Monthly Archives: March 2022

Thinking Allowed!

Libraries are quite like college towns. Both can be safe havens and places where thinkers can flourish. Many students rather be in the library during lunchtimes to avoid the bullying, boisterous behaviors, and loudness of school cafeterias. In kind, people who use their minds to do every day work appreciate and cleave to college towns. They often offer them a place to think and function at a level of clear-headedness. 

Some spirits simply cannot take the volumes of music turned to 50, or the brashness and crudeness of some subcultures. When referring to absent-minded professors, they may not be absent-minded. Their work simply involves a lot of moving parts and pieces just as an orchestra has several instruments that make up the whole. If everything does not come together, there will be noise instead of a harmonious symphony. Great results take both thought and skill on the parts of many participants.

So, yes, those sacred spaces such as libraries and college towns allow thinking. It is not only okay to think, but thinkers are welcomed, respected and encouraged by those who understand that yes, nerds do run it. If no one is thinking, the ship and all who are traveling on it will sink. The problem-solvers will be in short supply and few will be around to upright and stabilize the situation at hand.

Quite like chess games, methodical answers take time, deep thought and concentration. Rash, quick moves as in a game of checkers may give immediate results but short-lasting wins. Ultimately, no one really wins because the renegotiations will soon start all over again. Cooler heads do indeed prevail, and those cooler heads can find those hidden answers in a calm, peaceful environment where thinking is allowed. Oftentimes, a library or an atmosphere comparable to a quaint college town is the perfect place to truly get the job done! 

Lynn M. 
March 26, 2022 

Spring Break -2012

Lynn in DC-2012

It was the spring of 2012. I had always planned to go to Washington D.C. at some point in my life. With our first African American President in office and the MLK Statue having been recently unveiled, I knew that the time was right. Plus, I had donated dollars to the MLK project and the thought of cruising down on a train beckoned me. I had always wanted to experience the luxury of a sleeper car, so I vowed, “Now is the time.”

I made my reservations through Amtrak Vacations which included a sleeper with a private bathroom and shower, hotel accommodations and other amenities. I went alone during spring break while working as a school librarian and I immediately saw it as a win-win situation. 

After arriving at Union Station in Chicago, the passengers were put on a luxury bus called Eclipse. I forgot the extenuating circumstances, but we were treated well and fed on the bus as we headed to Toledo, Ohio. I saw that as a good omen because my parents took their wedding vows there. It was night when we entered Toledo and a beautifully lit bridge warmly welcomed us.

From there, we boarded the Capitol Limited train and headed on down to Washington DC. I was in seventh heaven with my private quarters and private bathroom. I took copious notes as I always do and relished in the peace, solitude and scenery. When we passed through Harper’s Ferry, I took pictures and in my mind’s eye, I could see the battles of the Civil War on the hilly terrain. 

A newspaper was delivered outside my door, and it added to the royal treatment that I enjoyed on the way there. When I went to the dining car, the wait staff lavished me with little tokens of appreciation. As, I sat alone, one staffer added a rose in a vase while another quietly walked by and added other fine pieces such as special napkins, utensils and the small things that said, “We see you.” In a matter of minutes, my table went from bare to being highly adorned.

Once we arrived at the DC train station, it was busy and one couple who I had spoken with earlier was hurried to a shuttle bus. I believe that they lived there and were returning home if my memory serves me correctly. After inquiring, I soon learned that my hotel was in walking distance, so I rolled my luggage and walked a few blocks with the Capitol Building in view. To my astonishment, I saw the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Building sitting next to the entry of my hotel, The Liaison Capitol Hill. All I could think was, “Daddy.” He had been a teamster member of Local 667 in Memphis, and I felt his protecting presence. 

I settled into my room and made plans for my short stay in DC. The next day, I boarded an Old Trolley tour bus in front of the hotel and quietly affirmed, “Let the games begin!” Here are some landmarks that I saw from a distance: The Jefferson Memorial, The Washington Memorial, The Capitol Building, The Smithsonian Museum, The Government Printing Office, what was left of The Occupy Movement, The WWII Memorial and The Ford’s Theatre, to name a few. I soon realized how compact the area was and we were allowed to get on and off of the bus at our discretion.

