Thursday, January 2, 2003
Here's a great way to get into print in the Jackson Free Press. Just send us your true anecdotes, short tales and observations from your life in Jackson, or beyond if you think Jacksonians will enjoy your little story. Must be true. Click "Read more" to find submission instructions.
I was excited to find out that Jim Harrison would be doing a book signing at Lemuria bookstore and a subsequent reading at Musiquarium. Not only is Jim an excellent writer, he's an engaging reader and storyteller. One evening I ran into Lauren Garrett, who works at the bookstore, and when she told me she had never heard Jim Harrison's readings, I urged her to attend.
The day of his signing, the crowd had dwindled by the time I arrived, and Jim was telling stories to a small group that had gathered. There in front, leaning forward to grasp every wine-soaked word, was my friend Lauren.
Not wanting to break the mood, I eased my book to Lemuria owner John Evans in between stories to have it signed, left the enrapt group and went up to the Musiquarium to wait for the reading. Soon Lauren showed up, beaming. "I wouldn't miss this for the world," she told me. "He is like the Keith Richards of writers."
I wasn't exactly sure what she meant, but I knew Jim Harrison had won over another fan.
— David L. "Soopah Dave" Myers
One of the most memorable and moving holiday stories I've ever heard is one about the animals at Christmas. My mother, the firstborn child on American soil of an Irish family, told me of one night when she was a child in Arkansas farmland. Her parents and grandparents had come over on one of the many boats that brought the starving Irish to America. They settled in Arkansas and started a farm, earning their living by selling vegetables to the families and tourists that drove down the small highway by their farm.
Late one Christmas Eve, when my mother was only 8 years old, she awoke and crawled out from under the pile of quilts on the feather bed she shared with her sister. Shivering in the cold, she tiptoed to the front porch to find out why all the grown-ups were sitting out there in the cold in candle and kerosene lamplight. My great-grandmother, "Big Mum," looked at her and said, "Cawz it's prayer time for the an'mals, child. At midnight, on the night of Christchild's birth, all of the an'mals bow down on their knees and pray to Our Fat'er, giving thanks for our Savior's birth, and so shall we, child." Then they took my mother out to the barn with them, where she witnessed every cow, every lamb, every horse and sow, bowed in reverence.
As an adult, I can look back at this tale with reason. But I prefer to keep it in my heart with the same child-like awe and reverence I held the first time I heard it. The animals bow in gratitude on Christmas Day, and so shall I. I am grateful for my friends and family and for my life and what it has given me. No matter what problem presents itself, a great moment always comes up to compensate for it, and to make it worth living.
Peace be to you and yours, and may these holidays fill your home with love and laughter.
A funny thing happened the other day at SOMA. I had just gotten there from Etheria, my new store next door to CUPS on Old Canton, where I had been doing some painting. I still had paint all over me and hadn't had time to change my clothes into something more presentable. A woman, about 40 or so, came in and evidently thought I was the maintenance man.
"When are the people that work here going to come in?" she asked.
"I'm the owner," I answered.
"You've got to be kidding. I expected a nice young man or woman to help me!"
— Ron Chane
After years of talking about getting together and playing as a duo, Tim Avalon and I finally sat down to rehearse two nights before the gig he'd booked. I would sing some of the odd songs I'd learned or written over the years and play rhythm while Tim improvised on guitar, mandolin, fiddle or kitchen sink. Just as I expected, even with only one rehearsal, we made a little magic on that first night.
I'd thought of a couple of names for the band but kept coming back to "The Rounders." I remembered the Jimmie Rodgers song "He Died a Rounder at Twenty-one" I'd played on my radio show on PRM, and I thought it fit pretty nicely with the "mountain jazz" we were going to play—acoustic music with Timmy really stretching out on the rides. I also had in the back of my mind that an upright bass would really make our new group complete. And, sure enough, I ran into bass player Bob Pieczyk, who was pretty interested. I had a good feeling.
A couple of nights later, I stopped by Bob's house to drop off a song list before our debut at Hal & Mal's. On the way out the door, Bob said "Oh, by the way, I've come up with a great name for the band." He pulled out a big old dictionary, thumbed through a few pages, looked up and said "the Rounders!" I can't remember if he said he got the name from a novel or just where, but I do remember the remarkable feeling I had.
Oh, yeah, Bob's dictionary said a rounder is "a drifter of questionable character who frequents taverns." Some things just fall right into place.
We had gathered about noon on a Saturday on the lawn in front of the Capitol building to shoot the cover of Issue No. 1 of the Jackson Free Press. About 20 Jacksonians of various ages and races stood on the lawn, dressed in shorts, jeans and T-shirts, most holding signs saying "I vote," a few "I don't vote," while photographer Charles Smith snapped pictures. We talked to security when we arrived, and they were cool with us. After a couple hours we finished the cover shoot, and two of our models, Shannon Buckley and Michelle Coffield, walked over near Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck's parking sign to model shoes for our "United We Stand" fashion spread.
