danniewriter

From Magnolia to Mississippi

The song, “Once in a Lifetime,” by Talking Heads has been going through my mind quite often of late, especially the lyric, “You may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?'”

Never thought I’d find a kindred spirit in an eccentric Scottish rocker, yet here I am.

For reasons frequently murky to even myself, I recently moved from Kentucky to Mississippi. At a very tired 53, I thought that, maybe, I had one more transition in me. Living a landlocked life for virtually all of my existence, I’ve always loved the beach. Not the crowds or the mid-summer heat, but the awareness of the vastness of the world that I seem to experience nowhere else except standing at a point where land disappears underwater.

I get the slightest twinge of fear in those quiet moments, realizing how possible it would be to get lost out there on the water. I don’t feel the same about getting lost in Kentucky’s mountains, forests and hollers–although Lord knows, under the right circumstances, I could pull that off quite nicely with just one or two stupid moves.

In my few short months here, I’ve discovered a few things about Mississippi:

  • Whatever number of Waffle House franchises per capita you think could be considered excessive, double it, and you are getting close to reality.
  • Ditto Sonic.
  • They grow roaches big down here. The palmetto beetles I experienced in Georgia would be flayed into submission immediately by the monsters here.
  • When driving to Mississippi from Kentucky, Alabama becomes the largest state in the lower 48, extending all the way to the Florida Keys.
  • A fried oyster Po’ Boy is food of the gods.

I like the small-town feel of Gulfport. It has fewer than 70,000 residents. Most recently, I lived in Louisville, which is Kentucky’s largest metro, and home to more than 600,000.

I lived in Louisville for several years, and love many, many aspects of that great city. Still, I often felt like a fish out of water, having spent the first years of my life in small-town Appalachia before the family moved to an even-smaller town pretty much smack dab in the middle of the state.

You’ll notice that Magnolia (population 524) is in capital letters, however. (Note: this is a vintage map that incorrectly identifies the LaRue County seat as “Hodgensville.” The correct spelling is “Hodgenville” … It matters.)

The excitement and fun of the transition from Magnolia to Mississippi (the latter being the Magnolia State, by the way) is struggling to outweigh some fairly epic disasters regarding my new home. A dear friend tells me the house was suffering and I’m here to rescue it. An appealing thought, but Bruce Wayne, I ain’t.

My takeaway on the entire experience is that spontaneity often comes at a very high price, literally. Were I looking for a smooth transition to assure me of the wisdom of my decision, I’d be as lost as I sometimes feel when I look at the Gulf.

It is what it is.

I’m here. Loving my gorgeous 300-year-old live oak in the back yard, meeting new people, and after living in gas-gouging Louisville for more than a decade, reveling in $1.95/gallon unleaded.

How did I get here?

I’m trying to tell myself that answering that question isn’t really all that important. The bigger question is, “What now?”

Hell if I know. Stay tuned.

The cardinal is the state bird of Kentucky.

Adventures of Chip de ‘Ville (A love story)

chiponstairs

Hi all, Chip here.

I’m a lucky dog. Since moving in with Prue*, I’ve met several of her friends and family. They are a good bunch, and recently one has risen to the top, Auntie Sheila.

She and Prue have known each other since something they call “fifth grade,” which evidently means forever. There have been pretty long gaps of them not staying in touch, but this year Auntie Sheila and her husband moved to Louisville, so the gals are back in each other’s orbit.

Prue loves to take photos but since I’ve come into her life, she’s found it difficult to use what she refers to as her “big girl camera” because I’m frequently at the end of one of her wrists. Recently, Auntie Sheila road shotgun on a Sunday afternoon trip east of Louisville into the Bluegrass Region. It cemented our relationship. Can’t you see the love?

sheilanchip1 sheilanchipsheilanchip2

*Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything

Foto Phriday (the back porch)

backporch1

121 Lavenia Lane, my grandparents’ home in Magnolia, Ky., was quite a lifeforce, just as my grandparents themselves. As a child and teenager, the homeplace was closely clipped, pruned, painted, and “picked up,” but of course as my grandparents got older, a type of wildness crept into the place. But even the wildness had a beauty of its own. In those last years, the flower beds were always full but never planted, the blooms appeared voluntarily from the countless plants set over 50-odd years of living and gardening. And, although many basic chores were forgotten by my grandmother, she always kept the porch and carport swept clean. If there were puddles, she’d up-end the broom so the bristles would dry without warping … so perhaps not so very wild really.

