To compile his new book, My Favorite Place on Earth, Jerry Camarillo Dunn Jr., interviewed dozens of famous people — from Natalie Portman to the Dalai Lama — about the places they loved most. He’ll be guest blogging about his experiences here for the next few weeks. Click here for recent posts.
Back in 1906, a railroad hoping to attract passengers coined the slogan “See America First.”
But which America?
A fantastic musician and great gentleman from My Favorite Place on Earth has some ideas. For his spot, musician Jack White of the White Stripes and the Raconteurs chose Clarksdale, Mississippi, a town that stands among plowed fields at the legendary crossroads where Highway 49 meets Highway 61. It has been home to blues singers Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, and Jack White’s hero, Son House.
“I didn’t expect to feel the way I do about Clarksdale,” Jack told me. “I thought maybe I’d find that it’s all Wal-Marts and commercialized chain stores, like a lot of the western world now. When you’re driving around the country, you think it would be nice to pull off the road and eat at a mom-and-pop diner or café, but you can’t do that anymore. They’re gone, and it’s really sad. Now it’s ‘Take your pick of what corporation you want to have lunch at.’ So I was worried that my idea of Mississippi wasn’t going to be there anymore. But that wasn’t the case. Clarksdale was the Mississippi I had in my head.
“The culture there hadn’t been chopped up and homogenized and made into something plastic. It was still alive, like a field of grass. It was breathing. Walking around Clarksdale made me feel like I was living in the real United States of America.”
- Nat Geo Expeditions
I hope when the rest of us hit the road this summer, we’ll look for what’s real. “A lot of towns in America make the mistake of knocking down their historical areas, and then they recreate them in a Hollywood style,” Jack observed. “But it’s a shame to see a replica of something. This is a generation when ‘replica’ and ‘retro” and ‘relic’ – all those words that start with ‘re’ – are okay with everybody. It’s acceptable to have a place in Vegas that looks exactly like Manhattan, and you take your photo in front of it, and that’s good enough. But that’s never been good enough for me. I despise it and cringe at all that. I’m trying to find something to grab hold of that makes sense.”
For the rest of Jack White’s interview, check out My Favorite Place on Earth; info at www.myfavoriteplacenatgeo.com. To read more about Mississippi’s Blues Highway, check out our Road Trip article from the magazine.
Photo: Clarksdale CVB