Wow, what a crazy weekend. Having just returned from Oxford after a weekend
of Blue Moon Cafe fun, I’ve found I’ve been gone long enough for a spider to
weave an intricate web across my back door, a true testament to how long it’s
been since I’ve been home and slept in my own bed.
Everything for Blue Moon went off without a hitch. The authors seemed to have
fun, the bookstore staff had a blast, and everyone that attended seemed to appreciate
getting to hear and meet so much talent all in one place. Friday started with
the first round of readings. Kyle and Sonny did a magnificent job rearranging
the downstairs of the old MQ space to create a comfortable atmosphere. Barry
Leach, a local guitarist from Jackson (of Vamps fame) who just put out his first
solo cd started things off with an acoustic set. All of the writers were excellent,
my personal favorites being Michelle Richmond and her hilarious ‘fictional’
account of encountering a swinging couple while on vacation, as well as the
incredibly evocative poetry of David Fuller. I’d worked pretty hard to get the
PA settings correct and aside from a couple of erroneous knob tweaks, the audio
recordings of all the readings came out exceptionally clear. After the readings
I went over to Bronson’s and he, Erica, Matt and I sat around talking and drinking
some beers. There were a lot of things going on in Jackson this last weekend,
but too much unfortunately, and rather than heading downtown after leaving Bronson’s
I went to Graham’s and hit the sack.
On Saturday I was at the store at 9 am and kept pretty busy throughout the
day. Jill Conner Browne and Frank Turner Hollon came in early to sign their
stock with everyone else coming in (some dragging in after a late night at the
Edison Walthall Bar) around 10 am. I had a nice chat with William Gay and Suzanne
Kingsbury about the oddities of living out West (Suzanne lived in Arizona, I
lived in New Mexico), how you have to alter or remove tattoos when you break
up with your significant other (a la Johnny Depp & Angelina Jolie) and some
of our favorite Hunter S. Thompson pieces. William also mentioned that he was
a Neil Young fan when ‘Cripple Creek Fairy’ from After the Gold
Rush (my favorite song on that album) was playing on the stereo.
Always nice to run into another Neil fan, especially when it’s an author whose
work you enjoy.
After a little break the public signing commenced. There was a good crowd and
it was nice to see some of the newer, less established authors getting a chance
to meet a large number of readers face to face. The Blue Moon Anthology really
gives some up and coming writers a chance to interact with a reader-base that
they might not ever have assembled in one place otherwise. After the public
signing I was pretty whooped and found my way upstairs for a short rest where
the MQ bar used to be (and coincidentally the home base for last years Blue
Saturday nights reading went over really well also. Jack Pendarvis competed
for ‘funniest reading’, at least tying, if not besting Michelle Richmond’s performance
of the night before. He read a fictional ‘letter to the editor’ of a newspaper
asking a superhero to please quit beating him up. Apparently the letter’s writer
had been mistaken for an evil-doer. Hopefully I’ll have the audio available
for posting soon.
After Saturday’s festivities wore down I helped John, Thomas, Joe and Adam
disassemble the MQ reading space then headed over to Bronson’s for a night cap.
Other people were supposed to show up but no one did so he and I took the opportunity
to listen to some Neil Young records. Not very many of our co-workers (nor the
general public) are quite as fanatic about Mr. Young as we are, so it’s rare
that we hang out together and with our other cronies and get the chance to listen
to a bit of the large collection of Neil Young record’s Jason owns. We enjoyed
both Tonight’s the Night and On the Beach, both of which will always sound better
on vinyl than they ever will on CD.
I got to sleep late on Sunday then Graham and I had a Lenny’s Philly Steak
and Cheese (with their trademark and incredibly tasty pickle relish) for lunch.
Then I was off to Oxford to attend Tom and Beth Ann’s annual Blue Moon ‘wrap’
party. I hadn’t originally planned to go since I’m leaving to help Aiyana drive
a moving truck from St. Petersburg, FL to Baltimore, MD this coming Friday.
