Jake saw an image of a rainbow cake somewhere and just had to make one. It wasn’t even called a rainbow cake in any sort of caption; it was just a random image on a blog somewhere, but he found it beautiful, and I did, too.
But when he said he wanted to make one, well, I kinda tingled in my toes. You’d never know it, but Jake is color-blind. I’m not sure how extensive it is, and he’s not either, but when he pointed to that gorgeous slice of multi-colored cake on the monitor and said he wanted to make it, I offered to help.
It was the least I could do.
Since this was such an experimental venture, we used a commercial white cake mix and a canned icing; after all, our objective was drag queen appearance over substance. The most indispensable element of the project was two (count ‘em, two!) boxes of McCormick’s assorted food coloring and egg dye. Each box has formulas for achieving eight colors (red, yellow, green and blue as well as pretty purple, orange sunset, teal, mint green and dusty rose).
Jake used two boxes of cake mix, split the batter into six equal amounts and then colored each bowl of batter. Because there was less batter per baking pan, oven time was reduced by at least five minutes.
Jake wanted to arrange the layers to his own satisfaction, but I told him that while that might be interesting, it might be better on this effort for us to stick to Roy G. Biv (less the “i” I think). After a brief discussion, the pans were numbered and labeled. Once cooled, we assembled the cake. It sat overnight in a white icing.
A few friends came over the next day, and with the first slice, everyone went, “Ooo . . . “.
“Jack,” I said, “I’ve been reading this article about honky-tonks . . . “ “You shouldn’t read things like that,” he said, turning his head from a football game to growl at me. “It always gets me in trouble.” Jack is my first cousin, a really great guy and the only friend I have in the family. We’ve seen one another through thick and thin. I helped him back up on his feet out of a really bad marriage, and he rescued me from a crack house in Atlanta. We take care of each other, Jack and I do, but lately he’s been feeling like he’s doing all the work, which isn’t fair of him at all. For one thing, I’m always the designated driver, and if it weren’t for me, his jeans would look like denim accordions. “What’s that place you always go to? ‘Hippy Dick’s’? I could hear Jack groan all the way in the kitchen. “No!” he said. “You said it had a juke box?” “It doesn’t have any ABBA on it!” “Pool tables?” “You can’t play mahjong on a pool table!” “Pickled eggs, pigs’ feet and jerky?” “No! Sushi!” “Jack,” I said, “Be fair. I heard a long sigh. “What are you wearing?” he asked. “I thought khakis and a button-up Oxford, hushpuppies . . .” Jack held his hand up. “If you go in there looking like a reject from Rush Week at Ole Miss, you’re going to end up in the Yalobusha River with a trot line tied around your feet.” So I left the house wearing jeans, flannel, a pair of Jack’s old boots and a cap that said “Embry’s Bait Shop” with a Marine insignia. At least he let me pick out which of his flannel shirts to wear. “Lucky for you pink don’t look good on me,” he said. Jack’s got a weird sense of humor.
Hippy Dick’s was on the side of a long winding road that twisted through the backwaters of a nearby reservoir. It had big a gravel parking lot that Jack said the county kept up because Dick was the supervisor’s second cousin. It had a neon sign on top that said DICKS and a bait shop on the side. The bar had a big mirror behind it, and two television screens; a large one near the back wall, which seemed continually tuned to ESPN, the other, smaller one, set up near one end of the bar tuned to “E!” with a bucket of iced beer on a towel in front of it. The jukebox was blaring out Faith Hill. It was crowded, about forty people. You had the sports guys crowded around a big screen television, about a dozen guys playing pool and a little more than that bellied up to the bar. Jack ordered our drinks: a Miller Lite for him, an O’Doul’s for me. “He’s driving,” Jack explained to the bartender, a drop-dead gorgeous ginger with a gambler’s spade beard. “Is this your date?” he asked Jack with a wink. “Rick, this is my cousin Andy,” Jack said. Rick reached a muscular arm over the bar, smiled and shook my hand. I couldn’t help but giggle. Jack punched me in the arm and dragged me over to a table. “You’re going to get my ass kicked if you don’t straighten up. Why don’t you sit here and try not to fluff your hair while I play a game of pool?” “Now I’m going to have to go to the men’s room to look at my hair.” “Make sure that’s all you look at,” he said.
