The Southern Expat Communique: New York observations of a displaced belle

Red letter days lead to exploration of word clouds

After a beautiful day in Little Rock, filled with friends, a milestone, puppy kisses, some amazing food, and remarkable conversation, I was too amped up to take a nap with my husband. As I sat down with Ken Burns’ account of Baseball, I set out to discover how to conjure a word cloud.

As luck would have it, Tagxedo (a very easy and fun to use website) populated the top of my search. I plugged in the ole Southern Expat website to populate the cloud with personalized phrases and words, and out popped the graphic below. How cool is that?! I’m simply charmed!

Tagxedo lets you opt out of using particular words, change the colours, pick your shape, and much more. I know this is going to be at least a minor obsession of mine. Speaking of, have y’all watched Legal Eagles in your adult life? Put that on your list too, friends.

To craft your own, go to!



What can a Happiness Index teach us?

Alexa von Tobel is at it again. This time, she is helping us determine whether wealth is tantamount to happiness. What do we learn from her today? In short,

1.   Money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Duh.

2.   The wealth gap in our country is extraordinary: the top 20% of the country earns 8 times as much as the bottom 20%.

3.   There exists something called the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. By god, I think the Bhutanese are on to something by quantifying happiness as a kind of national commodity. Happy people are more productive, right?

Alright, kids, what are you going to do today to improve the GNH of your country, state, city, home? I might just schedule a field trip to Bhutan, Denmark, or Norway to learn from a happy example, you know? Let me know if you want to sign up! In the meantime, I am going to listen to some blues music (which I think is downright inspirational) and pick up a copy of The Geography of Bliss.

Have a beautiful day even if the sun isn’t shining above you!

Why I’m the luckiest girl in the world…

There has been lots of change in my life in the last month to say the least. I have moved to Le Petite Roche, gotten hitched, seen an amazing country on my honeymoon (what up Belize!!), and started a new job. I had a birthday somewhere in there too, but I barely remember it. My head is nearly spinning but not literally.

In case you don’t know about the Clinton Foundation, my new employer, and all of the amazing things the foundation accomplishes each year, you should check it out! Please come visit the Clinton Presidential Center when you are in Little Rock, too. I can’t believe I get to work here every day! As you all know, I’m not a Cardinals fan, but WJC is. Our temporary exhibit on the Cardinals is great, and I’m looking forward to what we have coming up in the summer and fall!

In short, I’m delighted with my new life. P and I are loving our new (to us) Hillcrest home, getting to celebrate friends’ birthdays, cheering for the Travs, and randomly bumping into good people we know at the grocery and everywhere else. Now, just to find a car for me! Any recommendations? See y’all soon!



It’s not hard to recycle!
9 April 12, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Arkansas, c'mon!, environment, friends, Little Rock, recycle or else!

Hi everyone!! If you haven’t heard by now, lemme be the first to tell you, Pittman and I have moved to Little Rock! So exciting! First order of business was to get the recycling bin up and running. There’s a lot of waste involved in moving!

So, if you are a Little Rocker and you care about this fragile earth, our island home, please do your part by signing up for this fantastic recycling program that gives you rewards and doesn’t even ask you to sort your own refuse!! Green the Rock, y’all!


5 easy ways to send hydrofracking packing

Dear friends,

Please take a moment out of your morning to do something very important. For those of you who have lived in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and a number of other states that have seen the effects of hydrofracking due to natural gas drilling, you’ll understand the urgency of this message. Polluted drinking water, sick water foul, and ravaged landscapes are not even the beginning of the terrible results of natural gas drilling, specifically hydrofracking. If you’ve ever seen water that sizzles, pops, or remains cloudy for more than 10 minutes at a time, you are acquainted with hydrofracking.

Drilling for natural gas requires a toxic brew of chemicals to be forced deep into the earth’s surface by a process called hydrofracking. That process leaves millions of gallons of a toxic waste water to be absorbed into our streams, drinking water, and other waterways. I’ve seen the harm it creates in my own home state of Arkansas. The promises made by natural gas companies that drilling will generate thousands of new jobs in the state and great fortunes for all New York residents are faulty at best, malicious at worst, and greedy by any account. Do NOT listen.

Today, the issue of hydrofracking squarely faces New York. Energy interests have the ear of Governor Cuomo, and he is inclined to lift the ban on hydrofracking, implemented by Governor Patterson before the end of his tenure. The decisions made today could be irreversible, so please act today FRIDAY, 1 July! Here are 5 easy ways to help, whether you are a New York resident or not!

1. Call Governor Cuomo‘s office and tell him not to lift the moratorium on hydrofracking: 518.474.8390, (apparently calls are most effective because they are so rare; please call!);
2. On Facebook: click here to post the petition to your Wall;
3. Tweet this: Tell @nygovcuomo: Don’t lift New York’s ban on dangerous fracking! @CREDOMobile ;
4. Sign this petition
5. Pass along this message to your friends and call the ones who don’t email.

