Monday, June 18, 2007

Jezebella on tour: Greenville, MS

It's a long way to the ass-end of the Delta: Greenville. It's on the Arkansas border, right on the Mississippi River, and it's a solid four hours from me. I didn't take any pictures, but I can recommend a visit to the Greenville Arts Council to visit their gallery, and their freshly restored, century-old carousel, which is just gorgeous. It's been restored to function, but it's only open a few hours a day.

On Friday night, I ate at Fermo's, which had fantastic eggplant parmesan, a civilized wine list, and home-made fried cheese that was spectacular (not that Sysco fried-cheese-stick stuff). Alas, it being a small town, they were vacuuming and stacking chairs at 9:fucking:20 PM, while we were still seated. Tres gauche.

On my way out of town, I took a ride over to see the new - but not yet open - Greenville Bridge over the Mississippi. It's a fine-looking bridge. The old bridge is a fairly alarming, narrow, two-laned thing. I'd bet it's an old WPA project, it's that narrow. Nonetheless, it gives a great view of the new bridge, and the river really is gorgeous there. It being the Delta, the river is not controlled by levees. This allows for river expansion and silt spread, which is the reason for that rich dark farming ground all over the Delta. Corn, soybeans, and catfish farms are your main scenery up Highway 49W and across 82. It's okay for a while, but then it just gets boring.

Greenville is a bit grim in that broke-down southern town way, but the Arts Council is doing a good job of keeping the community filled with theater, visual arts, and so forth. Some of the older houses are being kept up, but a lot of houses with amazing bones are being let go to hell.

Greenville does have a real live independent bookstore, the McCormick Book Inn. Their emphasis is Mississippi writers and info, plus they have a big children's section. The back room is a kind of de facto Greenville History Museum, featuring books, postcards, and memorabilia from the town. I wanted to have a chat with the owner about the damaging effects of flourescent light on vintage paper & photographs, but I decided to let it be. He's doing a community service by keeping that stuff in his commercial establishment as it is.

Greenville, by the way, has brown water. When I checked into my hotel, I thought someone had left piss in the toilet. Seriously. Turns out the water is brown everywhere, and they claim it's perfectly safe, and there are signs in every single bathroom in town addressing the issue. Ooookay, whatever. It kind of freaked me out.

On my way home I stopped in Leland to visit the Highway 61 Blues Museum. I'll be honest with you: those guys NEED your five bucks. They've got memorabilia, a temporary exhibit of blues musician photos - a lot of Son Thomas and BB King - and I hear their festival is quite fine. Why do they need your five bucks? Because, holy crap, they need some damn air conditioning. Whew. They do have good t-shirts and posters, and they're doing a decent job considering their limited resources. I do believe you would find some truly down-home Delta Blues jam sessions there during festival weekend, if you can take the heat.

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