Date:         Sun, 12 Jun 1994 13:03:06 EST5EDT
From: Gilbert Smith <>
Subject:      WHTMOTRTSAAB
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>


    1) Had a hard time leaving on Monday May 31, because I knew that
the tc\sw would be leaving for the Czech Republic on Friday June 10,
the day before I would return from SA.  Seemed the end of an <era>,
because of compatability problems that had built up for five or six
years and had reached the point of lots of water under the bridge.
So, saying goodbye was hard because things were so unresolved.
Finally left at 6 p.m. to drive the Miata to Texas via I-40 to I-95
to I-20.  Nice drive with the top down, and pleasant stop at rest
area to sit on a picnic bench and play the guitar for a while.
    2) First overnight stop somewhere between Columbia SC and Atlanta
GA in a nondescript motel, after failing to resist buying a model
racecar hauling truck at a BP service station.  Did resist opening it
and playing with it until arrival days later in Dallas, where it would
serve as a present for my niece's 4-year old boy to match the weird
teddy bear that I was bringing for her 2-month old boy.  Nice jazz on
the SC public radio network, keeping me company until 2 a.m.
    3) On the road again Tuesday morning in GA, driving through
Atlanta on I-20 fighting the construction and getting wet from the
light rain falling on the topless Miata.  I Stop in some little town
at McDonalds and note that a busload of second graders is there: some
black and some white, and the white teacher walks toward the rest
room holding the hand of a black child.  I meditate on what historic
times I have lived through, and recall my honeymoon (the first) in
1959, stopping in Jackson, Montgomery, and Atlanta, the capitals of
the south, making a point, with the help of my bride, of drinking
from the colored water fountains to protest segregation.
Lucky to be alive today.  Probably only because we were careful to do
this when no one else was around.
    5) Western SC and Eastern GA are beautiful, lots of trees and
rolling hills.  Never been this way before, and havent travelled by
car through the Deep Deep South since 1968.  Rather uneventful trip
all the way across Alabama through Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, until
Mississippi when it suddenly occurs to me that there are *gambling*
boats on the river up ahead. My interest increases, as does the
average speed of the Miata.
     4) See a billboard outside of Meridian, MS proclaiming the
Weidman Restaurant to be the best place in town to eat.  Stop at 5
p.m. for an early dinner.  Sign in the restaurant says "since 1947"
or something of the sort, and it is evident that *everything* in this
restaurant, except the food but including my black waiter, has been
there since 1947.  The waiter responds to my inquiry about
whether he can tell me which fish is best: "Yassuh Ah Cayun...  "
Dont remember which it was, but it was very good.  Some black
patrons come in and sit down without so much as a well-look-at-us-
restaurant.  I wonder whether my waiter is as aware as I am of how
much the world has changed in the last 30 years. Weidman's is a
*must* for wordsler travelling through eastern MS.  Ask for the best
--ggs (TBC)


