We cruise through acres and acres of red dirt, northern Alabama cottonfields to our destination for “The Whatcha’ Got Cookin’ Birthday Party.” In the 1936 Olympic games hosted by Adolf Hitler in Berlin, Germany, a single man gave great joy to Americans, winning four medals, an Olympic first. That man came from this dot on the map. Sixty years later, thousands gathered to honor this outstanding joy-giver with the dedication of a park named in his honor, the Jesse Owens Memorial Park.
You feel the joy as you pass the glass display vitrines of the Jesse Owens Museum which showcase rare memorabilia including programs from the 1936 Olympics, replicas of his track uniforms and running shoes, medals and trophies from Owens’s teen years at the former site of Oakville High School.
HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! (Note: The comments attributed to these famous joy-givers come from words they have written or said.)
PLEASE GIVE A ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR THESE JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK:
Sept. 11—JULIA REED was an author, journalist, magazine columnist and speaker. The Greenville, Mississippi native wrote several books on entertaining, cooking and lifestyle, all with a sophisticated and aslant view of life in the modern day, American South. Her books include “But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria,” “Queen of the Turtle Derby” and “Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long.”
To up your joy and laughter, let me point you to Julia Reed’s “Queen of the Turtle Derby.” As Abbie Hoffman would say, “Go steal this book.” Or, being less of an anarchist, let me encourage you joy-seekers to go buy one—RIGHT NOW.
Here’s a review of that Julia Reed bestseller: “In classic Dixie storytelling fashion, with a rare blend of literary elegance and plainspoken humor, the inimitably charming, staunchly Southern Reed wends her way belong the Mason-Dixon Line and observes many phenomena—from politics, religion and women, to weather, guns and what she calls ‘drinking and other Southern pursuits.’
To hear Reed tell it, the South is another country. She builds an entertaining and persuasive case, using as examples everything from its unfathomable codes of conduct to its disciplined fashion sense. And, there is Southern food, which is entirely a world apart: Gumbo, grits, greens and, of course, fried chicken make memorable appearances in Reed’s essays, which will amuse, delight and even explain a thing or two to baffled Yankees everywhere.”
Sept. 12—JESSE OWENS (James Cleveland Owens) was a track and field athlete and four-time gold medalist in the 1936 Olympic Games. He specialized in sprints and long jump and was the most famous athlete in track and field during his lifetime. He set three world records, and tied another, all in less than an hour, at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan—a feat that has never been equaled and has been called “The greatest 45 minutes ever in sport.” ESPN ranked Owens the sixth greatest North American athlete in the 20th century and highest-ranked in his sport.
A bronze plaque at the Jesse Owens Park reads:
“May this light shine forever
as a symbol to all who run
for the freedom of sport,
for the spirit of humanity,
for the memory of Jesse Owens.”
Sept. 13—DON HO (Donald Tai Loy Ho) was a traditional pop musician, singer and entertainer. Ho was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and proudly boasts these heritages: Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and German descent. He is best known for the song, “Tiny Bubbles.”
Here are things Don Ho and others have said about the immensely joy-giving state of Hawaii:
“I believe Hawaii is the most precious jewel in the world.”—Don Ho
“Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.”—Paul Theroux
“Hawaii is paradise. It sounds cheesy to say it, but there is music in the air there.”—Hawaiian, Bruno Mars
“Hawaii is the only place I know where they lay flowers on you while you are alive.”—Will Rogers
Sept. 14—Jeremy Dunham is one of America’s most-successful video game designers. Video games are joy-giving games that involve interaction with a user interface such as a “Joystick” or “motion sensing” devise to generate visual feedback. As of 2020, the global video game market has estimated annual revenues of $159 billion and is three times the size of the global music industry and four times larger than the international film industry.
Joy-giving quotes from an array of video games:
“It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum…and I’m all outta gum.”—Duke Nukem
“The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world.”—Half-Life 2
“It’s dangerous to go alone, take this.”—The Legend of Zelda
“Stop right there, criminal scum!”—The Elder Scrolls
“Grass grows, birds fly, the sun shines, and brother, I hurt people.”—Team Fortress 2
“You can’t hide from the Grim Reaper, especially when he’s got a gun.”—Grim Fandango
“It ain’t no secret, I didn’t get these scars falling over in church.”—Red Dead Redemption
“I don’t need a weapon; my friends are my power.”—Kingdom Hearts
Sept. 15—ROBERT BENCHLEY was a humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and as a film actor. He began at the campus newspaper, “The Harvard Lampoon,” while attending Harvard. He was a founding member of the cluster of erudite wits known as The Algonquin Round Table (NYC). Benchley is best remembered for his contributions to “The New Yorker Magazine,” where his essays, whether topical or fantastical, influenced many and entertained many, many more. He won an Oscar for “Best Short Subject” in 1935 for his popular film, “How to Sleep.” His humorous style has been called deadpan, parody, surrealistic and tremendously joy-giving.
Sept. 16—DAVID COPPERFIELD, who was born David Seth Kotkin, magically changed his last name to one which seemed more “show biz.” He is described by “Forbes Magazine” as “the most commercially successful magician in history.” His television specials have won him 21 Emmy Awards. He is best known for his combination of storytelling and illusion. He has earned 11 Guinness World Records, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a knighthood by the French government and the U.S. Library of Congress has named him a “Living Legend.”
