Archive for the ‘AmStuff’ Category

Thursday June 8 2000

Noon – through Smithfield on 70 to Becky’s Log Cabin which is very nice. Checked in for Thursday and Friday . Lunch to Eddie Murphy film.

Let us take time, therefore, to be gracious, to be thoughtful, to be kind, using the social graces as one means of turning the wheels of progress with greater velocity on the upward road to equal opportunity and justice for all” – Charlotte Hawkins Brown, quoted in North Carolina Historic Sites leaflet.

Earl Had to Die” on Country Channel on TV/Radio (No picture). E-mails

4.00 p.m. Smithfield




Arranged to arrive Richlands end of next week to meet Vernon [who? 11.5.2011].

Library at Smithfield Thursday 8/6 [?] Superb set of encyclopaedia – American Decades edited by Vincent Tompkins (1996) Gale Research Inc., Detroit, MI48226 (a division of ITP Co Ltd) goes from 1900 to 1989

Fri 9th June 7.50p.m.  Log Cabin Motel Smithfield.

At 7.15 I sat on a chair and hunched over a low coffee table looking at the Road Atlas when on came suddenly the right-side kidney pain I’ve had at least 6 times before. It isn’t getting any worse or better. Have taken two Anadin Extra. Best position is squatting or curled in a ball face down on the floor. It goes off for about 1 second only then returns. Have packed everything in case I have to call Emergency Paramedics and leave in a hurry and fished out the Medical Insurance!! It’s taking my breath away as usual. Hopefully it will pass through like all the others and I’ll just need painillers ’til it shifts. Guess I should drink lots of water, which I will now do.

8.05 Has moved round to the front, as is usual, and is just as bad, in waves which make me sweat, or at least go hot.

8.10 Two more Anadin Extras. Feel a bit sick now.

[1220 A.M. Friday I AM BACK]

Staggered over to the Motel office where there was nobody to be seen except a party of four also looking for the receptionist. She came in two minutes and they let me go first. She dialled 911 and Paramedics arrived within 10 minutes, one para-driver bloke, one woman paramedic and a trainee. They did not immediately jump out to help this bearded, rather unkempt, crouched over and grimacing apparition that greeted them in the car park. Having eventually got me laid down inside the ambulance, and checked out that I had insurance (pre-packed in top of rucksack), they started an IV drip of fluid, blood pressure, pulse 3 cardiogram (?) sticky connections to chest and lower left abdomen. In less than 5 minutes I am in the A&E booth for the painkillers etc. Everyone extremely efficient. Morphine given and it kicked in after 10 minutes, lovely. Asked for a urine sample, I was delighted to see the little bugger emerge into the filter over the sample bottle. Still woozy after the morphine, but am back in Room 28 of the Log Cabin Motel at 1230. They gave me a Yellow Pages to get a cab – $5 and a $5 tip. See specimen jar to see the only American Kidney Stone in the family [currently lost 21.5.2011]. Dr. Mike Baker gave me a comprehensive run down on everything they had done. All tests normal (including pulse of 68 while waiting for the pain to go off). He said his wife has had children and she’s had kidney stones and she would rather have a baby than experience the pain of kidney stones.

Plans back on track for tomorrow as long as wooziness has cleared.

0910 Saturday 10th

Woke 0830 went to breakfast – one waitress for what looked like half a dozen coachloads of residents. Got some coffee, after 25 minutes and ordered toast. Left without, after 40 minutes for own banana breakfast. No more cheese-of-the-kidney-stone-making fame.

Saturday 10th 2.40 p.m. Williamston Holiday Inn. 2 nights booked. Pool, coffemaker in room.

Phoned home with kidney stone news. Stopped off in Chocowitty – took photos of VW “Bug Meet”, had a hot dog.

















Then stopped in Washington for an hour. On to Williamston up bumpy old 17N. 80% of travellers are retired, white haired, slightly overweight and very happy with their lot. No Yankees. Father and son fishing at Log Cabin. Son caught a big fish photographed by Dad. Thought about laundry today but thought again.

