We Are Alive!

17 Jun

This is probably an inappropriate title considering the amount of natural disasters that have plauged the United states in the last few months, but so there is no misunderstanding Jason and I ARE ALIVE!!! Here is our story:

After traveling through New Mexico, we ventured to Arizona where we stayed with some distant relatives for a few days and soaked in the intolerable heat. We migrated to Northern Arizona, Flagstaff to be exact, where we stayed one night in a lovely campground filled with pine trees. The next morning we visited some Native American ruins and headed to the Grand Canyon where two terrible things happened: 1. It dropped to 40 degrees and started hailing 2. Jason threw up at Grand View.

What resulted was four more days in Flagstaff staying in a $29.99 motel room while Jason recovered from a serious stomach virus and drank the local CVS out of pedialyte. It was the first time in our relationship that one of us had to nurse the other to health from such a low point, but it was an important experience and forced us to reevaluate the remainder of our trip.

At the point Jason got sick, we had been traveling for over 2 months. After we left our last farm in Mississippi we were working with a virtually non existant budget eating nothing but peanut butter banana sandwiches for what felt like decades. We were struggling with our decision to go to California due to finances and wildfires and ultimately decided that after Jason’s 4 day hangover, it was time to hang it up.

We travelled from Flagstaff, Arizona to Northeast Pennsylvania in three days, which is a disgusting amount of mileage to burn through, if I’m being honest. However it gave me the self-proclaimed right to say that after Colorado, there is nothing worth seeing until…well, Pennsylvania is pretty!

In all seriousness, we have been back for almost a month and it has taken me this long to let you know. I’m sorry about that. I am also sorry that this blog did not result in nearly as much farm talk as I had initially expected. But I really, truly, appreciate every person who has spent time reading about our journey and encouraging us along the way.

That being said, I would like to take a moment to encourage everyone reading to consider taking a trip like this at some point in your lifetime. It is difficult. Very difficult. I had to quit a well-paying job with benefits and break a lease and leave an apartment and town I loved and burn through money I’d been saving for years and clean up chicken poop and shower with spiders, but every single moment of this trip from having my car broken into in Memphis, to rolling around in the White Sands of New Meico, was a precious one.

Additionally, I have never felt so patriotic. The United States is, in my opinion, the most physically and culturally diverse country in the world. You can spend your lifetime exploring it and never see all that it has to offer. For all Americans reading, please, for the love of God, take advantage of your location and explore this beautiful country! And for all foreigners reading, please for the love of god explore YOUR beautiful country! This world is astounding and it takes only a few incredible experiences to remind you of how small we are, but how big our role is on this planet…

How much longer do you think I can ramble?

I don’t want to find out.

Peace out everybody! 🙂

Lena

www.thegirlwiththeblog.com

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Happy Birthday, Pete Seeger!

5 May

This is a little late as Pete Seeger’s 94th birthday was yesterday, the 3rd, but I just realized it today. You may be asking yourself, “What does Pete have to do with a blog on farming and traveling?” Well, everything really. Everything we’ve seen, from sustainable organic farming practices, beautiful caverns and crystal desert of the southwest to huge cattle feed lots, unsustainable strip mall cities and an innumerable number of oil rigs has made me care that much more deeply about the harm that we inflict on our fragile planet.

It’s also made me think of Pete and his music. Many people know that Pete is a folk singer but I don’t think most people know that he’s hugely responsible for the Hudson river clean-up. Pete had a plan to build a boat and save the river. The Clearwater is a sloop replicating the boats that sailed the Hudson in the 18th and 19th centuries. The idea was to get people to come to the river, realize it’s beauty, and compel them to care about it’s preservation. All his life he has worked to get people to care about things that are truly important and this trip has helped solidify that for both Lena and me.

It’s ironic that the person who most makes me proud to be American and redeems the whole lot once stood in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. So here’s to you, Pete. Thanks for everything.

“I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. That is the only answer I can give along that line.”

— Pete Seeger in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

 

 

Hoping we’ll all pull through,

Jay

Our Out of This World Stop

4 May

Our trip to New Mexico wouldn’t be complete without taking a detour down 285 to the land of the little green men. Here is a trio of videos from this desolate drive.

 

Peace and Love,

Jay

Face Down In The Dirt

4 May

Hey, y’all! I just wanted to post up some videos that we made back in Texas. These are from the Cadillac ranch just outside of Amarillo, Texas on route 66. Enjoy.

 

Peace and Love,

Jay

New Mexico: Not Just Meth, Hitchhikers, and Aliens

3 May

When I was a kid, my brother was obsessed with aliens and specifically the incident in Roswell, NM. When I was a teenager I saw the movie, “The Hitcher” and made a vow to never visit New Mexico if I didn’t want to be brutally murdered by a nameless hitchhiker. When I was 23 I started watching Breaking Bad and became fascinated by the landscape and inherent meth use. Now, here I am, in southwestern New Mexico after a few days spent in this great state and I have not seen an alien, been murdered, or tried meth. So it’s a pretty good day.

Nevertheless, New Mexico is a lot more than what I originally expected. Although the majority I have scene is vast expanses of desert with nothing (NOTHING) for 50 sometimes 100 miles at a time, there are also some seriously amazing things here that should be seen by anyone able to see, and should at least be imagined by those who are not.

Roswell, New Mexico

On our way to Roswell we saw a number of signs heeding “Do not pick up hitchhikers! Prison facilities nearby,” advice which evidently, no one in Hollywood has ever taken. But 90 miles of desert with the occasional abandoned building might make some people lonely, so who am I to judge. Anyway, once we reached Roswell it was everything you would expect. Green aliens EVERYWHERE, seriously. Alien drawings on windows, alien faces and stickers all over businesses. Craziness. We didn’t have much time to stay in Roswell, so we decided to spend the $5 admission fee to the “International UFO Museum and Research Center: Home to the 2nd largest collection of UFO memorabilia in the world.” Lofty.

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If you skipped all of those pictures, at least watch this video. It sums it ALL up.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Leaving Roswell we headed down to Carlsbad, New Mexico where we attempted to visit the Carlsbad Caverns National Park before finding out we arrived too late. We took a few pictures of the gorgeous landscape before heading to Stephen and Phil’s, two brothers we met through couchsurfing.org who opened up their home to us on rather short notice. When we arrived, Stephen greeted us outside and Phil was inside already drunk. But after a few hours of talking, drinking (Jason got buzzed on straight bourbon), laughing, and eating a delicious meal from the grill, we headed to bed, Phil’s to be precise, while Phil graciously slept (passed out) on the couch. We had a really great time with them and although it was somewhat challenging to fall asleep through the very loud crooning of the Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead, we were just grateful, you know, that we weren’t dead. Bad joke.

We woke up and headed to the Caverns. For $6 each we had our minds blown. We hiked 75 stories underground to a massive cavern called “the big room” the size of dozens of football fields (I don’t remember how many). Check it out!

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Lincoln National Forest

We left the caverns and headed toward White Sands National Monument, stopping at a Chinese Restaurant on the way where Jason and I argued heavily about the existence of psychics. Just normal Thursday afternoon conversation.

We continued our trek and passed through Lincoln National Forest, a gorgeous forest of pine trees high in the Sacramento/Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico. We’ll post pics soon.

White Sands National Monument

By the time we reached White Sands National Monument, we were both pretty tired, and unsure if seeing 200 miles of sand dunes, formed of tiny gypsum crystals would mean anything to us. We took the “driving tour,” a 9 mile loop through the dunes. Our minds were blown (again). We parked the car and climbed up a huge dune and sat on top, mesmerized by the wind, the sun, and the billions of tiny crystals that glittered in the light.

