Day 12: May 7, 2015
More Steel, Less Chrome

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I spent the night on the west side of the Mississippi which meant I got to cross the river this morning. Looks like they have solved the problem of people asking "What's that?" when they see the big pyramid on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. It has just reopened (April 29) as a Bass Pro megastore with the company's logo and a giant Ducks Unlimited sign on its side because nothing says "great outdoors" like a giant silver pyramid.

On the north edge, I hooked up with long time friend Alex Burr for breakfast. We had recently talked about this spring's flooding in Cincinnati and Memphis and stopped on the way back at the one time site of some serious flooding not far from Alex's house. In 2008, the entire road in the first picture was under water and had Alex then been standing by that sign, he would have been at least waist deep in water. The large trailer parks that stood on both sides of the road were destroyed although it was several years before things were resolved and the uninhabitable trailers removed.

I targeted Nashville as my next overnight and chose US-70 as the way to get there. That, of course, automatically means a stop at Billy Tripp's Mindfield. I try to photograph stuff that's new although I'm sure some of the photographs are of something I'm just now noticing. The sign in the first picture is definitely new but I wasn't quite sure whether it was advertising a real restaurant or was an artistic element. A few months ago, I was surprised to learn that the canoe incorporated into the Mindfield really is William Least Heat-Moon's "River Horse II". At the time, I found some pictures I had taken on a 2012 visit that almost accidentally included the canoe. Today, I got some intentionally. The newest addition is the pointed structure in the last picture. It is from a cotton gin and I believe it is a dryer. Behind the dryer is the frame of a drive-in movie screen. Here are links to the journal entries for visits in 2005, 2010, and 2012. The water tower was being assembled on that 2005 visit. The painted sections of tree trunks that I've referred to as "stools" in previous posts are all gone now.

I followed the narrow path beside the Mindfield. As I passed the buildings nearest the street, I could see that the Mindfield Grill is very much a real place. I was only a couple of hours beyond breakfast but went in anyway thinking there might be a counter where I could sit and have a float or some such. There was no counter so I ordered some ice tea to go. As I waited, a woman who turned out to be the owner, Elise, approached and asked if I'd gotten the pictures I wanted. She had noticed me next to the Mindfield and her question was the start of an enlightening conversation about the Mindfield, her restaurant, and Billy. She picked up a book of photos and articles and we ended up outside as she pointed out things in the massive artwork. As we talked, we saw Billy walking towards the dryer. He saw us and waved. Elise went inside and I walked over to the fence.

Billy was about to step on to the ladder to the dryer when he saw me and came over. In the easy conversation that followed, I learned how he acquired River Horse II and a few of the other items as well. I knew he had written a book and asked about it. He doesn't push the book or even actually sell it. He did accept a donation when he brought me a copy but it clearly was not necessary. I almost absentmindedly snapped a picture as he signed the book. I intended to get a real picture after he was done but the conversation, with Billy explaining where some of the scenes in The Sycamore Trees take place, immediately started up again and I completely lost any thought of a photo. At last Billy went back to work and I went back to the restaurant where my tea was waiting and so was the notebook. I went through it in comfort in the restaurant's waiting area. By the time I was done, breakfast had slipped a bit further into the past and I gave some thought to sampling something from the kitchen. The decision was made once I spotted Ultimate Grilled Cheese on the menu. I do enjoy a good grilled cheese and this one, with American, Provolone, and Swiss, was excellent.

Another automatic stop for me when driving US-70 is the Broadway of America mural in Dickson, Tennessee. I'm always a little worried about what I'll find there. In 2013, the building was being rented for a store but it is now empty and for sale.

Then it was on to Music City and some music. The first stop was Robert's Western World where I caught someone's last song and a half. Next it was The Stage for a half dozen tunes from a band I liked but didn't identify. Then on to Tootsies for a few tunes. As I had hoped, when I got back to Robert's the Don Kelley Band was on stage. Playing lead was a kid who I've wanted to see ever since a friend pointed me to a video several months ago. I had recognized the band as soon as I fired up the video and, seeing a shock of red hair and a light colored Telecaster, assumed that it was an older video with J. D. Simo, who I'd first seen with Kelley, playing lead. Not so, the video was new and the guy burning up the Tele was Daniel Donato, Kelley's current guitar slinger.

The band has a newish Live at Roberts CD available and, when they took a break, I walked up to get one. I spoke first with drummer Artie Alinikoff who spent some time in Cincinnati (Ivan and the Sabres) in the late 1960s. Then I talked with Don and asked what might be the world's dumbest question. "Where do you find these pickers?", I asked. I'm asking this of Don Kelley who has inspired more than one "Don Kelley Know How to Pick 'Em" article with his band's guitarists. Plus I'm asking this in Nashville where John Sebastion reported there were "thirteen hundred and fifty-two guitar pickers" back in 1966. Who knows how many more there are now? Don answered me with a smile, "I don't have to look.".

To see what I'm talking about, check out this video from a few years back when J. D. was still in the band and Daniel was still aspiring: Walkin' the Dog.

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