Receptionist conversation with resident: “Busy today?” “No, fairly quiet” “Just before the lull?(sic) ….” He was getting some “nourishment before golf this afternoon”. Put tickets and passport in safety deposit. Reception area of this Holiday Inn has leather chairs in greenand cardboard book spines on the “shelves”. They can certainly do eggs over easy and thin crispy streaky bacon. Waitresses “of a certain age”, very efficient, confident. Young black guy all in black strode through but he was on his way to the kitchen. Car still in the shade, though there’s a nice cooling breeze. Going to be 90+ today

9 a.m. Downtown Williamston – deserted. Discover Our Town pennants. Uh?

Only a few cars passing every so often mostly driven by blacks. White couple, retired, shorts, walking pug dog for its morning ablutions.

50% closed down shops. Drove out to Hamilton seeking Fort Branch Battlefield site. Missed it – found lots of churches, people arriving. Can’t find back road to the river. Saw Fort Branch Road on way back. Looks like it just leads to a house and nothing else. Drove on to get gas in Williamston and back to cool of room. Classical music station like ClassicFM. No towel or linen change today – door hanging notices ask for cooperation to conserve water and energy and environment. V. good idea. Holiday Inns a grade up from Days Inn.

2.20 Sunday 11 June Holiday Inn. Went out and found Fort Branch Battle site – Fort closed due to Storm Damage – see photos. [?]

Read discharge documents from Johnston Memorial Hospital. Very good detail. No mention of charges. 90 degrees outside but a good breeze. CNN World Report v.good. Phillipines, Spain, Sierra Leone.  Watching The Hunt for Red October – US propaganda submarine movie. Tonight at 8 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, tomorrow- Elizabeth City, Appomatox Virginia and maybe Lynchburg.

6:55 p.m. Appomatox Viginia. This budget Motel is OK. £35 a night, good A/C, grass and woods out the back window, Information Centre round the corner, supermarket next door, Post Office opposite, (bit like 62 Station Road, where I live). Reserving all day tomorrow for the Lee/Grant surrender site visit. Some of it is “reconstructed” but so what, this is where it happened. Long but pleasant 6 hour drive here well worth it. Came past the Great Dismal Swamp and through Suffolk Virginia.

About 21 miles to Lynchburg VA but don’t think I’ll go on to there. Sent Ed and Beth very strange “graduation” cards and e-mails to everyone, including Mick Cooke. Lady in gift shop by Information Centre says there’s a very good bookshop at the Courthouse site. We’ll see….

Everyone asks where I’m from. Nice lady in supermarket asked me if if Elton John lives in London! LA, I think. She’d lived in LA for 2 years.

8:55 a.m. Tuesday 13 June 2000

Sitting outside Confederate Cemetery at Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park. Watching praire dog (?) feeding and going in and out of burrow. Birds singing, little traffic. I had arrived really early and I shall always remember standing by the roadside in the quiet morning; I swear I could hear the sounds of the final confrontation between Grant and Lee’s armies just over the rise, with the gunfire, shouts and horses. Park opens in 5 minutes. Praire dog having a wash.







Bought 3 tapes of Country and Western music. Liked the Park and the houses. And displays. Worth it. Very “atmospheric” $4 entry.
















Back to Granny Bees restaurant for a BLT lunch. Very traditional 1950s type interior, locals eating there, more comments on accent. Found new book on Faulkner on the Recent Acquisitions display in the library after checking in and sending e-mails – Daniel J Singal – William Faulkner – The making of a modernist 1997: UNC Press: Chapel Hill & London [ bought this in 2010 to support a paper I gave to reading group at Bradwell Community Centre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme]. Village idiot came in gift shop back by Information Centre. Baseball cap, T-shirt, shorts, unshaven, eating ice-cream, greeted by shop assistant, “What do you need, George?”. Bought 3 CDs of string music/ songs and got a Christmas one free. Got to cool off.

Back to Budget Motel, been up since 5:00 Have put a plaster on the IV hole under my watch, which the paramedic shifted to my other arm.


