Jodi Hills

So this is who I am – a writer that paints, a painter that writes…


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At the core.

We arrived in this small city. At the visitor’s center, the attendant seemed shocked, not only that we entered, but that anyone did. It soon became clear that we were perhaps her first “customers.” She had long forgotten the facts they must have presented her with upon her hiring. She smiled, and struggled for something to say. When we asked about her city, she began each answer like an unprepared geography student when the teacher gave a pop quiz. “Where are the columns from?” I asked. “I wanna say…” and she paused, clearly searching her brain for something.

Loaded with two maps and no information, we wandered the city. It was functional. One might say even nice, but nothing stood out. Or nothing we could find. The afternoon was underwhelming and left us a bit weary. With one last attempt to save the visit, we walked the streets to find a restaurant. First restaurant, no parking. Second restaurant, no one inside – never a good sign. Third restaurant, ok,let’s give it a try. We ordered, and within a few minutes, a young couple sat down at the bar beside us. He asked politely if they could sit near us. And then thanked us. We already felt better. Polite. Young. Smiling. Maybe this was the city. We began to visit. Was that a custom beer they were drinking? Did they live here? And so it began. Jobs. Life. Travel. Art. Laughter. And here it was. Right next to us. The heart of the city. And the day was not only saved, but enjoyed, greatly.

It’s easy to find the obvious. The Eiffel Tower. The Empire State Building. Sometimes you have to look a little deeper. Go a little deeper. Attractions are everywhere. They don’t all have a brochure, but they can magical just the same. Worth the visit!


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Black barns.

I have never smoked. I don’t really care about tobacco, but I was interested in the black barns of Kentucky. The woman at the tourist office told us they were used for tobacco. The black kept the barn hotter, and helped in curing the tobacco. So many are no longer in use, but I think they are still beautiful. They are so different from the red barns I grew up with.

We stopped at the Muhammad Ali museum in the next leg of this journey. I was never a boxing fan, but I was interested in the man. He was not a perfect human, but I haven’t seen one yet. I do know that he helped raise awareness for Parkinson’s Disease, the Olympics, the Civil Rights movement, and being human. I think that is beautiful.

It’s getting harder and harder to know who and what we are supposed to like anymore. We are constantly being told you can’t like this painter because he said bad things. Can’t like this music because the singer was a drug user. Can’t shop here, they support the wrong ideas. Can’t be friends with them, they voted wrong. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to eat that chicken.

And I want to support the things I believe in. I really do. But I want to know the world. Experience different things. Meet different people. Eat some chicken. So what do I do? What do we do?

If I write about something you aren’t interested in one day, does that negate the 20 other times you laughed or cried when you read my words. I hope not. I hope we can all be open to each other. I hope we can all believe in different things, and still be kind to each other. Walk different paths, and be open. Look differently. Laugh differently. And still believe in love.

I will sketch the black barns. The champion horses. The beautiful losers just wandering the field. And maybe when I get home I will paint the black barn. I don’t think my red barn will mind at all. I want to find the beauty. I think it’s even there in the search. Probably there, most of all.


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Charmed.

I have visited 48 out of 50. (Sorry Alaska and Hawaii) I believe you can find something good everywhere. It takes a little effort, but you can find it. There’s one thing, though, that I believe can’t be faked, and that’s charm. Charm is palpable. When driving into a city, I can almost tell immediately if I would like to stay.

We usually pull into the nearest Starbuck’s for the boost in wi-fi and caffeine. At every Starbucks, I can get a non-fat, extra hot vanilla latte, and it will taste the same, but the experience, no…. In some states, cities, there are people with charm. I’ve tried to put my finger on why, and I’ve come up with a few possible answers. People in these cities have similar qualities – they are proud of their city, and interested in where you have come from. I guess this is education, and curiosity. This beams from their faces, welcomes you, and you can really feel it. The people who are curious, light up when we say we have come from France. “WOW!” they say. (And it deserves a wow – we’ve come a long way!). The educated know about their city. Big or small. They can lead you to the interesting and photo worthy. These people make travel exciting. Exhilarating. They inspire!

A couple of days ago we pulled into a city (I won’t say the name. I don’t want to offend.) Inside the Starbucks I gave my order to dead eyes – and they got the order wrong. I explained the order again to dead eyes. I asked about the area. Nothing. Nothing from the six eyes that looked back at me. Nothing when I mentioned France. Nothing when I asked about their city – in fact they said go to the next city. This made me sad. Made me want to leave. We did leave, soon after.

This is rare, but devastating. Not for us really, we have a ticket out, but for them. What do you have to live for if you don’t like where you are, and you don’t care about what else is out there? Now some may say, well that’s not fair, maybe they’re poor. And I understand that, but it’s not only about that. I’ve been poor. Very poor. And we have visited poor, and have been charmed. A couple of years ago we stopped into the smallest town in Arkansas. One store. It had coffee, candy, some groceries. The sign on the door said he would be back in a few minutes. We waited. He was. “So sorry,” he said while arriving. “I had to go to the doctor.” We smiled. No worries. “Where you from?” “France.” “Wow!” He said. Giving us free coffee. A free magnet – a razorback from his beloved state. He was happy and welcoming. We spoke of his little town, his health, his interests, our travels, and I will never forget this charming man, in this yes, charming place.

If the goal is to live a charmed life, and for me I think it is, then open your mind and your heart. Learn everything you can. Be curious about everything. Everyone. The world is a magical place. People can be delightful. Life can be beautiful. Everywhere.