Chapter 5- Where the Black Folks At? Saturday February 11
Ok, I know the theme for chapter 5 may be considered controversial, but I think you'll understand where I'm coming from towards the end of the chapter.
Today I'll be gallivanting all over Mississippi. In fact I'll be spending alot of time backtracking across the state over the next few days, and the theme for the next chapter will explain why.
I left Meridian in a huff after heading on over to The Daily Grind Coffeehouse and finding out that they're not open on weekends even though all comments on the web noted that they are. Obviously I won't be able to stop for coffee until I get to Jackson and I did at the local chain "Cups"
After imbibing some very mediocre joe. I headed south to McComb home of. The Dinner Bell
Home of the revolving table style restaurant.
For those that don't know, platters of food are set down around the edge of the revolving table. Instead of asking folks to pass what you want, you simply spin the center of the table customarily clockwise until the platter is within reach.
I arrived just in time for first seating at 11am. The Dinner Bell
appears to cater to mostly families and older folks.
The main courses of the day were Fried Chicken, Chicken and Dumplings, Ribs and Sausage.
Here is my first plate.
I must say the sides are exceptional- Clockwise theres a corn muffin, amazing fried eggplant, fried chicken, sweet potato casserole, chicken and dumplings, green beans and squash casserole.
Again I cannot say enough about the sides, the fried chicken was better than average and the chicken and dumplings were really good. I did not get any photos of my second plate since I didn't think a photo of a dirty plate would be very appealing (you are only given one plate) however I chose the ribs which were tough and weren't very good.
I finished off with not one but two desserts.
bread pudding with a fruit topping
and Banana pudding
Both very pedestrian- but then again I had just left New Orleans a day earlier and I had the epiphany of Banana Pudding at Miss Myra's
also the day before.
I was conversing with the folks at my table, some came as far away as Alabama and Louisiana, however it was determined that I traveled the furthest.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the Dinner Bell
and the sides were cetainly second to none. I would certainly return.
From McComb which is in the southern part of the state- I beelined it back up north to Clarksdale however I had to make a special stop in Tutwiler right off Hwy 49.
The downtown area near the train tracks had some really cool murals
As the sign says, Tutwiler is where the Southern crosses the dog
And truth of the matter is when I headed back onto hwy 49, I almost ran over 2 of them that were in the middle of the road.
I arrived in Clarksdale just under 4 hours after leaving McComb.
My first stop was Hicks Tamales
I was in luck because Buffetbuster
told me that usually only the drive through was open,
However the small fast food style restaurant was also open as well.
I got half a dozen tamales.
warm and fresh and still in their husks. I enjoyed these tamales much more than the ones I've had previously at Abe's
I finally arrived at my accomodations for the evening....
Quite different from any place I've ever stayed at
On the outside, the place looks like its ready to fall apart.
The interior actually was quite a surprise. However even though the room has a TV- it doesn't work since cable was disconnected, and that means no Wi Fi also-
I met up with the owner, Rat, a blues afficiondo who has been in the hotel business since the age of 4. His mother actually opened up the hotel in the early 1940's and hosted several famous African American blues musicians.
This is the Bessie Smith Room. She died here after an auto accident in 1937 when the place was still a hospital during segregation.
I believe this is the Ike Turner Room
And we have the JFK Junior Room
Yes, JFK Jr stayed here about 20 years ago.
I even had to get a course from Rat on how to run the gas heating unit that has a pilot light.
This was my room the
John Lee Hooker room. Yes he slept here.
Having some time to kill before dinner I walked over to the juke joint where I would be heading later this evening- The name of the Juke Joint is Reds, and I remember talking to Red on my earlier visit in 1999.
Since they weren't open yet, I headed back to Downtown to take a walk and check out.
The Ground Zero Blues Club
This place is not authentic. It opened up probably a little less than 10 years ago and is what I call the Disney version of a Juke Joint.
I did sit down at the bar and enjoyed a Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Ale, which I had the day before at Weidmann's
. This time it was on tap.
I continued to walk around town, it seems that Clarksdale has certainly gentrified since I last visited but I was wondering if it was in a good way. I did pass the coffee house that I was hoping to visit the next morning. They were open but of course the sign said "closed on sundays". I did go in for a mediocre cup. I was reading the state tour guide that was there and it struck me, there is actually a town called "Chunky Mississippi
After my walk, it was now time for dinner. When I first planned this trip, I had considered re-visiting Doe's
in Greenville, however there were so many other places I wanted to try. Don't get me wrong- I loved Doe's and I hope to re-visit in the near future. However one place that I really wanted to check out is right here in Clarksdale. Ramon's
An Italian (well Italian for Mississippi) restaurant that appears to have been around forever.
As I was talking to the owner, explaining that I came here all the way from Rhode Island and asked what they were known for, a gentleman sitting nearby overheard my conversation, walked over to my table and welcomed me to Clarksdale.
I started out with a salad (sorry no photos)
Moved on to some extraordinary crispy, handbreaded onion rings. (I could only finish half so I can save room for the main course)
Some of the biggest and best fried shrimp I've ever enjoyed. So good that I nearly forgot the side of spaghetti in garlic butter sauce, but considering how amazing the shrimp was, it was worth ditching the spaghetti. Truly one of the best meals of the trip.
After dinner I returned to my hotel befpre walking over to Red's
for tonight's entertainment.
When I walked inside...
I noticed the red hue that permeated the place
But as I looked around
It struck me
It really really struck me!! Where are the Black Folks at??!!
I felt very very uneasy about all of this.
I sat next to a guy who was originally from Wisconsin (accent and all) he looked like someone I expected to see tailgating at a Brewers game-certainly not here! Later on two hayseeds walked in who looked like central casting for Hee-Haw, although I'll admit one of them did play a mean harmonica. Then a tall attractive thin brunette walked in with her boyfriend , They looked like they were ready to hit the martini bar circuit here in East Greenwich(he must obviously have money) she sat down right next to me. I know some would believe I'm thinking- "wow this attractive girl is sitting next to me" no I just kept saying to myself this is so wrong....so - so wrong....What happenned??!! 13 years ago in 1999, I walked into another juke joint (unfortunately out of business) and I was the only white perso there. I must have spent at least 2 hours ore more there and during that time period not one other white person walked in- not- a- one !. Now that was an experience I will always treasure..
And then there was the act for the night.
Lightin Malcolm- even he's white!
I turned to the guy from Wisconsin, who was seated to my right and asked "what happenned?" his reply was "those days are long gone" It's only been 13 years- 13 years- 13 years!!!
All of it was so surreal- I sat for a few hours, I even had 2 32 oz BUDWEISERS ( I wasn't expecting anything good)
and I left .....disillusioned......
I leave you with that.............
<message edited by wanderingjew on Mon, 03/5/12 7:33 PM>