.

The museum “complex” is well-done.  You can read about it at the link, but in essence what your ticket buys is admission to several small houses   – the Clemens home, Becky Thatcher’s house, Judge Clemens’ office, Huckleberry Finn’s house – and two museums – one close to the Clemens home, the other, larger one, down on Main Street a couple of blocks away.

(Of course when we say “Becky Thatcher” we mean Laura Hawkins, the real person who inspired Twain.  Some with Huckleberry Finn/Tom Blakenship)

"amy welborn"

The Clemens home is on the far right, mostly hidden. On the left are the Becky Thatcher home and the law office.

The museums were very good, with lots of photographs and quotes from Twain’s work offering a full sense of his childhood in Hannibal and his family’s background.  It was very interesting to see the connections between Twain’s life and his fiction.

"amy welborn"

Kitchen in the Clemens home.

The larger museum was more clearly set up for school groups, with five large interactive areas, each based on one of Twain’s books. The second floor of this museum holds the originals of Norman Rockwell’s paintings for special editions of TS and HF, and a small, but decent collection of personal memorabilia – including a sad little death mask of Twain’s only son, who died when he was 19 months old.  He had three daughters, only one of whom outlived him.  She married and had a daughter, but that daughter had no children, so there are no living descendants of Mark Twain.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

 

The first attempt at lunch was at a place along Main Street where we waited for ten minutes to be seated in a restaurant where there were four empty tables, and then were brusquely told upon placing an order for a hamburger, “Oh, we’re out of hamburgers.”  Thnx Bye.

So we left and walked down the street to the place that the nice lady in the Becky Thatcher house had recommended in the first place – a cafe in the back of a Christian bookstore, called, not surprisingly, Christian Ambiance.

In spades.

Christian ambiance, indeed.

Very good food – homemade bread, included – served with interest and warmth.

This day revived my interest in Twain.   I’ve enjoyed reading through TS and HF with the boys, but had to remember today, as they played around in the interactive Connecticut Yankee section of the museum, intrigued by the premise and expressing interest in reading it, of that book’s strong anti-Catholicism.  It was, in fact, Twain’s disparaging remarks about Catholicism in Innocents Abroad that turned me away from him for decades when I read them as an older teenager. But I do think I’ll take a shot at Roughing It and Following the Equator.

Then back down the state highway, past this giant statue of Twain with tiny hands.  We arrived in St. Louis (proper) about 5, settled into the hotel, and then headed east to…

DSCN3934

 

"amy welborn"

…of course.

They’d been up it before, and Joseph had probably been 4 at the time, but he still had no recollection.  We arrived about 7, and didn’t have to wait at all – it seems to be a good time to go.

Such a fascinating structure.

More meal disappointment – returning to the hotel vicinity around 9:30, I pulled into a highly-rated diner that I could have sworn I’d checked out as advertised as open 24 hours.  They guy poked his head out the door and drew a line across his throat.  I assume that meant he was closed, although perhaps he was communicating me that he was in great danger and I missed the rather obvious signal?

(Checked the website when we got back..yup…supposed to be open 24 hours…)

All in all, a very satisfying 24 hours.  Low-stress learning and exploring, with the centerpiece being seeing with our own eyes what we’d only read about.  Seeing where Lewis and Clark began their journey and walking along the same river from which the pushed off – to me, that kind of experience is so helpful.  I loved taking the boys to Hannibal.  It was great for them – us – to immerse ourselves in this great – not perfect, but still great – writer’s childhood and, through the excellent exhibits, his creative process.  We could situate the Tom, Huck, Jim and everyone else in this small town on the river, we could look out and imagine that raft out there, be chilled in the darkness of the cave.  It shows the boys some truths about the creative process, which is certainly a mystery, but not magic, either.  Mark Twain’s stories came from a place, a time, and experiences. In addition, and of great interest to us,  Twain, like so many of the great American creative and accomplished minds, had relatively little formal education – that is – he didn’t go to school for very long.  So wandering around Hannibal on this very hot day, we can experience that truth one more time:  Living in a creative way in this fascinating, crazy world is about keeping your eyes and ears open and working hard – maybe even out of desperation sometimes  - to give that world something new.  School might be a part of that, or it might not, but learning, growing in wisdom, and bearing good fruit from it is what we do all the time, everywhere, because we can.