But I haven’t had a trip to Oxford all summer, I had just dropped $500 to get
my car’s AC fixed and figured I might as well get my money’s worth, and mainly,
when Beth Ann invites you to a party (especially after winning best book inscription
with a most salacious entry in my copy of Blue Moon II) you just don’t say no.
The trip up was beautiful. There were butterflies everywhere. which unfortunately
meant I hit way too many. There are few things that strike me as absurdly cruel
as smacking a beautiful butterfly with your car as you’ve watched it joyfully
flit its way across the road, only to wander right into the path of your windshield.
What more is an automobile than a 70 mph battering ram to a butterfly out for
a leisurely flight on a beautiful summer day? Killing innocent butterflies aside,
the trip was great. The summer’s corn is dying, the whole field of stalks brown
and withering. The cotton is well on its way to maturing, all signs that fall
is almost here.
I arrived in Oxford and passed by Lucky’s house to find him not at home. I
parked in the Square and wandered around, taking a couple of pictures. I stopped
in at Off Square Books, where the Blue Moon authors had just wrapped up their
public signing, and talked with Jamie’s wife, Kelly, for a while. They headed
over to Tom and Beth Ann’s and I swung by Lucky’s again to see if he was home.
Finding him just arriving from doing laundry we sat around for a while then
headed over to Tom and Beth Ann’s house to get our party on for real.
Tom and Beth Ann have just moved into their new house on Sisk Avenue. The evening
was surprisingly and pleasantly mild and it was nice to have a cool evening
outdoors in August. MacAdam-Cage was nice enough to spring for plenty of booze
and barbeque. Everyone looked somewhat relieved to get three days of book dealings
behind them and be able to hang loose with the knowledge no one was going to
be forcing them out of bed the next morning to sign a couple of hundred books.
Jere Hoar and Barry Hannah were both in attendance and I had a nice chat with
them. Jere bests Barry by a number of years but has just released his first
novel, The Hit. Barry (perhaps he warrants a Mr. Hannah) is perhaps Mississippi’s
most revered living writer. He met my parent’s rector at a wedding a few months
back which led to an entertaining discussion of Southern Baptists, Episcopalians
(and how the former are more likely to become the latter), and our opinions
of the church in general. If you’ve read any of Mr. Hannah’s work then you’re
aware how entertaining a conversation with him of that nature can be.
I also ran into Jeff, who I’d met at last year’s Blue Moon party. Then he’d
been in the process of finishing a screen play. As of this year’s Blue Moon
party he’s sold the screenplay as a novel to be published in the Spring and
has a couple of good offers on the screenplay. I had a great conversation with
Eric Kingrea, the youngest of the Blue Moon authors at a shocking 19 years young.
We share a couple of opinions on the lack of quality southern literature set
in the modern South. Eric is extremely talented and I’m sure he will go places
(he is already 30 pages into a contemporary novel set in southern Alabama).
It was nice to meet one of the up and coming members of the new generation of
southern literati. After giving our best wishes to everyone, and hopes of seeming
them in attendance at next year’s Blue Moon festivities, Lucky and I gave Eric
a ride to his motel then headed in and crashed ourselves.
I wrapped up my Blue Moon weekend by sleeping late on Lucky’s couch and having
lunch at Ajax Diner, a prize plate lunch spot on the Square in Oxford. Sonny
Brewer popped in just after I’d taken a seat at the bar and I was pleased to
know he’d thought the weekend could not have gone off any better and they are
planning a Blue Moon-themed Thacker Mountain Radio show to take place in November.
Will have to put that on my calendar and try to make it up to see it happen.
My lunch at Ajax was chicken and dumplings, garlic and cheese mash potatoes, and
marinated cucumbers and onions. I had a cup of coffee for dessert (I hadn’t
had my morning cup yet) and hit the road to head back south.
The drive home was just as pleasant as the drive up, though I’m afraid I dispatched
just as many, if not more, butterflies. The miles went like seconds and before
I knew it I was back in Brookhaven, home again. Mom and Dad are in Florida with
Graham and my aunt and uncle so I had a nice quiet evening watching the Saint’s
first preseason football game all by my lonesome, a nice way to cap off a noisy,
social, fun-filled weekend.