Birney Imes: A Friday afternoon

September 10, 2011 11:04:00 PM

Birney Imes - [email protected]


After reading Kathleen Parker''s 9-11 commentary Friday afternoon, I felt an odd sense of relief. The column is so dead-on, so perceptive (and so dispiriting), that any effort I might make on the subject would be superfluous and inadequate. I felt free to venture out at the end of a perfect September afternoon and consider less weighty matters closer to home. 


We have a light pole with a street light on it in the corner of our backyard. Years ago a friend of one of the children offered to shoot out the light. Fortunately, prudence prevailed, but we still have the light, pole and guy wires. 


Just before 5, I set out for Smith Landscaping to see if they had a more elegant (and legal) way to blot out the light in the form of a fast-growing evergreen. 


Near the corner of Market and College, a former police chief, the sleeves of his black T-shirt rolled up, was tuning an electric guitar, readying for the Stella shouting contest, part of the Tennessee Williams celebration. A block away at the Rosenzweig Arts Center, a former banker in a Hawaiian shirt was signing his self-published book, a sailing adventure. Ron Tew, formerly of Merchants and Farmers, then UniSouth, then Trustmark, traded in his pinstripes for Docksiders about 15 years ago. Since then, he and his wife, Jeanne, have been living the life Jimmy Buffett sings about. 


At Smith''s Freddie Forby and Bridget Tuggle were unloading a large shipment of mums from Fred Ensz of Macon. Freddie listed the options -- bald cypress, Savannah holly and eucalyptus -- and waved me in their direction. 


The eucalyptus looks like something out of Dr. Seuss. Cypress makes me think of Lake Norris, not someone''s backyard. The holly grows tall and has red berries birds like and a profile more fitting for the space. 


As I was leaving, an older couple from Tupelo showed up to look at trees. On their way out, they asked for directions to Bob Robert''s Barbecue on Highway 45 South. They seemed undaunted about venturing sans-GPS into unfamiliar territory. There was something unusual and refreshing about them, a vitality, a sense of adventure. 


By the time I got back to town, the finalists in the Stella shouting contest were taking turns getting on their knees, pulling their hair and screaming their hearts out. For inspiration Gloria Herriott had invited Leigh Allison Phillips, a red-haired lovely in a red cocktail dress ("I wanted someone with va-va voom," Gloria explained.), to stand on Gloria''s balcony above Holly Hocks and receive the pleadings from the Stanley Kowalski wannabes. 


While the quintet of Stella hopefuls made their cases, I chatted with George Irby, who told me he was the classmate of the late Lucious "Booman" Wilson, the subject of a recent column. 


"Booman was a really intelligent guy," George said. Best quote I''ve heard about Boo (that was his name around our house) was by a neighbor at whose house Boo would fling beer bottles late at night. "I''m sure gonna miss Booman," she told Sara Fowler of The Packet. 


We''re gonna miss him, too. 


Second Lt. Ryan Workman, a student pilot from Chapel Hill, N.C., who pulled his T-shirt off while hollering, won the contest. 


Back home I wandered around the backyard trying to visualize how the holly would look. Four blocks away, the former police chief was singing a Rolling Stones number: "You can''t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you just might get what you need." 


What we need on this day of remembrance is a renewal of the American spirit. The America we cherish is not of a people mired in fear and polarization, as too many of us are now. Our greatness as a nation is rooted in self-reliance, innovation, tolerance and the urge to venture into the unknown. 


As Ms. Parker says in her column, we are the problem. If that is the case, can we not assume we are capable of finding the solution? Do we have the resolve and intellectual rigor needed to do so? One can hope.

Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.