Why I Like To Eat at Home.
Recent bad experiences at local chain restaurants: At a Red Lobster, butterfly shrimp tasted worse than frozen shrimp from a commercial company prepared in the oven at home. At the local diner, a chicken breast sandwich came dripping with hot grease. At an Outback Steak House, the hostess misled me about where to sit, I had to take silverware from another table, and the steak and fries were too seasoned. The butter tasted old and the salad was not fresh.
In a Suburb of Chicago.
The night was bitter cold, and snow and ice were piled high at the sidewalks. We had been out in windy cold, and we looked forward to a good dinner in an Italian restaurant.
Our waitress, a tall and brown-haired woman in her late youth, apologized that she was new and hoped to do her best. She took drink orders while we decided on appetizers. After a long time, when she returned to take our appetizer orders, I said, “We don’t have our drinks yet.” “I’m sorry. Some people want a long wait. I’ll go get them.” Some people want a long wait? Drinks were then prompt, and the appetizers arrived after only a short wait.
After we ordered entrees, she checked back twice to see if she had taken the orders correctly, once before she put the orders into the kitchen, once afterwards. A worker from the kitchen brought the entrees. She followed. “And the chicken!” he said. I said, “I ordered veal.” The kitchen worker said, “This is chicken.” The waitress aid, “No, it’s veal. I wrote down veal.” “It’s chicken,” I said. “No, it’s veal,” she said tearfully. “That’s what I wrote down, and that’s what I checked two times. Oh, never mind, I’ll take it back.” She did, and brought the veal soon afterward.
I saw on the ticket that she was identified as #18–Trainee.” I hope she has better days soon.
A Road Trip to Georgia.
I was long overdue to make a pilgrimage to Andalusia, the home of writer Flannery O’Connor and to her town, Milledgeville. I avoided interstate highways, and traveled through the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina. US 441 is marked in the mountains of NC as the Georgia Road. I like that name. It’s what my grandfather would say, the Georgia Road. “Let’s go down to Milledgeville. We’ll go down the Georgia Road.”
I like the mountain drive. In north Georgia, there are the beautiful names of towns named for women, Cornelia and Helen; and then there’s Homer.
I stop for lunch at Huck’s Café at Commerce on the Homer Road. They advertise their hamburgers as the featured specialty. I decide on a hamburger. On the wall by my booth is a mounted large mouth bass, about five pounds by appearance, and the head of a buck hangs beside him. On the wall opposite are scores of car and truck license plates. On another wall is a display of Coca-Cola trays. On a counter is a large glass container with small ice cream cones. The hamburger meets advertised expectation. It’s high fat content, and I felt some ground bones, yes.
A family with three small boys and a baby in a carriage arrive and take a long table to my left. The boys remain quiet and still throughout the meal, and the baby doesn’t stir. The father and mother talk quietly to one another and ignore the children. Each boy receives a hot dog, and the father portions out fries to the three of them from a large order. As I leave, one of the boys gives me a bright smile and says quietly, “Hey.”
I stay two nights at a motel about three miles from the town, the same highway that leads to Andalusia. My room overlooks the parking lot. I can watch workers at the motel arriving and leaving from work. Most are either small black women or overweight white women, all walking slowly and talking loudly with one another. There is breakfast each day in the dining room, just off from the lobby. The television is set on Fox News. The choice of Fox News tells a good deal about the community and clientele, and I wonder why breakfast can’t be eaten in silence. I find any opinionated news obnoxious, but obviously most people don’t agree. Single people and couples watch attentively, even the commercials, as they eat breakfast.
As I drive into Andalusia, I see images directly from the first story I read by O’Connor, “Greenleaf.” There is a large meadow with small pond and surrounding woods. I park by a tenant house and larger former dairy barn, notice the water tank, and pay homage to two peacocks caged at the back yard. There is a screened porch the length of the front of the house. O’Connor’s bedroom has been restored, though visitors can only look in. There are a single bed, table by it with Bible and devotional books, fireplace, bookshelves, crutches, typewriter. Farm equipment for dairy farming is on display in the former dining room. the farm. The knowledgeable and genial docent answers questions competently and gives a map of downtown Milledgeville and another of self-guided walks through acres of the farm. I buy postcards, the biography of O’Connor by Gooch, and a book, O’Connor’s prayer journal, to send to friends.
