A Southern Siri


My husband, Kevin, is Mr. GPS. He effortlessly navigates roads across the country. This includes those he’s never been on before. I would say he never asks for directions, but he has access to an iPhone mistress, um, application called “Siri”. She informs him of the nearest everything, and directions how to get there, and tells no one he even asked. I could learn from her.

We were in upstate NY and VT and we used Siri for days. The only problem was the sporadic satellite coverage. We took a photo of the directions so when we couldn’t access Siri, and Mr. GPS asked me (perpetually lost aspiring travel writer) for the next direction, we could continue trekking.

In uncharted territory, in our car with the AL license plate, Kevin second guessed Siri many times and kept pressing her system for a shorter route to our various destinations.

With too many corn and sheep pastures to pass the time, I began to wonder how Siri would respond were she Southern…

Kevin: “Siri, can you give me directions to upstate NY?

Siri: “Let me find them for you swee. tee.”

Kevin: “Please reroute these directions.”

Siri: “No problem swee. tee.”

Kevin: “Siri, I need the nearest rocking chair and some sweet tea.”

Siri: “Your nearest rocking chair is .05 miles. Can I get the sweet tea for you swee. tee?”

I’m quite sure if I could be more like a Southern Siri, I would knock out any future marital therapy sessions before they start. She’s absolutely brilliant: just tell him what he wants to hear in the way he wants to hear it. Of course, the Siri on my iPhone sounds like a butler from England, so fair is fair.

Next post, we’re going to try Mr. GPS handling a  Yankee Siri. 🙂

Next Time I’ll Bribe

We traveled from NC to our rental car in CT.

This is a photo of our rental car.

It has neither CT nor NC plates on it.

“Have YOU driven a car from ALABAMA around here?” I asked the rental car        attendant.

“You’ll be fine. That’s not a problem at all.” I will stop short in saying he lied, but he favored optimism beyond reality.

I said, “Are you kidding? Would you drive it?”

He said, “Of course.” Hubby said “What’s the problem?” and second guessing myself I said nothing else, put my bags in the car, and ducked in the front seat.

We spent most of the next 7 days being tailed, honked, and yelled at. I think we were given the finger less than five times. Only once did a car of teens honk us off the road, stick their heads and hands out of the window and yelled “BAAAAAAMMMMA!!!”

This trip was about going home, blending in, being with “my people.” Ironically, in this car, I never left the shadow of the South: “Sweet Home Alabama.”




Southern Comfort Zone – NOT the Alcohol

The goal of our trip outside of the comfort of the South (license plate notwithstanding) is to traipse through upstate NY and VT to help Grandma find her “old stomping grounds.” There are sporadic outages for satellite coverage to show us where we are, so we take photos of directions so we can access exactly what tree we should turn “west at next intersection”. It’s overcast. Fields of corn and cows. And hubby keeping his iPhone wife Siri company, asking for re-routes of directions.

But I start to miss sweet tea. And country music stations. And hearing “y’all” instead of “you’s guys.”

And I begin to think  maybe I’m more Southern than Yankee.

It’s a fleeting thought. Very fleeting- but summed up in the song from Brad Paisley, “Southern Comfort Zone.”

“Southern Comfort Zone” By Brad Paisley

When your wheelhouse is the land of cotton,
The first time you leave it can be strange, it can be shocking

Not everybody drives a truck, not everybody drinks sweet tea
Not everybody owns a gun, wears a ball cap boots and jeans
Not everybody goes to church or watches every NASCAR race
Not everybody knows the words to “Ring Of Fire” or “Amazing

Oh, Dixie Land,
I hope you understand
When I miss my Tennessee Home
And I’ve been away way too long
I can’t see this world unless I go
Outside my Southern Comfort Zone

I have walked the streets of Rome, I have been to foreign lands
I know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand
I have seen the Eiffel Tower lit up on a Paris night
I have kissed a West Coast girl underneath the Northern Lights
I know what it’s like to be the only one like me,
To take a good hard look around and be in the minority

And I Miss my Tennessee home
But I can see the ways that I’ve grown
I can’t see this world unless I go
Outside my Southern Comfort Zone

I miss your biscuits and your gravy
Fireflies dancing in the night
You have fed me you have saved me
Billy Graham and Martha White

I have since become a drifter
And I just can’t wait to pack
Cause I know the road I leave on
It will always bring me back


I wish I was in Dixie Again
I miss my Tennessee Home
And I’ve been away way too long
I can’t see this world unless I go
Outside My Southern Comfort Zone

Look away, look away

Garlic Cures Homesickness




Although I chose to live in the south, I get homesick.

