The things we do for friends, and to find ourselves
I entered the Bargain Barn with great trepidation. It had been a long while since I had jumped into this type of endeavor. I was concerned but about what I could not discern.
Friendly greetings ensued with former friends and associates, calming me a touch. As a new addition to my repertoire, I pulled out my camera and began to photograph the goings on amidst the Bargain Barn’s interior walls. This activity settled me even more, and I was ready to engage in the business at hand.
I got into wardrobe, reviewed the scene we were about to shoot and discussed my actions and intent with the director.
Two years ago, I left acting, and I do not miss it. Though I enjoy set life and attempting to create truth from fiction; I don’t miss the tedium, failure and extraordinarily long hours that kept me from my family. I was also fed up with auditioning and rarely getting to piece together a fully realized creation.
All that aside, I reluctantly agreed to do this project because, very simply, a close friend asked me to. One of those friends you may not speak to for years, but you’ll do anything for, should they ask.
The Bargain Barn was filled with convenience store paraphernalia ala 1989; all placed meticulously by the art department to create a new, old store. All the barn’s usual goods: clothing, toys and such, were politely pushed aside to make room for the set dressing. The eclectic clothes, consisting of styles ranging from the 1950’s to present day, were the main attraction among the cast and crew.
None of us had ever experienced a store full of clothing for 3 dollars or less per item. The Bargain Barn follows the same business model as Goodwill and is a perfect reflection of what that model could be without the fuel of a corporate appetite.
Magnolia, a very fashionable woman with large square frame black glasses, short black hair and a wide array of colored textile appropriately covering her rich, dark skin, was the proprietor of the place and self-proclaimed anti-traveler. She had no intention of ever going anywhere other than where she currently was, Tutwiler, Mississippi, just outside of Clarksdale.
Though she claimed to be scared of boats, planes, and trains, I like to think she was simply content just staying put. I got that feeling from a lot of folks in the Delta.
Even though poverty is rampant and amenities are scarce or antiquated, there seemed to be a sense of, “I’ve got everything I need.” It was nice to be in an environment devoid of “I’ve got to have this or that to be fulfilled.”
After several hours of filming, we broke for lunch and traveled a few hundred yards to Big Papa’s.
We were all hoping the place would be a quiet homage to Biggie Smalls, sporting an exterior sign that read “Big Poppa’s” and blaring some gangsta rap within its walls. Our unfounded wishes were not to be so. The sign read “Big Papa’s” and has likely held its OG moniker since long before the Notorious B.I.G was notorious.
Though we were two hours late, the staff was welcoming and friendly and the food was made fresh – crisp catfish, savory green beans, sweet pork ribs that fell off the bone and a hot wing option that could not be denied.
Needless to say, we had our fill and knew food exhaustion would soon riddle us with wanting slumber. But there was work to be done, and therefore had to ignore the impending sleepiness onslaught.
On the edge of miles of flat farmland, the sun dropped from the horizon as we loaded up and headed towards Clarksdale.
My rest area for the evening would be the Hooker Hotel, named for the elusive John Lee Hooker, not the other place where I’m sure your mind just traveled.
The interior was a rustically hip shotgun space that screamed comfort. I settled in on a plush, red velvet sofa with a gifted glass of wine and starred at a wooden wall covered with paintings of blues stalwarts. Charlie Patton’s mug sat right before me as I ruminated on his legend and slowly wound down from the day.
The Blues patriarchs and matriarchs gave us their souls through their music, even to the point of their own detriment. Meanwhile, I was serving my friend to help him realize his dreams, but the only thing it cost me was my time. I was actually being paid for my creative services.
The men and women on the wall before me, though some had financial gain, were, for the most part, broke and forgotten when they crossed over. Through triumph, trial and tribulation, they could not stop sacrificing themselves to play and share their gifts.
We all choose to serve in some capacity, but how often do we serve to the point of personal sacrifice of physical pain?
I’ve been considering the depths of this service concept for some time, and at the bottom of each contemplative rabbit hole, there is always the revelation of how profoundly short I fall from the mark of service and what an overachiever I am at selfishness and personal gain behavior.
I am not sure if I’m up to the task but it’s a worthy examination that I hope leads past rumination into action.
Rhes Low lives in Oxford with his wife and kids. Follow him on Instagram @rhesvlow and exploringlife0to20.com