And so, here I am, since last Sunday. I've been here a week, and I'm fairly certain I've not done even half the things I intended to do. I've spend many hours going through old family photographs, dating back to the first decade of the twentieth century, because I wish to know and not forget. I wish to learn and preserve. And so much of that information, my history, has already been lost. It's all become foggy half memories, and if it isn't recorded now, it will be lost. Though my aunts Pat and Joanne (my mother's sisters) are doing a lot of genealogy work, and my mother is doing some, I have this feeling that if it's ever all gathered in one place and written out, that will fall to me. And the piles of photographs are unlabeled, uncataloged, and not stored in archival sleeves, boxes, albums. But it's many months of work. I've been able to do little but survey what's here at my mom's house in Leeds. There's a lot more than I expected.
I've been scanning photos of me, my sister, my mother, my father, from 1964 through the late seventies. I've posted a few to Facebook.
Here's a rough and skimpy breakdown of the days:
Sunday, August 24th: Arrived in Birmingham about noon. Mom picked us up at the station and drove us around Leeds, and we had utterly delicious barbeque from Rusty's Church of the Tasty Pig.
Monday, August 25th: Let's not discuss the trip to Wal-Mart with my mother. But after that, which didn't happen, Kathryn and I drove out to Moody and Trussville to see and photograph two houses I lived in as a kid and my old high school (Hewitt-Trussville). See this entry for details and photos. And we had Rusty's again. I blame Kathryn's love of fried okra.
Tuesday, August 26th: We rested. Then Mom drove us out to Kendricks Cemetery in Dunnavant, over the mountain to the south of Leeds, where my Grandma and Grandpa Ramey are buried, along with much of my mother's side of the family. It was late in the day, I photographed headstones for reference, and the day was beautiful. We watched Sunshine with my mom, because she'd never seen it. See this entry.
Wednesday, August 27th: Not an exciting day. I scanned photos and made a blog entry,nothing much memorable, therefore, I've already forgotten much of the day. This is why I blog. Anyway, we did some exploring downtown, old downtown. I won't even acknowledge the nightmare of Leeds' unchecked eastern expansion, where it's melded with the cancer of Moody, forming this great melanoma of consumerism. Mom made chicken and dumplings, and we watched Firefly with her, because she'd not seen it, either.
Thursday, August 28th: We braved the heat (fortunately, the humidity was very low) and went into Birmingham to explore places where I've lived. We began with the Southern History wing of the Birmingham Public Library. Then on to Liberty House, where I resided from 1997 to 2002, the big loft down on Morris by the tracks. Also, the old apartment complex on 16th Avenue South, built in 1923 and originally called Grandview. I lived there from late 1989 until April 1994, when I moved to Athens, Georgia. We visited Charlemagne Record Exchange at Little Five Points, which I was ecstatic to see has survived the destructive gentrification of the neighborhood. In one of the bins, Kathryn found a copy of the ultra-rare 1984 Harlan Ellison Reads "On the Downhill Side." I'll call him when I get back to Providence to tell him I found it. I also picked up a used copy of the Cowboy Junkies' The Caution Horses (1990), which I only have on vinyl. We visited the house on 19th Street South where in lived from 1987 to 1989. At the end of that dead-end street is the block house that's the entrance to the old water works tunnel, as seen in Threshold. Back home, Mom made lasagna.
Friday, August 29th: A laid-back day. I scanned photos and had a long conversation with my my mother, mostly about mental illness and transgender issues. It was a good talk. Late in the day, Kathryn and I visited the house on 3rd Avenue Southeast here in Leeds, where my family lived from 1976 until 1979, four years, the longest we ever lived anywhere when I was a kid. It sits in the shadow of the cement plant, at the end of the street. I loved that house, and it was used as the model for Spyder Baxter's home in Silk. We also stopped by the house, two blocks over, at 8344 1st Avenue Southeast, where we lived, briefly, in 1975. Mom made enchiladas for dinner, and we went out again after dark, because I wanted to see the darkened streets. In Leeds, streets are still allowed to be dark after sunset. The cement plant is like an industrial Christmas tree. Back home again, we watched Project Runway and the two new episodes of Defiance, including the season finale. We ate Moon Pies.
Saturday: Lots more photo scanning, and we drove down 119, past Lake Purdy (dry and muddy from the ongoing drought, black stumps jutting from the mud) and visited the only Whole Foods in Alabama, out of 280. I needed ramen. Afterwards, we stopped for doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. I'm eating far, far too much sugar on this trip. Mom cooked a beef roast in the crock pot. I broke down and did some RP in The Secret World.
And that gets us to today. My mom's at a funeral, my Aunt Evelyn Hartsfield, one of my Grandfather Wright's many sisters, who died on Thursday. Kathryn and I went out and drove about for a couple of hours, around Leeds and down 119, some of the roads off 119. The day is beautiful, and the mountain is a glorious green, shaded by thunderheads that may or may not give us rain. Later, we'll go out again.
There's this from Facebook, which I posted today:
It's not bad enough that there's goddamn SHOPPING MALL in Leeds now. No. That's not bad enough. Some douchebag decided to call it "The Shops at Grand River." Now, there is no fucking GRAND RIVER in Leeds. There is a TINY little thing called the Little Cahaba River, hardly more than an ambitious trickle. We used to call it "the creek" when I was was a kid. HOWEVER, "the Shops at Grand River" aren't even on the Little Cahaba. They're at Stinking Creek. No, really. That's it's name. So, what the fuck, assholes?
Here are a few photos, a bit of a random selection, I'm afraid:
August 25th. The neon pig at Rusty's.
August 28th. The Southern History Department of the Birmingham Library, viewed from the mezzanine.
The grand mural.
If only such care was taken with all ceilings.
The narrow stairs leading up to Charlemagne's.
The cement plant, August 28th.
August 29th. On 3rd Avenue Southeast, view to the northwest. I still love this street, which has changed only a little.
All photographs Copyright 2014 by Caitlin R. Kiernan and Kathryn A. Pollnac