Saturday, January 22, 2011

Two Months Later

Obviously I took a long hiatus from this Journal. Though anxious to return home, I did take the time to camp out with daughter Eleanor and son-in-law Dan Macken at Earl's Ford on the banks of the Chattooga River-- holy ground for my family and for a generation of Outing Club members.
The next day I drove the bus to downtown Atlanta where I met Charlie Skipper just in time for a get together with Marion Olivier, Nathan Jacobsen, Gerald Prejean, Mary Ayers Griggs, and Otto Hoffpaiuer at a really happening disco, which Charlie characterized as a "meat market." The next day Charlie flew back early while I hung around for an extra day in order to see Lucy Pyle and Alex Elkins, freshmen at Emory University, which, they told me, is more noted for its academics than for its athletics. A standing joke around campus is that if a cheer goes up on campus, a game is NOT being played. They also showed me a statue, in the middle of campus, of Dooley the Skeleton, the well-loved, unofficial mascot of the college. Apparently, Dooley sometimes transmogrifies into a hunchbacked human form and roams the the college grounds, stirring up anarchy and causing the cessation of classes.

I loved seeing our friends, but I rejoiced in leaving Atlanta since I hate that unnatural city only a little less than I hate Dallas. I thought about heading straight home, but Annie Bares texted me from Memphis where she attends Rhoades College, so I headed there, parking the bus on Tutwiler Avenue right across from Annie's dorm after police kicked me and the bus off the nearby Presbyterian Church parking lot. Annie and I did what one should do in Memphis. I bought a bottle of George Dickel Tennessee whiskey; we walked along the Mississippi River; I drank Uncle George while Annie had a Diet Coke. Then we ordered pork ribs at The Barbeque Shop and I finished off the evening with Old Fashionds (Annie HD a Shirley Temple) in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel, which, according to Mississippi cognoscenti., marks the northern end of the Mississippi Delta. (The southern end of the Delta, as everybody knows, is Yazoo City, the best place in the USA to find a wife.
I had always wanted to visit Oxford, Mississippi, since I had heard so much about it from the Tates whose son, ESA alumnus, Scott Carradine, owns Proud Larry's, the best restaurant in town. Also Martha, Bishop Henton's wife's nephew, Richard Howorth, the quondam mayor of Oxford, owns Square Books the magnet for bibliophiles all over the South. So I headed to Oxford; stayed with Scott and his family; visited William Faulkner's house; spent a couple of hours at the bookstore; had a very good conversation with Mr. Howorth (who made a generous donation); had dinner, cooked by the Carradines, with Ole Miss freshmen Brei Olivier and Catherine Supple; had a tour of the Ole Miss campus, given by Brei; and ate a great lunch with Scott and Brei at Proud Larry's the next day before departing.
I've loved the blues since listening, as a boy in the 1950's, on my crystal radio, to disc jockey John R playing Jimmy Reed on radio station WLAC, sponsored by Randy's Record Shop, out of Gallatin, Tennessee. So I drove slowly through the Mississippi Delta just enthralled to be in such a mythological region, singing as I drove along, Howlin Wolf ("Smokestack Lightning"), Muddy Waters ("Got my Mojo Workin'"), Robert Johnson ("Cossroads") and the aforementioned master, Jimmy Reed ("Down in Mississippi," Big Boss Man").
Camped at LeRoy Percy State Park --named after the Senator, now better known as the father of William Alexander Percy, the author of "Lanterns on the Levee." as well as the great uncle of Louisiana novelist and sage, Walker Percy -- near Greenville, crossed The River at Vicksburg the next day, passed by Tallulah, Louisiana, (badly damaged home town of ESA teacher Bill Wood), and took back roads all the way home through fields of cotton, that gradually transformed into sugar cane, stretching out as far as the eye could see as I headed south through little towns along the levees of the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya rivers.
Arriving in Lafayette, I left the bus at the ESA Lower School and walked into town, confident that, for the first time in 14,000 miles and 4 months, no policeman and no irate neighbor could argue with my right to park there.

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