Monday, August 31, 2015

Coffee Thoughts - 31 August 2015

Cafe Keough, 
Downtown Memphis, Tennessee ~

Every time I visit this place, I am transported back to a time of soothing jazz and continental music, the concept of "leisure time", and well dressed men and women. The Cuban sandwich is beyond delicious and my water comes in a stylish glass bottle with rubber stopper, like the Lorina French lemonades one can purchase at an upper scale grocery store.

 It is here that one can feel truly creative; a person who willingly chooses the road less traveled. For now, I forget that I work in a cubicle and instead think of myself as a regular in this establishment. The cafe is the kind of place you take your true love to for dinner, or perhaps yourself when you feel that Life is worth living. Of which should be every damn day.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Coffee Thoughts - 29 August 2015

29 August 2015 - Otherlands Coffee Bar, Memphis, Tennessee:

Today is a typical Saturday for the city of Memphis to come out and enjoy all that is representative of the area code 901. As I stand in line in Otherlands and daydream about my day, I notice a man standing several people ahead of me who seems nervous for some reason. He glances everywhere and even stares at me from time to time. I wonder if perhaps he wants to relax and enjoy the day yet doesn't know how to do such a thing. The man immediately ahead of me receives a "happy birthday" from a woman who walks in front of him. I notice that he looks a bit embarrassed to receive such a wish. It's finally my turn to place my order to the nice barista and once I complete it, I wander around yet within hearing distance of the other employees who are chatting away about their lives. Coffee shops are microcosms of the world, providing the good, bad, and ugly within the time spent drinking a cup of coffee. Perhaps even a refill. There is a girl at the bar with bright green hair and several tattoos on her arms and she looks absolutely amazing. Her smile confirms that her life is pretty good. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Literary Excursion - Oxford, Mississippi

The town of Oxford, Mississippi is known for many things, one of them being the home of the University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss. However, Oxford is also known for its rich literary heritage and a grand support of the arts. Since Oxford is only an hour and thirty minutes from Memphis, visiting the city when I need a day-cation is not a problem. I love the town so much that I even included it in my upcoming Southern Gothic novel, Open A. The aunt of the main character, Greydon, lives in Oxford and several “hard left” scenes occur in the town.

Whenever I visit Oxford, I have a routine, if you will, of things that I do in a certain order. Strangely enough, one of the things on my “list” is to get off on the wrong exit. I always get off too early or too late, adding to my overall good mood an “oh well”. However, once I arrive the correct exit, I slowly make my way through the roundabout towards my first stop – Rowan Oak.

I will freely admit that for many years, I was not a fan of William Faulkner. I wanted to read everything else but his work and honestly, I have no idea why. However, that all changed when I read his book Light in August and found myself wanting to make his acquaintance, however late it may have been. The drive to Downtown Oxford is quite delightful in that it looks like a quintessential Southern town – full lush trees hanging over the streets, while grand houses sit as though on a stylish parade. Once you see Old Taylor Road, make a left and slowly drive down the road until you reach woods. To the right is an historical sign telling the story of Rowan Oak. Welcome to the home of Faulkner.

After visiting only the house several times, I finally made it to where I could actually see the inside. Walking on the property is one thing, but to actually see where he slept and wrote as well as his bottle of whiskey is quite a treat. You can also see his penmanship on the wall of his writing room, complete with typewriter and other accouterments. The land that the house sits on is quite vast and beautiful, guaranteed to occupy one's time for at least an hour if not longer.

The next stop on my “list” is to drive into Downtown and make my way to the bookstores. Three in all, Square Books, Off Square Books, and Square Books Jr. are heaven for any book lover. Square Books is the regular bookstore, complete with a second floor and even a balcony to sit and people watch. Off Square Books is the home of discount books and cool book related items such as socks, rubber quills, finger puppets, literary and artistic magazines, shirts, and anything else you can imagine. Square Books Jr. is the children's bookstore and I admit that I've never set foot inside. That may have to change.

The square itself is quaint and eccentric, complete with coffee shops, clothing boutiques, restaurants, and even a British telephone booth near the seated statue of Faulkner. However, if Ole Miss sports are having a game, be prepared to sit in traffic and possibly park several blocks away from your destination. There was one time that I visited Oxford that it was the day of graduation. I will never make that mistake again (grin).

After visiting the bookstores and walking around the square for a while, I usually get in my car and return home, right after eating a Mushroom and Swiss burger at Hardee's in nearby Batesville. You may not think that's not a big deal, but the fact that Memphis does not have a Hardee's (NOTE: Memphis will finally get a Hardee's later this year!), it's a big deal.

If you ever find yourself in this part of the South, I highly recommend making the trek to Oxford. Mr. Faulkner would not mind at all.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Book Is . . . . .

Ever find that ONE book in a used bookstore?

That one book written by an author you'd never heard of, yet when you finally decide to sit down and read the book, hours willingly slip away? That voice, those characters you don't want to forget, and a chance to discover if the author has any other works once you close the book.

Yes, that ONE book.

I've got three in particular that I'd like to share with you, simply for the hope that you will want to read these books and hopefully revel in bliss as I willingly have. I hope you enjoy!

