South Bound Blues

Birds navigate the Mississippi flyway in their beautiful victory formation, headed south for the winter.

I sit somewhere between the state of Exhaustion and Missouri. Contemplating a trip to somewhere and nowhere…..anywhere. migration or self-preservation.

The road pointing south for Me. Always south. For no particular reason and for thousands of them. I hear the call .”Old road dog.”

The  plan to drive down a road less traveled but littered with memories and other people’s ghosts. Less haunting that way. A scheme and theme hatched about the same time every fall.

Following the bend of the river road, south from St Louis. Past the brewery, and Soulard’s bars and restaurants. Down to I-55.Through the boot heel. Quickly grab a coffee and dodging “Throwed rolls”, Interstates littered with billboards “ Stuckey’s next exit ,$.99 breakfast”. And ”Walnut bowls exit 210”. Leaving Missouri in the rear view.

Blowing through Arkansas, stepping hard on the accelerator to Cut the corner of the “Natural State”. Change the Cd, adjust the wheel, run like hell. Nothing like a couple hundred miles between the place you leave behind and the place your headed.

One more highway song as you enter Tennessee. “See Rock City” Billboards and Discount tickets, roadside BBQ stands and cheap gas. The sun now noticeably warmer in mid morning Tennessee, open the sun roof smell fresh air and diesel fumes. The coffee now cold competes with the diesel to create a buzz. Drive like a possessed man Kevin.

Memphis at noon. Lunch on Beale Street and a silent toast to Elvis. Glimpse the River as the highway beckons you south headed for the Delta. A musical score on the CD changer, Marc Cohn and Paul Simon’s Graceland. Ironic that two New Yorker’s work’s embody the feel of the region.“The Mississippi Delta shining like a National guitar”.

The Delta glistens and I see road heat rising, creating an optical illusion as the wheels hum music southward.

Stopping on a lonesome roadside to stir dust in the sun and pay homage to the Blues greats from the Delta. He drinks a toast to Rick. “Heres to the blood on the highway.” wherever he may be at the moment, Rick understands. The many who never left, or came back broken and used up. The tale of the Last bluesmen.

Southbound again, the countryside of Mississippi and Alabama a contrasting reality of the “haves and have not’s” in America. Grand plantation homes and acreage, flanked by shacks and squalor.

Roadside vegetable stands manned by older or very young black folk  dot the side roads.Kind warm people are Mississippians, some kinder than others. Either unaware or accepting the socio-economic fate dealt them by the powers that be in their state. Happy and smiling, god fearing hard-working folks. Their speech littered with words of respect and great faith.

A kind nod of the head followed by a “ mornin sir”… or a “god bless” as you buy their vegetables and fruit.I feel guilt and humbled in their presence.

Mississippi and Alabama have a modern version of slavery.And a noticeable absence of young black males in the population. Most either escaped to find work, or are doing time in places like Parchman prison. These folks live the Blues, I just have them.

“ Dat be $6.25 please”. The old woman smiled”. “where you headed son ? “I paid for the peaches and vegetables . “South mam but not sure yet, just driving.”

“Well then you’re not likely to find what you’re searching for, every road ends son. And you got to make a choice.”

A hundred miles down the road as peach pit’s fly from the sunroof, I feel the blues.

From here on a steady diet of Lead Belly,W.C. Handy, Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Billie Holiday.

Down that road “Feeling Mississippi and headed for Alabama, just as fast as I can fucking run.”

Alabama welcomes you with a road sign and it’s heat and humidity, even in September. The Cotton nearing harvest, the roads littered with farm equipment. I dodge them like white bands dodge a Dobro.

Lost in thought and singing badly with the greats. I push on going nowhere fast.

In a trance behind the wheel, two hours later nearing Mobile Alabama, indeed the road ends.

Road signs point left to the Panhandle of Florida, or right for Shreveport, and New Orleans.

I can see the confluence of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.

I turn the car around and head back home. I remember the old womans words.

They were only the Soulard Blues.

 © J.K.Dark


~ by onthedarkside on September 6, 2010.

4 Responses to “South Bound Blues”

  1. Thank you for sharing this Kevin. Felt like I was with you in the car…

  2. I know the ride. Been driving it a long time. Always end back at Hodaks. I don’t mind the ride so much.

  3. Love your writing Kevin. Your writing highlights the transverse nature of most of us that we find hard to express. let alone understand. Guess it’s that time of life where we want to go somewhere-but don’t know where. So we just end up turning around.

  4. Great feel to this work. Hot, humid, sadness mixed with dust. I loved it. I always love the symbolism of blood on the hwy. Well done brother.

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