Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hello everyone. Coming to you bright and early on the morning of our 49th day out here, Sunday, July 15th, 2007. We are camped at an RV campsite in Warfield Point Park, just outside Greenville, Mississippi, and it looks like it is going to be a quiet, overcast day. Mippi runs around, chasing after pieces of grass and sniffing in holes, as if to say, Check me out, I am growing bigger, I am becoming more self-sufficient by the day.

Last night, we found a ride into Greenville and went to Doe's Eat Place, a steakhouse famous for making its customers enter through the kitchen and being Bill Clinton's favorite. We met all sorts of good folks and chatted it up: a guy who'd moved here from Boston and liked it even though everyone is racist, an older woman who loved Kevin's blond curls and blue eyes, a pretty young woman who told me she was married. "What are y'all doing here?" one group asked another as we sat down to our table. "Taking my dad out," was the reply. "He just had open-heart surgery. Thought I'd treat him to a 32 oz steak."

At dinner, we meet two National Guard servicemen, Sean and James, who have served in Kuwait and Iraq. I ask them what they think about the situation, and James says he supports it, one hundred percent. "What else are you going to do?" he says, "When the Twin Towers fell, just let yourself get attacked and just clean the thing up? We had to go occupy somewhere." "I'm not going to say I'm a Bush fan," says Sean, "But what I admire about him is he's principled. He's not chasing this poll or that." I suppose that's true, I tell him, when your approval rating is hovering at 25%. "Hey, we'll judge it all in fifty years," James says. "Until then, there's no way to tell." He says he has bought three million Iraqi dollars as an investment for his children. "Well," I tell him, "It can't go anywhere but up."

We originally heard about Doe's two nights ago, when we pulled off the river looking for a cheeseburger and met a man named Frank Smith. "There's nowhere around for fifteen miles," he said, and explained that we were on the grounds of a private (and wealthy) hunting club, Catfish Point, whose members flew in via their own private airfield. "Come on," he says, smiling. "I'm gonna cook for you."

Frank's cabin has a beautiful screened-in porch, raised foundation to guard against floods, and a huge cabinet full of guns. While he barbeques chicken and drinks whiskey, we talk about his life as an investor, his college days playing baseball for Raleigh College in Florida, and how when we get to Greenville, we have to eat at Doe's. "Doe is my brother-in-law," Frank says, and he gets Doe on the phone. "Doe!" he says, "I've got four knuckleheads up here at Catfish Point who want to eat at your place tomorrow night. How long you think it'll take'm to make it in canoes?" "Canoes?" comes the response. "We've got motors around here."

Frank tells us to grab beers and says that in the south, meals are a social activity. We talk about the Mississippi River bottoms, how sometimes it looks like a certifiable jungle, how the cotton plantations of the 19th century have relented to the forces of the river and been replaced by corn and heartwoods: Pecan, oak, cottonwood trees. We talk about flood regulation and Frank tells us about the 1927 flood, when water from the river spread 50 miles east, 100 miles south. "It's bad for human beings, but we're not the main players here. We need to learn to let nature do what it needs to do and get out of the way." He tells us about his daughter, working in the PeaceCorps in China, and about the wild world he saw when he visited her, about pollution so bad in Beijing that you never see the sun. "The world is changing," he says, "And we'll see it in our lifetime - not necessarily bad, but not all of it good, and we'll have to get used to it as Americans."

After dinner, he says we might as well spend the night, seeing as he has four beds to share, and in the morning he is waiting with grits and coffee to send us on our way. "Well if you've got that sort of spirit, you can't keep it bottled up," he says, and wishes us all the best. We shake his hand and climb in the back of his truck, and he drives us back down to the river.

And on the topic of hospitality, did I ever tell you that in New Madrid, Missouri, a man named Joe Porter met us at the boat landing and invited us back to his house for dinner, where he cooked up huge steaks, texas toast, and beans? That is the whole story, there is hardly anything to it. I never reported it in the first place because of that simplicity, worried that for such a basic act you simply had to be there, a gem uncut, that such a thing could never translate through the internet wires. I'm still skeptical, but look! Joe Porter cooked us dinner and let us watch tv! And he didn't even know who we were! Incredible! Thank you Joe! And thank you Frank! Talk about restoring your faith in humanity! I mean seriously: restore your faith in humanity.

As Frank put it, "We've got a lot of bad eggs, but there's a lot of good people in this country."

And so we head south.

9 comments:

cnb said...

hi gabe and friends! just a note to prove i'm still along for the ride, despite -- because of? -- the distance. my own adventure is unfolding in step with yours, and we are alive, and it does feel good. so cheers from senegal, and stay dry (or not).
-cathi

famille stoa said...

Hey guys,
We just heard that Matt Delvecchio, Ryan's cousin in New Orleans, is leaving for San Diego on July 26th, which is right about when you planned to arrive I think. That would affect your plans???? You should contact him.
Stoas

famille stoa said...

49 days already!!! Amazing! Good trip and wonderful people you are meeting...keep it up!

amy said...

Hi Kevin and most interesting friends,
What writing! What living!!!!! What Mark Twainishness as everyone dreams of but hardly nobody ever did does. Enought to roll you around and crack you and make you humble and smart and laugh. What a cool thing to do. We've thought about it for years but never actually done anything about it. Here's to you guys, so fun and so impressive.
Sending love and Deep Thoughts and prayers downstream from the St. Croix,
Amy (Kevin's removed cousin once seconded or--)

frb53 said...

I was in Greenville Mississippi today and saw no racist,what are you talking about?

frb53 said...

Greenville , Mississippi is about 74% black and has a very high violent crime rate. A racist will not last very long there.

Mark said...

You know my family used to own several homes and planted cotton at Catfish point. My Uncle and cousins still hunt there. DId you get tamales and a gigantic steak ot Doe's Eat Place? I need to make it back there sometime soon.

wanda1234 said...

thanks for sharing....

___________________
Rozydesouza
Entertainment at one stop

wanda1234 said...

thanks for sharing....

___________________
Rozydesouza
Entertainment at one stop