23 September 2011


Clarksdale, Mississippi: And hopefully not from the hospital where I died, either. But that's where I am. It's a very nice hospital, as these things go, too. (The hospital where Bessie Smith died is now a hotel here in Clarksdale - room 2, you can stay in it.)

Two days ago my left leg seemed swollen. I ignored it, as one does, and very happily went about my business of touring the Delta. Yesterday morning it seemed somewhat more swollen, but I figured I'd deal with it later. As one does.

After a day of touring I went to Cathead - a truly fantastic store for blues, folk art, books, everything relating to the Delta - and also the place to go for local information. Roger, who runs the place and who makes some excellent documentary films and has written one of the better general introductory books to the blues, suggested a local clinic if I wanted someone to look at my leg.

I did. The very attentive and concerned nurse practitioner sent me to the hospital. I checked in last night and this morning they confirmed deep vein thrombosis - a blood clot, the sort that can break apart and kill you if you don't catch it and take care of it.

I almost didn't go. Last night was the night I was going to go to Po Monkey's - the only remaining rural juke joint anywhere and a place I have wanted to go ever since I first heard about it. I considered the fact that it would probably be a better place to keel over dead than most, but then good sense got the better of me. Tonight T Model Ford is playing at the best juke joint here - Red's Lounge; tomorrow night it's Robert Balfour - two of my very favorite, old and not going to be around all that much longer blues players. But I won't be sneaking out to see them either, no doubt.

Shit. I've got a good bottle of scotch in my luggage here in the hospital room. I wonder what the doctor would think of me having a drink or two?

Anyhow, this is all by way of explanation as to why you aren't going to get much more in the way of posts from the road, at least for a while. (They want me in the hospital for about five days.) Luckily, before this came to pass I did get around some. Here's some pictures and some explanations:

Robert Johnson, the blues singer and guitar player who you know even if you don't think you do - most of his songs have been covered by rock and roll bands and lines from his songs and guitar riffs are impossible to avoid - is reputedly buried in three places. Not because they chopped him up, but because there was some controversy over which was the real spot. I visited all three. The last one of the three is the one that has the best claim to being the real burial place. But visiting all three is a good way to see the area.

After visiting the likeliest real grave, I went for lunch to Hoover's Grocery & Launderette which is in Baptist Town - part of Greenwood - just down the street from the corner where Robert Johnson often played and where he died. Sylvester Hoover runs the place and he was sorry that they don't usually do hot lunches anymore, not since the grocery burned down and they had to move both businesses into the laundry. But, well, he did have some ribs. Do I like ribs? Yes I do.

These were not just ribs. These were a whole new order of ribs, something else altogether. Inside they were dark rich red like the best country ham and they tasted kind of like that and so smoky it was almost too much but it was perfect. Outside they were somehow crisp and crunchy with the right amount of char and rub. There was sauce on the side but it was superfluous. Here's the place and here's Mr. Hoover, and there's the corner where Robert Johnson played and died:

In the course of all this grave visiting I drove around and looked at stuff and took some pictures like usual. Here they are:

No comments: