The Cowboy Junkies were in Franklin, Tennessee Thursday night, which of course warranted a road trip for the Brothers Hogue. (Not to be confused with the Brothers Karamozov – no Russian ties here; except I am a fan of Notes from the Underground, but I digress.)
After working an hour on last minute changes to county ordinance proposals, I picked up R (my brother) Thursday morning in my 4Runner (bc it has the sound system installed by Green Toad Audio) and headed East toward Memphis. Given the light conversation and our common taste in music, the time to the Home of the Blues was short, and I surprised R with a stop at an underground railroad museum. Slave Haven is just north of the pyramid and a few blocks off the Mississippi River. It still has the cellar and passages under the house where slaves would hide at the home of German Mr. Burkle as they traveled north to freedom. Burkle would conceal them in this house for one or several nights, as needed, before he would get them on a barge going up the Mississippi. One of my illusions about the Underground Railroad was shattered as she explained that the runaways weren’t allowed in the actual house because that would be too dangerous. They had to stay in a cellar under the house, regardless of cold or wet weather or creepy crawly things, and they found their way into the cellar by way of some passages through the underpinnings of the house, in the crawlspace under the floor. I honestly cannot imagine the discomfort of slavery, both mental and physical, these humans were in to do this voluntarily to get out of the conditions of slavery. We had a great, knowledgeable guide and the tour was worth every penny.
I asked our guide where to go for the best Memphis barbeque and she directed us to Central Barbeque, just at the back corner of the Lorraine Motel. This prompted another interesting stop for R, as he had never seen the site of MLK’s assassination. The ribs – both dry and wet – at Central are nothing less than what I was looking for.
With full bellies and thoughts of the treasures that the oppressed have contributed to American culture in exchange for more oppression, we hit the road Eastward again. The Music Highway rose to meet us, and in seemingly no time we turned Southeast and then North again, toward Franklin, driving through the rolling hills and among the estates and mansions of the country music elite. When our personal Athena, SIRI, announced that we had finally arrived at our destination, we did the same thing Odysseus would have done – not a selfie – but a pic!
We wandered around the charming downtown of Franklin for some time, enjoying the goldmine that is Landmark Books and then having Fish & Chips, Dublin Pot Pie, and a fabulous Hot Chocolate at McCreary’s Irish Pub.
We finally settled in to our seats in the historic Franklin Theatre to be serenaded by the mostly calm and acoustic sounds of the Cowboy Junkies, from Canada. I am the bigger fan of the two of us brothers, often going to the voice and the mandolin, percussion, harmonica, and accordion of the Timmins family for relief from anxiety and depression. They provided the regular warm blanket, as Margo sipped her hot tea between vocal segments.
I had the pleasure afterwards to meet Ms. Timmins and thank her for her work over the years, and what it has meant to me.
“Music hath Charms to soothe a Savage breast, to soften rocks or bend a knotted oak.” Congreve, 1697. Still true, especially if produced by the CJs.
After a good night’s sleep at the local Best Western, R and I headed to Nashville to find some string stores before heading home. We weren’t looking for the standard music stores, but the places where the big boys might buy and sell. We found a couple:
We couldn’t afford anything there, and I don’t play anything but percussion and beginning cello, so no purchases.
We wandered through Nashville’s Broadway strip like Odysseus trying to make his way home. We were overcharged in the parking garage of Polyphemus, avoided several Cyclops-ish bouncers on the sidewalks, and though hungry and wet in the rain, we refused to be lured into loud clubs by the Sirens.
“Friends, now since there is plenty to eat and to drink in the swift ship,
let us hold off from the cattle, lest something of evil we suffer;
these are the cattle and great fat sheep of a god to be dreaded,
Helios, who looks down over all things, listens to all things.’ (Merrill, 345, 2002).
We finally decided to break free from Nashville and head west to the open road and dinner in Memphis. The flagship of Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken was there for us when we needed it.
Definitely a hole in the wall joint, but that’s my favorite kind.
We drove through the fog and dark rain back home to central Arkansas, enjoying the sounds of the Junkies and Radiohead, who IMHO should consider a collaboration. Just sayin.