7/8/09: Mobile to Gulfport Along Highway 90


After checking out of the hotel, I drove to Dick Russell’s Bar-B-Que in Tillman’s Corner for breakfast, then headed west out I-10 to Escatawpa.
In Moss Point, I stopped by Misty’s Urban Apparel, and then by Byrd’s Music, where Mr. Byrd told me that he had had to add a deli to his music store to stay open, and that if it weren’t for the food he was selling, he probably would have had to close. I then drove over to a new record store on Chicot in Pascagoula called Rebel Muzik, and spent some time with the owners there, putting up some of my posters and talking with them about their projects. I suggested that somebody needs to make a movie about Pascagoula and Moss Point in the early 90’s during the Carver Village era, and they told me they had been talking about doing that. But Carver Village was gone, I learned, as I drove down Mobile Avenue. All of the projects have been torn down since Hurricane Katrina and replaced with housing for the elderly.
Ocean Springs seemed prettier that it used to be, and the old Biloxi restaurant McElroy’s Harbor House had relocated to a nice waterfront setting at the approach to the Biloxi bridge. Biloxi is beginning to look like Atlantic City these days, with a new Margaritaville casino under construction almost next door to the Hard Rock Casino, but as I headed westward past Edgewater Mall, the weather turned grey and threatening.
By the time I got to Lil Ray’s Po-Boys on Courthouse Road in Gulfport, the rains came with a fury, and I got drenched to the bone. But a Lil Ray’s shrimp po-boy and Barq’s root beer brought comfort and memories, and the food was every bit as good as it had been in my childhood. Gulfport’s hip-hop store Da Shop on 34th wasn’t open, and neither was Fox Hollow Coffee (it was out of business), so I drove downtown to PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans on 13th, where I grabbed a latte before starting the long drive back to Memphis.

7/7/09: Day 2 of C & M Record Pool in Mobile


Woke up to rain and thunderstorms that never seemed to let up. Ate breakfast at the Spot of Tea on Dauphin, and then made the rounds of Mobile record stores putting up Alex King posters and asking everyone about the Prichard song I had heard last night on WBLX. Nobody seemed to know who it was.
Driving down Michigan Avenue, I had hoped to inquire about the old Uptight Records building to see if there were still any vinyl records in it, but the building seemed boarded up and abandoned.
By the time I got out to the Prichard area, the sun had come out, and it was hot. In the late afternoon, I drove over to Fairhope to check out the Down By The Bay Cafe, but it had already closed for the day, and the Yardarm out on the pier wasn’t open either, so I headed back west on the old causeway to the Original Oyster House, which my mother and stepfather had enjoyed when they were in the area a year or so ago. From my table, I could see dark ominous stormclouds rising in the west behind the Mobile skyline, but it was still sunny here. I tried the grilled shrimp, which were very good indeed, and ended my dinner with a peanut butter chocolate chip pie, which was also very good.
Then, running late for the start of the conference, I began driving back west into Mobile, but as I headed up I-65 from I-10, I could see a funnel cloud begin to descend from the black line of clouds above the horizon. It apparently never touched down, but as I arrived at the Roxy, where the event was being held, the storm sirens began to go off. The conference was a couple of panel discussions, and a lot of performances, and I felt it went fairly well. DJ Sammy Sam played the Alex King single “What If I” just before the first panel, and although people weren’t familiar with it, I saw some heads bobbing to it. There were a lot of notable Mobile personalities present, including C-Nile, Kalinski, Hittman and Choppa T, who turned out to be the artist responsible for the song “Raised Off 45”, which was the Prichard anthem that had caught my attention the night before. The rain ended about the same time as the conference, but afterwards, the challenge was to find a coffee bar open. Serda’s had closed at 11 PM, but I found one in West Mobile called Biggby’s that was open until midnight. I recognized the place as a coffee house that had been called Beaner’s the last time I was in Mobile, but the girl behind the counter explained to me that the company changed the name when they began expanding into the southwest, as they had learned that “beaner” was an offensive term for Mexicans. Even after a cappuccino, I had no trouble sleeping.

7/6/09: C & M Record Pool Conference in Mobile

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Drove down to Mobile for the C & M Record Pool’s Mobile Music Conference. DJ Bull got me checked into my hotel room, and then I drove over to the new Eastern Shore Center in Malbis to meet up with the Pensacola rapper Big Bone at California Dreaming restaurant. I went by two different Starbucks on the eastern shore and found both closed, but I finally found a coffee bar called Serda’s that stayed open until 11 PM. It had been raining in Mobile, and the streets still seemed wet as I rode back out west toward the hotel, listening to WBLX as they played some rap song about being from Prichard.

