Saturday, September 1, 2012

Internet Presence

Today is my 26th birthday. Four years ago this September 5th, I started this blog. This is the 300th post, and if you do the math, that's just under two posts a week, each week, for four years. If you'll remember, if you've been around that long, on September 5th, 2008, I was about to leave for a year abroad in France, and I was very young, and scared, and didn't know how to blog.

I think, if you'll excuse an utter lack of humility for a moment, that I've figured it out.

But, if you can't tell, I've been feeling a bit stretched thin recently. Partially, this is due to my job(s). Working from home means never really being finished with a project, never really putting work down and stepping out of the office, to home & friends & personal life. Partially, this is due to being in a state of limbo since February, when my living & social situations shifted dramatically. Partially, still, this is related to my graduate school applications, and the time I've spent either working on them or worrying about them.

I think, though, it's largely related to the affair I've been having with a little number called Tumblr. I'm sorry, Blogger, but she's easier than you & knows more tricks. 

I've been juggling two blogs for almost fifteen months now, and using the two drastically different blogging formats for very different things. But, in all honesty, that's getting a bit old, and I'm not sure I need that much space on the internet.

And just like that, I'll be saying good-bye to gauchedroitegauche, and waiting for you all to join me at thisisnotreallife. Truth be told, my life isn't much of a leftrightleft anymore, anyway. Less plodding along, and more wonder & joy & passion & iPhone app filters.

This isn't a good-bye, I suppose, but more of a welcome. I'll be glad to have you here

Friday, August 31, 2012

Paging Mrs. Robinson

In the interest of sanity, time management, and okra, I've left off work on my graduate school applications for much of August.

This has, admittedly, been easy to do, but now that it's August 31st and deadlines are looming, I'm feeling a bit frantic. I have thirteen applications to get together, as well as two GRE test to study for. I have one writing sample to revise, shorten, and revise again (and again, if my adviser has anything to say about it...) and several versions of a personal statement to write. There are fees to pay, and transcripts to order, and UNH to thank for not charging $10 a pop for an official copy of my grades.

These next three months are going to be a doozy.

December 1st is my first deadline. Graduate school, I'm coming for you.

I Eat Sixteen Buttermilk Pies Then I Lick My Fingers

Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House is just down the street from the Jack Daniels Distillery, and since it's still in Moore County, you won't get a stiff drink from her kitchen, but you will get apples candied in good old JD & your dessert will likely have whipped cream with Tennessee whiskey whisked in for added flavor.

In 1908, Miss Mary Bobo and her husband purchased the boarding house and opened their doors to teachers, bachelors, miners, and traveling salesmen passing through Lynchburg. She ran the house until just before her death in the early 1980s, at the ripe age of 101. The boarding house is no longer a place to lay your head, as all of the rooms have been converted to dining rooms, in order to accommodate the large crowds that fill the house every day at 11 am and 1 pm.

The restaurant is family-style, Southern hospitality at its finest. You will be given a dining room assignment, and unless your party is very large, you'll be seated with strangers at a table, along with a hostess who will sit with you, facilitate the conversation, and make sure the dishes are passed to the left. We sat with a man originally from Tennessee, and his daughter's family--an Englishman from York and their three children with English accents and a love for Southern cooking. 

It is the best meal I have ever had, and if you know the food I cook and the restaurants I frequent, you will know I do not make this statement lightly. The menu changes daily, but you are guaranteed sweet tea and the famous Jack Daniels apples. If you're lucky, there will be fried okra, with the most perfect cornmeal crust in the world. The hostess told us the secret is in leaving the okra to set after breading it, because if you stick it in the oil right after dipping it in the cornmeal, the crust will fall clean off and you'll be left with soggy okra. Not at Miss Mary Bobo's.

We were there on fried chicken day, and though I have an aversion to picking meat off bones, I can assure you there was none left on my chicken bone--and most of the skin was gone too. This is more than a miracle.

The meal finished with buttermilk pie, and the young English boy who refused it at first, but was finally coaxed into taking a bite, offered to take home sixteen of them himself.When I asked how he intended to find the $160 to do so, he assured me he'd find a way. I am sure he would.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

From the Desk of

This is the desk in the Jack Daniels Distillery building that used to house Mr. Jack's original offices. It is huge, and solid, and has lots of cubby holes and also a spot for a fountain pen, and it's perfect.

