Saturday, July 17, 2010

Answer the Call...

A pilgrimage is a ritual that belongs to no single religious or cultural tradition. One simply must answer the call to go, and when they are moving through the environment at a natural pace that awakens the senses, they perceive and connect to the environment as it is.

Since time immemorial, people have journeyed to special places to restore their faith in whatever they felt was important for their lives.

This pilgrimage could be a spiritual journey or it could end up being a journey filled with spirits.

ROCK PILGRIMAGE is a documentary television series & website for Rock & Roll Pilgrims. ROCK PILGRIMAGE examines the cities in which THE rock & roll pioneers were raised.

The show & website take the viewer on a virtual pilgrimage

A Pilgrim's Progess

Hey y'all~

Well, now we gotta get EVERYBODY hip to ROCK PILGRIMAGE.

Years ago pilgrimages were exclusively for Religious Nuts but the Twentieth Century introduced THE CULT OF PERSONALITY so NOW we gotz "religious" pilgrimages to the tombs of Lenin, Mao, Ho, Martin Luther King & ELVIS.


I've decided that I'm gonna be the star of ROCK PILGRIMAGE.
I'm just gonna be my own damn self & leave Tuscaloosa in search of wisdom on the Westside of Jacksonville, FL. or any other damn place I wanna go & explore.

I'm a cat who likes money, music & LOVES gettin' high wid some nookie so there's gotta be a place for me on cable TV.

ROCK PILGRIMAGE will be like a really good Hunting & Fishing Show.
It'll show the kids new & innovative ways to get high.

A film crew will meet me for THE WESTSIDE STORY in Jacksonville & the rest will be history!



as sorta PILGRIMAGE TO GRACELAND for Southern Rockers.

Published Thursday, June 10, 1999

Westside Story

By Matt Soergel
Times-Union staff writer,

Gimme Three Steps, arguably the best Lynyrd Skynyrd song that didn't end in a 29-minute guitar solo, has opening lines that perfectly capture a time - and a place.

Ronnie Van Zant sang it: ''I was cuttin' a rug down at a place called the Jug/With a girl named Linda Lou.''

There's deep significance to that song - and we're not talking about how amazing it is that Skynyrd, later in the song, successfully rhymed ''feller'' with ''hair colored yeller.''

No. It's because those lines are so Westside. And we mean that in a good way.

Can you imagine a place called the Jug in Baymeadows? What are the odds of finding a girl named Linda Lou in Mandarin? And what do the good citizens of East Arlington know about cuttin' a rug?


Visit our Lynyrd Skynyrd section

As symbols of the Westside, Lynyrd Skynyrd left its mark all over that part of town. Here, with help from the Freebird Foundation's Web site ( is a little tour of Skynyrd's Westside:

Robert E. Lee High School: At 1200 S. McDuff Ave., this is where Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington and Bob Burns went to school, and where they met tough gym teacher Leonard Skinner, after whom they later named themselves, sort of.

The Little Brown Jug: At 2517 Edison Ave., it inspired the ''cuttin' the rug'' line in Gimme Three Steps, but probably just because ''jug'' rhymed with ''rug.''

The West Tavern: At 5301 Lenox Ave., it's now called the Pastime (''cold beer, pool''). This is where the Gimme Three Steps scuffle really happened.

The Still: At 4506 San Juan Ave., it's now the SOS Lounge. It's where some of the band's earliest performances were. Later bought by Leonard Skinner and renamed after himself.

220 Riverside Ave.: An office building that Skynyrd bought in 1976 as a recording studio and rehearsal hall.

Lakeshore Athletic Association baseball fields: At 5300 Park St., this is where, as the story goes, Rossington met Van Zant and Burns. That fateful meeting happened after Van Zant hit a line drive that hit the back of Burns' head.

- Matt Soergel/staff

No. This is a Westside song, all the way.

''Skynyrd is a true representation of the Westside,'' said Van Zant's widow, Judy Van Zant Jenness. ''They were not pretentious. Their stage presence, their attire - their songs were about real events and real people. They were the good ol' boys.''

Unpretentious. Good ol' boys. Real people.

As Skynyrd represents the Westside, so does the Westside epitomize Jacksonville - or at least the Jacksonville that existed before the latest suburban boom fired up.

It's an area that, in some ways, is the most Jacksonville part of Jacksonville.

''That is the character of what Jacksonville was, throughout most of the 20th century - really until the last 15 or 20 years,'' said University of North Florida historian James Crooks.

''The Westside, I would say, would be the truer Jacksonville. It reflects the blue-collar, Bible Belt community that most of Jacksonville has been through most of its history . . . the Westside is the remnant of the old Jacksonville.''

Dispelling an image

The Westside - the vast expanse west of the St. Johns River all the way to the county line - is also a mysterious place to many newcomers, who've settled far away in other parts of the city. Bill Riley, a host on WBWL (600 AM) The Ball, a sports-radio station whose offices are on the Westside, will vouch for that.

