Date: Thu, 27 Apr 1995 08:51:55 EDT
From: Brad Grissom <BGRISSOM@UKCC.UKY.EDU>
Subject: Sketches toward a WHTUOTR
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <WORDS-L@UGA.BITNET>

Marcia and Brad are back from their journey. She flies back to Pennsylvania this afternoon. When I get my act together, I hope to post some notes and reflections on the journey. For the convenience of those of you who wish to delete or killfile, these notes will appear under the sequential rubric "In the Lobby." That title is a tribute to the great Southerner James Agee and refers to a couple of magic hours in the Peabody Hotel, where Marcia and I sat collecting our thoughts while waiting for repairs to the Rosenkavalier (our vehicle). We nursed our beers and scribbled furiously while all the sights and sounds of the trip were fresh. Marcia was under headphones listening to The Mamas and the Papas; my musical background was schmalzy player piano and the quacking of the Peabody ducks.

Proud to have gone, proud to be back,

Date: Fri, 28 Apr 1995 10:00:47 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby I To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L We covered 2,028 miles (see sketch map below) with an average fuel consumption of 32.9 mpg. The Rosenkavalier required a new tailpipe assembly in Memphis -- normal vehicle maintenance which allowed us a few more hours in The Bluff City, brilliant in late-April glory. FTFs with Words-L personnel occurred in Lexington (ggs, Hannum, and lurker Mark Ingram), Starkville (Natalie and Bernard), New Orleans (Richard Scheidt). Notable by their absence were JAG (that damned elusive pimpernel) and Marty (too late on our return for rendezvous). -----------------> Lexington / / | / | / | Memphis Tupelo | Amory | | | Starkville Jackson <--------------- | | | | new orleans <-----------------------> Pascagoula Overall rating of Marcia and Brad's INTERNET Adventure (on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 the highest): 8.5 Date: Fri, 28 Apr 1995 11:30:16 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby II To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L HOW IT ALL STARTED. There's this fellow in Sweden whose posts I have read with interest for several years. I have even talked on the phone with him once, have audiocassettes of him reading poetry (in Swedish and English), and once skimmed his dissertation. He sent me a message wondering if I might be willing to look after his newlywed wife for a few days. No problem, replied I. Been thinking about taking a late spring vacation anyway, points south, some new territory for me. Soon I begin receiving email messages from one Marcia Elizabeth Booser, of Allegheny College, in Pennsylvania ( They are tentative yet forceful, with notes on her musical tastes, dietary needs, lack of tolerance for tobacco. Arrival and departure dates by air are set. I get one too many reminders to be sure to meet her at the airport, which I do in good order, at 1:30 on Wednesday the 19th. We are to be in more or less constant contact for the next 192 hours. MARCIA AND BRAD BOND. Somewhere in there we become good pals. Hard to pinpoint when exactly, but definitely by the time she wades in the Gulf of Mexico, on Sunday afternoon, because shortly thereafter we have our first spat. But many mutual accommodations have already been made. I have the advantage of reminding her of her husband, and then not reminding her of her husband. Marcia is arresting in aspect: tall and Nordic, shorn blonde hair, a pierced nose whose ornamentation can set the tone of a day. (In fact, I come to be oblivious of it.) The famous shoulder tattoos are hidden by most of the garments she wears. In her personality she is fearfully intense: schoolgirl gigglish one moment, raucous profane the next, then so somber withdrawn it scares you. Ah, the poet has said it better: ...bright and beautiful, in her love and joy and desire, in her pain and hurt and despair. She also turns rednecked heads in truck stops, let me tell you. TORKEL'S PRESENCE. He is never very far. This is not just a matter of all-hours email exchanges and transatlantic calls, which are plentiful. (Marcia's voice in her two languages is a lesson for me: the cooing lilting sound of her Swedish makes me feel like I'm at a Bergman movie, except THERE ARE NO SUBTITLES.) Torkel presides, and it's not the Torkel of Words-L; it's a real-world Torkel, still only imagined by me, but in shocking hunks and colors. In the stacks of the UKy library, Marcia and I hunt for his -Provability and Truth-. The computer warns us it is LOST before we climb the