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I spent a lot of time rolling around in the sand and asking Jason if it was inappropriate for me to do it naked. Although I ultimately stayed clothed, I am still finding sand in my hair and clothes as I type this.

I truly can’t say enough or begin to capture the feeling of White Sands National Monument. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It feels like a place on the far end of the earth, where time doesn’t exist. We kept referencing how incredible it was to spend our morning exploring the beauty beneath the earth’s surface where millions of years of creation makes you unfathomably aware of the passage of time, and our afternoon exploring the beauty above the ground where we couldn’t accept that time could exist at all.  In the caverns we were told not to touch a thing, because the oils in our hands could impact the surface of the cave forever. At white sands, our footsteps would be swept away in hours. An incredible juxtaposition of the effect of human interaction with nature. It was a beautiful day.

But now we are waking up in Lordsburg, New Mexico in a motel room without a phone but with an actual key, and we are heading off to Tuscon, Arizona. We will upload some more pictures and videos later, but that’s all for now.

PEACE

Lena

Message From Jason

30 Apr

From WWOOFer to Wanderer

30 Apr

On our way to New Mexico (and mountain time) I type this on my laptop in the passenger seat next to Jason, still in his pajamas but entirely awake at 2:55 in the afternoon. Crossing through the Northwestern corner of Texas, I am gaining a small appreciation for what it is to be rural. Flat expanses of dry land adorned with tufts of grass pushing through cracked red earth, leading to long dirt roads and abandoned homes, with the occasional backdrop of wind turbines. Historic Route 66 is overgrown and crumbling in places, running parallel to I-40. I can’t imagine the loneliness of that road prior to the addition of the interstate. Jason says it’s peaceful but I think it’s lonely, surrounded by flatness and the constant reminder that there is no town or city, hiding behind a mountain side…

But I digress and since I didn’t let on much about our new plans, allow me to fill you in.

After WWOOFing in Mississippi, working hard and feeling unappreciated, we have decided to take a break from WWOOFing and get back to what this trip is really about: US. Yes, that sounds self-centered but truthfully we don’t care, at least I don’t. We have put six weeks into volunteering and though they have been incredible, for now we need a change. We’ve decided instead to take this time exploring the western United States, no plans, no obligations. Fortunately for our parents’ sake, I lack the spontaneity to travel aimlessly with no destination, often depicted as glamorous in movies and books. So we’re developing plans, one week at a time until we head back home (still don’t have a plan for that).

On Sunday we left Mississippi and headed up to Oklahoma City to stay with a man named, Nathan who we meet on Couchsurfing.org.  If you aren’t familiar, couchsurfing is a quasi social network where travelers can search for people interested in hosting them in their homes for a night or two, for free. It’s a fantastic option for people looking to travel inexpensively, but also to meet new people, local to areas you may never be otherwise.

On the 8 hour drive from Potts Camp, MS to Oklahoma City, we passed by Memphis, drove through Arkansas, and the eastern half of Oklahoma. About an hour east of Oklahoma City, we stopped in Okemah, hometown of Woody Guthrie. Woody Guthrie is a folk legend who wrote countless protest songs during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. We are both big fans and thought it’d be an incredible insight into his music to check out the place he was born and raised. Much to our disappointment (and weirdly, our satisfaction) Okemah is a dead city. Granted we stopped by at 7:30 on a Sunday but you catch my meaning…

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When we arrived at Nathan’s we were blown away by the hospitality and good natured party we walked into. With four of his friends just sitting down for dinner, we were given a hot meal, some wine and beer, and a fantastic comfy bed to sleep in. We also got some great references for what to do in Oklahoma City. By lending us his spare key (I know, awesome) we were able to wake up at our leisure Monday morning and head out. While in Oklahoma City we visited the Oklahoma City Zoo, ate at Saigon Baguette, and visited the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial, and got our oil changed. All good, mostly.

