Friday, January 7, 2011

Adventures in North Mississippi

Let me tell you about some fun things to do in north Mississippi, and some places that would be fun to visit if they were ever freaking open.

Jason and Julie in a cotton field.


Normally, I avoid going to Mississippi.  Every time I'm driving and I see that MISSISSIPPI WELCOMES YOU! sign with the magnolia flower on it, I get a little itchy, like I'm one of the college kids at the beginning of Mississippi Burning.  I keep expecting to see red flashing lights in my rearview mirror and then be pulled over by a good old boy cop and then have my family find me later in a ditch in a cotton field.

Geesh, Mississippi gives me the creeps.  For that matter, I don't even like going to south Memphis.

But let me tell you some great fun things to do in north Mississippi!  First of all, there is everybody's favorite, Graceland Too!  What?  You mean you've never been to Graceland Too?  Why, that's crazy.  I refuse to believe it!

1. EPIC DESTINATION #1: GRACELAND TOO

Graceland Too is the private residence of Paul McLoed, who lives in Holly Springs, Mississippi.  As it turns out, this guy is something like the most ardent/insane Elvis fan of all time, who has turned his home into a giant shrine of the King.  There is Elvis memorabilia from the floor to the ceiling of his place, and what's more, HE'LL BE HAPPY TO SHOW YOU!  His home/museum is free to the public, and IT'S OPEN 24 HOURS A DAY!  All you have to do is show up and knock, and no matter what time it is he will answer the door and show you around his home!  Renee (my wife), Jason (my brother), and Julie (my sister-in-law) decided to check it out.

Well, here is a picture from our first trip to Holly Springs, in November of 2009.  In this photo, Jason and Julie are standing on the porch of Graceland Too.  If you notice, Julie is pounding on the front door while Jason watches.  Also, you might notice, NO ONE IS ANSWERING.

Graceland Too is closed, 2009

But we didn't let an unanswered door defeat us that day.  We decided to kill a little time in Holly Springs, Mississippi, by checking out the town square.  Maybe after a little while, Mr. McLoed would come back and let us in to Graceland Too.

We thought it would be a good idea to pop into an old-timey pharmacy and order a malt.  This was a poor idea.  There is nothing like standing at the counter of an old-timey pharmacy while the mouth-breathing guy behind the counter takes 35 MINUTES TO MAKE YOU A MALT.  Meanwhile, there's a family with a sick toddler sniffling behind you, waiting for the guy to finish your malt so that little Roosevelt can get his prescription for tetracycline.  DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE WE DID!

Anyway, after an hour or so we figured the guy from Graceland Too was surely home, so we tried again.  NO ONE ANSWERED.  We left.

Still!  We were resolute and did not give up!  This December, more than a year later, we made another trip to Holly Springs, Mississippi to visit Graceland Too again.  SURELY IT WOULDN'T BE CLOSED AGAIN!

But it was.  The only thing I can deduce from this story is that Graceland Too is closed always.  It had been painted blue this time, though, so there's that.

Look!  It's been painted blue!  And it's snowing!  This must mean it's open.

Julie knocks in her polite Midwestern way.  Alas, no one is home.

2. EPIC DESTINATION #2: ROWAN OAK

But Graceland Too isn't the only attraction north Mississippi has to offer.  There is also Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner.  Now, if you know me, you probably know that I am a big fan of Faulkner.  And yet, I had never visited his home, which is located in Oxford, a short 75-minute drive from my house.  That's just unacceptable.

Jason, Julie, Renee, and I decided to visit Rowan Oak after we left Graceland Too, on our first trip back in 2009.  The only problem was that we were so tired after our experiences in Holly Springs, what with the waiting around in the town square AND THE KID WHO TOOK 35 MINUTES TO MAKE US A G.D. CHOCOLATE MALT! that when we pulled into Oxford we found a nice little dive off of the square and had a seat.  And college football was on the TVs (that was the night of Tim Tebow's last home game for Flordia) and we sat around too long and pretty soon the sun was going down and we knew that Rowan Oak had closed.  We had missed our chance.  But Renee was kind enough to drive us around until we found the driveway leading to Faulkner's house.

Before leaving, Renee pulled over the car and killed the lights.  In the silence that ensued, we all made a solemn pirate's oath that we would return one day to that very spot and visit Faulkner's home.

Cut to this December.  Jason and Julie are back in town.  We have just suffered the ignominy of being shut out at Graceland Too FOR THE SECOND TIME, but it's a new day and time for us to fulfill our pledge to return to Faulkner's home.  We all got in the car again (my dad came along, too!), and eventually we found Rowan Oak.

It was a beautiful, bright winter's day.  Rowan Oak shone from behind the trunks of ancient magnolia trees.  We went up and knocked on the door!

ROWAN OAK WAS CLOSED.

Do I look amused?  I am not amused.


Jason vs. Rowan Oak

Jason at Rowan Oak.
The chart below will sum up our travails in northern Mississippi.

Trip one--Memphis to Holly Springs to Oxford (November 28, 2009): 
Graceland Too: closed
Rowan Oak: Closed

Trip two--Memphis to Holly Springs (December 26, 2010):
Graceland Too: closed

Trip three--Memphis to Oxford (December 27, 2010):
Rowan Oak: Closed

After our final defeat, Julie wonders how it all went wrong.

3. EPIC DESTINATION #3: SOME PLACE THAT WAS OPEN


We found a place to eat in Holly Springs called Victor's.  It was a basement pizza place that served draft beer in pitchers and had NFL games on the TVs.  We ducked out of the flurries for a moment, had a slice and a glass of beer, and watched the Packers beat the Giants.  North Mississippi was not entirely a failure.

4 comments:

  1. Funny. I have been to all these destinations through work.

    1) I worked on a documentary about Graceland Too owner, Paul McLeod. I spent a lot of time in the house while Paul conducted tours all through the night. The busiest time seemed to be around 2am.

    2) I have done two shoots at Rowan Oak. I've even used the bathroom there!

    3) During the Graceland Too shoot, we stopped at Victors for lunch. Once inside, we were immediately taken by all the Elvis memorabilia in the backroom dining area. When we inquired about it, the young Asian lady behind the counter told us that her aunt who owned the pizza joint loved Elvis. We asked if we could interview the aunt, but was told that we would have to come back later because she was out fishing. Later that day, we returned for the interview. The aunt was extremely nervous and self-conscious about her English (even though we had no problem understanding her). We asked the aunt if she had ever visited Graceland Too. She told us no because the way she was raised, you never entered another one's home without being invited.

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  2. Too funny! Graceland Too actually nauseates me. That house once belonged to my great grandmother. It was once a gorgeous stately home...ugh

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