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Draplin Design Co., North America
October 18, 2004
DDC 50: Day 29, Rosedale, Mississippi...
Posted at 09:31 PM


Out of Greenville, leaving behind a good wireless connection (“Spare no expense!”) and up through Mississippi we climbed.

We�re flying through small town after small town, that is, until a little side street in sleepy, little Rosedale catches our eye. We take a quick right that suddenly turns from quaint to �bombed out,� and fast. At the end of the street are a couple of stark, weathered cinder block buildings. At first glance you�d think they were boarded up, due to the run-down neighborhood and overall dilapidated appearances. But upon closer inspection you notice �Open/Closed� signs and hand-scrawled announcements and warnings.

Juke Joints. Run-down and haggard, but still the lively hangouts for the locals. It was mid-afternoon, so the clubs didn�t look open. Folks lined the streets, having a cold one, shooting the shit. Such a different world.

As we hauled up the river through Mississippi, we were sure to keep Lucinda Williams� epic �Car Wheels on a Gravel Road� on the player. The rich lyrics made for a great backdrop.

- - - -

Out of Mississippi and into Memphis, Tennessee. It was raining cats and dogs, so we made a quick stop into the Stax Records Museum. The nine dollar admission was a little too rich for our blood so we waited for the rain to pass in the gift shop, thumbing through Little Milton, Staple Singers and Isaac Hayes records. Love those old soul Stax records�heavy stuff.

The rain passed and we did a driving tour of Memphis, enjoying the array of hand-lettered sign masterpieces and Elvis relics. Graceland was passed with a couple nods. I saw it once back in 2001, and well, that was enough. It smelled of sweat and a million devoted followers� glances.

We did a quick tour of Beale Street, long enough to do a little stocking up at A.Schwab General Store. So many treasures to be found in there. Like stepping back a 100 years.

We decide on meals based on the signs that accompany the establishments. We picked �The Log Cabin� because of this goddamned beauty.

01. “Advance Rubber Stamps, downtown Memphis.”
02. “Beauty salon mastery.”

- - - -

Up Highway 61 we continued, through Dyersburg, into Kentucky, the sun set, and then we passed into the southernmost point of Illinois, a blip on the map called Cairo, (�Kay-row� is how you say it, for clarification.) an important steamboat port in the nineteenth century.

We rolled along the edge of a whopping thunderstorm, coming into a dark, quiet Cairo. We quickly notice a well-lit downtown section a couple blocks over. We pulled off to check it out, as �passing through the downtown of whatever village/burg/hamlet/town you pass through� is mandatory for a trip like this. We come up to four blocks of sizeable buildings, some three stories high. The strip is lit up and bright, but, �dead.� Nothing is open, nothing is anything. The whole stretch is boarded up, decaying, quiet, dead. It was flooring. These beautiful buildings, a memory. We took a couple passes, hung our heads low and hit the road out of town.

03. “A jewel in the Cairo night.”

What happened to Cairo? Three states meet, three different counties. Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois, respectively meet and one would think that sort of geographical convergence would signify a place of commerce and sharing. Did the industry die there? Did interstates kill the downtown? A fascinating, sad little downtown that leaves you with so many questions. You can judge a cities size by the size of the type on the map. Cairo didn�t even get a �bold� weight, whick was surprising considering the size of the downtown and it�s many neighbor hoods stretching out from it.

We made it across the river over to Cape Girardeau, Missouri (�The Cape� as the locals call it.) enjoyed a warm meal and called it a night at the Town House Inn. Nice sign, nice lobby, seemed like a good purchase. The room was another story. A death hole. Ah hell, we�re tough. Let�s give it a shot.

And Missouri, I want the Cards to win. Seeing that Houston three-run-homer in the ninth killed me too.