Real Movie Set Town

The 2017 Alabama Historical Association (AHA) fall pilgrimage will be later this month, centering on Abbeville, Alabama, which is just ripe to be the setting for a mid-century period film. Jimmy Rane, the ‘Yella Fella’ (if you’ve ever been to a lumber yard or just watched an Auburn game on tv, you likely know his Great Southern Wood Co) is responsible for so much of the preservation here: what would be vacant storefronts become throwback shop windows to when kids wore Buster Brown or Red Goose shoes and one bought Philco radios.

I’m going to miss meeting Jimmy (it’s during my birthday weekend and we have other plans) and getting to tour more of the town, but we were there this summer and got to walk around with the boys, including a lunch at Huggin’ Molly’s, a restaurant and soda fountain that is now the home to the fixtures from a 1926 drugstore shop in Pittsburgh. Also: the place is named after a town legend:
…a giant of a woman, maybe 7 feet tall and as big around as a bale of cotton.

Some say her ghost still walks the streets of Abbeville late in the night, sweeping her black skirt as she goes. If she happens upon you, she chases you down, gives you a huge hug and screams in your ear.

While the food is what it is: easy lunch food, the people are friendly. The manager came around and was explaining that the Coca-Cola sign hanging here is worth as much or more than everything else in the building put together, as it’s one of only a very few still extant:

As cute as the downtown area is during the day, it’s even more impressive at night when the signs are lit and the neon is going.

Grand Hotel, Pensacola

Usually when we’re in Pensacola, it’s for business plus family beach time, but this trip was purely business — and short — so we decided to stay in the city and finally try the Grand Hotel which is built into the old train station. It’s not especially grand, but was interesting to see the tilework and fixtures from the older part of the property.

If you’re thinking that’s it’s vaguely Crowne Plaza-ish at the top strip, it’s because until a few years ago, it was a CG. I’m not sure if the franchisee didn’t want to keep up with IHG standards of upkeep, but the rooms still have familiar emerald green carpeting and dark furnishings.

It’s not particularly easy to get a good picture of the exterior as it’s so close to the highway. It’s a popular place to stay when there’s a concert or game going on at the arena across the street.

The train station was built in 1912 to replace the 1882 L&N Union Station. It eventually went vacant in 1971 and developers added a 15-story hotel tower to give the site new life.

It’s like 1984 met the Haunted Mansion with that sofa in the lobby.

The room was okay — nothing great but not terrible, the bed was alright but the bathroom was small. The trains still do run right by the hotel at all hours. If you’re a light sleeper, you might want to plan for whistles/horns/whatev and make it a Benadryl/diphenhydramine kinda night.

And the view was…



The Good Heart

“There’s so many external beautiful art but internal the good heart is most important thing. I always say be a good person a warm-hearted person because that is important”

Just thinking of this quote by Tenzin Deshek, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who lives in Alabama and created this sand mandala in April at the Birmingham Museum of Art. We got to see him take the sands — tiny marble particles — and tap them along, making lines and filling in voids:

There was an article in the San Antonio paper this week about the mandala made there, and what happens once it’s completed:

After the ceremony, the monks cleared away the sand, placing it in hundreds of small plastic bags that were distributed to viewers. They then walked to the nearby San Antonio River, depositing the remaining sand in the water, where it flowed downstream and disappeared.

It made me think of tashlich (a symbolic act of tossing away past bad acts and gaining a fresh slate), which was done this year with a congregation at the beach. This year, my boys saw some jellyfish floating around, and seagulls always swoop in once they see bits of bread floating about too. The crumbs eventually flow away with the waves and disappear. It’s a time to reflect and think about improvement.

“There’s so many external beautiful art but internal the good heart is most important thing.”

Memphis Barbecue x2, Pink Palace Museums, And Laminated Blessings

Beautiful. The Pink Palace Museum in Memphis is one of the largest in the Southeast, and has an incredibly varied collection — it’s part planetarium, giant 3D theatre, natural history museum, and Memphis-centric display including a replica of the first Piggly Wiggly which was the first to make the transition from full- to self- serve grocery in the nation.
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

narwahl tooth

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN


ivory-billed woodpecker
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

Patterson Transfer Company Memphis and Nashville mail coach
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

This Fisk mummy case is a cast iron casket / coffin was used in an 1854 Shelby County burial. “The casket was accidentally uncovered by a plow which exposed a burial vault constructed of approximately 2000 handmade bricks.” The person inside was reburied elsewhere. This particular type of casket was manufactured from about 1835 to 1860. Strangely, there’s a glass piece which has its own cast iron cover above where the head would go, for viewing. More about this casket here and here.

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

What’s really interesting is that it’s this kind of cast iron casket that helped lead to William Bass founding the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility (Body Farm).

