To Charleston, to Charleston. Catchy, lively song, but I’m in Waycross, Georgia, once home of Hank Williams, and even better, all the black blues greats, some of whom ended up in Mississippi, like Robert Johnson, the father of the blues and rock'n'roll. I have lost a woman, and as in the case of all men in a flap, songs are running through my head. Johnson's (Stones?) All My Love's in Vain. Train leaving the station, blue lights behind. Followed her to the station, a suitcase in her hand. Segue to Old Fats Domino, "I'm Walkin' To New Orleans." This too, rings in my ears, but no, I'm walking to Charleston along Highway l7, to Charleston, one-time home of the Gullah people, part Cherokee and part black runaway slaves and their sad songs of chains, cruel masters, of love and loss. Robert Johnson would often play at the train station, with his own songs of love and loss, and an encyclopedic knowledge of guitar riffs that would just break your heart. Robert Johnson now in my head. Yeah. I am a white Gullah, part black and part Cherokee, and lots of Native American. A culture onto itself, like my own culture that I carry around with me, with my portable roots. I too, am a guitarist and sometime Johnny Cash impersonator. I have been halfway what they've been though. I have met the Gullahs on the road and they tell me I've got soul. Like they understand. I certainly understand. Robert Johnson, blues, the antidote for cultural oppression. Me, just like them, former slave. White man's war has messed me up. I am functionally black and a Gullah. With the woman gone, I am nothing. White bum, disinherited and disenfranchised. "You got a lot of soul," they said, when I pulled out my six-string. Also, it's probably because I'd been to Newfoundland, been to Newfoundland, where "everyman's gotta eat a tonna shit."
To Charleston. Got the sign up. Will work for food.
"You are so stupid," a girl yells at me from the SUV that is gliding by on the macadam.
If you knew half of what I've been through you'd be dead. I survived the Second World War by hiding in a hole.
I am walking along a riverbank.
Twang of a guitar.
Thrumm Thrumm Thrumm, black hands caressing a dobro the South Carolina sun. Slave song. Gullah slave song. Bottleneck, real bottle neck, made from lighting kerosene -soaked thread around neck. And maybe a banjo made out of a cigar box. Makes me think of Robert Johnson again. Father born in North Carolina. But Robert riding the Georgia Main. I'm trying to get to Charleston. Carolina, I remember you. My baby going to Carolina, blue lights behind.
I followed her to the station.
With a suitcase in her hand.
Ah the Stones and their race records lifts. Stealing from Robert Johnson. But you don't want to punch Mick Jagger in the mouth, like Chuck Berry punched Keith Richards. Jagger's too good.
I saw her at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she was gonna make her connection
In her glass there was a footloose man.
White slavery. Diary of mad housewife. Leaves husband and kids. Ends up in a Carson McCulllers story, but with a pimp for a husband. It's all she knows now. She is going back. Back to the house of the rising sun.
And I’'m following.
The pretty stud popinjay in her glass is trying to make her into his novel. Could it be, could it just be that he could well become the bleeding man in the bottom of her glass when the Ho got streetwise?
More South Carolina blues.
I ain't gonna see my baby no more.
Or, as Bon Jovi would sing later:
Sometimes I sleep
Sometimes I think for days
And people that you meet
They just go their separate ways.
Sometimes you tell the day
By the bottle that your drink
And times you're all alone
And all you do is think.
Sure, Ritchie Sambora wrote the song.
But I think it came from South Carolina. Certainly the Missisippi Delta. Where I am today, walking northeast to Charleston. To Charleston. The original song was "I ain't gonna see my baby no more." But Sambora/Bon Jovi do it justice.
I walk these streets
A loaded six-string on my back
I play for keeps 'cause I might not make it back
I been everywhere, still I'm standing tall
I've seen a lot of faces
And I've rocked them all
And yet, I don't think I'm gonna see my baby no more.
"What did I know? I was twenty, working in the city. Met Laslo. Nice guy. We got married. Then I found out.”
On my shoulder
Well you sure do
know your stuff.
Monkey on her back. Nice guy, Laslo. Get busy in the bedroom.
This time I'm walking to Charleston. To Charleston. Where the slaves are.
Gonna buy me out a woman.
Twenty-year installment plan.