Adventures of Chip de ‘Ville (Half Price Books)

halfpricechip

Hi all. Chip here.

As predicted, the fake spring kicked us in the pants here in Kentucky. Actually, I don’t have pants. In fact, I only have two-thirds of a sweater! What’s up with that?

Sorry, short attention span. I’m a dog; sue me.

Anyway, Prue* has been looking for pet-friendly merchants in the ‘Ville upon whom to share my awesomeness lest Cabin Fever get the best of me.

She says there’s a chain of amusement parks around the world that touts itself as “the happiest place on earth.” Prue, however, saves that moniker for Half Price Books. (She says the fact that we don’t have enough money to go to Disney is mere coincidence.)

We visited the Westport Road location, which popped up on a search of pet-friendly businesses in Louisville. The store is super spacious and overflowing with treasurers in hardcover, softcover, paperback, vinyl, CD, DVD and more. About the only thing that isn’t used is the stationery, but no doubt some of it is made from recycled paper.

It’s a cool store. Several overstuffed chairs, a section for kids, and even though there’s no overpriced coffee in the back, there may be some unpretentious Joe in the decanters by the door.

Prue has sold books at Half Price before. She says no one will get rich doing it, but if you are more interested in reading books than collecting them, this is the place to go. Gather up the volumes that no longer pique your interest and rotate that stock for some new-to-you treasures. It’s a great way to cut down on clutter in the home.

The carts are a perfect size for me. I met a cute little red-haired girl (Charlie Brown would be jealous) who really wanted to take me for a walk. I like kids. They’re the only people I meet who I can remotely look in the eye without getting a nasty crick in my neck or first being picked up.

As a bonus, there’s a Petsmart a few doors down! I scored some Greenies before we went home.

Later, Chip

*Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything

 

 

Winter in Magnolia

fence

This fence separating the yard from the garden and orchard at my maternal grandparents’ home was temporarily bejeweled by an ice and snow storm several years ago. Yesterday’s snowstorm reminded me of the many snowy days and nights spent at my grandparents’ home, and our nearby farm, in Magnolia, Ky., especially during the winters of 1976-78. Weeks without school, days of winter fun that slowly became icy boredom, long underwear, wet socks and thawing the dog’s water dish every morning.

Chip endorses Grossberg for Mrs. Kentucky

chipkiss

Hello all. Chip, here.

It’s too bad that pets are deprived the vote. There’s no telling how much better the world would be were we given the opportunity to run it. Prue* tells me that, I may be denied the vote, but I can always endorse, no matter the race.

In that case, let me endorse, with enthusiasm, Erica Grossberg as Mrs. Kentucky 2016!

The pageant is Jan. 23 at the Oldham County Arts Center. Currently Mrs. Louisville, the former Erica Thornbury is a native of Oldham County, a graduate of the University of Louisville and teaches Spanish for Jefferson County Public Schools. As a mostly-Chihuahua, the latter really made me sit up and take notice, but it was her platform that sealed the deal for me.

And of course, she’s drop-dead gorgeous, too! I don’t kiss just anyone’s photo.

ericanbetsy

Erica’s platform is pet adoption. She’s a big supporter of the Kentucky Humane Society, an organization close to my heart, too. It was the KHS that brought Prue and I together.

You’ll notice in the photo above, Erica is posing with her canine companion, Betsy, a lovely golden retriever Erica rescued several years ago. En route to Florida on vacation last month, Erica and her husband, Daniel, got word that Betsy was very sick. They returned home immediately and the diagnosis was very sad. Betsy has cancer and is in her last days. She’s hanging in there, though, responding to palliative care and getting all the love and hugs she can possibly bear.

There’s a nifty twist to the Mrs. Kentucky competition. Supporters have the option of raising money for delegates’ causes, and in the process, can ensure their favorite “Mrs.” gets in the top six if she garners enough donations! Just click on the menu below her photo on this page: http://www.mrskentucky.net/contestants.htm to cast your vote and make your contribution.

I hope you will join Prue and I in supporting a lovely person, inside and out, in her quest for the Mrs. Kentucky title. Rest assured that your contribution goes to a very worthy cause, and that if Erica wins the title, she will represent Kentucky brilliantly at the national competition.

*Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything

Check out this photo of Erica speaking to the Ballard Animal Relief Club of Ballard High School about pet adoption.

ericaballard

Adventures of Chip de ‘Ville (Brown Park)

chipdville

Hi, I’m Chip and I live in Louisville, Ky. My person’s name is on this blog but I think of her not as Dannah or Dannie but as Prue (Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything). Full disclosure: She’s keying this in for me and I’m quite susceptible to suggestion so the name could be all her idea.

She’s experiencing keyboard malaise (whatever THAT is) so she asked me to take over the blog every now and again. I’m happy to oblige. I’m full of keen insights in which too few individuals are interested. Very sad.

First things first: I’m male, although to be frank, I feel that there’s something missing from that part of my life these days. (Actually, maybe a couple of things are missing.) I’m a chihuahua, of course, but I’ve been specially blended with some sort of lucky terrier. And yes, my right eye isn’t like the left. Vets (and others) say I’m blind, either from birth, or from an accident or cataract after my debut, but they are wrong. My Magic Eye supplies various and sundry super powers, including amazing sensitivity, intelligence, and I can see colors. (The latter may be mostly because Prue finds it extremely difficult to write without mentioning color.)

I’m three (or 21 depending on which calendar you go by). I like women, of course, but (again), I have to admit I’m not sure why anymore. I am kind of suspicious of men and people who insist on running in my presence. There’s no excuse for moving that quickly. I’m also downright rude to most of my fellow critters and varmints. With very, very few exceptions, I’m the smallest of the crowd. My Magic Eye enables me to see thought bubbles above larger dogs’ heads with words such as “Snack,” “Appetizer,” and “Hors d’oeuvres.” I’ve tried repeatedly to explain this to Prue but she insists on apologizing to others for my vigilance and perception.

The exception to my varmints and critters aversion is squirrels. Those guys rock. I wish I could climb a tree like that.

As a person, Prue is about a seven on a scale of 10. She tries pretty hard but is overly fond of giving me baths. She’s an odd duck. One second she seems fascinated by my poo, going so far as to put it in a cute little green bag, then she turns around and tosses it into a dumpster.

She forgets my name constantly. I’m learning to answer to Little Bit, Good Boy, Bad Boy, Chipper Dipper (eye roll), Chipster, Chipley, Chiperrino, Brat, Stinky, Nimrod, Stubborn, and since visiting family at Christmas, Landing Gear and Tailhook. (I feel the latter two have negative connotations, but she won’t clarify.)

I get too many brushings and too little cheese and actual meat, and she’s constantly worried about my halitosis. The latter actually suits me fine because it’s how I score Greenies and dog biscuits.

I have concerns in a couple of areas. In addition to my hyper-vigilance regarding other canines, she’s entirely unconcerned by strange or loud noises or the parade of suspicious characters walking past the windows every day. She says she appreciates my efforts at keeping her apprised, but sometimes I doubt her sincerity. Additionally, I strain against my leash with every fiber of my roughly-seven-pound being, but still she refuses to follow my lead. I know training is pricy, but I think we’re going to have to make the sacrifice. She’s just too headstrong.

Despite my rudeness to other canines, and some homo sapiens, Prue really likes to take me on walks. I like walks and enjoy embarrassing my person, so it’s a win-win for me. She has this “darling” little basket bungeed around the passenger seat of the car, too, so the drives to and from the parks are pretty dope.

My goal is to grace as many parks in the Metro with my presence (or presents?) as possible, so we’re starting a kind of travel log.

Today we went to Brown Park of St. Matthews, located at the intersection of Browns, Kresge and Hubbards lanes. The park is spitting distance from the I-64 & 264 junction and right next door to Baptist Health. Make no mistake, it’s noisy, but it’s a 28-acre gem snuggled up against the Middle Fork of Beargrass Creek, offering an oasis of trees, water, grass, many sizes and shapes of water fowl, and an atmosphere as American as apple pie.

Prue really likes to take photos, but this time of year, nothing that grows outside really looks good, so check out the Brown Park webpage on St. Matthews’ municipal site.

There are several paths that meander across one another, and the topmost takes you to the old Brown family cemetery. If you are wondering if the Browns were big doings in the ‘Ville back in the day, yes. The property for the park was donated by heirs of James Graham Brown. Nuff said.

The “bottom land” can get mushy, and when the city gets too much rain, it will flood, but the homo sapiens have cleverly positioned benches around the paths that look as though they came from a Bedford quarry, so as soon as the sun comes out and the creek goes down, we’re back in business.

