Walt Disney World, Gulf Shores, Baton Rouge, France, the Bahamas, the Yucatan; these are places we go to retreat from the normalcy of life. These are the destinations of our vacations, our free week off from work to do what we want. Yet retreating to something different doesn’t have to mean venturing beyond state lines. As native West Tennesseans, we forget the vast culture and history that surrounds us.
Vineyard’s Gifts, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, is located in one of the quaintest little pockets of Jackson. On the corner of Wiley Parker and North Highland Avenue sits a small shopping center including a florist, spa, children’s clothing store, and café. In the center of it all is Vineyard’s Gifts, a boutique gift shop that specializes in bridal and baby registry, stationery, invitations, and gift items. The store was originally opened as a florist in downtown Jackson by Lyda Tomlin Vineyard.
Tabitha Moore’s dream started with an idea, a few dresses, and an old camper. “Owning a business was always something I wanted,” said Moore. “So to be able to build one from my love of clothing is a huge blessing.” After months and months of thought and prayer, Moore started La Petite Boutique last October with hopes of providing trendy, stylish clothing at affordable prices and building community with other women in the area.
As I walked into the bustling and brightly colored waiting room of Pat Brown’s dance studio, I was immediately hit by a rush of memories from my days in leotards and tights. I heard the combinations being called out with extreme zeal in the studio, an extremely familiar sound for the sixty dancers who make up the Ballet Arts of Jackson troupe. The older group of dancers were hard at work rehearsing a routine to Thriller for a Halloween event while younger girls peeked in from the hallway.
When I think about the vocation of a photographer, I think of the words of Simone Weil, saying that “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Paying attention is what gets most photographers into their profession. They pay attention and capture a moment and then linger in the darkroom, spending hours waiting to see an image develop from the blank white of a sheet of photo paper, the details slowly emerging in a chemical bath.
The births of our first two sons took place in the Northeast at two very well-respected and innovative research hospitals. Yet the family-centered birthing experience we had been longing for took place right here in Jackson, Tennessee. At times I can become cynical with the issues facing our city. We have complex challenges, and there are not always clear solutions.
In his essay collection Heretics, G.K. Chesterton extols, “Once men sang around a table together in chorus. Now one man sings alone, for the absurd reason he can sing better.” In other words, as our scientific age has grown in competency and achievement we have become isolated from the rootedness which gave rise to our confidence in the first place—experts in everything but being human. Can there be any question this is more true today than when Chesterton wrote almost a century ago?
It can occasionally seem desirable to be someone else. Perhaps to be someone who doesn’t feel what we feel or who says the right things (or who doesn't care that they don’t). Sometimes I’d like to slip out of myself like an outfit poorly chosen at the beginning of the day and roam about for the rest of the afternoon as another person, as someone who is not me as I or others know myself but who in some way still reflects something essentially true about who I am.
There’s a lot of jerk chicken in Joseph Kabre’s future. It’s the most popular dish at Jamaican and African Cuisine, the restaurant he manages. On a typical day, he has enough ready to serve a couple dozen people. But Saturday, March 4, he’s hoping for potentially four times that many customers to show up hungry for the spicy dish. It will take him two days to prepare enough. The chicken has to be smoked, seasoned correctly, and then finished out in the oven.
The year was 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Jackson City Hall had separate drinking fountains for "colored" people and "white" people, and Union University and Lane College were still neighbors downtown.It was a crisp fall night in the middle of basketball season. Camille Long was one of only four African-Americans in the bleachers of the Union University gym, including the fellow Lane College student she'd dragged with her.
It’s the Wednesday after Labor Day, and Jerry Mercer, senior director of Mercer Brothers Funeral Home, assures me his desk doesn’t always look like this. “But getting ready for the appreciation [day]…” he says, shuffling through the stacks of papers and documents in manila file folders and opened envelopes on his desk. The fax machine emits a whiny cry that reminds me of time spent in the 1990s waiting on dial up Internet, and the office phone rings continuously.
We’ve all seen our fair share of family-focused reality TV. Men, women, and children sign up to put their lives on display for all to see. So what does that look like in Jackson, Tennessee? The recently launched web series, Loving My 6. Now happily married for over ten years, John and Timond Williams are the parents of six children under the age of ten.
The Wizard of Oz. That’s my earliest memory of the power of a tornado. From the time I saw that witch riding a bicycle in the air with that house spinning out of control, the power of a tornado had me under its thumb. As a five-year-old, I had no idea how close I would come to that dominance that struck so much fear in me as a child. West Tennessee, and Jackson in particular, is no stranger to tornadoes. As much as we think tornadoes are an indiscriminate act of nature, they’re not.
As a lover of clothing with a longing to become a fashion designer, nothing could have deterred me from introducing myself to a group of women whose sewing flourishes with creativity and design. Most of you may know these women as none other than the Wilbourn sisters. These talented women have been a household name for the past thirty years, not only in the surrounding counties of West Tennessee but all over the globe.
While most of us are prone to toss out old things and run to the new, others are gifted with the vision to make something out of what the rest of us leave behind. Ellen Bennett, the creator of “The Restored Attic,” creates home decor and furniture pieces by repurposing found and thrifted materials. From childhood trips to yard sales with her father, she learned that she didn’t have to pay full price for anything. As she grew up, it evolved into trying to search for furniture and other pieces to decorate her home.
“For Sale” signs and broken windows adorn a large portion of buildings within Jackson’s city limits. Right next to thriving businesses can be found abandoned restaurants or forgotten startups. In the northern part of the city, the lack of uninhabited buildings is less obvious, but take a ride down 45 and it will become more apparent. It is a very sobering sight for those who call Jackson home.