Having checked in the rear view mirror before I got out of the car, I knew my hair looked fine, so I wandered over to the jukebox. Sure enough, there wasn’t any ABBA, but a couple of tunes did stand out: “YMCA”, “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” and two tunes by Madonna. I saw Jack looking at me from the corner of my eye, played it safe and picked out Reba. I was just straightening up when this woman at the bar said, “Yeah, he gave me a little rock and a little cock!” Naturally, I froze, but nobody else seemed to notice. I turned to look at her. She was in her mid-30s, brunette, big tits, freckled cleavage. I turned to Jack, who shrugged and sank the three ball in a side pocket. “Hey, you at the jukebox!” she said. “Come here!” Jack miscued and stood up, glaring at me. I just shrugged at him, turned to the lady at the bar, smiled and walked up to her. “Are you Jack’s cousin?” “Yes, I am,” I said. “His momma is my daddy’s big sister.” “Well, y’all sure do look alike,” she said. “Just handsome as you can be!” She laid her hand on my arm. “I just want you to know that song you played is my favorite one in the whole, wide world.” “’Little Rock’”? “Yes, honey. And do you know why?” “No, why?” “Because my husband had a little cock, and he gave me a little rock.” “That would piss anybody off,” I said.
I heard someone behind me choke on a beer, but I paid no attention, went to the other end of the bar and asked for a refill. Rick obliged with a stunning smile, but before I could thank him, a guy on a stool next to me poked me in the ribs. I turned and found myself facing a rakish blond wearing a Saints jersey. “I like them jeans you got on,” he said. “What size you wear?” “Uh, on a good day, a 32,” I said. “I used to be fat, too,” he said, and before I could protest, he said, “But I got on that Atkins diet. You know, the one that Ozzie’s wife is always doin’ ads for.” “I’m not fat!” “Oh, I didn’t think I was either, but you got this here,” and he patted my stomach and started rubbing on it. “Nice little beer belly …” He let his hand linger a little too long. “Yeah, well, that’s mostly pizza,” I said, shifting away. “Hey, I like pizza, too, but I really like them bratwursts,” he said, with what can only be interpreted as a leer. “ANDEE!” Jack’s voice thundered across the bar. “You’re UP!” I certainly was. “Be right there!” I said over my shoulder. “I’ve got to go,” I said to the dirt road d’Artagnan. “Maybe you can come over for a brat sometime,” he said. “Sure!” I caught Rick smiling at me in the mirror.
Jack soon decided it was time to go. He’d lost forty bucks at pool and Lady Little Rock had her hand glued to his arm. I was ready to go myself. As we were driving off, Jack asked me if I had a good time. “I sure did,” I said. “Rick gave me his phone number.”
So I’m checking out at the store, and I hold up a jar of pickles and two packs of cherry Kool-Aid to my girls Meshaun and Lorita who are sitting in the motorized shopping carts up next to the front door with their phones and say, “Guess what I’m making?”
They look at one another like, “This fool don’t know what he’s doing,” and tell me first that I should’na bought cherry, you gotta use Tropical Punch, and you dump that pickle juice out and make a quart of that punch with two packs of mix and one cup of sugar, and you shouldna’ bought whole pickles cause now you gotta slice them in half and no, you do not need to heat it up, just pour the Kool-Aid in there and put it in the refrigerator for a day and that’s all you gotta do, and who in the hell told you you could cook, you big dummy.
In 1931, William Faulkner published his first collection of short stories, These 13, which in addition to some of his most acclaimed and frequently anthologized stories—“A Rose for Emily”, “That Evening Sun,” and “Dry September”—included “Divorce in Naples”, Faulkner’s most direct if not overt portrayal of homosexuality.
Faulkner had already broached the theme in the intimacy between Quentin Compson and his Harvard roommate Shreve McCannon in The Sound and the Fury (1929), and Jenny and Patricia as well as the openly gay lesbian Eva Wiseman in Mosquitoes (1927). He’d renew and expand his depiction of Quentin and Shreve and introduce a parallel relationship with Henry Sutpen and Charles Bon in Absalom, Absalom! (1936). Faulkner employed the theme in diverse manners in later works, but “Divorce in Naples” stands as his most explicit work on homosexuality.
Simply put, the story depicts the relationship between two sailors, George (“Greek, big and black, a full head taller than Carl”) and the younger Carl (“with his round yellow head and his round eyes, looking like a sophisticated baby”).
‘THEY CAME INTO THE SHIP together at Galveston, George carrying a portable victrola and a small parcel wrapped in paper bearing the imprint of a well-known ten-cent store, and Carl carrying two bulging imitation leather bags that looked like they might weigh forty pounds apiece. George appropriated two berths, one above the other like a Pullman section, cursing Carl in a harsh, concatenant voice a little overburred with v’s and r’s and ordering him about like a nigger, while Carl stowed their effects away with the meticulousness of an old maid, producing from one of the bags a stack of freshly laundered drill serving jackets that must have numbered a dozen.
For the next thirty-four days (he was the messboy) he wore a fresh one for each meal in the saloon, and there were always two or three recently washed ones drying under the poop awning. And for thirty-four evenings, after the galley was closed, we watched the two of them in pants and undershirts, dancing to the victrola on the after well deck above a hold full of Texas cotton and Georgia resin. They had only one record for the machine and it had a crack in it, and each time the needle clucked George would stamp on the deck. I don’t think that either one of them was aware that he did it.’
