Connie’s Fried Chicken and the Kindness of Strangers

Apparently I am a total cliche, so I’m taking the first of the year as an opportunity to take some writing classes and try out some new techniques. Below is one of my first stabs at one of them. 

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20161230_202631_001The smell of deep fryers and a hint of sweetness hang in the air with the din of conversation as we line up behind 10 or so other hungry people at the dingy beige counter. Overhead is a menu board offering “BREAKFAST (with gravy)”.

It is New Years Eve and we’re in Connie’s Fried Chicken in Tupelo, Mississippi and we’re here in search of biscuits and gravy. We’re in town on an overnight pit stop on a journey to Clarksdale for a holiday weekend of blues and barbeque. I settled on Connie’s after stumbling upon beautiful pictures of fried chicken on one of several travel sites that I read obsessively and was immediately in love.

“Oh my god, look at those doughnuts. Can we move to Tupelo?”

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Mississpippi Blues Scavanger Hunt – Our Grandma’s Pancake House – Clarksdale, MS

20160415_081327Our Grandma’s House of Pancakes
115 /117 3rd St
Clarksdale, MS 38614

N 34° 12′ 5.449”
W 90° 34′ 27.324”

I went to the Mississippi Delta more than a month ago but I still can’t stop thinking about it. I’m so smitten with the place. I find little reminders everywhere, like this morning at breakfast. Rosie (my roommate/BFF/frequent travel companion) and I went to breakfast and sat at the counter to watch the cook while we ate out chicken and waffles. She was flipping some glorious looking pancakes and my first through was, “I want to go back to Our Grandma’s House of Pancakes” in Clarksdale.

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Memphis Minnie – New Hope M.B. Church – Walls, MS

minnie2New Hope Missionary Baptist Church
7564 Norfolk Rd, Walls, MS 38680

N 34° 57′ 45.606”
W 90° 11′ 4.432′

It’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting or wanting the Mississippi Delta to be frozen in time so that you can have a very specific experience. Just look at almost any depiction of it in popular culture. As Anthony Bourdain pointed out in his episode of Parts Unknown there, it’s reductive, insulting, and damaging to the area.

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Mississippi Blues Scavenger Hunt – The Hollywood Cafe

hollywoodcafeThe Hollywood Café
1585 Old Commerce Rd
Robinsonville, MS 38664

N 40° 42′ 46.021”
W 74° 0′ 21.388”

I have a near incapacitating aversion to hype. If the hype that I hear about something overshadows the thing itself before I get to experience it for myself then I will never be able to enjoy it, especially if it seems like the hype has turned it into a plastic imitation of its former self. This is why I’ve never been a fan of the Beatles or Bob Dylan. This has become a major concern in my meager travels as I’ve  been burned by the cult of travel TV and what it can do to the places it features (Big Bob Gibson’s, I’m looking at you).

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Mississippi Blues Scavanger Hunt – Robert Johnson’s Grave – Money, MS

RobertJohnson

Little Zion M.B. Church
Money Rd.
5 mi. north of Greenville, MS
33°33’48.18″N 90°12’58.92″W

There is arguably no better known legend in rock history than the tale the Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads to sell his soul to the devil so he could play the blues. It’s marketing gold! What better backstory could be invented for a bluesman? To top it all off he is the first member of the famous 27 club, musicians who died tragically and mysteriously at 27. When he died he had only recorded 29 songs, but those song would go on to be known as some of the “greatest,” “best,” “most influential,” and most covered songs in pop music history. Name dropping Johnson has become shorthand to paint a certain picture of the type of music fan that you are. Serious. A scholar.

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