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.

Foto Phriday (Authenticity)

I grew up just a stone’s throw, pun intended, to Kentucky’s cave country. U.S. 31-W must have been a magical route back in the day when the original Wigwam Village was new, Mammoth Cave was privately owned, and every community had  its own roadside attraction complete with jewelry made from “real cave rocks.”

Obviously, Mammoth Cave remains a huge draw to the region, and tourism is extremely important. And as much as I’d love to have a peek at the way things were, I cannot imagine how dangerous cave tourism likely was back then. But on those rare occasions when I travel the old roads, I try to visualize what it must have been like before I-65 was built.

I bet this fence post standing sentinel next to the sign would have some tales to tell.

 

A brief post on taking risks

boxers

Back in April, I compiled some marketing hits and misses. A few of these are real stinkers, but it’s important to note that sometimes taking risks works out really well.

For example, consider my hometown’s public library who used the double entendre, Drop Your Drawers, to get donations of underwear for children served by their school’s family resource centers. So far, more than 300 pairs of “drawers” have been given, some of them slipped through the book slot over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

A couple of risk takers I really admire are the brain trust surrounding Kentucky For Kentucky, an irreverent and edgy online news journal with unique Kentucky-themed products. Griffin VanMeter and Whit Hiler were less than impressed with the commonwealth’s official motto, Unbridled Spirit, so they came up with their own. Then they started a crowdsourcing campaign to purchase time during the Super Bowl to shout their replacement to the proverbial mountaintop from sea to shining sea.

Whether they expected to generate the bucks necessary to be seen during the big game is unclear. Even though they fell woefully short of the money needed to purchase time during the granddaddy of all TV commercial platforms, the pair was rewarded for their audacity with some great coverage. There’s no way I’d refer to their effort as a marketing failure.

Whether you’re ready to take risks or just want to explore low-cost marketing for the first time for your business or non-profit, I can help. There’s no charge for initial consultations. Give me a call.

 

 

 

On the street(s) where we (don’t) live

chipoct2016

Hi all. Chip here.

Just a quick post from the intersection of Indian Summer and Fall, also known as the “layering season.” The mornings are cool and often require a sweater, sweatshirt, or jacket, but odds are you’ll forget those at the office or school because by the end of the day, the temperature will have soared into the 70s or even higher. Prue* has been putting the top down on the car in the sunshiny afternoons but by dusk it’s time to button up for the drive home.

In this time of transition, we are still seeing bright colors of summer here and there, alongside the appearance of gold, bronze, and an abundance of orange.

sheilaflower flowersklondike yellow

purple

We love this little driveway lending library on our walking circuit.

drivewaylibrary

And the yards are transforming, in very peculiar fashion. I haven’t decided exactly how I feel about this. It looks somewhat ominous.

tricktreat

*Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything

Foto Phriday (Rending Required)

rendfence3a

PeeWee Park is smack dab in the middle of a lovely neighborhood that is fast becoming one of my favorites here in our neck of Louisville. It has been almost swampy this summer, which I assume explains why this small greenspace with picnic tables, a paddle ball court, and playground even exists. Were the drainage better, I’m confident there would be houses filling the space, and Chip and I would never have had reason to visit the neighborhood.

A visual interruption to the idyllic setting is the chain link fence separating the park from the back/side yards of a dozen or more homes. The barrier, of course, is necessary for several reasons, not the least of which are the number of dogs who live on the perimeter.

Although I don’t know for a certainty exactly what happened, it’s obvious that at some point in the life of the park, the fencerow was forgotten. Perhaps there was some miscommunication or disputation regarding who exactly was responsible for its maintenance; was it homeowners or the park service? Things happen (or in this case, don’t happen). Tasks fall through the cracks. To-do lists are lost and never re-prioritized. We are imperfect creatures running around on the big blue marble.

Here are some examples of the resulting neglect: gnarled and dismembered remnants of trees, and pseudo trees, eventually sacrificed to save the fence, and more than a few dollars in labor and material.

bwrend1 rendfence4a cawfence

Nearly every time we make our circuit around the tiny walking path before setting out onto the sidewalks of the neighborhood, I’m drawn to these “left behind.” They so firmly attached themselves to, and even in, the fence, that separation was impossible. There’s a weird violence to the whole thing, but, I think there’s also beauty.

