Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ground Zero-Clarksdale

Mary James and I were smack dab on the dot on time at the doctor's office in Cleveland. There was just one minor detail. The doctor wasn't in Cleveland on Friday. He was in Clarksdale 36 miles away. Never one to be discouraged, Mary James "got him on the horn" and told them we were on the way to Clarksdale straight up Hiway 61 along field after field of corn. Used to be cotton, but now it's corn. Never mind that we had driven the exact same route just the afternoon before to see another Clarksdale doctor. We discussed rather or not to deduct mileage from her bill. She's nicer than I am.
This was yet another Romans 8:28 event in that she needed to see Clarksdale doctor #3 which saved us a return trip, half a day and a bit of gasoline.
Once we finished our official business Mary James asked for lunch suggestions. Anytime you drive MJ somewhere you can be assured of a good meal in the deal. The good doctors made a few suggestions and off we went to points unknown (for us). Of course they had suggested Ground Zero and we just happened up on it.

One look and I thought, "Good heavens. What have we gotten ourselves into." That's because Mary James and I get into a lot of trouble together. "I don't know, James. That looks kind of iffy to me." Iffy is not part of Mary James' vocabulary. "Come on, Shirl. When are we going to get back here again?" If history is any teacher there was a distinct possibility we'd be back in town the next day. I parked my granny car, took a deep breath, and helped Mary James from the vehicle, checking over my shoulder and wishing we could walk a little faster. In case you don't know, the Ground Zero Blues Club is Mecca for blues lovers around the world. I like pipe organ music.

Here's a close-up of the front porch. Notice the lovely furnishings. It's just part of the ambiance. I'm not sure if you can see it or not, but spray painted on the back of that blue sofa are the words, "Don't make your momma cry." If my mama saw me here she wouldn't be crying, she'd be gasping for breath. "James," I said, "if Mark saw where we are he'd have a stroke." My next challenge occurred as we attempted to enter said establishment. Just look at the photo. Where would you enter? There are three sets of doors. It's kind of like "Let's Make a Deal." "Monte, I'll take door number two and I have no idea what I'll find behind it." And I was right.

It was dark as pitch in there and it took us a minute or two to be able to determine just how much trouble we were in. Whew. The place was full of business people and I was relieved to think Mary James' son wouldn't kill me for losing his mama at the blues club in Clarksdale.

Mary James asked me if I wanted to go to the ladies room. "Do I want to? No. But I'll go scope it out to see if I'll let you in there." It was really fine. And I learned some catchy new phrases in the process.

Back at our nice table adjacent to the huge bar we just sort of took in the place, lingered over the menu which was awfully tempting, and then noticed a dapper businessman in his starched pinpoint shirt and snappy tie. Mary James and I agreed that it was Bill Luckett, former candidate for Governor of Mississippi and restaurant entrepreneur. Sure enough, he headed straight for us. "Now who are you nice ladies and what are you doing in Clarksdale today? I'm Bill Luckett, part owner of Ground Zero. So nice to have you here.....what do you do in Jackson?" (Looking at all of the old wood in this building I knew I'd hit pay dirt.) "My husband owns a lumberyard specializing in cypress and old pattern boards. And we deliver." Shoot. He was selling lunch, not buying lumber. So, that was a nice little visit and back to his table he went. And back to our table he came. "I'd like you nice ladies to come meet the people at my table. Morgan Freeman is here in that black cap, a couple of photographers and Bernie Marsden, one of the ten best guitar players in the whole world."

What else could we do but wander over and say hi to Morgan and Bernie, both of whom were very cordial. Mary James is really with the program at 89 years of age. She said, "We'll have to google Bernie when we get in the car. I don't know who he is." I didn't figure he played the pipe organ. The men were working on a Mississippi Blues documentary. And before Mr. Luckett could introduce the lovely Mrs. Luckett, she and Mary James remembered that they had met years ago at a Rotary event. And only in Mississippi, what they both remembered were the flower arrangements. Now, we're talking in the late 70's or early 80's and what they remembered about that party was  it had been the first time they had seen large arrangements elevated on the table over the heads of the guests. Those men sat there with the most profound look of confusion/amazement. That's what they remember?The flowers?  I nearly suggested they forget the blues documentary and get after one on Grand Dames of the Delta. That would be really something. And Mary James could be their guide and Morgan Freeman could be the narrator.

Here she is with her fried catfish, slaw, turnip greens, cornbread and caramel cake which she said was very tasty. While we ate she told me about some of those parties and the pretty clothes she had found to wear when her late husband was Rotary District Governor. They must have had a wonderful time. We had a wonderful time, too.
Yum. Fried green tomato sandwich with remoulade sauce. I guess you could say it was to die for. Bacon and anything fried. Heaven on a bun. All of my anxieties were for naught and heaven will have to wait.


  1. Oh, Shirley you had me laughing out loud. What a hoot--in every paragraph! I think you and Mary James should write a travelogue. Please.

  2. We have had some pretty crazy adventures together. She is so good for me.

  3. So glad you enjoyed my old stomping grounds! My 10-year class reunion was at Ground Zero, and Mr. Freeman was there, just hanging out with us. Funny sight with the Lee Academy class of 1994.

    Oh, and Francine Luckett taught me algebra in high school! :)

    Danielle T.

    1. Hey Clarksdale Girl. We surely enjoyed our visit. I can't wait to tell MJ that Francine was your teacher!