August 21, 2020

An essay from the Place Issue

Hursley has a visual appetite for the broad sweep of landscapes and architecture. He doesn’t necessarily re-envision the commonplace in order to invite us to see it again, but instead directs us to see the effect of forces beyond our own ambitions—forces like time or perspective or serendipity—on objects we believe under our measly control. Hursley peeks inside structures so mundane from the exterior, so commonplace in Arkansas towns like Helena, Wilson, Brinkley, and Lake Village, that most folks familiar with the region would barely take note of them.

April 21, 2016

If you believe that frogs have personalities, then think of the dusky gopher frog as a diva with a death wish.

August 25, 2020

An essay from the Place Issue

I don’t know about this stuff. I’m not a car guy. But it seems I’ve always been aware of Yello Belly Drag Strip as a place an only child of somewhat fearful disposition would not ever want to go. I’m pretty sure, however, (odd to be uncertain, but one wishes things, one tends to make things up) I went there once when a business associate of my father’s came to town in his brand-new ’59 Impala (you don’t have to be mechanical to know that was the very best year for fins—in this case arcing, horizontal; almost practical, anticipating flight) and wanted to race it. Or, more likely, simply time it down the track.

June 26, 2013

I took down my bird feeders today after coming home to find a neighbor’s cat on the doorstep eating a goldfinch.

June 06, 2017

On the morning of August 28, 2005, I evacuated New Orleans with my parents, less than twenty-four hours before Katrina came ashore, driving fourteen-foot storm tides ahead of it. We spent hours on the five-mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, watching Lawrence of Arabia in the back seat while waterspouts spun beyond our windows. When I woke up the next morning in Nashville, a newscaster in a dry poncho was standing near the Superdome; she talked only of wind damage. 

August 25, 2020

An essay from the Place Issue

As a music writer and amateur New Orleans obsessive, I’ve known of Buddy Bolden for years—known what there is to know, that is, about a musician who left no recordings. The shotgun on First Street was deemed a New Orleans Historic Landmark in 1978, but the last ten years for this house, his longest and final residence, have been a saga of demolition by neglect, the City Council’s term when levying fines. 

June 01, 2013

Some people come to the old Jazzland amusement park by way of the service road off Interstate 510, bringing their cars directly onto the grounds. Before the city stepped up security, I once saw a blue Corvette and black Chevy S-10 pull up and proceed to chase each other at top speed around the central lagoon, then disappear to the far end of the abandoned park. But if you come on foot, it’s best to slip through the hole cut in the chain-link fence, picking your way through the broken glass and shards of scrap metal in the parking lot.

June 11, 2019

Thomas Jefferson, Pharrell, and more notes on the state of Virginia 

Now, when strangers ask me where I’m from, I say, “Virginia Beach. We gave the world Pharrell. You’re welcome.” Pharrell was the black cosmopolitan force that proved my home wasn’t country. He was a living rebuke of what Thomas Jefferson wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia, his only book, in which he says you would “never . . . find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture.”
August 25, 2020

An essay from the Place Issue

I visit Mileston more than I do my parents’ graves; it is here in the Delta that I can again imagine them as vibrant people, a way of dimming the memory of the pain of watching their decline into illness and old age.

June 11, 2019

Mike Frolich’s artistic legacy in the Saturn Bar

One of my many justifications for keeping the devil was Frolich’s claim that his paintings were created in part for the children of the Ninth Ward, more of whom run through our house than the Saturn Bar. Kids need a relationship with their devils as much as adults do. Instead of renouncing or banishing them, children should know their features and particular hues, their habitats and gestures. Keeping them in steady sight, they’re easier to manage.