Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pop Quiz!

Where was Coca-Cola bottled for the first time?

If you guessed Atlanta, Georgia, you'd be off by over 420 miles. The correct answer is: Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Up until 1894, when candy merchant Joseph Beidenharn came up with the concept of dispensing Coca-Cola in individual bottles, the popular beverage was always sold at ornate soda fountains. His idea revolutionized the way soft drinks were marketed, and today, franchised bottlers distribute the product worldwide.

Visitors can tour the Museum of Coca-Cola in downtown Vicksburg to learn the history this beverage and see various memorabilia inside the fully-restored Biedenharn Candy Company.  Wander through the exhibits to see old-time maps, photos, souvenirs, 1890s furniture, and original processing equipment.

The candy shop-museum is located at 1107 Washington Street in historic Vicksburg, MS. Open year round except for New Years Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Monday-Saturday from 9:00 - 5:00, Sunday 1:30 - 4:30. Admission is $3.50 for adults and $2.50 for children (6 - 12).  While you're there, enjoy a Coke and delicious ice cream or homemade candy. Visit their website at

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bronze Lady of Buceo

 In a quiet corner of the Buceo barrio in Montevideo, Uruguay, lies El Cementerio, the oldest burial ground in the city. Built in 1835, this cemetery is one of four laid out on a bluff across the road from the sandy beaches of the Rio de la Plata. Much of it is laid out in a grid with lanes bordered by palm trees, evergreens and flowering shrubs.

Mourners and necro-tourists pass through a triple-arched stone entrance gate into the necropolis to wander through the grounds to admire ornately carved marble monuments garnished with flowers and tributes. Here and there a statue (angel, saint, anchor, crucifix) poke upward through a jumbled maze of bronze, marble and granite.

Here, visitors can enjoy the work of international sculptors: Italian artists such as Morelli, Livi and Lavarello and local artisans such as Zorrilla de San Martin and Belloni. Many of the burial monuments are allegorical: sleeping children, angels weeping, figures carrying young women who had died in childbirth.  

In a cluttered grove of elaborate monuments, one simple grave stands alone. The figure of a bronze woman lies procumbent on a sheet, spread over a granite slab. Her body emerges from the smooth surface in high relief. Curled on her right side, she lies in a fetal position; face blurred in a mass of tangled hair. Who is she, this girl whose arms cradle her head, her fingers flexed and pressing gently into tender flesh? A delicate shoulder emerges gracefully from the folds of her sleeveless dress. The hem of her dress flows to cover her heels. Only her toes are seen arched gracefully.

Grass fringing the gray stone slab has dried to a crispy yellow. Debris from dead vegetation encircles her neck like a garland. The only green is the patina covering her bronze flesh and flowing garment. Does she grieve for someone or is she to be grieved?

This is the vision of faceless death. At once peaceful and fearful, it is not grand. No angelic intermediaries link heaven and earth. There are no florid architectural devices. Stunning in its simplicity it stands alone in its haunting beauty.

In a city known for its magnificent architecture, a trip to El Cementerio del Buceo is a fascinating and absorbing experience. Take the bus (cars 38 or 39) or hire one of the reasonably priced city taxis. Night tours are conducted by a local historian.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Exotic, Diverse Puerto Rico

In two-and-a-half hours--the time it takes to slog through security lines at most airports--you can fly from Miami International to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Relax and dip your toes into the frothy waters of the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Order a plate of mofongo and wash it down with a refreshing mojito!

On arrival at this island paradise, it's a short taxi ride to the center of the original capital, which covers seven square blocks. Take a walking tour of city center and wander over blue cobblestone streets made of bricks originally used as ballast on wooden trade ships. Did you know that Old San Juan was established in 1492?

Visit La Fortaleza, the Governor's Residence, built as a fort in the early 1500's to fend off invaders from the sea. Today it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can tour its gardens Monday through Friday from 9:00 until 3:30 pm, for a $3 donation.

Did you know that the famous explorer, Ponce De Leon, is buried in the San Juan Bautista Cathedral, a 450 year-old church? Daily Mass is still celebrated inside.

Be sure to schedule an afternoon, or day-long visit the lush green El Yunque Rainforest, 45 minutes drive from the capital, where you can see mist-covered mountains, ponds, flowers and coqui frogs up close. The tour guide will take you to the La Coca waterfall and the Yokahu Observation Tower.

Next trip, I'm going to see Arecibo, the world's largest radio telescope.

Puerto Rico offers a variety of activities: golf, sailing, catamaran snorkeling, hiking and zip lining. Whether you're looking for nature adventures, sandy tropical beaches, exciting night-life, interesting culture--a mix of Taino, African and Spanish influences--or great food, it's all here. Visitors can reach the island by direct flights from several State-side gateways, and no passports are required for U.S citizens. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ode to Aphids

You've come here to do battle
my little aphid fiends,
but in the end I'll getcha
by any mortal means.

In pow'dry fine white armies
you chew my plants to shreds.
Where are the winged predators
you nasty critters dread?

Those ladybugs have flown away
their plant-lice meal untouched.
I'm forced to fight with chemicals
and other toxic stuff.

