Deck the Malls

Every December Dearly Beloved and I go to The Cheesecake Factory at the nearby mall for a Christmas lunch and to see the mall decorations.  That last part is tricky because technically, since The Cheesecake Factory’s entrance is outside the mall, he has, on occasion, tried to weasel out of actually stepping inside the mall proper.

DB dislikes any shopping but take him inside a mall and by comparison,  Jack Nicholson in The Shining seems like Santa Claus.  The khakis and jeans he wears daily are not shabby chic, but ragged.  He wears the same tired pants that he walks the dog in whenever he takes me out to eat and even on trips.  It isn’t that he doesn’t have more, it’s… well, who understand Martians’ reasoning?!

 I’ve been telling him for some time that he needed some new casual pants and each time he says, “Get me some next time you’re out shopping.”   

Sure.  As soon as they start selling them at the supermarket.

Finally, Senior Day at one of the large department stores, not to mention the extra discounts for their cardholders was enticing enough that he agreed to go.  We could  even have our Christmas lunch while we were there.  

Ahhh!!  I e-mailed our daughters that their dad was going to the mall with me.  Willingly.   A whine-free excursion!

There are at least five department stores and many shops in this large mall, but I knew that  one-store shopping was going to be as much as I could count on for his good intentions to last.

I over-estimated his good humor.  We’d barely walked out of the parking garage when  he announced:

“I’m not trying any pants on.  Let’s just get them and you can bring them back if they don’t fit.”

I stopped in my tracks and glared at him.

“I told your children this was the one day when you’d go shopping with me without being a turd and you have already blown it.   

He looked momentarily chastened.

“How about if I am a good sport the second we step through the door?”  

I was adamant.

“I don’t think so.  We’ll come another time for our Christmas lunch.   Without the jackass.”

As soon as he stepped inside the store,  he stuck his hands in his pockets–the international signal of Husband in Distress.  He moseyed  around, showing no interest except to occasionally offer his opinion to other guys trying on clothes, telling one man why he shouldn’t buy the vest he was trying on.  (That was the point I began watching for Store Security.)

As we rounded the Ralph Lauren section, we heard a woman telling her husband, “The pants are TOO LONG!”

DB stopped and assessed the scene, then told the guy, “Those pants fit you perfectly.  That slight bend in the length is exactly what you want.”  

The man’s wife scowled.  (I don’t know if it’s relevant, but let me mention here that the woman was using a walker and had an oxygen tube in her nostrils.  She may not have been using either when they first arrived.)

DB continued meandering, but signed, “I’m just not feeling it.”

“That’s because pants are not going to jump into your arms.  Take your hands out of your pockets, ask a salesperson, and get in there and find what you need.”  

I felt like a football coach.

The salesperson he found was already working with another man so sullen and unpleasant to his trying-to-be-helpful wife that I’d have thought the poor woman must have held a gun on him to get him there, except that by now she would surely have fired it.

But back to my Prince Charming…. When the salesperson turned to him, he said, “My wife thinks I need some new britches.”  


“DB, they haven’t been BRITCHES since you were six years old.”

People around us were were beginning to giggle and stare.  He told her in a stage whisper,  “She called me a JACKASS.”   A bit more of his “long-suffering” humor and–I’m not kidding–the poor sales woman,  snorting with laughter, put her head down on the counter as she pounded her fist and gasped, “You’re killing me!” 

Finally, after she helped him find two pairs of pants and a cashmere sweater that he liked,    he asked me hopefully, “Are we through?”

Nope.  I decided we’d have one more stop.  We rode the escalator to the third floor:  Ladies’ Lingerie.

“I’ll just find place to sit down,” he said, assuming there would be a “man chair” around.

I browsed through the department and eventually made a purchase, then headed back to find him.  I spotted a store mannequin in a set of lacy black bikini bra and undies, posed seductively on one of those short platforms stores use.  Sitting on the platform, his head about crotch level to the mannequin, was my Dearly Beloved.

We didn’t have our Christmas lunch or go out into the mall to see all the holiday decorations that day.  Guess we’ll schedule another outing very soon.

I can hardly wait.

Backroads With BroJoe: Sampson County, North Carolina

When my brother Joe travels the winding backroads of eastern North Carolina where several generations of our family lived, he often sends photos of the dishes he tries at some of the local restaurants–the ones where no part of the hog goes unused.  He likes to mess around with my gag reflex.  Chittlins, cracklin’ bread, bone marrow… get the drift?  (I’m not sure if I mean literally or figuratively here.)

This time, the photo he sent back surprised me.  I remember visiting farmer relatives in that part of the state when I was a small child.  Perhaps that is why I found this photograph so hauntingly lovely and nostalgic.