 

Being that years have passed since either Jason or I visited a zoo we thought dropping $8 a piece to visit one of the top zoos in the country was a great deal. But once we were there we became depressed, spending 3 ½ hours debating the ethical treatment of animals and whether or not animal captivity, even under the guise of conservation is just. We are sort of downers. Sorry.

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Saigon Baguette was an amazing lunch stop. $3 sandwiches (including tax) made by a woman who barely speaks English, inside a tiny building with a milk bottle on top. How can you beat it?

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Visiting the memorial was a pretty emotional experience. Outside the fences were covered in photos and letters to people who died in the Oklahoma City bombing 18 years ago. Within minutes I was crying. But the actual memorial was truly lovely and well worth the tear-filled stop, especially so recently after the events in Boston.

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The empty chairs represent all the people who died in the bombing and they are positioned to display which floor of the building they were located on.

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We headed back to Nathans and had another fantastic dinner and great night’s sleep. We woke up this morning and headed out west toward Santa Rosa, New Mexico, passing through Northwest Texas on the way. We stopped by the Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo; a classic stop on Route 66 where ten or so cadillacs are stuck nose-deep into the earth and spray painted by passing tourists. We arrived and found some spray paint left by someone before us:

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About an hour later we stopped at Glen Rio, a supposed “ghost town” and found not much but a few abandoned buildings. Still pretty cool though.

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Now I am sitting at a picnic table at the Santa Rosa Campground in New Mexico. Being surrounded by desert is a trip. I honestly never imagined I would fall asleep under the stars surrounded by sand, shrubbery and cactus. I’m feeling pretty lucky.

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Tomorrow we head south to Roswell where we will hopefully find some aliens or at least really screwed up people, followed by a trip to Carlsbad Caverns. I’m not sure if I will have internet access so for now, all I can say is PEACE!

Lena

Had My Car Broken Into in Memphis and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post!…and Last Thoughts on Mississippi — Part 2

29 Apr

Believe it or not, this started as one post. Thank me for breaking it up. Seriously…

Gene- Hilary’s alcoholic “ranch hand,” Gene is a 72 year old whiskey drinking, confederate flag wielding, deeply racist, redneck, with incredible knowledge of cows and farming, and an accent so thick he could use subtitles. Born and raised in Potts Camp, MS, he hasn’t ventured much outside of the south aside from his years in Vietnam. A very nice man if you are white, Gene informed us that we are the “superior race” and Martin Luther King Jr. started all the trouble (“we gave America to the blacks now they’re giving it to the Mexicans). But despite all of this, we were somehow fond of Gene. It’s hard to hold racism against someone who was born and will die in the same backwoods Mississippi town of 490 people. Besides, he told us the real way to spell Mississippi (M-I-Crooked Letter-Crooked Letter-I-Crooked letter-Crooked Letter-I-humpback-humpback-I)…I’m not sure what that means.

But probably the most profound experience with Gene was one Jason had without me. The day I went to Oxford to write, Jason and Chris went to Gene’s house to learn how to shoot. Jason never had much experience with guns and Chris never fired one at all, to which Gene appropriately responded “Well I’ll be damned.” According to Jason, Gene spends his Sunday afternoons surrounded by pyramids of beer cans and garbage he explains away by saying “we don’t care about littering around here, this is my land,” as he crushes and tosses another into the pile. Referring to the beer can targets as various racial slurs while peeing behind his truck, he was impressed by Jason’s aim. With friends and acquaintances funneling in and out of the steep driveway, Jason was offered beer, whiskey, and a few other substances throughout the 2 ½ hours he and Chris spent with Gene. When he returned to the ranch he gave me a call saying he was a little scared, but the experience somehow made the whole trip worthwhile. I believe him.

Memphis- Originally the main reason for choosing a farm in Northern Mississippi, our time in Memphis, Tennessee was a mixed bag of experiences.

