Lewis Grizzard wrote a book titled – – Elvis Is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself.
Two days after the presidential election and waiting, the title expresses how I’m feeling. Grizzard makes me laugh, which is good medicine for the patience needed to get to the final counts. Grizzard was facing a changing world. I’ve never minded change, but the today’s scene has me taking deep breaths. I thought you might need a laugh too, hense, Elvis Presley in Novenber 2020.
The Blurb for the book: The 1950s were simple times to grow up. For Lewis Grizzard and his buddies, gallivanting meant hanging out at the local store, eating Zagnut candy bars and drinking “Big Orange bellywashers.” About the worst thing a kid ever did was smoke rabbit tobacco rolled in paper torn from a brown grocery sack, or maybe slick back his hair into a ducktail and try gyrating his hips like Elvis. But then assassinations, war, civil rights, free love, and drugs rocked the old order. And as they did, Grizzard frequently felt lost and confused. In place of Elvis, the Pied Piper of his generation, Grizzard now found wormy-looking, long-haired English kids who performed either half-naked or dressed like Zasu Pitts. Elvis Is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself is the witty, satiric, nostalgic account of Grizzard’s efforts to survive in a changing world. Sex, music, clothes, entertainment, and life itself receive the Grizzard treatment. In this, his sixth book, Grizzard was never funnier or more in tune with his readers. He might not have felt so good himself, but his social commentary and humor can still make the rest of us feel just fine.
A few days before the election, I find myself homesick. The home where my parents remain in the dust mots that float in the light from the window. Where I’ll find my 3-speed Schwinn bicycle is ready to ride. Where the last fall leaves have blown from the large elms leaving a bare-branched canopy overhead.
The election on Tuesday has me remembering years of watching the 4th of July Fireworks at Northwestern’s Dyke Stadium. Years of sitting on the curb waving an American flag as the parade passed by.
I think of the boys in their blue letter jackets with leather sleeves and orange letters sown upon them. (The school colors.) I remember the ugly gym suit I wore to play field hockey and took home on Friday to wash. There was the thrill of dancing cheek to cheek in the high school gym to a slow song. I have friends that are apart of my life today, whose parents I remember. How surprised we are to find ourselves looking as they once did.
I am seeking the comfort of others of a certain age who also rode their bikes around town, and nobody worried. I need the company of those taught right from wrong. Those who stand for the American flag, and put their hand over their hearts when saying the Pledge of Allegiance. The election has caused this flush of nostalgia about growing up in mid-America.
My reading life has taught me that we survive elections. Great men step forward to save us from ourselves. Yet, this year my eyes fill with tears when I listen to those who want to turn America into the countries their families fled. I grieve when I see thugs on the street looting and tearing down our statues, disgracing the America that has raised them at her knee.
We believe in Rocky Mount. Nothing is going to take that away from us. Not the outcome of this election, nor the virus, nor knaves amongst us. I am homesick for the things I’ve mentioned that were a firm foundation to build a life upon; patriotism, honor, and respect. I wish you would sit with me on a Main Street bench. Tell me about those you danced cheek to cheek with. Tell me about your 4th of July celebrations. This will help me to the other side of this homesickness. Thank You!
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WITH TOO MUCH TIME ON YOUR HANDS
I had this really cool dream. A fleet of black SUVs were headed out of Raleigh to Rocky Mount. I think they were US Marshalls because it looked like Tommy Lee Jones in the lead car. Everybody was dead serious and silent. They were on the road forever but finally, they pulled up in front of City Hall. They rushed the stairs, flinging open doors, crying, “You’re under arrest.” You know how dreams go…suddenly I was in the building at the top of the steps as if I’d been waiting. I said, “What took you so long?” It was Tommy Lee Jones! He said, “Step aside ma’am, we’re here on matters of skullduggery.”
The eternal optimist here waiting not only for results but to be set free again to have LUNCH OUT. SFH
What day is it? What time is it? To shower or not to shower. To dress or not to dress. Today I found the answer to our troubles. I was listening to Willie Nelson on my new DOT I got for my birthday while eating a salad standing at the kitchen sink. Does any of this sound familiar? I have no trouble entertaining myself, but missing everyone’s company. Mine is quite predictable at this point. I read, garden, but I’m up and night, asleep during the day. I look like something the cat dragged in with long hair.