    5) As I leave Weidman's Restaurant, a drive through downtown
Meridian reveals a very pleasant little city, with a partially
restored Romanesque bank building.  Searching for a re-entry
to I-20, I see a little sign with an arrow pointing straight ahead:
Philadelphia===>.  Eerie feeling, and I wonder if I could find the
earthen dam where they buried those three boys.  Nice cemetery on the
left with statues, but no time.  I get back on the interstate and
save the trip to Philadelphia for next time.
    6) Nice drive across MS, passing Jackson while it is still light
and remembering the third night of my honeymoon in the downtown grand
hotel.  Finally reach Natchez about 10 p.m. and find a reasonable
motel near the river.  Exhausted as I am, I go in search of the
casino boats.  Get lost, and wander around downtown, surprised that
the place is *dead*.  Finally find one boat and spend a few hours
losing some quarters, but having a lot of fun surrounded by lots of
chrome and neon lights in this fake boat decorated with flamingos and
art-deco palm trees.  Then on to Harrah's, which is a really
depressing place.  Lose some more quarters and dont have very much
fun, so return to my motel and sleep, after calling home to find that
everything is still o.k., then calling my son in Arkansas, who is
leaving to go to Raleigh for two weeks--the two weeks that I am not
there.  Oh well.
    7) Get away from Natchez about 11 a.m., feeling awful from having
stayed up til 4 a.m. pulling the handles.  I cross into Louisiana and
the highway suddenly turns into potholes and the landscape becomes
very uninteresting.  Thirty miles east of Shreveport, the billboard
says: BAYOU INN--Best Food In Town.  Town turns out to be one traffic
light and about seven houses and two <filling> stations, one closed.
The Bayou Inn, on the bayou lined with local residents fishing, is a
remarkable place, another *must* for Wordslers travelling through the
South.  Excellent catfish, mediocre oysters, but lots of extras like
bean soup, pickled green tomatoes, <cold> slaw, and hush puppies.  I
am the featured attraction at lunch.  All patrons (all locals)
spend the entire lunch turning around looking at me, like I obviously
dont come from around here.  Big sign on the wall by the door to the
to check out the gaming devices, which turn out to be video poker
machines, all occupied by locals eyeing me with suspicion.  I take my
leave and drive away in the Miata.
--ggs (TBC)

Date:         Mon, 13 Jun 1994 12:10:04 EST5EDT
From: Gilbert Smith <>
Subject:      WHTMOTRTSAAB3
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>


    8)  Meant to say, but forgot, that I decide to reinforce my Bayou
Inn image as an outsider by taking my time getting ready to drive
away, as everyone watches, putting the top down in spite of the
blistering sun and heat, stripping down to bare essentials, then
<digging> out in the most respectable way possible, leaving mouths
gaping and toothpicks dropping to the ground.
    9)  On I-20 again, I speed around Shreveport and onward toward
Texas, finally getting through East Texas and reaching the freeways
around Dallas at rush hour.  Heady feeling as I speed along under and
over intricate highway exchanges, some with four/five levels.  This
is so much more fun than a) staying at home, and b) arriving by AA at
DFW and renting a normal car.  My brother is standing in the yard
waiting for me, talking to a neighbor, and I miss the house and speed
past as he yells at me like where are you going here we are.  He and
his wife are watching the contractor lay paving stones around the
front stoop, creating *another* patio.  They are very meticulous
about their <place>, quite unlike their brother from NC, who lives in
a historic, enormous dump.
    10) Nice two hours spent with big brother, little brother,
nephew and his wife, niece and her husband and 4-year-old and 2-month-
old (whom I bounce for a while), and other nephew.  Younger brother,
who went bankrupt eight years ago after losing the $70,000 he
<borrowed> from mom to make his religious-relic store work, first
shows off his new, long *Cadillac* with one of those "carriage tops"
(like, made out of cloth over metal!), then makes me pissed by
reporting how *he* won $2500 on one pull of the handle in Natchez.
Older brother says I should have gone to Philadelphia, stopped at the
first local hangout, and just asked, like, "Can y'all tell me where I
can find that earthen dam?"  Big brother and wife begin to talk about
Dallas schools and Texas schools in general, and social <concerns>,
and the talk gets more and more reactionary and I think it is time to
get on the road again.
    11) Leave at 9 pm and get as far as Waco, where I stay in a
Motel8 which is, simply put, the pits--or, the peehutts, as they say
in these parts.
    12) Leave late for San Antonio and stop in Belton to look for
graves of my paternal ancestors, who came to Bell County from GA, AL,
and MS ( in that order) about 1895.  I stop at the courthouse, then
the tax assessors office, asking about old graveyards, and get some
information from pleasant Texas-type people.  Check out one cemetery,
where I find a huge obelisk proclaiming: EMBREE.  That's my great-
grandmother's brother and he was *the* big deal in this town around
the turn of the century.  My grandfather Smith was Justice of the
Peace for a while before he left for West Texas to be a county judge,
where he produced nine children, one of them my father.  Lots of
graves here, but the most important graveyard outside of town I never
do find.
    13) So, on to San Antonio, stopping in New Braunfels for lunch at
the smokehouse by I-35 where I ate last year about this time.
Sausage is so-so.  Arrive in SA about 4:30, get to Trinity U just
before rush hour, after stopping to put the top down in an effort to
make a <splash> as I arrive.  No one is there to see me drive up with
my license plate that screams: GALDOS.  I find that I have been moved
from the nicest dormitory to one of the dumpy ones, but it is first
floor, opening onto a green area with lots of trees and--as I find
out the next morning--hordes of incredible screaming birds.  My suite-
mate, who tolerates nothing, is very upset for the next six days
about the birds.  I am just.....  amused.
  --ggs (TBC)

Date:         Mon, 13 Jun 1994 14:26:32 EST5EDT
From: Gilbert Smith <>
Subject:      WHTMOTRTSAAB4
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>


    14)  The week is fairly uneventful, work eight hours a day
grading Spanish exams, parties or trips to Tex-Mex restaurants every
night, a party with local Tejano band emceed by announcer of the
bigtime Tejano station in town, mariachi band on closing night at
party where I get <retired> from duty because I have served seven
years in a row.  I fight back the tears as I am called to the front
to receive my little gift, then acknowledge the thunderous applause.
Dancing follows and I show off my expertise at the two-step, ending
with a flourish as I dip my partner to the floor without dropping
    15)  My suitemate and I go to the Riverwalk and find the only bar
left open, Dick's Last Call, where the waitpersons are deliberately
obnoxious.  It's part of the atmosphere.  Suitemate gets incredibly
drunk and tells me his life story, then we go home just in time to
hear the screaming birds at sunrise.
    16)  After another half day, all 275 of us have lunch, then most
descend on the airport to fight for seats and I go off in my
automobile, wondering if I will go west toward the
old homeplace or east toward home.  I decide on east.  Mother and
Dad and <grandaddy judge> and Grandmother Smith and that old
drunkard Uncle Maurice, asleep in the Mt. Olive cemetery overlooking
the County Seat of Jones County, will understand.  See you next year.
    17)  I make Houston just as sun goes down, coming around a bend
in the interstate and suddenly confronted by the extraordinary
skyline of Houston, much changed since I sold sewing machines
door-to-door here in 1959.  Too late to call Doris, so on to
Beaumont, the hometown of my first bride, where I spent many days and
nights on the plantation.   Consider calling my first mother-in-law,
whom I havent seen since first wife's funeral in 1983, then decide it
is too late and I need to get on my way.  Finally reach the edge of
Louisiana and find another dumpy motel, with video poker machines in
the lobby.  A little recreation, down a few quarters, a call to
the tc\sw, who says call your daughter, a call to the daughter,
who says, you are going to be a grandfather *again*, then to bed.  In
three days I'll be home.
  --ggs (TBC)

Date:         Mon, 13 Jun 1994 15:36:08 EST5EDT
From: Gilbert Smith <>
Subject:      WHTMOTRTSAAB5
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>


