Scenes from a trip: Two Australians are sitting next to me at gate C6 at the Memphis airport. We are waiting for a plane to Dallas and strike up a conversation. It turns out they've just spent four days in Memphis, seeing Graceland, Beale Street, and Sun Studio and "eating the barbie."
They began their journey with three days in New York City and are headed to Las Vegas, then San Francisco, then home. Why Memphis? I ask. "Can't go all the way to the States and not see Memphis," they said. Well, of course not.
In Dallas, I'm catching a plane to El Paso. I'm headed to New Mexico to visit my mother and brother in Las Cruces for a few days, then renting a car and driving 300 miles to Santa Fe to see my daughter.
I've got an hour to kill at DFW and wander the concourse. Overhead at one of the news stands a giant video screen is playing the trailer for Footloose, Memphis director Craig Brewer's latest film. Memphis in the house!
On the plane to El Paso I'm seated behind a young Asian man with hair like cat's fur, plushy and soft-looking. I resist the urge to pet it when he reclines his seat. When we land, he stands up and I see he's wearing a Goner Records T-shirt. Why, hello again, Memphis.
A couple days later, my brother and I decide to go see White Sands. He plugs his iPhone into his truck radio and turns it to his favorite Pandora station. The singer sounds very familiar. "Who is this?" I ask. "I don't know," he says, "but it's good." I look at the phone screen. It's Lucero.
After a great road trip to Santa Fe and a too-brief visit with my daughter, it's time to return to El Paso for the plane home. It's 6:30 a.m. as I drive up over the Trans-Mountain Pass into Texas. The view is breathtaking, desert and mountains for a hundred miles under the rising sun. I'm feeling wistful and turn on the Sirius radio, which is set on a classic country station. The screen reads, "If I Were a Carp" by Johnny Cash.
The truncated title makes me laugh, but the song is sweet, one I hadn't heard in a long time. Johnny and June Carter Cash sing me over the crest toward Memphis, toward home.