stairs. Memory tells me I'm the one who declared it lost, and sure enough, there is a hole on the shelf where it should be. "Lost books have a way of returning," I tell Marcia in my most stacks- weary librarian's voice, knowing that Wittgensteinia almost never comes back. BRAD'S DRINKING. I went 12 weeks alcohol-free, and got a perfect blood chemistry report on the eve of Marcia's arrival. I will use her visit to see what kind of relationship I can have with my beloved beer. The jury is still out. One day I overdo (Beale Street in Memphis it was), but basically I am never the sodden Brad of pre-1st quarter '95. The ones I have taste very, very good, but there is a sickening familiarity after the fourth one of the day, no matter how well spaced the first three have been. I suspect the outlook is neither as rosy as I would like it to be nor as fatal-glass-of-beerish as I feared. Collective clinical experience seems to point to total abstinence as the best path for me. Lord, what a bummer. Marcia acts as my watchdog on the road, carefully monitoring my consumption, sometimes even taking the last swallow from my glass. No, no, I protest, but she is too quick for me. I confess I even sneaked one or two when I felt I could get away with it, but, guess what, I bet she knew all about it. She's a pretty smart gal. (to be cont'd) Date: Fri, 28 Apr 1995 11:59:01 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby III To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L THE NERD NOTEBOOK. That's what she calls it. Torkel apparently has one too. Mine is a cheap spiral-bound composition book, which I started on Xmas vacation last in Mississippi. It contains random scribblings, preliminary tax figurings, some Tennesse genealogical notes for Nancy Harwood. I hung on to it throughout tax season, and since there are so many blank pages left (mine is a simple tax life), it seems natural to take it along for the trip. When she becomes aware of its existence, she insists on borrowing it daily and participating in epistolary mode. I resist at first -- it's *my* notebook, dammit -- but learn, over the course of our week together, to surrender it to her. Yes! I even answer her letters, because she pouts if I don't. Ha ha, I have the last word in it, and I am the permanent archivist. But what a strange and unBradlike book it has become! I am mining it for these notes. Date: Sat, 29 Apr 1995 11:44:31 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby IV To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L DIEGESIS (die-EE-guh-sis). Gilbert furnished me with one of my personal Spring Vacation themes--something to do with layers of storytelling. Miss Marcia has told her tale in a rather wonderful way (I must say, I cannot recognize all the features of the Brad presented there, but he is a somewhat plausible character); now I will trundle along with the progressive unfolding of mine. Over dinner at the Irish Springhouse, Gib favored us with the short version of his paper on "Hermeticism, Diegesis, and the Narrator as Archivist in Galdos' -La estafeta romantica-", a project whose ideas have germinated over a considerable period of time and, in their own progressive unfolding, marked Gib's ascent to the highest chair in the NCSU Senate. One of the ideas is that there is no narration in the Estafeta--it's just a series of letters, after all--and yet there is--done by the archivist who subtly arranges the letters and gives them headings. As I understand the diegetic puzzle, there is the world out there, the richly quotidian lumps called Shuqualak, Lumberton, or Yazoo City (to name three places I wanted to stop at, but didn't); there is the fictional world in which a tale takes place (with tight or loose ways in which Shuqualak can be controlled); and then there is the world of the narrator, who can be a naive participant or an omniscient observer or anything in between. Add multiple narrators, and you have a fine stew indeed! The five of us around the dinner table, for example. Major Ingram was unusually quiet, but I can vouch for his great stories, like the one about the use of firecrackers to control tentworms. John Hannum was telling a story about going to the races with Gib: the telling was so perfect that he apparently felt no need to follow through with the actual going to. Marcia furnished the magic moment, already faithfully recorded by Gilbert, of getting his goat about sexual innuendo. There I was, wondering whether to chew those poached oysters or swallow them whole. And Gib was at the head of the table, responding to our questions with tales of his humble west Texas