bout what
September 2010
The Natchez Trace
posted: September 27, 2010
From Jackson we were told to follow the Natchez Trace all the way down to Natchez, Mississippi. The parkway was beautiful, though we kept expecting to see huge vistas and overlooks like one would on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But of course Mississippi is flat... so no mountain ranges ever showed up. Still, it was a peaceful drive. We did attempt at one point to go to a plantation called, Rosswood Plantation. These things cost money though.The old woman who ran the tour, who was very sweet at first, shooed us off when she discovered we were not willing to give her the ten dollars she requested. Oh well. We got to see the house anyways.
We arrived in Natchez around dinner time and planned on grabbing a bite then finding a place to stay. However, Natchez, Mississippi was a bit of a tourist trap. Not to mention there was a motorcycle convention going on so you really had to be careful not to get run over by leather clad men on bikes. All the restaurants were kitchy and over priced and our excitement about the town quickly dissolved.
And then suddenly in one glorious turn of fate we found ourselves looking out across the great Mississippi River. I suppose we had known we were going to come upon it that day but nothing can prepare you for the moment you do. Disappointment turned to awe as we slowed the car and looked out on the water. The sun was setting and though I haven’t seen it at any other time during the day, I can attest, we arrived at the perfect moment. There is something about crossing a river that makes a traveler feel a sense of accomplishment far greater than crossing a state line. (And of course in this case we were crossing both.) But somehow on that night crossing the Mississippi I felt fueled with a sense of movement. If this were a movie the director would cut in an image of a map and our little red ticker marks would tick right on through to Louisiana.  

F Jones Corner
posted: September 21, 2010
F Jones Corner

They checked our IDs at the door and in we went. It was dark and smokey inside. Two old men sat at a table in the back. The big one called himself The Blues Man. The other looked like a shriveled version of his friend and went by, The Rock. He had one arm. I was drawn to the duo and asked if they would sit down for an interview. The Rock was about to get on stage so appologized for not being able to help. But The Blues Man agreed to answer a few questions. I tried to record him on my voice recorder but, sorry friends, it somehow was deleted.. or I can't seem to retrieve it. But I did take some notes as well. So the experience is not all lost.

 
Mckinney Melvin Williams, stage name, The Blues Man, was born and raised in Lexington, Mississippi. He was a raised a gospel singer and always shied away from the blues on account of it's raunchy reputation. He was said he had always had a fascination with it, even as a small boy, but out of respect for his mama he kept it at a distance. I asked him, because this is something I've recently had on my mind if he thought you had to live a certain kind of life to really be able to sing the blues. He said he wasn't sure but you had to have experience "true meaning." Which I translate in to... understanding something, no matter what it is, truly and fully. I'm still mulling over the definition. But I like where he was going with that. He had only started performing as a blues musician three years ago. He had undergone a serious personal battle, as he considers himself a very religious man who tries to live his life as honest and pure as possible. But he had come to the conclusion that he could sing his own kind of blues, and not have to associate his lyrics with evil ways. He said he asked the lord to grant him the gift of music and the Lord has responded. He quotes, "My voice is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard."
I thanked Mckinney for his time and went back inside where The Rock was up on stage singing The Twist. So we all leapt up there and started to dance. I'm not much of a dancer myself. Anyone can tell you, and most of you can picture my silly little singular dance move which is more of a joke now than anything. But.. I was only going to be dancing in an "interracial" blues bar in Jackson, Mississippi once so I decided to go for it. The Rock even came off stage and taught me a few tricks. Let me tell you, dancing with a one armed man is quite the experience. Morgan and Brendan took us for a few spins on the dance floor as well and we all had quite a night.
 
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As things were slowing down... around 4 o'clock am, we sat at the bar and talked to Miss Jackie Bell. she told us stories of touring around europe when she was younger. meeting all kinds of famous musicians. she was tall and rail thin, with tired eyes and a drunk slur. i got the impression she had once almost been somebody and had been chasing that high ever since. we all had a shot together and then said our goodbyes. the bartender gave us free shirts and wished us good luck.

we went back to our little motel room, both of our spirits high and with a growing appreciation and excitement about the trip ahead. we had been so lucky thus far and could not imagine what else was in store.

 

Jackson, Mississippi
posted: September 21, 2010
 

After the tumultuous events of the previous night, Annie and I decided to treat ourselves to a little luxury in Jackson. We booked a night at the La Quinta Inn off I-55 for only fifty bucks, and the accommodations were a far cry from the hellish Days Inn we'd found in Birmingham. We were exhausted! Standing on the balcony, we shared a cigarette and discussed the possibility of just ordering a pizza and staying in for the night. We'd check out Jackson tomorrow. 

Enter Scooter and Dustin: our shirtless, beer tottin', cigarette smokin' neighbors. Good old boys who worked in railway construction. They offered us a beer, which we accepted. Jackson is hot as hell and a cold cheap light beer has a way of tasting like heaven in that kind of heat. They said they were headed up the street for dinner and beers around seven and that we were welcome to join. "Can't say no to a free meal ladies!" We nodded and said we'd think about it.
 

In the hotel room, as we washed up we decided we'd take them up on the offer. Normally they weren't a crowd we'd surround ourselves with but this trip was all about experiencing the unknown. They were a bit crass but we agreed they were harmless. So at seven we met them outside and told them we'd meet them at the restaurant. It was called Bulldog, a beer and burger kind of place. Another friend of theirs named John came along too. These boys were a riot. The redneck, the coons ass and the yankee.

 

"you know what a coons ass is?"

"it's that little brown hole right under it's tail."

 

Dustin was the yankee on account of the fact that he was raised in Illinois outside of Chicago. The other two nicknames were self explanatory. We ordered some beers and food and sat outside on the patio. I attempted to explain the purpose of our travels to them, I told them I was writing trying to write a novel and so forth. They liked the idea of being characters in the book and demanded when it was published I send them all free copies. I told them I would, as a thank you for buying dinner. They drank quite a few bud lights between the three of them and by 8:30 they said their goodbyes and headed back to the hotel room for the night. Annie and I, our moment of exhaustion passed, decided to ask some locals where a good bar was in the area. Some college students at the table next to us recommended an Irish Pub called Fenians. So off we went. 

Fenians was a cool place, the bar was upstairs and they had live music playing. We ordered some drinks and sat quietly, getting a feel for the crowd. We didn't have to wait very long before people started taking interest in us. I got the feeling it was kind of a regular spot and unfamiliar faces were a rarity. As we started telling people where we were from, why we were in Jackson, etc etc, again, we were stunned at the warmth of strangers and the genuine interest in our journey. 

 

Enter Morgan and Brendan: two graduates of Ole Miss (University of Mississippi), both born and raised Jackson. ( I hope you two are reading this blog!) 

 

Faulkner was a graduate of Ole Miss and Brendan told us that before every home game he would go to his grave and pour two shots, one for himself and one for William. Bad ass. 

 

Meeting these two turned out to be the best thing that could of happened to us in Jackson that night because of the place they recommended we all relocate. FJones. Brendan explained it to us as an "interacial all night blues bar." Annie and I's mouths dropped at such an archiac world as  "interacial" being used but we figured it must really still be that way down there. Crazy right? Anyways, we followed them to the club. Anyways, we followed them to the club. In fact. This next part is so great that it deserves its own post. and my fingers need a break. will post soon.

i am writing from austin, tx where i have reconnected with my dear friend kathleen. she is letting us stay with her and it feels so nice to have the comfort of a home. even if it is not our home.
 


Tupelo to Jackson
posted: September 18, 2010
after waking up in the walmart parking lot that morning we drove north to tupelo, birthplace of elvis! we drove in to town around 6:30 am and figured we had to go to the only place open that early... waffle house. the coffee tasted just as fabulously bad as i remember it from highschool and the staff were as ironic as ever. we asked our waitress what there was to do in tupelo and she told us that on friday nights most people go to the mall.. then to barnes and nobel.. and when that closes, they go to walmart. it's a pretty rockin' town. birthplace of the king.
elvis was born in a house the size of a garden shed. the entire town of tupelo revolves around a dolls house. they have a guided tour you can take which lasts probably ten minutes and consists of someone pointing at this little house and telling you it is the birthplace of elvis.you don't even get to go inside. so we decided against taking the tour. we were told that there were a few elvis landmarks around town like, his school, his favorite resturant and the store where he bought his first guitar. we were too full of waffle house to eat at johnie's, which was a shame because it looked awesome.

 
elvis presley has his own campground and a lake in tupelo. we drove down to it after johnie's. annie decided to nap in the car so i walked down to the lake alone. it was quite serene. early enough for me to be the only person in sight, i sat on the dock and stared out across the water. it hit me then, there at elvis presley's lake, that i was in mississippi. and that i had been in alabama. and before that georgia. and that tommorow i would probably be in louisianna. it all felt quite strange. i could see this life ahead of me, i could see bringing my kids there and telling them about the first time i had seen the lake. what i had been doing and the things i had planned. my dad says being around water is good for me, brings a certain amount of calm and clarity to my mind. i suppose he is right because for the first time since i left north carolina i was able to stop and be proud of myself. be excited for myself. and i saw the futute that my present action was working for. it was sobering and refreshing.
however the lake seemed to be the only thing tupelo had for us. so back in to the car we climbed. the car, i might add, is quite a disaster. if at the beginning there was any sense of organization it has been lost along the way. but annie and i have a way of understanding our own mess so for the most part we've kept our sanity. we checked out a map and decided we should head to jackson.

 
we pulled over in winona, mississippi about an hour after getting on the road. annie looked the town up on the droid and apparently martin luther king jr was almost stabbed by a barber there. fun town! another ghost town. main street had a railway line running through it and all the shops on the strips had gone out of business besides a bank, a tanning salon and a lunch cart. the women who ran the cart knew everyone's names and seemed to have there food waiting as soon as they arrived. the special that day was chicken and ribs. we weren't hungry enough to eat yet so we said our thank yous and kept going.  it wasn't for another hour that our stomaches started to grumble. we were driving down 55 south when a little resturant on the left caught our eye, Ruby's. it was clear when we walked in that we were not exactly the usual crowd. it wasn't so much a resturaunt as a kitchen and a dining room. you pay five dollars and they give you a big plate of food. that day they were serving fried chicken, okra and tomatoes, ruddabega and a corn muffin. the guys working there thought the idea of two little white girls coming in was hillarious. they were more than eager to feed us.
"only five dollars?!" i said.
"we're not trying to get rich, just tryin to fill you up."

 

Birmingham to Montgomery
posted: September 17, 2010
sorry for being so slack on the blog. me and annie have lived a lifetime since my last post. but finally here in jackson mississippi we have found the sneaky bean where i plan to blog away the afternoon and catch everyone up to speed.
      i left you in birmingham, alabama. that night in the days inn had made us very skeptical of the city but luckily we were open minded enough to give it another shot because birmingham is awesome! our first couch surfing host, Alabama Joe, was a blessing. he met us at lucy's coffee shop and recommended we go to The Bottletree for lunch. they have vegan/vegetarian options which makes annie smile. but not only did they cater to her dietary needs but the place just generally kicked ass. i ordered an alabama local brew called Good People Brown Ale. it was not bad, but i wasn't too crazy for it. the place is a resturant/bar during the day and a bar/venue at night. we started talking to david, the bartender, and he quickly talked the place up. he told us the bottletree was the little musical haitas of the south. big tour bands like tv on the radio and azure ray have been through. they have air stream trailors set up in the back for the bands to sleep in while they are in town and the crowd is all local and regular. we bought tickets for ourselves for the show that night, Seawolf, and one for Alabama Joe as a thank you.
 
