“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.


I’m not sure “Priss Pot” is in this Pink Universe except as a Southern slang term, but Joanna Leigh is a Pink Priss Pot. I’ve also decided that it’s inborn. She sure as heck doesn’t get it from me.

The other day in the car, she said, “I’m a Princess.

I said, “Yes, of course you are.”

She said, “I have pretty clothes.”

I said, “Yes, you do.” I thought, “Thanks to my Visa card.”

She said, “You don’t have pretty clothes.”

I was speechless. Yes, I go around looking like a bag lady, but somewhere deep in my closet, I do have passable clothes.

She said, “You get pretty clothes at the store. You can go to the store.

Except that my Visa card is smoking right now.

Pink-a-licious. Pink-a-thon. Pink-o-Mania. PinkFest. Pink-o-Rama. P is for Pink. Add some glitter and watch Pink morph into Princess. You are a Princess. Everything worth anything is Pink and Glitter. I’m Pink; therefore, I am a Princess.

Happy Pink Birthday

This past weekend, she and I drove to North Alabama for my other granddaughter’s birthday party, at the Pinkalicious Party Palace. Yes, you read that right. It boasts that it’s “The ultimate birthday experience for your little princess.”

By the way, my other granddaughter recently broke her arm on her school’s playground, but that trauma was overcome with a pink cast.


I had put on decent clothes and wore some jewelry, including my diamond engagement ring and my grandmother’s reset diamond. Joanna Leigh was overcome. She said, “Mama Jo, those are beautiful. Can I have those when I get big and you get little?

I said, “Oh, honey, you can have them looooong before I get little.

At Pinkalicious, you walk into pink rooms, get dressed up in glitzy princess clothes, go to the make-up station, where the young attendants put on lipstick, paint your fingernails, and spray lots-o-glitter into your hair. Then you can priss around on the stage and sing karaoke. Then, advance to the cake room where all the cupcakes have pink icing.

I took lots of video, which I’m going to start editing ASAP. Maybe I’ll put it on YouTube. I’ll certainly let you know.

From Pink to White

Pink Mania, Pink-sessive. Pink, Pink, You Stink.

So what is the illogical conclusion to all this Disney Princesses Pink Fantasy? Why, Disney's White Wedding Gown Fantasy, of course! It’s unbelievable. It’s enough to make you run out and buy Disney stock today.


I just don’t know what to think about all this. The Feminist me says, “$#%&*&%$!!!”

The Little Girl in me, also embedded deep in my closet somewhere, remembers believing, really believing, in Cinderella and Snow White. I’ll never get over seeing those movies on a big screen.

The Today Woman in me, at age 67 and a parenting grandparent of a 3-1/2-year-old, says, “If my Prince Charming were to rush toward me on his trusty steed to scoop me up in his arms, I’d shoot the creep.

One, Only One: The Last Stat Standing

Take on the facts and history of drug and alcohol use, misuse, addiction, and America’s 40-year Drug War; then prepare to be overwhelmed. At least I was until a few days ago when I ran across a statistic I had not seen before.

I am an information hound. I sniff out answers however I can because I have long believed that knowledge can lead to understanding something and to changing it if it’s needed.

When I began to figure out some 20 years ago that what was “wrong” with my daughter was drugs and alcohol use and addiction, I was determined to look for answers. I hoped that understanding could help my husband and me pull our daughter back from this awful abyss called the Drug Life and ultimately save her. We couldn’t. We didn’t really understand what we were looking at in the early- and mid-1980s. I also needed desperately to know if I or we had done this terrible thing to our daughter. We didn’t.

But along the way, I kept chasing information and research; I just had to understand. Tackling it helped me not to give up.

Wanting to share what I’ve learned also motivated me to start this blog, Spittin’ Grits. And now I want to help our granddaughter in understanding that despite her mother’s love for her, a terrible disease did exactly what it was supposed to do: steal it all away.

Here’s the short version of what I learned along the way: There are zillions of numbers out there and tons of facts and myths about drugs, drug and alcohol use and addiction; there are many books, reports, individual stories, personal beliefs, and misconceptions; and there’s a growing body of science showing what drugs and alcohol are and how they affect us. Yet progress in our knowledge of treatments for drug use and abuse in the U.S continues to lag to a shocking degree. Our Drug War has eroded too many of the resources.

