2004-06-02, 4:30 p.m.
How did I miss until now the development of this story?
It incorporates lots of elements I like. (1) Mississippi; (2) The Blues, the kind I like where you have one person and an acoustic guitar; specifically: (3) Robert Johnson; (4) fighting amongst heirs like the real-life Von Trap family; (5) a humble person going from rags to riches; (6) an unexpected twist in the courtroom testimony.
My friend Gregory and I went to see what purports to be Robert Johnson's grave. We were not, like the tourists in the link above, Japanese. But we were really hoping the inscription on the gravestone would be this lyric from his song "Me and The Devil Blues":
You may bury my body / Down by the highway side / So my old evil spirit / Can catch a Greyhound bus and ride
The Robert Johnson legend goes that he sold his soul to the devil at some crossroads (so he could play the guitar of course). I always wondered why you might look for the devil at the crossroads in particular, but when we were driving through those flat flat cotton fields (with me singing "Jump down turn around pick a bail of cotton, Jump down turn around pick a bail a day, Me and my partner can pick a bail of cotton, Me and my partner can pick a bail a day" much to Gregory's chagrin, I presume), we understood where the fascination with crossroads came from - they were (and are) really the only markers in the middle of all those fields. Ahh, the Delta.
You'll often find streets named "California" in and around the Delta, because "California" in that blues-styled parlance meant somewhere really good. Heavenly, even, maybe. That's why in "Sweet Home Chicago" Robert Johnson sings:
Honey, don't you want to go / Back to the land of California / To my sweet home Chicago
Until Gregory explained that to me I had always wondered about that. Chicago being in Illinois and all. Making trips with Gregory is great. He always has things like that to tell. He makes a good narrator. And a good navigator. And he owns the complete Robert Johnson box set which we can listen to at night with the windows down and sunroof open driving through the cotton fields.