      
so that night we all went back down to the bottletree for drinks and music. our bartender friend David was off duty so was able to hang out with us. he gave us some eps of the band he tours with (lead guitar) called The Grenedians. seawolf was not mind blowing but it was a great atmosphere to be in and we had a great time talking to the locals. again we were impressed by how friendly everyone was! people seemed to migrate towards us and were so interested in hearing about our story and what was in store.
Alabama Joe is a med student at UAB so we had to get him to bed early. but he set us up on a fabulous couch and said we could use the shower and coffee pot in the morning. thank you so much joe! you are the greatest.
 
the next morning we packed up the car and headed south to Montgomery. Annie's mom had sent her ID to the post office there. the one thing that i just cannot get over about the south is how many ghost towns they are. coming from new york where EVERYTHING is prime realestate and no buildings are just left to sit, it is insane how much... abandonment there is in the south. the entire city of montgomery was like a ghost town. the downtown area was full of empty store fronts. i mean this place was... dead. the one place that was open was a hot dog/burger joint called Chris's Famous Hotdogs. we learned it was montgomery's oldest resturant. Gus and Randy were working behind the counter. Chris was their grandfather and the place had been family ownded since 1917! Obviously I had to get a hot dog with Chris's world famous chili. It was perfection as far as a chili dog goes. We talked to the brothers for a while and when we mentioned how sleepy the town was they nodded and agreed, "yep it's been dead since the 80s."
 
we told them we were headed to Mississippi and planned to camp that night on our way there. they warned us about that particular stretch of alabama and said to be careful. "don't lock your doors so they won't break your windows." this was very comforting. but we headed out anyways.
 
we decided to camp at Paul M. Grist state park. the park ranger said there were a couple RVs camping but no primitive sites taken and charged us 12.50. the park was beautiful and the primitive camp ground were right on a huge lake. we pulled in to our supposed accomidations for the night and before even getting out of the car we realized it was going to be REALLY dark REALLY soon and were weren't feeling being all alone in on this side of the lake. so we drove over to the RV grounds and parked. HA! these RV campers were the perminant kind. the kind with dish satelittes set up outside and a little "home is where the heart is" flag stuck in to the ground. we then attempted to set up our little walmart tent between two of these RV's, which we discovered was one of the smallest tents ever made... it just barely fit annie. the thought of both of us sleeping in this thing was pretty hillarious. but we continued to set it up anyways and climbed in.
i'd say we probably sat there for about ten minutes. then it got dark and we got scared. i am not proud to tell you all that what we did next was... leave... as fast as possible. so fast that we just yanked the rods of the the tent and stuffed the whole thing in the car and hightailed it out of that place. luckily the parkranger gave us our money back. and i'm sure we gave him some nice water cooler chat for his fellow rangers.
so we started to drive. and drive. with Gus and Randy's warnings in our mind we decided to just drive on through to mississippi. by the time we crossed the border i was pretty exhausted. but it was a long time before we saw any signs of civilization. we finally arrived in Oxford, which is where the University of Mississippi is, and pulled in to a Comfort Suites. unfortunally they had no vacancies on account of some football game going on and we were informed that most every hotel would be booked for the night. so do you know what we did? we slept in the car. in the parking lot of the comfort suites. oh yes. this is a true story. at 2:30 in the morning we were woken up by a giant truck parking next to us. the truck seemed to house some less than friendly passangers so we decided to get out of there. on down the road to a walmart parking lot, where we stayed for the rest of the night. can you believe it? i couldn't when i woke up at 5:30 and realized where i was. ha! off to tupelo.

