Monday, September 29, 2008

Newport: A Tribute to The Blue Bridge

I'll never forget my first trip to Newport, Arkansas. It was the summer of 1970, and Larry and I had been dating since March. He was in Newport to play in the Annual Four-Ball Golf Tournament, and I had been in Fayetteville taking exams for my master's degree.

After completing the exams, I drove to Newport. I remember that the trip seemed like it took forever, but when I finally crossed the old Highway 67 bridge over the White River, I knew I had arrived.

As I recall, the bridge was painted silver in those days, but some time in the late '70's or early '80's they painted it blue. It became symbolic for our children. They knew we were there and would soon see Mema Martha when we finally saw the "Blue Bridge."

Larry and I travelled back to Newport on Saturday for his 45th high school reunion. We had not been there since we loaded up furniture from Mema Martha's house after she sold it and moved to Memphis. Although we didn't drive out to look at the "Blue Bridge" on this trip, we did see much of the rest of the town. As usual, some things have changed and some things will forever stay the same.

We stayed at the Fortune Inn and Suites, formerly the Park Inn, and we found plenty of improvements. Kelly's Restaurant is gone, but in its place is a modern lobby with HD television, a fancy bar and a breakfast room. On one door was a sign noting that an exercise room is in the works.

On Sunday morning, the helpful lady at the front desk gave us a tour of the bar. It's decorated with memorabilia from musician Sonny Burgess and Baseball Hall of Famer George Kell.

The Bar at the Fortune Inn and Suites

Later we took a drive around town. Although not in the same building, the Silver Moon Club is still at the same location. However, the only thing left of the original Silver Moon is the slab, which is now part of the parking lot, but you can still see the tile from the men's room in the far right corner.

Elvis played at the Silver Moon Club on October 24, 1955. It is one of a number of clubs along U.S. Highway 67 in northeast Arkansas where emerging Rock and Roll artists played in the late '50's. For more information, check out this article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The whole weekend was a trip down memory lane. At the reunion on Saturday night, there were two displays of classmate pictures. One table featured pictures of living classmates, and the other held photos of those who are deceased. Larry and one of his friends said that their goal for the 50th reunion was to stay on the live table.

If they keep going back to Newport, they will probably make it. Larry told me tonight that he thought Newport had therapeutic powers that he attributes to drinking the water and beer and visiting the site of the Silver Moon. He said that his knees weren't hurting today and his back isn't sore. Come to think of it, the crick in my neck has gone away, too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

That's What Friends Are For

When friends put their heads together, magic happens. Magic did indeed happen Friday night when 12 of my friends and their spouses pooled their talents to host a party in honor of Ben and Claire.

At Wanda's suggestion, they used a Tailgate Party theme. After all, it's football season in Alabama, and we are all fans of one team or another. Under Connie's direction, they pulled together decor from all of our favorite teams--Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Mississippi State, Louisville and North Carolina. The serving table was all decked out in Razorback red complete with pom poms, Hog hats, blankets, flags and balloons. Guests sat at tables decorated to represent the other teams.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the "Bride and Groom" dressed appropriately in Razorback attire. Meanwhile, the hosts and hostesses had donned their favorite team colors, and Don tried to relive his college days at the University of Alabama by hiding a flask in his hip pocket.

Even the food had a Razorback theme as we sipped Razor Ritas (pomegranate margaritas) and dined on everything from Pigtail Pasta and Sooiee Swirls to Razor Bites and Boar Brownies.

Lately our group of friends has done lots of parties for brides and grooms, but I think it's going to be hard to top the Tailgate Party.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Girl Talk - Of Mice and Men

When women get together, they don't necessarily talk about men. Last night at our "girlfriends" get together, we talked about weddings and grandchildren and aging parents and mice.

That's right--mice. We arrived at that topic because I asked Claire, who was our guest, if Ben had told her he had mice in his house and if she had any qualms about moving in after the wedding.

Glenda B. jumped in and advised that the best way to get rid of mice was to put out some of those sticky traps. She thought she had heard a mouse under her bed or in her bedroom walls, but she later discovered that it had been in her purse eating some vitamin pills. The mouse had to go, so out came the sticky pads.

She also shared some other useful useful information. If you're squeamish about killing the mouse after you catch it, you take it, sticky pad and all, to a wooded area. Then pour oil on the pad, and the mouse will work its way off.

"Why would you want to do that?" asked another friend. "The mouse will probably beat you back to the house."

Glenda said that husband Art had the same attitude and planned to just bop the mouse over the head with a hammer or something. However, once the mouse was trapped, he wimped out. So off he went to the woods with mouse, sticky pad and a bottle of Wesson oil.

John Steinbeck has nothing on us.

Friday, September 19, 2008

There's Something About Small Towns

"Even if y'all aren't 'drankers' you need to check out our bar."

That's what the lady at the Fortune Inn and Suites in Newport, Arkansas, told me when I called to make reservations for the weekend of Larry's 45th class reunion.

I had asked her if Fortune's was the former Park Inn. Since there are only three places to stay in Newport, and I knew it wasn't the Day's Inn, I figured that might be the case.

She explained that they had remodeled and changed the name, moving their offices to the former location of Kelly's Grill. That's too bad about Kelly's because Larry said it had been a fixture in Newport since at least the '50's, but she quickly pointed out that the bar was a great addition and a "must see."

