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Issue #184, Epic Road Trip, June 6, 2018: Mississippi andNew Orleans, Louisiana

We rolled into the French quarter RV resort in the heart of New Orleans yesterday afternoon after an interesting day bopping around Jackson, Mississippi. We awoke at the Timberlake campground to rain pelting the tent fabric; amid such mugginess I left for an early morning exploration of the RV park, which is situated right on the edge of this giant lake. I learned, by talking to the bearded receptionist who spoke in a soft drawl, that some people rent out space monthly and have been doing so for upwards of 20 years, which explains the settled-in and manicured look of many of the spots, some with an unusual decoration in their yards - bottles stuck to tree limbs, which I identified later as bottle trees, an ancient custom brought from slaves, to ward off evil spirits.

exhibit explains
bottle trees in RV park
seen on Morning walk

Other lawn ornaments such as roosters were carefully placed in lawns, even what looked like complete outdoor living room sets, tables and televisions. I wondered if they could really enforce the no alcohol provision, being that everyone is safely ensconced in a protective metal shell, unseen and hidden.

We had a scrumptious breakfast of waffles, eggs and potatoes. it’s easy to cook a big spread like this in the cricket, and easy to clean up, too, with the kitchen so well arranged. Soon we were discussing what thing to see in Jackson given that the drive to New Orleans was just a fraction of what we had done the day prior - I wanted to see the civil rights museum, while Paige wanted to see one of the older houses. (The Boyd House). In the end we compromised and saw both, given that they were both fairly close to each other.

The Boyd house, or ‘The Oaks’ was built in 1853 and was the house of one of Jackson’s first mayors, and was one of the only houses to survive the Civil War, given that it was a farm house some ways away from the scene of the action. A young librarian was just getting ready to lead a tour to some folks from Pennsylvania, so we joined in and enjoyed home furnishings from an earlier time, noting especially the ‘ice shed’ out back - no refrigeration in those days.

Our guide also suggested we try out the food at a local supermarket; apparently good Mississippi cuisine can be found at the grocery stores, in cafeteria-style lines; with fried chicken being an item of local renown, so we headed down to the market and joined locals in a simple lunch, served by African American women, and amidst people of mixed races. In line I spoke to one woman the curly afro, glasses and a shirt referencing politics - it was a primary day in Mississippi - and asked about what else to do, and she confirmed that the Civil Rights Museum was indeed worth visiting, so we made a quick drive there after doing some basic grocery shopping in which the kids could only find small marshmallows.

We almost got stuck in front of the parking garage where I had to execute an eight-point turn because there is no way we were going into the garage with bikes on top. We soon found ourselves in a richly detailed exhibit exhaustively covering slavery and the evolution of the civil rights movement, much more than I could taken in the space of only an hour. As we walked in, a group of people were singing underneath an abstract spiral, blinking and glowing in response to the volume produced by people singing and clapping, and in this brief collective social encounter I felt allied with the best intentions of our culture, amidst the backdrop of so much evil that has been propagated in the cause of slavery. One impression that I was left with had to do with how persistent the animosity is of the African-American culture over the generations, despite efforts made to remedy the situation through legislation and so on. What people actually do to each other is what really matters, but laws help.

Following this brief but immersive visit we set the car and Cricket on a lumbering path through rain showers down to New Orleans. The highway turned into a magnificent causeway built on piers for mile after mile, as the marshy Delta came into view. we found the RV park right past a large homeless tent encampment, right in view of the highway and many tall buildings, but it still felt like home for our little Cricket. Under a giant billboard that sits in the center of a twenty-acre lot, it’s certainly the most urban camping we’ve ever done. I did a drawing, as the sun descended, of the pool that the kids were splashing in, as Paige made dinner, watched a funny Netflix movie, and drank margaritas.

gas stations, bathrooms
two things that we must locate
like Easter egg hunt

With its racist past
justice in Mississippi
is like a spiral

At McDade‘s market
where Eudora Welty shopped
we try local fare

Blacks and whites alike
enjoy McDade‘s lunch counter
yams and turnip greens

The march for freedom
did not end with freedom rides
or legislation

At the oldest house
in Jackson Mississippi
we look at old stuff

Spacing out request
to leave everything untouched
I plank piano key

On the backs of slaves,
rose the empire of the south
where cotton was king

Sad reality
exodus from Africa
what would Jesus say?

White supremacy
a part of our heritage
yet to overcome

visiting the place
were Pages mom lived
from age 2 to 5

it’s a long story
about civil rights for blacks
and not over yet

long road from Memphis
down to Louisiana
Corridor of green

long string of hiccups
emanating from the backseat
as well as giggles

when Donald Trump says
he is above the law
I think of Jim Crow

so many details
of the past and the present
rolled into one ball

facing discomfort
at the civil rights museum
to see the displays

Urban RV park
brick wall topped with razor wire
billboard blooms above

New Orleans campsite
our tent is made of metal
and air-conditioned

children once docile
confront me with my aging
and forgetful brain

ambulance sirens
from sun up until sundown
laughter from hot tub

it’s not wilderness
but the names of the RVs
suggest otherwise

down on Bourbon Street
music from every doorway
the beer flows freely

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen