Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Evil Spirits?

Sometime in the six months since we arrived in the South I noticed bottle trees and was fascinated.  Why in the world were people hanging (mostly wine) bottles  upside down in their yards?  Friends in Arkansas knew all about them and several have the colorful trees in their own yards or gardens.  I’ve since learned that this colorful southern folk tradition probably originated in the Congo with the purpose of warding off evil spirits!  According to legend it was believed that spirits (usually evil) become mesmerized with the bottles’ dancing colors in the sun, are drawn into the bottles only to be trapped and die in the sunshine. 

Upon arriving in Natchez, Mississippi our first priority was dinner and we chose Fat Mama’s Tamales restaurant.   Yes, the Gringo Pie, three tamales topped with chili, cheese, onions & jalapenos (I passed on the onions), were delicious -- we even took a dozen tamales home.  BUT I DIGRESS!  Outside the entrance of Fat Mama’s is a bottle tree.  (Ugly utility panel in the background!)


I spotted this bottle tree in a residential yard.  Blue being my favorite color, I particularly like this tree.


Of course, if you have no evil spirits (or really don’t believe in evil spirits) to get rid of, it is a great place to recycle and display empty bottles.  A nice Southern folk art tradition which I will watch for as we continue our journey east in the South.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Steel Magnolias. . .the movie

I loved this classic tear jerker/funny movie in 1989 and still love it in 2011.   During our month-long stay in Natchitoches, Louisiana I learned that Steel Magnolias was not only filmed in Natchitoches but the story comes from the real life of author Robert Harling’s sister and mother’s life in his hometown, called Chinquapin in the movie.  (Robert Harling also appears in the movie as the preacher.)


After reading an article in little tourist newspaper “Historic Natchitoches” I grabbed my camera and set out to photograph as many filming locations as possible.  As with the tree sculptures (1-11-11 Blog) in Galveston and “Cars” (9-19-10 Blog) on Route 66 I like taking on a project like this in order to learn more about a community. 

The Steel Magnolias house, now a B & B. Do you remember the chaotic opening scene where Drum (Tom Skerritt) is shooting at noisy birds up in these tall oak trees?


Cantankerous Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine) lived next door at 310 Rue Jefferson and, in real life, Lemee House is also next door.


Front Street in Natchitoches, oops Chinquapin in the movie.


House seen at the beginning of the movie.


Bandstand on the banks of Cane River Lake.


Mrs. Robeline’s boarding house at 301 Rue Touline. I don’t remember seeing this in the movie but its where Annelle (Daryl Hannah) lived.  Love the white rocking chairs on the porch!


Aunt Fern’s (Ann Wedgeworth) home is the Chaplin House at 434 Second Street


Truvy (Dolly Parton) and Spud’s (Sam Shepard) home - the beauty shop around which the story revolves.  I read that when director Herbert Ross reprimanded Dolly Parton and asked her if she could act she replied "No, but it's your job to make me look like I can!"  Looks more conservative now than it did in the movie doesn’t it (especially without the Christmas decorations!)


Shelby (Julia Roberts) and Jackson’s (Dylan McDermott) home in the movie.  It is the Odalie Lambre-Gwinn House located outside of the town of Natchitoches.


Location of baby Jack’s birth.  Since the movie was filmed a large regional hospital has been built adjacent to the small parish hospital.


Interior of Trinity Episcopal Church, location of the funeral.


I walked through the American Cemetery location of Shelby’s funeral and found this photo on a plaque.


Annelle and Sammy’s (Kevin J. O’Connor)  home.  Updated and remodeled since 1989.


Riverfront area where the Easter Egg scene was filmed.


Spud’s surprise for Truvy:  Truvy’s 2 on Front Street.  Truvy is excited and exclaims that she is now a chain!


And who can forget the ending scene with the Steel Magnolia ladies:  M’Lynn (Sally Field,) Clairee (Olympia Dukakis), Truvy, Annelle, and Ouiser?  The little park  and fountain were not on my list of filming places; I just happened to see it near the Steel Magnolias house.


Other movies filmed in and around Natchitoches are The Horse Soldiers, (John Wayne)  filmed here in 1958 and The Man in the Moon (Sam Waterston, Tess Harper, Reese Witherspoon and Emily Warfield) in 1996.  The Natchitoches Walk of Honor includes fleur de lies tiles  for many of these actors.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dog friendly. . .I have a rant!


