NEW ORLEANS -- A security guard and a lawyer walked into a bar. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. It's bad, all right, but no joke.
Everyone in this town, including two drinking buddies, was talking about the federal public corruption trial of former mayor Ray Nagin.
WAVELAND -- I got to walk right past the shiny, new, Christmas-ornament-red hook and ladder truck at the fire department here to see one of my heroes, radio personality Felder Rushing. One recent Saturday morning he was speaking upstairs at the firehouse.
I couldn't help but think about how many of the boys of my generation wanted to be firemen when they grew up. Never knew a single one who wanted to become "a gestalt gardener," which is how Felder describes himself.
I was using the free White Pages website to try to find the ZIP code for a friend's address. An advertisement popped up, something called Instant Checkmate, which is not free.
NEW YORK CITY -- If you can imagine a place today that would extend credit to struggling but brilliant journalists, novelists and theater people, where, say, Donna Tartt and Jon Stewart and Tina Brown might convene daily for lunch and drinks, then there might be a contemporary equivalent of The Algonquin Round Table.
When niece Chelsey was little, I lavished her with Christmas gifts too numerous and fanciful to remember. There were faux-fur coats with Dalmatian spots, diminutive dolls bundled as quintuplets, plastic horses that cost more than the real thing.
FISHTRAP HOLLOW -- Lightning or some other benevolent act of fate struck the magic modem that brings this technology-heavy century into our otherwise peaceful home.
FISHTRAP HOLLOW -- I rarely watch those "news" videos the Internet pushes, the ones where you are force-fed a couple of advertisements before you reach the meat.
PASS CHRISTIAN -- Today she looks like a beautiful Indian princess, like Walt Disney's Pocahontas, her thick black braid rapunzeling down the back of her tunic of red, the color in which her mother dressed her "Mimi."
Author Jesmyn Ward's ancestry is mixed with African, French, Spanish and Native American blood, allowing a rainbow of perspective, which makes her feel "lucky," she says, as a writer. But for facile identification, "I choose to embrace African American. It's a political choice."
ATLANTA -- In 1994, I borrowed the truck that hauled the loaner bed to the thinly disguised doublewide I was renting outside of Atlanta.
His prized possessions were a Stetson hat, a portrait print signed by Kentucky's Col. Harlan Sanders and a putter shaped like a hot dog and autographed by Bear Bryant, though three of his children had graduated from Auburn and he never played golf.
Fall feels different this year. For one thing, so far I've spent too much of it inside.
I missed the Harvest Moon rising over the lake. I forgot to send Martha Hammond the first red leaf I saw along my road.
I once believed that at the end of our lives, relatives and loved ones would take care of us, bring us comfort, break the monotony of long, last hours.
Colorado floods of so-called biblical proportions, fire on the Boardwalk, a Miss America contestant with visible tattoos? It really might be the End Times.
The Wall Street Journal had one of its trademark front-page features the other day about how slow-bicycling sans spandex and road helmets is making a fast comeback. One man's "Slow Bicycle Movement" Facebook group has 7,300 members, the article said.
Now that the world is rid of a dangerous Deep South cook named Paula Deen, we can rest easy. Stripped of her epicurean empire and rode out on a rail through the virtual streets all buttered and feathered, our nation finally is free of racism.
FISHTRAP HOLLOW -- The frogs are so loud tonight, it is difficult to have a porch conversation.
"Welcome to the other Great Smoky Mountains," a friend in town said to me. She was right.
ABILENE, Kan. -- I like driving across Kansas. A lot of people find it boring, the endless wheat fields and blur of farm-implement dealers and land laid out flat like a patchwork quilt on your grandmother's properly made bed.
The British know. Their television and movie stars are like real people, except they can act. They look normal, with blemishes. Think Shirley Valentine, or Young Mister Grace. A few are pretty, some not so much.
Acting trumps beauty.
A few years back I wrote a story about a Florida panhandle folk artist named Woodie Long. Woodie died far too soon and left a beautiful widow and a country studio full of colorful, childlike paintings. His style was joyful.
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