Of all my fantasies I still have one as the next Charles Kuralt with a program called "On The Road With Ruthie". Why? I love writing, travel and meeting people from every walk of life--as I have done so with many trips in the US and as far away as Tibet. This is my story about the dynamic, beautiful Denise Mixon of New Orleans:
While in New Orleans for the American Speech Hearing Audiology Conference (ASHA) in November, I'd pass the WWII Museum Store each day on my way to the convention center and noticed it wasn't like many museum stores: Everything in the window featured vintage items from the 40s. And so, on my last day in NOLA with time before my flight back to Atlanta, I wandered into the store and stepped back in time.
A friendly woman named Denise was keeping the store that day and cheerfully greeted me by asking me if she could help me find anything. I responded that I came in because I was enamored by the vintage articles in the window and started wandering from one rack to another examining the garments that included high quality woolen pea coats to silken blouses one would only see in period films. And then, my eye caught sight of a display case holding cosmetics so I immediately made a beeline to it and saw that it featured red lipsticks (like my mother used to wear) and asked Denise about the brand. She responded that they were all made by Besame Cosmetics designed to be as historically accurate as possible to the cosmetics from the years 1920s to 1970s. In my research I found that Hollywood studios would often call on this brand when makeup was required in making era films and series (i.e., Mad Men). Other than cosmetics, the case displayed vintage-replicated jewelry such as Bakelite bracelets. I asked her if she had any DuBarry Cosmetics which was founded in 1903, but she did not carry that brand. So it was back to the racks and what did I find? Classic Barbour jackets from the UK that triggered memories of the late Queen Elizabeth who was known for wearing an iconic Barbour coat while making visits to the country. So guess what? I bought a quilted style to help me keep warm that unseasonably dreary cold NOLA day and for many winters ahead.
In our ongoing chat, I told Denise I was in New Orleans for a conference for Speech Pathologists, and a career professional from the fragrance industry and now specializing in memory recall using scent as a stimuli. I told her I also write about scent memories people who I talk to have, and asked her if she would share some of hers and she quickly went to food (don't we all?!). She told me stories about growing up in New Orleans and of the special aromas of succotash and grits and shrimp that her grandmother used to make. One subject spontaneously lead to the next and we went to the subject of her career as a boutique owner and about living in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and of her daughter who has twin sons who have autism. We talked about people on the spectrum and how so many are gifted in ways others are not (should I start naming a few scientists and IT geniuses?) Denise told me that when one of the twins was aged two, he started playing the drums and soon thereafter, the other brother started playing the drums as well. The boys are now 7 and highly functioning and good at math, and I can already foresee that in about 10 years or perhaps less...we will be aware of twins pounding away at those drums making some amazing music!
There is a lot to say about how social connectivity is important for human beings. We have lived through a time in our lives when we were locked in, and when I felt safe to travel again, I took many road trips from my former home in Connecticut via diverse routes through Pennsylvania, midwestern states into Arkansas, through Mississippi or Tennessee into Georgia. I also chose East Coast routes through the Chesapeake Bay area, Virginia and the Carolinas and I have learned and seen so much, with my eyes and heart wide open. My goal is to continue traveling and talking to people - like the Vietnam War vet in Wilson, NC who told me about the town's famous spare ribs, Denise in NOLA or the elderly volunteer at the Mississippi Tourism Center who had bragging rights for all the talent that came from that state. I find it a refreshing and educational experience talking to strangers and letting them open up to tell their stories, and know we will all be OK if we can continue learning from each other.