Sept. 17—HANK WILLIAMS was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for his “craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life.”
Hiram “Hank” Williams wrote songs, sang them and created the music which accompanied most of his 35 singles. He is regarded as one of the most significant and influential singer/songwriters of the 20th century. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
COMMENTS OVERHEARD AT “THE WHATCHA’ GOT COOKIN’ BIRTHDAY PARTY:”
“We all have dreams. But, in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”—Jesse Owens
“There are two kinds of travel: first class and with children.”—Robert Benchley
“The real secret of magic lies in the performance.”—David Copperfield
“Don’t take life too serious, you can’t get out alive, anyhow.”—Hank Williams
“Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.”—Jesse Owens
“It took me 15 years to discover that I had not talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time, I had become too famous.”—Robert Benchley
“I act like I’m 14, if you haven’t figured that out yet.”—David Copperfield
“If a song can’t be written in 20 minutes, it ain’t worth writing.”—Hank Williams
“The only victory that counts is the one over yourself.”—Jesse Owens
“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance and to turn around three times before lying down.”—Robert Benchley
“It is an unspoken ethic of all magicians to not reveal the secrets.”—David Copperfield
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘country music,’ I just make music the way I know how.”—Hank Williams
“One chance is all you need.”—Jesse Owens
“Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment.”—Robert Benchley
“Dreams are illusions, and we can’t let go of them because we would be dead.”—David Copperfield
“I was a pretty good imitator of Roy Acuff, but then I found out they already had a Roy Acuff, so I started singin’ like myself.”—Hank Williams
“People who begin sentences with ‘I may be old-fashioned but____,’ are usually old-fashioned and wrong.”—Robert Benchley
“I’m just waiting for people to start asking me to make the rain disappear.”—David Copperfield
“How come you treat me like a worn-out shoe? My hair’s still curly and my eyes are still blue. Tell me, why don’t you love me like you used to do?”—Hank Williams
“The only bond worth anything between human beings is their humanness.”—Jesse Owens
THE MENU FOR “THE WHATCHA’ GOT COOKIN’ BIRTHDAY PARTY:”
APPETIZER—Hank Williams Cold, Cold Hearts of Palm (cheapcooking.com)
SALAD—Julia Reed’s Mama’s Tuna Salad (diningandcooking.com)
ENTRÉE—Jeremy Dunham Spicy Lemon Joystick Kabobs
SIDE DISH—Robert Benchley’s Harvard Lampoon Beets (allrecipes.com)
BREAD—Jesse Owens Quick Bread (chow.com)
BEVERAGE—Don Ho Tiny Bubbles Champagne and Pineapple Juice Cocktail (see below)
DESSERT—David Copperfield Magic Brownies (bhg.com)
ONE TO GROW ON—“I Saw The Light” is a Hank Williams song title and also the name of a 2015 biopic starring British acting great, Tom Hiddleston, as Williams, an Alabama country boy. Film critic, Roger Ebert, said this about Hiddleston’s portrayal: “…he’s a terrific physical match for the man himself, who had a perpetual lean-and-hungry look. Hiddleston’s performance is a masterful one—understated, superbly modulated, empathetic.”
To add to the fun at “The Whatcha’ Got Cookin’ Birthday Party,” each celebrant was asked to bring an Olympic-winning joke. Jesse Owens, a real Olympian, joked, “My mama said if being lazy around the house was an Olympic sport, I’d come in fourth so I wouldn’t have to walk up to the podium.”
Don Ho winked at his islander friends in the Philippines with this riddle: “Why does the Philippines only have one Olympic gold medal in their history? Because there’s no gold medal for karaoke.”
Julia Reed told the gathering she once competed in the suntanning Olympics in Honolulu, but she only got bronze.
Robert Benchley said he went to the Olympics and met a man carrying a long pole. I asked the gent, “Sir, are you a pole vaulter?” And, he said, “No, I’m German and how did you know my name vas Valter?”
Following all the playful, Olympic groans, Hank Williams said to David Copperfield and Jeremy Dunham, “You two see if you can make all those jokes disappear. I’m not even going to try mine with this punchy crowd. But, I did bring my guitar, so y’all join me for this final song of the evening.”
“Say hey, good-lookin’, whatcha’ got cookin’?
How’s about cookin’ something up with me?
Hey, sweet baby—don’t ya think maybe,
We can find us a brand-new recipe?
I got a hot rod Ford, and a two-dollar bill,
And, I know a spot right over the hill.
There’s soda pop and the dancin’ is free,
So, if you wanna have fun, come along with me.
Say hey, good-lookin’, whatcha’ got cookin’?
How’s about cookin’ something up with me?”
Don Ho Tiny Bubbles Champagne and Hawaiian Pineapple Juice Cocktail
1 (12 ounce) can apricot-mango nectar
1 (12 ounce) can pineapple juice
¾ cup cold water
1 (6 ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed and undiluted
1 bottle cold Champagne
Stir together apricot nectar, pineapple juice, water, and orange juice concentrate in a large pitcher until combined. Pour in bottle of Champagne just before serving.