I got off to see the MLK Statue and marveled at its height and majesty. I took many pictures. Later, I got off for the Lincoln Memorial and I climbed the stairs. I thought of Marian Anderson who sang on the steps after being denied the right to sing inside of the White House. I thought of Dr. King giving his famous, I Have A Dream speech. There were many people gathered around President Lincoln sitting in his chair. I took as many pictures as possible of both him and his historic words inscribed on the walls. I also ate right outside the Lincoln Memorial where tables and chairs were set up close by. There was tarp over the reflecting pool that Jenny walked in during the movie, Forest Gump due to some type of renovation.

I walked over to the Vietnam War Memorial and there was a quiet hush as people silently grieved for all those who were either lost or for those who returned maimed physically, emotionally and in many cases, both. Every household from my era was impacted in some way from that War. I also took pictures of the Korean War Memorial as the ghostly faces shone on the walls. The statues of the soldiers with their artillery under their rain gear were quite memorable.

I continued to take multiple trips around DC and again jumped off the bus to get closer to The White House. We were allowed to get reasonably close to the South Lawn and I took pictures along with others. But most importantly, I actually went inside the Library of Congress. On the way in, I saw a group of children singing on the steps of the Supreme Court Building and of course, I snapped a few pictures. Once inside the Library of Congress, I took pictures of the beautiful ceiling and some of the statues. I saw the Thomas Jefferson Library Exhibit. I had previously studied his U-shaped design for retrieving his books. I visited the LOC bookstore to buy a few mementoes. 

This is merely an overview of what could be seen in DC, but I am just happy that I had finally made it there. The weather was great, the cherry blossoms were in bloom, and I was indeed a happy camper. So glad about it!

Lynn M. 
March 19, 2022 

Hot Houston!

Christmas 1971, I flew from Chicago to Houston to visit Napoleon Bonaparte and his family. No, not the Napoleon Bonaparte because it was not in the 1800’s. This one had another name attached on the end but yes, his mother named him for greatness. Anyhow, to my shock, it was about 80 degrees and the only thing that saved me wardrobe-wise was the fact that it was the era of the hot pants. So, I did not have to go shopping to pick up new clothes. 

His family, though meeting me for the first time, lavished me with gifts as he always did. I was in for so many treats during the few days that I spent there in hot Houston. Only pleasantries come to mind as I spent time with him, his mom, his sisters, and his brothers. The youngest brother kept us laughing. His youngest sister was highly fashionable, and I remember her hot pants adorned with some tall black leather over- the- knee boots. In Chicago terms, we would say that the boots were smoking

I must go far back down memory lane to envision my time there, but Paule Marshall, one of my favorite authors, wrote, “Sometimes a person has to go back, really back – to have a sense, an understanding of all that’s gone to make them—before they can go forward.” And I do intend to keep it moving. I distinctly recall some gigantic shrimp from one restaurant with high seasoning and one night, we went to a dinner club, not a nightclub, in the downtown area. 

While there, we saw and heard Johnnie Taylor sing to us in a small, quaint setting. All folks from Chicago knew Johnnie Taylor and loudly sang along when he said, “My last two dollars, I don’t want to use” from his song Last Two Dollars. Or we all danced to Taylor’s “Cheaper to Keep Her.” After the show, we saw him talking to Tyrone Davis, another singer, over in a corner. He was close enough for us to touch him! 

The family wanted to make certain that I saw Galveston before I returned to Chicago. We all packed into the car, and I think an older brother drove, but the fact that I do not remember means he must have been a safe driver. No scary moments. Along the way, we stopped to see their father who lived at another location. We took pictures and then we headed south to Galveston which sits on the Gulf Coast. It is about an hour’s drive down. 

