Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Memphis: Graceland

Memphis, Tennessee

Elvis has been dead for 35 years. His home is the second most visited in the United States, after the White House.

Elvis bought Graceland in 1967 for $100,000. It has about 13 acres and is fairly modest in comparison to his private jet.

Elvis ended his life grossly overweight, confused and  focused on spiritualism and Monty Python sketches.

His personal doctor prescribed over 10,000 sedatives and amphetamines in the last ten months of his life which ended in 1977.

Some think Elvis is still alive. He has been sighted in a wheelchair at Graceland, in a Wal Mart in Vegas, and buying a ticket to Argentina under the name John Burrows just two hours after his reported death.

His body was returned to Graceland and reburied after an attempt was made to steal it in 1977.

One thing is sure....Elvis has left the building.

This is a view of the back of Elvis' home in Graceland.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Memphis: Beale Street Blues

Memphis, Tennessee

If you go to Memphis, go down to Beale Street in the evening and you might hear some good blues or get something interesting to eat. I had craw fish. Mrs. Phred had a catfish sandwich.

We spent a couple of interesting hours listening to Dr. Feelgood Potts and his band.

Dr. Feelgood wears three bandoleers filled with about 20 harmonicas.

I bought both of Dr. Feelgoods albums. All the tracks have harmonica.

Dr Feelgood's base player is from Osaka, Japan. Apparently she was drawn to Beale Street by a love for the blues.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Memphis: The Lorraine Motel

Memphis National Civil Rights Museum

Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior was assassinated here on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in early 1968.

They've turned the motel into something called the "National Civil Rights Museum". There is a big crowd. I'm a little surprised that about half the crowd is white. Times change. When I moved to Tampa in 1953,  every grocery store had four bathrooms (white men, black men, white women black women) and two water fountains (white and black). That was 60 years ago and a plumbers dream.

I suspect that Mrs. Phred might be the only real Civil Rights veteran at the museum today. Not many people had the balls to put their life on the line back then for social fairness. Mrs. Phred belonged to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and agreed to lead a demonstration at the Florida pavilion of the New York Worlds Fair in 1964. Her sign said, "we don't want a World's Fair, we want a fair world ".

When you read the whole New York Times article, you get a sense that about 70 Pinkerton agents, ten paddy wagons and several tanks surrounded Carol before they dared to make the arrest. The cops all had the white or black "Stetsons" and other odd hat styles that prevailed back then. So Carol went to off to jail in New York as well as in Tallahassee.

At the time of Carol's arrest there were only three channels on TV and no remotes. You had to click the channels with a mechanical dial. LBJ and Elvis had three TV sets so they could watch all the news at the same time. Mrs. Phred's arrest was covered at 7 PM on NBC, ABC and CBS. Mrs. Phred's Mom , Frieda, saw the arrest on CBS and blew her Jack Daniels and coke all over her MuMu.

I admit  my admiration for Mrs. Phred's accomplishments as a 19-year-old..The New York Supreme Court threw out her trespassing conviction on the grounds that she had every right to demonstrate on what was essentially public property.

Mrs. Phred and I were in Tacoma when King was killed. I was a First Lieutenant. They briefed me on operation "Garden Plot" which involved the potential of flying in massive forces of regular Army and Marine troops to American cities to put down the "insurrection".

Now we have a black President. Think of that.

Memphis: William's Bar-B-Q

I'm running weeks behind on the blog. Since I quit smoking on December 4th (for the flight to Bangkok), a strange lassitude has descended upon me. I no longer care much about the blog and don't even ask about my Facebook page because, unfortunately,  I don't have one.

So let's start at the beginning and try to get at least one day closer to current. The current situation is that we have a bent front axle on the RV and can't get it fixed for seven days. We're stuck in Nashville. More about Nashville on a future blog. Right now let's discuss the Memphis Blues.

We stayed at a really nice place called the Tom Sawyer Mississippi River RV park. It's in West Memphis on the west side of the river in Arkansas. It an easy ten minute drive to Beale Street in Memphis to hear the Memphis Blues again.

This strange little bird sat on its nest in the gravel parking lot for the four days we were there. It sat there during a tremendous night time downpour and thunder storm. Mrs. Phred wanted to take the little bird an umbrella but I restrained her. Nature's reproductive schemes are sometimes exceedingly strange.

The only downside of the park (also an upside) is the 24/7 river traffic. I woke up every morning at 4AM to the pounding roar of big diesel tugboat engines. If you get to West Memphis, go to William's BarBQue on 14th street.

The man is a true American culinary genius...who else other than William could have considered combining slow cooked pork with coleslaw in a single fat, sloppy, delicious sandwich?

 So anyway...this is getting to be a very long blog and we haven't even gotten to the Lorraine Hotel and East Memphis...more later?

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Lake Norfork

Mountain Home, Arkansas

We spend 10 nights on the shore of Lake Norfork. It's another Army Corps of Engineers campground, so it's nicely designed as always.

