Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gettin’ Juked in Clarksdale, Mississippi

I drive while Bridget keeps me supplied with coffee and Frou Frou serenades beneath a night freckled with stars toward Robert Johnson’s Crossroads. Upon arrival we discover that if by “campground” the map meant “unused train track and parking lot,” then we would be at our destination. Being hobos at ten p.m. in a foreign town with creepsters lurking doesn’t instill confidence in safety. Despite the lack of vacancy at our contingency, the Shack Up Inn, we drive to the property to attempt negotiations to pitch a tent. The Inn was once a cotton plantation, complete with a gin and slave homes which have been converted to cozy cabins. On the porch of one, we meet bearded heroes Grandpa Goose and Crazy Deano, who throw down two couches, showers and Chivas Reserve… in essence, save our lives.

A welcome surprise for the weekend is the Juke Joint Festival- a blues blowout that draws 90-year-old musicians from next door as well as up-and-comers from Australia. During a breakfast of sweet tea, grits and smoke billowing under fluorescent lights at Delta Amusement, we meet Puddin’; he performs dice and card magic with hands weathered by struggle in the South. Afterward, we are mesmerized by Stan Street’s inhales and exhales combined with melodic mouth movement; I never knew the harmonica could be sexy! And by noon we have a corps of Mississippi friends with whom we exchange stories, drink Southern Pecan beer, listen to passionate blues tunes and watch monkeys riding dogs while herding sheep. (Real monkeys, real dogs, real sheep…. Seriously.)

In small-town Mississippi, visitors are old friends they’ve never met welcomed by a wave on the highway, a bed to sleep in or life stories.
I’ll miss you, Mississippi.

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