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

Random things cooked this week, some old, some new:

Plentiful and cheap tomatoes mean that I do this a lot. 

The twist that I’ve added this year is to do the initial roasting in the evening and then leave the tomatoes in the oven overnight.

Like candy. 

I had “roasted tomatoes” as part of an antipasto in a fancy-shmancy restaurant in these parts a couple of weeks ago , and I tell you they had nothing on mine. They seriously just tasted like stewed tomatoes…out of a can, even.

Harrumph.

— 2 —

PhotoGrid_1403838627145

 

 

Made Spanish Romesco sauce (or at least this version of it) the other day – a new thing for me, and really good.  I used roasted red peppers that I’d done myself.  I probably won’t do anything fancy with it – I’ll just use it as a spread/dip for myself.

— 3 —

Also…

The usual Artisan Bread in Five Minutes, which I make regularly now, and throw in a cinnamon cake.  Peaches and blueberries are coming in strong, so time to start in on them…..

And pizza. Always pizza.  It’s nine o’clock at night, and I think, “I really don’t want to make pizza dough right now…”

But then I do, dragging out the mixer and the flour, pulling it all together and then pulling it apart into six firm little discs of dough, and then the next day at noon I’m so glad I did because I can answer the question “What’s for lunch?” in a very exciting way.

— 4 —

To balance out the food, the past couple of week’s exercise podcasts have included some In Our Times that are worth mentioning not only because of their quality, but because they took religion seriously and without the usual American narrative voice which reflexively dismisses religious conviction and the spiritual dimension of human life.

One was on the 17th century scientist Robert Boyle, often regarded as one of the fathers of modern chemistry and, like most of his contemporaries, a very religious man.   It was interesting to me that Melvin Bragg kept pushing the question of the connection between Boyle’s faith and his scientific pursuit, which the panel generally affirmed, but not specifically enough for Bragg until one of them finally made the fascinating connection between Boyle’s interest in casuitry and self-examination and his scientific method.  Really interesting – and observations made by Michael Hunter on the connections between Boyle’s “practical religious life and practical scientific life,”  the author of a book called Boyle: Between God and Science.so that makes sense.

The program on the Bluestockings – a salon-type movement among British women - also took for granted these women’s religiosity – although I wish it had gone a bit more into it.

There’s another BBC4 show called The Food Programmewhich had a recent episode on “Holy Food” - it wasn’t the most thorough treatment of the very rich subject of the connection between monasteries and food and drink, but it was good for what it was.  One of the subjects interviewed was Madeleine Scherb, the author of a book called A Taste of Heaven and a blog called The Hungry Pilgrim. 

This week’s In Our Time is on Hildegard of Bingen – haven’t listened yet, but I’m trusting the tradition of decent treatment of religion will continue….

— 5 —

This week I read Penelope Lively’s Judgment Day which I picked up for ten cents at a library book sale.  It had its moments, but as a whole was too episodic and without much depth.  I’m continuing to read Collins’ No Name, which astonishes me because I read and read and read and the Kindle Ticker is telling me that I’ve still only made it through twenty percent of the thing.  It must be a thousand pages long.  But it’s a good, melodramatic, 19th century beach read, and although there’s no beach nearby right now, I’m enjoying it.

— 6 —

This is Rocky.

"amy welborn"

Yes, me – the person who never had a pet as a child and has only allowed thirty years’ worth of children to own 1) some hamsters for a couple of months and 2) some fish for about the same amount of time – for some reason got all crazy and bought a snake at a reptile show.

A snake. 

My youngest is reptile-mad, we were at a reptile show, and so the next day we went back and bought Rocky. We won’t be traveling as much as we have been over the next year, and besides, snakes can go a week (they say) by themselves…

He’s fine.

