4
Oct
2017

A couple of weeks ago, my husband, my seester, and I traveled to Charlotte to break the curse of the losing New Orleans Saints.  You see, seester and I attend a Saints’ game every year, most often in New Orleans itself.  But, sometimes, we will be present, several years in a row, at a heartbreaking loss (they are ALL heartbreaking, really). When that persists, we attend an away game, in the hopes of breaking the curse.  So, far, it has worked at least 75% of the time.  This year, we chose Charlotte.

In some cases, we have decided it is really fun to experience football from a different fan base.  They have their own customs, traditions, and personality, quite frankly. Now, there are some teams, where we aren’t exactly comfortable displaying our full black and gold colors, for fear of encountering ugly foes.  It doesn’t happen everywhere, but we’ve ruled out a few places due to that.   I’ve heard that Green Bay is a great place to attend a game, but I think the tickets are hard to come by!

The last away game I attended was at the Tennessee Titans.  That stadium is very family friendly, and as such, it falls a little flat on the “we gonna pulverize you and grind you into the ground” feel that other environments produce.  We were underwhelmed, but the tooting steamboat whistle after scoring drives was a little bit cute.  Cute doesn’t belong in the NFL.

So, Charlotte.

The Arts

Charlotte, NC, as it turns out, is a fantastic, walkable, city – at least in the “Uptown” area where we stayed.  The stadiums are less than a mile away from any hotel in the area.  There were many, lovely greenspaces, including a park hosting a free concert on Saturday night.  Charlotte loves the art scene.  One park was dedicated to the celebration of literacy, and I really wish I had thought to really capture it with photos. We kept thinking, this must be where the library is, but it wasn’t.  Just a park with book sculpture, flying copper pages of poetry slapped up against windows and walls, as if blown by the wind, text puzzles in the sidewalks, and all sorts of hidden secrets.

The first picture below is of a sculpture (taller than I) called “Life is an Open Book.” Other random sculptures are from around town.  (I swear, next time I am bringing a tripod and a good camera.)

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The Food

What can I say. Charlotte is full of very nice dining venues.  Most we sampled were pretty good, but when we were trying to pin down the signature cuisine of Charlotte, all I could come up with is “salt.”  Almost everything, with one or two exceptions, I ate was over salted, including the breakfast potatoes at the hotel – all three mornings, so it wasn’t an anomaly.  But there is one particular establishment that I must highlight –  The King’s Kitchen.  Their entire purpose is to create fabulous food and serve as outreach to the poorest of the poor of Charlotte.  To lift up the forgotten.  Quite frankly, Charlotte has a very visible homeless population.  These people are trying to make a difference in that area.  The food was fresh, unique and very tasty.  Go visit their website to read more about the mission.

The Football

In our observations, Charlotte is no where on the New Orleans end of the spectrum of football towns.  Until about 2 hours before game time, we hardly ever saw any indication of fandom – not a shirt, not a jersey, not a cap!   And I mean ANY fandom.  You’d think you’d see a bunch of NC university apparel running around, but we did not.  We decided all the sports fans must be commuting, ha ha!

The stadium is very nice, open air and we had good weather so it was not to uncomfortable.  There was some hoopla and hubbub on the jumbotrons, but the pump up the crowd music was tailored to those who love 80’s classic rock.  Not much hip hop, and certainly, no Ying Yang twins in the house.  But that’s okay, right? Their fans/their traditions.   One item of note, they are a little snarky, in a funny way.  We noticed, after the Saints sealed the victory with one more touchdown, the sound guys started playing, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” over the PA as the fans streamed out and away.

Rowr.

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As you can see, we really enjoyed our quick getaway.  Charlotte is a beautiful city. There seems to be something for everyone in the family to enjoy. We barely scratched the surface because we did not have time to visit the various museums and such.

Go if you can.

18
May
2017

I like to think of myself as open-minded and adventurous when it comes to dining out. However, there’s also that inner person who wants a guarantee that I’ll love my meal, so sometimes it dampens the desire to experiment.

