Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Crechale's, Comeback sauce, McDade's, and all in Jackson

I made my first trip to Jackson, Mississippi in 2002, on my way to Winter Park, Florida.  We spent the night in Jackson as a halfway point from Texas.  A month later, I drove the road again and on that visit, discovered Crechale's--quite by accident, just driving down the road looking for a place to eat.

I have not thought about Crechale's in quite a while until this morning--and it all came about through a circuitous route after reading about Hal and Mal's over on the Jackson music blog.  FLE posts often about the doings at Hal and Mal's, so I decided to look them up, which led to Comeback sauce, so I had to look that up, which led to Crechale's, which led to more Comeback sauce and eventually all the way to McDade's Market (which I also found by accident, along with Katz Wine Cellar, on one of my Jackson jaunts after moving here).  McDade's is selling the Thames Comeback sauce made in Oxford.  Whew!  I feel like I have been on a road trip and it is not even 10 AM yet.

My friend W and I still laugh about our experience at Crechale's--and though I tried to find them one night several years ago, I was not successful.  I'm not sure if my memory of where it was located was in error, or if they had moved or were closed, but I did not have my trusty iPhone at the time, so could not look it up. Driving that street at night in Jackson was pretty well freaking out my friend, who was begging me to return to the Interstate and back towards our hotel.

Back in '02, W and I were on our way to Florida to see J for spring break and overnighted in Jackson after an entire day on the road.  Not being familiar with the area, we just headed up the street and when he spotted Crechale's he said, "let's eat there!"  Folks were sitting outside waiting, and in a small bar next door waiting, so he thought it must be good food.  He was right.

We waited in the bar next door for a table, and we have laughed many times about meeting our best friends there.  Grandad had consumed just a tad too much of whatever was in the on-the-rocks glass he refilled often, and just as equally shared a tad too much personal information with strangers at the next table.  Grandma shared her life story of the injury that put her in the wheelchair and caused brain damage but how she had been healed from it.  We weren't really sure what she meant, but thought it best just to say that was wonderful and not pursue it.  Meanwhile, granddaughter was humiliated beyond belief and kept asking to leave and hiding her face in her hands.  W's sympathies were with the granddaughter.

Finally, they called our table and we went into the restaurant.  I am not that much of a fried shrimp fan, but we ordered it, and I had to tell the server and the gentleman at the register that it was the best I had ever eaten.  Maybe it was, and maybe it was just that I was hungry and tired.

We stopped at a liquor store on the way back to the hotel to pick up a bottle of wine.  Eying the bars on the windows, and the cashier behind bars, W said he'd wait in the car and go for help in case I did not come back out soon.  He was always so helpful that way when we were traveling.  Meanwhile, I saw nothing on the wine shelves that I had ever seen before in any wine store in any state in any city.  Hmmm....but it was late, I was tired, we had to get up early the next morning to get on to Florida...let's try this one.

Suffice it to say, one should never buy wine in a package store in Mississippi where they have bars on the windows and you do not recognize any of the labels.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Los Angeles in South Africa

The postcard pictures about the Biloxi trolley route on MissPres this morning reminded me of seeing the building of the movie set for Ask the Dust.  The film was set in the 1930s in Los Angeles, but was filmed in South Africa.  I happened to arrive just as they were building the set and got a quick tour thanks to one of my local connections.  The trolley tracks ran down the "main street" and disappeared into the hill at the end of the street.

Although these were merely facades, they exteriors looked amazing and we wondered if they would somehow use them in real housing after the film was complete.  Many people were living in housing that was less substantially built than this movie set.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mississippi Innocence Project

Last Friday at work, talk turned to someone in Mississippi who had recently been exonerated after serving a lengthy period of time in prison for a crime he did not commit.  In fact, there have been several cases in the news about that lately, in other states as well as in Mississippi, about wrongful imprisonment due to shoddy forensic work--and more often than one would want to believe--false testimony by witnesses.  It reminded me of the Tulia, Texas "drug sting" of 1999 and I was sharing the story with my colleagues.

