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Blues hammer

Columbia Pictures
Willie Brown's picture of the "crossroads" where he made his "deal" many years earlier.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – The ghost of Delta bluesman Robert Johnson has been haunting my dreams these past few weeks.

Seriously. This crossroads business has really struck a chord, no pun intended.

In the film Crossroads, which I referenced in a recent Dust Devil Dreams post “Old situations need old medicines,” which highlighted Robert Johnson’s alleged midnight meeting at the crossroads with the Devil, where he would tune the bluesman’s guitar and hand it back to him, assuring the mortal has amazing guitar-playing abilities.

In the film, Ralph Macchio’s guitar-playing genius Eugene “Lightning” Martone springs old bluesman Willie Brown (an old pal of Robert Johnson, and a guy who also made a deal with the Devil) -played by Joe Seneca - from his incarcerated state in a New York nursing home. They flee to Mississippi where Willie promises Eugene they will find Robert Johnson's long-lost 30th song (which does not actually exist). This is enough for Eugene to help Willie.

Along the way, they pick up a young, female hitchiker. While at a motel, the manager tries to have sex with her, but the streetwise girl gets the upper hand and she, Eugene and Willie steal the manager's car and continue heading south to the Mississippi Delta, where their fate awaits - again, at the crossroads.

And as the manager gets his comeuppance as they steal the car, Willie tells him that he can find it at the "bus station in Jacksonville, Florida."

When I heard that line I wondered if he really meant to say "Jackson, Mississippi," since that would make more sense. Eugene and Willie came from New York to Memphis on a Greyhound bus and then hitchiked the rest of the way, so Jacksonville is nowhere near the Mississippi Delta, or Greenwood, Mississippi, where Robert Johnson died 80 years ago this month - on the 33rd degree line of latitude, no less.

Yes, it bothered me, because Jacksonville, Florida doesn't play into the film's themes or storyline. Just one of those random lines. In any event, they stop at a wrecking yard and get rid of the stolen car anyway.

MADDEN CROWD

So, over the weekend I was saddened to learn that a troubled video game enthusiast from Baltimore, Maryland, David Katz, 24, had shot and killed two fellow gamers participating in a Madden NFL19 video game tournament at the Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Florida. Much of the Madden 19 event was taking place at a Chicago Pizza restaurant (The city of Chicago is where a lot of Delta blues singers ended up, looking for better opportunities). Eleven people were injured, in total, while the two killed were Eli Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, California and Taylor Robertson, 27, of Ballard, West Virginia. The shooter reportedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound from the handgun he used in the shooting.

A video making the rounds features an announcer describing Katz as "a man of business ... he's not here to make friends." Other reports say Katz, a known character in high-stakes gaming, was treated for mental illness. And now another troubled white man guns down more innocent people - and in Florida, a state where this has occured more than once, particularly with the Parkland shooting. And Katz's homestate of Maryland had the shooting recently at the Annapolis Capital newspaper offices. America truly does seem to be at a crossroads. Have we made our Faustian bargain? Or are we seeking redemption?

Katz, reportedly lived in the area of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which the Florida Times-Union described as "a sibling" to Jacksonville Landing, with both cities using these locations as "iconic backdrop(s)" for their respective downtown. The newspaper adds that Jacksonville Landing, with its many shops and entertainment venues has seen a drop in visitors in recent years and that its "fortunes have lagged." Interesting that Katz came from an area (Baltimore's Inner Harbor) that mirrors the one where he ended his own life and the life of others (Jacksonville Landing). It is unclear as to how Katz arrived in Jacksonville, whether by plane, train or car. 

While not much is known about Katz, other than his standoffish and antisocial behavior, and the fact that he attended the University of Maryland, we do know that among his gamer tags was the name "Bread." More here at the Baltimore Sun.

Oddly, as soon as I heard that this event had taken place in Jacksonville, I thought back to that offhand comment Willie makes regarding dropping the car off in Jacksonville, Florida. After all, this scene was in Crossroads, which has a supernatural angle that is undeniable. I have been struck with a need to watch that film and research Robert Johnson, the "crossroads" legend, musicians making "deals with the devil" and Delta Blues in a very serious way. This seems to have all started when I read director David Lynch's autobiography, Room to Dream, where he talks about the script for the as-yet-unmade Robert Johnson film Love In Vain, written in the 1980's by Alan Greenberg.

After all, the blues has always existed. Long before Hernando DeSoto "discovered" the Mississippi River. "The blues have been in the Mississippi Delta forever, hovering over the land like an ether, a vapor," notes the Crossroads Blues Society in Rosedale, Mississippi. "The Blues and the River were already there. And people still don’t and never will understand either one nor the essential connection between them."

So, I looked up the Jacksonville Bus Station, which is at 1111 Forsyth Street in downtown Jacksonville. It is about nine or 10 blocks west of Jacksonville Landing, where the shooting occured. And if you go east of Jacksonville Landing, hopping on Highway 115, it takes you just north of TIAA Bank Field where the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team plays.

Continuing east, you cross the St. Johns River on the Mathews Bridge and enter an area of Jacksonville that in the early 20th century was a community called "Arlington," which would later be absorbed into Jacksonville proper (like Capitol Hill being absorbed into Oklahoma City proper) and in the middle of this Arlington community was a place known as the Crossroads. Yes, indeed! Not far at all from Jacksonville Landing.

