Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How Would You Title This?

So I was reading last night, Keith's autobiography, of course, and he was talking about being on the road in the U.S. The Stones spent a LOT of time on the road in the early days and on one tour, had to take their own personal lawyer with them due to problems with Southern cops for whom arresting a Rolling Stone would have been the best thing ever, and a jewel in their crown in heaven, you know, and there was this quote about going into juke joints in Mississippi:

"Oh shit. I could've stayed here for days. You've got to pull out again, lovely black ladies squeezing you between their huge tits. You walk out and there's sweat all over you and perfume, and we all get in the car, smelling good, and the music drifts off in the background."

I wonder who his ghost writer was. Okay. I just looked it up. James Fox. Well, Fox did a great job of letting Keith's voice be the one we hear as we read. I think I am going to truly enjoy this book. A history book, of sorts, for me.
I remember when every cop out there wanted to bust a dirty hippie, put him in jail, cut his hair (and yes, they did that). Dirty hippies. Commies. Girls. Sissies. Draft dodgers. The names were endless. The whole thing so ridiculous.
You didn't have to be a Rolling Stone to be worried when a police officer was following your car. Believe me.

Anyway, those days are long ago and yet, marijuana is still illegal in most states. Isn't that just the most bizarre thing ever? I mean, really.

Here's the way Lloyd looks this morning from the road in front of my house.

When I go to town, I can either go left and take the backroads or go right and then a left at that light to take the interstate. The interstate is faster, of course and I usually take that route. But not always. I'll probably go that way later on today, though, when I go to stay with Owen for a few hours.

I wish there were some juke joints in my neighborhood. One would think there would be. I bet there used to be. Now there are only churches and so very many of them. One after another, some right across the street from each other, small cinder-block churches with signs out front advising us on what the reason for the season is now.
I've never stepped foot in one. My loss, probably.

I've been to juke joints. I've been one of the only white faces in those dark, smokey places, and it was always a joy. I used to live on a road north of Tallahassee which was, at the time, almost entirely inhabited by black folks. Now it's high-dollar real estate and I don't even recognize it but the few times, oh, maybe fifteen years ago or more, I went back and visited the juke joint which was two doors down from where I had lived, people remembered me.

"You that hippie girl."

Yeah. That was me.

That hippie girl who lived with the guitar player with long, long hair and it was just like Keith said, "And then you'd walk in and for a moment there's almost a chill, because you're the first white people they've seen in there, and they know that the energy's too great for a few white blokes to really make that much difference."

And you know what? I've never met more gracious people.

Well. Like I said, I wish there were a few jukes around here. I'd go in of a Friday night, buy a cold, frosty Budweiser, get to know the lady who ran the place so that I, too, could get some great-smelling hugs, maybe do a little dancing, maybe just sit in a chair or stand by the bar, glad to live in the South, so grateful to live in a world where there are black faces and white, where music can bring us all together, where I could have some of the same cultural experiences as Keith Richards did.

And this post is going nowhere and everywhere, too. Here I sit and the road leads off and I could take it if I wanted to Mississippi or Alabama or New York City, even. But today I'll probably only take it to Owen's house to stay with him for a few hours. I am a grandmother but I am also that hippie girl, I am the woman who lives in this house where a candle is lit and I need to take down the Christmas decorations, put the nativity back upstairs in its box, feed the chickens, take the trash, close my eyes and see a dark, smokey room with lit neon beer signs, hear the sound of grindy bass and guitar, the deep molasses voice of someone singing his blues-truth. It's cold outside but it's warm in that room and everyone dances, even if it's such a small, contained dance that it is done with two feet firmly in one spot, only the body moving in time to the heartbeat of those blues, deep in prayer, prayer-tranced, in fact...yeah...

Thanks for the memories, Keith.
I know what you're talking about. I've never been a junkie on heroin but I've been a junkie for the music, for the smells, for the sounds, for the warmth of faces saying, "All right now, you that hippie girl."

And the music drifts after us as we drive down those dark tree-lined roads, always leading home, but able to lead us back again if we could just remember the way.


  1. I always wanted to own a juke joint. Too much trouble, though.

  2. There is a juke joint just up the road from here. I have been in there because Miss Margaret who used to keep house here owned it. Now her son, Junie, owns it. I spoke at Miss Margaret's funeral and was the only white face in the church. I groove on the music. It was a happy and sad occasion. Seeing Miss Margaret all dolled up in her coffin was really hard. This is the South, and there are lots of juke joints around. Some are not so good to go to--people get killed in them over drugs. But the one down the road is just fine.

  3. I'm thinking Bannerman Road but can't for the life of me remember the name of the place. Smitties? Took me back a few...

  4. DTG- You got that right.

    Syd- I've been to a funeral in a black church. I wrote about it years ago. I'll never forget it.

    Scott- Yep. Bannerman Road. And I spent quite a bit of time at Smitty's Club and he was a friend of ours but his sister ran a small juke two doors down from where I lived. Her name was Mabel and the place was called Muzz's. I wonder if Ms. Mable is still with us. She was so lovely.

  5. Yeah, I love this post. And that's one of my favorite of your photos so far!

  6. I can't think about Keith Richards without hearing the old joke in my mind...What are the two living things that could survive a nuclear holocaust? Roaches...and Keith Richards.

  7. More jukin' and less churchin' and all would be swell; both institutions would be better for it!

  8. Ms. Trouble- I am so lucky to have such beauty at my fingertips.

    Kathleen Scott- It's so true.

    Omgrrrl- You know me well.

    Magnum- I could not agree more.

  9. I take things too literally. I'm just thinking how I would title that post. All right now hippy boy?
    I don't know.

    Glad to be back with you. x

  10. I love that there were still people in your juke joint that remembered you when you went back. I have always had an affinity for black folks since we lived in Greenville, SC when I was four and big bosomed blue-black Emily would give me my bath in the kitchen sink. I can still feel those warm hands on my skin.
    Keeses. N2

  11. Weren't we planning to make a juke joint in the barn? It seems like maybe it was one once already.
    I just love this post. I can see everything so clearly. I am so glad you raised us with music always, and dancing.

  12. Feed the Chickens!! I completely forgot!

  13. When I was 19 I saw Keith in a tiny airport in Jamaica. I was wearing a snarky anti-war tee shirt. He said he liked it.

    Totally hot


  14. Mwa- It's okay. You don't really have to title it. You're a love, Mwa. You are.

    N2- I could never live in a place where all of the people are white. It would be like living in a place where all of the trees were the same.

    May- Yes. We were and it's still a good idea except for the part about no plumbing or electricity.

    Amber Elise- That could be the title of my LIFE!

    Michelle- FUCK! Really? Awesome! I know a woman whose friend was in NYC and was out drinking and Keef was there and he bought them all drinks and posed for pictures and they had a great time.
    I will probably never meet him or even see him and if I did, he would not notice me, this old grandmother. Damn.

  15. I love that our lives have and are so different ,
    and yet there are these things that make me want to say,
    oh me too,
    this one time...
    I used to ...

    I imagine if some of us did get together we would just be such a gathering of diverse unique staring out in the same direction soul mates. Like a band . Making music with our collective voices.

  16. Your writing is beautiful. Always beautiful.


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