Repent! O Pharaoh’s House

The woman with the “Repent! O Pharaoh’s House” sign was impeccably dressed in a long black caftan with silver embroidery and a black and silver hat, shiny black shoes, and a big silver bag.

She walked past all the booths at the Southern Festival of Books completely disinterested in anything other than showing as many people as she could her sign.

Later on in the day, I sat and watched two women, strangers to each other, singing “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honkey-Tonk Angels” and falling into fits of giggles like old girl friends.

I had a long conversation with some folks from the Oxford American.  I begged them to put out a box set of their CDs, but the rights and permissions is such a headache that it would make that impossible.

Oh, stupid ass music labels, I long for the day when you’ll stop being such ignorant fuckers.

And the weather is beautiful.  Good god.

Oh, and I had wrinkly fries at lunch, right out of the grease, crispy and golden on the outside and fluffy and white on the inside.  I almost went back and kissed the two men in the kitchen right on the mouth.  Because, really, if you can make wrinkly fries like that, you deserve to taste my gratitude.

Oh, my.  That was much sexier than I thought it would be before I typed it.

And I talked to a woman who had once met Sam Phillips. 

 I know sometimes I grouch, but sometimes I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Can you believe that this is my life?

I certainly cannot.

Every day I’m grateful.  Even when it’s hard, I’m grateful.  Even when it doesn’t go how I want, I’m grateful.

And when I have a day like this?  Beyond anything I deserve?

I’m so deeply honored, I can’t even tell you. 

Just a Little While Before Day

I got up early and took a forty-five minute walk through Confederate Park, down to the riverfront and on down to Beale Street, up Beale Street until I hit a church and then turned right past W.C. Handy’s house and came back up to the hotel.

Confederate Park is right between my hotel and the river.  It’s got a big statue of Jefferson Davis that spends his days looking at the ten commandments monument sponsored by the JayCees.  At the base of the ten commandments monument someone has placed a small American flag.  Hell if I know what you’re supposed to make of that–Jeff Davis overlooking the ten commandments and a small American flag–but one could spend a lot of time mulling it over if there wasn’t the river right there just demanding your attention.

And there it is, rolling past, in the early dawn, it’s pink and blue, except for along the far banks, where the mist rises a pale white.  The city is empty, just me and one lone jogger, and the riverboats huddled together at the dock, their paddlewheels all facing out, like a family of sleeping porcupines.  Off in the distance were two bridges and I could hear the noises of the city over my shoulder.

But I think the thing that never fails to amaze me about the river is how ancient and holy and alive it seems.  Maybe that’s why we’re so amazed and insulted when it floods, which rivers do, because we feel like we recognize some shared… something… life.  Maybe we put up our cities along it and think that the river must feel awe in return, that it must look over and see the sun hitting the glass and skimming across the stone surfaces of our buildings and it must wonder at what we can do, the same way we wonder at it.

But the river rolls on unaware.

Or maybe it is aware of us in some way we wouldn’t find so flattering.  Maybe it looks over and sees, hovering just above it, a matching twinkling river of light–from our cities and towns and boats and barges and passing cars and imagines us as so many fish.

Who looks in a river and becomes attached to specific fish?

And if the river overflows its banks and backs up the Ohio or the Missouri, is that an insult to those tributaries?  Of course not.  So why should the river of light be insulted when the river floods or changes course in a way that affects it?  That’s just what rivers do.

Anyway, once I turned back into the city, I felt like the only woman in the world.  It was just me and a slow, steady stream of men in workboots and hooded sweatshirts, with their morning coffees and lunchboxes, all trickling into downtown buildings as part of a ceaseless transformation of the city into someplace people would desire to live.