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Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Friends at Shantybellum -- Diana and Paul Gessler

*Click on the photos to see full size. They're wonderful! The first two pictures are four journal pages from the Gesslers' trip through Natchez and northern Mississippi. The third is the cover of Diane's book on New Orleans, which I plan to take with me on my next visit later this month.

There's a funny thing about Shantybellum. The little pink house on the corner seems to beckon to people with an artistic eye. About a month ago Tommy and I were standing on the porch next door when I pointed across the street.

"Look. Someone's taking a picture of Shantybellum."

"Well, Girlfriend, they're probably just horrified that anyone really puts those tacky pink flamingos in the yard. I told you not to do it. They just want proof when they go back home and tell their friends."

The Hawaiian-shirt flag was bad enough. But the day we put those flamingos on the lawn? All heck broke loose. My father called me on the phone:

"Elodie, listen. Everybody knows that pink flamingos are tacky, tacky tacky!"

For a minute there, I could actually hear the ghost of Bessie Rose (My dad's mother) fussing about people who have no taste. Ha! The flamingos stayed.

We waved at the couple, who rather than covering their mouths and sniggering, seemed quite taken with the place. So we went went over to say hello, and ended up giving them a tour.

Diana and Paul were on their way back home from New Orleans, and were looking around Natchez a bit before moving on. This is a couple who have combined their love of travel and their eye for detail with Diana's talent with a paintbrush.

Diana has written several travel books that she illustrates, herself, in beautiful, bright colors and published by Algonquin Books. Diana has books on Washington, DC; Charleston, SC; New Orleans, LA; the state of California, et al. Diana also gives classes on creating your own illustrated travel journal. In fact, the July/August issue of Southern Lady has a showcase of Diana's work in two spreads.

After a really pleasant visit during which Diana signed a copy of her New Orleans book for me (Thank you, Diana!), we sent them off to Ferriday, LA to visit Frogmore Plantation and the Delta Music Museum.

We hope they'll return someday soon to come see more of Natchez and the surrounding area, and that they'll enjoy their visit with us as much as we enjoyed ours with them.


  1. With that highly over-decorated house just down the road from y'all, I'd guess you're just trying to keep up with the neighbors!
    By the way, did the shirt change? I thought I saw a different one hanging from the pole the other day - and did y'all hang it at half mast when Michael Jackson died?

  2. Yes, of course we're keeping up with the, um, Joneses, Sam. And, yes, that was a different shirt. Gustav and the derecho that came through last month did a number on the old one. We didn't think to fly it half-mast for Michael Jackson, but Tommy's grieved over Michael enough to make up for it.

    By the way, if you haven't seen it, there's a really touching video montage of the Jacksons with Michael singing "I'll be There," acapella, at

    It'll bring a tear to your eye. Watch it with a hankie.


  3. Thought I'd share my little voodoo stress reliever with you. Have fun!