Hit play on this song. Turn it up. All the way.
I have said that my first living experience in Brooklyn was a lonely little room on the east side of Bushwick among the prostitutes and the drug dealers. It was just me making a solitary go at existing in NYC. When I left my home in Georgia, I was broken, emptied, and too numb to be desperate. That girl that I loved best had recently died. That’s how I came to Brooklyn.
The hard, early times were, indeed, hard. But the numbness helped to mediate how shitty being a newcomer to NY can be. It’s like trying to bully a kid who already couldn’t give a fuck. People here resent the grind. Yet, it was the grind that got me through those early years. The grind is a river. You have to not fight it. You have let go of the bank, get in the flow. I lost a lot of weight in those days. It’s a lot of exercise to be in this city with no car, daily hustling to find work, to keep work. There were times when I couldn’t afford to put any money on my MTA card. I had to eat less. I had to choose wisely what I did eat. Trying not to subsist on just Ramen noodles, I went through a lot of beans and rice.
When I finally found a decent job at a fancy-ish patisserie in Cobble Hill, where I first met Amanda Neill, I didn’t feel fit, or “in shape.” I felt wind sheared. I’m not a particularly prideful person, but I know I earned my place in NYC. With the comfort of the new decent job, and the constant worry about money, rent, and food abating, the loneliness set in. Not that I didn’t have friends. It was that I didn’t have her, I didn’t have that. I finally began to grieve. Depression set in. I felt that I had drifted too far out from people. I felt like I was perceiving every friendly soul as though there was a partition of glass between us. I didn’t know how to connect anymore.
This is the talented Mary Elaine Jenkins. NOT the Kentucky girl.
Enter the Kentucky girl for her part in the story. A tall, young girl who came to work at the patisserie with me and Amanda. She was nice, smart, with an appropriate amount of weirdness, but naïve. I happened to overhear her giving life advice to another young employee. I listened in to be amused by some homespun platitudes and/or Facebook inspirational quotes. The girl from Kentucky told her friend matter-of-factly, “Get out, and go do.” She said just leave the apartment, and pick a direction. The Kentucky girl said, “this is New York City.”
A couple years from then, the comfort and ease of the solitary life had outlasted its usefulness. I had heard Amanda sing, and had been following that voice, and encouraging others to join me. Intrepid photog Andreea was one. She heard what I heard in Amanda’s voice, and in time she and I heard the songs of other voices singing from their southern souls. With the words of the Kentucky girl ringing in my head, and knowing of no way to be a part of this Brooklyn Country community, I started The Road Southern as my way back to the world. That first post was one year ago today.
The Road Southern’s Intrepid Photo
It has awarded me the friendship of Andreea whose encouragement and contributions to the blog are immeasurable, and I am indebted to her. Through the blog and Amanda, I have made many new friends, I have eaten insanely good food, and heard music the likes of which brings me back to when I was a teenager; ecstatic, giddy, and touched to the core by the newness and the wonder.
This happened because I went out and I did. I left my apartment and picked a heading. And a year later, I am happy. I’m not just surviving or getting by. I’m living in this city. I walk out of my apartment now, and I have many places to go. I owe Andreea. I owe Amanda. I owe every brilliant, talented artist in these pages. That debt is what keeps me on that road, and smiling.
We even shot a music video for some folks! Click to watch AND listen!
There’s even a girl now. She’s from Memphis. I met her on that first night I heard Amanda sing. Amanda and the Memphis girl were sitting on a stoop after the very first Barefoot & Bankside show. Amanda said to me, “Jody, you have to meet the most wonderful and amazing person ever in the world!” I nodded to the Memphis girl, she nodded back. I moved on. Amanda says that shit about everybody.
But, goddamn it if she don’t turn out to be right every time.
My deepest thanks to all of you Road Southern readers.
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Especially if you have shows coming up! We’d love to post your dates!