Tag Archives: Athens GA

Ten Signs I’ve Found the Right Biscuit Joint

  1. Got the last spot in the parking lot at 9:15 on a torrentially rainy Wednesday morning.
  2. The car next to me was a genuine farm vehicle. How could I tell? Because the back seat and floor boards of the Toyota Corolla were covered in loose hay and it was sporting an after-market trailer hitch.
  3. The biscuit joint is located in a gas station. The line snakes back to the energy drink cooler over gray tile that wore down to the subfloor when Nixon was president. There is no ambience, and if you start to think there’s some, it’s the fumes. While I wait, I am free to peruse a revolving rack of “Discount Books,” most of which are about The Lord. (Locals call this place “Jesus Biscuit.”) I reach for the one entitled “It’s Your KID, Not a Gerbil!” before noticing the thin layer of fried bologna grease and motor oil on the cover and changing my mind.
  4. Listing out the biscuit toppings requires a board of the size that you might see in a high school football stadium. Bacon, ham, chicken, steak, five kinds of sausage AND fatback. My Pop would have thought he had died and gone to heaven. Alas, he has died and gone to heaven. Before anyone starts clucking about the dangers of cholesterol, that man ate fatback every time he could catch it and he died at 103. If you don’t know what fatback is, this is probably not the list you were hoping for. I’ll write about kale next week.
  5. Folks in line are not mulling over the menu or reading nutrition information. When they make it to the counter, they bark out “Bologna and fried egg biscuit” or “double red links on white toasted, side a grits and gravy.” The man in front of me ordered “two boloney on white, no toast, lettuce and tomato” and all the woman said was, “Is that it?”
  6. biscuitNot only is fried bologna an option, each piece has that little notch cut out of the edge so it doesn’t pooch up while frying. Makes me miss my grandma. She used to cut a little x in the middle of bologna so it didn’t curl up like a sombrero.
  7. The women working the counter are friendly and efficient. Two of the five people in front of me only had to nod and smile at her to get their orders because they were regulars.
  8. The woman at the counter repeats each order and simultaneously calculates the price in her head while scribbling it onto a brown paper sack. She ain’t got a calculator, but she’s got a neck tattoo. So does the woman working the griddle. Making a living off of gas station biscuits is not a gentlewoman’s game. These ladies have done some living and they got game.
  9. I feel like a dumbass when I say “to go” after my order. “Really, princess? You ain’t gon eat it standing here by the cash register so we can all clap when you’re done?”
  10. Giant flaky buttermilk biscuit with fried bologna and a fried egg=$2.39. The yella mustard was free.

If you’re in Athens, Georgia, stop by the Bread Basket inside the Chevron station on the corner of Boulevard and Chase Street. It’s all kinds of good!

Where’s your favorite biscuit joint?

 

 

Mrs. Talmadge’s Backyard

Instead of walking down the sidewalk to my office, like I used to do, I’ve recently taken to cutting through Mrs. Talmadges’s backyard in the morning and afternoon. That’s not as rude as it sounds, because Mrs. Talmadge lived past 100 and died a few years back. The house has been empty for a while, but it’s owned by the hospital so I’m not trespassing.

More than a hundred years ago, Prince Avenue stretched for a mile with grand mansions rising on either side of the street. These days, the few old homes that survived have become the Suntrust bank, a doctor’s office, an event facility, the UGA president’s home, a fraternity house. A few decades back, our hospital acquired the Talmadge properties–after all, we’d been neighbors since 1919. Mrs. Talmadge enjoyed a “life estate” which gave her the right to live in her home for the rest of her years.

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So over the years, the hospital campus grew up on the land around her white-columned Greek Revival home. The Julius Talmadge mansion next door to hers became the outpatient surgery center, with a modern surgery facility built off the back of the house. Our parking deck rose in the back corner of her yard, past the pecan trees. The hospital grounds crew pruned her azaleas and kept the grass cut just how she liked it. I can smell the perfume from the massive tea olives that flank  Mrs. Talmadge’s front walkway as I walk through the doctors’ parking lot on the way to the cafeteria. The driveway to the Human Resources Building shares a row of irises, daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths with Mrs. Talmadge’s front yard.

