Like all good Americans, we were pleased to learn that Sam Hopkins is finally getting some belated semi-official recognition in the form of a Texas Historical Commission plaque on a corner of Dowling Street in Third Ward, a thoroughfare named in honor of the Confederate-Irish barkeep who headed off the Yankees at the Pass in the service of the effort to keep Lightnin' Hopkins' forebears enslaved. (Pardon our "presentism," but, man, history is just so damn ironic!)
This is a good thing, of course--the plaque, not slavery--and temporary culmination of efforts that at least to our knowledge began with a long-ago suggestion by the late City Councilwoman Eleanor Tinsley (to whom it was most assuredly suggested by someone else) to rename a street or part of a street after Hopkins. Unsuccessful as it was, this always struck us as a sweet gesture, since Tinsley didn't seem like the kind of gal who'd have listed her self as a friend on Lightnin's Facebook page, if he'd lived long enough to have one. Along the way we, among others, tried to do our small part, weather and our limited attention span permitting. Just think how much hipper it'd be if you yoga ladies (and ge'men) were performing your Sun Salutations in Lightnin' Hopkins Park, rather than the faceless and flavorless Discovery Green (an excellent name for a park in Dubuque, Iowa). So congrats to Eric Davis, the local who spearheaded the effort to make the plaque a reality, or near-reality.
But the plaque is not enough. Just recently, a small swath of the home turf on and around Hillcroft Avenue was designated as the Mahatma Gandhi District, after attempts to rename a nominal stretch of Hillcroft after the most renown member of the Vaishya caste were passed over, shall we say, by property owners of other ethnic origins on the street. (This sepia-toned jester has better suggestions.) As we observed when first apprised of the Hillcroft renaming effort, Gandhi, if we remember the movie correctly, never set foot in Texas, or Houston, or on Hillcroft. (Of course, the street probably wasn't platted until after his death, but that's beside the point). Our understanding is that this designation--made visible by placement of small signs, in the shape of a Hindu temple and bearing Gandhi's likeness, atop the regular street signs--was the result of a private fund-raising effort. (If we're wrong, please correct us.) Our question is: Can anyone apply to so designate a district? And if so, where is the Lightnin' Hopkins District? A memorial sign on Dowling is good and appropriate, but it sort of ghetto-izes the man, who, as we pointed out back on Aug. 23, 2006--yes, we must stoop again to quoting our self, 'cause supper's gettin' cold--"embodied the country-come-to-town spirit" of our big hick burg better than almost anyone we can think of, except for its namesake, the illustrious Illiad-spouting farmboy and drunkard.
Sure, Gandhi made his bones with the non-violent resistance thing and was a huge influence on MLK, but let's be honest: Did he ever play and sing a song that spoke so directly to the human condition as Mini-Skirt? ("You better let your dress down a little more, baby.")
We'd envision this zone as a place where an aging flaneur such as our self could stretch out on a park bench in the sun and enjoy a strong drink (make ours coffee with lots of soy milk) and a roll or two of the dice (we'll just watch, thanks.) All the women, even the old ladies, would be required to wear mini-skirts or clingy athletic wear. There would be no bocce.
So the plaque is but a first step. Now let's get to work on the Lightnin' Hopkins District.
By that we mean: You get to work; we'll just keep scratchin' that thing.
Also: Nick Tosches smokes, FDR-style, and discusses the devil's music with the Guardian UK.