Slave Haven – Slave Haven is an Underground Railroad museum in Memphis, housed in an original manor utilized in the Underground Railroad. Run by several African American women, we heard some theatrical retellings of stories about life as a slave, old slave hymns sung powerfully enough to provoke tears from everyone in attendance, toured the home seeing trap doors and the basement hideout for slaves, saw authentic chains and whips used on slaves, and learned about the slave trade, breeding farms, and other horrific details you never learn about in American History class. This was an eye opening, emotional experience, that for $10 should not be missed.

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slave haven

Getting Robbed – As the title implies, yes, while in Memphis we were robbed, and unfortunately this took place while we were visiting Slave Haven. Our car was parked on the street outside of the museum which is evidently in a very ghetto area. During the tour some of the guides went outside to check to make sure no one was messing with any of the vehicles, but I guess it was too late. When we got to the car, we saw that the lock on the driver’s side had been smashed, and one of my sneakers was lying on the sidewalk behind us. After sorting through the car, we realized a bag of shoes had been stolen but nothing else. Although we were really upset for awhile, due to the nature of being robbed, we were incredibly fortunate that our gps, ipod, and various cameras were left untouched. It wasn’t until a few days later I realized a bag of books and a small radio had also been taken. Frustrating, but very fitting, considering the very poor, crime laden landscape of Memphis.

Cozy Corner BBQ – After the car was broken into we really lost steam. We almost went back to the farm, but decided against it. We headed to a family run restaurant called Cozy Corner BBQ, nestled in the ghetto, but with good parking and an excellent Motown soundtrack. The food was RIDICULOUS. I had a sliced pork bbq sandwich with mild sauce that was almost too spicy for me to handle, with a side of slaw (hold the cole) and bbq spaghetti. Jason indulged in smoked sausage with medium heat, side of slaw (still holding the cole) and bbq baked beans. We split a nameless dessert (literally) with oreo crumbs, chocolate mouse, cake, and whipped cream. Heart attack happy.

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Art Gallery – After eating we headed to the only nice area of Memphis we could find and browsed an art gallery. For the first time in my life, I actually bought a piece of art! Local to Memphis, vibrant and beautiful, just thinking about it makes me happy. I’ve shipped it home but Jason took a picture to share with you.

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We did a few other things, like grabbed milkshakes at a local café and listened to some flamenco guitar, so ultimately visiting Memphis was a pretty positive experience.  But being robbed and surrounded by poverty in a once thriving city is a little depressing and driving back to a backwoods MS farm became difficult after a few days. There’s an overhanging sadness in this area that I can’t quite define but is there and you will feel it if you are ever in Memphis for more than a few drinks.

The Evil Baby – While cleaning out Hilary’s storage room in the bottom of the barn, I discovered a ragged, naked baby doll with a ripped up foot and a noose of twine around its neck. Originally destined to sit in a wheel barrel of hay in front of Chris’ room for eternity, once he and Jason saw the potential in this baby we just couldn’t help but ride the creepy wave. First we hung it from a hook on the wall of the barn. With further room cleaning, we found a stretchy green shirt we could fit over its head. After awhile we discovered an old lollypop and by the end of clean out, a massive knife. I’m not going to pretend there were already holes in the doll’s hands to hold these things…

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The Work/The Ranch- While relaying all of the interesting and fun things we did in Mississippi, it is easy to forget about some of the difficulties we faced regarding life on the ranch. But unfortunately, there were a lot of challenges and frustrating moments for us. When we first met Hilary she was not what we expected, but we tried not to form any opinions until we got to know her better. But within one day of working with her, we realized her heart was not invested in her ranch. The disorganization of our activities and the inefficiency of the ranch were astounding. We often felt unappreciated and being that she did not work with us at all during the two weeks we worked for her, for free, we felt pretty disillusioned about the entire stay. There were often days when we would complete one task and within an hour we would be undoing that task because she had not planned ahead. In addition, all of our work was unskilled, manual labor, without any opportunity to learn or advance our own skills. On top of that Hilary was often critical of our work, picking it apart and asking us to do things differently, despite not working with us or explaining what she wanted clearly. It became very difficult to stay polite and we were often asked to work beyond our hourly agreement of six hours a day. The first week we felt taken advantage of, but the second week we started to clearly state when we were done working. (Correction, I attempted to end our work days in polite diplomatic language, and when that didn’t work, Jason definitively stated “we’re done for the day,” like my very own union leader, a label that flattered him greatly).