And we were good neighbors for all those years. No employee EVER cut through Mrs. Talmadge’s property while she was alive. That would have just been tacky. I kept up that tradition for years myself. But now that the lady of the house is gone, the house sits quietly as the hospital bustles around it. And the backyard has been pulling at my heart this spring.

Gardens are planted to be admired, and Mrs. Talmadge’s garden feels lonely. Stuck there behind the empty house and the parking deck, it’s still doing what it’s always done–blooming, growing, showing off–and it deserves some admiration.

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I come from a long line of people who plant gardens. So one morning when the grass wasn’t too wet with dew, I cut across Mrs. Talmadge’s backyard and I’ve been doing it ever since. Every morning, there’s something new to discover. In the afternoons, I run my hand across the warm red brick of the basement wall and I tell the house “Hey there, I see you.”

There’s a set of worn concrete steps that seem to lead to nowhere, but I can see they once made it easy to navigate a little terrace where the back driveway looped around the house from the porte cochere. Next to the steps, there’s an antique rose. Not the kind we’ve overbred for hardy hybrids with big showy blooms. This is an older gentlewoman, with delicate branches and soft red flowers in the summer that smell like roses are supposed to smell, not like the kind you buy chilled at the grocery store.

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Under the dogwood trees, white Star-of-Bethlehem peek out from their deep green shoots. I spy violets in the grass, dark purple and white, and I cross my fingers that the grounds crew won’t cut them too soon now that the grass is greening up with spring.

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And y’all–this morning, the air was filled with the smell of wisteria. Look at this astonishing specimen:

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A vine that has found its way into the air, by leaning on a tree (I think it’s an oak but I’m not sure what variety). How many years did it take for these two to grow together, leaning on each other?

Old places, that have become what they are from the work of many hands over the span of many years–there’s so much to find in them.

Thank you, Mrs. Talmadge, for this garden and this reminder of how things grow. Leaning on each other, making space, keeping on even when there’s no one around to admire the splendor.

Canoodling

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

If you’re really looking to feel like a sexless, dried up husk of a woman, I know just the place for you to live: a college town.

Last week, I stopped at Willie’s for a steak burrito (no double entendre intended). The guy behind the sneeze guard looked like a boy I dated in college. This had barely registered on me and the blush was just beginning on my cheeks when he asked, “Rice and beans?” He raised his head up over the glass to hear my answer. Our eyes met. I smiled and said, “No rice, just beans, black.” He gave me a quick grin and for a moment, I was 19 again.

Then I noticed that his neck was covered in hickies. Or is it hickeys? Whatever. For a millisecond, I felt like he had cheated on me, like when I found someone else’s phone number on a little white slip of paper in that other fellow’s jacket pocket. Probably a flourescent windbreaker pocket, because y’know, it was back in 1987.

While I waited for him to ladle my beans and pass me along to the toppings lady, I kept hearing that line from “Moonstruck” when Cher comes home from her evening at the opera and her mother yells–“You got a LOVE BITE on your neck! Cover that thing up! You’re life’s going down the toilet!”

moonstruck_05But in this little vignette at the Willie’s, I wasn’t the Cher character. I am now Olympia Dukakis. That’s what a college town will do to you. If you’re over 28, you’re the weary mother in a housecoat, shuffling around the kitchen with a coffee pot and a heavy sense of resentment.

And don’t even get me started on trying to go to Kroger on the Sunday before classes start! The place is a steaming miasma of college age pheromones and Axe body spray. All those young lovers who have been separated while home visiting their families? They’re ALL in the grocery store. Carb-loading. There’s more canoodling going on there than at any club or fraternity house. Buying groceries together is intimate.  It means you’re going to be doing things that make you hungry and you’ll be too naked to walk over to Subway.

I say “canoodling” because young lovers are especially numerous in the pasta aisle. Everybody knows how to make spaghetti, even the freshmen. When I first started canoodling with a fella who had a kitchen and pots, spaghetti was the only thing I knew how to make. Well, spaghetti and a beef stroganoff that was heavily dependent on Campbells cream of mushroom soup.