I’d say he even has sort of a nice face, don’t you think?

I have no problem with snakes and I’m surprised to say that so far, he seems low-maintenance.

It’s kind of crazy, though. When you see snakes in the wild, the pattern is for both you and the snake to scoot, both as fast as you can.  These ball pythons are relaxed creatures.  They loll around, they curl and climb, but never too fast, and yes, we may be crazy but it does seem that Rocky has a special affection for his keeper.  Well, not affection.  But a comfort level that’s readily apparent.

It’s ironic, though, that his brother and I read this Ambrose Bierce story, “The Man and the Snake,” earlier this year.  I admit I think about it sometimes when Rocky’s snaking around….

(Was the photo a “trigger” for anyone?  Sorry.  I worked for a principal once who had such a morbid fear of spiders and snakes she had to clip together pages of books that had pictures of either so she wouldn’t accidentally open up to them. She was a science teacher, so this was a bit of a challenge for her.)

(The name “Rocky” happened because they saw the movie just a couple of days before the snake came into our house, and it just seemed right.)

— 7 —

Rectify continues to absorb.  As with a novel, it’s hard to pass judgment this soon – being only two chapters in.  But what I’m seeing so far is the continued weaving of complex themes of culpability, honesty and consequences as well as that intriguing and fairly accurate depiction of an individual’s spiritual life – in this case, Daniel’s sister-in-law, Tawney.  In one stressful, but well-done and sensitive scene she confesses and works through her confusion about  spiritual and emotional motivations.  Another scene depicts a women’s small group – meeting outdoors around a fire pit – I do wonder about Georgia evangelicals breaking open the wine during small group, but I’ll just assume that they’re part of a church where the pastor sports jeans, hipster glasses and a soul patch and we’re good.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

…Introvert Style:

"amy welborn"

 

 

 

…Arlington, Virginia, 1968.

Where some of that artwork is now:

DSCN3832

 

DSCN3833

 

Corpus Christi

"amy welborn"

 

 

St. Paul’s Cathedral, Birmingham. 

Full-out Mass with choir at 8:30, followed by Benediction and a procession around the block. Amazing music. I do wish the Music Director would put his music notes that he writes for the worship aide online.  I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else. We got Ego sum panis vivus by Palestrina and O sacrum convivium by Bartolucci as well as all the propers, an excellent homily….

Speaking of homilies, as is my wont, here are some excerpts from a couple of past B16 homilies:

In fact, concentrating the whole relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus only at the moment of Holy Mass risks removing his presence from the rest of time and the existential space. And thus, perceived less is the sense of the constant presence of Jesus in our midst and with us, a concrete, close presence among our homes, as “beating Heart” of the city, of the country, of the territory with its various expressions and activities. The Sacrament of the Charity of Christ must permeate the whole of daily life.

In reality, it is a mistake to oppose celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition with one another. It is precisely the contrary: the worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament is as the spiritual “environment” in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in the Holy Mass is truly and fully acted when the community is able to recognize that, in the Sacrament, He dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offering them to the Father.

 

The Corpus Christi procession teaches us that the Eucharist seeks to free us from every kind of despondency and discouragement, wants to raise us, so that we can set out on the journey with the strength God gives us through Jesus Christ. It is the experience of the People of Israel in the exodus from Egypt, their long wandering through the desert, as the First Reading relates. It is an experience which was constitutive for Israel but is exemplary for all humanity. Indeed the saying: “Man does not live by bread alone, but… by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Dt 8: 3), is a universal affirmation which refers to every man or woman as a person. Each one can find his own way if he encounters the One who is the Word and the Bread of Life and lets himself be guided by his friendly presence. Without the God-with-us, the God who is close, how can we stand up to the pilgrimage through life, either on our own or as society and the family of peoples? The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the God who does not leave us alone on the journey but stays at our side and shows us the way. 

 

%d bloggers like this: