Lemon Chicken, 2009
This one takes a few links to work. So please hang in with me for a moment.
It starts here:
In the years before I was born, my mother was secretary to the son of the famous psychic Edgar Cayce. Cayce started his career as a photographer in a small town in Kentucky. He had “spells,” though, during which he took on powers of insight beyond his knowledge. People came to him from around the world for practical advice about life, health and unexplained phenomena. The “readings,” as they came to be known, were physically and emotionally taxing. But Cayce was successful identifying homeopathic remedies, helping people find things and, in his later years, delving into matters biblical and mythical.
After Cayce’s death in 1948, his son Hugh Lynn took over the leadership of the foundation that continued Cayce’s study of ESP and other paranormal phenomena. It was a small organization in those days, held together by a few hundred members and a small headquarters staff, which included my mother.
Over the years many hundreds of thousands of people—perhaps millions—have found their way to Virginia Beach to visit the Cayce library. Some are serious scientists, learned scholars, theologians and others curious to compare notes. Some are spiritual seekers. Some are just kooks of the first order who don’t fit in anywhere else and hope they’ll find a home here.
Because of my mother’s connections with the place, various of these people passed through our home as I was growing up. My personal connection with the place, though, is no more exciting than that when I was baptized Hugh Lynn Cayce stood as my godfather and before I was old enough to work anywhere else I mowed the grass at the foundation’s headquarters.
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll recall how the fast food chain now known as KFC was once known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, and how its founder and figurehead was a portly white-haired gentleman in a white, three-piece suit named Colonel Harlan P. Sanders. It was Colonel Sanders who came up with the special recipe of “twenty-one herbs and spices” that made his fried chicken so tasty.
[For those unfamiliar, the title of “Colonel” is an honorific bestowed by Kentucky’s Governor and Secretary of State on individuals in recognition of their “noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service” to the state.”]
One day when I was in my early teens, a woman driving a sliver Rolls Royce with a portrait of Colonel Sanders painted on the driver’s door drove up to the Cayce foundation. A lot of celebrities visited the place, so this wasn’t such a big deal. The woman turned out to be the only daughter of Colonel Sanders. She came as a seeker, decided to stick around and bought a house a few doors down from us.
One quiet winter afternoon, I was walking down to the beach when I happened upon the portly Colonel himself, white suit and all. There was a brief introduction. We shook hands. It was like meeting a cross between Santa Claus and Boss Hogg.
And to bring some closure:
Many years later I worked for a man who hailed originally from New York City. John was a proudly outspoken Italian-American, an expert in his field and great fun and inspiration to work for. He was always known among staid Richmonders, and not always politely, as “that New Yorker.” But despite the social exclusion he sometimes experienced, John still maintained a curious fascination with things Southern. One of his greatest pleasures was getting chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken or, as he referred to it, as getting chicken from “the Kentucky Colonel.”
[Sorry, I couldn’t find anything better with which to illustrate this than a picture of lemon chicken.”]