But for mother’s day this year we tried a coastal restaurant that is new to us.  Their specials board had many interesting offerings, so I decided to go for something brand new to me.

I tried the “savory” cheesecake (crab and asparagus), after convincing myself it was probably a lot like quiche. Only, it wasn’t.  It was very much like a real cheesecake, extremely dense and very cheesy. There was even a sauce on top that was too savory for this girl.  So, this time, going out on a limb resulted in some lunch disappointment.

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I did salvage my lunch with a fruit salad side that was absolutely delightful. But, I also managed to embarrass myself when I asked what the small round golden colored fruits were that resembled peeled grapes.  “Raisins.”  Um, duh. But, in my defense, they had soaked up moisture and did not look like raisins.  I promise, waitress-lady, I am not an idiot.

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27
Apr
2017

One of the most vivid memories I have of my late grandmother is from an event posthumously honoring my grandfather.  (A side note: my grandfather refused awards of any kind.  He preferred to work behind the scenes and adhered to a philosophy of not drawing attention to his good works.)  I do not even remember what the honor was for!

At the time, my grandmother was in her mid-80s and had been unable to walk for many years.  Usually, when I visited, she was in her bed, but with a pretty bed jacket of some sort. She always had on make up and her hair done.

For this particular event, she had dressed in a cream linen suit with ivory lace and beading on the jacket sleeves and on the front neckline.  It was a gorgeous suit.  Her hair was done, and her eyes were gleaming.  I remember, someone had helped her situate herself in a very regal, velvet-backed chair at one area of the room, not right by the door.  A tremendously long line of people were waiting to greet her, one at a time.  These were the captains of the city and state, for my granddad had been involved with politics and politicians, as well as his law practice.  Each waited his or her turn to see my grandmother, kneeling to speak with her in time.  She was absolutely glowing that day.   Her bright blue eyes were filled with laughter from social events long past.  Her hair was the whitest of white, platinum almost.

If I can remember an 85 year old woman as beautiful, why can I not see it in myself at any age?

23
Apr
2017

One of the scents that is capable of immediately and forcefully reminding me of childhood is that of Honeysuckle.  Every time, I catch a whiff of the stuff, I am transported to a patch of scrubby grass and a grown up ditch, near the clotheslines that stood behind the apartments where my family lived in Oxford, Mississippi. We weren’t there very long, only two years, while my dad finished his doctorate.  Many of my childhood glimpses and snippets come from this place – I was between four and six years, then.  I remember, after the honeysuckle waned, the blackberries coming forth in full force.  Mom would send me, and whomever else was hanging about, into the overgrown vacant lots back there to hunt the berries.  I distinctly remember her always giving us a pail of water, with sugar melting in it, to wash the berries with.  Rarely did many actually make it home in those containers.

We have honeysuckle up here in North Alabama.  Only, it’s not quite as much and not quite as fragrant as it was in my memories.  But, you know how memories are, we tend to remember the good things as very, very good.  So, maybe honeysuckle doesn’t smell quite the same in reality.

We went down to Auburn this weekend to see some baseball and catch The Tempest at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (very good – go).  In the evening, after the game on Friday, we were strolling across campus to my daughter’s dorm when the scents hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s warmer down in Auburn, and the honeysuckle was in full bloom. The heady scent was just like I remembered it.  And to add to it, there were quite a few tea olive bushes around (at least I think it is what they are called, or something similar).  They have an extremely sweet perfume.  When I first encountered them in New Orleans, I always thought someone nearby had overdosed on some overpowering Giorgio, but eventually, I figured out it was the bushes.

I love that smell.  I miss it.  It always makes me feel happy.  I just stood there in the cool evening breeze, letting it waft over me and carry me back to my Freshman year on Tulane’s campus.  I almost cried.  I cannot believe my youngest is in college. Where did the time go?  It was just yesterday, I was tromping through briers, cutting up my shins and knees, picking blackberries.