Collective Denial

I’ve often wondered what it would take to change the course of this Drug War, one of the longest wars in history, a shocking fact I uncovered somewhere, and expensive beyond reason.

Maybe we have it now, if we can shed our collective denial and use it. It’s the stand-alone stat.

First, few people in the U.S. have not been affected by America’s insatiable thirst for drugs. Too many are users and addicts; many are parents of addicts. Our extended families and close friends have suffered with us through the nightmare. Many of us know people who have died of their addictions or disappeared into a long and sick relationship with the criminal justice system. Many of us have beaten our heads against the brick walls of departments of human resources, the foster care system, and other systems within the 50 states.

President Richard M. Nixon made this 40-year-old Drug War official in 1970, saying the following year that drug abuse was “public enemy No. 1 in the United States.” I can’t help but wonder if announcing the Drug War was a political diversionary tactic to keep American eyes off the Vietnam travesty.

Now, several generations later, it is clear that America’s drug use, including abuse of and addiction to alcohol and to both licit and illicit drugs, has finally extended its poisonous tendrils to every demographic group from the top of the Boomers to the newest group that hasn’t yet been categorized.

So, it isn’t even the $1 trillion price tag, according to a recent Associated Press investigative report, of this War, most of which was throwing good money after bad.

It’s not even the hundreds of thousands lives lost to drugs and violence. It’s not even the jillions who have spent most of their hapless lives in jails and prisons, which is paid for every minute of every day by taxpayers.

It isn’t even the 2.6 million-plus grandparents who are raising nearly 3 million kids in America, as recently reported by the Pew Research Center, most of whom were victims of drug use and abuse.

Here’s the statistic that should finally begin to fix our attention on this Drug War:

Combined data from 2002 to 2007 indicate that over 8.3 million children under 18 years of age (11.9 percent) lived with at least one parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol or an illicit drug during the past year.

That’s the population of New York City, according to 2009 figures. Or the combined populations of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston combined. That’s almost the entire populations of Missouri and Kansas combined.

Here's more:

l That's more than 1 in 10 children in the U.S.

l 13.9% of those children are YOUNGER THAN 3-YEARS-OLD

l Another 13.6% are 3- to 5-years-old

And those figures don’t include 2008 and 2009. If drug use figure have gone up, likely so have the numbers of children in the U.S. living with drug and alcohol abusing or dependent parents.

Yes, Albert Einstein did define INSANITY as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

America MUST re-direct this Drug War.

Citation for the NSDUH report:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (April 16, 2009). The NSDUH Report: Children Living with Substance-Dependent or Substance-Abusing Parents: 2002 to 2007. Rockville, MD.


Cooking up Discussion and Education

Traditionally, the dinner table is a place for community, debates, discussion, sharing information, even arguments – among family, friends, opponents, neighbors, and near strangers.

A new cookbook that can foster discussions about methamphetamines and other drugs while around the dinner table is available for ordering. Back Around the Table is for good eating and for good talk.

small product photo

Notable Alabamians, like U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, and citizens involved in drug abuse treatment, education, and prevention from around the state are offering their best recipes in a variety of categories. Senator Shelby offers Dove on the Grill, an old family recipe that he and his wife, Annette, still use:

Dove (allow at least 2 per person)

Worcestershire Sauce to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Bacon (1/2 slice per bird)

Sprinkle dove with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Wrap each dove with bacon. Secure with toothpick if necessary. Cook over a medium fire until done, about 20-30 minutes. Turn occasionally. **Variation: Wrap ½ strip bacon around a water chestnut and a boneless dove breast. Season lemon butter with Worcestershire sauce and baste frequently. Cook on grill.

Part of the proceeds of the sale of Back Around the Table will support Alabama’s ZEROMETH ad campaign.

Anti-drug campaigns have come and gone. Mostly gone. Drugs have kept on coming and haven’t gone. The ZEROMETH campaign is different: it is specific to methamphetamines; it is targeted at young people instead of parents (Parents – The Anti-Drug) or no one in particular (Just Say No) or at users in general, but with no force behind it (This is your brain on drugs); it is based on what is known from users and from science; and it is tough.

