Memphis

Can a person look both fabulous and frumpy at the same time? Yes.

So, I went to Memphis to see Lost Delta Found, a book I acquired a million years ago, inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. It was incredible. Every part of it.

First, I somehow picked exactly the right things to wear. I was so comfortable all night. And the sparkly eye shadow was so much fun. I even put some sparkles on my bottom lashes, though I don’t know if it was obvious to anyone but me. My hair came close enough to doing what I wanted. And, in general, at least it looked like I had tried to do something with it. But please note how one half my head is full of delicious soft waves and the other half is full of frizz that is slightly less pronounced than usual.

So, where to start? The pre-ceremony reception was awesome. I talked for a long time to the leader of Count Basie’s orchestra. Dom Flemon’s wife and I chatted about dresses (her dress was fantastic.) I was trying to find Robert, one of the editors of the book, but I ended up talking to a librarian and, lo, Robert appeared. I told the librarian this was a little like Sun-Tzu’s admonition to wait by the creek for the bodies of your enemies to float by. Wait by a librarian and all book people will eventually walk by.

Robert and I got seated in with the inductees and their families, because we were the book’s family. So, we were in the THIRD ROW! Y’all we sat in front of Bobby Rush! We were directly behind Duck Dunn’s family and in front of them was Joe Morganfield, Muddy Waters’ son. Holy fuck. He was so handsome.

Robert gave a lovely speech inducting the book and talked some about the history of getting it made. He said nice things about my place of employment and my editing skills and then he made me stand up so people could acknowledge me. It was nuts. So nuts and stupid. But wonderful. Sure, yes, clap for me as if I’m in the same league as everyone else. That’s not ridiculous at all.

How is this real life?

I have recently learned that there’s a Jack’s in Jackson and I really wanted that for lunch. But I was about a half an hour too early for lunch in Jackson when I left Memphis. So, I decided I would go see the Elbert Williams historical marker in Brownsville. Only, I wasn’t sure where it was.

So, I stopped at the Delta Heritage Museum and, y’all, not only did they give me great directions, they gave me their number so I could call if I got lost!

Anyway, here’s the Elbert Williams sign.

I hadn’t realized Marshall had looked into this incident. But holy fuck does it make the police trying to cart him off into the night after the Columbia Riots trials ended even more ominous.

Following the lead of the sign, I went out into the countryside to find the Taylor cemetery. I walked all around it and didn’t find a marker for Williams. I doubt there ever was one. It would have just been too dangerous.

But look here:

It’s hard to get a sense of just how huge this place is, but the big picture above is like of a third of it. And it’s really isolated. You go way out in the country. Go until it looks like there isn’t a road, go down that thing that isn’t a road until you come to a tiny round about in the middle of the graveyard.

I had a lot of thoughts about it. One was how brave the Taylor family was to put Williams in their graveyard. I didn’t see any other Williamses in their, so I don’t know if Elbert was family or why they did that for him, but it was so brave.

The other thing is that this cemetery is old, even if it’s not obvious by the stones. I think most of the graves were probably marked by wooden markers, but there are a couple of monuments to people buried in there (whose graves have been lost) who died antebellum. Like in the 1830s.

And I keep thinking about this cemetery compared with the Estes cemetery nearby and just how huge they are. And I know that cotton farming was a lot different than the half-assed farming we had going on in Middle Tennessee, that this land just held a lot more black people than over here.

But I can’t help but feel that something closer to this size is what we should be expecting at the Hermitage or at Fairvue or at Wessington. And we don’t see anything close to this.

Anyway, I guess now we’re back to real life.

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