    18)  Buzzing along I-10 through Louisiana, I watch the trees pass
by, the trees grown and planted by my first father-in-law, the
nurseryman from Beaumont.  Crossing the Mississippi River at Baton
Rouge, I see the hotel where I spent the first night of my honeymoon,
still there.  This hotel, which has outlasted that marriage by many
years, surely has stories to tell more interesting than the one about
the loss of my innocence.
    19)  Uneventful drive through Hammond and into Mississippi,
with more and more casino billboards catching my eye.  I reach Biloxi
and find a motel on the beach, where the patrons ahead of me are all
complaining about the prices.  I think what the hell this isnt
Motel8, and I pay the $60 (!!!) for the last room the guy has for
that price.  The room turns out to be one of two in the motel without
a balcony, and with a remote-control that doesnt work.  But no
bother, the real attraction--after a nice swim in the pool--is the
Lucky Belle, an <authentic> riverboat filled with slot machines.  The
change-lady, very pleasant looking and acting, comes on to me in the
sweetest way, probably because she thinks I am a high-roller.  Life
is grand, I'm thinking as the machine shows three red 777 and spits
out 500 coins.  I cash in my quarters and find that I am down only
$20 after three hours on the boat.  Not bad.  Lady Luck, no doubt.
    20)  Next casino is not so nice, but has a kind of machine I've
never seen before.  Little rockets with flames streaming out that, if
they stop just below or above the line, then make a little after-move
and get on the line.  And a <fourth-of-july> that makes the reels
spin again and again until a winning combination is hit.  Great fun
and I find myself waiting breathlessly as they spin 15 to 20 times
before hitting the win (which might be 2 or might be 150 or
whatever).  Of course, this should be a clue to what is happening:
If reels have to spin 15 to 20 times to hit a win, how many quarters
does it take to hit when it's not the <fourth>, given the odds?  No
matter, the fun is in the play.  I say as I leave with empty pockets.
Foiled again.
    21)  Looking forward to another swim before leaving Friday
morning, but it is raining.  So, on the road again, headed for
Alabama.  Near Montgomery, I look at the map and see that I will pass
near Tallapoosa County, the birthplace of my Grandfather.  So I make
a detour to the County Seat, Dadeville, but get there after 5 pm and
thus am on my own.
    22) On the courthouse square, a monument to the dead from the
county from the great World War, then another to the battle on
Horseshoe Bend, where the new arrivees slaughtered the <indians> and
opened Alabama to *civilization*, then another to those who gave
their lives in World War II.  Some 120 names on this one, must have
been devastating in a county this size to lose 120 young men.  Long
list of names, including a few that I recognize as family, then at
the bottom, "Coloured", followed by five names.  Strange.  Only five?
The others saved by segregation?  I realize that I am attracting
attention in my Miata on the courthouse square at 5 pm on Friday, so
I drive north toward the site of my ancestors' short stay in Alabama.
    23)  Nearing the tiny town of Deniston, I am on the lookout for
Primitive Baptist cemeteries, since I have no information about where
my great-grandparents buried the three children who died here before
they went on to northern Mississippi.  I find one, and spend an hour
looking at all the stones, but no family names.  The predominant
family name is---GET THIS--the predominant family name is BURTON!!!
Ah Hah.  A words-l moment for sure--my mind reels at the thought that
my great-grandparents hob-nobbed with the <antecedents> of the very
bandwith pig featured on the t-shirt that I was wearing at the moment.
    24) Elated but disappointed, I drive into the little crossroads
town and, after a carload of young women buzzes by, all of them
yelling I Like Your Car, I find another Baptist Church.  Several
families there that married my grandfather's brothers and sisters,
but no direct ancestors.  So, I stop at the local filling station,
buy a Dr. Pepper, then approach two men, an <old-timer> and a young
mechanic looking guy, take a deep breath, and ask: "Can y'all teyull
me whare ah kin fighund some old cemetarries round here?"  They tell
me where all of them are, not looking at me directly, mumbling
something about lots of 'em roun here.  I say thank you very much,
they do not reply, and I creep quietly away.  These people do *not*
like foreigners who try to pass for locals.  This is for sure.
--ggs (TBC)

Date:         Mon, 13 Jun 1994 23:25:37 EST5EDT
From: Gilbert Smith <>
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>