First long conversation in Chicago was on the El from O’Hare to Monroe in the Loop, as the passenger behind us turned out to be an education lecturer from Leeds, UK!

First meal was an excellent shared spinach pie in the Marquette Inn. (Not until the last day did I explore the exhibition in the Marquette Building itself, learning about the MacArthur Foundation and the restoration of the building).

Had fun in our excellent hotel room (Central Loop, 111a West Adams St.) figuring out how to convert the sofa into a bed.


Did not get lost on venturing out to buy provisions, given that we had a kitchenette.

Leaving the Art Institute to an anticipated grey or rainy day, Day One was to the Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. On turning the corner to lay eyes on this iconic masterpiece, I was sorely stunned and disappointed at what seemed the moderate size of the edifice. In my mind picture, from images at a lecture I attended in the Spring, it was going to be much larger. Anyway, on a second visit to return a too-small gift sweatshirt, the house had come into its own as the fine piece of design that it is rather than anything scaled up and imagined.










The shirt is my birthday present from Beth and depicts Falling Water, a FLW design that I consider surpasses the others.

The Bean (or Cloud Gate) sculpture was a delight to both of us; like everyone else’s, our cameras clicked away in the brilliant Saturday morning sun.










Andersonville had been featured in the NYT as worth a visit some weeks before our trip and the article sent to me from our cousin Liz in State College, Pennsylvania; we were not disappointed to explore this neighbourhood as the main stretch reminded us a bit of Brighton back home.


The next neighbourhood we picked out from its description in The Little Black Book of Chicago was Bucktown / Wicker Park. I was pleased to happen upon Nelson Algren’s house and to have Beth snap me under the street sign for Division Street. Joined those waiting on the pavement (sidewalk) outside The Bongo Room and after an hour we were called in. Eggs Benedict and salad (Beth) and omelette with chives, tomato and bacon (me) was worth the wait. My omelette ingredients were all together in a pocket fashioned by the egg part of the omelette, which I thought was interesting but it probably isn’t. This visit was not dominated too much by bookshop browsing but we found our first here at Myopic Books where I found an analysis of Faulkner’s Sanctuary original galley proofs and the revisions he made; Beth also found a book worth toting all the way back home. As my style guru she advised me on a shirt purchase, which I like very much.

The Art Institute was obviously memorable. Beth liked the Armour and Arms section especially and I at last got to see Nighthawks and American Gothic and some Whistler.



We went on to another equally impressive-to-me building and institution , the Harold Washington Library, to sit for a while after an overdose of “Art” and write postcards.










At least, I did, while Beth updated her Facebook page and used it to arrange to meet up that evening with a complete stranger later at a gig – which I understand involved some music and food. After all, she is a social media consultant in real life.

Later that afternoon we walked through torrential rain to see the film 127 hours, which was worth the soaking. Taxi back to the hotel through the persistent downpour was driven by a recent immigrant from Nigeria who regaled us with his consternation at the Americans’ abuse of the English language, with their calling the car boot the “trunk” and so on.

Some impressions of our activities, with an undue emphasis on eating it seems to me, is given on my Flickr set and Beth’s. A favourite shot, taken in a split second before we boarded our train on Quincy Station is this one:

Arrived early enough at O’Hare for our return trip to be offered an earlier flight to Newark, where we then had time for some good Japanese food before the six and a half hour flight to Heathrow. Arriving back home in Alsager after a day in Beth’s flat in Brighton, the cold that hit my face on Alsager station platform was harsher than anything we had experienced in Chicago.

One week to my Chicago trip with Beth, starting with a train journey to Brighton next Wednesday, then Heathrow Thursday. Resurrected big red quilted coat yesterday and bought 2 thermal T-shirts today. Ed says the red coat will help Beth and the Chicago PD to locate me when I get lost.

