I want a Montezuma University Medical College t-shirt

Sorry for the abrupt Friday post. I was apparently tired. That night I went to bed early, feel asleep reading and slept the whole night through. I woke at an, well a normal time for a Saturday morning, I guess. But that meant 12 full hours of sleep. Felt great on Saturday! So good that I was still awake at 4 a.m.

Ahh, the biorhythms.

Bookies are now taking action on when I’ll wear down this week.

Let’s start off with the reason why you showed up on Monday, the site’s most popular weekly feature, the check in on the kitties.

We’ve had some periodic morning sun, lately. And whatever the number of times is required to make something a habit for a cat has been met.

Now, they are waiting, each day, in this spot. The sun isn’t always poking through the clouds, but they’re here on this carpet, on spec. Roll back the curtains, people, there might be some sunlight.

Being cats, Phoebe and Poseidon will lounge in it indulgently as long as they can.

So the cats are doing well. Their biggest news is that Poe got in a scuffle with his sister and she marked his nose pretty good. It’s healing well, which is good. His pink nose is a big part of his charm.

Though I did not ride on Friday because, ya know, sleep, I’d like to think I made up for it a bit.
I got in 40 miles on Saturday. I had six Strava PRs, including two climbing segments which I will never be able to equal. Mostly because I was chasing my lovely bride.

We took another ride on Sunday, and I ticked 33 more miles into my legs. It was slower, but steady, I guess. Never felt like I could accelerate. Couldn’t drop The Yankee, but I surely did try. Somehow I took 6:09 off my best time up a cat 2 climb. I am not a climber. Even though Zwift gave me the polka dot jersey on Saturday.

And then, the weirdest thing happened this evening. I decided to spin out an easy recovery ride. Then I forgot about the recovery part, I guess. I set three more Strava PRs, and took 1:26 off another climb.

So it is shaping up to be an interesting year on the bike, I suppose. Or a perfectly average year, who even knows.

The 2023 Zwift route tracker: 66 routes down, 58 to go.

(If you’re following that little tidbit, you might have noticed that the math has changed here. Turns out I was using a slightly outdated route list. Four new routes were added since last November, so there’s your mathematical inconsistency. This list is accurate, until Zwift adds the Scotland routes in March. Basically, there’s plenty still to do, hopefully most of it before I take the bike off the trainer and start riding exclusively outside again.)

The hardest part of having a couple hundred books waiting to be read is trying to decide which interesting thing to choose next. I solved that problem yesterday. Instead of grabbing one book, I selected the next three. And I’m starting with the great Willie Morris and his memoir, North Toward Home.

There aren’t many memoirs that appeal to me for a variety of reasons. But Willie Morris, above talking about one of his ancestors, is in a different category. If I could write like anyone the boy from Yazoo City, Mississippi would be on the very short list.

This is a third edition of his memoir, the first run was in 1967. The language can be problematic, particularly in these early stages of the book. The kid that would become a not-quite-singular progressive voice from the South grew up in those small towns and visit those hollers and delta swamp lands and live it before he could wrestle with desegregation and coming of age in a time of deep and lasting change. We’ll get to that later in the book, I’m sure. First, there are rich memoir moments, like the nearly universal nature of the southern church experience. There was much nodding along. Two generations later, and a state to the east, there are many similarities.

And, here, his first time in a Catholic church.

I recall my first visit to a Catholic church, but not as clearly as all of that. The story goes like this.

The town was founded by a coal man, a Methodist and a Democrat, in 1886. Henry DeBardeleben was the ward of one of the state’s first industrialists, and inherited, or otherwise acquired, much of his assets. The quintessential New South industrialist, DeBardeleben decided to create a town near the booming Birmingham to exploit the local iron and steel resources and their dirty, important, industries. One of his sons continued the family trade, becoming a coal magnate in the first half of the 20th century, but he was an Episcopalian and a Republican. So the DeBardeleben name is important in that region, but the second generation German immigrant’s neighbors, the Italian and Irish immigrants, were the ones that built the first local Catholic church.

There was a 50-room hotel, which first appeared at the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1884. For 10 years after DeBardeleben bought it and had it moved to his new city. He lived there for a time, in the hotel, the former headquarters of Mexico’s delegation to the World’s Fair, on the 10 acre lot. The railroad marked one border, a local creek tributary, today little more than an oversized and running drainage ditch, marked another. For 10 years the Montezuma was a hotel, for three more it was Montezuma University Medical College, then it burned, in 1899. That’s where the first Catholic church in the area held their services. Today there’s a pharmacy, a closed foundry and low income housing in the hotel’s footprint.

Just before the fire, the church got their own land from the city, a choice spot, just in the direction the city would grow and thrive for the next few generations. They built a frame school building, then replaced it in 1912 with a modern brick building, the first of its kind around, and there they thrived for decades.

I went to mass there once with an elementary school friend and his family. My friend was the oldest kid. He had a brother and a sister. Both of his parents were educators. They had the first remote control I ever saw. We were friends until I changed schools in the 5th grade, and eventually grew apart. But he’s still there, working in medicine or some such. I wonder if he still goes to mass. The parish he grew up in was a full, ornate building. I remember the colors being rich and dark low, and growing lighter as you looked toward the ceiling. I am sure the room was smaller than my memory. There were the solemn processions, the costumed finery, the purification and sanctification of the incense, the call and answer, both joyous and monotone. All of it different. All of it interesting. None of it mine.

The church stayed in that spot until it burned in 1989. A century between fires. They still have a convent on that block. There’s a halfway house and a law firm there, too. The local board of education is across the side street. Across the way today there’s the “Opportunity Center,” and the Homeless Education Program.

The church built their new parish four miles away, again, in the direction where the city was still (somewhat, somehow) growing. Last Christmas they celebrated 30 years there. I bet I’m the only person who has found a vague, passing, unintentional, similarity between the Montezuma and their current building.

I’ve been to one or two other Catholic services elsewhere. I saw Catholics before a mass praying for Pope John Paul as he lay dying. I even watched mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica. Those last two I can remember clearly, but I was an adult by then.

I think that’s the problem I’d have writing a memoir, and the pure genius of Willie Morris. Look at all he gives us in a half of a paragraph. Look at the space I filled up in 600 or so words.

Also, there’s the issue of memory.

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