There’s a replica general store
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

and pharmacy (happy Halloween!)
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

but the Piggly Wiggly is the best — it’s modeled after the first one here in Memphis, which was revolutionary in that it let the customer do his/her own shopping

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN


2016 marked 100 years of the Pig being in business.

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN


Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN


Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN


Among the items in the Memphis display, Elvis’ own script for G.I. Blues
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

and an array of over-the-top gowns for cotton celebrations
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN


Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

We were only in town for less than a full day, but had supper one night at Germantown Commissary which was good all-around
Germantown Commissary, Germantown TN

note that the Brunswick stew is “for all you folks from Georgia”
Germantown Commissary, Germantown - Memphis TN

My meal was the cheese plate, which included deviled eggs and sausage. Av had a sampler, all of which was cooked just right (and we all ate from that as well) and the thick-battered onion rings were yum. The banana pudding was pretty great too.
Germantown Commissary, Germantown TN

The next day (they like the checkered paper in Memphis) we had Elwood’s Shack. Av had the dry ribs, Shugie had a barbecue sandwich, and I tried the brisket taco. It was all good but not amazing. Between the two, Germantown Commissary has them beat. There’s very little seating here so if one doesn’t get in early or off-hour, getting things to go is a pretty good bet.

Hyatt Place Hotel, Memphis TN
We stayed the night at Hyatt Place which was just like every other time we’ve stayed at a Hyatt Place, and found this laminated card by the pillow
‘Our prayer is that your stay here will be restful 
and that your travels will be fruitful.
May the L-rd bless you and keep you, and make
His face shine upon you.
All grace, 
Moody National Management’

2015 Memphis Flyer listed ‘Best Barbecue’ as

1. Central BBQ   2. Bar-B-Q Shop   3. Germantown Commissary

and ‘Best Ribs’ as

1. Central BBQ   2. Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous   3. Bar-B-Q Shop — tie — Corky’s Ribs and BBQ

We’re working our way through Memphis barbecue — we’ve now been to Germantown Commissary, Elwood’s, Cozy Corner, Rendezvous, Neely’s (now closed), Corky’s, Tops, Jim Neely’s Interstate, and Central.

Of those, our favorites would be Germantown Commissary, Central, and Corky’s.

We still need to get to BBQ Shop, Pollard’s, Leonard’s, A and R, One and Only, and Marlowe’s.

From the NYT: Before the Wedding, a Test: 3,000 Miles of Barbecue which includes spots from Pennsylvania to Tennessee. In Lexington, Tennessee, they visit whole-hog operation Scott’s-Parker’s Barbeque is visited, and in Memphis, they go to Central and Bar-B-Q Shop.

The author considers going to Alabama for more barbecue, but perhaps has his geography a bit off:

It had begun to rain aggressively after we left the Bar-B-Q Shop, but I drove us out to the Memphis Riverfront. Parked in front of the Mississippi, I began to lay out Barbecue Road Trip Part 2 and the idea that maybe we should hit a few spots in Alabama? I mean, the state border is right there.

The Graduate, Athens GA And Cashing Us Ousside

Lobby = niiiice. We loved the idea of getting to try the Graduate Hotel in Athens, Georgia — it’s part of a small chain of niche hotels (nine now, with four more opening in the next couple of years) with retro decor serving college towns.

The only thing is that it’s truly a motel — the lobby is in a separate building, and the rooms surround with outside corridors.

…but the interiors are styled in such a way you just roll with it. Naugahide- or nauga-ish headboards, plaid accessories…

…some kind of paint-by-number portraiture exhibit on the television credenza…

…trying too hard on the chalkboard there, but the Crosley radio is nice…

as is the wannabe rotary touch-tone phone (Crosley also makes a sweet pink Princess phone this style).

Malin + Goetz amenities in the bathrooms.

I’m kinda smitten with their lobby in Oxford. We have season tickets to UAB (and the Saints, and we go to AL, AU, and other games) but I want to show the boys tailgating in the Grove so that might be a great opportunity to see the hotel in person.

We haven’t been to an Ole Miss home game since ’06 (Ole Miss has a special place in my heart because every time I visualize myself in grad school, it’s getting a MA in Southern Studies there) but here’s how the NYT put it:
In many tents, food is served on silver trays, drinks splash through fountains and chandeliers hang from the metal supports. Fur coats abound. Jackets, ties and cowboy boots are common.

Prominent chefs are hired to cater meals, and chicken is a favored entree. “You don’t want to be a chicken in northern Mississippi on game day,” said Tim Walsh, the executive director of alumni affairs.

We walked through the tailgating area at UAB for the first game, and I thought, Lawd. We need to show Legion Field how to tailgate (tailgating is, after all, a sukkah party with a solid roof). Look for us one weekend in November if things go the way I think they will.

BTW, I had a genius idea for our sukkah party invitations this year. I’ll send nice-nice ones to the neighbors and other friends, but for our-age-and-younger friends who love memes, I came up with this idea that I’ll fill in with more of the details later: