A Travellerspoint blog

Memphis (Revisited)

Street Party!

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We drove across the river into Memphis this evening and ran smack dab into a huge street party in and around Beale Street. They were having a music festival downtown, with a different band playing every half-block or so. Everyone was having a good time. They even had some street performers, and a number of Elvis look-alikes, one of whom agreed to pose with us.

We then headed across town to Wild Bill's, one of the best-known Memphis juke joints. Had a hell of a time finding the place, largely due to Steve ignoring the advice of his own GPS unit! Navigating around the sprawling St. Jude's Children's Hospital (on Danny Thomas Boulevard, of course), didn't help matters. But, eventually, we found it. It was in a seedy section of town but, then again, most juke joints are. We got there around 9, but were told we were too early -- party doesn't start until 11! Too late for our blood, but we did go in and order a beer apiece. They started hauling out 40-ouncers (pretty common in juke joints) so we cut the order down to just one and shared it. When you drink beer down here, it's always served with a napkin or paper towel to wrap around it. A cheap cozy!

Back at the hotel we tried to use the pool again - it was a wonderful pool we had enjoyed shortly after our arrival. However, we had just gotten wet when we got kicked out, as 10 pm was closing time. The evening was so pleasant and balmy that we decided to stay outside, hauling our room chairs outside our room and watching the world go by. We put our wet swim trunks on the hood of the car to dry.
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Eventually we had to go back inside, as a crew of volunteers from Greenpeace showed up and started running around us, trying to keep us moist and coaxing us back towards the water. :-)

I'm sure our wives are mortified by this picture and will disown us forever. Our apologies ladies, but we couldn't resist posting it. Once you reach a certain age, you apparently lose all shame.

Tomorrow, Saint Louis!

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Posted by swendl 06:53 Comments (2)

Journey Back to Memphis

With a detour to Shelby

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Sunny and hot today, but the drivin' back to Memphis was fine. Top down, sun tan lotion liberally applied, WROX-AM radio (Clarksdale - "we play only the Blues") on full blast. It was great. We took a side trip off the main highway to Shelby, MS. A couple of juke joints there. Only one was open - the Player's Lounge. There were two fellows skinning catfish outside, getting ready for tonight's feed. They gave us a little demonstration of their art (of course we tipped them well), and had a couple of beers inside this classic original juke joint. Paintings of blues artist's on the wall, and a blues-filled jukebox. Had the place all to ourselves. It was a great detour.

We stopped at Clarksdale, at the Ground Zero Blues Club again, to satisfy Dennie's craving for fried green tomatoes and okra. Met up with Puddin' again - in fact, we bought him an order of tomatoes and he sat with us as we ate and drank. We watched him show his tricks to various people as they walked in - all equally amazed at his wizardry. It was a lot of fun. Our waitress was Christie, a nice young gal. We took her picture, even though she doesn't think of herself as photogenic. Emailed it back to her once we reached West Memphis.

Steve forgot his hat in Ground Zero. As he went to retrieve it, he saw Puddin' hustling down the street with it, apparently considering it a souvenir! Steve flagged him down and retrieved it.

We got several honks from people along the way, apparently enjoying the sight of two middle-aged guys with wide-brimmed hats in a gold convertible, truckin' down the highway. We waved wildly back. Everyone's friendly down heah'.

Checked into the Hampton Inn in West Memphis, AR. Very hot. Wild Bill's tonight. He died recently, but his family plans to keep it going.

Posted by swendl 14:07 Comments (2)

Greenville

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Every trip has a "down" day, and, for us, that day was Greenville. We had a fun sightseeing trip down to Louisiana yesterday before returning to Greenville to settle in.

The problems started quickly - we had trouble with our internet connection, which the hotel couldn't fix. We obviously were able to get the blog entries uploaded at least. The hotel room was adequate, but the tap water was brownish, the air and floors had a clammy feel, and the breakfast the next day was pretty meager. Hey, their pool was nice, and we had a great swim last night.

After that we drove down famed Nelson Street, which, in its glory days, used to be filled with the sound of live music coming from every neighborhood juke joint. Now, however, it's mostly empty buildings, left to rot. Depressing. There was, however, a good eating place down there that came highly recommended - Does Eat Place. It was amazing - they had a security guard out front who helped park you and then watched your car for you while you ate (of course, he would like a couple of bucks for doing so). Doe's was nothing fancy whatsoever. Four walls, some grills, and tables scattered right next to the food prep areas. You walk from outside directly into the kitchen! The waitress told us to reach into the cooler and grab whatever beer we wanted! It's obviously a popular spot because the food was plentiful and great (and a tad expensive). No menus, just a few items to choose from. Dennie had a HUGE steak, I had the shrimp. Both of us got a mound of homemade french fries, deep-fat fried. Probably not the healthiest meal, but the atmosphere was great and we enjoyed it. And the car was in one piece when we came out! I even found a little friend outside who needed some attention.
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The streets down here by the levee are nearly deserted after dark - you could shoot a cannon down the long, empty streets and not hit anything or anybody. Greenville appears to have some "issues". We found the Blues Club we were looking for, but only stayed a short while. The band was out of tune a bit, and it just didn't "feel" right down there. Besides, we were a bit tired. Ain't as young as we used to be, I guess!

