Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I have really missed writing lately. The NCAA tourney had put everything on hold... reading, writing, movies, the interviews, you name it, it stopped. It is so good to be back at the computer and sharing stories with you. I was a bit down in the dumps this week when I came home Thursday night to find a couple e-mails from Turn Row Books and Murder by the Book. Both e-mails were a heads up for the same event, the Delta Blues Book Launch, to be held on Saturday in Clarksdale,Ms. at Morgan Freeman's, "Ground Zero Blues Club". "Delta Blues" is a collection of short stories by 20 different authors, (12 of whom were in attendance.) The books forward was written by the wonderful actor Morgan Freeman, and it was edited by Carolyn Haines. The short story collection includes shorts from Ace Atkins, John Grisham, Tom Franklin, Michael Lister,James Lee Burke, Beth Ann Fennelly, Charlaine Harriss, and Dean James amongst others.
If you know me very well, then you already know this next fact...I LOVE MISSISSIPPI !! And, you don't have to ask me twice to go there. You throw in books & music and that's a slice of heaven on earth as far as I'm concerned. We left from Carmi, Il. on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. under clear skies, with my wife & mother ready for the 6 hour drive to Clarksdale,Ms. It was smooth driving with Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Tom Russell, and Granny's Intentions pounding out some road trip music.
We soon caught our first bit of luck when we called the Downtown Oxford Inn & found they had just had some cancellations minutes ago. We had tried to find something prior to leaving ( The Lofts & The ShackUp Inn in Clarksdale, Ms., The Alluvian in Greenwood,Ms., and The Downtown Oxford Inn, in Oxford,Ms.) but to no avail. With the hotel now out of the way we were free to stop in Blytheville, Ark, at the "Bookstore in Blytheville", for a bit before heading on to Clarksdale.
We hit Clarksdale,Ms. about 3:30 p.m. and found out there was an event already underway at the old Greyhound Station a couple blocks away. When we walked in there was a press conference under way & they were introducing the authors when we were shocked to find out that Morgan Freeman was there. This hadn't been advertised and was a welcome surprise. Mr. Freeman told the crowd he didn't do autographs but he certainly did pictures. He was patient, kind and gracious to all in attendance. I think my mother however, may have been the most excited person in the place.
The book launch moved over to Mr. Freeman's, "Ground Zero Blues Club" and offered up some wonderful food and the promise of good music & good times for all. The evening got going about 6 pm when the authors took the stage and offered up some pretty good blues music. Nathan Singer sang lead vocals on most of the tunes & hit a home run on a couple of Robert Johnson tunes. My favorite song of the evening was the Robert Johnson tune, "Come on in my kitchen". Singer was backed up by an impressive group of ladies & including Sookie Stackhouse, vampire author Charlaine Harris, Carolyn Haines, Alice Jackson, Lynne Barrett,Suzann Ellingsworth. The authors had fun & the crowd had fun. About 8 o'clock the authors all assembled in the back to sign copies of "Delta Blues" and Tyrus Books donated one dollar from the sale of each book to the Delta Literacy program. Jamie & Ben of Turn Row Books provided books for sale. I had the pleasure of sitting with a delightful couple from England, Roger & Kass who were vacationing in New Orleans and just happen to stumble on this event. Between the conversation at our table and the one I had with author Michael Lister and his lovely friend, I almost didn't mind that my UK Wildcats were getting beat by West Virginia (almost). We headed back to Oxford around 9 p.m. ( a 60 mile drive ).
It was a gorgeous evening in Oxford and we took a leisurely stroll through downtown and stopped in at the always satisfying "Square Pizza" to cap off the evening.
We started our morning on Sunday at the best coffee shop in Oxford ( don't take my word for it, it's won that honor 5 years in a row) and it was a beautiful day. The tulip trees & azaleas were in full bloom...some 2 or 3 weeks ahead of us. We hit my favorite book store "Square Books" around 11 a.m. and the first person I run into is Michael Lister and the second is Roger & Kass our friends from the evening before. We had a grand time talking with them both. After a couple of hours of searching the shelves for treasures ( there are many ) we sat down in the upstairs patio area for tea when Oxfords own humorist Jack Pendarvis walks in. If you've never met Jack, I'll just say that he's a super nice guy, a gentleman, and one of those people who can be funny without even trying. Ask him about a chicken on a stick the next time your in Oxford. Upon hearing we had just read his story in the Oxford American, he offered his apologies. On our way out, it was great to run into Cody Morrison, who helps keep Square Books running tip top. Cody & his wife Katie are expecting a daughter in May and we know this child will be very fortunate to have these two as parents. They don't come any nicer than this couple. The only bad thing I can say about Cody is he's a Cubs fans..but no ones perfect. Running into Cody made our trip seem complete. We made one final stop at Abners, the famous home of the best chicken tenders in Oxford. Then it was time to leave.
It happens every time I go there, I get all melancholy towards the end because I know its time to go, and I don't want to go. I love this place, its people, its way of life. When I get to heaven ..I hope its like Oxford,Ms.
Posted by Rod Norman at 7:04 PM