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October 23, 2016

New York, New York!
Travel Listacle Two: From the Deep-Fried South to the Autumnal Cape Cod

How are y'all?

We are basically too old for all this travel. Not so much the travel but the having to do tourist stuff every day to make it all worth while. On the travel front so far we have been lucky; no lost luggage, no missed flights or trains. Oops, I forgot Hurricane Matthew…

1. The road trip down the Natchez Trace from Nashville to —well Natchez of course… and back up Highway 61 (the Blues highway) to Greenville, Mississippi and the Mighty Mississippi Blues Festival. Never been to Nashville before and did a bus trip that had great reviews and left us bored as it was all about driving and looking at famous recording studios we didn’t care about who recorded country and western singers we’d never heard of. We are not, in general, fans of C &W. However, when in Nashville… So we went to the Grand Ole Opry which was interesting and at least had polished performances of C & W. The hard part was getting a taxi to take us back to our hotel. The first thirty cabs refused after hearing we only wanted to go five miles. We would have walked if we had possessed a map or had the faintest clue how to get across the numerous motorways. Memphis we have been to before, and Beale Street which was a five minute walk from our seedy hotel was not as good as it used to be, music-wise. Again, like New Orleans, the old blues singers seem to have disappeared (perhaps they, like us, are getting just plain too old), and the new ones, well too much new loud stuff. But I returned to Graceland (without John, he said once was enough) and it was as busy and fabulous as it was twenty years ago. Better, in fact. It is beyond belief what that man achieved in his far too short life. After looking at all those gold records and Grammies and awards in the trophies room you go into this gym which is completely covered with more gold records and medals and tributes. And then there is the car museum…. By now we were over the deep fried food that is fun and even almost yummy the first two times. Went to BB Kings and had a dinner (grade C-), with music about B-. On the way to our next brief stop, Jackson, where our Air BnB hosts were delightful and invited us to go to dinner with them—wonderful oysters and nothing deep fried in sight—we passed through Tupelo and went to the Elvis birthplace; once again done very well, as only Americans, when at their best, can do it. Next stop, Natchez, the oldest antebellum city in the US was lovely, and we took in and enjoyed the history and the mansions, and even managed some biscuits and gravy (bypassed the grits). Back north up the Mississippi to a seedy hotel in Greenville, and the Blues Festival which was laid back, friendly folk, no Trump supporters that we could find, and great music. This is where the old blues musicians hang out (youngish ones as well and still playing real blues). More How are y'alls and Where y'all come from?

2. Flew on Sunday from Jackson to Hilton Head Island in the South Carolinas, which is a crazy sort of flight (two flights in fact). Got to Savannah in the dark, picked up the rental car and got lost in the maze of roads on Hilton Head. Finally found our very nice timeshare apartment but sadly on Tuesday, Hurricane Matthew set its possible eye on that area and we were told we would have to get off and far away by 3pm Wednesday. Spent hours Tuesday night trying unsuccessfully to get a flight out and in the end we drove all day next day to Williamsburg, Virginia where our next Timeshare was. Williamsburg may have been in Matthew’s path as well but it turned out not to be. Enjoyed the history there; Colonial Williamsburg is fascinating, also Jamestown and Yorktown, and we now know more about American History than most of you (well, John does). Whilst there drove to the Outer Banks in North Carolina where my lovely friend Rosemary Rawlins had organised a book event for me at a Nags Head wine and coffee bar. As the Outer Banks was flooded badly by Matthew, we didn’t know if we would get in, but did, just, and lots of people came to my event in spite of having been flooded and in some cases were still flooded. The fabulous independent bookshop, Downtown Books, in Manteo, and also in Duck (such expressive names) supplied the books and got me to sign heaps more, all of which they have now sold. The next day I went into the bookstore (which two days before my event had 6 inches of water through it) and signed their bathroom wall… my first celebrity signing. Watch this space for the handprint in the star wherever that happens (Hollywood?)

3. Took the Amtrak from Williamsburg to Washington DC, and had one and a half days to see all the amazing buidings in the National Mall. It is such a spectacular place. Also the weather continued to be balmy warm (28 degrees). We have been before to DC years ago and went again to the Air and Space Museum. At the White House didn’t see anyone we recognised although I thought I spotted Trump trying to get in a back gate.

4. Took the Amtrak to New York and stayed five nights in a great little hotel in Greenwich Village; no frills but does the job as I heard one other resident remark. Again the weather was perfect. Too hot almost. Thought the Hi-Line was pretty terrible, but everything else we managed to cram in was reasonably or very worthwhile. Got to know Greenwich Village a little, gawked at the lights in Times Square and even went to a broadway show (The Jersey Boys, as that is the only one we recognised/could afford). People apparently pay between $350 and $500 US dollars a ticket for the latest, “Hamilton.” More money than sense as my mother used to say. The One World Observation Tower was spectacular (that’s one of my photos from the top), and the World Trade Memorial very grim, sad and moving. It indeed gives one a different perspective, new respect and deep empathy with the American focus on security. And of course everything one goes to in New York requires bag checks and sometimes a full body scan. Even went to see the Statue of Liberty close up, and Ellis Island. And of course the magnificent Metropolitan Museum of Art. And watched the third presidential debate…

5. And finally the skies opened and the rain came down in buckets, just as we left our hotel to get a taxi to the station; stepped into 6 inches of water on the street. Amtraked through beautiful fall colours to Providence and drove to Cape Cod; next day misty and sort of raining, providing an excuse to not do much other than a few computer tasks… and now it seems certain Trump will not win so we can turn the damn TV off. Today the sun came out, not a cloud in the sky, and a chill wind. Hurrah, I can wear the warmer clothes I have been lugging around since we left NZ in early June. Thought it was going to stay balmy forever. Did some lovely walks through red and gold Autumn woods and wild dunes, and appreciated the romantic Cape Cod houses with their shingles and shutters. Why don’t we have shingles on NZ houses?

Book Review
Some of you e-mailed me to say how much you enjoyed Barbara Clayton White’s previous novel I reviewed here last year. Her latest—grappling with the issue of manic-depression—is no walk in the park, but I know will resonate with many of you who have mental health issues in your families, or who work with people who have psychological problems.

Echoes of Family
Barbara Claypole White knows how to take her readers inside her challenged characters and see and feel their world almost through their senses and thoughts. “Echoes of Family” goes to another level from her best selling “The Perfect Son” where the characters were compelling but relatively gentle in their behaviors. Every character in her new novel has deep psychological or psychiatric or childhood challenges to grapple with, but the masterpiece of characterization is Marianne, the central character in the book and around whom all the other characters revolve. She is gutsy, bright and bipolar. The story is gutsy, sharp, frenetic at times as the mania takes over, and then compassionate, tragic, joyful. People who have a bipolar disorder can be the sort of people that you never want to be around, and in her first manic destructive episode described in this book, I didn’t like her, or even two of the other central characters, Jade and Darius, much. If this had been real life I wouldn’t have liked them much either. But I didn’t want to stop reading and gradually as my understanding grew, so did my respect and liking for each of the characters. That is the genius of Barbara Claypole White, she makes it really real, no messing about with softening the extremes of feelings and behaviors in a full blown mania, or the drop into depression. And yet the reader cares about her characters, roots for them, and by the end of the book we perhaps have a little more understanding of the havoc bipolar disorder can cause, not only to the person who has it but to everyone who loves them. Bravo!

My latest Psychology Today post https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/trouble-in-mind/201610/can-novels-influence-our-beliefs-about-reality

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Contact me: jenniogdenauthor@gmail.com