For a while we were concerned that we were the problem, but once we confirmed with Chris that he felt the same day we felt completely justified in our unhappiness. Part of WWOOFing is a work exchange, but it is equally considered an educational program for us to learn from experienced farmers, not become free laborers, running errands, cleaning out cars and storage rooms, or painting kitchen cabinets. We were very upset for long periods of time, but when Chris decided to leave early a few days ago, telling Hilary he needed a “change of scene,” we reminded ourselves it wouldn’t be much longer until we too would leave. Some pictures from our time there:

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One of the gardens we worked on

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shot of gardens and chicken coop

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Barn interior…two active horse stables next to ours

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beautiful Moon Shine Lake on the property

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One of many pastures where cattle roam

Overall, our time in Mississippi was fun and a great life experience, but we are happy to move on to the rest of our trip. Plans have changed quite drastically, so I will be sure to post soon with updates and where we are going next and what we are doing. In the meantime, peace.

Lena

All Your Dreams Come True at Graceland Too – First Thoughts on Mississippi Part 1

29 Apr

We just passed over a bridge entering Arkansas, “the natural state” as the sign boasts. With our time in Mississippi behind us, Tennessee out of sight and Janis roaring “Me and Bobby McGee” in the background, this is starting to feel like a road trip again. But before I share the exciting new developments in our itinerary, I’ll fill in some details of our time in Mississippi before I forget them and they are gone like the last six weeks we’ve spent in the Southern United States.

When we arrived in Mississippi Jason and I had high hopes that the two weeks we planned to stay would revitalize our enthusiasm about WWOOFing that Georgia sucked out of us. Initially it seemed it might. Our host, Hilary met us in Memphis about an hour north of the ranch, at a hipster coffee shop in one of the few non-ghetto sections of Memphis. We chatted for a bit before Jason and I checked out some record shops and headed down to the ranch.

Accommodations –  After camping for over a week in Georgia, having a roof over our heads and access to a bathroom was much a kin to a miracle from the heavens. Our room was a converted horse stable on the bottom floor of an old barn. It was private with a bed and dresser, however when we arrived it was dirty, buggy, and coated in dust. But we were chill about that as we are about most things, so we set up camp. There was a bathroom near the entrance of the barn and a communal kitchen in the back where we got accustomed to making breakfast each morning. In case you were wondering, nothing is better than fresh farm eggs. NOTHING.

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Juke Joint Blues Festival – The day after we arrived, we headed to the Juke Joint Blues Festival in Clarksdale, MS. Clarksdale is a rundown historical town on the Mississippi Delta where Highway 61 and 49 meet and legend has it Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the blues. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

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The festival was pretty incredible, with all kinds of street musicians, festival food, and vendors. We even saw a phenomenally talented harmonica player Jason recognized named Adam Gussow. Check him out!

Oxford, MS – Although the majority of Northern Mississippi is incredibly depressing, decrepit, and a very obvious birthplace for the blues, Oxford serves as respite from it all. Ironically the location of some very heated Civil Rights issues in the 1960’s, Oxford is incredibly progressive, artsy, and filled with culture. The weekend we arrived, we accompanied Hilary to a party in Oxford where a ridiculously talented artist friend who teaches at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and her architect husband were hosting a “boat flipping bonfire party” which involved a collection of their closest friends helping to overturn a sail boat the architect husband was constructing. With a bonfire, great food, and awesome people, it was a great introduction to Mississippi.