The Main Street Facebook page keeps going, which I love doing, but writing on the blog has trickled to nothing. I’m not a worrier, but I can’t help but think bad thoughts about city hall with no one allowed in or attending the council meetings. Lordy-Lordy.
I wanted to check on everyone. Projects being ticked off, closets cleaned by the look of the Salvation Army box at Harris Teeters. If your garden is like mine, you’re getting high marks for all the weeding, moving bushes that were crowded out, mulch down, and the work paying off with beautiful gardens.
I want to leave you with this link to Willie Nelson’s song: The Worlds Going to Pot. Tap your foot, dance if no one is looking, and laugh out loud. Nelson providing the answer to what is going on. Stay well everybody, but please Lord, let’s get back to work soon. I for one have places to go, people to see, things to do on Main Street and lots of company raring to do the same things.
“Until you get the drugs out of here.” That’s what I was told Saturday afternoon standing on Gay Street while talking with two older women that were out for a short walk. I was taking photographs in the 800-900 block on Gay between Tillery, Vyne, and Pine. I parked my car and walked towards these old friends, one who’d lived in the neighborhood since the 70s. “It was nice back then, a good place until drugs came here.” She gestured with her hand towards several houses we were standing near to indicate their condition. Restored housing builds safe neighborhoods, fosters pride and homeownership, is an economic win, is vital for the community that is cultivating revitalization.
The little woman who did most of the talking told me she was paying $400.00 a month rent. “I’m not gonna pay that ‘sorry-ass’ man no more. I’m leaving.” The expression on her friend’s face told me this wasn’t the first time she’d heard this declaration.” I don’t use the ‘sorry ass’ expression myself but 15 minutes later I had taken quite a shine to it. If I wrote lyrics for songs instead of this blog, I would definitely use the phrase in a James Brown-like song, singing about these houses that have stood guard all these years over good people and are feeling the effects of old age and neglect, going down! going down!
When I asked who their councilman was, they didn’t know. You and I know these houses didn’t get like this since yesterday but over a long time of neglect. As far as I’m concerned, the blame is knocking on the Ward’s Councilman’s door who has influenced nada, nothing. How could they not have championed these people they supposedly care for and not be the driving force to use their position to stay the course with the police to clear the drug dealers out and keep them out! so investment will continue and these wonderful neighborhoods can be saved. Thank goodness for these angels in disguise that see the worth of these houses and are doing something about it. I was told that some of the residents on the street are working on their own homes. Look at these photographs with eyes to see how perfect they are for what we need. The women told me how nice some of the houses are inside. I imagine that’s in comparison to a less demanding standard than mine.
When we finished talking, the women told me, “You get on home before dark.” Several cautions to “Be careful!” I was leaving but they were staying. I drove away with, “Ain’t nothin’ gonna change until we get the drugs out of here,” ringing in my ears. I don’t know where the police station is that the Chief of Police resides. Having to stay at home, I can find a phone number, however, to plea my case after I figure out what to say. I’d rather walk through this area leading him by hand to see again with new eyes what it once was and has become and can be again. I learned a lot in those fifteen minutes. It upset me but still, I’m grateful. I blew them both a kiss and drove away. Though I’d said my name and that I write a blog, you know these two older ladies are still shaking their heads, “who in the hell was she?”
You are hereby named Main Street Ambassadors during these Thanksgiving holidays. All of you who are spending time at home this year, expecting family or friends, young and old, have this opportunity to show off Main Street and surrounds. I will think of you Thursday with those you love and who love you too. A special day filled with good food and the joy of time together. Come Friday, I want you to put your camp director hat on and take charge of the itinerary. Go downtown and around!