Sometimes it’s too much sweet drawl that I cannot drink down any more.

Or, driving 30 minutes for a Dunkin’ Donut because there are too many Krispy Kremes within 5 miles.

Sometimes, when I can’t easily get a donut from “home”, I begin to miss family.

When I begin to miss family, I miss weekend pizza, which was Gram’s choice so she didn’t have to cook that night. Hot scamotes (it’s cheese), homemade sauce, sausage with rye in it, and vibrant garlic.
We smelled like pizza going to bed at night.

When I miss weekend pizza, I figure out I haven’t had Italian bread, Italian ice, Portuguese rolls for sandwiches, or Italian pastries since I last visited home. And I’m not even Italian.

Today, I am one week away from going home.

Last weekend, God sent me garlic that I take as a nod of “I know, I know.”

At Old Salem’s Cobblestone Farmer’s Market I found Plum Granny Farm and 5 types of garlic.


They actually have 20 kinds that they grow, but only bring five  like the Georgian Crystal pictured above.

Not only am I no longer homesick, I have found the equivalent garlic of my youth, have had a mission all weekend to try out each type of garlic with sautéed mushrooms, and am giving my foodie friends little sacks of labeled garlic for Christmas.

Yes, before you ask, I will let you know what my results were on the different flavors for a future blog post.

For now, let’s just say that I have found my honey hole for all things garlic and my defense against the vampires of homesickness.

Why I Don’t Bother Gardening


A marker of life in many rural community is the fields – tobacco, corn, soybean. These are family owned fields that built the South, survived the Civil War, had slaves work them, and are on their 6th generation of farmers.  Some of the fields have several houses on them, splitting the land between generations. Occasionally, there is a “side yard” garden. These gardens can be up to 5 car lengths squared. When they are this large, the owners usually share their bounty for very low prices.  Sammy does this.

I’ve never met Sammy, but I know his garden. On the other side of town (2 miles), he sells out-of-the-ground  veggies. I make it my business to keep him in business.  I have an ineptness with growing food.  In summers past, I have spent $75 for three pots, dirt, plants, miracle grow on my harvest of 4 tomatoes the size of eggs, a few sprigs of parsley, lettuce that never came up and 1 squash. One. Squash.

I figure for $75, I can be Sammy’s best customer. Every year.

German Johnson tomatoes are more expensive than Romas. I get them because they have a cool sounding name. Like a farmer’s name who came from Germany.  I have no idea which are better or why.


Corn is $4.00 a dozen – but if you buy one dozen you get one free. A free dozen is always better than $2 for 12. Besides, if you only want a dozen, he still gets his $4. I like this guy.


Okra is $1.75 a pound. Not bad for a tiny fairly tasteless, slimy, seeded veggie – the staple of soups and all things fried.  It’s a bit like a cucumber got electrocuted and everything inside shriveled and turned white and slimy. Just for the record I HAVE had raw okra and grilled okra. Don’t do it.


Sammy trusts everyone. The “Honor System” box with chain is for “good personal checks”.  The money box, which is not chained,  always has extra $1’s in it for Yankees who bring $10 and only need $8 worth of produce.


Even if you don’t like squash, you get some because it’s $1 a pound.

One day I will pull up to Sammy’s house where the door is always closed, but a car is always there. I will ring the bell. He’ll be about 70 years young with huge cracked farmer’s hands, and lines etched in his face from the sun’s artistry.  He won’t smile when he talks to me and he’ll ask me where I’m from. I’ll tell him the other side of town and thank him for his veggie stand.







My “life GPS” functions well. Vacation now. Time for a house in 2.8 years. Good friend ahead. However, my location detector is often on sleep mode, if I even have one. There is not a hospital in existence that I could navigate without meeting four employees, some who just walk me where I need to go. Parking decks, major cities, and sometimes IKEA are the bane of my directional existence.

Let me introduce you to my husband, Kevin, aka Mr. GPS.

I have witnessed him in a city he’s never been to, drive in the correct direction, and navigate exactly to his location – pre-Garmin days.

