Yes, I am brandishing a machine gun in the photo at left. And yes, I am against many of the gun laws which make them too available in this country. But I was in Mississippi, y'all! When in Rome and all that. Most of the time, when I tell another west coaster I'm traveling back to Dixie they give me the wide-eyed, non-verbal, really?? Many know my big honey has ties to Mississippi so a family wedding or beach trip does beckon from time to time. As it did this spring break.
University of Memphis is where she kicked some Lady TIger basketball butt, and since I'd never visited the city and there was a cool Aunt and Uncle halfway between Memphis and our ultimate destination, we flew in and out of this historically rich town. Sometimes I tell people the South can feel like another country where they speak the same language—the friendly, take your time language, where the food is much to my liking. While I'm glad I'm not tempted by this fried and sauced stuff regularly, it makes for a fun way to plan one's itinerary.
The first delicious stop was the famous Arcade Restaurant. Located in the historic south of main district, it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places and they tout their reputation as Memphis' oldest diner proudly.
The Arcade has been Food and Travel - TV'd for certain, and has a plaque out front claiming its place in Memphis movie making. Yes there are loads of still photos inside, but I was most impressed with the framed Mystery Train movie poster that's signed by Jim Jarmusch. Did Joe Strummer eat here too? Anyone would be happy with the sweet potato pancakes, sausage, biscuits, gravy, and grits that we devoured.
Across the street is Ernestine and Hazel's Soul Burger. Hard to describe a place that was once a sundry store downstairs and a brothel upstairs. They turn out food but really draws them in for music and the 12 odd rooms up the stairs where the fun really happens. The rooms seem endless, they're full of the old and the random, and I wish we could have seen the place thumping at 1 am. This write-up from Esquire Magazine paints a good picture.
The photo below is taken from the far corner room referred to in Esquire.
Our next stop wasn't far. The National Civil Rights Museum is located on the site of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. Walking up to the building, which I've seen in photos so many times, gave me pause. Such an iconic image.
The museum is incredibly well done. Engaging, thorough, interactive. I will write more about it in another post but I wish every American could visit. It is serious and profound and worth the trip. I took a lot of photos inside the museum that turned out well; below are just a couple.
Gus' Fried Chicken. Gus' Fried Chicken. Gus' Fried Chicken! Did you get that? While my days as a vegetarian are years behind me and I don't recommend fried food to my clients, let's just say I'd have a hard time resisting Gus' if I lived in Memphis. In 2001, GQ magazine rated it 1 of 5 restaurants worth flying to eat in this country.
Plump, juicy and tender—did I get that from some chicken ad? We got our food to go for some al-fresco dining on the Mississippi river. Good thing, because I didn't have to worry about strangers watching me slobber over my food. Not greasy. Crispy outside. Perfect spice. Given a choice of sides we both went with cole slaw and baked beans. Both were down home fabulous and didn't disappoint. I look forward to the day when I return to Gus'.
So how do you work all those calories off? Singing Karaoke, of course. Our evening on Beale Street didn't disappoint. It also doesn't hurt when you've connected with the local friends and they squire you around, bypassing the lines and dodging the downstairs to get us up.
While I don't sing Karaoke regularly, it is a family favorite. We like the private booths in S.F.'s Japantown. And as a lesbian, it's easy to have fun with gender pronouns in songs. I've been wanting to sing this song for ages, and it's always good when you get the song host doing backup guitar during your performance. And I had fans; they were holding up lighters! "I got me a sweet, sweet lovin' woman, and she knows how to treat me righ!" Thank you Grand Funk Railroad.
And thank you, Cyn—we'd been in the place 5 minutes when she slipped the host $20 and I was magically next on stage.
The next day we were headed to the Mississippi Delta for a scenic drive to Grissom Farms. As in Uncle Terry and Aunt Barbara (call her Boo) Grissom and their 3000 acres in Minter, MS. We arrived late in the day (gotta sleep and eat, y'all), had amazing boiled shrimp and steak at Lusco's restaurant in Greenwood, MS (about 20 miles away), and had an amazing night of sleep in cousin Mimi's fluffy bed so we could be fresh and ready to go for our shooting party the next morning.
Simply put, nearly each one of the 10 in our party had to get their hand on that automatic weapon pictured below. For me, I needed a cool photo to show my boys, and I couldn't imagine when I'd get another opportunity. Uncle Terry, who re-loaded and safety-lessoned all the various firearms present like some kind of bartender, is my new favorite human. This is a guy who at 16 was flying himself around the Delta, and had a Daddy who could find him. He had a good chuckle over the females present (4 of us) who were the most enthusiastic shooters of this thing. Below is the profile shot, and I just may frame my target as I did darn well toting this 7-lb baby.
We were flying down Money Road (!) in the rental Mustang when brother Ches, who was hitching a ride with us from Grissom Farm to Greenwood for the wedding, yelled out: "This is where Emmit Till whistled at that woman!" Having just brushed up on my civil rights injustices at the museum in Memphis, it was incredible to simply drive past such a famous spot, located in Money, MS. We stopped to read and snap a few photos before we were back on our way.
We were happy to have nabbed one of the 6 shacks that comprise the dwellings at the Tallahatchie Flats, just outside the town of Greenwood. There are six re-purposed sharecropper homes that function as 2-room cabins with kitchens and bath, and there's also a converted commissary containing a bar on the grounds where the reception was to be held later. We were definitely primed for a fun evening. Greenwood was the shooting location for the movie The Help, and the cast held their wrap party at The Flats. A beautiful tent set for a band and dance floor was adjacent to the commissary and I applaud Molly, the bride, for her great taste in party venue.
This was our shack for an all-too brief stay, named Tush-Hog's. There's some local lore around this house, and Tush-Hog is the name of the man in whose home blues legend Robert Johnson died. I know I can tell you it's a 30-second walk from the Tallahatchie River, has a great back porch, and made a fine post-party location after the wedding reception.
My mother, who some know as a late-in-life-sculptor, is a retired florist and wedding planner. Working for her most of my middle and high-school years, I've been to a few weddings. Molly and her groom were married at 6pm at one of the loveliest churches I've ever had the pleasure to sit in, the Episcopol Church of the Nativity in downtown Greenwood. Some smart planners situated the front wall of the church facing west, to great effect for the beautiful stained glass windows. They were simply glowing during the ceremony as the sun set, and I couldn't resist re-enterting the church afterwards to snap the photo below.
After a fairly relaxed morning after breakfast with the family, we hit the road for our slightly over 2 hour trip back to Memphis. It was a lovely drive through the Delta, bypassing all the historic Blues Trail markers, and while most Americans may have higher priorities on their domestic travel itinerary, if you haven't had the pleasure of touring this country's Deep South -- you pick your destination -- I can wholeheartedly say I recommend it.
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