The Mill has endless possibilities and so much to be proud of. I took these photos out the window of the new Books and Beans in the repurposed Mill Canteen. I felt I was looking at a dream come true. Be sure to include in your tour the Tiny Houses. The Event Center is a must if you have young folks to enjoy the play area, wall climbing, and ropes, the video section for the older kids and slides and tunnels and ball pits and more for the younger children. Go to NABS for lunch or coffee and a sweet. Your guests must stop in at Larema Coffee and see the good folks there and that preservation success. Don’t miss The Secret Garden a few steps from Larema on Tarboro St. all decked out with its beautiful floral creations and holiday gifts. I don’t know how long it has been since you visited the Train Station, but it is such an architectural prize. Of course, I am leaving out many other suggestions, but you get the idea. Be good ambassadors for Rocky Mount and show off all the new things that are going on including Station Square. Revisit the old favorites like Central Cafe and the other places that hold your memories, that tell your story and the story of this place.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Stepheny on Main Street
It has been a reluctant fall this year. At first, there was a yellow cast to things that never did reach fulfillment. Of late, the colors are far from flamboyant, as if they are uninterested in achieving any grandeur at all. Each year I await the invitation to the fall gala that takes place along the roadside. Driving along Highway 64 from Nashville to Rocky Mount and beyond, it always reminds me of passing through a receiving line where lovely gowns in different hues are admired and commented upon. “How lovely you look!” This morning I saw through the mist of light rain a rather subdued receiving line trying not to disappoint. If you are one of the lucky ones, you have a red maple of some variety planted in your garden or along your street. The maples never fail to remind me of picking up leaves on the way to school. I would throw one down to pick up a better one. The fall color is also better one year than another. They say it has to do with the amount of light or the amount of moisture, I always forget which excuse to give. Don’t worry, next year the fall color will be better. Now if I could write about my gorgeous camellias in bloom-ah!
This piece is written and published today thinking of my father’s birthday, November 13, 1904. Norman W. Forgue often teased me, asking, “How are you going to write if you don’t learn to spell better? I did learn to write but thank goodness for spellcheck. SFH
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The Siren call lures nearby sailors to crash upon the rocks of the islands of dangerous creatures. It is their enchanting music and singing that calls them. I am lured by the story of Main Street and the significance of commercial and residential architecture. The corollary danger for me started with my research and learning. The more people that took me under their wing to talk, the more I grew to love the possibilities, I ended up crashing on the rocks of City Government. I found that possibilities are mismanaged, certain members of the City Council rig the system, talented and good people leave or are pushed out, and we have an investigation into maleficence and the skullduggery of leadership that casts a wide net of consequences.
Crashing on these rocks, my writing on the Main Street blog shifted to finding answers that explain the state of things downtown and in the surrounding areas of neglect. I hate having to grapple with the possibility that we will never have real prosperity; the prosperity of spirit in people’s lives in Rocky Mount because certain members of the City Council game the system for their own benefit.
The longer we hesitate to call out, name, remove, allow further deterioration of our buildings and housing, the further down the rabbit hole we go. Waiting is not soon enough for those who long for a decent life with an opportunity to lift themselves up. I’m talking about job availability for those willing to work hard after receiving a decent education. Waiting for a future in the sweet by and by shouldn’t be necessary with elected leaders, who are committed to Rocky Mount and a better life for people. The answer begins with your VOTE! Until we hold accountable those we have given the power to make a difference, Rocky Mount will continue to be sabotaged by self-interest, mismanagement, and greed.
I want us to be about: saving Mainstreet, the at-risk neighborhoods, restoring and repurposing, creating pride of ownership that promotes safety in our neighborhoods where people look out for one another. I want those who have made a mistake to have a job when entering back into society. I want a tour of our saved shotgun houses and a reason for people to return to Rocky Mount where they grew up. I want the Masonic Building on Church Street to become a boutique hotel, the Carlton House, one of our historic places, back in business. I want to stroll down Howard Street and sit at a cafe table talking to those who walk by. I want to see couples holding hands walking down Main Street headed to restaurants and coffee shops. People shopping and making memories with their grandchildren. I want to see all the entrepreneurs that took a chance on Rocky Mount rewarded for their belief, working hard to make their dreams come true in this place.
Like it or not, life is about politics, especially now. It is essential that the Councilman in Ward 1, after sixteen years, is replaced with Tarrick Pittman who brings a new vision. This is a great opportunity to vote for the new leadership that is running for the open seats in Wards 3,4,5. We want a new Major who has the experience to create jobs and understands the necessity of a trained work force. Be aware of those who sing the Sirens song again. It’s election time and suddenly, “I care about you.” I hope you agree we have had enough of crashing on the rocks of City Government.