At about 30 minutes away from the ranch, we returned to Oxford several times throughout our stay. The first week we attended two author readings, one at the famous Square Books, an independent bookstore consistently voted the best in the nation, and the first place I dropped significant coinage on this trip thus far, and one at Powerhouse, a local arts center. On one of our off days, I spent six hours in an Oxford coffee shop writing (not blogging). The following week I attended a poetry reading with Hilary and another WWOOFer Chris. On one of our last trips to Oxford, Jason and I took Chris out to dinner at Ajax’s (an amazing downtown eatery) to say our goodbyes before he headed to New Orleans.

On a side note, if you are ever at Ajax’s in Oxford, Jason highly recommends the jumbo pulled pork bbq sandwich.

 

Chris – While I’m on the topic of Chris, let me give him his own bullet. Chris is a cool kid, a 20 year old from Northern California who loves to read, make homemade sourdough bread, and is hilariously funny. He arrived three days after us and left three days earlier, but working with him was a highlight of our time in MS. It’s not often you meet other people from across the country and happen to hit it off. But with Chris we got along great from the first day and when he left earlier than expected, we appropriately mourned his absence by eating the rest of his bread.

But before he left, Chris kindly invited us to stay with him and his mother in Northern California when we make our way there. We hope to catch up with him again and further take advantage of his baking skills.

 

Graceland Too- Visiting Graceland Too was without question, one of the most bizarre experiences I have ever had. On Time’s list of Top 50 Roadside America Attractions, Graceland Too is a “museum” of Elvis memorabilia run by the most psychotic individual I have ever met in my life, a 72 year old man named Paul who is a hoarder and obsessive cataloger of all things Elvis. Open 24 hours a day with $5 admission, Graceland Too is an old house painted bright blue, with blue lion statues covered in barbed wire, and pillars made out of white milk crates framing the door.

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After knocking for several minutes (we are told it can take up to an hour for him to answer) Paul greeted us and let us into his “home.” With every inch of wall and ceiling plastered with Elvis posters and Elvis playing in the background, we signed into the guestbook, paid our admission and began the tour.

Paul rambles, incoherently, with a thick accent and often sounds like he is wheezing. He talks fast and in half sentences, hitting himself repeatedly in the chest when he is not grabbing someone’s arm, shoulder, or wrist, pointing them in a certain direction. He is also uncomfortably dirty, saying some of the most explicit sexual things I have ever heard, and making more than a few inappropriate comments toward me.

He took us through the house, mostly talking about how much success he has had with Graceland too and how many Ole Miss students have sex on his front lawn. In between all that he talked about Elvis, showed us his catalog of TV guides (he has every TV guide that ever mentioned anything about Elvis in the last 50 years, paper clipped for his convenience), explained how he hasn’t slept in 3 days, and drinking 24 cans of Coke per day makes him want to have sex with everyone who walks through the door. I knew he was bat shit crazy, but when we stepped in the backyard and I saw the fake electric chair he made with a car battery and colander it was official.

When we left he wished us safe travels and told us he is lonely and I’m certain he is. He has driven away every person he could have ever loved including his ex-wife and son. The humor in the whole experience can be easily lost if you spend too much time thinking about and discussing the sad state of this man’s existence. Still, I recommend it if you are ever in Northern Mississippi.

To be continued…

Tennessee Times and a Mississippi State of Mind

18 Apr

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything timely which is due to a number of factors:

1. Poor Internet connection

2. My inability to understand video/photography software and therefore being limited in visual aids

3. Desire to just sit back and enjoy rather than document.

This is not to say I don’t enjoy writing these blog entries, because I do. It’s just that the creative writer in me is finding all sorts of inspiration and desire to write “non bloggable” things so I have to either stifle that creative energy or neglect the blog. You know the rest.

So to catch y’all up (it’s a contraction that just makes sense and is no reflection on my time spent in the south!) let me tell fill in some details about our itinerary.

