From Mobile AL to New Orleans: January 27 and 28, 2019

January 27, 2019
After we left Jamie and Rachael’s house, we stopped at the Leisure Club Coffee Bar in Pensacola to continue working on our blog.  At eleven we hit the road to Mobile, Alabama.  An hour later we arrived at the Botanical Gardens.  We were an hour early, hoping to find a cafe, but no cafe. A man outside the gate, Lynn, kindly escorted us to the garden’s learning center where we were to read.  He unlocked the door and we found a pleasant carpeted room set up with refreshments in back. In front, there was a wicker chair beside an end table with a light and a microphone, and standing in the corner, a mock-gardener, scarecrow-like figure with an actual deer’s head mounted on top. (BH)

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At the Mobile Botanical Gardens, storks and egrets were wading around in the garden’s ponds. The day was overcast, but not too cold. What a delightful garden! We headed towards a stately building  behind an ornate wrought iron gate near the parking lot. The keeper of the gate’s name was Lynn, a charming, sprite like gentleman with a wry sense of humor. He walked us up the to the well set up room where the reading would take place. (MO)

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We set up our books in back and waited for Sue B. Walker to arrive.  Sue is the publisher of Negative Capability Press and past poet laureate of Alabama; I have known her for several years, first as a student in my writers.com classes  (more like a co-teacher) and then as a friend; she published my book, A Day Like Today, and I read once a few years earlier at a salon at Sue’s house.   (BH)

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Our host Sue Walker arrived as we were setting out our pamphlet and books. A wonderful, energetic writer, editor, and organizer of readings and events. Check out her book “Let Us Imagine Her Name” from Clemson University Press. (MO)

Sue asked me to introduce Maureen.  I wasn’t prepared and Maureen whispered, “Just read the bio in the back of our book.” I did that and also talked about how she had grown up on a farm and if they listened closely, they might hear the sounds of Minnesota farmland in her poems.  (BH)


Top photo by BH, bottom by Jami Buck

After we both read we took some questions from an audience composed mostly of writers, professors, and artists. Barbara and I responded to pertinent questions on our writing process and on whether poetry played a more visible part in our culture in past decades as opposed to contemporary times. We discussed rhyme and the importance of rhythm in the poetic line. Then   a delightful reception with much chatting and connecting.  (MO)

Photos by Maureen

After the reading and questions, a quiet spoken woman approached me to sign some books, Marilyn Johnston. She told me that she was also from Detroit. Where exactly? I asked.  East Detroit, she said.  I was shocked.  We were both from the same four square mile city, a suburb of Detroit, now called East Pointe.  As I have traveled around the country, I’ve never met anyone who came from there. Then she told me that she had attended East Detroit High School, the same school I attended, but had graduated ten years earlier in 1956.  And she also had worked for Chrysler Motor Company until she retired, liked my father, she in Market Research for new cars, my father, first on the line and then as a draftsman working on government contracts.  That’s the story of Detroit. Almost everyone has relatives in the car companies.  Marilyn now lives in Mobile, close to her son. (BH)

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Then we followed our host for the evening, Lindsey Hanahan, poet and painter, to her home where we met Bella the Bassett. We were introduced to her youngest daughter, Grace. At dinner and drinks we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Lindsey. She has a book of poems soon to come out from Negative Capability Press. The next morning at breakfast she showed me some of her paintings and we talked about some of the poems in her forthcoming book. (MO)

 

A selfie with Lindsey

 

Lindsey’s house was a sprawling Southern style house. Once I went the wrong way looking for Maureen’s room and I almost couldn’t find my way back. Then we holed up in my room in an extremely comfortable bed for an hour or two working on our Pensacola blog post.  Here’s a photo from my bedroom window– (BH)

January 28
On the road to New Orleans, as I was driving, I asked Maureen to look up David and Roselyn, a musician couple that I knew from Detroit back in the late 70s. For a while they lived and travelled in a bus with their children and a few other people. In earlier years, I had spent a lot of time in New Orleans (a boyfriend had family there); now and again I would run into David and Roselyn performing in the French Quarter.  I was wondering if they were still there.  Maureen read the following description:

David and Roselyn met while touring Air Force Bases in 1959. They took a detour from music for David to get an Anthropology Degree from Berkeley while Roselyn became President of Berkeley Congress of Racial Equality and President of the Berkeley/Oakland Democratic Party. Their first trip to New Orleans together came while they were registering voters in Louisiana in 1963 and learning to play the blues in Juke joints around the state. They played by their campfires throughout the west and folks would gather around them and invite them to join them at their campsites and suggested they should be professional musicians. Their first gig was in the Cass Corridor in Detroit where they were billed as David & Zelda. They have played around the world and they are going again. http://multiracialmedia.com

See an early photo of them, posted by Dennis Pruss, a Detroiter, and posted on the Corridors Tribe website–

http://corridortribe.com/bands/david_roselyn/index.htm

In NOLA, we walked 8 blocks along Royal Street looking for a particular restaurant, and then we discovered that we were going in the wrong direction.  Fortunately our wrong turn stopped us in our tracks, mesmerized by an African American woman singing a blues song.  She turned and looked into my eyes while she was singing and I felt teary.  She had such a beautiful voice and spirit.  As we went along, I asked a few musicians if they knew David and Roselyn.  Finally one said yes, they are usually down on Royal and Louisiana. But he added that he had  not seen them in a while.  The last post we found on line was from 2016.  I remember them singing “The Beaubien Street Blues” in Detroit clubs. (BH)

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When we arrived in New Orleans, we found our lovely little airbnb, courtesy of Bill Lavender. Unloaded the car and took a 20 block walk to the French Quarter. It was so elating to be in New Orleans! So warm and sunny and full of colors. We ate dinner at Bennachin, a delicious African restaurant. Then exhausted from walking around we hailed a cab that drove us in and out of streets, turning this way and that, unnecessarily taking us on a much longer route home than we had walked. But only charging us the fare we had been promised. Curious, and a little scary. (MO)


From our backyard–Is this Bill Lavender’s house?


Photos by Maureen