This little girl in the birdbath is like me in spirit. How can it be time to give up this view of summer and accept that most of my plans never happened.
“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare
I’m short a few weeks of finishing my 3rd novel, A Garden of Sweet Disorder, the reason I took August off from writing the Main Street Rocky Mount blog. Even still, I have posts ready to publish starting September 3rd. I had a wonderful week in Florida with generous friends who took me on adventures to see various stages of mixed-use developments. I came home with new insights concerning Main Street and our surrounding downtown core. For the first time, we will have a guest blogger, Rodd Myers, posting on three upcoming dates. I have great respect for Rodd’s background in urban planning, and his heart for preservation. Rodd is a past resident of Rocky Mount and a keen observer of what works in revitalizing communities such as ours. These posts will add new insights when discussing Rocky Mount’s future.
I don’t actually write on an old typewriter, but it suits my imagination to pretend that I do. They say you should write what you know. One of my unlived lives is a career in Historic Preservation. The research I love in preparing for the blog has helped me write the new book. Sarah Collins, the main character, shares my love of architecture. She works for The National Trust. Her essays and photographs about architecture are important to the story. The aftermath of Katrina also plays a part in the story. (As I write this I am watching the new hurricane, Dorian, approaching Florida.) A secret is revealed that takes Sarah to Burford in the Cotswolds, the setting for the second half of the book. Those who have read my first novel – Greening of a Heart will recognize Burford, a world and set of characters that have become a big part of my life.
On Tuesday, I will slip out of the birdbath, and begin anew taking up the theme of the Main Street blog: building a future and honoring the past. Please join me!
Dear Readers: Posting a sign on the Main Street Rocky Mount door that says, Closed in August. I have a third novel to finish so I’m taking a break from researching and writing the blog during the month of August. Even though my good buddy, Peggy Daughtridge, who I admire no end, tells me the novels are fine, but she prefers my blog writing, I can’t waste a good title that I have finally settled on – A Garden of Sweet Disorder. (It is a phrase from a collection of English Gardens essays that I read. It refers to the design and planting of a cottage garden that appears random but is far from it.)
Here is a paragraph from the novel that doesn’t sound like my usual saving Main Street posts. In part, the story is about a young woman who goes to work for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC upon graduation. She is called home to New Orleans a few days before Katrina to discover that her father, a retired admiral in the Navy has led a double life. Sarah was not offended but surprised that a prestigious law firm would hire a woman poured into a tight skirt, with a provocative unbuttoned blouse. Grinning, she lowered her voice and leaned towards Jackson. “I think your secretary may be an actress who has wandered onto the wrong movie set, one that is staged for a legal drama, rather than the private eye movie they are filming down the hall.” Jackson laughed. He enjoyed Sarah Collin’s sense of humor.
In taking a break I want to tell you that a new friend introduced me to a story written by Richard Paul Evans, The Spyglass. I found a used, but a like-new copy on Amazon and ordered it because the story called to me…to us!
There once was a king who ruled over a darkened kingdom. Crops were planted and then failed, houses were built and then neglected, people were impoverished and dispirited. But when a traveler arrives at the crumbling palace, he shows the monarch his kingdom through the lens of an enchanted spyglass — a spyglass that shows him his kingdom, not as it is, but as it could be. The king’s imagination is ignited by the spark of faith, and with faith comes hope and change. By sharing his vision and inspiring his subjects to work alongside him, the king restores his land to glory…And though the old man and his spyglass were never again seen in the land, the kingdom continued to prosper and became again the great kingdom of old. Yet, despite their abundance of food, their beautiful buildings, their lush gardens, and majestic cathedrals, it was ever after said of that kingdom that their greatest treasure was their faith.
Think about this story while I try to finish my novel. I believe that newly elected leadership this fall will provide an enchanted spyglass for Rocky Mount that will allow us to see things as they can be and will be. It is by faith we shall be known. Keep that faith in my absence. SCROLL DOWN FOR COMMENTS