origins and the secrets of podium success. (He really is a master, precisely because he works hard at it.) Country club? Not quite. Give him a spiffy hat and he would be quite at home in the Lafayette Club or in one of those boxes at Keeneland with his name engraved on the owner's nameplate. Yep, old-money Lexington, that's how I would characterize his look that night. His own table at the Coach House perhaps. ObBeerComment: Our first encounter with Gib on Thursday was a meeting at Marikka's Bierstube (nicely coordinated by Yours Truly, thank you). Ken Miller should already have received a souvenir beer list signed by the three of us. I went back yesterday to relive the experience and ordered a Hue City, of all things, brewed by the Perfume River in the Republic of Vietnam. Mother of Pearl! Date: Mon, 1 May 1995 06:39:49 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby VI To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L JACKSONIAN DEMOCRACY. The name resonates throughout the South (elsewhere too, I guess)--Jackson, TN; Jackson, MS; Jackson County, whose seat is smelly, shipbuilding Pascagoula; and the famous centerpiece of the Vieux Carre, where we met Richard. Old Hickory tips his hat to the ages there. Richard is tour guide nonpareil, and begins his education of us by noting that the statue's inscription -- something like "The Union must never be sundered and shall be preserved" -- was added by Civil War occupier Gen. Ben Butler as a taunt to the local citizenry. Marcia and I had set out to collect "Proud to be" insignia on the road. I have only three items: "Proud parent of a U.S. Marine"; "Proud bird, no chicken" (of an American eagle); and "N.O.: Proud to call it home". The last one sums up Richard Scheidt for me. He chose New Orleans as his home, has educated himself about it, prizes its exotic features, and has firm convictions about its civic missteps. He walked us around the Quarter for several hours, pointing out the links with Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, P.G.T. Beauregard, et al. His comments have a "it is said that ... but we are at least sure that" quali- fication about them that is most appealing, a candid nod to ambiguity and the mists of history. Richard and his lovely mate Brenda live in the Quarter, where we are taken for a preprandial rest after seeing their first home, opposite the Market. Yes, there really is an "Earl the Iguana", a fearsome creature over four feet long who flicks an all-too-human tongue and bobs his head to signal disapproval. Yes, I was a sissy about Earl. You will understand when you see the photographic record of Marcia rolling around the floor with him and stroking his dewlap. We hit Giovanni's, Richard's default watering hole, where we had a Dixie (Richard won my heart when he informed that a Dixie shouldn't count against my daily tally) and Abita on tap. (Watch for this one in your area.) Supper was at Maspero's, not to be confused with Maspero's Slave Exchange--traditional Monday red beans and rice for our hosts, hearty muffalettas for Marcia and me. It was a rare day weatherwise in New Orleans, crisp and bright. There was no particular reason to hurry our coffee at du Monde, and, indeed, if the road hadn't beckoned, I wouldn't have minded checking out the amateur female wrestling down on Bourbon Street.... Date: Mon, 1 May 1995 21:10:11 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby VII To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L DIALECTAL INTERLUDE. Marcia tried to talk Southern a few times, not without success. One of the successful attempts reminds me of a little story. This probably won't transfer well to text, but I'll try it anyway. We were leaning over the fence meeting the neighbors, Miss Nancy and her two darling daughters Casey and Chelsea and the dog Pixie. An exchange of pleasantries. Marcia's nose ornament that day was a golden disk, in the shape of a flower if I remember correctly. Young Chelsea is about six, already advanced linguistically to the point where she consciously imitates her parents' sayings. Beguiled by Marcia's jewelry, she asked in all innocence, "Why do you have a sticker on your nose?" Her mother patiently explained, "That's not a sticker, Chelsea. Marcia has her nose pierced, just like Mommy's ears." The child responded with the phrase I have heard so often from Nancy, "Oh, Lord!" For the rest of the trip, whenever appropriate, a moment of mirth or a comic setback, Marcia and I would look at each other and exclaim, sometimes even in unison, "Oh, Lord!" You have to imagine it drawn out a syllable or two, and played with a little bit, but still authentic. Marcia has it down pat. Date: Sat, 6 May 1995 00:04:04 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby VIII Comments: To: To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L PET HEGEMONY. This post is for Bernard, in honor of those in his racial-ethnic-cultural cohort who lack Internet access. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- KAY AND CARROLL'S DOGS. (Amory) House dogs. Inky-Poo (dec. 3/95) Tinker (the evil chihuahua; at ca 6 yrs, the de jure matriarch of the clan, but tell that to the yard dogs and they'll laugh in your face) Monkey (not yet fully established in the bed of Kay and Carroll, but getting there, because of pity- inspiring dentition and the usual ass-licking behavioral quirks; this dog hates me, and I hate her back) Garage dogs. (Big) Red (the de facto matriarch, a vaguely Pekinese heart- warmer who has borne the following as well as -- so it is suspected -- Monkey) Gooser Casper (It is said that head-of-household Chipper Carroll lies down and talks them to Little Monkey sleep most every night) Compound-protecting, put-'em-up-at-night dogs. Hobo Legs (Protection only in the sense that they are Blackie practiced yappers and fearsome in aspect; all Maggie of them rescued from mistreatment and sordid Moses futures and accordingly veterinarianized) Lightnin' Hershey Silver (This one shows stranger-loving potential. She and I share a predawn downpour on the 22nd, watching the grass grow from the porch) KAY'S CATS. Chief (Needless to say, these are survivalist felines; Blackie they also have marriage-bed privileges, if they wish) __________________________________________________________________________ MELANIE AND BILL'S DOGS. (Pascagoula) Winnie (house Dachshund, pampered beyond tolerance) The Mud Sprites Nate (after Gen. Forrest, a fightin' retriever) Gus (after Augustus McCray of Lonesome Dove, a lovable dummy) Lucy (after Erwin Rommel's wife, association unknown) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MISS PATRICIA'S DOG. (Memphis) Marcia, do you remember? Bonnie was her name, another Humane Society salvage job. She came out of nowhere to join us in the sewing/computer room during the middle of the flutist reception. A fine Midtown-Memphis dog, named Bonnie because someone else named their matched pair Bonnie and Clyde. An elegant Memphis intellectual lady with a plain brown dog? This will all be explained in the "Miss Patricia" chapter of these notes. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- BRAD, FAYE, AND LEROY'S DOG. (Lexington) Little Black Sambo (aka Torpedo, Sambino di Toropedzie, Sam, Bub, Bubba) Best of show! Miniature poodle. Is Marcia's pal for her three nights in Lexington, even turns in before she does to warm up the bed for her. Foul canine breath the only point-losing characteristic. (Could this be an indicator of some deeper physiological problem?) Date: Sun, 7 May 1995 08:57:07 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby IX To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L PROUD TO BE FROM THE FIRST TVA CITY. The Center of My Universe is the 180 or so miles that the Natchez Trace Parkway meanders gracefully from south of Nashville to the Visitor Center at Tupelo, bisecting my physiographic homeland. To get there from my frontier outpost in Lexington, Marcia and I must negotiate the pretty knobs of the Bluegrass Parkway to Elizabethtown (where George Custer was posted briefly after the War), then the continuous wall of trucks on I-65 through Nashville's freeway hell, and finally the local roads around Franklin, site of one of John Bell Hood's suicidal 1864 assaults against an unbeatable enemy. (Forgot to ask Richard about Hood's postwar years in N.O.!) We eat in Franklin, at Herbert's, a traditional stop for my family and the first of three pulled-pork pit BBQ lunches for Marcia on this trip. I now realize that no homecooked meals, that hallmark of Southern hospitality, were served to Marcia during her visit -- just roadfood and restaurant fare. Marcia is not impressed with the signed photo- graphs of country-music royalty on the walls. Taking a different route, we would have seen some of their palatial spreads in exurban Nashville--just as well we didn't. I don't know a wild plum from a dogwood, but they are blooming in managed but uncultivated profusion on the late-April day chosen for our journey. (We have perfect skies, but rain would have been just as beautiful.) Management is what this National Park Service installation is all about -- the controlled preservation and arrangement of nature, prehistory, and history, presented