Yes, I know LaGrange is where the Kentucky State Reformatory is, and YES, that IS where we went, as a matter of fact.

Ginny, Jeannine, Glenda and I represented SIW at the invitation of Marc Wessels, one of the chaplains there. T wanted to come, but a sinus infection sidelined her.

So we met at Ginny’s. Well, first I had a “zombie adventure”, which is what I call it when I end up at some deserted spot that is not the spot I was aiming for. The GPS lady took me to the literal end of the road and into the driveway of the last house on the left (yes, I do know that’s the name of a horror movie–I was well aware of it when I turned into the drive). Thank God for cell phones–Ginny gave me real directions, and I got to her house a few minutes later.

They’re all like, “So you have directions, right?” I’m like, “I got directions from Marc and from Google Maps, but I’ve never been to LaGrange before.” Ginny had been, a long time ago, so she drove.

We got there way early, which was the plan, since we wanted to eat in LaGrange before we went in to do the program. They’re all like, “Where should we eat?” I’m like, “I’ve never been to LaGrange before.” So we parked and looked around. We wanted to go to The Irish Rover Too (that’s how it’s spelled, okay?), but it was closed, probably because it was an awkward hour, too late for lunch and too early for supper. A passing resident kindly directed us across the street to a gift shop and cafe called Serendipity. We had to cross railroad tracks to get across the street, because they went right down the middle of the street like trolley tracks. Ginny: “Does the train still run through here?” Me: “I. Have. Never. Been. To….” The girl likes to jerk my chain, and I never get that she’s doing it until she starts grinning. *sigh*

We passed this fabric store with the best-dressed tree in town out in front of it.

There were all these pictures painted on squares of sidewalk. LaGrange–at least, this street–seems really into its history. Reminded me of Corydon, in that respect.

Serendipity was SO NEAT! They brought us tiny little scones while we decided what we wanted to eat. The menu was heavy on the meat, but they had a veg soup, several salads, and a cream cheese spread. I’m a sucker for chicken salad with grapes and nuts, so I got that, with a side of asparagus and pineapple. The asparagus was canned (well, HAD BEEN canned) and wasn’t very nice, but it was better than no asparagus at all. We had dessert–I had carrot cake, which was really spice cake with carrots in but no raisins. It was okay. But it was the Stuff that blew us away: wonderful bead jewelry, art glass jewelry, small sculptures, pashminas–what the kids, when they were young, would have called “neat-kateet junk & jazz”.

So we were just leaving when G’s question was answered. Yes, the train still runs through town.

When the train had passed and we could go, we drove back to the prison. This picture was taken through Ginny’s windshield. She says, “Get out to take the picture,” and I’m like, “Are you kidding? It’s twenty degrees out there, with a wind chill factor of minus a hundred and fifty.” So there are a few raindrops and some distortion. Sue me.

Anyway, we pulled up to the guard house and got a parking sign and parked. Big 1930s-construction building. Thick chain-link fence. Electrified barbed wire on top. Coiled razor wire on top of that. I’m like, “Ohhh, myyyyy Gahhhhhhhhhd…. Is it too late to go home?” (Have I ever mentioned that I have an anxiety disorder? Yes, I thought I had.) I was having a bad day with it anyway, and getting lost on the way to Ginny’s and then going somewhere I’d never been before and now this sight…. But G and G and J were like, “Oh, come on!” so I stopped whining like a big baby and went in.

I told Marc it was the jailiest place I’ve ever been, and I’ve visited some pretty jaily places. Jails, mostly. I’ve never been consigned to one, but I have interesting friends.

Anyway, Marc met us and took us through to the chapel, where we waited as guys trickled in. Some of the guys have a praise band, and played some hymns for us. A praise band, in case you don’t know, plays hymns with a beat. They usually have a guitar or two (or three), a keyboard, and some rhythm. They started out with one of the guys doing rhythm on his guitar, but then another guy came up and did the drums, then another guy came up and did a tambourine. It was VERY cool! They did some of my favorite hymns, including “I’ll Fly Away” and “It Is Well With My Soul”–my favorite hymn and my grandfather’s favorite. I teared up. It was like Grandpa was with me, smiling.

Marc introduced us and we each read something and told something about how we came to write it and how much of it was true. Then we took questions. The guys were attentive and responsive and interested and had great questions–the best audience we’ve ever had anywhere. A lot of them write and were interested in how-to’s of writing and marketing. One young man has published two books of his poetry through Lulu.com, so those who wanted to go that route learned that they have a valuable resource in his experience. Marc said he’s hoping to start a writing group there, and I think that would be great. As somebody said at the library writers group last night about writing, “This is a lonely business.” It’s wonderful to be around other people who write, who know how it is when you just can’t get what’s in your heart and head on paper the way you want it. There’s nothing like being with other people who know how that feels and can help you with it.

Marc said they might invite us back. If he does, I bet we go.

MA

writing prompt: What was directly outside your front door when you were little? Sidewalk? Porch? Gravel? Describe it and write a story where it’s important.

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