One night Carl disappears. George, frantic, fails to find him. When Carl returns after three days, he reveals that he has been with a woman, and George kicks him out of their berth only to discover later, after their reconciliation, that Carl was too naive to have sexual congress with the woman, and
“ …two weeks later we were watching him and George dancing again in their undershirts after supper on the after well deck while the victrola lifted its fatuous and reiterant ego against the waxing moon and the ship snored and hissed through the long seas off Hatteras.’
Most of Faulkner’s examinations of same-sex desire focus on men; Faulkner had close relations with many homosexual writers and artists, including his townsman and fellow writer Stark Young and his childhood friend Ben Wasson as well as William Alexander Percy and Lyle Saxon. It goes without saying that while living in New Orleans he doubtless knew many others.
The story draws most directly on Faulkner’s experiences with William Spratling, a down-on-his-knees New Orleans fairy, in sailing to Europe on the West Ivis beginning July 7, 1925 and to Genoa on August 2, where after landing they celebrated their arrival by going drinking with the ship’s officers. The drinking bout turned into a brawl with “pimps and prostitutes”, after which Spratling was arrested and thrown into an Italian prison where during the night he had a “homosexual encounter”. (Rape is of course implied, but then again we don’t have any evidence that the encounter wasn’t consensual.) This event in Genoa provided the kernel for the story, and Faulkner himself was heard to joke at one point that he was jealous of Spratling.
With “Divorce in Naples” Faulkner presents an unmistakably gay male relationship fraught with stereotypical dynamics brushed with innocence, confusion, and our hunger for love in the precise, lyrical prose which is the hallmark of These Thirteen.
Here’s a pretty scone that shines split and spread with sweet cream cheese. Preheat oven to 425. Toss a cup of diced fresh strawberries with a tablespoon or so of sugar and set aside. Sift 2 cups flour with a tablespoon of baking powder, and work in a stick of cold butter until grainy. Mix in strawberries and refrigerate for 5 minutes. Add enough milk to make a sticky dough, turn out on a floured surface, pat down to about three quarters of an inch, and cut into rounds. Place on a lightly oiled pan, brush with melted butter, and bake until lightly browned. Cool before serving.
Jesse L. Yancy, Jr. was an attorney, politician, and humanitarian who served the people of Bruce, Calhoun County, and Mississippi from 1956 until his death in 1970
Born in Springville, Mississippi on Jan. 17, 1926, Yancy moved to Bruce ten years later, where his father, Jesse Lee Yancy, Sr. had established a general store. He graduated from Bruce High School in 1944, joined the Army Air Corps in 1945, and served overseas in the Pacific. He attended the University of Mississippi School of Business and School of Law, earning his J.D. in 1951. In 1952 he married Barbara Young. They had three children.
Yancy was first elected to office in 1956 as district attorney for the Third Circuit Court District. During the Meredith Crisis at the University of Mississippi, Yancy entered the national spotlight when a Lafayette County grand jury issued an indictment against Chief United States Marshall James P. McShane, Meredith’s escort to registration at the University, for inciting a riot.
While serving as D.A., Yancy became president of the Mississippi Prosecutors Association. Elected to the Senate in 1968, during his first term Yancy, as chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, guided the state’s first Open Election Law to passage.
A member of the Senate Commission on Appropriations, he wrote and gained approval for the Idle Funds Bill, which authorized the investment of in place funding for the state, a key piece of legislation that has garnered Mississippi millions of much-needed dollars for over four decades.
Yancy served as an attorney for the City of Bruce for 17 years. His most influential act in that capacity came in 1961, when Bruce had outgrown its fledgling infrastructure, and the city was badly in need of repairs and updates to its streets, water, and sewer systems.
Yancy commandeered a grant of $25,000 for the city to hire Cook Coggin, an engineering firm in Tupelo, to conduct a survey of what repairs and improvements were needed. On completion of this study, the city secured a loan of $500,000 to fund the improvements. Yancy helped Bruce to grow into a clean, attractive town, appealing both to current and potential citizens as well as businesses and industry.
He was a president of the Bruce Rotary Club, the Bruce Chamber of Commerce, the Calhoun County Bar Association, and a founder and commander of VFW Post 5571. He served on the Pushmataha Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and taught Sunday school at the Bruce United Methodist Church.
Jess Jr.’s lasting legacy is a colorful generosity encompassing all in a vision of community, unity, and compassion.
Pierre Magnol was born in 1638 to an apothecary’s family in Montpellier. He enrolled as a medical student at the University of Montpellier in May 1655.