We play tennis and visit a little with old friends who live here.

We look at some houses again. The seem extraordinarily inexpensive to us, but we can't even begin to think about pulling the trigger on a home purchase here. Centrality for future RV travel would be a plus, but it's a long way to the nearest halfway serious airport.

We'll head for Memphis next to hear some blues....

Goodbye Mountain Home....

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Town that Imploded

Cairo, Illinois

Cairo is on the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers. The bridge over the Ohio takes you from Western Kentucky to the extreme southern point of Illinois.

I'm always intrigued by the confluence of significant rivers. You would think that this would be a bustling transportation hub. In fact, some English hotshots invested heavily in this area in the early 1800's. Even Charles Dickens was intrigued by the geography. His analysis was not kind. Dickens called Cairo, "a breeding place of fever, ague, and death . . . an ugly sepulchre, a grave uncheered by any gleam of promise."

The slow death of Cairo has left it a sort of ghost town. Many structures have been cleared leaving huge grassy swaths of land. Other imposing structures stand empty on wide deserted boulevards.

Cairo had about 15,000 inhabitants in 1920. A series of racial clashes in the late 1960s and early 1970s resulted in the gradual dissolution  of the town and a reduction of the population to 3,000, mostly black citizens.

A young woman approached our car as we drove past a residential area. She said that she needed money to take her baby to Tennessee. The other people on the lawn, she explained, were cocaine addicts, but she could see by my face that I was an excellent judge of people and could see that she was different.  I gave her some money so she could get to Tennessee.

The only industry in Cairo at the current time is the huge Bunge factory that processes soybeans

According to WIKI: 
"Cairo's turbulent history is often traced back to the lynching of black resident William James. In 1900, Cairo had a population of nearly 13,000. Of that total, approximately 5,000 residents were black. In 1900, this was an unusually high black population for a town of Cairo's size. Five percent of all black residents of the state of Illinois resided in Cairo. As a result of the large black population in a town with a traditionally southern white heritage, race relations were already strained by 1900.[10] On the night of November 11, 1909 two men were lynched. The first man lynched was a black man named William James. James was lynched for the assault and murder of Anna Pelly, a young white woman killed three days earlier. The second man lynched was a white man named Henry Salzner. Salzner was lynched for the alleged murder of his wife that took place in August."

In 1967 Robert Hunt, a 19 year-old black soldier returning from Vietnam was found hanged in the Cairo police station.  Police reported that Hunt had hanged himself with his t-shirt, but many members of the black community of Cairo accused the police of murder.

Also from Wiki
"In response to the rioting of July 1967, the white community in Cairo formed a citizens protection group that was deputized by the sheriff. The protection group became known as the "White Hats", because many of its 600 members began wearing white construction hats to show their membership while patrolling the streets to maintain order. In the following two years, accusations of White Hat bullying incidents in the black community began to increase"

 "In December 1969, violence escalated again as several more businesses were burned on Saturday, December 6. Early that morning, residents of the Pyramid Courts housing project opened fire on three firemen and the Chief of Police while they were responding to one of the intense fires. During the shootout, the Chief of Police and one of the firemen were shot by a high powered rifle. 13 people were eventually arrested during the conflict."

Many of the white residents and business owners of Cairo left in large numbers as the result of racial strife. Most Cairo businesses had closed by 1971. 

In 1978 interstate 57 bypassed the city. The lower gas prices in Kentucky and Missouri doomed those service stations that had remained open. Cairo's hospital also closed in December 1987, due to high debt and dwindling patients.

Today, Cairo has a largely black population, down 80% from its peak.It's a strange place.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Land Between the Lakes

Grand Rivers, Kentucky

We're at an Army Corps of Engineers campground at the upper end of Lake Barkley and Lake Kentucky. We like the COE campgrounds. They're always on the water, well designed and inexpensive.

Grand Rivers has a population of about 300, but it has an elaborate theater. It was a gift from Mr. Bladgett who got rich barging coal around the lakes after they were created during the Depression by the Tennessee Valley Aithority.

We went to see "Ring of Fire" at the theater on Saturday night. It was excellent and told the Johnny Cash story with a mixture of his songs and video narrative.

These big lakes were created as part of FDR's electrification plan. about 10,000 farmers were relocated to allow the creation of the lakes and hundreds of square miles of recreation area between the lakes. We drove though here once about 30 years ago in our 79 Chevy camper van.

Things have been going wrong at an alarming rate. First we lost a hubcap from the  Toyota. Then the handle on our TV antenna broke off. I lost my favorite knife. Next I crushed the power supply for the Brake Buddy in the Car door. I tried to tape it up, but only managed to blow a fuse in the Toyota that controls the radio and cigarette lighter. Some how I've lost the Toyota manual and I couldn't find the blown fuse. So no radio and no GPS unless we download something onto the IPhone or IPad.

