I voted in for the first time in Alabama today…and other stories.

I voted today – in Alabama, a first.

I registered last spring in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Birmingham while Norah was rehearsing “Julius Caesar” a block away at Desert Island Supply Company.

(Norah was Brutus)

WOODLAWN: http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/10/beyond_the_movie_the_50_year_s.html

DESERT ISLAND SUPPLY COMPANY http://www.desertislandsupplyco.com/

I told the woman at the OVER THE MOUNTAIN DEMOCRAT booth:

“But I still have a California Driver’s License. Is that okay?”


She said, “It doesn’t matter. We just need an official government ID.”

Then she added, “And we need your vote MORE than California does.”

So I registered to vote in Alabama and voted today.

But at my polling place, Glen Iris Elementary School, I didn’t want to offer up my California driver’s license. The people at the polls, both in LA and Alabama, are like the old student council guard (and I was on student council, so I know).

I didn’t want a conversation. I only wanted to vote without a story.

(I’ve explained hundreds of times this crazy Alabama/California saga – husband in LA, me here – I bore myself.)

I brought my passport. It sufficed.

(I’m tenured in Alabama and my husband is tenured in California. I  have a California Driver’s License because I live and pay taxes in both states. Alabama and California. My husband has given almost 30 years to LAUSD  as an elementary school teacher blah blah blah…)

An aside: Norah, 17, has an Alabama Driver’s License, but I’m too chicken to let her drive and way too cheap to pay the extra two grand a year it would cost to insure even a good student – and she’s a wonderful student. So I drive her and pick her up from school. She’ll be at college soon enough. And maybe, her senior year, we’ll make it work so that she drives. But don’t tell her that.

Another aside: At 16, I actually drove my two brothers and sister to school every morning beginning my  junior and senior years of high school. It was ugly. I raged at them to get into the car. Fights daily. My mother, who had a new job at Webb as a music teacher, was HAPPY to relinquish the car keys. I dropped them off at Sacred Heart on my way to Knoxville Catholic.

Webb and Catholic were arch rivals.

Webb spray-painted the Virgin Mary green one Homecoming Week.



Never the twain shall meet.

* * *

Back to Voting...

I always voted in California with Kiffen. We used to vote at the Boys Club in Silver Lake, and our beautiful neighbor, Dottie, was one of the polling persons.

I adored her. She was the white-haired, loving elderly statesman of our street called Dillon Street. The grandmother of the neighborhood, she had a sense of humor and she NEVER acted like a suffering know-it-all.

Please let me be Dottie at 70 or 80 or 90.

One time, A VERY LONG TIME AGO, when Kiffen brought me home a huge bouquet of flowers, Dottie said to him as he got out of the car, armed with a gigantic mass of flowers:

“What did you do?”


She knew! (I was amazed that she knew.)

Because he did do something. (So did I.)

I was pregnant for a third time and didn’t want to be.

I was weepy and trapped and freaking out.

Then I had a miscarriage.

Be careful what you wish for.

That was before Norah.

Dottie had raised four children.

I had to have a D & C because there was no heartbeat at 12 weeks.

It was as awful as you might think.

But I shared a hospital room with a Hasidic woman on a FRIDAY who asked me to turn on and off the light and order her meals.

I was thrilled to do so. It took my mind off my crushing loss.

My mother was not thrilled.

She said, “You’d think that woman could put her religion on hold for a night.”

The Hasidic woman told me that she had a brain tumor but only realized something was off because a new pair of shoes made her lose her balance.

It wasn’t the shoes’ fault.

We had such good talks in between a curtain at Kaiser Permanente on Sunset Boulevard in in Los Angeles.

She was very loving and told me I’d have another child. She helped WAY more than I helped her. I didn’t hurt as much focusing on her.

Did she live? She had five children. I don’t know what happened to her.

But I had Norah a few years later.

After it was all over, I wrote a short story about her called “Mangoes on the Sabbath.”

(The only thing good about the story was the title.)

After the miscarriage, my brother, sweet and clueless, sent me a burgundy Victoria Secret teddy/nightie and said, “Good luck with kick-starting my new niece or nephew. Sorry about the miscarriage. Love…”

I read his note late one afternoon when I got home and and threw the burgundy teddy/nightie on the ground. I sat on the front steps while tiny Flannery and Lucy ran around playing, climbing the ficus tree, playing with sidewalk chalk.

One saw me crying and asked, “What’s wrong Momma?”

I don’t know what I said.

Later, I know that Lucy asked, “Is the baby okay?”

And Flannery asked, “Maybe the baby is in your leg? Did you check?”

It was so sad. So I wrote a story about it.

It was rejected by one and all, “Mangoes on the Sabbath.”

I recently heard a poet say that a great title can kill a story.

I think that’s what happened.

Maybe I’ll try to retell it. I have the old draft. Somewhere.

* * *

And so here are updates and pictures of the last few days.


Honestly, I would be farther along (miles/words) if Nelle Harper Lee hadn’t died, because I paused to write and fiddle with 7000 words about Monroeville and Fannie Flagg and Nelle Harper and the Mountain Brook Garden Club and a woman called Crystalette.

I’ll include the mortifying memory of the Mountain Brook Garden Club here tomorrow.

Why not?

And finally, Donald Trump just won Alabama.

That breaks my heart. It makes me sick. He’s all the bullies I used to face waiting for the bus in sixth grade in Pittsburgh. I remember finally clutching the beleaguered bus driver, begging him, “YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING.”

And he did.

He stood up to the bullies in the back of the bus and said, “All right, yoonz guy, I’m coming back there.”

Everything about Donald Trump makes me either want to move to Yorkshire with my friends, Tony and Sally, (who have offered!) or go into hiding on a farm in the middle of nowhere or go back to California.

Tony’s blog: http://thereadinessisallletbe.blogspot.com/

But for now here are pictures of the last few days and they ease my head and heart (except for the twins, who just interest me as part of the fabric of Birmingham.)


chamelliasmore chams 3more chamschamelliaschams with umbrella

* * *

Norah and stir-fry…

Norah boo stir fry

* * *

Below are the twins – Ed & Fred.

I watched a few minutes of the OSCARS with them at Rojo. They are famous Birmingham twins who make leather guitar straps for famous rockers like the Rolling Stones. But they hadn’t seen any of the films of the Oscars 2016.

The last film they saw was “Fifty Shades of Shades of Gray.”

They didn’t know I was taking this picture.


* * *

Here is a picture of us in China.

Our first year of marriage in Ningbo, China.

Lucy, who is home amd tending to a blown-0ut knee that will need surgery, is finding old photographs, and sending them to me.

(Lucy’s knee is another story too.)





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