A Special Christmas Card
This post is a little delayed since the holidays have passed but it is still appropriate. Enjoy.
Sometimes you meet people in life that have a profound effect on those around them. Whether you agree with their lifestyle or not isn't relevant. What is relevant is the respect that people give to someone during their life and after they have passed. My Christmas card for 2016 reflected on the life of one place and the man responsible for helping restore hope to the Mississippi Delta.
I first met Willie a little over five years ago when I went to his place, "Po' Monkey's Lounge," near Merigold, Mississippi, also the home of McCarty's Pottery, with my friend Cort Anderson. We were just riding by earlier in the afternoon when he came driving up in his pickup and got out, which I later found out was also his home that he had occupied for years. He invited us in, and it was really quite amazing to experience a one on one conversation with someone so iconic as Willie.
A year or so later, I had the opportunity to go back to Po' Monkeys while Al Jazeera America was filming a documentary on the Blues. I paid the cover charge and walked into the place I had visited only a year earlier. Being able to see it at night and full of folks from all over compared to the first one on one visit I had with Willie a year earlier was quite amazing. Al "Big A" Sherrod was playing that evening and believe me, he put on a show that included making a guitar do things that I didn't think were possible.
Willie converted the old sharecropper's shack in 1963 to what would become the most iconic place in the Mississippi Delta. The front was three rooms; one with a pool table and the other two were filled with random chairs and tables. When I was there for the Al Jazeera documentary, I ended up sitting on what I found out was a bench seatt out of a mini van, which was probably the most comfortable seat in the place.
The stories about Po' Monkey are legendary. His assortment of suits (supposedly he had over 100) and other various pieces of clothing and costumes where notable. He might come out in one color suit and within a few minutes be dressed in one of a totally different color. He had an assortment of wigs including a long blond one that reminded me of Dolly Parton. And then there was the infamous apron. If he ever came out wearing that, the surprise was....was... well, I'll leave that to your imagination.
Over the years, he had been given a lot of stuffed monkeys and they all found their place, hanging from the ceiling in different places, among other items that would be better suited for an adult audience.
I would go back to Po' Monkeys each time I was in the area, never staying longer than an hour, but long enough to sit and have a conversation with Willie. He was always welcoming and recognized me each time I came in the place and would always invite me over a beer. Of course, I don't drink but I would always get a canned coke and sit and chat with him.
He ruled the place with an iron fist and if things begin to get rowdy (which I only experienced once) he would walk up to the offender and quietly have them escorted out of the building by one of his people that seemed to always blend in with the remainder of the crowd.
People from all walks of life and from all over the world have been to the lounge. The night I was there for the Al Jazeera project, I met people from Texas, Washington DC and Belgium, all there for one purpose and that was to experience the hospitality of Willie and Mississippi.
On July 14 of this year, it all came to and end with the passing of Mr. Seaberry. He was found deceased in his bedroom after suffering an apparent heart attack.
Willie "Po' Monkey" Seaberry
August 24, 1940 - July 14, 2016
Rest in Peace
Willie at the Pool TableThis is one of my favorite photos of Mr. Seaberry. He graciously allowed me go photograph him each time I visited Willie with his fake hair visorYou never knew what you would find Willie wearing. This particular night it was a visor that made it look like he had hair. I didn't have anything to light it with so I used the LED light on my iPhone.
Merry Christmas from Po Monkey'sThis was the front of this year's Christmas card. It was done one evening when the crowd had thinned slightly. If you look really close you can see the shadow of someone walking in the photo.
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