As Charles completed his last roll of shoes, I wandered back toward our cars where a handful of people waited, including art director and Jackson State professor Jimmy Mumford and publisher Todd Stauffer, sipping sodas. Suddenly, a Capitol police car drove up beside me, and the officer, whom I hadn't talked to earlier, rolled down his window.
"Y'all have been here for a while, right?" he asked.
"Yes, but we're about done. We talked to security about it earlier."
"Y'all aren't doing anything weird, are you?"
I laughed. "No, just holding up voting signs."
"We did get an obscenity charge called in."
My eyes got big. "No, we're not doing anything obscene, unless you count those girls pulling their pants legs up to their ankles to show off their shoes."
"Well," he said, starting to laugh. "It was the First Baptist Church that called it in."
As a Jackson native who left at an early age, only to return intermittently as an adult, I had recently been seeking in vain something that would resonate with vague childhood memories I had probably made up, anyway.
So much is gone: Primos, that funky restaurant across from the Baptist Hospital where the waitress knew my mother and grandmother, and—whether you were radical or Republican, Baptist or atheist, ex-governor or ex-convict —Grace always knew how you wanted your eggs. The Jitney Jungle of boyhood safaris for Animal Crackers. Parkins, where you could get a cheeseburger, mail a postcard and refill the Prozac you needed to survive this sordid sentimentality.
These things were on my mind recently as I was driving back one rainy night to the house I sometimes rent from my mom.
After stopping at a convenience store (where, no doubt, I waxed poetic over the passing of the Tote-Sums) I forgot to turn on my headlights and was pulled over by the police.
"Follow my finger with your eyes," the officer commanded.
In spite of a little dyslexia, my eyes seemed to move the right way.
"Walk heel to toe while counting forward."
"One, two, three, oops."
(Allergens down here have always affected my sense of balance. In fact, I remember my pediatric nurse at Dr. Womack's office who … never mind.)
"Four, six, five—"
I was handcuffed and taken to the station.
(Remember back when the precinct was … )
"Breathe into the tube."
Finally, I was unshackled and released. Shaken but relieved, I headed for my house across the street.
"You live there?" the officer asked.
"I think I know your momma!"
For the first time in a very long while, Jackson felt like home.
—Name withheld by request
Now anybody will tell you that black women in Jackson wear the best hats, and, since I'm wild about hats—the more extravagant the better—I wanted to know where they buy them. So one day, determined to find out, I picked out a store that looked promising and went inside. After taking a quick glance around, I could see that this store did not have what I was looking for. They had hats, nice hats, but they were the smallish, conservative straw kind with tightly rolled brims. A young woman sitting on a high stool behind the checkout counter saw me wandering around gazing distractedly, and she kindly asked if I needed help.
"Yes." I told her, in my best trying-not-to-act-like-a-dumb-white-woman way. "I'm looking for a place that sells fancy hats."
She lowered her head, took a good look at me, and asked, "Do you mean church hats?"
"Yes. Church hats—that's exactly what I mean."
At this point, the young woman stood up, took a step or two back and put her hands on her hips. After several long seconds, she said, "Can I tell you something?"
"Yes, sure. What is it?"
"I have never seen a white lady wear one of those hats!"
— JoAnne Prichard Morris
The Diary Defined, and How to Submit
Jacksonians are talkers, storytellers. Maybe we take the time to observe things more closely, to listen to conversation more attentively. Or perhaps we're just always on the lookout for a good story to tell. I guess it's circular reasoning, but it's true. Which reminds me of a story: When the great Mississippi bluesman Son Thomas was asked whether he believed in ghosts, he replied, "No, I don't believe in them, but they're there."
Many of our best stories are just bits of conversations, vignettes of personal experience, small humorous or quirky or unusual events—slices of life the way we live it here. You know what I mean: the little happenings that make you say, "I ought to write that down, so I'll remember it." Now's your chance. The Jackson Free Press is initiating this column—"Jackson Diary"—so that you, our readers, can write your favorite stories about people and goings-on, and we can pass them on. Here are our guidelines:
1. Write your observations in about 100 words (that's about half a double-spaced page. Or go ahead and take a whole page if you need it, but make it good.) Stories must be true.
2. Include your name, address and daytime phone number (required).
3. Upon request, name may be withheld in print.
4. JFP may edit your submission for publication, when necessary, for spelling, grammatical errors, house style and space.
5.Please e-mail submission to [e-mail missing] Or, if you must, mail to Jackson Diary, Jackson Free Press, PO Box 2047, Jackson, Miss 39225.
6. Submissions will not be returned. (So keep a copy for yourself)
Keep reading for a couple of entries to get your storytelling juices flowing. We look forward to hearing your stories.
— JoAnne Prichard Morris