day 4: savannah to birmingham
posted: September 14, 2010
    so yesterday we left the comfort of family and friends once and for all in savannah. the interstates were an immediate turn off and it was very clear we were not going to discover anything about our great country if we were to stick to them. so we veared off road and plugged in a random alabama address to annie's trusty droid phone. and suddenly, everything fell in to place. cruising through small georgia towns and through tobacco country felt so right. this is what we were here for. we stopped for peaches and scuppernongs at a roadside stand. we ate the peaches this morning in our cereal and there is something to be said for the giant georgia peach, it ain't no wives tale.
    the day was ending and as we approached the border of alabama and drove through the town of bowdon, georgia  on H- 166 (local: college street) we spotted a BBQ pit stop with a full parking lot. we figured a resturaunt had two reasons for being packed on a monday night in a small town, a) it was the best place in town or b) it was the only place in town. either way we decided it was a must. and let me tell you, it was GREAT! our waitress Cheree was friendly as we dreamed a southern waitress would be and the food was fried and cheap. i had my first basket of fried pickles and a pulled pork sandwich. annie had a veggie plate with mustard greens sweetened with equal sweetener. Ha! We left full and happy. The whole feast cost us only 13 dollars.
    the sun was setting as we drove in to alabama and we wanted to try out our newly purchased $20 walmart tent so we instructed the droid to take us to a camp ground in Talledega, Alabama. it got dark fast, regardless of the fact that we gained an hour. i was following the trusty droid deep in to the country. "You have arrived," said the droid in the middle of two sprawling pastures. we began to lose faith. we were near the Talledega motor speedway and most of the campgrounds with RV parks rather than tent camping. Birmingham was only an hour away so we fueled up on gas and got back on the road.

    Driving in to Birmingham was, however, a bit disheartening. It's the biggest city in Alabama and a metropolis is not exactly the romantic dream we had on our minds when we decided to stay the night in the dirty south. But we were tired and getting cranky so we swallowed our pride and pulled over at a Day's Inn off the interstate. future travelers beware, 60 dollars a night does not gaurantee a bug free room in Alabama. we were unhappily greeted with a few tiny cockroaches crawling around in the bathroom. but after a class A princess moment we decided to throw a sleeping bag over the bed and power through it. and yes, we survived the night!
    I am just now and even so, just barely, finding my road legs. it's not an easy adjustment for someone who has a certain about of regularity and reliabilty in their lives to give that all up for something so incredibly uncertain and unfamiliar. but i am not finding it as challanging as i thought. new york has built a certain air of skeptisism and untrust in me but i feel it melting already. sitting in a local birmingham coffee shop we were just visited by our first couchsurfing host, Alabama Joe. there is no fear of strangers or preconcieved judgment in the south. at least not so far. perhaps i am diving in to optomism too quickly. but so far so good!
Alabama, show us what you got!
always and all ways,
lila
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huckleberry got a facebook
posted: September 12, 2010
CHECK IT OUT!


day three: savannah georgia
posted: September 12, 2010
tommorrow the real trip begins. savannah has been a nice limbo period between asheville and the road, familiar faces are a comfort. yesterday we stumbled upon a gay pride festival and i was tempted to buy something called "lesbian honey" but decided against it considering i'm trying to be more frugal and at the end of the day, honey is honey, lesbian or not.
under my brothers influence, however, i was talked in to buying an 8 dollar daquari called a "shock treatment," which made me feel a little buzzed and then a lot of sick. but apparently they are quite dear to savannah so i slurped it down. along with too many miller highlifes which you can buy 30 of for 15 dollars here in savannah. this was an exciting purchase. i got to carry them in a backpack around to some radical college parties. "how was the party?" "raw dude" "yeah dude, raw."
it is clear we need to start diggin our way deeper in to this country. today i'm feeling a little nervous, almost scared about the departure tommorrow. not fear of getting lost of fear or being late but fear of not being present. there is a lot out there and i must allow myself to shrug off the cold shoulder new york taught me and really embrace southern hospitality. so this is chapter one.
always and all ways,
lila

Day One
posted: September 10, 2010
It's 8:41 am eastern time. good morning. and welcome to the blog! this is so exciting! annie and i are traveling to savannah, ga today to stay with john, my brother. he is the first stop on OUR trip but huckleberry's won't start until we get to mississippi. and that's where the real fun begins. the car is almost packed. we have a lifetimes supply of gogi berries and almonds, if we were squirrels we would be set for life.
i also assure you i will get the hang of this blog thing. it feels awkward at the moment. stay with me people.
always and all ways
lila

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