Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eastbound And Down, Loaded Up And Trucking...All Roads Lead Right Back To NoMi...(Part Four Of Four)

All Photos By John Hoff

I guess I'd better finish up Part 4 of the story of my Kentucky trucking trip, especially since I took another trip in the meantime to South Dakota and north of Bemidji.

Night before last, there was a minor reverberation of my overly-publicized Kentucky adventures, as the campaign manager for Ward 3 Candidate Allen Kathir brought a bottle of "1792" Kentucky bourbon to my backyard bonfire. (It's made in Bardstown, Kentucky. This is one of the places I went)

So there I was in Madisonville, Kentucky, looking for a cheap hotel to hole up for the weekend and just keep the freezer unit running. This town wasn't exactly my idea of a tourist spot, but then again I'd never been in Kentucky before and even the names of the convenience stores were, to my way of thinking, somewhat interesting and exotic. I am nothing if not...

...easily fascinated. The universe had issued me a weekend vacation in Madisonville, Kentucky and I was going to make the most of it.

The hotel where I stayed was run by some nice folks from India, and they had a spectacular garden. They'd even planted on the median between their property and a neighboring property.

As though I were an honored guest instead of a trucker covered in a day of "road filth," one of the family members named "Dee" took me on a garden tour.

That day I saw okra blossoms, something I'd never seen before, and I was surprised by how large and beautiful they were. Of course, all I could think was, "Can I EAT the okra blossoms? Can I fry them up like squash blossoms and make a fritter?"

Dee told me how his family lived on organic food grown on their own property, reproducing the kind of vegetables grown in his native region of India. There were things growing I'd never seen in a garden before, like bitter melon and exotic beans. Dee told me Indians tend to emphasize beans in their diet, since many Indians are vegetarian. The Kentucky growing season was much shorter than that of the hottest part of India, but by trial-and-error, they managed to get good harvests. I was amazed how much EGGPLANT they were growing, enough to stock a produce section, enough to feed ARMIES.

Dee told me how his family produces a kind of "pepper puree" by using a food processor to grind up a combination of home grown peppers, oil and salt. The puree is used extensively in their cooking.

Right in the middle of taking pictures, my battery ran out, so I went to a nearby convenience store. The store chain was "Kangaroo," which was unfamiliar and interesting to my yankee-fied Minnesota tastes.

Another convenience store chain I saw on my journey is "Huck's," which I just never see in Minnesota.

On this trip, I didn't see any "Winn-Dixie" stores or "Piggley Wiggley" locations. Whenever I hear "Winn-Dixie" I want to say, "Excuse me, but isn't that a contradiction in terms?"

Which brings me to the "funnest" part of my trip: sightseeing interesting elements of "unreconstructed" Southern culture.

I tell you, I'm not somebody who goes on 'n' on about how "romantic" the Old South was, how they struggled with nobility for what they believed in, yada yada. If you want to hear a romantic Civil War story, read about how the First Minnesota turned the tide at Gettysburg, at a great and terrible cost, click here. When I joined the army in September of 1990--in Richmond, Virginia, ironically enough--I was VERY conscious of the fact I was joining the UNION army, the same army that fought and died at Antietam.

To Dixieland I say: you took your best shot, we kicked the (expletive) out of you, the South will NOT rise again, end of discussion. 

I hope I've made it perfectly clear that I'm only publishing these photos in THAT context, not to glorify Dixieland. Anyway...

The courthouse in Madisonville, Kentucky has an interesting history, which is outlined, somewhat, on a historical plaque.

There's also a Confederate monument there, which has seen better days. The statue is missing its hands and the features of its face have been smoothed over by the weather. But I say the statue looks FINE that way. I say the Confederate represented by the statue must have been standing near barrels of gunpowder when the Union Army put a righteous cannonball down, ka-blooey. 


I tell you, secesh is from the devil, and secesh needs to be stamped out.

The monument contained words on all four sides of the base, mostly syrupy poetry about the Confederacy which (and I've often said it before about Confederate monuments, and I've usually said it in front of Southerners) can be summarized as follows:

Our brave, dead rebel boys all clad in gray/
May their gonads never wither away

(Be sure to emphasize the "r" in "wither" like a horse whinnying, like so: whitherrrrrrrrrrrr)

But, anyway, here's a picture of some (not all) of the words on the monument.

So after checking out the courthouse monuments, I kind of walked around the neighborhood near my cheap hotel, and I noticed a tree unlike anything I'd seen before; not even when I lived in Virginia. The "fruit" of this tree smelled like something between fruit and a pine cone. The leaves were glossy and reminded me of a rubber tree plant. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I took some of the "fruit" back home, and by process of elimination I figured out this was (drum roll) a magnolia tree. How cool it would have been to see it in bloom!

Maybe next time.

Somewhere along my journey I stopped to look at a map and plan my route, and I was right near an empty, abandoned tobacco drying shed. I snapped some pictures, and this was one of them:

An old Kentucky license plate was on the ground. I picked it up, so I could nail it to my garage wall along with other souvenirs I've picked up here and there. When you're a renter, you probably can't nail decorative items to a garage wall, but a man who owns a house--no matter how humble that house may be--is the king of his castle. Everywhere I go I see interesting houses, expensive houses, humble houses, historical houses...

But my house is in NoMi. And though I may drive far, and see tobacco sheds, magnolia trees, and drive-through liquor stores...though I may buy some Kentucky bourbon and bring it back, and feast on Dixie catfish while out on the road, and tour some interesting garden full of Indian vegetables...there's no place like Nomi.

And it's good to be back.

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