I first learned of the sordid events in 2001, when I traveled from Abilene to Tulia to attend the Tulia Freedom Ride Time for Justice community rally.  One morning in 1999, 47 people--almost all of them black--were arrested and accused of dealing cocaine (Blakeslee, 2005).  It resulted in the incarceration of one out of every five black adults in Tulia, all based on the uncorroborated testimony of Tom Coleman, an undercover officer of a drug task force who would go on to be named "Officer of the Year" for this crime--for what Tom Coleman did, was indeed a crime, and for which Coleman was convicted of perjury--a felony offense that ended his "law" career and sentenced him to ten years probation.  That hardly seems a fitting punishment for someone who intentionally and deliberately facilitated the arrest and conviction of innocent people.
The fact that a number of the defendants had such air-tight alibis as a punched time card showing presence at work and testimony of a boss to corroborate that presence, coupled with a lack of any evidence other than the testimony of Coleman, carried no weight with the prosecuting district attorney or the jury, and they were convicted and lengthy sentences were handed down.  It all came to light when locals began questioning how it was possible that a bunch of poor people, living in poor housing and no indication of an extravagant lifestyle could possibly be dealing powdered cocaine to a community of poor people in whom the drug of choice was either marijuana or crack.
It would take years--during which innocent people remained in prison--before the case would be cleared and the imprisoned exonerated.  Investigative journalism and community organizing kept it on the front burner, and resulted in attorney Vanita Gupta's involvement after she saw a documentary shown at an NAACP event.

Shortly after that conversation, my colleagues and I headed over to the newly completed law building at the university for lunch in the new Bistro 1878.  Afterwards, we took a quick look at the building.  Rounding one corner, we saw a sign that proclaimed the Mississippi Innocence Project.  You can visit the Mississippi Innocence Project for more information about the work being done in Mississippi.  You can read Blakelee's Tulia for more information about what has gone wrong with narcotics enforcement, and the still-common institutional racism in the South.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why southerners love snow (even though we hate winter)

Because it is so beautiful.


Libby stuck her head out the pet door, took in the scene, and said she did not think so.  Based on the size of the flower pots, that's about 8 inches of snow inside her kennel.

The kitties had ventured out of their house.

"Hey, what's up with the water?"

I put out a fresh bowl on the porch, though it won't be long before it freezes.  I had put a smaller bowl on the porch last night, and though it was frozen, somehow the cats had poked a hole in it and gotten a drink.  Cats are way smarter than some of their 4-legged friends.

"Are you done yet?"

Little cat feet, creeping softly, over to the kudzu thicket: gotta check on the rest of the clan.  Only Felix and Oscar, who were both kittens when we started feeding their wild mothers, are safe enough to stay on the porch and sleep in the kitty houses I got for them.  Mamacat and Mamakitty still sleep out in the woods somewhere.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Why Southerners hate winter

Because it's cold, and we are never prepared for ice.  
Felix ventured out of her house for only a few minutes.

Libby has the right idea; it's freezing in here even with my insulated socks and sheepskin slippers.

I had to go to the grocery store this afternoon, planning to be home before the ice and snow hit.  I started to take the truck with the 4-wheel drive, but thought I had enough time.  Remember what "thought did."

When I came out of the grocery store a mere 15 or so minutes later, it was raining and sleeting, the roads were already icing, and I was worried about getting up my hill.  I was right: I couldn't.  I made it almost to the top and then would spin out on the last few feet.  I tried all the tricks I knew, having learned to drive on ice from a true northerner back in 1970.  Didn't work this time.  I called Randy and said, "I'm outside and I can't get up the hill."  He ended up having to back down to the very bottom, and then drive up very fast so when he hit the steepest part he would have enough momentum to make it over and to the parking area.  He delighted in saying "I told you so" for my procrastinating on going to the store today, and then thinking I would not need the 4-wheel drive. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tippo, rural gin architecture, and more churches than you can throw a rock at

Coming home from Glendora today, I decided to be adventurous again and turned down a road that took me over one of the bayous.  I spotted this old cotton gin structure just out of Tippo--another place to which I had never been before today.  

Tippo, in addition to being the birthplace of jazz and blues musician Mose Allison, is a fairly small unincorporated community near Glendora and Webb.  The Hardwicke-Etter Cotton Drying Extracting and Cleaning System, circa 1958, was one of the last remaining gin manufacturers, and was actually out of Sherman, Texas.  There is a very interesting thesis from M. S. G. C. Hainze out of Texas Tech (1999), in which she documents the remaining gin buildings in the South Plains of Texas.  She called the buildings "the dominant, rural architectural building form in the South Plains region" in her masters thesis in architecture.

That is probably true of the area, as I grew up near there and can attest to the central role cotton gins played in the communities.  If I had to speculate as to a dominant rural building in the Delta, it would be the churches.  Tippo cannot be more than a couple of hundred people, and yet I counted at least 5 churches visible from the highway. 

I find it kind of amazing that you can be driving along an area of the road with no houses, and yet, there will appear a fairly large sized church building in a small clearing.  I cannot fathom how they can survive, yet there they are, remaining when much of the near-by communities have fallen into decay.