I'm on the hunt.

Whiskey & Rags

The Jack Daniels Distillery is in Lynchburg, Tennessee, a city in the dry Moore County. The tour guides and locals like to joke that the only shot of Jack on the rocks you’ll get in Lynchburg is a picture of Jack Daniel’s statue on its stone pedestal, outside the original offices from the nineteenth century.
You might not get to taste it, but they’ll show you where it’s distilled, the pure spring water in the old cave that they’ve been using for over 150  years, and let you take huge whiffs of the mash and the charcoal vats used for distillation. 

They’ll take you through Jack Daniel’s offices, to show you his desk, his instruments, photographs of him standing tall at 5’2’’, and the safe that killed him.

The story goes that he came in to work one morning and couldn’t get the old safe to open. Stubborn and aggravated, he eventually kicked the damn thing, causing an infection in his toe. When they couldn’t kill it, they had to amputate, and chased the infection up his toe, into his foot, below his knee, until eventually his whole leg had to be cut off. Six years after kicking the bucket safe, he died of a gangrene infection, and left his distillery to his favorite nephew.

They'll show you the black mold that covers the buildings and the trees around the distillery, evidently a fungus growth caused by the evaporating alcohol in the distillation process.
During Prohibition, the authorities would track illegal stills using the mold, finding areas of the forest with black tree bark--that also probably smelled strongly of whiskey...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mama Said Go to Hunt's

One of the requirements of a trip to Panama City, if you ask anyone in Patrick's family, is a visit to Hunt's Oyster Bar. 

The place is rustic as hell, and they'll hassle you if you eat less than a dozen oysters, but they shuck them in front of you, the wine glasses are made of plastic so there's no chance of me knocking them over & breaking them, and the oysters are about 40 cents each. 




And more importantly, they really are the best damn oysters in the world.


In Panama City, FL, I saw three men on the side of the road wearing black & white striped jumpsuits, picking up palm fronds and tree branches that had blown off in the first gusts of Hurricane Isaac. I didn't even really know that black & white striped jumpsuits still existed, but I think I saw a chain gang, without the chains.

Alabama farmland
Panama City is the furthest south I've ever been, and according to the locals the furthest south you can ever get, as anything below the Florida panhandle is Disney and Miami glitz and the tropical Keys. It was deep. Deep like Patrick's long(ish, since I grew up with a father who had a ponytail) hair caused issues with uncles and grandparents deep. Deep like coleslaw was the only vegetable at dinner deep. Deep like church on every corner & Grandmother Imogene doesn't allow the word "liar" to be said in her home deep. Deep like the best peaches & biscuits I've ever had deep.

I guess Alabama is where you're supposed to get peaches. 

I also guess there are pink cows there, too.

Patrick's mother's family is from Panama City, and her mother and father (mommy & daddy if you're a good Southern gal like she is) welcomed me with food and family and stories from the past, as well as gentle jokes about what I saw in the family's blacksheep-poet-who-talks-like-a-Yankee. It's the hair, I told them.

We went to the beach, so I could put my feet in the Gulf of Mexico. The sand is finer than sugar and white like it too. Hurricane Isaac hadn't reached land yet, and wouldn't for another day or so, but you could feel it coming in the skies and in the riptide that pulled back hard on your feet. Out in the distance, we saw three or four dolphins playing, taking advantage of the fact that the beaches were emtpy. Once, one of them jumped all the way out of the water, curving down and around so we saw his whole body arching back in the water.

Later that afternoon, I went with Patrick, his brother, and their grandfather to his property on White Western Lake. Florida has hundreds of lakes all over, hidden behind copses of trees from the highways, fed by springs from underneath the ground.

The springs are drying up, though, and the lake where Patrick spent his childhood is slowly shrinking, drying up & leaving more and more white sand around its edges. The water is warmer than any I've ever swam in, save the Mediterranean, but Patrick & Stephen told their family it was a little cool. Perhaps it was the lower temperatures due to the impending storm. We swam for a while, with dark clouds blowing by overhead, and Patrick's Grand-daddy sitting in a folding chair by the lake's edge, watching his grandsons and some tattooed girl in a bikini bobbing in & out of the water.