The one at the top of this grouping reminds me of a decorative iron work on the front stoop of a fancy house. The one on the right, a pair of king crab claws, or maybe the critters from Tremors.

oldman

And finally, my “favorite.” Here’s the Old Man. Like many of his kind in Kentucky, he had aspirations to one day become a walking stick. Unfortunately, he waited too long. It’s OK fella. Someone out there thinks you’re beautiful.

 

Foto Phriday (So long, summer)

Johnson Creek front

This post is as much a wish as a salute. Until the past month, the summer of 2016, in the most positive way, could be described as “lush.” In Ohio Valley terms, that translates into: humid, muggy, “close,” saturated, and “chewy-aired.” The air has become drier but temperatures have remained in the upper 80s and into the 90s which is uncharacteristic for this time of year. We are in dire need of rain and cooler temps. In short: we need fall.

But, like my photos from the Kentucky State Fair, I will need these images of summer when fall is over and I find myself in the dark, gray, cold days of winter. I took these photos in 2010 during a Labor Day getaway to northeastern Kentucky, a region of the commonwealth new to my travels. My home away from home was Blue Licks Battlefield State Park, a resort built on the site of a conflict considered by many historians as the final battle of the Revolutionary War. This park has several interesting aspects and I recommend that any/all of my gentle readers make a visit.

In the Blue Licks neighborhood is this lovingly restored covered bridge spanning Johnson Creek. According to John Hultgren Photography’s Bridges to the Past series, the structure was nearly lost to time and vandalism but visitors today would never know that. If these timbers could talk, they’d have quite a tale to tell.

built to last letting in the light

I ran across this updated list of Kentucky’s covered bridges. (Thank you, Dale Travis!) I’m overdue for a visit to another of these treasures. For now, here’s my “bookend to summer.” Bring on the rain and the fall!

Johnson Creek Bridge (rear)

 

They make us seem small

pinnacle2

Earlier today, I shared a link to a story from Bloomberg Business about Bit Source, a startup in Pikeville, Ky., that is giving some out-of-work coal miners training and employment as computer coders.

For me, the timing of this positive, hopeful story couldn’t be better, because there is another “startup” that really has me down. It’s the TV show “Outsiders” that recently premiered on a station I don’t want to promote by identifying.

I did enough research, and watched enough of the first episode, to equip myself to condemn it.

The show’s creators are quick to say that the “Farrell” family (named without irony, despite the spelling) and its heritage are fictitious, however, they took the trouble to identify the setting as the eastern Kentucky portion of Appalachia. The cherry on top is that the clan makes its way in the world, in part, by producing and selling moonshine.

They are dirty, illiterate, superstitious, ignorant, in-bred outlaws who periodically emerge from the hills to drive their ATVs through the stores of the local town, stealing whatever they need or want.

Just writing about it makes me feel dumber.

To me, the final indignity is that the show is filmed in Pennsylvania. Eastern Kentuckians get hammered by loathsome stereotypes without the slightest financial benefit even to one local economy.

It’s true, the mountains make us seem small, but trash like “Outsiders” makes us seem smaller in a different, and degrading, way.

Consider, instead, Jim Ratliff, one of the former miners mentioned in the Bloomberg story. To be trained by Bit Source, Ratliff had to pass a series of tests and assessments. He didn’t just pass; he aced them. Ratliff  “credits in part to his years of calculating particle velocities and explosion densities at his old gig.”

(I wonder how many people associated with that TV show could calculate a particle velocity even if it came up and bit them on the nose.)

One more thing.

I am not a supporter of big government; I’m a supporter of smart government. The Bit Source story is an example of what can happen when the public and private sectors work together. The U.S. Labor Department provided a grant so future coders could have an income while they trained.

Additionally, none of this would be possible without Internet connectivity, a scarce commodity in the region. Kentucky Wired is a private-public partnership to expand Internet availability in the commonwealth, beginning with Appalachia. The initiative has run into funding problems, so I encourage Kentuckians to stay up to date on Kentucky Wired, and to be ready to contact your legislator to support this vital effort.