Irish diving goats

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to explore America’s Deep South. On my first night in Memphis, I went to see Irish diving goats. Not in the local petting zoo, but a lively downtown bar.

Finding Silky O’Sullivan’s was easy for the newcomer. It enjoyed a prime spot on Beale Street – the city’s famous music strip. A sturdy doorman had said I couldn’t enter without proof of age. His deadpan expression made it clear he wasn’t joking and I delusionally felt a little flattered. I’m fifty next year.

In the courtyard, two brown and white goats stood halfway up what appeared to be a wooden helter-skelter. Precociously they surveyed the crowds below. My bartender Tyrone told me the helter-skelter was a goat tower and they slept at the top. He said they would sometimes drink beer straight from the bottle, but he’d never seen it himself.

Sing us a song, you’re the Piano Man…

In the centre of the courtyard were two ‘duelling pianos’. At one sat a stylish African American man in his twenties. He wore a sharp grey suit with the shiniest black patent leather shoes. Opposite him was a pretty, plumpish girl of a similar age. She had red curly hair, pale, freckled skin and wore a flowery vintage dress. They sang in turn – Purple Rain, Piano Man, Candle in the Wind.

On top of each piano sat a bulbous fishbowl, both were about half full of dollar bills. I soon caught on – whoever had more tips was winning the duel. I couldn’t help wondering how they felt being upstaged by the goats and feeling sorry for them, I stuffed three dollars into each bowl as I left.

Memphis was somewhere I could happily have stayed longer. I had seen Graceland, Sun Studio and Stax, of course, but something here had captivated me. I wanted more.

I’m goin’ down to New Orleans

Continuing my Deep South road trip towards New Orleans, I stopped overnight in Natchez. It was an unexpectedly pretty town, with Spanish moss hanging from trees outside elegant antebellum houses. I felt like I was in the pages of a guide book, and I loved it.

Any misgivings about leaving Memphis soon disappeared in The Big Easy. It was a sticky midweek afternoon, and I decided to walk the few blocks to the French Quarter. Unexpectedly I stumbled upon a lively procession making its way up Canal Street. There were drums and trumpets and giant carnival caricatures in bright costumes. The musicians danced as they played and cheerleaders threw beads into the crowd. I asked the lady next to me what the parade was for. Smiling warmly, she replied with a delicious southern drawl “Well honey, just because it’s Wednesday…”.

Sipping a Vieux Carré in the bar of the Monteleone Hotel I felt very content. I had come to explore America’s Deep South – to hear country, blues & jazz. I had craved barbecue, grits and collard greens served with southern hospitality. All of this I had achieved. The next day I was taking an alligator swamp safari. I ordered another cocktail and settled back, wondering what my Bayou adventure might bring…

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