Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Other Mission In Meridian

A CALL TO DUTY — written October 23, 2008

I enjoyed the reunion very much, but there were other reasons for me to return to the place of my birth. I "needed" to see Meridian and its environs after having been away so long. So, in the dead time during the days I availed myself. On Monday, I convinced my little invisible friend, Norbert, to climb in my car and ride shotgun as I explored many of the places I used to frequent.

When I re-visit somewhere I've been away from a long time, yards always seem smaller, city blocks shorter, houses different colored and all the changes which are barely perceptible, over time, to those who live there, usually strike me as quite dramatic. I learned, looking for Lonnie's, site of countless beer purchases, that Poplar Springs Drive somewhere past 40th Street becomes a boulevard named for Hartley (I think I've got this right). For most of the afternoon, I was Lewis, Norbert, Clark (Sacagawea bailed on me a while ago) and we had a good time exploring... digging up bones as it were. Thomas Wolfe was wrong... at least in this case. "Hometown, though we are both, you and me, a little old and tired looking, I found out I still harbor fond memories of you."

During the day on Tuesday, I got the opportunity to do something I have wanted to do since the feature in the link below (hope it opens for you) was published... two and a half years ago.

After reading the story, I contacted its author, Anne Hull, to tell her I was a Meridian expat and I was completely taken by her piece. We spent a few e-mails together, then she gave me the e-mail address of a central figure in her story and I have been in occasional contact with this person, Diane Johnson, a single parent, raising two boys in Chunky. Anne Hull, to my mind, is the best features writer I've ever read. I tell her this... often. Others think she's great, too. She won the Pulitzer Prize ("Pullet Surprise" in south Georgia) this year for her insightful work.

"Get on with it, David!" OK.

So affected was I with their story, I knew I simply "had" to meet Diane and her little family. I asked for and got the opportunity to have a long lunch with Diane at a place near her office, a new-ish looking deli, McAlister's(sp?). It was her choice. Meeting us there was her son, Blake, and Blake's girlfriend, Caitlin. Younger son, little Sam, had to stay in elementary school.

I'm so glad I got finally got together with the Johnsons. They were terrific. I enjoyed every minute of it. Son, Blake's now a sophomore over at West Alabama, as is his MHS graduate girlfriend. I want to help them somehow — as soon as they get over being too proud to accept my help. Blake has to work his way through college and it's hard to believe, but he is working in Bay Springs and going to school at the same time — doing both during the week.

Anyway, this will probably bore some of you. It already has bored at least one of you that I know about. But, if you have learned anything about me over the last several months, you know I don't care. If only one of you enjoys the link below, it's worth it to me.

Please click on the second link below the article — there's a poignant slide show with accompanying audio. If nothing else you will get to read one of the best storytellers around. Anne is wonderful. If you think so, too, e-mail me and I'll forward your comment to her.

Click on here for the slide show:
Go here for Photos/slide show.

As they say in NASCAR: "Keep Your Shiney Side Up." Stay well.

David James

1 comment:

C. Broome said...

That is an impressive piece of writing, in both tone and substance.