Erez daily blog day 8/9 12:09 PM September 5, 2008
Back in New Orleans! Just had a late breakfast at ruby slippers and everything seems in order. Except the jungle brush laying in the streets, Zack’s lack of power and the unbearable heat that I had too quickly forgot.
Our last night in Memphis was slow and short, marred by a light downpour that was an apt send off. Trying to kill some time before meeting up with a friend of Zack’s, we stumbled across the Lorraine Motel.
Few things can instantly cut a straight line through facts, memories and feelings in your brain like this place. From a distance it has a vague familiarity to it, and when you find out what it is your disappointed, almost furious you didn’t recognize it instantly, and then you stare at it, and you walk along it and you get angry again, not just for the tragedy, but for helplessness, for lost possibilities, for not feeling more sad. Things you would feel if a loved one had past.
The place has been preserved, King’s motorcade still parked outside, the sign unchanged since that day, as if when it happened the event was so powerful it created a spike during the normal linear passing of time, visible forever in both directions. I snapped pictures, having to wipe the lens from errant rain drops, and now that I am back in New Orleans I feel bad I didn’t spend more time there, I’m not sure what I would have done, no amount of time would have allowed me to get it the way I wish I could. Martin Luther King’s murder is a tragedy that transcends any one person’s understanding of tragedy.
We met up with Zack’s friend at a bar just down the street, Earnestine & Hazel's. I’ve never been to a bar and had so many opinions. Bars are easy, you walk in, you look around, you get a drink and you get it. Let me say that my initial reaction was that the place was a hole, no different than any other hole I’d put my head in, dirty, dark and empty. That’s when little things began to give the place an edge.
Nate examined the jukebox and approved of the extensive catalog of soul and funk, ‘Spirit in the Dark’ by Aretha Franklin was his crowning achievement of a choice, it fit the place perfectly.
I asked the bartender if I could take some pictures of the place for my blog, she smiled crookedly and asked if I wanted to take a look upstairs. Being a sucker for smiles, crooked ones in particular I nodded coyly and followed behind her wondering why I was being coy as this woman was two to three times my senior and not what I would consider an “attractive” woman.
She explained the upstairs was once a black brothel in the 50’s, frequented by Otis Redding, Albert King and other greats. Ray Charles even had a room named after him. (Pictures Above)
While every dumbstruck tourist has probably uttered the expression, I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘if walls could talk’. She mentioned the owner often rented out the rooms to psychic’s who had séances with spirits, I laughed, she didn’t, then turned to me and very severely said, “People say they see all kinds of things up here… I can’t say I don’t believe ‘em, been working here ‘bout 15 year myself and I’ve heard and seen things I haven’t.” She told me I was free to take my time and left me alone. I shook my head and started shooting the place like it was a crime scene.
During this picture here (BELOW), I was leaning against a wall to avoid using flash and I heard something crawling, or scratching or something in the wall behind me. It sent a very specific feeling up my spine, not the worst feeling, but the one right before that one, so I quickly saw myself downstairs.
I thanked the woman who smiled at me, like she knew I had shit my pants up there, or maybe it was just a continuation of our coy exchanges, either way, a pretty memorable experience.
On our way out of Memphis we stopped by weird tourist spot called Mud River, which had a scaled replica of the Mississippi river. It was free and I’d say you definitely get what you pay for.
I started the half mile walk with my arms crossed pretty tight, but by the time we got to the ‘Atlantic’ I had flipped that frown and was splashing and corn holing with the rest of the guys.
Paddle rides were $2, but we found this errant swan, her best years behind her, yes, but a special experience for all. We rode around the model Atlantic and all wondered how many children had pissed in it.
We ran into a Tulane professor who took this shot before launching back into the never-ending lecture his 8 year old was being subjected to. And with that, we hit the road.
I was hungry, so we stopped at a little town called Coldwater in Mississippi, no more than 30 minutes outside Memphis.
“Main Street” looked like a set piece from “No Country For Old Men”, it could have been the 1980’s or the 1950’s, the buildings would not better one’s judgment on such matters.
We had some pretty delicious wings at Deeks, which I was convinced was a front for something not wing related.
I can just see Anton Chigurh walking into one of these places and a car exploding behind him.
Back on the road, trying to stay awake, failing often.
Stopped at a bathroom in the deep south somewhere, this was on the urinal stall, just a reminder there are many differing opinions on things in this great land.
We reached New Orleans by nightfall, confused about the curfew, wondering if anyone was even back, hoping we had power.
The curfew had been lifted, some people were back, some not, and we did have power.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, on top of what I know has been three years straight of such. I’m in awe of this place. It’s like a guy getting his ass kicked so many times he wins just cause he could take it. It’s good to be back where I haven’t been that long.