in an irresistible package. (A new book by Simon Schama, -Landscape and Memory-, apparently hammers home this theme.) The first thing that strikes you as you enter the parkway at its present northern terminus is what a technological achievement it all is, for there before you is a soaring 300-foot bridge. Within a year the park-minded motorist will travel the two-lane above it unaware of its arching understructure (unless the engineers have planned some self-referential vista of it from the curving unfinished road up ahead). You need such bridges because this is the rim-and-basin country of Middle Tennessee, what a net acquaintance of mine who hails from here calls "The Dimple of the Universe." The first pulloff we make (out of literally scores to choose from) is at mile marker 423.9, the Tennessee Valley Divide, a ridge separating the watersheds of the Tennessee and the Cumberland rivers; also the 18th-century boundary of the United States and the Chickasaw Nation. The Harpeth River Valley stretches to the north, the Duck River Valley to the south. The second pulloff is to exit the Trace in search of gasoline, for in my zeal to find a package of that new Jack Daniels 1866 Amber Lager in its trial market area, I had forgotten that I usually refuel in Franklin. No matter -- Marcia gets to see a bit of Dimple backcountry, the Maury County towns of Fly and Santa Fe. But for the Potts Grocery, we might have had to drive all the way into Columbia, home of President James K. Polk. We pass many of the "stands" that used to service 19th-century travelers; e.g., Grinder's Inn, where Meriwether Lewis died in mysterious circum- stances in 1809, and Sheboss Place. Marcia is a Sheboss, I tell her; we both like the sound of that. Stopping at Fall Hollow (392.5), we descend along with the water and, at the bottom, Marcia takes her waterfall shower. I have been painted as a disapproving Enemy of Spontaneity in this matter, but really, I missed the magic moment by looking for the snake Marcia had spotted. Then I was worried about climbing back up out of that hollow. Hey, although nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind. Know what I mean? Ah, the names so richly associative for me as we roll on down the Strasse, to the accompaniment of Bette Midler and Swedish pop stars! The community of Linden, on the Buffalo River, where I lived when JFK was assassinated and the Civil Rights Act was passed. Hohenwald, a German settlement, incongruous in these backwoods. Collinwood, just about the only town you can see from the roadway, a good place to pee or snack. The landscape has become almost marshy bottomland as we near the state line for a 30-mile pinch of north Alabama. We can smell the Tennessee well before we reach it. No mighty river has been more tamed than this one, and Marcia lives on a Great Lake and is moving to the Baltic Sea, so there shouldn't be any sublimity for either of us as we cross it. Yet it feels primordial, and on this day the water is lapping petulantly. We are as close as we will get on this trip to a little place downriver called Pittsburg Landing. Many Aprils ago, in the fields around the meeting place Shiloh Church, there was a powerful bloodletting over some political propositions. I have often said I would like to be buried there, with my unknown kinsmen, but, no, my resting place lies farther south, in ground more recently hallowed. Finally, Mississippi. Iuka, once known for its waters, is nearby. And the highest spot in the state of Mississippi, an 800-foot bump. I point out to Marcia that we are in so-called "hill country", and whine that it's hard to be proud of what passes for hills around here, as the land stretches out flat and arable around us. We cross the Tennessee- Tombigbee Waterway, a project of the Corps of Engineers that gives this region a navigable outlet to the sea. (Yes, Natalie, STOP THE TENN-TOM! SAVE THE WHATEVER-IT-WAS!) We will cross this channel several more times in our travels between Tupelo and Amory, so Marcia and I begin a ritual ("You look to the right, I'll check the left") search for barge traffic. In all my years of traveling this road, I've yet to see a barge, and the record holds. Our final pulloff is at the Pharr Mounds (286.7), where we have a bite to eat and a good heart-to-heart, for Marcia has been entertaining thoughts quite different from mine, it appears. At the end of it, I give her a big hug, for Torkel has told me she is affectionately physical. The backdrop is eight Indian mounds in the middle distance, created in the early years of the first millennium. World without end! The sun has