Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Porch by Rick Bragg

The Porch

The soul of a house lies just up the front steps.

Porch Rocking Chairs
PHOTO: Janis Christie/Getty Images
The old house has started to fade inside my mind. I try to remember it but the walls are mostly blank, the hallways filled with shadow. The fights, hugs, prayers, and curses that occurred there still linger in my memory, but the wooden boxes that held those things, the rooms my paternal grandparents once shared with their great extended family, have lost form. I think it was painted white, that house. It seems like it was white.
But the porch, now...I still see the porch. The last time I stood upon it I was 6 years old, but I still see the nail heads in the weathered pine, still hear the squeal of the rocker pressing the planks, still see tiny comets arc across the air when somebody flicked the glowing nub of a Pall Mall over the rail and into the night.
I remember that it was wide and deep, as high off the ground as a man is tall. The planks, once painted, were worn down to a bare, ancient gray by rain and sun, and by a few billion brogans, black wingtips, and scandalous high-heeled shoes. But it was built to stand until the Rapture, and maybe a little while beyond.
They say a kitchen is the heart of a house, but I believe the porch is its soul. From the very steps, you knew if you were welcome or not, knew everything you needed to know about the people inside. My grandmother Velma welcomed the whole world there on those boards, except for a few insurance men and anyone with a pamphlet. Usually, she welcomed them with a saucer of blackberry cobbler, or banana pudding, or a plate of the best meatloaf this world has ever known. My grandfather Bobby, if it was a weekend and the world had not run out of whiskey, sometimes welcomed visitors with something more, but that is another story.
The porch was always cool, as if summer stopped at that first step. The house was like a furnace in the hot months, and the porch, perched in the foothills of the Alabama highland, was a cool oasis in the heat. There was no electric light on the porch, no bright bulb to draw insects or add to the heat. Porches were for talking, and rocking babies, and cutting okra and snapping beans and telling lies. A body did not need a lot of light for that, and—if the lying got out of hand—the darker the better.
I remember its scent, an ambrosia of black coffee mixing in the wind with the sweet smell of canned milk, and honeysuckle, and snuff. It made the babies sneeze. In the evening, the children would retreat beneath the porch to be away from their mamas and daddies but still not quite away, to be with them and yet not right with them, which is a delicious thing that only a child really understands. We convened there to whisper, pinch, fuss, eavesdrop, and enjoy the dark, our heads filled with ghost stories and our fists wrapped around our broken-bladed pocket knives. But then a screech owl would split the night, or a cousin would mutter, "I wonder if there's snakes down here," and we would come pouring from around the pylons and up the steps.
I don't see people on porches much anymore. I guess they just stopped building them after air-conditioning, and television. I see people sitting around on patios, but it is not the same. But people seem to like them. As the late writer Lewis Grizzard once wrote, it is hard to get drunk and fall off a backyard.
Like most people, I have a dream house under construction in my head. The plans shift and reform and sometimes I even scratch out a few lines with pencil on a legal pad, but I always tear it up and start over. I have been building it all my life, slow evening after slow evening. If I had worked with bricks and lumber instead of dreams and paper, I would be sitting about 19 stories high by now. Maybe I should find a good architect. Or maybe I should just get one last, clean sheet of paper, and start with a porch. I already have one in mind.

Article: Rick Bragg|From the August 2012 Magazine Issue

Monday, August 13, 2012

Celebration Dedicated to Michael Burks


Homecoming at Hopson’s Commissary in Clarksdale, MS – October 7th 2-7pm
Suggested Donation $15
The 13th annual Pinetop Perkins Homecoming Celebration will take place on Sunday October 7th at Hopson’s Commissary and the Shack Up Inn from 2 to 7pm with a suggetsed donation of $15. The Homecoming is held each year on the site of the old Hopson’s Plantation and began with the dedication of the Pinetop Perkins Shack at the Hopson Plantation’s Shack Up Inn in October 2001. It became an annual event to honor Pinetop who had spent World War II on the grounds of Hopson’s driving one of the first mechanized cotton picking machines. The event quickly drew many fans and musicians each year who stopped by on the Sunday after the King Biscuit Festival to honor Pinetop. The celebration now attracts over 1000 fans to three stages of music on these Sunday afternoons. Since 2009 all the proceeds have gone directly to scholarships for youth to attend the Pinetop Perkins Master Class workshops in June, which are also held in Clarksdale, MS and attract youth and young at heart.

Artists appearing this year include:
Special Michael Burks Tribute Performance with Preston Shannon, Popcorn Louden and Terry Grayson, The Peterson Brothers and Clay Swafford

Also appearing: Paul Oscher, Bob Margolin, Bob Stroger, Kenny Smith, Ann Rabson, Bob Corritore, Eden Brent, Kenny Brown, The Side Street Steppers, and The Youth Workshop Showcase featuring Austin Young, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, Matthew Davidson, Jack Gaffney

The Homecoming Celebration is a benefit for youth scholarships for The Pinetop Perkins Foundation annual master class workshops in June. Pinetop formed THE PINETOP PERKINS FOUNDATION, a nonprofit 501c(3) in 2009. It’s mission, in part, is to help young musicians at the beginning of their careers. The Foundation fulfills that mission through the Master Class Workshops held each June. Open to musicians of all ages, it’s goal is to provide scholarships to youth 12 to 21 to spend three days learning from some of the top blues artists in the country. The Workshops have grown from 9 to over 25 participants in two years. We anticipate even more for next year. The Homecoming benefit will help the Foundation enable youth to experience this wonderful workshop experience.

For more information go to: or

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Benefit for Ronnie Drew Medical Expenses

Sunday April 1, 2012
April Fool's Day

Ronnie Drew was born and raised in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He started playing guitar at age 13 after seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Ronnie has played with several popular regional rock and roll bands over the years including Chance, Fantasy, Second Chance and The Remains. In 2001, he opened his own guitar shop, Bluestown Music, on Delta Avenue in Downtown Clarksdale. Ronnie continues to own and manage Bluestown today, and he still lives in Clarksdale.
We hope that everyone can come out and enjoy an afternoon of good music and fellowship with Ronnie and many of his former band members. All musicians are invited to come and Jam. Music should start around 3. Hope to see everyone at the Commissary.