She described the bar as a tribute to George Kell and Sonny Burgess, two natives of Jackson County. Kell is a former Detroit Tiger third baseman and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Burgess is a song writer and singer of rockabilly music and a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

I could tell she was excited about the bar, and she was also excited to tell me that Burgess would be performing at Depot Days in Newport the night we will be in town. I told her that Larry loves Sonny's music and that I hoped the reunion dinner would be over in time for us to enjoy his concert.

"You could go early," she said. "Depot Days starts about 2:30."

I told her we probably wouldn't be able to make it that early since we have to watch the Razorbacks play Texas, but she reminded me that folks would probably bring their radios.

By the time we finished talking, she had fixed me up with a king, non-smoking for $62.10 that comes with a free "continental" breakfast, including biscuits and gravy, muffins, cereal, coffee and more.

You don't get that kind of information by calling 1-800-Hampton.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

From Bikini Wax to Kate Spade

About 13 years ago, Larry and I started walking every night in our neighborhood. We mapped out a two-mile route that took us about 35 to 45 minutes to complete. Shortly after we started, our friend Glenda joined us, and we gradually added more friends until our group numbered 10 at one point.

When it was just the three of us, we often had some unusual conversations. Glenda and I said that we were educating Larry in the ways of women. One of the earliest of those talks was about bikini waxing. Larry had never heard of such and wondered why any woman would put herself through such torture.

Our group is now back to just the three of us, since our other friends have gradually dropped out. Last night we were talking about Ben's and Claire's bridal registry. Glenda asked me about their china and stemware patterns, and I told her that they had registered for a Kate Spade crystal pattern.

Larry said, "Kate Spade? I thought she did purses."

Glenda and I were impressed that he had learned enough to know that Kate Spade designed purses. We think his education has come a long way since our bikini wax conversation and that he's ready to lead the men's team in a game of Battle of the Sexes.

By the way, we also noted that we are out of the bikini business, but that doesn't mean we aren't still hot.

Monday, September 15, 2008


As an Arkansas Razorback fan, I naturally have a fondness for pigs. A few years ago, this led me to start a pig collection.

The pig collection began with a portrait that my Aunt Mary painted of me sitting on a Hampshire hog when I was about three years old. I have it prominently displayed in my home.

Why an oil painting of me sitting on a pig? When I was young, my grandfather raised Hampshire hogs. As the oldest of 21 grandchildren, I got lots of attention. He would sometimes take me down to the pig pen and set me on one of the hogs while my parents, aunts and uncles took pictures. Once I hung the painting, I began looking for pigs everywhere - gift shops, craft shows, estate sales, eBay. If I found something I liked (no cheesy pigs would do), I would add it to my collection.

Soon my friends began contributing to my collection, and it grew. About this time, friends from Arkansas, Nick and J.R., began staying with us when they came to Alabama to watch the Razorbacks play. They took notice of my pig collection, and J.R. began looking for pigs to add to it. One trip, Nick and another friend, Marty, showed up here in Birmingham for the SEC Baseball Tournament with the collection that J.R. had assembled. It included the grill/planter (right)that I fondly named Petunia.

My collection didn't stop with everyday decorative stuff. I also began collecting Christmas ornaments with a pig theme. For a few years I even put up a special pig tree, using my pig ornament collection and even a few strands of pig lights.

It finally got to the point that Larry and the boys told me, "No more farm animals." Although I have tempered my pig buying habit, I still look for pigs when we travel. When we were in Seattle for Brent's and Katie's wedding in 2005, we found this pig at Pike's Market and took this picture of me and my brother Tommy.

On a recent trip to Italy, Larry and I came across this boar's head in
Orvieto. So while I may not bring as many pigs home as I once did, they are in my blood, and I won't stop looking for them.

Meanwhile, Go Hogs and Woooooooo Pig Sooiee.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Taking Taziki's on the Road

Driving west on Cantrell Road in Little Rock Friday night, I caught a glimpse of a familiar sign out of the corner of my eye - Taziki's Greek Fare. I quickly called up Ben on the cell phone.

"When did they open a Taziki's in Little Rock?" I asked.

"What are you talking about?" he replied.

After I told him about the sign I had seen and where I had seen it, he said he had to verify it for himself. Sure enough, he called to report that he and Claire had stopped, and the black tables and chairs looked very familiar. He later emailed a link to an article in Arkansas Times reporting that Taziki's would indeed open its first ever franchise in Little Rock later in September.

The first Taziki's was opened in Birmingham in 1998 by Keith and Amy Richards. Amy, incidentally, is from Waldenburg, Arkansas.

One day shortly after graduating from high school, Brent announced that a new restaurant was opening in the Colonnade Shopping Center and that his friend Jana said the owner needed help. She thought working at the restaurant would make a perfect summer job before college. Thus began our family's association with Taziki's.

Brent continued to work at the Colonnade location when he was home in the summers or for Christmas or Spring Breaks. Later Ben became a Taziki's employee and worked at both the Colonnade and Mountain Brook locations. Both boys learned to make chicken roll ups, Friday Special, pork sandwiches and other Taziki's specialties.

Soon Larry and I began eating at Taziki's regularly, and some of our friends started joining us on Friday nights. Taziki's is now a tradition, and we don't miss many Friday nights when we are in town.

I am especially fond of the Friday night fish special, which is often served over buttermilk mashed potatoes. For a long time Larry always ordered chicken roll ups, but he has now branched out to the shrimp feast, among other choices.

Ben and Claire are thrilled that Taziki's is coming to Little Rock. Look for them there on Friday nights.