Posted by swendl 06:37 Archived in USA Comments (4)

Journey to Greenville

Actually, past Greenville!

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Hi all. We understand you can't see some of the videos. It's a problem with the Fliqz hosting site - it should be resolved soon (we hope) so keep checkin' back. If they don't reappear, we'll see if we can figure out a Plan B.

We're safe and sound in Greenville. We actually cruised through Greenville and headed south, travelling all the way to Lake Providence, Louisiana, our furthest point south. After that, everything is northward bound, towards home.

Had some EXTREMELY hot wings at a nice little place along the lake, on a deck overlooking Lake Providence, which is kind of a part of the Mississippi River. Had a couple of cold ones to wash it down. We couldn't finish them all - those Cajuns know hot sauce! Wow!

At any rate, we back-tracked to Greenville, and are now at the Comfort Inn downtown. We had a nice swim in the pool and are gearing up for tonight's entertainment, which is within walking distance. The Mississippi All-Stars are performing at the Walnut Street Blues Club. It will be tough to beat the Po' Monkey experience, but we'll try!

Posted by swendl 18:10 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Cleveland

Treated like kings at Po' Monkey's Lounge

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There are certain moments in life when it hits you suddenly, like a ton of bricks -- what's happening to me now is unique, and will probably never happen again. That's the way we felt yesterday in rural Merigold, Mississippi, near Cleveland, thanks to Mr. Willie Seaberry, world-famous proprietor of Po' Monkey's Lounge. World famous? You bet - check out this article (CLICK HERE) in the New York Times about Seaberry and his little establishment.

We drove to Po' Monkey's later in the afternoon, just to see if we could find it while it was still daylight. It was deserted - at the end of a long, lonely stretch of gravel road, well off the main highway. A flimsy sharecropper's shack, literally on the edge of a vast cotton field. Out in the middle of nowhere! We got out of the car and took pictures, and that's when it happened! Later, Dennie confided to me that he had sold his soul at the Crossroads in Clarksdale, and now, magically, could play the harmonica like Big George Brock himself! Don't believe it? Check out the evidence...

After Dennie's amazing performance, who should arrive but Willie Seaberry himself, just home from his day job driving tractor. Talk about a friendly, warm welcome! Even though he technically wasn't open for business, he welcomed us in anyway, sold us a couple of inexpensive cans of beer (he pointed Dennie to the fridge and let him serve himself! Talk about trusting!). Willie acted like we were long-lost friends. He is clearly having fun with his newfound fame, and has the picture albums to prove it, which he proudly showed us, page by page. Of course, t-shirts were for sale, and we each bought one, wearing them to the club when we returned later that evening. The shirts were in a box on his bed (his living quarters are just off the dance floor), and he told us to sort through the pile and find our size.

Of course, toy monkeys hanging everywhere. The decor was "Early Visqueen" - very low-scale, nothing fancy anywhere. Had to duck your head at times to get from one little room to the next. An absolutely one-of-a-kind place.

CLICK HERE to see photos.

We came back around 8:30, when the DJ started to play, and by the time we left, after midnight, the place was pretty much packed. We were among just a handful of white folks present - most were hardworking blacks, letting their hair down after a hard day's work, enjoying each others company. The music was great, and the dance floor was busy. Dennie and I played several games of pool on the shakey, worn-out table - the floor of the club was so flimsy that the balls on the table would shake in time with the music and dancer's feet. Didn't hurt Dennie's game any - he cleaned my clock three games, and even beat a local before finally giving it up.

Seaberry treated us like honored guests. He kept bringing folks up to us to introduce us, even a fellow shooting a documentary film out of Memphis. A gal who looked 40 was actually celebrating her 66th birthday, and platefuls of food were brought out for Dennie and I so we could help them celebrate. Willie gave us a couple of beers on the house. The reception was nothing short of amazing. It was one of the most interesting and unique experiences either Dennie or I have ever had. Willie Seaberry sells beer, but he gives away happiness, and we left happy.

Posted by swendl 07:24 Comments (4)

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