Thursday, May 14, 2009

DAY TWO: Mediated Memphis

Keeping with the times, this is a heavily mediated trip. For at least as long as the motels have WiFi, I'll regularly be making twit of myself.

Today, we got to Memphis proper late in the afternoon.

The air here is thick, hot and wet.

We saw the mighty Mississippi and many of the city's sociable homeless population. Beale Street was an interesting mix of crash commercialization (W.C. Handy is brought to you by Pepsi) and dire poverty (homeless + tourists + drinking on the street). A friend told me that there was only one business open on Beale Street in 1982, but now it's wall-to-wall blues clubs and souvenir stands, but it still has an air of its former rundownedness.

Of course, it's America so everything is humongous, puffed up with an odd mix of pride, insolence, sloth and decay. At the same time, it is full of wonder and surprises. The world-famous Sun Studios (home of the first recordings by Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and many others) looks isolated, standing on a sharp corner across from a park that has a statue of Confederate hero and KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Even Graceland snuck up on us, its trim immaculately-landscaped plot smack in the middle of a bleak strip of 25c carwashes, chicken shacks, discount liquor stores and coin-op laundries. (We will take the formal Graceland tour tomorrow and wash our clothes in another town).

I hope the Google earth/world people document everything here. I would actually enjoy just reading the Memphis phonebook for the names of local businesses, which to an over-educated semi-Waspish Canadian city boy seem downright exotic (lots of Catfish, Chitterlings and other Southern food names).

In that vein, and in the words of Noel Coward, I like America.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day One: Go! Go! Go!

TODAY begins the research trip I've been promising myself and putting off since 2006 or so. The Big Bucolic Buford Pusser Road & Air Show will take us through Memphis TN > Selmer TN > Adamsville TN > Tupelo MS > Birmingham AL > Montgomery AL > Phenix City AL > Columbus GA and beyond. I know not what to expect or which distractions to avoid or which to embrace (e.g., Conway Twitty's Twitty City is just north of Nashville, near Dollywood, the International Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame, Jackson Tennessee, etc).

The beginning leg of the trip will be rain thunder down from the sky. A rain-soaked rural south might have a primordial quiet violence to it. It would be appropriate, as the thrust of the trip will be to investigate what remains of the cult of Buford Pusser.

As for now, we're trapped in the wiles of Burlington VT and their charming little airstrip. There are aeronautical delays and I'm downloading 20 versions of Del Shannon's Runaway from a music blog and wondering why people shout into cell phones in moments of extreme idleness.