A very belated blog about my wonderful time in Mississippi. The MDLT, whose mission is to "experience the place, the people, the food, and the music that inspired Mississippi writers," hosted me and fellow writers Marion Barnwell, Dorothy Shawhan, W. Kenneth Holditch, and native artist Bill Dunlap for a lovely few days of outstanding food, company and literary talk. They put us up at the luxurious Alluvian Hotel in Greenville (a vast improvement over the grimy airport Radisson at which I stayed the night before, when I missed my connection in Memphis). Gracious staff, lovely accommodations and, as an added bonus, Harry Belafonte was at breakfast my first morning. Still looking impossibly handsome by the way, and — it must be said — going straight for the cheese grits, just like I was. The two young women working the breakfast room didn't seem to recognize him, and I wondered whether that was a relief to him or a sadness. Impossible to know. Monday were readings by Dorothy and me at Turnrow Book Company in Greenwood. Turnrow is that rare thing, a NEW independent bookstore (so many of the indies have been put out of the business by amazon and the big chains). Opened two years ago by owners Jamie & Kelly Kornegay, it's a beautiful space, reminiscent of old European libraries. A terrific place to read and browse. And yet another reminder to us all to buy books from our local independent bookstores! If we don't, we won't have any, and that would be a real tragedy.
The following day we traveled to Greenville for a series of talks and readings at McCormick Book Inn. Owners High and Mary Dale McCormick are self-described "deltalogists" who specialize in all things Deltan. That night, we feasted on gigantic bloody porterhouse steaks and hot tamales at Doe's Eat Place, one of the most famous restaurants in the South. Doe's began as a strictly black honky-tonk in 1941. The food was so good that whites began coming to the back door for take-out, in an ironic reversal of segregation. Before long there was a white restaurant in back as well. Eventually the honky tonk was closed and Big Doe concentrated on the eat place — to the benefit of everyone. What a meal! We were all groaning when we left the table. I ended the evening playing cutthroat till 1:30 in the morning at the bar next door with charming tour coordinators Jimmy Thomas and Odie Lindsey. An extremely fun night, well worth the ensuing sore head.