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Archive for July, 2009

Whenever anyone mentions Alabama, I think of one story.

I used to work with a guy from China. He was doing his MBA summer internship at the consulting firm where I worked. He was a very curious kind of guy, always asking questions. He never stopped, especially when it came to understanding the language and culture of America. I remember one day when we were sitting in traffic on the way to lunch. It was one of those sweltering summer days in Atlanta. I had been charged with managing him for the summer, and I was doing my best to feed him well, if nothing else.

We had been working long hours on a hard project, and I was starting to grow weary of his incessant inquiries. It just took so much effort to be around this guy, always answering questions, always thinking so rationally. And they were never straightforward questions I could readily answer like “What is the best live country record of all time?” (Charlie Pride’s In Person.)

So there we sit, my car’s A/C struggling under the weight of Atlanta’s humidity, and he points at this car with Alabama plates. He reads the state motto aloud in his unsure, staccato English: “Stahs… Fell… On… A-la-ba-ma.” Then he turns to me and asks, “Is that a good thing?”

I threw up my hands, exasperated: “I don’t know, man! They put it on their license plate, so I guess they think it’s pretty good.” He didn’t say anything in reply. He just filed it away. A little more data on this odd, foreign place called the United States. The land where stars fall, and it’s a good thing.

Several years later, I now have one more Alabama association: chicken fingers. Although, now that I actually look at the photos it’s fair to say that it’s a Georgia thing, too. At any rate, our first encounter with the chicken finger “concept” was Jim Bob’s. We were passing through Opelika, Alabama. A little past Columbus, GA, but well short of Montgomery, AL. We didn’t have any road food recommendations, so we were shooting in the dark.

But alas, it was Sunday. I guess Jim Bob (or a higher power) was trying to tell us something. I suppose we were hungering for the wrong kind of sustenance, because they were closed.

Chicken Fingers 1

So we headed across the street to Zaxby’s. Of course Zaxby’s started in Statesboro, so this was an appropriate choice.

Chicken Fingers 2

Eliza didn’t have anything. My ordering experience was a debacle, but finally I returned to the car with this little beauty.

Chicken Fingers 3

Only three chicken fingers!? I guess we’ll have to stop for more down the road.

Chicken Fingers 4

A few hours later, we considered stopping at a Popeye’s in Mobile, but it looked a little sketchy. We decided to gamble on another fried chicken joint called foosackly’s. I was a little skeptical of the name, but was charmed when we stepped inside.

Chicken Fingers 5

“Keep Mobile Funky.” Sounds familiar.

Chicken Fingers 6

I absolutely loved the design of this place. It spoke to me, and here’s what it said: “We just got out of school and decided to sell chicken fingers. We took some marketing classes and we wear our hats backwards.”

Chicken Fingers 7

They offered us some of their signature sauce, which I think was called “foo sauce.” The woman at the register told us, “It’s like a spicy thousand island.” Nothing wrong with that.

Chicken Fingers 8

The whole foosackly’s experience was great. They chicken was fried and seasoned to perfection. The foo sauce (or whatever they called it) was exactly what fried chicken needs: a little creamy, a little spicy and a little sweet.

Later on the trip, we saw several of these “Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers.” These sightings confirmed what we had begun to suspect: Alabama loves chicken fingers. Not fried chicken, mind you, but chicken fingers.

Still no official word on whether stars falling is a good thing.

Chicken Fingers 9

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Shear Heaven

When we passed this sign in La Grange, Texas, I demanded that we turn around and go back for a photo.

shear heaven

Conveniently located just across the road from the cemetery, I have to wonder if Curl Up and Dye gets most of the funeral business in town. I imagine the beauty parlor from Steel Magnolias and the Truvy type carefully coifing and making-up the local dead.

When my Grandmother died, I went to the Statesboro Clinique counter in search of lipstick to wear to her funeral. She always wore lipstick and encouraged me to, so I thought she would approve. The woman working there quickly selected a berry shade and told me that it would be perfect. Then she leaned in and whispered that if I got up to the casket and found Grandma looking a little pale, I could pull out that same tube and give her a quick touch-up.

I suppose Berry Freeze is the perfect color for everyone.

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This was our second cross-country drive with our dog Jaxon in tow. Our first was when I moved two years ago. It took two grueling days and, to add to our stress, Jaxon decided that she would hold out on a bathroom break until we arrived in Austin. I almost hauled her to the vet for an IV, but after a carton of chicken broth and hours of patient coaxing, Jaxon finally let go.

This time, Jaxon was much less neurotic, but still very particular.

jaxon walk 1

We thought she might like this quiet tree-lined street in Mobile, but she turned it down in favor of a grassy park that evening in New Orleans.

jaxon walk 2

Here she is relaxing and settling in for an episode of True Blood at the New Orleans La Quinta.

la quinta

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Pet Cemetery

I love animals. I’ve had lots of them over the years, and our dog Jaxon is one very special little lady. But every time I travel home to Statesboro, it seems there’s something strange going on with my parents’ animals. During college, I returned one Thanksgiving to find our beagle Molly had been put down several months earlier. After Mother backed over the neighbor’s cat with her car, people in town started to joke that if you had too many pets, you just needed to pay a visit to the Price house.

On our most recent Statesboro trip, Ben and I thought we’d be coming home to a pet-free house. Mother told us in advance that she had given away the two remaining cats. One was found dead on their porch a couple of weeks after that move, but I like to think that the other, our black Persian names Xerxes, is living the good life with a nice family somewhere.

Well, my parents’ house may be free of animals, but the backyard is full of feral cats.  Mother insists upon feeding them, and they have multiplied.

This orange tomcat was the mangiest of the bunch.

cat 1

He’s giving me the evil eye.

cat 2

He makes a run for it. Right in the direction of a busy street. That a boy!

cat 3

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During our Statesboro visit, we had the pleasure of visiting “Statesboro’s Premier Thai Restaurant” with Eliza’s parents. And while there may not be a lot of competition for that title, this place was awesome.

I had soft shell crab, with some sort of curry that I wanted to lick off the plate. Eliza had the salmon. This was one of those meals whose taste I can instantly summon from memory. It was everything Thai food should be: a little spicy, sort of unfamiliar, and incredibly flavorful. Now if we could only get them to open a location in Austin.

Here’s the appetizer platter: calamari, dumplings, spring rolls, and something else that looks like a spring roll.

Thai 2

Here are Eliza’s folks enjoying the sweetest part of any meal: anticipation.

Thai 1

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