Friday, we went to Beale Street (shirking the local home game's debut on ESPN! The huge-manatee!) and went dancing at Alfred's and I was reminded how much I like it there. It was a warm night, and the streets were stuffed with people dancing, twirling, and drinking margaritas from Wet Willie's. Beale Street is an odd combination of Memphis blues and New Orleans charm. It smells of pork barbecue, red beans and rice, and spilled beer. Strong men line up in the street to perform acrobatic feats for money. And there's always this one guy who sits on a throne on the sidewalk, pulled up to a standalone table. He doesn't offer anything -- doesn't tell fortunes, doesn't perform magic -- he just seems to want to talk to people. If you go to BB King's, you'll hear the best blues in the South (short of Clarksdale, I hear), where some of the most soulful music I've ever heard causes people to sway drunkenly on the smoky dance floor. We went to Alfred's, which was stuffed with bachelorette parties of veiled reeling brides wearing flashing lights around their waists and necks. One drunk guy spun aimlessly around the floor in a pink shirt, dancing with his own shoes at times, stopping occasionally to stand still for several minutes while holding his middle finger in the air. I'm still not sure who was (or was not?) involved in the insult.
While the night was undeniably odd, Beale Street's music is so toe-tapping, the dance floor so entertaining, the bands so glad to be there, and the food so delectable that I found myself just glad to be alive and out under the warm night sky.
The next night was also outside but in a very different setting. We went to the lake to enjoy a campfire, smores, and early autumn lightning. I walked a dog around the site's loop and enjoyed the absolute darkness, interrupted only here and there by the twinkling lights of a plastic palm tree or Christmas lights someone had erected in their camper's "front yard." The world smelled like cut grass and ozone before a storm, thrown in with the happy smell of slightly dirty children who have played outside all day long, barefoot. Campers played oldies and grilled hamburgers on rusty charcoal grills. I was unable to get melted marshmallows (or smushmellows as one friend's child calls them) off of my hands, and that was OK.
It reminded me of growing up in East Texas in a town with no restaurants or stores, with nothing open past 9. I spent hours outside on the front lawn drawing pictures with the stars, which were bright and unhampered by any lights from any city, the closest one being an hour away. My friends and I told ghost stories on my trampoline, letting the wind from the dark woods behind us send shivers down our backs, between our shoulder blades. The smoke from the campfire would tangle in my long hair and stay there.
While I can't buy the founding fathers' suggestion that a rural life is a virtuous one, I have noticed that spending a little time with the open sky reminds me of how small I am, how small my problems are. And who doesn't need that little reminder, every now and then?