 I discovered this book at the Librairie Bookshop in New Orleans, Louisiana (a great place to spend several hours!) and knew I had to purchase it. A young woman is about to marry a man who comes from a world of upper class privilege. In the time leading up to the marriage, she reflects on her bohemian past filled with regrets and, for the first time, wonders just who she is in Life.

This was another gem I discovered at the Librairie Bookshop in New Orleans, Louisiana. The founder of a feminist magazine is in search of the truth of a famous prostitute from the 1930s and realizes all too soon that the secrets of the dead sometimes need to stay dead.

This was nestled in between books at the Second Editions Bookstore at the main branch of the Memphis Library. A physicist "imagines" the lives of Alan Turing and Kurt Godel somehow intersecting and influencing each other as they both slowly and ultimately face their individual dooms.

I had neither heard of these books nor their authors, yet each one left quite a mark on my literary soul. If you don't believe me, read them yourself and let me know what you think.

A Book is a Book is a Book, or so the Writer claims . . . . 


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Journey of a Cloudwatcher

The clouds were at their best today, giving me more than enough of a reason to take their photos . . .

A Cloudwatcher does not demand for the clouds to come - a Cloudwatcher waits ~ 

The clouds forever move in the skies, constantly creating shapes to behold ~

Of solitude and wonder makes the Cloudwatcher ~

Of Dreams and Imagination ~

May my imagination never cease . . . . 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Southern Shinrin-Yoku

Although I live and breathe the city of Memphis, I am also a lover of Nature. Taking long walks on forest trails, watching the waves while sitting on a beach, or even just admiring mushrooms growing on the side of a rotting tree trunk - these are moments of pleasure for me. When I start to feel a bit worn out and mentally exhausted, I will visit a park for an hour or so and rejuvenate or at least feel somewhat dark elf again. The Japanese call this form of "therapy" shinrin-yoku, of which I learned about through my friend Emily.

Today proved to be no exception as I decided, while on my way to a coffee shop, that I needed to see and be around trees. I made a sharp turn and soon found myself on the road to Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, only thirty or so minutes north of Memphis. As I made my way to the park, I felt a sense of anticipation for the winding paths, overhanging trees and knowing that soon, I would no longer hear the sounds of the city. I was ready, complete with music from Lord Huron, a bottle of water, and gum.

Last year, I discovered a path that took me right to the Mississippi River and this time, I made sure to visit that area first, despite me wanting to stop on the side of the road to take photos of the numerous trees. I knew I would have time for that later, so I drove on to my first stop. Aside from several people driving their boats down to the river, I felt peace and serenity by just being there. It is quite soothing to watch the Mississippi sluggishly flow by, unhindered by time or petty things. The river simply is and that was all I needed. I soon drove off and returned to the forest.

Trees have always fascinated me; I like to think of them as silent sentinels forever protecting an area until the time came for them to awaken and fight. Yes, I am a lover of Lord of the Rings (grin). However, I knew that I was not going to see any Ents in Meeman, yet the appreciation was still there. At one point, I got out of my car to just enjoy the silence all the while wondering if anything watched me from their green hiding spots. Many times I looked around and I saw nothing, yet the feeling of being watched is hard to deny. I turned to face the thicket behind me, stared long and hard, and then returned to my car and drove off. I don't know if something was there, yet if so I hope they understood that I meant them no harm.

This may sound corny, but we are all connected. Going to a forest is a reminder of such statement. No person is an island, no matter how badly they want to be. As I saw this connection of vines and limbs, I wondered how long it took for them to make contact. How long had the trees "spoken" to each other on either side of the road and yet not been able to connect? Once they connected, did they still have things to "say"? I drove on.

I next arrived at a lake and rental boat area and knew I had to stop. There were several groups of people at the area and the lake gently moved and lapped against the bank. For a brief moment, I wondered if perhaps I had stumbled upon a lair of a water creature, unknown to even the books of Myth and Legend. Lived so long that humanity and the Otherworld had forgotten about it. The lake may have been man made, but the "creature" felt older than the park itself.

After being at the lake area for only several minutes, my foot caught a hole in the ground and I fell. I immediately turned around and sat on the grass while rubbing my knees, when suddenly this butterfly came out of nowhere and landed on my thumb. I forgot the pain and instead took several photos of my "friend" and wondered if perhaps it saw me fall and came to make me feel better. Surely, I thought as I took the butterfly's photo, this was a Tao moment. The butterfly stayed on my thumb for quite some time and I felt honoured to have received such a visitation. I got up and dusted myself off then slowly limped/walked along the bank while still taking photos. The shinrin-yoku was still in effect.

Sometimes, we all need to take a break from the rat race called Life. Sit down, have a cup of tea or water, and just relax. Read a book. Spend time with a loved one. Meditate. Something, anything, that will cause us to disconnect if only for five minutes. My shinrin-yoku was a success and the butterfly visit ended the adventure on a good and funny note.

Enjoy this song from Lord Huron - they are an amazing band to listen to while taking a road trip or just daydreaming.

Good Night.