Downtown has many sites of historic and literary interest. I find O’Connor’s grave and smile to see that someone had put a small container of peacock feathers on it. I visit the church where O’Connor attended Mass daily. The church rings a bell to announce Mass each day a few minutes past noon. I enjoy walking around the town and seeing historic houses and monuments. The town was the capital of Georgia before the Civil War, and there are many antebellum homes and markers and sites. As a special treat, at the recommendation of a friend, I stop at Ryall’s Bakery and enjoy a brownie. In fact, I enjoy two, one for me and one for her.
Georgia College, a liberal arts school, is there, and there is a block of small restaurants nearby. They serve generous portions at reasonable price. I enjoy meals at three of them: The Brick, where a slice of pizza is the size of most small personal pizzas elsewhere; Georgia Bob’s, where the proprietor gives me a sample of their homemade pimento cheese, ribs, and Brunswick stew while I wait for my barbecue plate; and Velvet Elvis, where I have an excellent bowl of vegetable beef soup on a cold winter night.
On the way home I drive through the Sandhills of South Carolina. US Highway 1 is not in good condition, decades of truck traffic, I thought. I stop at a diner for lunch. On the door is a sign, “NO PROFANITY.” The restroom is not clean, and there are no paper towels, but I do not cuss. The service is slow, the floor behind the counter is littered with dirty and wadded paper towels and egg shells, but I do not cuss. The check is added incorrectly, and I have to ask for it twice, but I do not cuss. When I get to the car though, to relieve negative feelings before what I project will be a good drive home, I cuss. I cuss like a good ole Georgia boy.
Notes on Films Nominated for Best Picture.
“The Theory of Everything” is the entertaining and interesting life story of Stephen Hawkins. It features his formation of his theory of quantum mechanics and the two women he loves that made his work possible. “Selma” shows how politics works, from the formation of the value to be enacted to the workings of how the principle is made into law. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is brilliant comedy, completely absorbing and entertaining. “Boyhood” is significant in that it is filmed over a period of twelve years and presents a realistic look at American life. I greatly enjoyed the character of the boyish father and his efforts to bring meaning into both his life and that of his son.
For Present Consideration and Possible Future Research.
Wake Forest Magazine presented an interesting feature article, in which professors in various fields proposed an “event or discovery in their field that most changed the course of history.” Here are the events and fields: the rise of agriculture (economics); the telescope (physics); the invention of fertilizer (german); the invention of calculus (mathematics; On the Origin of the Species (anthropology); the Fourteenth Amendment (history); quantum mechanics (chemistry); events of 1945 (art); Paul Charpentier’s synthetic compound cholorpromazine, the “beginning of modern psychopharmacotherapy” (psychology); the discovery of DNA (biology); school desegregation (politics); Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 19y5 (education); the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (religion).
Notes on Reading. Fiction.
Flannery O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge. (Signet, 1967) This collection of nine short stories includes “Greenleaf,” the first story of O’Connor I read and “Revelation,” one of my favorite stories, in which the protagonist has a vision of salvation of all people. The reader enjoys observing the author’s considerable gifts: the understanding of the landscape and mindscape of the rural South, the use of distortion and violence to illuminate truths, and the use of comic elements, all of which leave the reader entertained, startled, and challenged.
Paul Bailey, The Prince’s Boy. (Bloomsbury, 2014) Through a love story, the author illuminates the idea of transience, referring to Proust’s great work. Along with the idea of transience is the idea of values of humankind carried across in both one person’s lifetime and in the lifetime of a culture. Settings of France, England, and Romania are presented in the context of twentieth century historical events. It’s a good book. I plan to re-read it.
Notes on Reading. Nonfiction.
Frances Mayes, Under Magnolia. (Crown, 2014) The author returns to the South to live. The book recounts landscapes, homes, customs, food, weather, language, and mentions the ineffable reasons that Southerners living away want to return.
John Jeremiah Sullivan, ed. The Best American Essays, 2014. (Mariner). The editor has chosen twenty-one excellent essays and assembled them under the idea of “best.” Any such collection would be controversial. There are various topics and techniques of essay writing illustrated here. My favorites: Kristen Dombek, “Letter from Williamsburg”; Vivian Gornick, “Letter from Greenwich Village”; Yiyun Li, “Dear Friend, From My Life I Write To You In Your Life”; Wells Tower, “The Old Man at Burning Man,”; and Baron Wormser, “Legend: Willem de Kooning.” The Forward by Robert Atwan, series editor, is excellent.