Here's some science behind how meth words, from National Geographic:

One Alabama District Attorney who was involved with the campaign from the ground up, Jimmie Harp, Jr., Etowah County, describes the ZEROMETH campaign this way:

ZEROMETH is a hard hitting and gritty campaign. . . .The television ads, print ads, and other supporting media are designed to create a dialog between our youth and their parents, teachers, coaches about the life-threatening and dangerous consequences of trying meth even one time.

Here is Part 1 of the campaign:

He had the idea for Back Around the Table. “The book’s purpose is to create awareness, but in this instance also celebrate those who have been addicted to illegal drugs, been alienated from their families, sought help, and have recovered or are fighting to recover ever day.”

He approached Dr. Barbara Bryant, a retired college administrator and professor, consultant, cookbook publisher, and business owner in Gadsden, Alabama, who agreed to publish it and oversee sales.

To order Back Around the Table:

Mail Check or Money Order to:

“Back Around the Table”

Post Office Box 1603

Gadsden, AL 35902

  • Include number of books requested @ $25.00 ea
  • The amount enclosed
  • Your name and address including the Zip
  • Phone including area code
  • E-mail address

If you encounter problems ordering online, please e-mail me at: jchutt@gmail.com. I will forward your e-mail address to the appropriate contact who will send a PDF attachment.

I published a post to Spittin’ Grits last year that recounted my experience with my daughter’s meth addiction here.

More videos from the ZEROMETH campaign:

Part 2:

Part 3:

The Longest Steepest Fast Train

Tuscaloosa has this train that cuts east-west right smack dab through the middle of town from one end to the other. Over the decades it has carried tons of people and freight; it has also carried a big fat truth that never occurred to me until recently.

tuscaloosa2-platform Tuscaloosa Train Station Platform: Photos from www.trainweb.com

I have to cross these tracks at some crossing up and down the line, just to get, well, anywhere, say, to the grocery store or the hospital or the library or my granddaughter’s school or Edelweiss to meet my writing group for lunch.

tuscaloosa5-to east

Tracks heading east toward the VA hospital and out of Tuscaloosa


This train parallels one of the main thoroughfares, 15th St. There’s just about the same amount of city acreage north of 15th St. to the Black Warrior River as there is south to Memorial Hills Garden Cemetery on Skyland Blvd.

Amtrak’s 1,377- mile Crescent ride, from New Orleans through Washington D.C. to Penn Station in New York City barrels through here on these tracks – Big Easy to Big Apple. In the old days, when I was an undergraduate here and the Crimson Tide played Tulane in football match-ups, we’d get the Crescent heading to NO, carry on a lot of oranges, fill up the oranges with vodka, and drink the oranges. Ghhaaaa.

The freight these tracks carry every day is probably loaded up in the Louisiana or Mobile ports. I’ve often sat there for what seemed like an interminable length of time – before I could read my e-mail on an iPhone – grousing and screaming as boxcar after boxcar after freight car after freight car chugged by toward Birmingham.

One time a box car came into view with lots of nicely colored, fat-lettered graffiti saying, “George Bush is Gay.” I started laughing at this political statement in this unlikely place. I said out loud, “Why not use that talent to write, ‘The World is Coming to an End’ or something? Or just your initials and a heart?” No one was there to answer.

For decades and decades and decades, residents haven’t had to use the excuse “The dog ate my homework.” They just say, “I got caught by the train.”

A Click of the Light Bulb

Now I check my smart-phone e-mail as Hyundai boxcar after Hyundai boxcar after Hyundai boxcar rattle by en route probably to Montgomery, Alabama, where a plant is located.

My husband and I were sitting at the crossing one day, and he was parked way WAY back from the crossing as the train whizzed by going south. I said, “Why do you park so far back?”

He said, “You know this is the steepest longest railroad grade in the U.S.”

“Whaaaat?” I said in disbelief.

He said, “If the train de-rails, I’ll be ok.”

That pithy piece of info itched and itched my mind. How can it be the longest steepest U.S. railroad grade in the U.S. when we have Glacier National Park up in Montana?