I took time to do all for of these, and it took me 15 minutes, and that included the time it took to collate all of the information, make a passionate plea, and create a blog post. You should feel free to lift what I’ve written here or send along what I received earlier today (see below). Just take action!

If you want more information, please call me, Tweet me, email me, whatever. This is a concern near and dear to my heart. I want to continue drinking our amazing NYC tap water, and I want our bagels to continue to taste perfect. Most of all, I want our children to enjoy a better and cleaner environment than the one we’ve had. Many thanks for your consideration, friends!

All the best,


From Working Families Party 6/30/2011 in the afternoon:

Dear ,

Just a few hours ago, the New York Times reports that Governor Cuomo may lift the statewide moratorium on hydrofracking [1]. Now may be our last chance to urge him to protect our state’s drinking water from this dangerous drilling process.

The drillers want to drill first and ask questions later. Tell Governor Cuomo not to let them:

We’ll deliver all of our petitions and your personal messages to the Governor’s office pronto. This can’t wait.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is due to release its report tomorrow, and reports say the regulations may give the go-ahead for fracking on private lands in parts of the state soon thereafter.

Study after study has shown the dangers of fracking — including carcinogens and dangerous chemical contamination in drinking water — along with its negligible economic impact. In fact, in areas where drilling has taken place, communities have seen their economies worsen. That’s in addition to the degradation of their local environments.

Sure, the drillers say it’s safe. But they’re also facing a possible federal investigation for allegedly misleading their own investors. [2] They’re motivated by one thing only: money.

The reports say that Governor Cuomo will keep some areas of the state, including New York City’s watershed, off-limits to frackers. That’s a very good thing. But do you think there are any areas of the state that should be put at risk?

Sign our emergency petition here, and then tell your friends:


TJ & the WFP team


Here are a couple of points of view I thought you might appreciate in this debate. I’m sure you know where I stand.

Help Heifer? Help Haiti!

Happy beautiful Tuesday, beautiful people!

Many of you know about the good work of Heifer International. Well, since I’ve been in the five boroughs, I’ve gotten involved with Heifer’s chapter in Brooklyn. Growing up in Arkansas, I’ve always been acquainted with the amazing work Heifer does locally and abroad. Many of us grew up doing overnight trips to the Heifer Ranch, Global Village in Perryville, forced to make a certain decision about a rabbit, right? Each summer I have directed a summer session at Camp Mitchell, I’ve incorporated a trip to the ranch or a visit from Heifer volunteers to help impart to the young, captive audience the importance of Heifer’s efforts to fight hunger and care for the environment abroad and at home. Stewardship of the earth and its people has become a major focus of my life because of Heifer’s influence.

When an opportunity presented itself to help chair the Annual “Pass on the Gift” Gala for Heifer in Greater New York, I jumped at the chance. I was thrilled to lend my limited time, resources, and knowledge to an event that would support Heifer’s work in Haiti in the aftermath of their devastating earthquake in 2010.

All of that is to say, I hope you will join me in supporting this exciting event that features Haitian-themed food, Sazeracs, music from a Haitian Creole jazz band (Mozyaik), a spectacular silent auction, all at beautiful Brooklyn venue: Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO on Tuesday, April 5, 7-10 p.m.! Dan Zanes and Anna Lappé have joined us as Honorary Chairs!

Tickets are $75 for a single ticket and $125 for a pair of tickets in advance. Single tickets are $85 at the door. Purchase tickets here. If you are unable to make it, please consider making a donation in any amount. We are talking about a week from today, next Tuesday, 7 days and a matter of hours, SOON! So, please act now!

To view the invitation and for full information, click here. Thanks, y’all!

Pass on the Gift invitation UPDATE 3.28.2011

Farewell to blues legend, Pinetop Perkins…

It’s a sad day indeed when you learn that Pinetop Perkins has left us for good. I’ve been going to the King Biscuit Blues Festival (for a time the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival) in Helena, Arkansas, since 1997 with few exceptions. Each year, I looked forward to the late afternoon, Saturday performance of the legend that was Pinetop Perkins. I once saw a little 10-year-old girl shove her way to the front of the stage to scream his name as if he were Justin Beiber. He had a hold on a crowd, young and old alike.

Pinetop was essential to the blues careers of many who pre-deceased him: Sonny Boy Williamson to name one notable Arkansan. Pinetop was a key fixture on the King Biscuit Time radio show. The careers of B.B. King and Muddy Waters owe a serious nod to Mr. Perkins and his distinctive Delta Blues style, too.

You will be missed, my friend. King Biscuit Saturdays on the levee won’t be the same without you.

For the Commercial Appeal‘s short tribute, check out the story here.

the levee wall in Helena on a beautiful King Biscuit Blues Fest Day