into the river we dive

A travelogue 2009-2021

It’s been a great Sunday. There was coffee from New Orleans and an omelette with vegetables from the garden while Born in the U.S.A. and Tunnel of Love spun on the turntable. Plus some old friends brought me exactly two chocolate-covered Shipley’s do-nuts.1

Barstow, California, Polaroid SX-70 (2021)

When I moved onto The River I was, as ever, overwhelmed by the language of the song that gives the record its title. Normally it’s the story of the first few verses that I fix on, but today it was the wondering in the coda, which is heartbreaking:

Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Or is it something worse?

Bruce addresses the twinned phenomena of aging and time so incredibly well in the texts of these three albums—sometimes bluntly (as in the story of “Glory Days”) and sometimes in the margins (when he sings “I’m sick of sitting ‘round here trying to write this book” from “Dancing in the Dark”).

Hueytown, Alabama, Polaroid 600 (2016)

I keep coming back to the river and how the singer and Mary2 would drive down from the valley where they lived. In college at Mississippi State we studied everything from Plato to Alfred North Whitehead, and I’ll never forget that fragment which reminded us it is impossible to step in the same river twice.3

Tracy in Eudora Welty’s garden, Polaroid 600 (2018)

So for the rest of the morning I’m going to finish the last few songs on this album and eat this last do-nut, and think about these different rivers I’ve gotten to dive into over the years. I didn’t plan to take any of these photos—they just happened. Some of these places I’ll get to see again, but most I won’t. There will be something new tomorrow.

Tylertown, Mississippi, Polaroid 600 (2017)

Memphis, Tennessee, Polaroid SX-70 (2018)

Chinatown, NYC, Polaroid SX-70 (2018)

Collins, Mississippi, Polaroid SX-70 (2018)

Northeast Jackson, Polaroid 600 (2018)

Houston, Texas, Polaroid 600 (2018)

Calico, California, Polaroid 600 (2021)

Greenwood, Mississippi, Polaroid Spectra (2017)

Greenwood, Mississippi, Polaroid Spectra (2017)

706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, Polaroid 600 (2019)

Jackson, Mississippi, Polaroid i-Type (2018)

Magazine Street at Sunset, New Orleans, Polaroid 600 (ca. 2008)

AS ALWAYS I am gorjusjxn on Instagram, and you can see more Polaroids at McCartyPolaroids.

1

This is the Shipley’s spelling.

2

Could there be a better name for the ur-woman of this song, of all myth, for a writer as prolific and soaked in Catholicsm as our friend Bruce? I don’t even think “Eve” would do the same heavy lifting here.

3

In my memory the flowing river of time was all Whitehead and process philosophy, the focus of the great teacher Dr. Wallace Murphree. Yet the world’s memory, Wikipedia, reminded me this concept stems from Heraclitus.