We spent three days in Memphis. Punctuated by visits to the River to stare out wistfully and imagine canoe-shaped dots on the opposite shore, we were a bit sad.
But Memphis claims to be the heart of the Blues. ‘The blues ain’t nothin’ but the truth set to music’ she sang at the only band we saw -for free in a dilapidated park.
From Memphis, we got nervous in a down-and-out neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city. Then a woman wordlessly bought us lunch at Subway. We got a ride with Mike, the former meth dealer with a shotgun and a kind heart, to Grenada, Mississippi (at least 60 miles out of his way). In Grenada, Dan, a middle aged man, in a pickup truck picked us up and drove us to a truck stop in Winona as night fell. We held our sign up near the pumps in the fluorescent glow of the gas station, but with no luck. We camped behind rows and rows of sleeping truckers.
It was getting dark in Jackson and we were getting worried – when Tsalta, TK, pulled over in his big truck. “Ah, hell, it’s Christmas,” he said “Get in!” We drove into the night, and into Louisiana, with TK and his 40 000 pounds of chicken, where he dropped us off at another truck stop.
We were getting hungry, so we headed into the Skillet at the truck stop and ordered some food and listened to truckers banter from table to table. Some sat there alone, silently, some shot the breeze their whole meal through, shouting across the restaurant about bridges and Bob, who they knew. One of the silent ones left and the waitress came to talk to us. “Hey baby, that man that was sitting right there bought your dinner – and he added room for dessert too. Do you want pie, baby?” Everyone in Louisiana seems to say baby. “Thank you baby” “What can I get for you baby?” “How’s it going baby?”
We camped in a field behind the rows of sleeping truckers, full of cherry pie. Good thing we kept the life jackets – Kevin’s air mattress had a hole in it. Life jackets make an excellent bed.
In the morning we sat in Subway during the Sunday trucker church service and made a new sign “New Orleans,” carefully filling in block letters. Standing next to a gas station, we were picked up by an octogenarian in an RV who just lost his wife. With tears starting to well up in his eyes, he told us he was driving to take his mind off of it. He dropped us off in Slidell where in no time flat a hippie in a Toyota drove us into New Orleans. New Orleans, baby!!
In the French Quarter, our enormous backpacks and bags were stared at. After a many mile walk, we checked into a hostel, two days before Christmas.
Standing next to the Mississippi River in New Orleans, we watched barges go by. The river is wide there and it was windy. I was disoriented – I couldn’t tell which way was south. So far away from our river we had become. We lamented what could have been. But we were also happy for what was.