By Magnol’s time, Montpellier was an important, long-established commercial and educational center. Montpellier was the first university in France to establish a botanic garden for medicine and pharmacology.
After receiving his degree (MD) in 1659, Mangol’s attention shifted to botany. In 1687, he became Demonstrator of Plants at the botanic garden. Magnol was appointed Director of the Montpellier botanic garden in 1696, later Inspector of the Garden until his death in 1715.
Magnol’s most important contribution is the concept of plant families. He developed 76 tables, which not only grouped plants into families but also allowed for easy and rapid identification, an important step towards a tree of life.
Magnolia as botanical nomenclature first appeared in Charles Plumier’s Genera (1702) for a flowering tree in Martinique. Much closer to home, William Sherard, who studied botany under a pupil’s of Magnol (Tournefort,) adopted the name Magnolia in the taxonomy of Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (1730) for another flowering tree.
It’s almost certain Linnaeus never saw a specimen of Plumier’s Magnolia, if one even existed, and left with a scribbled description and a scrawled drawing, must have taken it—rather despite the yawning geographic disparity—for the same plant described by Catesby.
Things eventually ironed out. Initially, Linnaeus described a monotypic genus, with the sole species being Magnolia virginiana—which we know as the sweetbay magnolia—and assigned it five varieties. He later raised these to species status. The Madagascan plant Plumier described is now known as Magnolia dodecapetala.
The name Magnol now adorns a genus with anywhere from 210 to 340 species (we have 8 in the southeastern US), a family (Magnoliaceae) with two genera, Magnolia and Liriodendron (tulip trees), and division (Magnoliids) with more than 10,000 species.
My dad had a soft touch for door-to-door salesmen. I can still see him laid back on the couch in his boxers listening to some guy spell out his hard-luck story. I doubt if any of them left without an order and a couple of dollars in their pocket. We had three sets of encyclopedias and all kinds of serials put out by national publication like Time/Life or the Reader’s Digest. Our home was full of books full of words and pictures, and I spent hours poring over them when as a boy.
It wasn’t until a decade after he died that I began to explore the other books, the old faded covers and the tattered paperbacks. There I found the father I didn’t know, a man beyond my comprehension as a child, and certainly beyond mine as an old man. Still the books set a mold of time, of place, and more so of my father, the contours set by such as a raggedly paperback edition of Greek poetry in English translation in which I found underlined the epigram of Simonides that Senator John F. Kennedy cited in his speech at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in October, 1960: “Passerby: Tell Sparta we fell faithful to her service.”
Jess Jr. had a professional connection with the Kennedys, since in his capacity as District Attorney for Lafayette County in 1962 he had to juggle the political ramifications of a grand jury indictment against James J.P. McShane, who led the federal agents who escorted James Meredith, the first African American student at University of Mississippi. The indictment was eventually revoked.
He had a copy of C.H. Cramer’s Royal Bob: The Life of Robert Ingersoll. Ingersoll, an American lawyer, Civil War veteran, political leader and orator during the Golden Age of Free Thought (roughly from 1875 to 1914), was noted for his broad range of cultural activities and his defense of agnosticism. Another book relating to Jess Jr.’s political leanings on a more local level is Kirwan’s Revolt of the Rednecks: Mississippi Politics, 1876-1925, a solid nod to his political roots in the hills of north Mississippi.
One of the most puzzling yet astoundingly revealing works I found among my father’s books was Richard Brautigan’s first novel. A Confederate General from Big Sur, published in 1964. Jess Jr. was a student of the Civil War not only as a Southerner but as a politician since its ramifications were being felt with intensity in his lifetime.
In Brautigan’s novel, which takes place in 1957, a man named Mellon believes he is a descendant of a Confederate general from Big Sur, California. There is no proof of his existence, although Mellon meets a drifter who has also heard of this general. Mellon seeks the truth of his own modern-day struggle in the United States in light of the Confederacy’s past struggle with the Union. Most likely, my father picked this book up on the basis of its title alone, but I like to believe he read it in its entirety.
He had Faulkner’s A Fable and The Town, two very divergent works; Jess Jr. knew Faulkner’s attorney Phil Stone and might have met the writer, but I feel he read Faulkner’s works more out of a desire to understand how this man from Lafayette County came to win a Nobel Prize than for any other reason. His copy of Welty’s Golden Apples, I found puzzling, but then he kept his ear to the ground and would have heard of Welty’s rising star.
I like to believe he was just a man who liked to read, and words became a part of who he was, but Jess Jr. could well be considered a learned man. As such, he was quite different from his peers, who included the political lights of his day as well as an across-the-board array of businessmen and dignitaries.
With a handful of books for a thread, so he will always be a maze to the man I am, but not to the boy I was who loved him with every fiber of my being.