Jennifer’s ready to drop some thoughts on our visit to Clarksdale, Mississippi, the city widely felt to be the home of delta blues music.
To Jennifer’s eternal credit, she passed the visit without outward complaint.
April has already shared her memories from our trip to Clarksdale. Here are some of mine:
Kitchen window, Ground Zero Blues Club
Readers, I must tell you: this place creeped me out. I’m from New York, and Ground Zero – problematic and inaccurate though the label may be – only means one place. The blues club opened in May 2001, and so technically came first, but still, despite the delicious fried cheesecake (!), it ranks high on my list of disquieting dining experiences.
I was excited to get out of there and go to the Delta Blues Museum. That lasted for about an hour and three cycles of the video playing in the Muddy Waters cabin. (Keith Richards, what did you do your head??) At that point I had seen everything I wanted to see and thoroughly investigated the gift shop (why does Mississippi not believe in keychain souveneirs??) and April still had half the museum to go. I was kind of ready to claw my face off, so I left Cam and April to their own devices and took myself for a walk around town.
Blues Alley, Clarksdale, MS
Blues Alley starts at the Delta Blues Museum (formerly a railroad depot) and runs more or less the length of the town, and is a useful navigational tool if you don’t have a map. I didn’t have an agenda, either, so I just sort of wandered.
Mini-park, useful for respite from the unrelenting heat
What I discovered, sadly, is that large swathes of Clarksdale are boarded up and closed. Though in addition to the mini-park, I did find a scattering of restaurants, a rock and roll museum (about to close, so I skipped it), the site of the weekly farmers market, and a folk art outlet (still no keychains!) which had some lovely but impractical-for-roadtripping items. After I had made two circuits of the folk art store, I realized the Delta Blues Museum had probably closed, so I backtracked and caught up with my companions. We then stopped at the former Greyhound station for additional sightseeing guidance:
Greyhound station, now re-purposed as a tourist information center
April has already told all y’all about our visit to the Riverside Motel, so I’m going to skip over that part and get to the place that I had been most keen to see: Robert Johnson’s Crossroads.
We had passed it on the way in to town, but, anxious about having enough time in the Blues Museum, we left it for the last stop. As you can see it’s not quite as exciting as the legend would make it sound, though that may be due to the evolution of modern life. It’s hard to imagine a dramatic moonless-night bargain taking place in a busy intersection surrounded by gas stations on streets lined with stripmalls, but the place does have a certain kind of magic just the same.