Ed’s colleague Prof. John Hassard has given a paper today on the Hawthorne factory at Cicero outside Chicago and the experiments there in 1924. The museum is only open for tours by appointment. The Museum website claims, ‘”The company subsequently invented the loudspeaker, public address systems, radar, brought sound to motion pictures, and most importantly, the transistor for which Bell Labs researchers won the Nobel Prize.” Radar, indeed! And we understand that the Industrial Revolution started on the Eastern seaboard of the United States of America too (tourist in Manchester UK). Just got diverted for half an hour to read a brilliant article titled  The Hawthorne Studies – a fable for our times? by E. A. M. Gale in a medical journal.

Anyway, a big sunny day today in several ways; the literature class on Maupin’s Tales of the City and sexual / female liberation in general proved very interesting in the group of 12 women and 4 men; Rosie visited in the afternoon; I got some work done on my Faulkner paper; two good salad-based meals; the anti-TNF injections B is having seem to be having a beneficial effect; students marched with lecturers on Millgate and “violence broke out”; as Ed has said on FB, “The BBC is talking about how the student violence in London might distract from ‘sensible debate’ on tuition fees; would this be the sensible debate where the Tories go “we’re doing it” and then they do it?” and I won £25 on ERNIE – Premium Bonds.

What a great piece of music Mussorgsky’s The Great Gate of Kiev is. Just borrowed the Pictures from an Exhibition CD from the library and er… listening to it.  I see Kandinsky did a cool painting based on Hartmann’s original design too. This is my second blog in October, when I have only been  managing one a month so far. Just squeezed it in before November – an extra hour today with the clocks going back, that’s what it will be then. Reading William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary and Light in August at the moment, as I have been “volunteered” by our tutor John Toft to do a presentation of about two hours, related in some way to these works; fortunately it is scheduled for after Christmas, so lots of time to figure out a piece of work that might begin to approach a standard worthy of the great man from Oxford, Mississippi and our 1930s USA study group ( at Bradwell Lodge Community Centre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, every other Thursday).  Seems funny making the journey there from home, the first time last Thursday, as most of the route is the one I took for 21 years from 1981 until I retired from the College ( which was demolished this year and is now the site of a huge Sainsbury’s). I think that apostrophe is in the right place – please note I did not put one in 1930s USA earlier. That would have been a ‘Crewe Comma’ of course and has indeed got itself on the sheet distributed to us at the start of our sessions. Never mind, it’s the thought that counts and what a great idea this course is, totally put together and the location organised by members of the group. When I ‘did’ the previous course, under the auspices of Keele University, we looked for a while at American architecture and art and in 18 days time I’m off to Chicago with Beth for a six day break – me from Retirement, Beth from Work. Very excited about that – well, as excited as you can get at 65, and then a bit more. Of course, the recent appearance of bombs on cargo planes, in parcels from Yemen to Chicago synagogues adds an extra frisson to the trip.

Watched and enjoyed two-thirds of Peter Bogdanovitch‘s documentary on Tom Petty last night. Another delight of the BBC’s superb website and still an hour to go. Anyway the documentary included the thought by one observer that creativity such as Petty’s is often associated with the artist’s loss of his (sic) much loved mother at an early age and a poor relationship with his father, both the case here. The clues, it was said, are in the underlying bitterness, anger and sorrow in even some of the more upbeat songs he wrote and sang. Not always discernible by me but the voice itself nearly always has it. I go along with all that but not with Larkin’s “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. Sad bastard. Good poem though!  Am now listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Spotify. Excellent.

Bought loads of fish today at Morrisons in Crewe, which I hope is going to be a regular event. Anything we should know about some awful facts on Morrisons and/or their fish? Probably something. Invented an alternative to the phrase “rogue apostrophe” – “Crewe comma”. And I see  Morrisons doesn’t have one.

Recent tests show we are clear from breast, bowel, cervical and prostrate cancer between us here! Working on a few other things currently though….

I guess parenthood is one of the major features of my all-time favourite movie and heartbreaking short story – “Tomorrow” by William Faulkner. The whole thing is breathtaking, literally, especially Robert Duvall’s portrayal of the central character.


Thanks again Bill (and Horton Foote).