7/3/09: Visiting with jazz drummer Aaron Walker

My friend Aaron Walker, the jazz drummer, was in town visitng his mother, so I picked him up and we rode downtown to the Westin Hotel to check out a jazz gig with pianist Steven Lee and drummer Renardo Ward. Aaron and I both got to sit in for awhile, and then we walked around on Beale Street to Alvie Givhan’s gig with Lynn Cardona at the King’s Palace Cafe. Aaron couldn’t hang out late, however, because he had to fly back to Wilmington, Delaware early in the morning, so I took him back to his mother’s house and went home to bed.

6/27/09: Breakfast in Knoxville’s Market Square


Finding breakfast had been a problem for me in Knoxville on past trips, but with the iPhone, I was able to locate several places open for breakfast, and most of them were on Market Square, a charming part of downtown Knoxville that I had never seen before. Not only had people come out of this Sunday morning to eat, but to sit, people watch and walk dogs as well. I had a rather delicious breakfast from a place called Trio, and then I started the long drive back, stopping in Dickson for a cappuccino. Finally arrived in Memphis late in the afternoon, thoroughly tired.

6/26/09: From Cincinnati to Knoxville


The Westin had a self-service breakfast cafe called Ingredients, which really was quite good and not as expensive as most hotel breakfasts. Then I checked out and headed south into Kentucky to make the long drive through the mountains and into Knoxville.
Arriving fairly late in the afternoon, I went first to JK’s Records on Western Avenue, and then drove out to Hamp’s Music in Oak Ridge. Then I went and checked into my hotel at Alcoa, before heading back up to the Cat’s Music on Kingston Pike. The manager there let me put an Alex King poster display on one of the hanging boards on the wall, and after that, I headed downtown to Calhoun’s on the River for dinner. Knoxville had apparently been hosting the US Wakeboarding Championships, and the event was just winding down for the day as I ate dinner from a table overlooking the Tennessee River.
Afterwards I called the famous jazz pianist Donald Brown, who arranged to meet up with me so we could go hear one of his sons play at a club in downtown Knoxville. I picked up a late from a coffee bar near the UT campus on the way out to Donald’s house, and then he, his brother Graylon and I rode downtown. The group playing was more of a smooth jazz/R & B type group, but it was still fun, at least until they started playing nothing but Michael Jackson songs, but, given the recent events, that was probably what most of the crowd wanted. Later, back at Donald’s house, we were up until nearly 3 Am discussing music and listening to discs. It was very difficult driving back to my hotel room at Alcoa.

6/25/09: RIP Michael Jackson


I checked out of the Kingsgate Resort, and ate breakfast at a First Watch near Florence, Kentucky so I would already be on that side of the river to head out for Louisville.
I arrived at the Coconuts Music at the Summit in Louisville a little too early, and they weren’t open yet, but there were already people waiting for the store to open so that they could buy Michael Jackson CDs because he had died yesterday. People couldn’t seem to talk of anything else.
At Ear X-Tacy, one of the local TV stations had set up cameras and was interviewing customers and store employes. Better Days Records had experienced a run on Michael Jackson albums and had completely run out. After a stop by the FYE in Jefferson Mall, I headed east toward Lexington.
The promotional runs to record stores there took longer than I had intended, so it was about 7 PM before I was able to head out toward Cincinnati. I decided to go straight to my hotel, The Westin, and get parked and checked in, which all went much easier than I had feared. The hotel sat directly across from Fountain Square, and there was some sort of festival going on in the square with food vendors, beer and a live band on stage. I walked over there and checked out the happenings for a minute, then ventured into the Rock Bottom Brewery for a late dinner. The hot weather had brought a large crowd into the nearby Graeter’s Ice Cream, but I decided I really didn’t want ice cream, so I walked around downtown for a bit, passing the Contemporary Art center and a trendy bar called Nada, stumbling upon a new restaurant called Bootsy’s, named for Bootsy Collins and featuring a cool exhibit of King Records and Bootsy Collins memorabilia. They were a sushi place however, and didn’t seem to have much of a dessert menu, so I kept walking until I came to a Starbucks that was still open, where I got a latte.
The bands were still playing in the square, and I thought about going to the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, but decided not to, and went upstairs to my room and to bed instead.