Than again, maybe it’s because I didn’t find myself staring at a plate of brains and eggs.  I promise that you won’t, either.  Enjoy.

Backroads: Sampson County, North Carolina.

The Grove!

People had told us that the spectacle of an Ole Miss football game is unique, that there was nothing quite like tailgating in The Grove.  The Grove?  A bunch of trees?  I had so much to learn!  Is it still called tailgating when cars aren’t allowed in the area?

The Grove–a shady, park-like setting with a magnificent assortment of mature trees– is lovely enough to enchant any gardener.  It is situated in the middle of a campus so well designed that everything seems within walking distance for its just under 20,000 students.  The buildings are Southern classic and beautiful and the traditions deep.

The Lyceum, oldest building on campus, served as a hospital during the Civil War.
The Lyceum, oldest building on campus, served as a hospital during the Civil War.

The football players pass through The Grove on their way to the stadium on a brick walkway with arches at each end–the Walk of Champions.  The stadium holds over 60,000 and who knows how large the crowds are in The Grove.  Talk about a heady walk!IMG_0951

The Friday before the game, garbage cans were set out to mark spaces where hospitality tents could be set up, beginning at 9 PM.  During the day people hung around, marking their spots.IMG_0955The game was at noon and we went to the Grove on that overcast mid-morning, we found the area transformed into a sea of tents, chairs, people, and food.  Image 56What it wasn’t filled with was smoke.  No grills allowed and in fact, no smoking.  That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t food.


IMG_1113The game that day was a rivalry between the Ole Miss Rebels and University of Arkansas* Razorbacks, also known as The Hogs, so folks went whole hog with their food.  Hams galore!

Not that food was all they brought.  Some tents were quite elaborate, sporting generators, chandeliers, large flat-screen TVs, comfortable chairs, and satellite dishes.  One tent sported a replica of the Lyceum, with each of its columns holding a different beverage.

Just as there were plain tents and fancy tents, there were basic toilets as well as some with more panache, like the Hotty Toddy Potty, complete with attendants.


Image 78

The Arkansas fans partied, too.

As for me and my house, we will call the Hogs.
As for me and my house, we will call the Hogs.

Elvis was there–in several shapes and sizes–raising money for St.Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  They call themselves “The Elvi.”

Image 26 Who was he pulling for? Image 29

The cheerleaders were in The Grove.IMG_1095IMG_1096And the band was in The Groove.IMG_1097You’re probably wondering did we EVER get to the game.  I’ll have to save that for the next post.  It was THE ELVI in all their glory, for goodness’ sakes!  Show some respect! 

Are you there, Elvis, it's me, Mary!
Are you there, Elvis?  It’s me, Merrily!

*BIG OOPS on original post.  My brain said Arkansas, but my fingers didn’t listen.  Sorry, Arkansas!

M-I-Crooked Letter. . .

This time last week, Dearly Beloved and I were high-tailing it to Oxford, Mississippi–a nine to ten-hour drive, depending on traffic and my bladder.  We made it a two-day trip and planned to stay at a B&B along the way.

If you’re interested in trying a new career, look into opening a B&B in western Alabama or eastern Mississippi because you certainly won’t find much competition.  The problem is, you won’t find many towns along that route, either.

Charlotte’s ambient lights make this a tough place for stargazing, but let me tell you–nights on rural Alabama secondary roads are DARK!  That night, there was only a sliver of moon and few houses on our route, so we kept an eye out for deer or Bigfoot.   When we reached the small town B&B where I’d made a reservation, I learned that the one I’d chosen was on this bucket list!

IMG_0912I’m not sure I’ll make the other 99, but The B&B, a historic home built in 1870, happened to be serving their signature dish (in the lower left corner of the list)–a strawberry/almond Belgian waffle, not to mention bacon, fruit cup, and a giant chocolate chip/pecan muffin.    IMG_0907

I-85 through the Carolinas and Georgia is not a pretty route.  NC’s billboard lobbyists have won free reign at the expense of the trees and natural beauty.  South Carolina is even worse–it has seedy buildings intermixed with one giant billboard after another; one advertises Jesus and the next one an Adult Toy Store (perhaps an unfortunate order.)   I must say, KUDOS to Alabama and Mississippi for their highways and byways.  Their senators have done them proud securing federal road funds.   We’ve been in that area before, but this was our first time on the Natchez Trace Parkway or crossing the Ten-Tom Waterway.  Lovely!

My cousin had sent excellent directions, so we found the condo in plenty of time to visit before our lunch reservation:  a window table at City Grocery.  Since their food is to die for, it should top any list of 100 Places to Eat in Mississippi Before You Die.   The chocolate bacon bread pudding is certainly list-worthy.

