Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ramblin' by Gail Roughton

Because evil never dies. It just--waits.

Some small amount of attention, more than normal anyway, has been focused on my little ol' home town of Macon, Georgia this past week.  Macon's never going to give Hollywood or Nashville or New York an inferiority complex, but in its own humble way, it's made a few small contributions to the world of entertainment. If you take a ramble through the city's trivia facts, you'll find the Fifth Street Bridge's formal name, The Otis Redding Bridge, is entirely appropriate seein' as how (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay was inspired by said bridge and the hours Otis Redding spent fishing from it. Or so the story goes in Macon, anyway. He got a hand up from another Macon native by the name of Little Richard.  Lena Horne lived in Macon during a few years of her childhood. Jason Aldean was born and raised in Macon, and shot the video of Gonna Know We Were Here in downtown Macon and at his alma mater, Windsor Academy, using Windsor Academy students as his extras. Bet those kids are never goin' to forget that, don't you?

It's been a popular movie location over the past ten to fifteen years, and its vintage Minor League Ballpark, Luther Williams Field, helped with that for at least three movies, same being The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings, Trouble with the Curve (okay, it wasn't big box office but it was Clint Eastwood, baby) and 42. It's very fitting Hollywood loves that ballpark, because it's figured in Major League Baseball history in its own right as the home of the Macon Peaches, farm team for the Cincinnati Reds. As such, it launched Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Lee May and Tommy Helms into the Majors. The Atlanta Braves organization took over and the park became home to the Macon Braves farm team, launching the careers of Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Rafael Furcal, Tony Graffannio, John Smoltz and Marcus Giles. But the Park hasn't been the only draw for Hollywood and we've hosted quite a few other movies, including John Huston's Wise Blood, The Rose and the Jackal (notable for featuring Christopher Reeves before his accident), The Need for Speed and The Fifth Wave. 

But more than anything, Macon was the hub of Southern Rock during the 1970's  and Phil Walden's Capricorn Records operated on Cotton Avenue, recording albums by several Southern Rock bands like Wet Willie and The Marshall Tucker Band. But the band who became legend in Macon, Georgia was, hands down, The Allman Brothers Band.

Duane Allman died in a motorcycle crash on Hillcrest Avenue in 1971, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, a Macon historical landmark of some note.  Less than thirteen months later, and within three blocks of the spot where Duane Allman died, the band's bassist Berry Oakley died in another motorcycle crash. He was buried beside Duane Allman in Rose Hill Cemetery. Now, I never personally attended, mind you, and so claim no personal knowledge, but stories are there were quite a few parties held at those graves in Rose Hill by some of band's fans. The band kept going until 1979, but trust me, the legends never died. Especially in Macon. 

And this past week, with the death of Gregg Allman at age 69 of liver cancer, the press descended on Macon, Georgia and Rose Hill Cemetery, where Gregg Allman was buried beside his brother. The funeral and burial were private but a pretty big crowd gathered on the hill overlooking the Allman graves to watch. And of course there were complaints among the hard-core Allman Brothers fans that Gregg's ex-wife Cher, in attendance at the funeral, took too much attention away from Gregg. (Duh! After all, Cher is Cher, people!) Be that as it may, the lyrics of the band's songs will always be part of the back beat of the memories that play in my mind whenever I think of my late teens and early twenties. "Got one morrre silver dollarrrr...but I'm not gonna let them catch me, no, not gonna let 'em catch...the midnight... riderrrrrr...." , "Lord, I was born a ramblin' mannnn...tryin' to make a livin' and doin'... the best I can...."  Happy rambles, guys. Happy rambles. And many midnight rides. To paraphrase the song, Rose Hill's got a hell of a band. 

I also have a special place in my heart for Rose Hill Cemetery. It opened in 1840 and was designed by Simri Rose for the express purpose of being a place to visit and gather for the people of Macon.  And seein' as how it's a cemetery, it also fed the imaginations of quite a few kids throughout the years. I don't know if one particular urban legend concerning Rose Hill is even an urban legend. It well might have been just a campfire story spun by my own admittedly peculiar group of friends.  I mean, we used to read palms and cast horoscopes. Be that as it may, one story we used to scare each other with involved a body buried in Rose Hill with a stake through the heart. So it follows as the night the day that when I got this crazy idea for a short satire involving a vampire about to be evicted from his mausoleum, I immediately set same in Rose Hill Cemetery.  Somewhere along the way, that short satire turned into a Southern Gothic family saga spanning a century in time. It ceased to be funny and damn sure ceased to be short, but the location of my vampire's mausoleum never changed. Well, the name did, my fictional cemetery became Rose Arbor Cemetery 'cause I didn't want to ruffle any historical society feathers.  But the inspiration? Oh, no, that remained the same. And in fact, the historical Rose Hill Cemetery holds semi-annual guided rambles through the grounds. They call them, appropriately enough, "Rose Hill Rambles". 

So if the mood should strike you and you'd like to ramble through Rose Hill, er, excuse me, Rose Arbor Cemetery under the moonlight some dark night, it's right there waiting for you, right inside the pages of The Color of Seven.  Where evil never dies. It just--waits.

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