Friday, July 8, 2011

What I Love About the South

(Sandy Creeks, Fried Chicken, Audubon Birds, The Gulf Coast, Ole Miss, Southern Hospitality, Rhythm & Blues, Old Man River, New Orleans, Civil War History, Pecan Pie, Spanish Moss, Watermelon, Antebellum Homes, 2 Hundred Year Old Oaks, Paddlewheelers, Mint Juleps, Hunting, LSU, Azaleas, Dogwoods, Grits, Barbecue, Pilgrimage, Indian Mounds, The Saints, Elvis, Magnolias, Robert E Lee, Confederate Jasmine, Mark Twain, Red Necks, Cotton Fields, Dixie Land Jazz, Southern Drawls, Scarlett & Rhett, Sugar Cane, Beignets, Catahoula Hounds, Red Beans & Rice, Mardi Gras, Baoys, Fishin, Milk Punch, Southern Belles, Muscadine Wine, Cajuns, Catfish, Hush Puppies, Cypress Trees, MSU, The Natchez Trace, Gospels, Huck Finn, Pralines, Tabasco) (I was going to annotate this list with my experience with each, but figured I'd spare you.)

And I will continue to rhapsodize.

Today was a better day. I woke up with my headache still intact, which had me frustrated and also a little miserable. I ate breakfast and went to the Vicksburg battlefield and did the driving tour. It was fairly standard (which I hate to say because every battle is incredible and different, but photo-wise, they don't seem particularly different) but had one special surprise. Which was the U.S.S. Cairo. (Now, you're probably pronouncing that in your head "kye-row" with a sound like "sky" in that first syllable. But make no mistake because in the South this word is pronounced "kay-ro." Surprised me, too.) The Cairo was sunk by a Confederate mine in the Mississippi and then dredged back up in the 60s.

 Innards of the ship, including the restored paddle wheel.
 The armored siding. This was a gun boat.
View of the Mississippi. I just can't take enough photos of the river.

So that was today. I should've taken pictures of the town of Vicksburg, because it was pretty cute, but I left my camera in my car.

I went to lunch after the battlefield and wasn't sure how that was going to go because my headache was still pretty bad. I get headaches frequently, and every so often, I get really awful headaches. When they last through a good night sleep, they're pretty awful (but I've had them last a week or more). I was nauseous and shaky, but hungry. I want to the Main Street Cafe, which was a tiny little place with a simple menu. I got sweet tea and it was delicious. At first it tasted a little minty, and I thought that would worsen the headache and nausea (fun fact: I'm allergic to mint and it makes me nauseous and gives me a headache, which is exactly what mint is supposed to help alleviate. This is one of the numerous reasons I ask people not to chew gum around me. Another being that I find it terribly annoying.) but it ended up helping my headache quite a bit. By the end of lunch it had gone away. Finally.

I went to pay my bill and started talking to the woman working there, where I'm from, where I'm going, the usual. She asked if I knew anyone in New Orleans and I said "Nope." And she goes "Okay!" And gets out a piece of paper. "My nephew lives in New Orleans, in the Garden District, really close to the zoo and he might be able to point you in the right direction to find housing. Tell him his aunt Sally gave you his number." And she wrote down his name, number, and her name.

I strolled around town and ended up in a bookstore. I browsed with no intention of purchasing anything. But then I came across a book that is never available hardly anywhere and I have been wanting it for a long time. I also figured it's never a bad thing to give my business to a small, independent bookstore. I started talking to the owner while she was ringing me up and we ended up talking about the bookstore business. About how even the chain bookstores are closing stores now.

I have a Kindle, and I think it's a great idea and I think it's ridiculously functional and convenient. But it's not a book and it will never be able to accomplish that same feeling for me. And one of the reasons is because I know Amazon is putting a lot of bookstores out of business because of how cheap they make books. And because every ebook purchased is one less demand for a print book. But I want print books. I want to always be able to go into a bookstore and breathe in that smell. Flip through book after book. I don't compile my to-read lists online; I compile them in real bookstores. Because it's there that I encounter books I haven't seen before. I can wander without using keywords and just see what's out there. If I only ever buy and experience books online, I'm less likely to encounter new topics, because it's hard to tell a search engine "show me something completely different and exciting."

The Kindle commercials make fun of people who profess an enjoyment for the physical book. It irritates me. I adore the physical book. I like looking at them. I like being in a room full of them. I like having a piece of property that says "Look, I read this." I like that collection, that reminder of what I've read. Because reading, for me, is a part of me. There are very few books I've read that haven't left me with something useful. I remember that books I've read. I remember when I read them, what I was doing when I read them, where I read them, what else I was reading. My books are part of me. And walking into a bookstore lowers my blood pressure. I feel it when I walk in. That calm. That peace. I don't want to lose that feeling because technology takes over the written word.

Books used to be a craft. They were written by hand. They were created, assembled at a printer. They were highly sought and valued. Now they can be typed up and published in no time at all. Read and then digitally archived and it's like it never existed. It's a tragedy.

But! That wasn't meant to be that long. I just started going. The point was, we started talking about it and she referred me to this blog which has a great article about the whole thing. And I encourage everyone to meander on over to your local, independent bookstore and buy some summer reading. Please. For me.

Now I'm in Natchez and it's a cute town, too. With more spectacular views of the river. Lovely. I'll explore tomorrow and then move across the river to Louisiana and be in New Orleans in 3 days or so.

Here are a few photos from Memphis.
 Never enough pictures of the river!

 This was the to-scale representation of the river from above. The whole thing should be filled with water--you can see the edges--but I guess when it's summer the river dries up a little.
 This was the model steamboat! You turn the corner from the regular, blah museum into this!
This is the scale river up close. You can see the ridges that represent the different depths of the river. They took this model very seriously. It was really neat.

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