continued its advance unmindful of our dawdling. We exit to Tupelo on Highway 78, the road that Elvis left these parts by. A scoot down Main Street and then on to Amory, where a Pizza Hut awaits us. A trip that normally takes seven to eight hours has consumed eleven. But our first day on the road has been a happy one. =Fire ants can inflict painful bites; do not disturb their mounds. =Poison ivy grows everywhere; avoid any contact with its leaves. Heed the old adage: "Leaflets three; let it be." =Copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes live in the three-state area through which the parkway passes. Be alert when walking. --from the NPS guide to the Trace Date: Mon, 15 May 1995 23:14:07 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby X To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L "TAG DES BIERES". Am 23. April 1516 wurde von Herzog Wilhelm IV aus Bayern das beruehmte "Reinheitsgebot" fuer Bier erlassen -- eine Vor- schrift, an der bis heute mit Stolz festgehalten wird. Sie besagt, dass das alkoholhaltige Volksgetraenk nur aus Wasser, Gerste, Hopfen, und Hefe gebraut werden darf. Andere Stoffe, etwa Suessmittel oder Reis, sind nicht statthaft. An diesem ehrwuerdigen Feiertag habe ich leider nur zwei Budweisers (bei Natalie) und ein Red Dog (auf dem Wege nach Hattiesburg) getrunken. As Travel Director, I had the goal of maximum flexibility within a matrix of givens. On this holiday, what drives Marcia and me is an imperative from niece Melanie to arrive as soon as possible at the Coast, so we hit the road early, with resolve (once she is rousted from her bed, the slumbersome one). All the skies are gray, and it's my turn on the tape deck, so I choose the music from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Somewhat familiar roads to Starkville, since I have been there for Cronings and Goatroasts in recent memory. I do fine, until in Sans Souci City itself I find myself unable to locate the famous South Nash Street. A Bible-toting Yankee on his way to Sunday worship points out the true path -- God bless you, sir! Is The Goddess appeased with our offerings of Necco wafers and fine chocolates? Only time will tell. (You can try the chocolates yourself, in the privacy of your own cubicle or den: write to Pulako's Candies, 2530 Parade Street, Erie, PA 16503. Tell them Forrest Gump recommended their confections to you. "Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get.") I leave the gals alone to get acquainted while I check my email and place a call to my newly discovered (via the net) second cousin, only once removed. Her name is Daisy, if you can believe it, and I relish leaving an answering-machine message addressed to a Miss Daisy. Natalie's coffee and pastries are mmmm-good, but Bernard seems nervous and distracted to me. Rolling on down to the sea. This is new territory for me; what can I say about it? Meridian, home of the Singing Brakeman Jimmie Rodgers (is that right?) and (maybe) Mahalia Jackson. The Piney Woods start around Hattiesburg, moss-laden oaks a little farther south. Camp Shelby, Army surplus stores. The Gulf Coast Highway, no. 49, divided all the way to Gulfport, with a wide vegetated center strip. We have the road more or less to ourselves. I came here one summer when I was 12 or 13, to the Gulfshores Baptist Assembly. In addition to singing the praises of the Lord, I bought a book entitled "What Every Boy Should Know about Sex" and even peeked at the girl's version, also in the bookstore. It was that time of the life cycle when every day brought fresh Revelation. Pascagoula has had a minor squall just before we arrive; water stands in the streets and yards. Bill and Melanie take us to the ocean, and Marcia wets herself in it. Bill points out that Zachary Taylor, H. W. Longfellow, "world-famous artist" Walter Anderson, and Senate Majority Whip Trent Lott all have summered here, but I am retrospectively skeptical, since he also later claims that The Band and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are one and the same. Abuilding in the Ingalls shipyard is a fearsome Israeli warship, under tight security. Was I a little peevish and short with Marcia at the shore? Yes, perhaps I was. It's not that I've forgotten how to live, min {lskling, it's more that I JUST NEVER GOT THE KNACK OF IT. Melanie is suffering from a bad sinus infection, so is exempt from summary evaluation here. (I will mention to Torkel that she has just celebrated her 30th birthday, and that even a doting uncle must reflect that all that pizza has begun to take its, er, toll.) Bill is the surprise for me. Know how