We should be in Mountain Home, Arkansas before the weekend. Today is a trip into Paducah to try to buy some books, fix the fuse, visit a junkyard to scroung hubcaps and see a movie....

Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Treehouse

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — Horace Burgess's treehouse may be as close to heaven as a body can get in Cumberland County.

(Photos by Mrs. Phred. Text by USA.Today.COM)

It rises 97 feet into the sky, the support provided by a live, 80-foot-tall white oak 12 feet in diameter at its base. Six other trees brace the tower-like fortress, but Burgess says its foundation is in God.
"I built it for everybody. It's God's treehouse. He keeps watch over it," said Burgess, who received his inspiration in a vision that came to him in 1993. "I was praying one day, and the Lord said, 'If you build me a treehouse, I'll see you never run out of material."'

And thus far, as Burgess sees it, the Lord has provided. Most of his materials are recycled pieces of lumber from garages, storage sheds and barns. Now into his 14th year of construction, he is not finished.
The treehouse has 10 floors, averaging nine to 11 feet in height by Burgess's reckoning. He has never measured its size but estimates it to be about 8,000 to 10,000 square feet. He did count the nails that he has hammered into the wood — 258,000, give or take a few hundred. And he guesses he has sunk about $12,000 into the project.

"God used my hands to put every piece in place, but I had a lot of help," said the 56-year-old landscape architect. He's a country boy but lives in town and compares himself to Job of the Old Testament. His pale blue Paul Newman-like eyes beam and he wears an easy smile on his tanned face.
"I've always proclaimed it to be the world's largest treehouse, and no one has ever challenged it," Burgess said.

The treehouse is topped by a chime tower weighing 5,700 pounds; the chimes were fashioned from 10 oxygen acetylene bottles. But today, it is the sound of a hammer echoing from above where 12-year-old Donathan Conley of Crossville nails license plates to a wall. "It's a real peaceful place. You can go out there and have a good time," said Conley, who maintains his own room in the treehouse where he has spent the night on several occasions. "I helped Horace build it. I cut up lumber and hauled it up the steps."
In the summer time, this house always basks in the shade. A homemade sign at the bottom reads: "Welcome friends."

While driving to Nashville on a warm summer day, Dana Arwood and three friends from Knoxville stop to explore the treehouse. Approximately 400 to 500 folks visit weekly, most of them from out of state and most of them by word of mouth. Arwood heard about the place from a cousin. "It's pretty incredible. He used everyday stuff and made something wonderful," she says.

Up the enclosed spiral staircase to the first fork in the oak, Burgess says, "This is a praise tree" because the two limbs spread out like a preacher raising arms toward heaven. Scattered about various floors, about a dozen tiny brass plates hold the names of people important in the builder's life. A sanctuary with pews pushed to the side takes up the third floor and also doubles as a basketball court at 22 feet above terra firma. Sunlight floods through a Plexiglas skylight about 29 feet above the sanctuary into this open room that contains a homemade cross, altar and podium.

Burgess calls the altar, a cedar stump, "the old rugged altar. You can sit yourself down and get over it under the cross." Sure enough, the altar rests against a 16-foot-high cross. The treehouse church with all of its elements came to Burgess in a vision from God when he was "wide awake" and lasted for only four seconds. But the instructions were clear.

"It had the basketball court in the sanctuary. I saw it like a slide show, and it showed me the podium, which rises like four crosses, two for the thieves, one for Christ, and the other cross is the one we all must bear individually," he said. The fourth floor overlooks the sanctuary and boasts a VIP section, an antique curved church pew overlooking the sanctuary that Burgess claims is "the best seat in the house." This floor also holds a choir loft and a stained-glass picture window of Jesus.

Though an ordained minister, Burgess is more of a self-proclaimed pastor in the woods.
"There's people that God sends me that church houses wouldn't even let in," he said.
One of those souls resided in the treehouse for three years and earned the nickname "the keeper of the treehouse."

After the man's death, Burgess threw some of his friend's ashes from the top and buried the rest at the foot of the tree. For his 11th wedding anniversary, Burgess built his wife "the only penthouse in Cumberland County." The couple celebrated by spending the night there on the seventh floor. "I kinda feel like Noah's wife when Noah built the ark," said Janet Burgess, Horace's wife of 17 years. "It's definitely the spirit of the Lord working in him." As his project rose to the sky, Burgess said it took 4½ years before he could see anything but trees.

But today, if you make it to the top deck, the trees are 20 feet below and can't obscure the view of Cumberland County all around. From this vantage point and others, visitors can see a garden where Burgess has used daffodils, irises, narcissus, gladiolas and wild daisies to spell out the letters J-E-S-U-S.
"The whole message of the thing is if you come to see the site and climb to the top, you'll see Jesus in the garden, and the preacher didn't have to say a word," Burgess says, smiling broadly.