It's happening. I'm finally headed down South!
We're flying from Philadelphia to Memphis tomorrow morning, and then driving down to Oxford where we (not the royal we, I mean me and Jesse) are staying in a cabin right near Ole Miss, where I will be talking about Bobbie Gentry and Ode to Billie Joe on Thursday in the Faulkner Room.
Of course, I plan to rummage through that box of papers that Gentry donated to Ole Miss in the 1970s. Remember the handwritten lyrics with the missing stanzas of Ode to Billie Joe, including the first one where she had actually named the character Sally Jane Ellison? That's in the Faulkner Room.
I've been told there will be a set-up available so I can play a video, so I spent the early part of my evening reviewing my video stash, trying to pick something out. I hadn't seen the videos in a while. The first time I watched them, it was through a giddy haze of disbelief that I could have gotten so lucky as to get to see this stuff. Clearly Bobbie was very close with the person filming the video. In one section where she is performing her famous tribute to Elvis Presley, she struts right up to the lens, pauses to give a knowing, sultry snarl, and then she slides the silk scarf off her neck and tosses it toward the camera before swiveling back into the stage, into the next number. From a foot away the joy on her face while performing can't be denied. It's a beautiful thing.
I hope the tech works so I can share it with the good people of Mississippi.
After the talk on Thursday, we're going to drive around and check out the area. This will be my first time in Mississippi, and the first time in a long time that I had a car and a map and a coffee and sunglasses and the radio and nowhere to go but everywhere. On Saturday, we'll head over to Muscle Shoals. If you have any suggestions on what we should do while we're in Mississippi and Alabama, by all means drop me a line.
Meanwhile, I'll be throwing flowers in the river.