Tennessee was the Socks’ destination, and the first stop on the tour was Memphis. What comes to mind when one thinks of Memphis? Barbecue. Blues. Sun Records. Elvis.
Well, on our weekend in the town, Memphis delivered all of those and more. We’ve heard Beale Street compared to Bourbon Street – live music, good food, conviviality, and those are certainly a part of the strip. But its unique history is what sets this town apart. When we think of Memphis Blues, we think of B.B. King. Electric guitar. Guitar solos. Singing voices and crying guitars. Or crying voices and singing guitars. Repeat: electric guitar – and all those electric guitarists who followed.
We love music, and we love the movement that the Memphis Blues birthed. Next stop, Graceland. Another electric guitar and a new wailing voice. The inception of rockabilly. Elvis Presley, the king of rock. The King. But his fourteen-acre estate delivered a bit of melancholia amidst the awe. The excesses of his life led to an early demise. Stacy Lyn was just a kid when Elvis met his end, and this was the first rock musician in a long line whom she would mourn. Seeing Graceland caused memories of a sad time in her life to resurface, in spite of the lifetime of joy rock music has proffered to her soul.
Just a few hours east of Memphis, Nashville revealed more music, music, music to Stacy Lyn and Socks. She was a tad disappointed to discover that the bands played covers instead of original music as her soul is always renewed when a musician wows her with an innovative sound, or words – or the perfect combination of the two, which is rock music. Melodious poetry. In addition to the music, Stacy Lyn discovered Martin’s Barbecue Joint – a place where she could enjoy both music and the best barbecue she had ever tasted in her life. And while we’re extolling their wonders, let us mention that one can sip her white wine from a Mason jar. Who could complain about that?
Further east, Cookeville, Tennessee sits tucked in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. A defunct railroad crosses the downtown where the old depot now serves as a museum. Cookeville has the charm of a Hallmark town, where one can walk on real sidewalks and window shop at boutiques, chocolateries, and our personal favorite Cream City Café. Dogwood Park lies at the opposite end of downtown, and there we spotted lines of trees, denuded of their leaves for winter, but resplendent in their treeness nonetheless. Each had a plaque lovingly placed at its base to remind passersby that someone of value once made a difference in the life of another. We were reminded that any moment of joy can bring on the Shadow, like the plaque that announced the passing of a twenty-six-year-old man, a father. His little boy or girl must walk through life without Daddy. Stacy Lyn knows what that’s like, and it sucks. But then there are and always will be new moments to snatch the sadness from the wrinkles of our minds, especially when spearheaded by a dog.
Helios made his appearance after a couple of days hidden behind rain clouds, so we took advantage of our rediscovered mobility and drove northward toward Daniel Boone National Forest in neighboring Kentucky. We passed through the quaint little town of Monticello, a pleasant surprise that reminded us of Mayberry, or some Hallmark town where people still mosey rather than walk and where they stop by the local quilting shop because they haven’t visited in a spell. In the center of the smallest traffic circle that Stacy Lyn had ever seen, a place of honor was held by a monument dedicated to the local men who sacrificed their lives in the Great War, which became, unfortunately, only the first World War. As incongruous as it seemed in this faraway place in time and space, it was an honor to pause for a moment to pay respects and read the names of those who might otherwise be forgotten. Further in town, Stacy Lyn noticed an anomaly of a different sort: Locals decorated their front doors in the pinks and reds of Valentine’s Day, a holiday that, in Louisiana at least, gets sandwiched (and often forgotten) between Christmas and Mardi Gras. Louisiana festoons and wreaths don the ubiquitous purple, gold, and green in deference to the ruling winter holiday, whether or not it falls before or after Valentine’s Day. Just outside Monticello, before the sun began its quotidian descent, a tiny cemetery beckoned and invited us to visit those whose view changes only with the seasons. Were they alive when Daniel Boone roamed the wilds of Kentucky? As it turns out, yes, though they may have been tiny tots when he was approaching his final days on this plane. Continuing on towards the woods named for Kentucky’s most famous pioneer, Stacy Lyn was not surprised by the uncommon beauty of Kentucky, the fortieth state she has visited. A good friend from the days of yore had often described to her the gently undulating hills capped by trees that stretched far enough to be called a forest. Outcroppings revealed dun-colored rock, where water found its way through the crannies to create impromptu waterfalls.
Before the sun sank too low behind the winter landscape, Stacy Lyn headed back whence she came and said goodbye first to Kentucky, then Tennessee as they became memories in the rear-view mirror.