I think I could live in Oxford, Mississippi and love it.  (That sound you heard was my cousin gasping in alarm.)   It is a beautiful old town with wonderful architecture, large trees, nice  restaurants and shopping, the best independent bookstore in the country, and right in the middle of it all is (drumroll, please…) Ole Miss.

(Photos of the campus and Saturday’s game in a later post.  It was quite a spectacle and even though I usually read during football games, I loved every minute of this one.)

Right after our City Grocery lunch on Friday, we headed downtown and our first stop was Square Books.  I could spend days…years… in there.  I’ve never seen so many signed books in my life!  IMG_0976

Next stop was their second store just up the block where I didn’t buy a cookbook because I couldn’t decide between…oh, 50 or so… that looked wonderful.  Garden & Gun magazine was hosting a book launch, so we browsed with their wine and hors d’oeuvres in hand.   A third store, filled with children’s books was in another block.

Square Books was the first bookstore to host a book signing for (then) local resident John Grisham’s books back when he was peddling his book out of the trunk of his car and he still shows his appreciation by signing his books for the store whenever he writes a new one.  Pat Conroy had been recently and signed books, as had authors like Lee Smith, Ron Rash, and Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch.)

The bookstore specializes in southern books, especially ones by Mississippi authors.  (Think William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote and a host of newer ones like Kathryn Stockett–The Help)  Even DB commented that there was something about the area that made one want to sit down and write.

That probably makes you wonder why it took me a week to write this post.

Faulkner Alley sign
Faulkner Alley sign
The alley.
The alley.

Image 66

Ceiling of an old downtown building.
Ceiling of an old downtown building.

Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in mississippi. – Oprah Winfrey

I’m not saying she was stupid, but I asked her how to spell mississippi and she said ‘the river or the state?’ – Unknown

Take Two Redials And Call Me In The Morning

As I’ve said before, my Dearly Beloved has some peculiar notions about doctors.

He still subscribes to the theory that all injuries should be ignored unless they occur on the football field which, of course, isn’t happening at our house this century.  So, when he was playing Tennis Ball Keepaway (which he shouldn’t) with our dog Scout recently and she jumped for the tennis ball in his hand and got the fleshy pad of his hand instead, he took care of the wound himself.   I wasn’t home and he had it bandaged by the time I returned, so I haven’t seen it and don’t want to.  He claims it probably could have used some stitches, but it was a clean tear, so he wasn’t going to get any.

I ignored it, staging my own game of Keepaway from the whole incident, refusing to offer sympathy.  That doesn’t stop him from holding up his hand occasionally and dramatically peeking under the bandage to give me a report.

Still, when he felt awful for several days in a row recently, I did feel bad for him and insisted he see the doctor.  Who’s going to set the mousetrap if he kicks the bucket?

He told me that he’d be seeing her soon for his October physical.  “When is that?”  I asked, it being the last week of September.

“I don’t know.  I haven’t made the appointment yet.”

“Well, MAKE it!  Right now.”  

A few minutes later, he said he’d done so and would be going in mid-November.  (And my dentist wonders why I grind my teeth!)

“Look at you, you’re in BED!  You’ve felt lousy for days!  Call them again and tell them you’re sick and need to come in NOW!”

He sighed dramatically.

“Okay. Dial the number for me and bring me the phone.”

My sigh was even more dramatic than his, but I took the damn phone to his bedside.  I’d punched in the number; all he had to do was hit “Talk.”  Which he screwed up.  He hit Redial and Talk a second, then a third time, before he ever got it to ring.

He began talking almost immediately, explaining that he’d just made an appointment for his physical, but wondered if he could see the doctor right away.  I was mystified, since I always have to go through several automated prompts before reaching the appointed appointment human.  How did he avoid that?

While he explained his symptoms,  I stood over him with my arms crossed, making sure he   didn’t omit anything.  A look of puzzlement suddenly crossed his face.

“Scout,” he said, obviously in response to a question.  “She bit me on the hand, but it’s okay.  It was an accident.”

He listened again, then answered, “No, the checkup is for me.”  Another look of complete confusion.  “Wait a minute.  Who have I called here?”

Animal Medical Hospital.

He burst out laughing, hastening to explain,  “My wife dialed this number for me.”  

I hadn’t!  I’d most certainly dialed the doctor’s number because I’d looked it up before doing so, but by then I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t defend myself.  I fell onto the bed, clutching my stomach, shrieking and gasping, as he answered that no, he didn’t think he needed a rabies shot, but he could use a bath.

I wanted to suggest anal gland expression, but I still couldn’t catch my breath enough to say the words.

Since he’d inadvertently disconnected the number I’d put in for him before it ever connected, hitting Redial had taken him back to the last number actually called–the vet  he’d called the previous evening to arrange boarding for Scout over the weekend.

