The plan was to rise early, say goodbye to Mississippi and hit Route 49 North for about a 3 hour drive to Little Rock, Arkansas. What happened was a bit different. Let's just say the last two nights had put a dent into my ability to celebrate a sunrise. Which meant noon found me on a stool in Abe's BBQ, ordering a Big Abe pulled pork BBQ sandwich with 'Come Back Sauce.' I was directed to Abe's by the receptionist at my hotel, who said "Ain't no barbecue like Abe's. Ain't got no sense if you go anywhere's else." Obviously she had mistaken me for someone with sense, but I didn't want to butt heads with Edna. Abe's was originally founded in 1924, by Abraham Davis who apparently also sold his soul for the perfect BBQ sauce recipe. Lot's of trading with the devil going on in Clarskdale. In any case, I think Abe got the better end of the trade and Edna Mae was probably right.
The 3 hour drive to Little Rock, listening to Screaming Jay Hawkins, Chance The Rapper and Van Morrison, felt good and luckily no one was filming my singing (It's not pretty.) I pulled up to The Burgundy Hotel in West Little Rock around 4:30, checked in and found the pool, which naturally was closed. No problem - I corralled a young man by the name of Hester and ordered a Mexican Coke. The pool may be closed, but the sun was shining and the deck chair reclined.
The Burgundy markets its property as "an elite retreat in the heart of West Little Rock." It should be added that this elite retreat allowed me to book a room, so the elite status would now be considered false advertising. The Burgundy also says they offer "Little Rock's most innovative dining experience." A claim I wanted to explore, so again I caught the attention of Hester and had him make a 7:00 reservation. Hester has an odd accent, being a mix of Arkansas twang and what he referred to as 'Mexico City slang'. I'm pretty sure he said 'yes sir', but he may have been giving me a weather forecast. I guess I'll find out at 7:00.
Apparently Hester had said 'yes sir', or some approximation, since there was a reservation in my name when I arrived at 7:00. Pepe seated me and left me wondering how a gentleman with the name of Pepe got along in Little Rock. But I digress. The decor was certainly innovative. The junction of contemporary and Arkansas chic, with a dash of industrial trim. All in all it was certainly comfy and my dinner was a treat. Starting with creamy gulf shrimp wrapped in bacon and ending with a big slice of banana bread with cream cheese and pecan crunch ice cream. In between I managed to devour a rather large portion of blackened sea bass with chipotle bleu butter and chorizo corn. Hey, it wasn't Abe's, but damn it was good. So good I vaguely remember Pepe sliding the tab onto the table and then for some reason bowing, before turning and walking away.
After a brief food induced nap, I showered, called Hester and had him bring up a cab. The White Water Tavern was too far to walk, which means I couldn't stumble home after the prerequisite four drinks. The cabbie, Hollis, said he had lived in Little Rock for 23 years and had never been to The Whitewater Tavern. When I asked him why, he said "Too much loud." And with that staggeringly precise review, we arrived.
The White Water Tavern is a Little Rock institution. The late owner, Larry 'Goose' Garrison saw to that. Three times lost to fire over a period of 25 years, Goose rebuilt and kept this great live music dive alive. Tonight's band, Mojo Depot, started kicking around 10:00 - One glass of Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve into the night - opening with a great rendition of The Band's Cripple Creek. This was followed by a scorching version of Train Beat Blues with Brent Womac on lead. Cat can jam I thought as Wanda handed me glass number two. They were a few licks into Big House when Wanda brought over glasses three and four. The place was jumping and she was running around like a chicken with it's head cut off, so I figured why not bring two and save time. Probably a mistake since three and four disappeared as quickly as number two.
I should mention the fact that people love to dance at The White Water Tavern. Maybe love isn't the right word. They feel compelled, drawn to the floor. In my case however, I was coerced. Apparently Wanda's shift ended at 1:00 AM and as all wait staff do after spending eight hours on their feet - They dance. Then again, what Wanda dragged me onto the floor to do wasn't really dancing in the traditional sense. I would call it flailing. Swinging ones arms in all directions, while the bottom half of your body, seemingly with a mind of its own, goes in a completely different direction. Rhythm be damned was Wanda's message to the world. I am woman hear me roar. I'm okay with the I am woman part, it was watching her roar that pushed me over the edge. So while Wanda twirled and flailed to a beat that was only in her head, I quietly slipped away and caught a cab back to the Burgundy. I had a five hour drive to Oklahoma City in the morning and I needed some sleep. Thanks for the dance Wanda. I am man, hear me snore.