you kinda take your kin by marriage for granted? Here he is in his element, Lord of the Manor and so forth. It pleases me that Marcia finds him attractive and clever, because, well, he is exactly that, a man of parts. We go to Biloxi, for supper at the Grand Casino, one of the gambling enterprises that is giving Mississippi an economic boomlet. (The other contributor, surprisingly enough, is King Cotton, selling for over a $1 a pound for the first time since the Civil War. Farmers are rushing to reconvert to cotton, and there are ominous predictions of the inevitable bust.) I feed the slot machines a couple of dollars, chastising myself for not asking Gilbert, back in Lexington, to school me in his system. Coffee and beignets at Mary Mahoney's, at a tempo even less hurried than will be the case in New Orleans. BOOKS I DID NOT READ. I brought along a couple of grocery baggers. William Gass's -The Tunnel-, a novel that cost me a bundle and is pretty much impenetrable, at least on vacation. And the official biography of the Frenchman Georges Perec, who in some weird way reminds me of Tony Harminc. Equally impenetrable. Bad choices, Brad. ONE MELANIE STORY. It is Monday morning; Marcia and I are readying ourselves to do New Orleans. Melanie has the day off (Confederate Memorial Day), but is still puny and will not accompany us. Instead she has decided to cook for Bill. She sits on the kitchen floor, absorbed in recipes. Looking up, she asks, in all earnestness, "Y'all, what is salad oil?" Marcia fields the question, with equally earnest grace. Date: Tue, 16 May 1995 13:40:00 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby XI To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L THE SOUNDTRACK. Available on the Marcia's Moments label. She compiles it after the fact and ships it to me. A faithful transcript of some of the musical highlights of our trip, with several added tunes. Commentary and translation as well, in her beautiful script. She has entitled it "Sunday Night Relief" (Sonntagabendserleichterung), referring to one of our discussions. I believe my favorite selection on there -- don't think the less of me -- is Bette Midler's farewell to Johnny Carson, "One for My Baby, and One More for the Road." I miss her voice, or rather her many voices. The expository one (God, how she must tire of explaining why she's moving to Sweden), the laughing one, the teasing-Brad one. Today is her travel day, flying out of Pittsburgh about 6pm. I got in my farewell call last night to Erie. It occurs to me that just because she's moving to Stockholm doesn't mean I can't ring her and Torkel up in their new quarters in Haninge. Yes, why can't I do that? Isn't this the Age of Telecommunications or something like that? Bon Voyage, Miss Marcia! Date: Sun, 21 May 1995 10:46:48 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby XII To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L HIS HAND IN MINE. Marcia told me at some point that she brought so much recorded music so that she would have a refuge if she didn't like me at all. Well, we got along fine, and ended up sharing that trove. Her appliance was interesting, for you car-sound aficionados: a CD player that plugged into the cigarette lighter, but also required a software- bearing cassette in the regular deck. As navigator in the Rosenkavalier, she handled these transformations effortlessly. On the entire 2000-mile odyssey, she slept not a wink, except for one brief interlude (maybe it was along that boring stretch of I-40 between Memphis and Nashville), and I slipped in some Elvis gospel on her: -His Hand in Mine- (1961; if you have the Amazing Grace compilation, you have this album). Neither of us made further reference to this infusion, but I believe its effect was deeply subliminal. She has this animus about Elvis, you see, and it was not my place to try to change it. But she did consent graciously to visit The Birthplace. We approached Tupelo on the designated day, the 22nd, by way of Plantersville on Highway 6 (I've got maternal connections to faded gentry there, but the money's all gone) and then white-trash East Tupelo, and the site itself. Recent editions of the World Book (in the "Mississippi" article) show the humble shotgun house, built by Vernon, where Gladys bore the stillborn twin and his royal brother. Just two rooms, refurnished meticulously with everyday objects of the milieu and their class (Tupelo has a curatorial gift; see also their city museum if you ever get a chance), presided over by one of the faithful little old ladies, collecting dollar bills. Marcia buys an Elvis Christmas-tree