Funny thing is, we laughed so hard over the ridiculous conversation, he began to feel better almost immediately.  Since it can’t do lab work, he still had to go in for a checkup, but laughter really IS the best medicine!

My doctor is wonderful. Once, in 1955, when I couldn’t afford an operation, he touched up the X-rays. – Henny Youngman

Sign on a cosmetic surgery clinic:
If life gives you lemons, a simple operation can give you melons.

Scenes of Charleston

We spent a couple of days sightseeing in Charleston, SC last week, mostly to see family, but we did get to the downtown area one afternoon to mosey around.  We walked down to Battery Park and back, far enough to give me shin splints, although 6-year-old Elmo took the same route with no difficulty.  In fact, his journey was much longer because he frequently raced ahead to the corner, then back to us, then back to the corner, etc. until we finally arrived there, too.   Not to mention that he climbed trees, poles, fences, cannons, bandstands, and even made a lunge at George Washington before Granddad intervened.

The rest of us were wearing our sensible walking shoes.  Elmo wore flip-flops.

We passed the guinea fowl, which announced our arrival with their strange calls.  A young man nearby said they’d been living in that area for over 100 years, but the articles I found online say that a couple of them just flew into town one day and hung around.   When you see the place, you can understand why they liked it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Watch that video link above because it offers a chance to wander, thanks to The Lee Bros.,  through one of the mysterious iron gates and see the lovely garden inside.)

I won’t even try to show you my photos of the houses or the wonderful shops.  (You can look at these by much better photographers.)  Instead, I’ll show you a few scenes that you may not see elsewhere.


Thou shall not park here.  Seriously.


The classic Charleston boot.

There were cobblestones. . .


And headstones. . . .


Two of the signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried there.  The Handicap Parking sign was mystifying, since it was inside the fence.

Here’s another one:


A headstone with my brother’s head.

There were pretty windows. . .


And pretty strange windows. . . .

Image 7This sign–with the same spelling–was in more than one window, so of course, my imagination ran faster than Elmo’s sprints to the corner.  Remolding.

Surely not this:black_mold

Crown?  Dentil? Toe?  Chair rail?  Wood? Stone? Polystyrene?

Making cheese?

One day we ate lunch on Daniel Island.  Right beside the restaurant was this sign:

Image 8

We took it seriously.  Didn’t want us–or the alligators–to get the boot.


I’m going back to dignity and grace. I’m going back to Charleston, where I belong.  — Rhett Butler, in 1939 movie, “Gone with the Wind

Please, Mr. Postman

I’m trying not to have a complex about this, but I’m not even sure that I’m Number 4 on our dog Scout’s list of people preferences.  I know with certainty that Spots 1, 2, and 3 are taken.

1.  Lord and master of the universe.  (That would be Dearly Beloved.)

2.  Our mail carrier, Danny.

3.  Ivy, our daughter’s Goldendoodle. (Yes, of course Ivy is a person!)

No. 2 on the list is the Pied Piper of canines in our neighborhood.  His mail truck generates as much excitement with the dogs as an ice cream truck for neighborhood kids and he does it without a bell.  Danny carries treats in his mail bag and hands them out to all the dogs he passes as he makes his rounds.

For the lucky dogs with mail slots on the doors, he slips a treat in along with the mail.  Once he realized that Ivy was spending the summer with us, Danny added a second treat, but Scout would race to our front door and wolf down both treats so fast that he barely had time to get his fingers out of the slot.

After Danny realized what was happening,  the mail slot started clanging three times. . . one time for the mail, a second time while he tossed in a treat aimed toward the left, then a third clang to aim one to the right–to give Ivy a better chance of getting to the one meant for her.


When DB took the pair on their morning walks, they watched for the mail truck and pulled in that direction, even if they’d already been treated on another street.

Emily, the big black lab on our block, has a case of Danny-love, too.  Once I saw Emily lying in the grass several streets away from ours. I would’ve thought she’d been hit by a car but for the disgusted look on her owner’s face as he tugged on her leash.

“Is Emily all right?” I asked him.  He nodded.

“Then what is she doing?”  

“Stalling.  She’s hoping Danny will come by.”  

As the weeks progressed, Ivy became wiser about the magic mail slot.  Rather than try to outrun Scout, she decided to outsmart her.


Having Ivy here for two months has been wonderful for Scout.  She appears to have lost her fear of other dogs, if her romps with Ivy are any indication.  We began calling them Thelma and Louise.  I’d be embarrassed to admit how many videos DB and I have made of those two clowns and their antics.

Over the weekend, we returned Ivy to her peeps.  It was a happy reunion for all of them, but we certainly miss her.  I hope Ivy doesn’t encounter any mail carriers for a while.

They might misconstrue her salivating.

Did you hear the one about the unstamped letter?

You wouldn’t get it.