Impeccable timing

Tony Perry reviews Robert Coram’s Brute for the LA Times:

Along with this brisk, highly readable, strongly reported biography’s other attributes, add impeccable timing.

Coram does not shrink from Krulak’s unattractive side: He grabbed credit from others. He could be cold toward his family. He was devious in inter-service wrangling and Beltway politicking. He concocted stories to enhance his already considerable reputation for brains and bravery. He hid and then denied his Jewish heritage.

Still, Coram argues for a larger evaluation of his subject. And he suggests the future of the Marine Corps in the 21st century may depend on whether a new Krulak steps forward.

Covington’s Famous Son

Walker Percy — who was born in Birmingham, AL, spent his formative years with his uncle William Alexander Percy in Greenville, MS, and earned his MD from Columbia — lived in Covington, LA, from 1950 until his death in 1990.  He has long been one of my favorite writers. Today, Ginger and I went exploring for traces of his life here.

We haven’t found his home, yet. But several sources indicated that he was buried in the cemetery at St. Joseph Abbey about three miles north of town. So with the assistance of the handy iPhone, we headed off in that direction.

We had no idea what to expect — guards at the gate? Inquisitors lurking in the parking lot? As it turns out, we shouldn’t have worried. A seminarian pointed us in the direction of the cemetery, where a brother and his friend took us to Percy’s grave site.

After an enlightening 15 minutes or so discussing Catholic influences on Percy’s writing, they left us to contemplate his grave and the ethereal beauty of the abbey grounds.

I can see why one of America’s greatest authors would choose this for his final resting place.

At Miss Eudora’s Place

In Jackson, Mississippi.  We stopped by after visiting Willie Morris in nearby Yazoo City.  Eudora Welty (1910 – 2001) was that fascinating combination of a very private person who was certainly not a recluse.  Although she lived by herself in the family home for years after her mother died, she traveled widely and loved entertaining friends.

Her house in the Fondren District of Jackson has been preserved as it was in 1990, when she was still an active author.  As you would expect for a master craftsman of the written word, her place is a treasure trove of books. She was an eclectic reader, and when her house was readied for public view, curators counted over 5000 of them.

Take the E. Fortification St. exit off I-55.

Although you could walk to downtown Jackson, her home is an oasis of tranquility, and her garden still provides inspiration for any artist. Oddly, her office faced a relatively busy cut-through street, but it let her type her manuscripts while listening to the the sounds carrying over from the music department at Belhaven College across the street.  It also let visitors see if she was in so they could ask for autographs.

Hey, Willie


My wife and I were shocked when Willie Morris died back in 1999. A couple of years later, we went by his grave to pay our respects, and I guess I should point out that we had met Willie several times, have all his books, and have most of them autographed. Once I asked him for advice on getting published and he gave he his agent’s name and phone number. They must not have been getting along that well. [Click photo to enlarge.]

We were driving from Ginger’s ancestral home in the Delta down to Jackson today when we got the idea to stop by and see Willie again. It wasn’t hard to find the cemetery, but once we got in the place, everything seemed strange, even more than they usually do in cemeteries. After driving around for a while, we got the bright idea to Google “willie morris gravesite” on our iPhones, and after some thrashing about in the 2G world of ATT in Yazoo City, managed to find the phone number of the Yazoo Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A very nice lady told me to start walking back towards the main entrance and look for the black fountain. When I got there, she said to turn around and start walking away from the fountain and there was the grave of the Witch of Yazoo! Shivers started to run down my spine (read Good Old Boy to find out why). “Now, carefully turn to the right and walk 13 steps.” There it was, a new headstone but the same bottle of bourbon. Glad to be back, Willie. How you gettin’ along?

More air bus

A colleague recently told me about a bus service between Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, about 180 miles apart.

Red Arrow

On the Calgary – Edmonton run, the service costs $134 R/T and takes 3 hours, downtown to downtown.  Their slick web site says that if you’re at the departure location 15 minutes before departure, you’ll make the bus.  The leather / plush seats have power connections and offer 30% longer pitch, but the bus does not appear to offer wireless.  However cell is available and so it is probably possible to connect somehow.

What about air?  Air Canada is showing $194 R/T for their cheapest fare in mid-December.  Flight time is 50 minutes, gate to gate.  If you don’t live at the gate or don’t work there, add some extra time.  And don’t forget to add something extra if you need to check a bag.

Point is that airline service has become so expensive, and the experience — not all the airlines’ fault, of course — is so bad, that they are creating their own competition. For trips  up to around 300 miles, business-oriented bus is just the most obvious and requires the least capital to get off the ground.

The trick is going to be implementing a service-oriented culture within the organization so that the experience will appeal to the business or upscale leisure clientele.  In other words, you’d want to be UPS and not the USPS.  Might start with a long hard look at Southwest Airlines.