Ordinary guys don’t spend too much time thinking about the best escape route out of a restaurant or a home or out of town. And while most people I know aren’t worried about the trackability of their IP addresses or burner phones or whether or not they’ve been recorded on too many security cameras in public, that’s not the case for Lee Wilson. But then again, Lee isn’t exactly having an ordinary moment.
In 1998, one of the most respected scholars in the world made a profound decision. It was a decision that seemed at odds with much of what had previously happened in his life. Jaroslav Pelikan was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1923 to devout Lutheran parents. His father was a Lutheran pastor and his grandfather a bishop in the Lutheran Church. By the age of twenty-two he had completed both a seminary degree from Concordia Lutheran Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
"You want to do what?” was the phrase that passed through Shayne Crowe’s mind as his daughter Lauren, a high school student who was studying Spanish, told him she wanted to go to Italy for a year-long exchange. This announcement started a long process with the Rotary study abroad program. The family learned that the program encouraged them to take an exchange student into their home as part of their participation. “It’s actually a really good program,” said Shayne.
Yoga. The word creates images of handstands and people twisting their bodies into pretzels. I always thought that in order to be considered a true “yogi” I needed to be able to contort my body in painful, unnatural ways. Despite that, yoga was intriguing to me. I watched videos online and became more familiar with the terminology, slowly understanding what makes millions of people practice everyday. I even started to notice a shift in how I carried myself.
Ross Priddy is the man behind Douglass Gray. He is also my older brother. We grew up under the same roof with the same traditions, which formed many of the same memories. His childhood— I was there for that. Which, I assume, is why I was asked to tell the story of Douglass Gray—because that really is where it started . . . in his childhood. My brother was an imaginative kid. He took everything to the next level. If he was playing army, there was ketchup blood and little sisters on sleeping bag stretchers.
A twenty-minute drive away from the busy hub of I-40 and the noise of the road, the work day of a farrier begins unceremoniously. A trailer full of equipment is backed into a horse barn, equipment is unloaded, and work is immediately undertaken. Father-son duo Donnie and Chris Taylor begin their day beneath the hum of rain on the barn’s tin roof with intensity, focus, and a careful and determined pace that could only be settled into after years of practicing their craft.
A few years back, I chose to embark on one of my favorite childhood hobbies: collecting comic books. I researched and discovered the closest one to me to be Comics Universe. Filled with excitement and unsure of what to expect, I called the store to get a schedule, so I could make sure attend on a slow day. I wanted to take my time to skim over the entire store and converse with an employee just in case I wanted this special place to be my new safe haven.
After you crank your car down from the sixty-five miles-per-hour speed limit, you’ll make a turn onto a shaded, gravel road, and if you are lucky you’ll catch your first glimpse of the exotic: radiant peacocks, enormous camels, ancient buffalo, and vibrant zebras. In a way, you will feel that you have just stepped into a new world filled with wonder and excitement. And you’ve only just pulled in. Tennessee’s only drive-through safari park is truly a captivating place.
As I pulled up to Alamo Pride Cut & Sew Factory in March of 2014, I had to focus on the bold colors associated with spring that had taken hold across the Mid-South. The air was clean, and the morning dew blanketed fresh azalea and dogwood blossoms. I needed to focus on the beauty around me to keep from crying and mourning the life in Hong Kong I had left behind. “This is what the South is,” I said to myself as we drove past farmlands and well-manicured lawns heading into town.
On the hillside of a Humboldt vineyard, in what was once a barn in the land’s historic farm days, is the Companion Gallery, where local ceramicist Eric Botbyl has his studio as well as a gallery shop featuring work by fellow potters from around the country. It’s a quiet place where the doors are left open to catch the breeze on spring days like today and is kept warm by a wood-burning stove in the winter. It’s surrounded by twenty-two acres of grapevines and neighbors the Crown Winery’s Tuscan-style villa.
￼￼￼￼We started packing shoeboxes when “He-who-is-now-taller-than-I” could fit his chunky-monkey baby legs through the slots in the front seat of the grocery cart, likely with one of those hypoallergenic seat covers. We would fill our box with necessities: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, and such. Maybe some nifty socks or a hat. Of course, you had to have a coloring book, crayons, and some candy. Oh, and those Little Debbie Swiss Cake rolls. Oh, stink, they will melt in transit. Hmm. . . .
We gathered in a living room of earthen walls painted mint green with a dirt floor covered by tarp. Our hostess sat aside from the group on a bench lining one of the walls so that we could all have a seat in a circle of sunk-in couches and ottomans. Alemaz Bola is a mother of five and an entrepreneur. She wore a head wrap striped with the green, yellow, and red of the Ethiopian flag and sat meekly aside as if to stay out of the way, despite the fact that we came to hear her story.
Eggs. Flour. Milk. Sugar. Your basic ingredients for a cupcake. But so much more than that goes into the cupcakes at HaliHannigan’s Café & Cakery. Five years ago a cozy little space in the Columns bedecked in pink and black opened its doors—and its heart—to the Jackson community. Neill and Christi Bartlett, the husband and wife team that co-own HaliHannigan’s (whose name is derived from various parts of the names of their three daughters), were ready for a change.
“Your destination is on your right,” said my iPhone, notifying me that I had reached 1683 South Highland Avenue. I turned my head and saw nothing. Where was the food truck? I pulled into Popeye’s, put the car in “Park,” and stepped outside into the slightly muggy end-of-September-in-West-Tennessee weather. Scanning the landscape, my eyes fell onto a neon green trailer in the middle of a parking lot. I began my approach and saw “KC Finn’s” printed on its exterior, accented by several four leaf clovers.