The backstory to this post is The Robert E. Lee Monument; the historic statue dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee by noted American sculptor Alexander Doyle. It was removed (intact) by official order and moved to an unknown location on May 19, 2017. The monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. In my outrage over the editing of our American history and the taking down or destroying of these works of art, it hit me that in actuality, I knew little of substance about General Lee. Thus a new direction in my reading life; a form of an archeological dig into the famous people who have shaped my world. I loved what I was reading so much, it led me to a different time period and another public figure I had no in-depth knowledge about. I began reading about Franklin Roosevelt and the litany of names connected with this period. These fascinating books have kept me up at night. It isn’t a statue this time, but Dr. Suess who has me on another reading binge.
The people who have escaped the insane asylum have declared that the Dr. Seuss books must be eliminated. The keepers of the asylum have yet to put a foot down to stop this insanity telling us what we can read. I have put aside my English mysteries and am once again reading children’s books. Kindle Prime gave a free download of The Borrowers, a children’s fantasy novel by the English author Mary Norton, published by Dent in 1952. It features a family of tiny people who live secretly in the walls and floors of an English house and “borrow” from the big people upstairs in order to survive.
The Harpsichords lived in the drawing-room, they moved there in 1837, to a hole in the wainscot just behind where the harpsichord used to stand. They lived on Afternoon tea. In the old days, it was better — muffins and crumpets and such, and good rice cake and jams and jellies. They had to do their borrowing in such a rush, poor things. On wet days, when the human beings sat all afternoon in the drawing-room, the tea would be brought in and taken away again without a chance of the Harpsichords getting near it — and on fine days it might be taken out into the garden. There were days when they lived on crumbs and on the water out of the flower vases.
If you regularly read this Main Street Rocky Mount blog, you know that I write about the Preservation, Restoration, and Repurposing of Rocky Mount’s commercial architecture. I write about saving our at-risk neighborhoods, saving the shotgun and bungalow homes in Wards 1-4. While reading The Borrowers, I have a new reason to champion this cause. You will join me, I’m sure. I didn’t know about the little people who live under floorboards. If a house sits empty, the Borrowers have to emigrate.
When I check on things downtown and in the neighborhoods, I now guess the houses where the Borrowers have lived. Learning about them has increased the urgency to restore our housing assets that are boarded-up and left to further deteriorate. Go and find a house in Ward 1-4 to care about, to think about, have ideas on how to save it. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
If you see my newest bumper sticker, you will understand what it is about.
Save The Borrowers’ Homes
I found a quote of Alfred Lord Tennyson that I used on the Main Street Facebook page,
“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.”
The word threshold holds a deeper meaning after I began to read the books of Esther de Waal. She wrote a small treasure called, To Pause at the Threshold – Reflections on Living on the Border. She writes about a traditional saying of ancient wisdom, ‘A threshold is a sacred thing,’ of the importance of honoring thresholds from that perspective.
After a dreadful year of consequences, the reasons too long to repeat, we need to pause before we step across the threshold into the New Year. It is our life’s work to learn how to hold the losses and changes that occur in our lives, integrating all that has happened into who we become. The year 2020 will be like Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter’s world, the one who shall not be named.
We have been living with the uncertainties of life in the larger world. If that isn’t enough, at home we have a litany of names we speak every day, while standing on one foot and then the other, waiting for those who are working the system for personal gain to reap the consequences of their actions. I always think of Kermit the frog who says, “It isn’t easy being green.”
Despite constant prayer throughout 2020, we have known anger, frustration, sadness, and great loss. All things far more significant than gazing at Rocky Mount’s skullduggery captured in a snow globe that is always snowing about something. Small in scope perhaps, but huge in Rocky Mount’s world. Because of what we have been through, this threshold we are about to cross seems a big step.
Like the traditional monastic practice, we need to pay attention to this threshold moment. When the monk or nun enters the church for the daily offices, they make time to stand, to wait, creating a stillness that permits each one to let go of all the previous hurried moments of duty or obligation. We want to cross this threshold ready to find it happier. We want to focus on all the good and positive things happening in the revitalization of Rocky Mount. We cheer on The Repairers of the Breach that are hard at work preserving, restoring, and repurposing the commercial architecture while building a future. We’ve got to get intentional about saving the shotgun and bungalows houses that are boarded up.
Take my hand, let’s be still together, and then cross this important threshold with the Main Street Band all in place, small flags in everyone’s hand along the curbside, determined that nothing could keep a wonderful community like Rocky Mount from becoming a prism of light in Eastern North Carolina. Let’s claim all the ‘good stuff,’ and refuse to get bogged down by all the ‘bad stuff.’ 2021 is filled with possibilities. We seize them for our own lives, and those we love, for our neighbors, and for this good place we call home.
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 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.
You’ll enjoy this video while waitng – Grizzard, The Last confeterate Soldier
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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