There’s a funny thing about Jackson in the wintertime. It’s like you’ve wasted away through Technicolor summers and all of a sudden you’re in perfect definition. The skies are saturated blue, too expansive to think about. It’s finally acceptable to go outside in jeans, and God forbid, something heavier than a shirt. Enter winter, 2010.
I saw the worst minds of my generation stark raving happy in five thousand dollar armchairs, just going. We all went, pounding against the heat cracked pavement because we had nothing else to do. Mississippi is a breeding ground for the creative; the culture seeps through the kudzu and climbs into our ears at night. My friends were the products of alcoholics, doctors, lawyers, and southern tycoons. Trying our damnedest to die became our business. No personal demons, or skeletons in our closets, we didn’t even do it on purpose. We wanted out of what we knew because it was all we knew. So that’s where we start, all cylinders going on the first Friday of break. There was a show that night, L’espoir Plantation’s showcase, where the best and the wildest played their souls out before a hungry crowd in an old theatre. Crafting music with such wild abandon it hurt, but in a glorious and delirious way. Unfortunately, that was in 6 hours, a lifetime for the depraved, and there was nothing planned to fill the time. We did what we did best, loiter in public areas. It was me, James, William, and Martin on a parking structure in Fondren; burning through the minutes with Marlboro Reds. Waiting is a horrid thing to those who want to go, but we were waiting for a friend. That friend was Jacob Ryder, the closest thing to a Dharma Bum I’d ever met. He was Zen; a ghostly collective of philosophy and kindness all hidden behind the beard of Thor. The first time I met him he was sitting on top of a shipping container reading a book about the impending zombie apocalypse. Needless to say, well worth the wait. He had been away at the University for a while and we all wanted to hear the tales and legends he had experienced. This was the man who dropped acid and ran into the woods one night, and came out a shaman. He was a wild, capering reflection of Kerouac insanity. Jacob was also the closest thing William had to an older brother who gave a damn. Closest thing almost all of us had, besides James. James had an older brother who was half myth, half sarcasm; lean, despicable, our idol. Our heroes are the ones that society tries to forget about, the ones that come to parties with more than one girl, the ones who leave behind them stories and quotes abound. Our hero Jacob, however, had arrived. Strolling out from his Nissan, smoke lingering about him from the pipe clenched between his teeth like the whaler captain he is. Classic cool, unfettered by self doubt or arrogance, just resonates about him. The first words out of his mouth when he sees our motley crew are, “Why the hell are we not drunk yet?” God, Jacob Ryder could take strides to shame any giant.
I, believe it or not, do not drink. I believe it dulls the mind and gives too harsh an experience. I’ll stick to my smokes, thank you. But the others believe that drinking is the first step to a roaring good time. I’ll be loath to say it, but it does make things interesting when you’re the only one there who doesn’t partake. So we retreated to our spot in Wreath Park. This was where brain cells went to die, where I’d had my first kiss, where we’d found William after his girlfriend cheated on him with some bro from college town. There’s a creek, a product of the drainage for the neighborhood, and thus there was a creek bank. Here, the tree roots cling exposed to the faded dirt below. It was our own little gulley. As they passed around bottles of cheap wine and whiskey, I checked the time as an experiment, because time in the company of hooligans like us is a fickle thing. Fickle, but not fleeting. We still had an unbearably long time of three hours before the show started, but of course we’d have to show up at least an hour late. We aren’t nerds, after all. Leaning against the baked bank in the mild winter sun, I asked a question of my fellows. “Guys, what are we going to do next year? William and Martin are graduating, Jacob will be approaching his final year in college, and James and I hate most people in our grade.” In the thoughtful silence that followed, broken only by Jacob coughing tremendously on a passed smoke, I wondered what the others were thinking. Have you ever thought about that? Trying to put yourself in the perspective of those around you, see what they see. The only response came from Jacob, who quietly said, “Well, I mean, what won’t happen? We won’t be gone, man. We won’t be gone.” Ha, simple wisdom.
The time was nigh, the show had started. Praise be to Euphoria, we approach the theatre with light hearts and heavy smiles. This theatre is ethereal. When entered, all reality is forgotten. Christmas lights strung across the ceiling in a lunatic web give the lobby a carnival atmosphere, and the attendants present stand with stamps and cigarettes. New age gatekeepers; stamping your hands with the Condor logo of L’espoir and opening the doors to the shadowy interior of the Liberty Theatre. God, Liberty. I mean, the entire place is just a scene. Old beams support the sagging roof like some wild cathedral. The floor is chipped concrete, steeping down to the maelstrom around the stage. And the stage, oh man, the stage. Rising above the sea of whirling youth like Queequeg’s coffin is a battered wooden platform; the base lost in smoke and bodies. Towering on the top are the musicians, bathed in the light of ten thousand alternating beams. Rising above even those giants on the stage, is the Condor emblem, created by light, paint, and soul. You lose yourself; you become part of the glorious melee that dances and writhes to sound that is just too great to understand. I lost track of all my friends except for Jacob, Jacob was striding purposefully towards the beginning of the storm. The band playing at the time, whose name I didn’t catch, was wailing and resonating from the tower perch. If you ever wanted to see titans, this was it. It was me and Jacob, jumping and screaming in the mass, getting carried off our feet by the pull of the throng. It was bliss. This is the Mississippian Youth, lean, hungry, wild, and free.