I march out to my garden
with several cans of DEET
But then I stop. Consid'ring,
that all bugs gotta eat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Food, Friends and a Fire Truck

Imagine the look of wonder and surprise on the faces of the neighborhood kids when they saw a big red fire truck roll up the street on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The children dropped their cans of silly string and Super Soakers long enough to watch the giant vehicle stop and park alongside a gathering of their parents and friends at the mid-May Ivey Chase Spring Block Party in Stone Creek.

Soon, three representatives of the LCFR (Lowndes County Fire Rescue) opened the truck's shiny red doors and hopped out to join the folks, as special guests at the neighborhood picnic.While the grown-ups wandered over to admire the array of high-tech equipment, children climbed aboard to get a good view of the dials, hoses, jump seats, and gear.

Tommy Crump, Sergeant on Duty, stacked his bunker gear on the tarmac in the at-the-ready position for everyone to see. When not in use, these clothes are turned inside out so a firefighter can quickly step into them and pull them on. Did you know that a firefighter must be able to get into his or her gear--including air tank and mask--in two minutes, in order to be certified?

"We love to meet and greet the community and let the people get a glimpse of our world. This way we can show them what we do in different situations," said Sgt. Crump.

"Often times we visit to educate and impress the children, but it's the adults who seem to enjoy it even more." Over the next hour, the firemen fielded lots of questions from the crowd and enjoyed discussing how they use specialized training and equipment to help the community.

"Being a firefighter involves a personal commitment to service that comes from the heart," said Joe Brown. Often, these teams are your first line of defense. They will even respond to EMS calls if no ambulance is available. "Sometimes, the action is non-stop. Whether it's putting out a fire or just helping grandpa back into bed, we do whatever we can to be of assistance," added Jeff Fitch. "Thank you for allowing us to come out to serve our customers."

After the getting a close-up look at the fire truck, everyone gathered to enjoy burgers and hot dogs hot off the grill and an assortment of homemade appetizers and desserts.

Making new friends with Lowndes County Firemen and checking out their mighty red truck was the highlight of the day.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Milltown Murals of Lakeland, GA

Once a year on the first Saturday in April, Lakeland,Georgia (formerly known as Milltown c. 1925) holds the Milltown Murals Motorcade. Here, vintage vehicles line up on Main Street for a dazzling two-hour parade through the streets of town. Drivers and spectators alike enjoy the old cars, refreshments, music, and games for the children.

After the crowd disperses and the last of the antique cars chug out of town, the dust settles and visitors are free to browse more than thirty murals painted on the walls of its historic downtown buildings. These images, with their life-size characters, depict the activities and actual people who lived in rural Georgia during the 1920s.

Artwork, like the gathering of folks in front of the Post Office, and the steam locomotive, cover the entire broadside of a building. Smaller ones, like the sepia-toned women, are only several feet square.
Outside of the doctor's office a man comforts a young fellow with a skinned knee.

Is that George Burns standing in front of the white chapel?

Children's facial expressions are well represented in the paintings; frowns, boredom, happy smiles.

Ralph Waldrop and Billy Love of Columbia, South Carolina began painting the murals in 1998. Each one is accompanied by a plaque describing the scene and the characters. Look for the display with a QR code so you can scan it with a QR reader to take the audio tour.

Stop by the Visitors Center located at 8 South Valdosta Road, for a map to learn more about the location of the individual paintings. Lakeland is the county seat of Lanier County in Southeast Georgia. Set your GPS and c'mon down. This community loves company, and the outdoor show never closes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Madison, on Georgia's Antebellum Trail

One hour east of Atlanta lies the historic town of Madison, where Antebellum mansions and Southern charm thrive. Pick up a map at the Welcome Center in the town square and begin your own journey down the Antebellum trail. Start at Heritage Hall, located in one of the oldest and largest of the National Historic Districts, and current headquarters for Madison's Historical Society. (Stop #4 of 46 on the architecture walking/driving tour.) This 1811 home was built by Dr. Elijah Jones, who was a physician for the Confederacy.  

He set up his surgery in one of the back rooms of the house, after the Yankee General Sherman's Army burned his downtown office, on their march to the sea. You can browse through the doctor's medical books and equipment. Did you know that in those days, medical school lasted only one year? After that, young physicians learned by doing, under the supervision of older practitioners.

In the dining room, pull up a chair beside the large oval mahogany table, set with hand painted china, and listen to the docent's story of how gentlemen dinner guests would enjoy after-dinner cigars and port in the dining room, while the ladies retreated to the drawing room beyond the carved wooden pocket doors, for tea.
Marvel at the toys and furniture in the childrens' bedroom, including a tiny china tea set, a 200-year-old doll, and a miniature bicycle. There's even a topsy-turvy doll lying on a toddler's bed.
Did you know that diamond engagement rings were rare in the early 1800's. If a young woman was lucky enough to receive one, she could check to see if the gem was real by making scratch marks with it on glass. Visitors can still see these etchings on several of the house's window panes.

Visitors can tour this charming city by either walking or driving. There's a map of the mile-and-a-half route that will guide you through the historic district and downtown areas. In town, you can shop at any of the 200 antique vendors and specialty stores, dine at one of the dozen downtown restaurants, or stay at one of the local bed and breakfasts, or luxury inns.

Madison's Welcome Center is located on the square at 115 E. Jefferson Street. Open every day until late afternoon. Call 800-709-7406 or visit Heritage Hall is open Monday through Saturday form 11 - 4, Sunday 1:30 - 4:30, available for private events.