6/24/09: Cornhole in Cincinnati/Ocho Cinco Boxing/Elementz Showcase


Breakfast at the Half Day Cafe in the little village of Wyoming, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. Then I started the day of going around to record stores, starting with the FYE stores in malls. At one mall, I entered a shop and found a Cincinnati Bengals Chad Ocho Cinco shirt, which I had to get for the upcoming NFL season. At the CD Warehouse on the westside, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of brightly painted wooden boxes with holes, decorated with Bengals, Steelers or Reds logos. Inside, I asked the store employes about them, and they said “You’re not from Cincinnati, are you?” They explained to me that they were “corn bag hole boards”, and that the game, somewhat like horseshoes, involved tossing bags filled with corn at the board. Hitting the board is worth so many points, and getting it in the hole is worth more.
Meanwhile, as I drove across the riverfront from west to east, nasty black clouds were developing over the hills to the south on the Kentucky side. Soon showers were developing everywhere, and when I got out by Eastgate Mall, the rains came. There was a Cheeseburger in Paradise location there, and I ate dinner there before going across the street to the mall to drop off posters at the last FYE store for the day.
Chad Ocho-Cinco had tweeted that he was sparring at a boxing gym at an elementary school near my hotel and was wanting people to come out and watch him box, but I was late for the showcase at Elementz, so I drove straight over to the center, in the Over The Rhine neighborhood. Elementz board members had been asked to be present, and therefore the crowd was standing room only and extremely hot in the basement auditorium where the event was being held. Many talented young people rapped and sang for the crowd for about two hours, and then the event was over. Abdullah met me briefly at Baba Budan’s Coffee House in the University of Cincinnati area, and we talked over cups of coffee, and then he had to leave, and I drove back to the hotel, watching the employes lock up the Hard Ta Knock hip-hop clothing shop across the street from the coffee bar as I drove past.

6/23/09: RIP Joe Lee Records/City View Tavern/A Fatburger in Cincinnati


Breakfast at Sunrise Cafe on East 86th in the Castleton neighborhood. Another extremely hot day, mostly spent going around to record stores with posters and promos, listening to my Naptown Soul compilations. I was saddened to see that Joe Lee Records on Clifton Street was gone. Record stores close all the time nowdays, but Joe Lee was an old institution in Indianapolis.
Including the mall FYE stores, working Indianapolis took all day, so it was around 6 PM by the time I got to Greenfield. I stopped at a Culver’s there to get a chocolate-peanut butter concrete, and after dropping off posters at the local Karma Records, I drove the state highway south to Shelbyville, where there was another Karma location. I just barely made it to the Greensburg Karma store before they closed for the evening, and then, with the sun still bright, I headed on I-74 toward Cincinnati.
I headed straight for Mount Adams, my favorite part of town, where I had read about a place called the City View Tavern, that was said to have the best hamburger in town. I found it with some difficulty, and discovered that it was a typical dive bar with a couple of differences. One, it had an outdoor deck, and two, it had one of the best views of downtown Cincinnati. Being what it was, however, the place had no frills-no bacon, no french fries, but I will say that the burger was big, good and juicy, and, of course the Cincinnati Reds game was on the TV screen. I watched the sun go down over the city skyline, and then later, I called my friend Abdullah from the Elementz Hip-Hop Youth Center, and he told me that the young people would be doing a showcase Thursday night, so I made plans to be there.
Still hungry, I drove out Montgomery Road to a Fatburger location, which was still open, and ordered a burger and fries. The food was good, but the air conditioner had broken down, and it was unbearably hot. After that, with little to do, I drove to my hotel the Marriott Kingsgate Conference Center, which turned out to be on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and checked into my room.

6/22/09: From Evansville to Bloomington to Indianapolis


With Jojo’s gone, I had few breakfast choices, so I headed to the First Avenue Diner. a former Steak N Egg Kitchen that had decent breakfast, and then I rode around to the FYE at the mall, where the manager let me put up posters. From there, I headed out of town along I-64, having trouble finding any gas stations along the way. I ended up having to pay $2.90 for regular at a general store in Sulphur, and then I headed north along Highway 137.
At English, Indiana, I was intrigued by the blocks of city streets with sidewalks that were completely bare and devoid of any buildings at all, and I wondered what kind of disaster had struck the little town. The downtown was old and largely abandoned, and the only buildings and signs of life I had seen were on the high hills at the southern edge of town.
In Bedford, I stopped at a Karma Music store there, and soon I came into Bloomington, where I rushed over to the Ars Nova antiquarian sheet music store. I bought a few pieces of sheet music there, and then I stopped by Tracks Music to drop off posters and promos. After a latte at Soma Coffeehouse down the block, I drove over to Landlocked Music, and then continued on toward Indianapolis.
When I got into Marion County, I drove over on Southport Road to a shopping area where there was a restaurant called Cheeseburger in Paradise, owned by Jimmy Buffett. Although the weather was hot, the restaurant was having a bikers rally, and everybody was sitting outside on the patio. I thought there would be quite a wait, but I managed to get right in, and had a delicious hamburger for dinner before heading around I-465 to Rick’s Boat Yard to catch the jazz trio there. There, in the lakefront setting, people were sitting out on the deck, watching the sun go down over the reservoir, but the recession had taken its toll there as well, with the trio reduced to a guitar and bass duo, and my drummer friend Lawrence gone. From there, I drove to my hotel, the University Place hotel on the campus of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, known as IUPUI. Although I had to pay for parking, the setting was close to downtown, yet quieter, and the room was quite luxurious.