Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Stella's Southern Soujourn* (and the North!)

(If you look at nothing else from this post, search "Mississippi River" on this page and scroll down to those photos.)

I'll open with this beautiful sunset shot from my favorite place in Jackson. Its location is a secret divulged only to those who make the trek down here to visit! (I'm looking at you, Anna Rubin!)

A few weeks ago I received a very special letter from my 8-year-old cousin, Isabel. Her third grade class was beginning a Flat Stanley/Flat Stella project, and Isabel had sent me her Flat Stella to take around with me on my travels to help her and her classmates learn about other parts of the country. I got the letter right on time to bring Flat Stella with on my weekend visit to the Jewish community in Shreveport, Louisiana!

It turns out that B'nai Zion, the congregation I work with in Shreveport, livestreams all of its services so that those who are unable to attend are still able to be a part of a Shabbat (and other) service. That means that, unbeknownst to me at the time, my d'var Torah ("sermon") was actually recorded, and is now available on YouTube! Skip ahead to 1:03:18 to get to me (I speak for about 5 minutes).

The ISJL staff have a bit of an obsession with strawberry pie from Strawn's Eat Shop, and whenever someone passes through Shreveport they're supposed to bring back (at least) one for the office. Stella and I had no choice but to oblige!

There's a beautiful, privately-funded "garden" (nature preserve? It's much bigger than a garden...) at the Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport. There are succulents and flowers and sculptures and bushes, and a faint smell of Etrog that I couldn't shake (one day, cameras will capture smell. Wait, apparently there's already one that can?). It was amazing. I'll definitely be back at this garden on my next visit. 
Obligatory "Welcome to Mississippi" photo with Stella.

I happened to be crossing the Mississippi River at the Louisiana-Mississippi border right at sunset, so obviously I had to stop at the state welcome center. I stayed to watch the sun go all the way down, and then continued back to Jackson.

When in the capital, one should see the Capitol! 

With the State Seal at the Department of Transportation. I'd be prouder of this photo if the Department of Transportation were a bit, shall I say, better at its job. The potholes here are worse year-round than they are in Chicago after a bad storm; and although I've seen buses and people waiting at bus stops (often sitting on milk-crates, since many bus-stops don't have shelters or benches, despite the Mississippi sun), I've never actually seen a bus stop to pick up passengers at one of the aforementioned bus stops. Oh, and sidewalks are severely lacking (the intersection referenced in that article is right near my house).
Stella learned a little history on her visit, too--we made a stop to the placard marking the site of the Greyhound bus station where a busload of Freedom Riders attempted to integrate the station. Needless to say, they were jailed. (Actually, I wrote a term paper last spring about failure to enforce court-legislated integration in various arenas of public transportation)

More State Seal

With the Confederate-inspired flag of Mississippi. (Oh, jeez.)

The art museum was closed, but the outside is still pretty cool, so it was worth a visit to show Stella.

One of my favorite parts of showing Flat Stella around town was that I got to explore places I'd never been before, too! I hadn't even known where City Hall was, but because I was just wandering around downtown, we stumbled across it (and the statue of Andrew Jackson, for whom Jackson is named).

The painted traffic/utility boxes downtown are one example of the cool art stuff that's beginning to go on in Jackson.

At the Governor's Mansion

I just liked this one :) Thought I was annoyed to find out that my new phone takes photos with a funky aspect ratio, and it's impossible to print this scaled to 4:6 without lopping off either Stella or the "I" at the end.

Then I went home to Chicago for Rosh Hashanah and got to hand-deliver Stella (and printed photos of our adventures) to Isabel. It was great to be home: I went straight from the airport with all of my stuff to Wrigley to watch the Cubs beat the Cardinals in extra-innings at the second-to-last game in Wrigley before they mess it up; I got to spend time with two close friends I hadn't seen in a while; I went out for drinks with high school friends and our calculus teacher (highly recommended!); had a delicious and raucous birthday/Rosh Hashanah afternoon with my grandma, aunt, uncle, and cousins (and librarian!); spent time at the Lake; and went to loud sing-a-long Hadar-y Rosh Hashanah services at Hillel. 

My transit route was kind of wacky: I drove to Memphis to fly to Chicago, since I'd racked up lots of miles on Southwest but they stopped flying to Jackson in June. It was a nice drive, though, and it meant that I was conscious of the geography of where I was flying--right over the Mississippi River, at sunset!

And on the way back, same thing--flew right over the Mississippi River. Absolutely stunning to look at from above. 

Here's a closer shot of Mississippi River. Since I landed back in Memphis at 11am, I spent the rest of the day wandering around the city, which obviously included 2 hours walking along the river. About two weeks ago they finished putting in a "pop-up fitness park," financed by the Memphis Grizzlies, along the riverwalk. It's a really cool idea, and people were using all of the equipment as I walked by--it's just a little disappointing to learn that it's only temporary, because so far it seems pretty successful. 

After my river stroll, I headed to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 (click that link. Seriously). The docent told me that "it's self-guided, but mostly people spend around 2 hours at the museum." Four hours later, I was scrambling to get through the last few rooms of the first of two buildings. It's an incredibly well-done museum--thorough, engaging, interactive--and I'd highly recommend it to anyone planning to be in Memphis.

I mentioned earlier the term paper I wrote about legislation to desegregation public transportation--that was for a seminar on the Civil Rights Movement I took with Prof. Joshua Guild (the books from that course are among the ones shredded/recycled by the USPS). In any case, one of the things I remember most prominently from the class was the Doll Test that helped convince the Supreme Court in its Brown v. Board decision in 1954. These are the dolls that were used in some of Kenneth and Mamie Clark's experiments.
And now I'm in town for half a second before heading to New Orleans for Yom Kippur and Williamsburg (VA) for Sukkot and Hot Springs (AR) for post-Simchat Torah hiking!

*Shoutout to Beth Kander for putting up a Stella post on the ISJL's Facebook page!

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