From April 10-12 we were planning on spending some time in Nashville. For those of you who don’t know, I lived in a suburb of Nashville for a little over 4 months a year and a half or so ago, so I know a bit about the area and also have weird emotional ties to it that could not be explained in the length of prose I am allowing myself to write today. But nevertheless, I am drawn to Middle Tennessee like nobody’s business so Jason and I thought it would be nice to spend some time there.

On the way to Nashville from Georgia I grew weak at heart and asked Jason to stop in Murfreesboro, the Nashville suburb I called home for a few months. Though my excitement about this bordered on intolerable (ask Jason) he agreed to get a hotel in Murfreesboro instead of Franklin, a slightly nicer and culturally richer Nashville suburb. To spare you unnecessary details, here is a rundown of how we spent those two days:

April 10

2:00 Arrived in Murfreesboro

2:30 Arrived at Lena’s old Murfreesboro apartment complex

2:45 Toured Lena’s old Murfreesboro apartment, while Ashley, the new tenant discussed the pros and cons of San Francisco and the likelihood of breaking up with her California boyfriend. Because I bring these things out of people on accident.

No longer red and orange :(

No longer red and orange 😦

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3:00 Indulged in delicious pad thai at Taste of Thai (Lena’s favorite Murfreesboro restaurant)

4:00 Drove around Murfreesboro before deciding to stay at an Econo Lodge

5:00 Ditched all plans of going to Nashville that night due to extreme tiredness

Somewhere between 5:00 and 8:00, I don’t really remember – Went to Kroger, a southern grocery store chain and bought oatmeal, bananas, sandwich stuff, and ice cream (to minimize dining costs for the next two days)

8:00 – 10:00, I really don’t remember — Ate ice cream and passed out

April 11

9:30 — Lena visits with a friend while Jason attempts to stay awake whilst showering (side note, Lena not only saw a friend, but bought a pair of cassette tape earrings she swears makes her cooler than you can handle)

12:00–3:00 — No idea what happened here

3:00 — determined we could not go to Nashville because of tornado threats and thunderstorms

5:00 — Visited Go USA, an arcade nearby where we played a variety of games and had a great deal of fun for 20 minutes at a $2 expense. We then got reasonably sized ice cream cones and discussed how to spend the evening, while intermittently playing ukulele out of tune.

7:00 — went to Lena’s favorite Murfreesboro coffee shop where Jason read and Lena wrote and the rest of the “Nashville adventure” is history.

April 12

12:00 — left the hotel to head to Memphis where we would briefly meet with our Mississippi host, Hilary.

4:20 — arrived in Memphis, met with Hilary, got directions to her farm, and checked out some amazing record stores while avoiding getting shot (jk).

7:30 — arrived at Hilary’s ranch in Potts Camp, MS, a could-be tourist attraction among people seeking refuge in southern stereotypes

8:00 — drove to a gas station 7 miles away and bought really awful pizza

10:00 — fell asleep in the converted stable in the bottom of a barn where we have been sleeping and pretending we don’t notice the insects all around us

I think you are probably tired of reading the hourly breakdown of our lives, so I am going to spare you any more of that nonsense.

But honestly, since we have been in Mississippi we have had all sorts of fun. Our first day here we went to the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, which is a major blues festival on the Mississippi Delta. But really, Clarksdale is a GHETTO. Jason at one point implied that perhaps the city doesn’t invest in making it better to make it feel like an authentic birthplace for rock and roll. I think he was kidding. But I might not be.

Since then we have gone to a bonfire party, went to a few author readings in downtown Oxford, and spent a healthy amount of time interacting with Gene, Hilary’s 72 year old alcoholic ranch hand who has a rebel flag on a pole at his house, next to piles of beer cans and hunting dogs chained to small dog houses. It’s pretty legit.

I would attempt to write more detail about our time here if I could, but the Internet is spotty and a tornado is coming, so yeah. Yeah.

tornado warning

Peace!

Lena