So while I’m steering my cart towards the yolk-free egg noodles for that delightful cabbage and kielbasa mashup (again, no double entendre…or maybe it’s subliminal), I’m dodging couple after couple who can’t keep their hands off each other. They’re each holding one handle of the shopping basket and swinging it between them. Or cuddling while they decide between the shredded Parmesan or the Parmesan Romano blend. Or he fiddles with the belt loop on the back of her jeans while she selects a jar of Prego. Or, because it’s not 1987 anymore, one cute fella taps another cute fella on the nose with a long sleeve of vermicelli and they giggle.

All while I stand there, a dried up husk of a woman who used to be pulchritudinous in the late 80s and for a good part of the early 90s. As these young lovers prepare to heat things up, I’m trying to find the elbow macaroni that has vegetables hidden in it, the low-fat egg noodles for Eastern European casseroles, the whole wheat rigatoni that contains more grams of fiber.

Love is in the air. Especially in aisle 8 at the Alps Road Kroger. I’ll be over here in aisle 2, where they sell wine.

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You Might Live In a College Town If…

college town life…the most frustrating traffic isn’t the Monday morning commute, but the Sunday night grocery store aisles.  Those babies don’t know how to shop.  Bless your heart if you need something from the cereal or pasta aisle.  Shopping carts should be equipped with horns.  That’s why I shop 15 minutes after kickoff.

…you know that ping pong balls are sold in the beer aisle.  Tennis balls are in sporting goods.  Cheese balls go on sale 15 minutes after kickoff.

…you plan your entire weekend around the football schedule.  Like this morning, I suggested we go out for pancakes and my Brasilian baby daddy said, “Are you crazy?  At 9:00 a.m. on the morning after a home game?”  He was right.  And he doesn’t even watch American football.  It’s “not real futbol because they don’t even use their FEET.”

…your daughter thinks that woolly boots, cutoff shorts and a glittery scarf make a cute outfit for first grade picture day.  She’ll probably ask for a flat iron for Christmas.

…the billboard beside the movie theater proclaims, “$7000–EGG DONORS NEEDED!”  I guess that beats student loan debt.

…you risk your life at every four-way stop because Lord only KNOWS what formula these young people use to decide who goes first.  I think it is based on the Kelley Blue Book resale value of your car.  Or the obverse of the cumulative GPA of the driver and all passengers.

…flip flops are appropriate attire for anything short of a job interview.

…there are not just one but TWO services that will deliver hot, freshly baked cookies to your residence and they will not ask any untoward questions about smoky air or strange smells.  Or so they say.

Safety, and Pins

1052164_10200887414020653_139717713_oSunday, March 27, 2011 was an exceptionally cold and bitter day in Athens.  I remember it vividly–that was the day a kind stranger gave me this large gold safety pin.  I rediscovered it this weekend in my car’s console.

G and I drove the kids up to Broad Street that afternoon and parked in an empty bank parking lot.  Carlos was just 3 months old.  I swaddled him in the Moby wrap then buckled my coat over both of us.  We walked up to the grassy verge of the road and waited.  Hundreds of people waited along with us, everyone whispering and looking east to the top of the hill.  Vivi was bundled in a coat and hat, but the cold wind cut right through them.  She whined about the cold.  I held her close to my leg and rubbed her back.  We waited.

“Mommy?  Where is the sad parade?”

Earlier that week, Senior Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian had been murdered in the line of duty.  Vivi heard us discussing it and I had to explain to her what had happened.  I stuck to the basics:  a police officer died when a bad man shot him with a gun.  When we decided to take the family to the funeral procession, I explained what she could expect to see.  People stand quietly and watch the hearse and the police cars go by to say “thank you” to officers who help us stay safe.  Her clever mind turned those concepts into “sad parade.”

buddy christian“It will be along in a little while.”  G took her back to the car to wait.  But she wanted to see the road herself.  The view was blocked as more and more people came to pay respects by the side of the highway.  Vivi took the baby blanket from the car and wrapped it around herself so that she could come back out in the cold and the quiet.

We waited.  There wasn’t much talking.  Quiet minutes crept by.  I cried as Carlos slept against my heartbeat.  Every time Vivi wiggled, the blanket slipped off her shoulders.  I tried tying it around her neck but it was too short.  I tried holding her and the blanket still but she grew frustrated.  I was growing tired myself and couldn’t think of a way to make it work–paying respects while keeping an infant and a three year old warm in that brutal cold.

