When I was travelling around in my twenties, photographing what I saw, sometimes for a
reason and sometimes only with an excuse, mostly in the American South, Noel E. Parmentel
used to tell me who to stay with. Noel was from Algiers, Louisiana, though he liked to say he was from New Orleans, and he knew everyone from Joan Didion (she or John dedicated a book to him but that was before they had a fight and Noel vowed to piss on her grave, the first time I ever heard that phrase) to the widow of Big Hodding Carter, who'd been brave in Mississippi in ways and times you might not be able to imagine, from Norman Mailer to Gwen & Kent Gardner.
The Gardners lived in in Jackson, Tennessee, a little town halfway between Memphis and Nashville. Kent ran the telephone answering exchange in town. This was the mid-70s and little Japanese answering machines hadn't come to destroy our peace of mind and crowd our landfills. If you weren't home in Jackson and you wanted to know who was calling in your absence, you could arrange for your phone to ring in Kent's house and he or Gwen would answer it for you, and tell you about it later when you asked.
When I called and told them I was passing through town and Noel had suggested they might put me up, Gwen was the soul of hospitality and said that would be fine, and when I got there, Kent took me a tour of the diminutive town and then we all went by the Lodge, I think it was the Odd Fellows but it might have been the Masons, where we had a terrible dinner of poorly fried chicken. But as nice as could be.
Later, then, back at the house, Kent mused about Noel. "How is he now? You know I haven't
seen him for a long time. The last time he was here, all he'd eat was buttermilk with
Tabasco and he drank a good deal of my whiskey. Left me a big phone bill too."
I like the idea of buttermilk and Tabasco. Smooth and sharp, calming and hot, an
unexpected mixture, and healthful. I like the idea of Obama too, for some of the same
Cotty Chubb is a movie producer living in Los Angeles County, executive director of the
Eggleston Artistic Trust, which looks after the business of William Eggleston, as well as a husband, and father to two teenage daughters.