So I started scratching around for the answer, and lo and behold, I found out the answer and then realized something really truthy:

This train is a metaphor for life.

Making the Grade

Looking for the answer naturally took me to the Internet, where I found out about the Saluda line in North Carolina. It’s the steepest grade in the U.S. but not the longest steepest. It’s a three-mile track that rises more than 600 feet in elevation “with a 4.7% but reaching 5.1% between the towns of Melrose and Saluda” in Polk County. Whatever that means. There were so many accidents with runaway downhill trains that they finally had to shut it down.

Then the Aha Moment: I’ll ask a civil engineer friend of mine. I e-mailed him, told him what my husband said, and asked if he knew anything about this longest steepest train line.

Bingo, he did: “I believe that Joe Lee is correct. I remember hearing one of my UA professors say that the railroad grade that goes north past the Veterans Administration hospital [at the far eastern end of 15th St.] is the longest and steepest in the US.

“During the design stage for widening 15th street from a two lane road to a six lane urban street, my job was to prepare a topographical map of the area from US 11 to the middle of the VA property. The map was used to select the final location of the big curve that 15th street makes over the railroad tracks right to the side of the VA. Our biggest danger was that trains from Birmingham would coast down that grade at high speed. There was no engine noise but there were plenty of times that a high speed train showed up from nowhere and scared the bejesus out of us.”

Wow, I thought. Then I e-mailed back: “Dan, This is such a neat little fact to know Now every time I see the train headed south toward the big curve, I'm ducking! Now I have to ask: If it's the steepest and the LONGEST, I wonder where it ends. On the other side of the Appalachians somewhere I guess. Washington D.C.? Thanks, Joanna

He replied: “Surely you know better than to ever ask an engineer a question like where a certain grade ends! You just invited a 15 minute explanation on the friction between the rail and the steel wheels, the torque to overcome the grade and... eventually the answer you desired. Short answer - I don't have a clue where it ends. So have a great week on me!”

But I persisted: “Oh, too hilarious! I’m laughing, laughing, laughing. You tell me about torque and I'll tell you about the nominative absolute construction. Joanna”

He said: “I call for a truce and a great week for you.”

I got the last word: “Deal. And thanks. Joanna”

So here’s LIFE as told by a train.

You get on down at the Gulf waters, maybe the NO docks. It stops along the way at all these fun places and blows its whistle at all the crossings. Maybe you get off and hang out for a while. Buy oranges and vodka. But you have to get back on and keep going or be frozen in Time. To pass Your Time you can look at all the people stymied at crossings all the way to Penn Station.

Then the tough part starts somewhere in town around the VA hospital. It’s a long and steep uphill ride from then on. Some people were taken off way too early, and you look back; you probably cry. Maybe you get distracted and end up in say, Montgomery.

It keeps on chugging. It gets really torquey. You’ve gotta hang on, because somewhere up the tracks it will be your turn to de-train.

Somewhere on the tracks, it’s the last part of the ride. The end of the line. I don’t really have that part worked out yet. In this political climate, maybe being dumped at Union Station in Washington D.C. is the closest thing to The Flames you can imagine. It will probably be my luck to be shoved out somewhere north of Baltimore, maybe in New Jersey somewhere.

It’s all a real shame. In the last part of the ride, you get smart about a lot of things. You try to scream loud enough about living the train ride for those behind you to hear, but the wheels’ screeching, clicking, and throwing sparks are too much to overcome.

The next time you’re at a crossing, park way back from the tracks, breathe deeply, and try to catch a glimpse of the people in the Crescent’s dining car. Just remember, you’re on that fast train.

Here's the scoop on elevations and locations:

New Orleans: 6 ft. @ 29.95 N 90.08 W

Tuscaloosa: 190 ft. @ 33.19 N 87.56 W

My house, east of VA hospital: 400+ ft.

B’ham: 600 ft. @ 33.51 N 86.81 W

Anniston: 675 ft

Atlanta: 910 ft.

elevations drop from here, except at High Point, NC, at 940 ft.

Union Station: 50 ft. @ 38.90 N 77.01 W

Penn Station: 40 ft. @ 40.75 N 73.99 W


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