"Arlington," as noted by the late synchromystic James Shelby Downard, is a name that comes up in "Masonic sorcery," something I mentioned in my recent Dust Devil Dreams post "Pentagonal visions," in reference to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

As MetroJacksonville.com notes, between 1930 and 1967, the Crossroads area of old Arlington, on the east side of the St. Johns River and was a commercial district for the mid-income folks who lived in Old Arlington area of Jacksonville. Nearby, in Jacksonville Beach, there is an annual blues festival called "Springing the Blues." 

GHOST WORLD

Enid (Thora Birch) checking out Seymour's "old-time thingamajigs" in Ghost World. (United Artists)

In the 2001 Terry Zwigoff dark comedy Ghost World, based on Daniel Clowes' comic book of the same name, "old timey music" enthusiast Seymour (Steve Buscemi) loves old, American blues music and reluctantly agrees to go to a sports bar there in L.A. with his young friend Enid (Thora Birch) to hear an old blues man, Fred Chatman (J.J. "Bad Boy" Jones) perform some of his old standards, with Seymour hoping to show his blues music idol a copy of the old 78 he has of Chatman's music. 

But this is the dawn of the 21st century. And "blues" clubs usually don't feature actual, old-time blues musicians anymore. They have to make money and so billiards, blaring TV screens airing sporting events and other distractions (not to mention copious amounts of alcohol) and this irritates Seymour - a music purist - to no end.

“I can’t believe these people, they could at least turn off their stupid sports game until he’s done playing,” laments Seymour as he and Enid listen to Fred Chatman play some songs – just before the over-the-top, all-white blues-rock band Blues Hammer takes the stage. Again, much to Seymour’s annoyance. Blues Hammer, after all, should be opening up for Chatman, after all.

Seymour just wants to hear old bluesman Fred Chatman. (United Artists)

And while he is saying the above line, a man wearing a Jacksonville Jaguars football team is visible, this right after a guy is shown wearing a New Orleans Saints sweatshirt. The NFL was established in 1993 and had its inaugural year in 1995. 

TRAINING EXERCISE

According to Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union, when the shooting took place on Sunday, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue officials were "conducting a training exercise across the street from the Landing when they saw people running out of the building, including one who had been shot ... (o)fficials added that police responded within two minutes of the first 911 call."

How strange, eh?

And last night, while checking out Louisiana swamp-blues rocker Tab Benoit at VZD's, I could not help but notice some old football footage on the TV screen over the bar. It was a show called A Football Life, the NFL Channel's 111-episode, 8-season show focusing on the American sport of football and the players and people most linked to it. 

When I looked up I saw old photos of what turned out to be future football stars wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, teammates on the Super Bowl-worthy powerhouse Pittsburgh Steelers. Swann was known for wearing #88 and Stallworth #82

Those numbers caught my attention. After all, it was in the 1982 horror film Poltergeist that the numbers 82 and 88 intersected in synchromystic fashion, leaving a distinct chill to this day.

As I wrote in my October 25, 2013 Dust Devil Dreams post "Fantasy football at the time-loop hotel" ...

In the 1982 thriller/horror film Poltergeist, a truly chilling prediction is made via a prop poster on the bedroom wall of Carol Anne, played by blonde-haired child actor Heather O’Rourke.

The poster reads: 1988 Superbowl XXII. As Cracked.com notes, there is no mention of the events in the film being set in the future (remember, this is 1982). This poster is fairly prominent in a couple of scenes and in retrospect seems rather odd.

And what makes it’s placement in Carol Anne’s room is that the little girl, Heather O’Rourke, would get deathly ill on January 31, 1988 in San Diego, California – while Super Bowl XXII was actually taking place between the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos.

The score? Redskins 42, Broncos, 10."

FUN WITH FLAGS

That "O'Rourke" name has re-entered the consciousness of late as being the surname of a man running for US Senate out of Texas. That is Beto O'Rourke, who is sounding more and more like RFK with each passing day, as the son of an alleged conspirator in the assassination of John F. Kennedy - Ted Cruz - is finding himself in the political fight of his life.

Interestingly, after listening to more of Tab Benoit, I glanced back up at the screen and this time it was an episode of A Football Life focusing on Lyle Alzado, who played for the Denver Broncos, the Cleveland Browns and the Los Angeles Raiders - until his death of brain cancer at age 43. He was known for being addicted to anabolic steroids, something Alzado thought contributed to his sickness and ultimate death. 

What is interesting, I later discovered, was that Alzado had gone to college at Yankton College in Yankton, South Dakota. He was noticed by a scout for the Broncos while watching footage of a Yankton-Montana Tech game. That was in 1971 when Alzado was drafted in the fourth round of the 1971 draft. He Yankton team mascot? The Greyhounds, of course. And what do the guys in Crossroads take to get from New York to Memphis? A Greyhound bus, of course.

And more recently, Yankton was in a synchromystic show we often talk about here: Twin Peaks: The Return. In the 2017 series, Agent Cooper's evil doppelganger, "Mr. C.," is imprisoned at a minimum-security federal prison at Yankton, South Dakota. In our post "Chimes (And there's always music in the air"), we note that, the connection to "strawberry" and the Lewis & Clark Expedition's passage through this area, which included this: "“According to a legend, Lewis wraps a newborn (Yankton Sioux) baby in a United States flag and declares him ‘an American.’”

Synchromystically speaking, the American flag is a major news issue this very day, as it took a lot of pressure for Trump to acknowledge Sen. John McCain's death this weekend and place the flag at the White House at half-staff.

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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