In the center of the bottom land are big white-bark trees, which I think are birch, but as I’m not an arborist, it’s best not to quote me on that. They are quite impressive, as are the manmade stone formations that Prue says remind her of old stone bridges or some such. Landscape Architecture Magazine gave the park a big thumbs up in 1997.

You’ll see the traditional park benches up next to the gazebo and playground where it’s less likely to flood. (Prue said I should mention that there are port-a-johns, whatever those are, on site.) Even more than the playground, little humans love those ducks and geese hanging out by the bridge and causing a ruckus jonesing for bread crumbs. And the park gets some cool holiday lights a few times a year, which the kiddos also love.

Metro Louisville has a great park system and there are also gems like Brown that were established and are maintained by other municipalities, historical societies, community groups, special donors and the like.

While I cannot say in complete honesty that I’d “love to meet you and your pet” at a local park, Prue does, so if you get behind a trussed-up canine that looks like this

chipdeville1

next time you are in the park, feel free to try to say hello. I make a lot of noise but I’ve never bitten anyone … that I can recall anyway.

Check out my backstory and don’t forget to support the Kentucky Humane Society this year. After all, pet adoption is for the cool people.

Later, Chip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Chip

chip

For years I’ve been visiting a local pet supply store across the street from my home. The Kentucky Humane Society has a small headquarters there, as it does in other Feeders Supply stores throughout Louisville, and always has several cats and dogs available for adoption.

In all my previous visits, the canines up for adoption have been too large and/or high energy for my small place, or the animals were up in years and I didn’t feel as though I had the financial means to give them the care they would require.

Last week, though, I saw Chip.

He’s about two years old and in good health. The vet tells me Chip was born with the problem to his right eye. I’m not sure if he can see anything out of it, but as far as I’m concerned, it only adds to his character.

While I do not condemn others for dressing up their pets, I’ve always done a little eye roll when I’ve seen photos of dogs and cats subjected to such treatment. However, now that I have Chip, I admit there is an urge to get him an eyepatch and pirate costume for Halloween. I hope I can contain myself.

He’s quite the charmer and was already housebroken, so I almost feel guilty for getting such a great pet so easily.

If you are looking for a pet, I encourage you to try adoption first. Sure everyone loves puppies and kittens (and quite often there are some fur babies at the KHS) but there are so many “extra” adult dogs and cats out there today, it is a great way to fill your need for canine/feline companionship while also doing the right thing for your community.

Suddenly, it’s September

sept

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans,” is one of my cousin Larry’s favorite quotes. Author and cartoonist Allen Saunders first penned the saying in 1957. Later, John Lennon tweaked it a bit for his 1980 song, “Beautiful Boy.”

Our family has had our fair share of unexpected twists and turns, so Larry has had good reason to use this particular nugget of wisdom often over the years.

The Yiddish proverb, “Man plans; God laughs,” is equally apropos at times, although I reject the notion that the Lord laughs at our misfortunes.

This year, I experienced the unexpected, which is one of the reasons that I started a blog only to temporary abandon it.

But, for better or worse, I’m back!

My hiatus taught me many things. Some of these lessons were pretty tough. Others were remarkably pleasant. The loyalty of my friends falls into the latter category.

My college friend, Kathy, was my most faithful pen pal during this time. She’s a busy woman, running her own pet-sitting business while also living and working her dream-made-reality as a professional musician. She also teaches clarinet to some lucky students in Atlanta.

Each card and letter she sent was cross between a lifeline and a Christmas present. And now it’s early September, which is about the time 32 years ago that we became friends. I wish I could pinpoint the date so I could send her a card every year thanking her for the gift of her friendship.

I treasure Kathy and my other friends who shared my journey from afar and have welcomed me back with open arms.

And now it’s September, a time of year I usually wring my hands and lament being late (or completely absent) for self-imposed deadlines, milestones and short- and long-term goals set early in the year.

But not this year.

So far in 2015, I’ve experienced life in all it’s absurdity, wonder, pain and joy. And I don’t think I would change a thing even if I could.

I figure I’m one of the last persons on the planet to give “life advice,” to anyone. As a wordsmith, PR officer and marketer, I have plenty to offer, so I’ll stick to that. But, if there’s anyone out there who may be tempted to wring his or her hands: Let’s make it a great September!

Thanks for reading.