He uses his car’s GPS and Siri (iPhone wife) just to see their “suggestions”. He forces a 4th route and the distance and time is shorter every time. I think Siri has learned the words, “Thank you for the correction, Kevin.”

He mentally calibrates every mile if he’s in the right location or not – AND hold a conversation with me about family drama.

He can’t wrap his head around my inability to understand that EVERY interstate and route that is even numbered goes East to West. Every odd numbered interstate goes North to South. Then I say “But I-95 kind of goes East to South, don’t you think.” Yeah, I take those questions elsewhere.

I have been in the car when he has taken a shortcut because of traffic. He quips, “Well, I haven’t been this way before, but I figure it will come out where we need it to.” Of course it does.

You know what would happen if I took a random road I’d never been on to get around traffic? We’d be 90 miles out of our way, find a great Turkish diner in the middle of nowhere, get invited to their kid’s graduation party, and be glad we got lost. AAA would escort us out the next day.

There are many other qualities and traits he has and over the course of the blog, I look forward to sharing these, but from here on, for the most appropriate of reasons, I will most likely refer to him as “Mr. GPS.”

When Paper Men Matter- Part 2


Image courtesy of the Delta Arts Center, Winston Salem, NC

My husband Kevin and I went to the Delta Arts Center on May 20th, and experienced opening night of Christine Kirouac’s exhibit, “Hawkers”.  As soon as we walked in the door, Byron, one of the featured paper men, welcomed and thanked us for coming. He gave a firm handshake with a soft hand.

We walked into the space where large 20” by 20” black and white prints hung on the wall. One face to each frame with their names underneath.  Kenny Ray, another paper man, played jazz piano in a tan suit as guests mingled with paper men, in print and in person.

About five photos in, James was standing in front of his likeness, reaching out to shake our hands. “Hello. This is me. I had Bell’s Palsy during the photo shoot, that’s why my face was hanging a little.” I had a good friend in college who suffered with this so we chatted.

He described his day on the street and how he gives out a few free papers every day because sometimes others need it. One person even brought him lunch and said, “let’s keep the good going.” He told us about his mother who had arthritis and how he understood how much pain she was in. It was because of her that he tries to give to others.  I told him about why I was here and how a dead paper man in my mom’s hometown in Connecticut made me stop and think to thank them. He smiled. We connected.

Kevin and I  continued to move around the room. After the first pass, I chatted with a woman waking up every morning as a widow. “I live alone. The first person who says ‘Good Morning’ to me every day is the paper man.” I wondered how many others in the room felt the same about being alone  and how a “Good Morning” changes the day.

On the second pass in front of 20 men’s images, I became more deliberate in noticing each one. Some stared straight ahead.  Some smiled. One showed the back of his neck. One had only one arm and wore a vest that held papers.

I was catching a glimpse of community through a different lens – eyes and souls.  “Hawkers” allowed for an acknowledgement that lasted longer than a stop-light. I took a minute to notice the wrinkles, the sunglasses, and the name tag.

Or, the gray whiskers, the cigarette, the hand on hip.

Some look up as if divinely appointed to their profession. Others look away, as if in thought about something else.

Every photo reminded me that their life stories go beyond the corner. The framed prints of each offer an opportunity to care. That’s what community is about – caring.

It meant I could expand my vision of “them” to include “us”.

It meant I could listen, and learn and smile and shake hands and reconsider who the “paper men” are in my daily life – the cashiers, or the mail carrier. The mass of nameless that intersect my life daily don’t have to be faceless.

On our way out, I met the artist, Christine Kirouac. I told her about Jimmy, the dead paper man in Connecticut. I thanked her for honoring these guys while they are alive and not just when there is a tragedy. She is struck, as a Northern Canadian white woman that they are part of her community and now her friends.  “If you have eyes open and heart open you find community all around you regardless of where you’re from.”

That’s what I learned. Stop and look. Acknowledge. Thank someone and look eye to eye. Maybe ask how they are or what they’re up to. Connection is in our DNA and we can all start somewhere.

I would like to imagine Jimmy, the paper carrier looking over his corner, had a mission. Part of it was to use his life to say,  “I’m here, and you’re here. I’ll start by waving and acknowledging you. Now you do this for others.”

And one by one community starts.

If you would like to visit “Hawkers” by Christine Kirouac, please visit the Delta Arts Center before June 30th, 2012.

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