We were serenaded by the renowned Isaac Hayes. He was burning up the charts at that time and the movie Shaft was a huge hit. Hayes composed the film’s score. Around the same time, he had an album called Hot, Buttered Soul which we listened to in the car. He had us all spellbound as he first told the story and then finally sang the tune, By the Time I Get to Phoenix. He made us wait for it and that song will be forever etched in my mind. It is over 18 minutes long and we were all quiet as we held on to his every word while he took us on a long journey into a man’s deep pain. Little did I know that many years hence, my main character in my series of books would be named Phoenix. Who knew? (Probably the literary gods.) 

When we made it Galveston, I remember it being overcast. Afterall, it was December. We took loads of pictures as we all took turns posing on the rocks. I held onto those pictures for years, but now that they are gone, I repaint that experience here. That is the only time I have been to Houston, but I can put a check by that city’s name and say, “Been there. Done that.!” I had a glorious time! 

{If you have an extra 20 minutes, or if you want to clean the oven or spruce up the house, push play and enjoy the incomparable Isaac Hayes do his thing, like no other!} 

Lynn M, 
March 15, 2022 

Heading North!

In the summer of 1980, my contractual job ended, my lease was expiring, and I felt as if I was in dire straits. I talked to my friend, Twiggy, a fellow writer and fellow transplant while we both lived in Atlanta. She was like that ram in the bush. She knew someone in Ohio who was the director of a summer program called Upward Bound

Ohio Wesleyan University

This was pre-internet days, but she made the phone call. It was a connection, so I pulled out my trusty road maps, packed up my Buckhead apartment with the help of another angel friend and when all systems said go, I headed north to Columbus, Ohio. 

Once there, I met my soon to be boss and she graciously accommodated me for one night as we made one another’s acquaintance. The next day we headed up to Delaware, Ohio which is the home of Ohio Wesleyan University, where we would be stationed for the summer. I was hired as the Education Coordinator who led and advised the other teachers. 

The staff was made up of people from all walks of life who converged there to make some summer money and to work with the inner-city youth from Columbus. Many were fresh college graduates, but one stood out from us all. He was an actor from New York whose very presence demanded attention. Over time, he started calling me Evita Peron and the musical, Evita, was out at that time. Whenever, I entered a room, in this loud bellowing voice, he started singing, “Evita, Evita!” I would just laugh. 

We silently doubted whether he was a real actor, but as fate would have it, a few years hence, I saw him in Spike Lee’s first movie, “She’s Gotta Have It.” I was speechless as I sat there and watched him on the big screen. And a few years after that, I saw him as a lead character in the movie Daughters of the Dust about the Gullah people, on television. (Research that.) 

Our housing accommodations were great on the campus. About three of us had a huge fraternity house which was empty for the summer. We had about three rooms apiece and we shared the kitchen and the living room. One day, we all stood frozen in front of the television as we watched the story of Richard Pryor’s freebasing accident. Time stood still as we wondered if he would pull through. As we now know, he went on to recover and continued to make films though we feared that we had lost him at that time.

There were the daily challenges of dealing with young teens who were often frustrated, angry and filled with pent up emotions, but that is the purpose of the Upward Bound program. We were there to let them know that there are other ways to live, and to let them see the beauty and peace of Delaware. I love college towns because they are often quaint, safe and peopled with those who both read and think. 

On weekends, if I felt as if the walls were closing in on me, I would drive to Columbus, rent a room and just breathe. Or I would meet friends who were locals that had swimming pools at their apartment complexes. But, whenever, I entered back into Delaware, it was like re-entering an enchanted forest. There was a calm there. I later met another supervisor, Larry G. who referred to Ohio Wesleyan as that bump on the hill. (He had been there.)

That summer, I purchased my first collection of poems by Maya Angelou called, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie. That was the beginning of a long love affair with Dr. Maya because after that, I read almost everything that she wrote during her lifetime. I also found my first The Writer magazine and I subscribed to it for many years as I prepared for things to come.