ornament in the giftshop! Not for herself, of course. The Tupelo success story has been well told recently. (Insist that your library buy Vaughn Grisham's -Beyond Boosterism-, published last year by Ole Miss.) We cruise by the back side of the Northeast Mississippi Community Hospital (now Regional Medical Center), where I first saw the light of day. The gold-domed Lee County courthouse and its courtsquare partner the Lyric Theater. Hmmm, I don't think there is a monument to the Confederate Dead there; that will have to wait until Jackson, a few days later. Old niggertown, "Shakerag", has long since been urban- renewalized, but I drive through the housing projects where my granddaddy made his living selling groceries to the underclass. Predictably, I get lost, but manage to reorient and find Magnolia Street, where Nanny lives. 1900 was her (hard-to-forget) birth year. Confronted with news of more progeny from the Itawamba County branch of the family tree, she is not surprised; after all, you live almost a century and you see a lot of cousins. Her recall of names and relationships, though, is uncanny. Last summer, when Emily, Rashmi, the Hannster, and I paid our respects, it was Aunt Mildred in attendance; this time it's Aunt Betty. Later, Marcia will correctly guess her age as 65, but she will always be a voluptuous 32-year-old Betty Ruth for me. I show Marcia the stormhouse in the backyard, a legacy from the killer '36 tornado, defining event for a generation or two. Last week there were killer storms again, and Mildred reports that she and Nanny made their way to the stormhouse. "Fuck Tupelo. I want to forget about Tupelo." --EP, 1957, as reported in Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis Date: Sun, 4 Jun 1995 11:45:41 EDT From: Brad Grissom Subject: In the Lobby XIII To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L BOILED PEANUTS. The road north of Hattiesburg is dotted with produce stands, already in late April selling strawberries from Louisiana. Or so they claim. We pull off at one to get some of those famous boiled peanuts. The owner reaches into his cooler for a sack, but I insist he go out back and get some hot from the vat. A dollar's worth will last Marcia until Erie. (Receiving my money, the man says, "I thank you, my children thank you, my banker thanks you.") One is enough for me, but Marcia loves them. She claims the taste is similar to kidney beans that have simmered overnight, plus there's the added treat of cracking the softened shells with your teeth. In my judgment (often poor, granted), not worth the time and effort required to prepare them for the Hayride. But then, I didn't like the baked clams in Providence either. Jackson was an important Confederate capital (doomed even before Vicksburg fell) and also Natalie's hometown, so I insist that we do more than wave at it from I-55. Besides, it's lunchtime. We pull off onto High Street (was it not?) and drive toward the Capitol. Right at the railroad crossing is an interesting looking barbecue place called The Chimneystation, with some kind of antique miniature locomotive out front. The steam-table fare is excellent, and we grab the last two bottles of Lone Star beer, thinking of Anne Harwell. Bureaucrats from state government also are obviously sure that this is the right place. Marcia discovers that I involuntarily look twice at handsome women in hose and heels, and will tease me about it the rest of the way home. Jackson is a sprawling metropolis of some 200,000 souls, not a bad place to be from. We drive around the downtown briefly. Visible from the interstate as we leave is a big Perkins restaurant. Marcia and I look at each other and go, "Oh, Looord!" The road to Memphis is long and dreaded, but it goes quickly. Highway signs announce the presence of institutions of higher learning, no matter how many miles away they are. We should have stopped at the Casey Jones Museum, near Vaughan. Oh, well. Long about here, Marcia finally gets me to open up a bit, about my hopes and fears and so forth. Pretty routine stuff. Near Batesville, I think about Gerald W. Walton, Interim Chancellor for Everything at the University of Mississippi and noted collector of writing implements. Last summer a Words-L caravan enjoyed his hospitality in Oxfordtown. Hats off, please, to GWW. That caravan approached Bluff City via Elvis Presley Boulevard and the gates of Graceland. Marcia and I plunge right in on 55. You have to be careful here or you will wind up in Arkansas. If we hurry, we can catch the 5:00 promenade of the ducks in the lobby of The Peabody, where the Mississippi Delta begins.