Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Po' Monkey

I keep finding all these pictures from the summer that I never posted (and blog ideas that never made it up). Institute will do that to you, I guess. But now I have a relatively clear week, so I can get around to putting up all the pictures I've taken recently.

The first of these are pictures from my excursion to Po' Monkey during the FIRST weeks of Institute.

Po' Monkey, really Poor Monkey (gotta love that charming Southern slang), is a place unlike any other. Established in 1961, it is considered to be one of the last juke joints in the south.

We'd heard about it because it was one of those "places to see" while in the Delta. A last true remnant of juke joints? Yes please. A no-brainer.

The only problem was that Po' Monkey's is only open two nights a week, on Monday and Thursday. This made making time to drive out there a challenge when your mornings start at 5:20 a.m. and don't really end until at least 11:00 p.m. An excursion to Po' Monkey's was going to take some serious planning.

Monday night was pretty much out of the question, as Monday night was Stripper Night and the rumor was that all females in attendance would be expected to strip.

Um, thanks but no thanks.

That left Thursday night, which was called Family Night -- not because children were allowed inside (they weren't) but because there weren't any strippers then. Excellent.

So on the first Thursday of Institute, before things got crazy hectic and we all became sleep-deprived zombies, a few of us made the excursion out to Po' Monkey's for a beer (the only thing they sell).

Getting there was also an adventure. The other thing about Po' Monkey's, besides the fact that it's only open two nights a week, is that it is unsearchable on a map. Un-GoogleMap-able, if you will. How were we supposed to get there?

Wyatt, our trusty leader, looked around online to get some directions and found something along the lines of "Once you get to the Marionville town limits, drive around the back roads and get lost. Then flag down a passing car and ask them to direct you to Po' Monkey's. They'll know where to go."

No joke.

So that's what we did. We drove to Marionville, then pulled off the main high way and drove up and down a couple country dirt roads (past a giant raging field fire, in fact) until we finally passed a car. Flagging them down, Wyatt asked for directions. We followed them, but didn't follow them correctly and ended up back in Cleveland.

Back where we started, Wyatt stopped at a gas station and asked the woman at the counter for directions. The rest of us had stayed in the car, so I'll give you the interaction from my perspective (adding my own dialogue, of course).

Wyatt: Excuse me, ma'am. Could you please tell me how to get to Po' Monkey's.

Lady: Well, I actually have no idea. But my husband does. Let me call him.

Lady gets on gas station phone (old school giant phone) and calls husband. After talking a bit, she hands the phone to Wyatt. Wyatt talks for a while.

Wyatt: Sir, do you think you could give me directions to the Po' Monkey? I am new in the area and would love to see this spectacular historical landmark.

Lady's Husband: Well sure. You drive up the highway and you keep going until you get to... well, you get to a... um, you know, I don't really remember. Why don't I just come show you?

Wyatt: Sir?

Lady's Husband: You sit tight and I'll drive over to the station and take you there.

And that's how we found Po' Monkey's. The lady's husband drove up to the gas station (I guess he had to pick her up from work them anyway) and then drove out to Po' Monkey's with cars in pursuit.

I'm sure that somewhere in this whole exchange, it occurred to us that this could be a rather risky move, allowing a complete stranger to lead us out into the country. But it wasn't until we pulled off the four-lane highway, onto a completely dark country road, that we started seriously questioning our judgement. And I think our street smarts flew completely out the window when the man waved out the window and motioned us on down the road. We drove on in trust and faith in Southern hospitality.

And sure enough, after bumping along a quiet dirt road through a corn field for a while (i.e. think of every scary movie set in the country ever made), the way parted, and up ahead we saw the lights of Po' Monkey's.

Po' Monkey's was nothing like I was expecting. It was probably a gazillion times more awesome.

The shack (and it was literally a shack) was made up of about three and a half itsy-bitsy rooms with low ceilings, a pool table shoved in one room, a DJ in a nook in the other (with a number of card tables), and a teeeeeny tiny dance floor and the window for the bar (only beer) at the front.

And the decorations. Oh, the decorations. Anything and everything you can think of was nailed to the walls and dripping from the ceiling -- streamers, a disco ball, twinkle lights, Happy Birthday banners, postcards, old photos, naked baby dolls (literally), butcher paper, glittery paper, metallic surfaces, netting, stuffed animals (of the state fair variety), and so much more.

Of course, even more than being a decorating spectacle, Po' Monkey's is a juke joint. One of the last true juke joints around. We went for the awesome atmosphere AND the awesome music. And for the dancing. BamaCorps was known to start the dancing there on more than one occasion. What can I say? We're a fun bunch.

To close out the post, I'd like to share with you one of the particular favorites of BamaCorps -- I'm Bout It Bout It. Feel free to spread the good sound of the Delta to your friends and family. It's a magical sound.

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