Once, we drove up to Bowling Green State University for some job-related event. We were always looking for ways to enjoy the Ohio area. On another, occasion, I walked the grounds of The Ohio State University. That was special because it was the alma mater of my former supervisor from Mississippi. It had been a brave trek for him, and he made certain that I added the The in front of Ohio State University when I was typing for him. He was so proud of his specialist degree from that esteemed university.

Some other highlights include seeing the movie All that Jazz with Roy Scheider. The open-heart surgery scene was both graphic and memorable for me. At another point, I went to observe the young photography teacher show his students how to develop film in the huge darkroom at Rutherford B. Hayes High School. It was a real treat as I watched them learning those detailed techniques. 

Yes, I stepped out on faith that summer and I do not regret it! I will forever hold fond memories of Ohio Wesleyan University and my time spent in Delaware, Ohio. And no, I would not take anything for the journey as I navigated uncharted waters. I simply count it all joy! 

Lynn M. 
March 12, 2022 

On Benford Street!

Riverview School 2013

In 1961, our family lived in segregated Memphis, but we did not feel anything but happy and content. We lived on Benford Street and our street was lined with loving families on both sides of the street. There were the Brumleys next door, the Miles on the other side of the vacant lot, the Drapers behind us, the Guys and Bryants across the street alongside with the mysterious Mrs. West. 

As children, we walked and enjoyed everyday life and often visited the sundry stores often held in people’s homes. They sold pop (soda), candy and other goodies that made small children smile for miles. We always crossed the street to avoid passing Mrs. West’s home because rumor had it that she washed down her front steps with urine to keep the evil spirits away. We shunned that as kids and found it quite comical. 

One day, my sister and I were walking down Benford Street, and we found a letter as we walked home. We started reading it and every line begin with ‘So susta.” We giggled as we read it and to this day, we often greet each other with those words, so susta. It is our private joke and happy remembrances of times gone by.

We lived in a small duplex and the six of us seemed to fit in there just fine. My father used to fill our family station wagon with us and as many neighborhood kids as he could get in the car. Then, he drove us around the town because he knew that some of them had never left Benford Street before, so it was a real treat. My mother was the school librarian at Riverview School which was a few blocks up the street. That is where I fell in love with the little blue biography books of famous people.

There was also a huge vacant lot right next to our duplex. It served as our neighborhood playground. Whenever, Mrs. Miles came to the porch with a pan of hot pound cake, all playing ceased immediately. We ran to her front porch to make sure that we got a piece of that delicious cake. Those were the days! 

On Saturdays, we had to do our chores such washing, hanging out the clothes on the clothesline, mop and clean our tiny house. Afterwards, we were allowed to eat popcorn and drink Kool-Aid as we watched Tarzan and Shirley Temple movies. One cousin had her hair curled in Shirley Temple curls. Boy, did we envy her! When the local show called Pride of the Southland came on, we usually called it a day and went outside to play or do other things. Playing jacks on the front porch was also a comforting pastime for me and my three sisters. 

On Sundays, I used to go to church with my friend Herdestine who lived next door. I was allowed to wear stockings or what we called nylons since I was dressed in my Sunday best. That was a highlight for me as I tried to figure out what the moaning bench (mourning bench) meant though she tried to explain it to me.

On weekdays at the school, we had one classmate who showed us how to take a penny and turn the date upside down and it would still say, 1961. That is how I remember the year. It was also a time when we would run up and down the school yard when we heard that the green men were sighted. (An era to be researched) They supposedly had come to earth from outer space with the astronauts. I know. Kids, right? 

My mother’s sister, my aunt, and her family lived at the other end of Benford Street. It was a very long street and especially if we were walking. Once the sisters were having a feud over some thread and a needle or something. They were exchanging hot letters and we had to deliver them, but we did not care. We enjoyed the long walks and the cool breeze as we talked and sang along the way.

It was on Benford Street, that I made up a name for my daughter. That did not happen, so I borrowed it for myself and used it as a pen name. When, I fondly reflect on the time spent on Benford Street, the lyrics come to mind, “Precious memories, oh how they linger.”

Lynn M.
March 5, 2022