“Would this help?”  A small, silver-haired woman who had been standing next to us offered me this large safety pin from her purse.  Her purse was one of those magically sturdy Grandma purses that yield whatever a moment might need.  We both breathed a sigh of relief that stopped just before a laugh.  I tucked the blanket around Vivi’s neck and the kind stranger pinned it closed.  She gripped Vivi gently by the shoulders and whispered, “A magic cape for you!”

The sad parade rolled by.  We watched in silence for an hour.  We turned and went home.  I unpinned the blanket before putting Vivi in her car seat.  I stowed the very useful safety pin in the console and it waited there until this weekend.

That summer of 2011, Vivi took swimming lessons at the Y.  One little blonde girl in her age group looked very familiar to me, but I couldn’t place her.  It came to me later, when her mother came into the pool area to pick her up–she was Officer Christian’s daughter, the same age as my girl.

The next day, I was the only mom tromping through the dressing room with the girls as they collected their towels and shoes after lessons.  One girl couldn’t find her flip flops.  Her.  I called to her, “Callie?  Your shoes are right over here honey.”  I pointed to them and she smiled and said, “Thanks!”  I patted her head in blessing as she walked by.

She looked at me funny because I had said her name.  For a split second, she looked like she was trying to place me.  She knew I wasn’t a family friend.  Then she paused and I think the knowledge flickered across her face–that reason why strangers know her.  So many people know her name and her father’s name.  I hope it’s the reason that people are kind to her for the rest of her life.  Why we all want to keep her and her little brother safe.

A Blue Bead for Boston

beaded necklace with all colorsMany years ago, so many that I can’t recall the name of the book or the author, I read about a method for seeing the pattern of your life from a grander perspective.  The idea is a simple one:  at the end of each day, imagine that you are stringing a colored glass bead onto a ribbon.  The ribbon is your life, stretching all the way back to the knot that was tied the day you were born.  The color of the bead represents how you felt on that one particular day.  A red bead for an angry day, when you spent your time feeling put out and put upon.  A green bead for the day when you were growing, when you could feel yourself becoming greater.  A blue bead for a day touched with sadness, a day when your heart was laid open to the world.  A gold bead for the perfectly balanced day, when your heart was blessed with joy and peace.

Once you have chosen a bead for the day and added it to the ribbon, you can look back to see the pattern they create.  I could look back and see the stretches of blue when Richard died that lightened into green when my life became whole again.  I could see how few red days are behind me, but how sharply they shout out for attention.  I could feel grateful for the gold days scattered here and there and there.  

Yesterday would have been a blue day.  A blue bead for Boston.

My boot camp coaches, April and Natalie, who finished yesterday’s race in 3:57, just minutes before the bombs exploded, have been robbed of their gold beads.  Their achievement should hold nothing but joy, but it will forever be darkened by violence.  There’s a boy in Boston who should have had a green day, after watching his dad finish something tough, but now the boy is dead and his father is left with a red bead, a blue bead, and many days before he will reach for a gold bead again.  How many people will mark April 15, 2013 as the first day they spent in a wheelchair?  Red and blue, red and blue; when will green return?

Today is also the anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.  Another of my former coaches, Stephanie, ran the Boston Marathon a year ago in memory of the 32 people murdered at Virginia Tech.  Her brother, Jamie Bishop, died there.  If I think about that tragedy too long, I reach for a red bead instead of blue.  Especially after Newtown.

So at the end of this day, pick a bead.  There will be blue days.  There will be red days.  But there are so many green days.  And just enough gold to make it all worthwhile.

Thank you to April, Natalie and Stephanie for all of the green days you have coached me through.  For the gold days when I finished a race that I never thought I would have the courage to start.

Law and Order FPU: Series Finale?

Day 13:  Final Case Notes

Giant country music concert in town last night with Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean.  I hear Ludacris even drove over from Atlanta.  Seventy thousands fans in town for the show.  

Boybutante Ball also downtown at the 40 Watt.  Huge annual drag show fundraiser for HIV/AIDS charities in Northeast Georgia.  

Plus it’s prom season.

AND turkey season.

THUNK-THUNK!

no panties

Conclusion:  Them panties done R-U-N-N-O-F-T.  

Quiz Question:  What country song best sums up our adventure with these feral panties? 

Bonus Question:  What movie featured that line?