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A mellowing and meandering trip through this American life. Follow the adventures of Jan, Jack, and Patrick as they take you on a whirlwind trip through Washington, DC's seedy underbelly of cut-rate poolhalls, thrift stores, and temp agencies.

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Thursday, April 08, 2004

April 4, Baton Rouge La.

Muddy Waters was born more than a century ago in Rolling Fork County Mississippi, and the place still has the Blues in a bad way. There is a wrong side of Rolling Fork, where the trailer trash buy busted refrigerators by the dozen at the weekly auction, but we spent most of our time on the other wrong side of town. The two old black guys who gave us a ride there in the back of their pick-up must have known that no one plays live Blues anymore in Rolling Fork, but they didn't stick around to watch their prank unfold.
In retrospect, it's difficult to tell how "Y'all mur-fuckas dun' showed up at the rawng tahm," ever sounded like an invitation to us, but the five fellows, sitting under a tree outside the Juke-Joint drinking whisky and smoking weed, all had big, gold-plated grins on their faces, and Jan was already approaching them, assuming, perhaps, that he had found the modern descendents of Muddy Waters right where he had been expecting them. "Where y'all from?," asked the oldest of the group, who turned out to be a sort of father figure, in the violent, drunken sense of the term.
"Washington DC."
"Then what the fuck you doin' in Rolling Fork?" I gave a number of different answers to variants of this question in the half-hour that followed, none of them creative enough to allay the suspicion that we were Mississippi police officers cleverly disguised as urban hipsters, come to finally put a stop to the miserable whisky party that must have been going on in that very spot for 30 years or so.
"Y'all mur-fuckas dun' showed up at the rawng tahm. Have a Seat."
I did. Jan walked off with one of the guys to check out the Juke Joint, and Pat, inexplicably, went with another one to buy him some beers. The older guy shook my hand, decided my name was John, and started to work up some casual conversation. "If y'all came here when it was dark, we coulda strung you up by y'all necks on this tree here."
His friend chimed in, "Yeah, if Billy was here, he'd take you out back and shoot you with a Uzi. Y'all are cops, aintcha?"
As time went on, the threats began to be mixed somewhat with friendly words of advice and the occasional sip of beer, as well as a lot of talk, apparently untinged with irony, about "good ol' Mis'sippi hospitality." Jan and Pat came back and drank a beer with us, and we returned to the Saab, which ran fine, but didn't have brakes anymore.

We downshifted to a stop at a gas station five miles outside Rolling Fork, and found an auction to check out while the rest of our brake fluid leaked out of the right rear brake line. The auctioneer was a Pro. He wore a cowboy hat and managed to be devastatingly persuasive and utterly incomprehensible all at the same time. " 'Bout twenny plastic cups, different sizes, some red ones, and a nice blue one... Dwaheahwundullahumdullahumdullafiddyhumfiddytoodahhumdah, huuup. Toodahhoodullatoofiddyhumdahumdathrumda, huuup. Soldah sixdulla fiddy cents, numba eighty-two." The gentleman next to us, apparently hypnotized by the unrelenting, feverish rhythm of the humdullahumdullahumdulla, actually bought a rusted frying pan with four big holes in the bottom, for five bucks.

We poured some brake fluid into the empty container under the hood, and made our way, tired and brakeless but plus one broken thermometer (a steal at wundulla even), for Yazoo City.

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