Nothin But Fire Records CEO Sess 4-5 had invited me to New Orleans to speak at a music industry workshop that he sponsors monthly, so after church, I headed out I-55 into Mississippi, and into some very bad weather indeed. Since the trip was taking so long, I just picked up some chicken from Raising Canes in Jackson, and then continued on my way, although by the time I got to Brookhaven, the rain was finally gone. At Hammond, I decided to drive over to the Pontchartrain Causeway instead of continuing down to LaPlace, but when I got to Mandeville I stopped there for gasoline, and noticed a Cafe du Monde location that was still open. so I picked up a cafe au lait and an order of beignets to go, and headed across the long 26-mile bridge. It was very dark and foggy, but I was surprised at how quickly I could begin to see the lights on the superstructure of the Crescent City Connection bridge, which had to still be 15 miles away or so. By the time I got into Metairie, both myself and my car interior were covered with powdered sugar, but there wasn’t much I could do about it at 11 at night. A room had been booked for me at the Holiday Inn Express just down from Canal Street, and as I gave my car to the valet, I could here the beat of drums from the corner of Canal and Carondelet, where a street band was playing despite the wet weather. Apparently the Saints had won their NFL game, and parties were in full swing.
Saturday I had a lot more SMES events, including two panels to participate in, but I did manage to get down to Murrells Inlet for dinner on the Marshwalk at Captain Dave’s Dockside. I was especially impressed with their unusual hushpuppies- they had no onion, and were served hot with raspberry-honey butter. They’re rather addictive, actually. The fried grouper was also excellent. In the evening, after the panels, however, finding coffee was rather difficult. I eventually found a Starbucks on Myrtle Beach’s northside that was still open, but getting there proved tougher than I had expected because of a large outdoor festival in downtown that had Ocean Boulevard closed. There was a SMES afterparty in the downtown area as well, but I knew that I had a long drive back to Memphis the next day, so I went back to the hotel instead.
After breakfast at the Eggs Up Grill, I took advantage of the sunny weather to spend some time on the beach and in the Atlantic Ocean, and then finished up with a trip to the whirlpool.
The SMES events really didn’t get underway until the evening, so I spent the afternoon driving up to Barefoot Landing, a large outdoor shopping area built around a lagoon. Although it was fun to walk around, I didn’t find anything there to purchase, so I headed down into the town of Murrells Inlet to eat dinner.
Many of the restaurants there were built on a boardwalk called the Marshwalk, which had been built over the marsh that separates the mainland from the islands. Before dinner, I decided to walk the length of it, so I did, noticing an island covered with goats, and behind me to the north there was a rainbow against the darker sky where it had been raining up in Myrtle Beach. One of the restaurants along the walk had a statue of an African-American man in a cook’s uniform, whom I surmised might have been a deceased former employee. I decided to eat dinner at Bovine’s, a fine-looking establishment famous for steaks and wood-fired pizzas, and I was not disappointed there.
Afterwards, I went across the street to a gift shop called the Lazy Gator, and there I found just the right birthday gifts for my mother, a book about the Carolina coastal country, and a coffee mug.
When I got back to the hotel, beat battles and rap battles were taking place, some of which I was asked to help judge, but the real fun took place in the informal discussions that developed out on the patio furniture in front of the lobby. There panelists and conference attendees alike sat down and had fascinating conversations that as often as not drew a crowd to gather around, listen and occasionally join in.
After breakfast at the hotel, I spent the morning driving around to Savannah bookstores looking for a book on the civil rights movement in Savannah, but nobody had it in stock, so I drove across into South Carolina, touring a resort called Palmetto Bluff, which had been built to resemble an old coastal town.
I had wanted to take the ferry over to Daufuskie Island, the Gullah island made famous by Pat Conroy in his book The Water Is Wide, but there wasn’t time to do it. Instead, I stopped briefly at Bluffton, where the downtown area on Calhoun Street was closed off for a farmers’ market, and then I continued northward into Charleston.
After browsing through CD’s at Monster Music and Video, I headed into downtown on King Street. I browsed a used bookstore and then headed around to the Charleston Market for a steak dinner at T-Bonz. Next door, the same owners run Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe, and I enjoyed some coffee and a slice of peanut butter chocolate cake before heading on across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in the sunset, headed for Myrtle Beach.
By the time I got to Awendaw it was dark, but still warm. The area was fairly rural and remote, but with a few gatherings, around the occasional black church or juke joint.
Once I got to Surfside Beach, I checked into the Holiday Inn, and quickly ran into some of the people from the Southeast Music and Entertainment Summit, but it was late in the evening, so I didn’t go out anywhere.