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Thursday 24 November 2005

Today thighs and weather coöperated again, this time for the good: I went for a walk, finally making it to Burdine.

Started again very late, though: something about Jenkins for all I know, but I sleep very late here. This morning I didn't wake up till the unheard‑of for me hour of nearly 9; although what has become the usual night here, also; I go to bed at more or less my normal time, fall asleep quickly, then wake up somewhere between 3 and 4:30 — what in Chicago is my usual wake‑up time — except here for some reason I look at it as an unfortunate break in the night's sleep, so I read an hour or so, then go back to sleep. . . . Odd and vivid and numerous dreams here too, every night; yesterday morning I woke up as I was flying thru the air intoning "Премудрость!"

Anyhoo, another slow start today but gorgeous weather: the Internet said the high would be 36 and it would be cloudy, with a good chance of rain in the morning; it was gloriously sunny all day and the high seems to have been 47 or so. Pooch got her walk a bit late — she didn't mind, as long as she got some of my bacon and eggs — but a nice long one; then at 11-ish I called the hospital to inquire about Thanksgiving dinner since Susan told me to eat there: Geraldine told me to come right on in around noon, so I did.

[image ALT: A medium-sized dog and a very small cat standing on a tiled floor, looking expectantly upwards into the camera. I am cooking bacon and eggs, and they want some.]

This is a photograph of me making breakfast.

To my surprise, there was no general Thanksgiving lunch everybody together, staff and patients as I'd somehow been brought to think; I was given a heaping plate to eat by myself at one of the five little oval tables in the cafeteria, already all decorated for Christmas — rather well, too. In the background, discreet if interminable rendition of "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" — Geraldine came and sat with me as I was finishing (turkey, white meat; mashed potatoes, canned green beans, gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce) and we talked about all kinds of things. For dessert as a sort of afterthought — I was heading out the door — the best for the end Lelar's homemade pumpkin roll, a lightly spiced pumpkin cake, rolled up jellyrollwise, stuffed with a mixture of butter, cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, nuts: it was very good. Also talked with a young woman named Selena who thought I might be named Phil (a pretty good guess, usually people guess Jim), we were talking about how our names often match our looks or personalities — it turns out that Selena herself with a lunar name has some freckles (she says) on her left thigh in the shape of the Big Dipper, when she was a kid she used to connect the dots —

[image ALT: A small low wallful of Christmas cards and similar decorations; in the right corner, a Christmas tree.]

Jenkins Community Hospital, the cafeteria: one wall of the Christmas decorations.

And at around 1:10 off I went to Burdine. A rather dangerous nearly shoulderless two-lane road though not much traffic, but first, past the museum and library again; and having asked Geraldine what one single photo would be the best picture of Jenkins, and she told me the museum and library, I took another couple of shots of it, especially now that I found it with no cars in front. Right near it back toward the hill (#4 Hill), St. George's Catholic Church, Jenkins Christian Church, and a bit further back, a ruined church that must have been rather beauti­ful unfortunately: the interior, I could have walked in thru the broken windows, a couple of pews still sort of in place, but the floor had caved in pretty bad.​a

[image ALT: A road sloping gently down into the background; on the right, a small clapboard church. It is a view of #4 Hill in Jenkins, Kentucky.]
Looking down #4 Hill on the fringes of Jenkins. The church is ruined.

Back out of #4 Hill — no more than maybe 75 yards — past the Methodist church and the old high school, which seem to be all that's left of the original Jenkins (the church is dated 1913) then past what looks like it might have been a tipple maybe, on the left; a bit further on, a small severe-looking brick building, with a 1958 plaque: #5741 Local, United Mine Workers of America, established 1933.

A slight stretch of road with nothing, then The Palace and King's Dairy Bar ("Bikers Welcome") which I'd been told was at the beginning of Burdine, but it seemed way too near Jenkins, and sure enough, I wasn't even out of Jenkins yet, Burdine was several miles off still.

A little excursion thru a residential street (Camden) but which didn't seem to lead anywhere, so doubled back and got back on the road, eventually coming to East Jenkins, or at least first #3 Hill; not much of a place, just houses strung along the road — then Burdine, which started off with a bang, the Burdine Elementary School (the road sign calls it Jenkins Elementary School) and the large Burdine Free Will Baptist Church; only to peter out in less than a mile: a post office, a small brick building with what looked like apartments on the floor above, then houses, lots of them, looked like a pleasant place to live if no stores I could see, but not a trace of what I'd expected to find, early houses from the beginning of Jenkins. I made it as far as #1 Hill then #1 Bottom,​b and it looked like that was pretty much the end of it, so I turned around and walked back.

[image ALT: A tiny free-standing clapboard building, the size of a large bedroom, by the side of a road next to a wooden telephone pole in a rural setting. It is a beauty shop in East Jenkins, Kentucky.]
The beauty shop in East Jenkins.

Decided I really ought to be doing here what I do everywhere else, look at the churches; so I did. On the way back, mostly off the road but in each case only a few yards: the New Life Church of God (modern building with vinyl siding although right next to what may have been one of the original buildings in the area, small brick 2‑story house, abandoned, with a bit of decorative brickwork; the Bethel Old Regular Baptist Church, the most interesting church of the day maybe, a big wooden barnlike structure with no cross or inscription but apparently still in use (in a little cove called Forest Hill, about seven or eight houses back there, very Appalachia); and, after a pit stop at a small store — sign: open Thanksgiving 10‑4 — called Wright's Market, back in Jenkins again, spotted the convent (just a house, in fact) of Mother Teresa's order on Cove Road.

[image ALT: A small low wallful of Christmas cards and similar decorations; in the right corner, a Christmas tree.]
Bethel Old Regular Baptist Church on Forest Hill, about 25 minutes' walk E of Jenkins.

Wright's Market being kept open for the day by Robert Collins for his daughter; he, born here, and if I understood him right, in the same house he's still living in, in 1940. His father Andrew came here in the 20's, to work in the mines, of course. I drank a couple of soda pops, we talked baseball among other things, the White Sox bless 'em. He'd lived briefly in Chicago, in the early 60's, in what he called the hillbilly area, Wilson & Clark — the exact area I first lived in when I came to Chicago in 1974, Leland & Clark just a block away. Neither one of us liked it much —

Brief pit stop back at the hospital, Geraldine still on duty, showed her a couple of my pix of #1 Bottom, and we may be going to Whitesburg tomorrow: her day off and she said she'd like to show me around, and Whitesburg beyond my walking range, I think it's 15 miles away​c — I'm to call her tomorrow morning, we'll see.

And with that, back home; no dinner — still stuffed from lunch — but walked Luna, fielded call from Susan, called James, plugged away at input of book, "The Common People of Ancient Rome" by Frank Frost Abbott, a prof at Princeton but an engaging useful work, clearly and simply written, why not.

And now, to sleep: I got about half the bed — Luna sleeping crosswise, Osama occupying his usual unobtrusive lower corner, and the other cat by his usual not in the least unobtrusive self, squarely where I'm going to have to stretch out —

Later Notes:

a Large swaths of the coal country of southeastern Kentucky are riddled with holes, often because of the mining, and if you walk in the hills you will frequently be advised not to stray from paths, since the ground may suddenly collapse under you. Not more than 50 yards up the hill from this church, walking on the shoulder of the street, I dropped about a foot thru what looked like very solid ground.

b For a good explanation of "#1 Bottom" and similar placenames, see the note at Elfinspell.

c From Whitesburg to Jenkins by the barren highway, 15 miles, yes; putting the round trip at the upper edge of my range. By the back roads, 21 miles, an interesting walk that I did in June 2006.

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