Fear & Loving: Where Sea Level Meets the Deep – a literary blogstory – PART ONE

Midnight Special – through the Deep South: Part 2

February 19, 2014

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driving

Couple more wrong turns. This plainsman / nomad / traveler through life wasn’t getting it right tonight. Dead of night. Poorly or unmarked side roads sliding down into Louisiana. On one wrong turn I saw a cop car idling in an abandoned driveway and you know you can never blink or make any unusual or sudden movements around them.

I was going the wrong way. Had to turn around. I drove miles farther before I finally did. Look straight ahead.  2 a.m. Drive like you know where you are going. A pickup truck had pulled up alongside the cop. They were talking at each other through their open windows. I escaped.

These states, East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Florida … something there is that creeps you out/ causes your wires to be up……. when it should be beautiful. That family man just got his throat slit and ear cut off and they claimed he drug overdosed. Idaho is like that too. By the way.

Been thinking lately: Have things gotten worse? And was there a pause in this hatred in the mid-1990’s (James Byrd notwithstanding)? Why do I get a sense that in parts of the country, things have hardened, become more dangerous since the Tea Party and the election of Barack Obama? My wires are up more than ever. The only place that pall of danger and hatred lurks harder than the Deep South is the outback American West, which is still 1870.

I just drove and drove, drinking my cans of Lemon Elation and Enlighten Mint Yerba Mate that I’d bought at the Whole Foods in Highland Park in Dallas. (Just down from former President George W. Bush’s place.) Yerba Mate is great for the gym, and great for the road when you want to stay conscious and not too loopy. Push yourself.

Finally made it to the Interstate.

Louisiana is a Southern cowboy in a black hat and black button down shirt and black pointy boots throwing up repeatedly in the sink at a Love’s Truck Stop and clogging the sink. Constipated truckers noisily trying to shit behind stall doors. Gas stations selling cracklins and beer, and add-on rooms to the side with red and purple neon signs CASINO faltering in black-cellophaned windows.
I don’t remember much of Mississippi and Alabama, lots of mid-winter dead leaf woods. At stops I saw large-bellied black men in XXXL red or black t-shirts with even larger-bellied white women wearing pink t-shirts while their large-bellied children who could use a brush or comb ran for the Walmart entrance. I got to Mobile, Alabama and the Gulf Coast near sunset Saturday night. Mobile Bay is wide and you drive right across a long causeway.

Feeling like midnight when it was only after 8 in the middle of the Florida Panhandle, I turned on the radio and caught the end of a public radio show “American Roots”. Stopping at a deserted rest area, I shut the car off, but left the radio on. Hanging on to what I was hearing.

leadbellyAmerican Roots tonight had been covering music originating from black men jailed in the South. They mentioned the American folk and blues musician (and felon) Lead Belly and his famed song Midnight Special. The narrator spoke of a notorious 1920s prison in Sugar Land, TX, a town which of course is now a suburban part of the Greater Houston metropolis. Cotton, and sugarcane plantations, lie beneath. Midnight Special was about a train that came through at night in Sugar Land and its locomotive headlight flashed through the prison cell’s tiny window onto the black men’s grimy, humid faces… and they could hear the rumble of that train going free through the night.

“Let the Midnight Special  … shine its light on me… Let the Midnight SPECIAL… shine its ever-loving light on me…” (See previous blog post to listen to the orig track.)

I sat there in the parking lot of the Rest Area by the night freeway. What I think was a tall blackjack oak dripped with very long curling strands of Spanish moss. Some females would love for weaves that long. Blackjack leaves drop in the winter, but during growing season people say they look like the bottom silhouette of the space shuttle. A lone lightpole cast the Rest Area in orange glow. Nobody in the entire world knew where I was. Well besides my iPhone and the NSA. Same set of clothes – old camo pants, blue Old Navy thermal, old blue Adidas kicks. Driving gear. I hate to sit. I stop a lot. My hip (a lady driving out of an Albuquerque parking garage a long time ago when I was walking on a sidewalk fractured it) kills me a lot when I sit too long.

They ended the American Roots program with a cover version of Midnight Special by American rock band John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival. They may not be black, but this jams.

I ended up driving all night again. Time to arrive already. And finally, somewhere by Lake City, FL, the hardwoods and the “normal” temperate nature of America was over, and the dank wet soil and vegetative smells of the tropics had taken over. An East Indian man had to lock up his convenience store/gas station each time a truck or carload of drunk white girls and their boyfriends came to buy liquor in his adjacent Package Store. Waiting for him to come back, I just wanted a jug of water. I inhaled.

The Florida Turnpike took me diagonally southeastward through the hinterlands. Signs warned repeatedly of HEAVY FOG. USE EXTREME CAUTION.

I foolhardily tend to dismiss these kinds of things as worries for other people, because I think of myself as being always aware. (Funny I went 80 miles out of my way the first night huh!) Soon night fog swallowed me like an alien world. I did drive carefully. I have no idea what I drove through. I was so surprised how many hours me and that little silver Kia traveled without coming upon any town or city. Occasionally a couple lightpoles rose up, emitting that orange light, shrouded. I did not want any strange fruit. I drove long through what I believe were swamp and trees, but aside from the fog and the very fresh blacktop of the road painted with a very bright reflective white line down its middle, I actually have no idea of where and what I passed through. A couple service plazas, space outpost domes of orange glow in the thick fog and closed for the night except for the bathrooms and the self-serve Shell station, were the only signs of civilization. It’s true I could have been completely in the dark, but cutting diagonally through the middle of the state, it was almost like most of Florida was devoid of people.

Radio station highway: Creedence Clearwater Revival covering Lead Belly in the middle of a northern Florida night.

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  1. Jarid…I am really liking this! Your descriptives enable to me to see, hear, feel and smell [redirect – don't go there…LOL!!!] elements of your journey. The pics, video and music tracks makes me feel a sense of transference to where you are. Looking forward to Part 3!

  2. Pingback: Nothing Like a Black Woman Grabbing Your Butt to Make Your Day (When the Seas Are Too Rough) | Jarid Manos  /  American writer & activist

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