Roadshow: Part 2
We arrived at the studio; she was led straight to makeup where she sat in a barber type chair while an expert painted and brushed her face. Periodically people came in to ask her questions, scurrying off to fill another niche in the TV program. Mary was readying to be interviewed by a commentator on a daily TV show for country music.
When her makeup was finished and her time to be interviewed neared we were led to a TV set. I sat behind the façade and watched while Mary answered questions and explained things to the commentator. Her song “Torn” was played as part of the program.
After the interview, we went to Opryland amusement park. Mary loved going on the roller coasters. Whenever she headlined an amusement park, she bee-lined it to the roller coasters, being given a special VIP escort to ask others to move over while someone more important goes ahead of them.
The next morning Mary took me to a diner that served grits. They all served grits; she wanted me to partake of the entire southern experience.
After breakfast, we drove over to Music Row, an area of Nashville home to many music-related businesses, including music-publishing houses; this is the heart of Country Music. Mary arranged meetings with two of the music publishers. She went in to talk while I waited in the truck reading a book.
After her meetings, we drove southwest through the town of Franklin into Leiper’s Fork to meet up with her old friend, Gene Cotton, a prominent singer and songwriter in the late 1970’s. Mary had stayed with him whenever she had to spend time in Nashville. We stayed overnight at Gene’s home. While we were on the porch drinking beverages and conversing our attention was diverted. An insect that looked like a stick 8 inches long and ¾ inches thick with six wings was slowly hovering through the air making a slow forward motion right in front of the porch. It looked like a military helicopter with a hefty load, reminding me we were indeed in the middle of a very lush, green, and humid woodland. The appearance of mosquitoes thirty minutes later drove us inside the house.
The next day we left Tennessee driving south through Alabama. A person knows they are in the far south when the soil becomes red from being saturated with iron oxides or rust. Mile after mile this redness colors the clay soil. Another feature of the far south is the habit of car voyeurism. Mary told me whenever they become bored, which seems quite often in the area, the younger generation picks up a six-pack of beer at a grocery center, parking the car facing the roadway. This way they can drink the beer as they monitor the cars going through town, sometimes chasing out foreigners, who is anyone they do not know. Mary had this happen to her some years ago during one of her trips to Mussel Shoals to record a song when she and her first husband were driving south in their hippie Volkswagen van. When we stopped for gas that day, I sensed eyes on us, and Mary said we needed to leave as soon as possible once we filled up the tank.
At Birmingham, we turned southwest towards New Orleans until we hit Hwy 10. We headed west on Hwy 10, crossing causeways bisecting the large Mississippi Delta region. The sun was dropping, it was almost dark, and we could see the roadway covered with the bodies of frogs or salamanders or lizards. We drove on without identifying the road kill further. Somewhere just west of Baton Rouge we pulled off to sleep for the night deciding to car camp. I told Mary I didn’t want to sleep in the claustrophobic cabin area and suggested we pull the mattress from the camper shell and sleep in the open. We pulled out the two sleeping bags, the pillows, and a sheet, and settled down for sleep. Fairly quickly the air above us started buzzing louder and louder and louder with mosquito noise. This was too much for Mary. She pulled off a sleeping bag and a pillow and went straight back into her camper cocoon. I was more steadfast; I threw the sheet over my head, and slept without becoming claustrophobic. Today Mary tells people I woke up with bites all over me, but I feel that was an enormous exaggeration.
Audiobook coming soon