The legend lives on from the blues men on down of the big choice they call the ole crossroads.
The crossroads, it is told, is where a man’s mortal soul can be sold for a life of good fortune.
Somewhere out there in the delta, in the sweltering heat of Mississippi where the cotton grew high and the ancient blues twangers sang their mournful 12-bar tunes about how hard life is and how much much harder it could be when the love of a woman is tasted but then gets lost somewhere between trouble and tragedy, and the tragedy is turned into song. . . out there where Miss’ippi mud is blacker than New’Awlins coffee, and the blues pangs clangin’ off them ole guitar strings is thicker and stronger than bad whisky. . .
that ole crossroads where they say the devil would hang around waitin’ for the blues man to come walkin’ along, desperate for some kind of simple twist of fate that would set his heartstrings and his sixstrings into a new direction, where he could catch a ride to Memphis or NewYawk and sing them blues into the big microphone and get satisfaction for his pain, get some monetary compensation for sharing his pain with the world, to the tune of . . .Crossroads
As I was a-growin’ up down there in Miss’ippi, snotty-nosed clueless white kid in the suburbs of Jackson, late 1950’s, my daddy might have driven right over them very crossroads, out there in the piney woods backwoods near where Robert Johnson and Pop Staples had cranked out their doleful blues tunes. My daddy might have clunked over them crossroads in the old Ford station wagon as he was driving the backroads doing forestry work, but if he did I never knew it.
Wasn’t ’til later that I found out about them blues, encountered them blues for myself while tasting for my own young self the sorts of pain that this life can deal out.
Years later, when I was wandering in the college scene in the late ’60s, I got a little turned around and confused and encountered the blues, found myself romanticizing some pain that was in my head and a little too caught up in the mary jane and the avoidance of the pain, but still managed somehow to gain a degree, for what its worth, in political science or English or some useless crossroads thereof.
I say useless, but not really.
It’s good to learn to read and write, and to research etc blahblahblah. Now I’m working on a fourth novel, like a thousand and one other boomer fools.
But As I was sayin’, One thing led to another and then after college I was in Florida for awhile, selling insurance and then advertising with many a night misspent in topless bars and what not, followed by a few nights in Pasco county jail and the night I got out of jail I saw a movie that had been made in the mountains of North Carolina and so I, still running from my troubles, went up there, landed in Asheville, been there ever since, not in Asheville but in the great green state of North Carolina.
After a few more false starts and dead ends I finally found, by the grace of God, salvation and the love of my life, from whose womb birth was given that brought forth our three children and this wonderful life, which is, as it turned out, so richly lived, even without all the money that I coulda shoulda woulda made had I made better choices.
Now after 35 years of building houses and other structures I suddenly found myself turning a corner toward the big 65 when I found myself not yet ready to throw in the towel and just settle into the social security dole which supposedly I have contributed to all these years and therefore earned, so I went and got myself a job at Lowe’s home center, which is at the crossroads between two great industries of this country–retail and construction–not a bad place to be in America.
Now at this late stage, looking back on it all, it seems I’ve been, like many boomers, and like many so-called millennials will be by the time they get to be my age, underemployed. Hey, I’ve been underemployed all my life, but that has turned out to be no big deal.
It’s been a good ride, thanks be to God.
And the big 65, which I’ll turn here in about three weeks, is really nothing special–no magic number, so I’ll keep paying my dues–which is to say, working– for a few more years because this life is, as the Beatles said on Abbey Road. . . the bread you make is equal to the bread . . . you take.
Or something like that.
And so my advice to all you millennials and gen-Xers out there who are over-educated, underpaid and underemployed is this:
Find a job, any job, and just stay busy working, learning, progressing toward your destiny. Don’t wait for .gov or Bernie or anybody else to bail you out because this world really does not work that way.
Get busy, stay busy, work every day you can, and your destiny will find you by the time you’re my age and you will find that . . .
Life is good. Make the best of it. Don’t wait for a handout and don’t blame anyone else for your troubles.
But you can sing the blues if it helps you to deal with the pain. And you may find yourselves, along the way, at a crossroads or two, but don’t sell your soul.