Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Progress Report: Where's Robert?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It rained all day in Hazlehurst, where I'm staying, so I decided not to walk. I was going to take one day off this week anyway. The next three days are supposed to be clear. After that I fly up to Michigan for the holidays. The goal of making it into Louisiana before my break has gone by the wayside, but that's okay. No hurry.

Today I took care of a few things that will make my life easier in the immediate future. In the car I drove out the next two and a half days of walking, down to McComb, so I won't have to figure that out while I'm driving the motor home, possibly in the dark, after a long day of walking. And while in McComb I found somewhere to leave the motor home over the Christmas break. I stopped in at a place with a large parking lot, called Patten's Metal Express, a purveyor of metal roofing products, to ask if I could leave it there. The guy said fine, but that it might be safer at his church in Summit, the next town north. Besides being in the metal roofing business he's a Pentecostal preacher. Pastor Kenneth Patten. So I will be parking at the New Life Apostolic Church. I told him the whole story of my walk and he was intrigued. But mostly he was kind and generous.

Then I went back up to Crystal Springs, through which I walked yesterday, to visit the Robert Johnson Blues Museum. When I got there I located the museum, in an old building downtown, but it was closed. The sign said only "Closed. Back at 12:30." Nothing about what hours or days they were open. It was about 2:00 p.m. and the place was dark. It had been a store at one time, and the display windows were filled with cheesy silver cloth and poster-sized photos of Robert Johnson, and not much else. I looked in through the glass door and there appeared to be very little inside in the way of exhibits, so I don't think I missed much.

In a way this was appropriate, given the paucity of information about Robert Johnson. There probably isn't really enough for a whole museum--even a little one like this. I recently looked at a biography of him, and most of the book was about his songs and their influence on others, and who had covered them over the years, and about Delta blues in general. The story of his life occupied only about twenty pages, and most of that was apocryphal anecdotal information supplied by contemporaries. A few things are known about him. One is that he was born in Hazlehurst, where I am now. The other is that he died in Greenwood, where I was last week. And in between he became a popular blues guitarist and singer and went to Texas and recorded a couple dozen songs, most of which have become blues standards in the hands of other musicians. Much of the rest begins with "He may have ...." So now I can report that there's a museum dedicated to Robert Johnson that may or may not be open, and that may or may not contain anything worth seeing.

One visitor was not quite so sanguine. Taped to the door, over the "Closed" sign, was a card that read as follows: "Dear Sir, We drove all the way from New York to visit your museum and you just hung up on me. Not nice. Sincerely, Vladimir Radojicic, photographer." I am glad I only drove up from Hazlehurst, eight miles away, and not from New York. I feel bad for old Vlad. On the other hand, I would never drive all that way just to visit a museum about a guy about whom practically nothing is known. Did he think they were hiding some important stuff down here?

The other thing I did today was visit one of those lovely laundromats, this one in Hazlehurst. Compared to the one in Yazoo City, though, this was a palace. You could see the original color of the floor tiles and things were semi-clean elsewhere. Somebody had written "hot" in magic marker above the dryers that had decent heat, and I was able to dry everything I had for only six quarters. However, all the washers were front loaders, so those of you who fret about the danger of contracting diseases from laundry bacteria can continue to worry.


Anonymous said...

I am a blast from your childhood past. Is Jimmy's sister #1 from "Paint it Black" a big enough hint (I signed an earlier comment that way)?

I did have another question--about how many hours does it take you to walk 20 miles?

I appreciate your writing style and how you are detailing your progress. I do miss the maps you used a couple of times early on, so I've resorted to looking up your path on my own. The history and your observations are very interesting. And even though I am one of those Bible-believing, church-going types you like to rail against, I don't take it too personally. As long as you write, I'll read. Hope you have good weather as you finish up your walk and Merry Christmas! /mlg

Peter Teeuwissen said...

MLG: I thought that might be you from the initials but I wasn't positive. So nice to have you reading the blog. Hope you're doing well. I walk at around three miles an hour, but that doesn't count resting and other stops, so it takes me about seven to seven and a half hours to do a walk. I've been having trouble with Google maps lately--it seems to take forever to load, and also to import an image into the blog. I think it might be because the Sprint broadband signal has been weak (I use one of those Sprint cards you plug into the computer). So I know I'm a little behind in the map department. I'll try to get one on there as soon as possible. Merry Christmas to you, too. Are you in Mich. or Florida these days?