June 3, 2008
It is Tuesday nite and I am in Clarksdale, which is in the NW part of the state – home of the blues. This is where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the mastery of the guitar, in the crossroads.
Today I was going to leave Jackson and head to Oxford, which is the home of ole’ miss, and William Faulkner, and about 3 hours from Jackson. I think John Grisham grew up there also. I’ve heard good things about Oxford…small university town. Where I slept tonite would depend upon how much I liked Oxford. If I wasn’t keen on it, then I would drive another hour and spend the nite in Tupelo.
I started the day going to the state capitol…which was highly recommended to me. This was correct. The capitol is really pretty, quite impressive. The people there were really nice and let me wander wherever I wanted, even though there were all these signs stating that only people with proper ID could go beyond a certain point. Some people even wanted to join me. At first I thought it was the ol’ “yes you can go there, but I’ll just go with you to keep an eye on you”, but the people who accompanied me seemed to want to answer any questions I had. They were unusually nice and helpful.
I went into the area of the old library and Supreme Court…another area that was off limits per the signage. I got to talking to a woman who is from the delta area. Now, showing my ignorance, I thought the delta blues came from down south….near New Orleans. But apparently the delta part of MS is up NW. So, she was telling me places to explore. Then this really attractive, friendly man with a VERY strong southern accent came up, and he’s from the delta also, and they both educated me. He’s a state rep.
So….my plans changed. I was now headed northwest and going to go to Greenwood and then to Clarksdale [and possibly some other cities].
I didn’t make it to Greenwood because they didn’t have a sign telling me to get off the 2 lane highway to go downtown. I figure if a town isn’t smart enough to inform me where their downtown is, I’ll take my money elsewhere.
I did stop in Yazoo City, which was smart enough to have a sign. It has a lot of really nice houses, but also a lot of poverty. They have a pretty big downtown area [for a small town], which had several blocks of these really cool 2 story buildings. From a distance [of a block or 2] it looks really neat. However, like most of these downtowns, half the buildings were vacant/abandoned. For some reason, it seemed like the outside of the buildings were taken care of, but nothing inside. I see great potential for this little town.
I arrived in Clarksdale. I had asked 5 different people where I should eat [including the state rep], and everyone said Abe’s BBQ…which is located at the crossroads [intersection of 61 and 49]. So…I went to Abe’s. I was hoping they had a bunch of “sides”, including a baked potato, but no. So, I had baked beans and fries. The only veggie items on the menu. It was good.
At dusk I got my bike out to ride around town to check it out in better detail, and figure out where I want to go to eat dinner and listen to the blues. A couple years ago I had read [or maybe it was on “60 Minutes”] that Morgan Freeman opened a music venue here and had quite the draw, but it is closed [except for lunch] early in the week.
The town is 100% dead. It’s a bigger downtown area for a town of this size, and nothing is open. Nothing that I could tell. There would be 5 – 7 cars/trucks clustered together, but I couldn’t tell what establishment was open. And, they were either all trucks, or “beater” trucks/cars. So, even if I could figure out what was open, there was no way that I was going in.
About half the buildings in town are empty. Of the other half, there are about 8 – 10 music/restaurants, and the rest sell “junk”. Thrift stores, or stores called “hidden treasures” and have a whole bunch of pillows in the window.
So, between nothing open, and getting a lot of “hey baby” cat calls from guys in cars just driving around, I decided that it’s best if I grab some fruit at the grocery store [Fred’s] and hang out in my room.
Fred’s is closed [at 8]. Ahem.
I am staying at a very eclectic place. The state rep highly recommended it. It’s called the Shack Up Inn, and they are stand alone log sharecropper’s shacks. There are about 6 of them. And they are decorated…well, with lots of junk from a downtown store.
Oh, and the 2 guys who run the place have never heard of the state rep. hmmmm.
Tomorrow I head for Oxford.