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Tennessee and Arkansas: Random Acts of Desperation, Redemption, and Roadside Bar-B-Que

August 12, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dedicated to Gary Dennis Cate, 1945-2012

I traveled to Memphis today with an added sense of mission, knowing that I was missing the memorial service for Gary (see previous post), a very special person, who had died just days before. His daughter, my friend, Shannon had reassured me that Gary would much rather have me help register voters in Tennessee than be at his memorial. So I dedicated my journey to Gary in honor of his own spirit of service to others.

Unfortunately, I also learned just a couple of days ago that the voter registration event was not going to happen after all. When I found out, I had thoughts of failure and realized that I had invested a great deal of mental energy in the idea of voter registration—I was quite attached to it. And part of me was just annoyed that I had to find something else to do. So I had to remind myself that many things are outside my control and start over. Embracing “random” means letting go of control. Bear with me while I chronicle my search for a replacement activity.

I contacted the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals Network, another group that was scheduled to registers voters on Saturday, but found out that they weren’t doing it either. Knowing that Gary had devoted much of his life to books in bookselling and publishing, and having worked in a library myself in college, I decided to try the Memphis Public Library.

I checked into my hotel and checked email and voicemail–no responses to my queries. No one from the library had got back to me, and it was 4:00 pm (Friday, mind you). I admit I was feeling some desperation despite telling myself not to worry, that I would make something happen, however small or random it might be. I went into search overdrive. I called a local independent bookseller, who knew of no book events I could support. Volunteering at a hospice also seemed a great way to honor both Gary’s experience with cancer and the hospice care he received, but of course that would involve paperwork and hoops that I couldn’t possibly jump through on such short notice. I looked for Facebook pages for Memphis organizations and ended up posting on Occupy Memphis in hopes someone would be able to connect me to a local event of any kind (no replies). I called the National Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau (after hearing why I came, the helpful man there referred me to the pastors of three black churches, but I was unable to reach a person at any of them at that late hour), the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center—no one had any leads.

After about an hour of searching, I found an event called the “Celebrate the Planet Festival.” I called and struck gold when I spoke to Donna Padgett Bowers, artist, proprietor of Painted Planet Artspace (798 S. Cooper, Memphis, TN), and organizer of the festival. They could use my help setting up, perhaps staffing a booth (I told her that I probably wasn’t the person she’d want on the grill). And perfectly fitting the special purpose of honoring Gary, it turns out that Painted Planet Artspace offers a free cancer ministry for women, called Healing Planet. Free of charge, the Spa Night (second Mondays of the month) provides a healthy dinner and a menu of services including massage, yoga, facials, prayer, and fellowship (details here). Painted Planet is also a host site for “Look Good…Feel Better” (, providing free makeup and healthy beauty products to women who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. This festival was a fundraising benefit for Healing Planet. I knew Gary would approve.

With a new plan, I crossed the Mississippi River driving about 10 miles into Arkansas for an excellent dinner at Roadside Bar-B-Que, Proctor, Arkansas. This was another way of paying my respects to Gary, who grew up in Arkansas, while adding my 46th state in a quest to reach the last of the 50 states on my list in this, my 50th year. I then came back to my hotel to rest up for the 100 degree day outdoors that awaits me tomorrow. TO BE CONTINUED….

One Comment
  1. Hello, I seem to be able to view the images fine on my various devices. Is it just this blog that’s giving you trouble?

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