Belated road-trip post #2: Faulkner’s resting spot to Memphis BBQ spot

Even if you haven’t seen that 1960′s comedy “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium,” the film’s premise is obvious: too much travel over too few days. On our Deep-South road trip, Sara, Anna, and I lived that experience. By late Wednesday, two and a half days after leaving Richmond, The Tisdale Three had driven east-to-west across Virginia, north-to-south across Tennessee, and down Alabama to Birmingham. Then it was west to Tuscaloosa (and the first Starbucks sighting since Richmond despite several SIRI-instigated exits) and into Mississippi to Starkville, and then Nowheresville (actual name, Prairie) where we unloaded Anna’s cargo at her country home for the next three months, and Sara said hello to Anna’s next-door neighbor: a bull. En route north to Oxford, we’d driven through Okolona, motto: The Little Town That Does Big Things Not Much in Evidence. (I added the not-much part.) And we’d seen Oxford, Ole Miss, and Faulkner’s home and grave.

Tradition has it that someone always leaves an empty fifth of Jack Daniels at Faulkner’s grave to honor the man. But as a spirit, I would think he could handle a full bottle of spirits.

Now we were bearing down on our final destination, Memphis, and … hold on, I didn’t tell you about our visit to Faulkner’s grave, did I? There’s a reason why (that didn’t just occur to me, honest): How to explain the strange event we witnessed there.

(Have your interest now, don’t I? What I just did is a writer’s trick called “the hook.” We think of you, the reader, as a fish to reel in. To play along, pick a species of fish to be.)

After driving in circles in the older part of the cemetery searching for the grave, we asked a groundskeeper who consulted another groundskeeper who said, “See those two big trees yonder? Below them, on the opposite side.” We found the entrance, turned in, and there on the rising slope behind those trees was Faulkner’s grave – and supine atop it, a young woman in shorts, T-shirt and athletic shoes.

That’s the first half of the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain story. The other half, on the back of that marker, I guess I’ll never know.

“Look at that woman lying on his grave,” I said, because I often like to say the obvious out loud (a harmless trait except in a darkened, crowded movie theatre where it draws comment). I turned in and slowed to a stop. The woman stood and walked away. Or did she float? No, hah-ha, she walked. She did. I have floaters (laser retina surgery, both eyes, won’t bore you) and one of those floating blobs in just the right light becomes the very figure of a women. And in running attire, too, which is strange, I’ll admit.

Anna didn’t think the woman had been on Faulkner’s grave, but lying beside it. All I can say is I saw what I saw (through my repaired eyeballs). And if I had to guess (and may be about to), that young woman was communing with the spirit of The Great Writer himself, not a runner taking five.

The wolves at the Memphis Zoo didn’t share our excitement about meeting them for the first time.

There was one other possibility besides a solo seance: the mysterious woman was low on cash. Scattered coins adorned the marble slab of Faulkner’s grave. I wanted to read some significance into this, but just as many coins were on his wife’s slab as well as the ground. I tossed a penny – and just like that the explanation for the scattered coins came to me. A good number of them had been tossed by inept throwers like me also trying to land theirs on Faulkner’s slab. (There’s a reason I’ve never won a stuffed animal at the fair.) As for why the coins were left in the first place, we never found out.

Where was I? (By the way, if you’re a reader who might engage me for a writing project, please know that I can stay on topic when paid to do so.) Right, entering downtown Memphis and driving by the city’s shining landmark, the Pyramid Arena. Vacant. Considered a white elephant. But imposing, very imposing. (Advice to Memphis city planners: Do what Richmond did with “The 6th Street Marketplace” on Broad Street: Tear the thing down and move on.) Speaking of plans, ours were to see the Memphis Zoo, take in Beale Street the home of the Blues, do a guiltless drive-by of Elvis’s home, Graceland, and a guilt-enducing drive-by of the National Civil Rights Museum. And all of these activities we did do thanks to our chauffeur, retired Fedex pilot and college classmate Rich Lykins. To impose on Rich for your Memphis trip, shoot me an email.

Maria, Sara, and Anna often tease me about getting food on my face. At other times (as here, at Corky’s BBQ), one of them likes to take a photo. Worse, in this shot the harsh overhead lighting makes it appear that I have little hair.

Some highlights worth sharing? In the zoo’s tropical birdhouse, a Laughing Kookaburra told us his opinion of our presence. Wolves slumbered in their enclosure next to Elks in theirs, the former no doubt dreaming about how to gain entry into the latter’s enclosure. A swimming polar bear did a head-bobbing dance for us. (The “Good lord!” in the audio is your humble correspondent.) And in Corky’s BBQ, voted the best barbecue joint in Memphis, the nicest waitress in the world cajoled me into a combination platter, then a dessert of banana pudding I had no room for half a rack of ribs ago. Corky’s ships worldwide. I could eat those ribs again in a heartbeat.

 

4 Replies

Road-trip Post – Visiting historic Foamhenge

It’s been nearly two days since Sara, Anna and I visited to Foamhenge on the first leg of our Deep South road trip, yet the experience lingers in the mind (thanks to an excessive number of photos we took) of this faux monument to the iconic monument erected by ancient man.

Foamhenge's Flintstone-like highway sign - you can miss it!

The first of several “historic” markers the visitor encounters says that Foamhenge “is a full-scale replica of the mystical Stonehenge of England.” This was good to know. I did not want to confuse this replica with other mystical hengan around the world.

What are the significant difference between Stonehenge and Foamhenge?

Thinking of poking a hole in a Foamhenge block? Think again.

Stonehenge – After considerable lobbying among competing locales, Salisbury Plain won out and work began on megalithic monument around 2950 BC. At the time, there were no rigging companies that moved and lifted heavy objects – the engineering discipline was millennia away – and so 600 to 1,000 men, all of whom had nothing better to do and may have been drugged, dragged stones weighing up to 50 tons from Marlborough Downs 20 miles to the north. It was slow going. So slow in fact that it took them (and needless to say, their descendants for oodles of generations to come) 1,500 years to complete the work. Why was Stonehenge built? No one knows for certain, though there are several theories. Mine? There were no soccer leagues at the time and the early English needed something to worship.

Foamhenge- A construction of modern times, Foamhenge came to be in six weeks time from beaded styrofoam blocks weighing a massive 420 pounds each. More impressively, the blocks came from 100 miles away; and not easily, either. Four – yes, four – trips by tractor-trailer truck were required. Then four and sometimes five Mexican workers assisted the monument-replica maker, a Mr. M. Cline, who at times describes himself as “a crazy white man.”

The Deep South road-trippers at Foamhenge. Left to right, George, Anna, and Sara (who thinks the camera might not be getting her).

If you go - Is Foamhenge a must-see for the curious traveler in the vicinity of Natural Bridge, Virginia? Absolutely. Here are some particulars.

Finding - Foamhenge is well-marked if you’re driving north on Route 11 and have just passed Natural Bridge. If driving south, you will most likely whiz right by but glimpse it on a hilltop to your right. After cursing, you’ll find a place to turn around.

Parking - Parking is generous and muddy.

Concessions - None, but you could picnic at Foamhenge with a modicum of planning.

Bathroom Facilities - None, but woods abound and toilet paper is light to carry.

 

 

 

2 Replies