    25) I follow the directions and find a church with graves dating
back to 1840, several names of families that married my family, but
no Smith children.  Then I get lost in the back country, and drive
for 30 minutes through incredibly beautiful countryside thinking that
my great-grandfather farmed this land and wondering which tract it
was.  Then it gets dark and I drive toward Atlanta, trying to figure
out how to get back to I-85 without going too far out of the way.  It
is Friday night, and I stop at a 7-11 for a Dr. Pepper, but am too
intimidated by the seventeen local teenagers hanging out at the front
door to go in.  One leaves the group and walks around my car and then
past the store, just to get a good look at me.  It's Friday night,
and foreigners get attention <paid> in these parts.
    26)  Finally getting to I-85, I stop a few miles short of Atlanta
at an Econo Lodge with a remote that works...  no, this one *has* no
remote, it's a manual turn-on.  Waffle House next door, where the
waitwoman greets me with a "Wayullcome to Waughful House" and I feel
right at home.  Grilled chicken and eggs, over medium, exactly what I
order at the WH in Raleigh.  I'm almost home, and the tc\sw is in
London by now.
    27) Saturday morning is cloudy, I speed through downtown Atlanta
one more time and take I-85 north, crossing into SC and then off
toward Laurel for a look at another family graveyard.  On a back
road, I have to stop at an intersection to check the map for Ware
Shoals, and see a really fine old country store, closed for years,
with a very fine front door.  I get out my camera and get ready to
take a photo when  a pickup stops at the stop sign, then backs up to
where I am standing and a local gentleman gets out: "You takkin a
picture of that store?"  I pause, wondering what happens next, and he
continues: "My daddy used to run a store there."
    28) So, I begin to babble, trying to talk like LaurensSC,
explaining that I like doorways, that I'm from Raleigh, that my great-
great-grandparents settled this land, that I'm looking for graves,
that this is a *fine* store building, did your daddy *really* run a
store here?  Yes, and his granddaddy before him.  Built in 1947 and
lots of people have taken pictures of it and artists have painted
pictures of it and Strickland's my name please to meet you.  He then
gives me directions to the Poplar Springs Baptist Church, which do
not match the directions I have but who am I to say so.  Thanks and
nice to meet you people around here are really friendly.  Wow.
    29)  So, I wait while he drives away, then I go down the road and
pass the PSBC and realize this is the wrong one in the wrong county
and as I speed by Strickland waves at me from the front yard of the
church.  Says, I'm sure, that boy dont take directions.
    30) I finally find the *real* PSBC and the grave of my
gggrandfather's first wife but nothing else.  It is *hot*.  I drive
away and take back roads all the way to the NC line and remember that
I have one more $18 dinner on my expense account.  I havent seen a
town in hours that would have an $18 restaurant, and I finally stop
at the Knife and Fork in Monroe, NC, definitely a local family place.
I don't like steak, but the only thing on the menu over $7 is steak,
so I ask the waitwoman what is the best steak, feeling really stupid
asking this question.  She recommends one, but I decide on the
costliest, a NY strip for $12.95.  Turns out to be very good, and the
lemon pie is o.k.  With tip, I manage to spend almost $18.  I look
out the window and there, like magic, is another words-l moment.  In
the shopping center across the road is the sign over a store that
                   BOO  EXCHANGE.
I start laughing aloud, my mind inventing episodes of going in to
this establishment to trade one boo for another.  This has made the
3100 mile trip worth while.
    31)  I wander through the countryside, taking roads that I think
will lead me northeast towards Raleigh, yet not finding a familiar
town until I reach the classics: Troy, then Carthage.  Then Sanford
and I am in home country and tune the radio to NPR, Chapel Hill.
    32)  Get home to discover that my ungrateful son Caleb, here
since the day after I left and leaving two days after I return, has
*gone* *to* *the* *beach* *with* *his* *friends*.  Oh well, he is a
charmer and knows he can get away with it.  I'll see him tomorrow
when he gets back.  Karla is happy to see me, but even happier to be
having a slumber party with her two giggling girlfriends, and Nick is
babysitting somewhere else his 18-year-old buddy who fractured his
neck in an auto accident several weeks ago.  So why don't I feel
neglected?  I don't because I know they are glad I'm home.
    33)  Off to the office before bed to turn on words-l, reminding
myself that this does *not* mean that I need to get a life.  Have
to see what's happening, tomorrow, when the traffic picks up.