We had to spend a night in a motel this week while our fifth wheel (remember this is our home) was in the shop having the large air conditioning unit fixed.  I went on-line to dogfriendly.com to find a dog friendly motel, saw Holiday Inn Express in Shreveport, Louisiana and upon calling received:  “Yes, we are dog friendly and yes we have a room.”   Great, that was easy and we have a room for the night!  Then she said that there would be a $50 non-refundable deposit.  Fifty dollars, a non-refundable deposit?. . .that is NOT a deposit, it is a $50 fee in addition to the room rate.  Dog friendly?  Not on my friendliness meter.  I said a quick good-bye.

While I  have no problem with paying a deposit or even a nominal extra charge for Dulee I feel that $50 is not dog friendly.  I think what they are really saying is they want to widely advertise their place of lodging but do not want dogs to actually stay at their facility.  I E-mailed the Holiday Inn Express corporation and received this non-committal/cookie-cutter reply:

“Thank you for contacting Guest Relations regarding your experience with the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Shreveport - West, LA. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to bring this matter to our attention and apologize for any confusion surrounding this hotel’s pet fee and policy. (My note:  there was no confusion surrounding the pet fee and policy - the hotel clerk stated plain and simple:  $50 and non-refundable.)

Many IHG properties are franchised, independently owned and operated. In this case, the hotel management and ownership determine their own rates and pet policy, often times in compliance with local ordinances. IHG is not involved in the development of this individual hotel policy. (My note:  had nothing to do with local ordinances. See below.)

Your concerns have been forwarded to the management and ownership of this hotel for review. Your comments will also remain on file at a corporate level, for use in periodic evaluations of the hotel.

Once again, we appreciate you taking the time to share your comments with us. We know you have many choices when it comes to lodging and we hope you will continue to choose IHG for your future travel needs.”   (My note:  while they  may be “independently owned and operated” they do bear the name and logo of Holiday Inn Express and, therefore represent the entire corporation. No, I will not be choosing IHG for my travel needs - ever - with or without my dog.)

We drove into another almost next door, a La Quinta Inn, also listed on dogfriendly.com and the very nice desk clerk said yes, they had a pet friendly room but it was a smoking (ewww!) room on the third floor and we probably wouldn’t care for it. . .their charge is $10.  Much more acceptable but we took his word and didn’t stay.

Back to dogfriendly.com.  Yes, Day’s Inn has dog friendly, non-smoking room, charge is $10.  We checked in and found it to be a very adequate and clean room.  (So much for the Holiday Inn’s “local ordinances” statement.) 

So, that is my rant!  Hotels/motels, pet owners really don’t mind if you don’t want pets, just say so.  Holiday Inn Express, you lost a customer, maybe more than one, due to your dog “policy.”

Note from Dulee: enjoyed my stay at the Day’s Inn. . .slept like a log, didn’t ruin anything and most of all, I did not lift my leg anywhere in the room! And, since I’m a Bichon Frise I didn’t even shed!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Moms will relate to this. . .I sure did!

Ordinary feelings expressed so beautifully by the author. I am at the “empty nest” part of this reading since my two sons and daughter are grown. (And, incidently loving our empty nest!) Wonderful memories to look back on.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

My Spa Day. . .at Walmart!

One of the big, and rather important in my book, challenges of full-time RVing is getting a good haircut.  My strategy often involves “stalking” salons to check out ladies as they come out the door.  Do they have an old lady, maybe pinkish-color, doo?  Is their hair bright purple shaved up one side? Neither to my taste!  Well, I was REALLY in need of a haircut so, before employing the stalking strategy, asked the very nice Denise at the Natchitoches Visitor Center.  She recommended Chris at the Smartstyle Family Salon in the Walmart, yes Walmart, store!  Certainly not as chichi as my Hair 506 in Monterey but I was looking for a good haircut!


Chris is a tall skinny Goth-type guy who looks about 15 years old but I learned has been a hairdresser for ten years!    I was pleased with the result. . .and it cost only $20, tip included! 


So, with success and satisfaction in my pocket, or, rather, on my head, I noticed a Regal Nails Salon two doors down - just past the Portrait Studio - hey this is a Walmart Supercenter - they have everything!  So I treated myself to a pedicure.  ChaChing Cherry - my favorite OPI nail polish color.  The  vintage Jewelite blue Lucite hand mirror was my Mom’s.


Ah, a very nice, and unexpected,  two hour pamper myself time. . .and, go figure, at Walmart!