Bolivar Oldikowsky had come to Jackson to photograph the famous railroad bridges of Hinds County. He needed a guide, a fearless local, so of course he came to me.
We had a rough start. When he told me he worked for National Geographic, I launched myself up from my sitting and drinking position. I brought the bottle of Jack Daniels to his cheek in a cruel parabola, knocking him to the floor.
"You assholes made 'Chasing UFOs!" I shouted, swinging the heavy bottle again and again. Oldikowsky was quick, though, and managed to hold his hands up to deflect the blows.
"What kind of scrapie-infected sheep do you take us for, Oldikowsky! They'll never catch the UFO! They can't catch the goddamn UFO, they can't even chase it, you diseased cur! It's not real! It's not..." I was shrieking, stark cold sweat soaking through my Hawaiian shirt.
"National Geographic helped with Cosmos, though." I stood there panting, I felt my rage evaporate with each exhalation of Jack. "That's the same reason I didn't choke Seth McFarlane at that party in Brooklyn."
Bolivar Oldikowsky was shaken, but not wounded. "I'll pay." He said.
There was no way in hell I was going to drag some California artist out to seduce bored housewives and take quality photographs of the stuff I take shitty pictures of.
"I want to show them the meaning of love." He said, but I know it's right between lovat (it's a color) and lovable in the dictionary.
"I want to turn their lives upside down,' was his next argument, but I threw him out of the house. I have no truck with gravitomancy.
Unhindered by the cloying weight of concerns about authenticity, I went and visited the bridges he'd been looking for. The prime photographic target was the old GM&O railroad. The bridge crosses the Pearl near Lefleur's Bluff, and curves into Jackson. The junction where the rails once connected to the still extant Illinois Central is near a cheap liquor store, so I know the place well enough.
In the Northern tract, the track goes behind the Belhaven neighborhood, where you can spy on houses I'll never be able to afford. Between the old tracks and I-55, infrastructure runs parallel - high tension electric wires, buried storm sewers, city systems arranged around this vestigial structure like the recurrent laryngeal nerve, servicing some lost muscle that evolution forgot.
Unfortunately, the Rails to Trails program spruced up the track, but it's still gritty enough for me to feel comfortable - you can follow the ruins of the track across High Street and head up between Hal and Mals and Martin's bar, but by then you're drunk and the bar bill is too high, and you wind up covering the rusting rails on foot, fleeing a bouncer or bartender as you run down Commerce Street, which is redundantly rolled out on top of that old decaying track. It still breaks through in places, the visible evolutionary spandrels, engineering imitating life by being slipshod.
- FP JEROME