''People will have absolutely no idea, when you tell them you're on Lenox [Avenue], how to get here.''

Knowing nothing about the area doesn't stop people from making jokes about the Westside.

''We have some callers in particular, generally from Ponte Vedra, who like to take shots at the Westside - pickup trucks, cars on blocks, education level, that kind of stuff. But the whole 'Westside' thing is almost a point of pride with Westsiders. They're very sensitive about it.''

Riley - who treks in from the Beaches - admits to joining in the funning at the Westside's expense, every once in a while.

''I actually had a guy - true story - who came to a live show I had at Coggin Honda. He came out in his pickup with his dog in the back - a big mean dog chained in the back of his truck. He came all the way from the Westside to Coggin, which is on Atlantic Boulevard, and he said: 'Are you Bill Riley?' I said, 'Yeah,' and he said, 'You need to stop making fun of the Westside.'

''I said, 'I say it endearingly.' Then he said, 'I don't think so. Stop picking on the Westside.'

''Then he took one of my free T-shirts.''

Roger Malphurs, 35, is a proud Westsider, born, raised and settled there, a block from where he grew up, near Normandy Boulevard and Cassat Avenue. He works on the Southside, though, braving the madness on that side of the river five days a week.

''I speak with people at work, and they have a very negative connotation about the Westside - that there are a bunch of rednecks, weirdos over here. Well, we're not glamorous - I'd be the first to tell you that - but you'd get better property over here than you would in Mandarin, that's for sure.''

Malphur's father, Ralph, who like his son is a citizen-activist for the Westside, sums up his feeling about his neighborhood in a few short words - a phrase that's heard often on the Westside.

You might read a little defensiveness into it when some people say it. But not with Malphurs. Not at all.

''The Westside is the best side,'' he says. ''And we mean that.''

An area with roots

The Westside is a huge, diverse area of uncertain boundaries. Most consider Beaver Street the northern edge and the Argyle area near the Clay County line the southern boundary. Some include in it tony neighborhoods such as Avondale and Ortega. Almost everyone agrees it stretches as far west as Jacksonville does, to the county line.

It's changing, just like every part of Jacksonville.

Expensive subdivisions are popping up here and there. Winn-Dixie is building a huge warehouse. And many hopes are pinned on Cecil Field's planned conversion to a high-tech center once the Navy closes the sprawling base in September.

Peggy Talbert, owner of K.C. Bar-B-Q resturant that she and her husband, K.C., opened on San Juan Avenue in 1969.

-- Bob Self/staff

Even so, going over to the bustling Southside, say, can be a bit of culture shock to the die-hard Westsider. Curtis Johnson, 67, a lifelong resident, feels it.

''It's really crowded, it seems to me. I look around and think, 'Boy, they're putting everything over there.' I see all the growth over there, you're stuck in traffic - but boy, I kind of get envious over there sometimes.''

Johnson lives in the Sweetwater neighborhood, tucked just inside Interstate 295 off Wilson Boulevard, a mile from where he grew up. It used to be all farms, like the one his ancestors - ex-slaves from a plantation near Live Oak - started in 1868.

Sweetwater went through some rough times itself, with drugs and prostitution. It's cleaned up now, though, largely because of the efforts of those who live there.

Johnson wouldn't want to live anywhere but the Westside. For him, it means big lots, inexpensive property, a small-town atmosphere. ''I see all those pine trees out here, people with all these big yards,'' he said. ''It's a hidden treasure, and people are going to find it.''

Peggy Talbert runs K.C. Bar-B-Q, a neighborhood institution on San Juan Avenue. She and her husband, K.C., opened it in the late '60s. He died a year ago, and she has run it on her own since.

To her, the Westside's all about family.

''I think probably the Westside of town has more people that have been here generations, several generations of family. Houses, a lot of them, don't even go on the market when they're selling, 'cause they just go to families,'' said Talbert, who lives near the restaurant.

''Those areas out on Hodges [Boulevard] and all that, that's new people. I think the Westside is the old people, people who've been around Jacksonville for a long time.''

A different ballgame

Mike Hogan is a Jacksonville city councilman whose family goes back several generations on the Westside.

''I think west Jacksonville is more the old true South,'' he said. To him, that means lots of churches, extended families and a slower-paced life.

Cedar Hills Sharks Kristen Leino gets tagged out at home during her team's fast-pitch softball game recently against the Lake Shore Wild Angels at the Lakeshore Athletic Association ball fields on Park Street.

-- Bob Self/staff

Newcomers to Florida, after all, tend to cluster closer to the beach: ''They come from the Midwest, where they never saw a beach, and they say, 'If I'm going to live in Florida, I'm going to live at the beach.' ''

Westsiders, though, tend to be from the South, and they want space around them, said Hogan, who lives in Confederate Point. The Westside can provide that, though Hogan admits the area has its problems.

''We've been begging developers for some time to build more upscale housing. The development of the Westside has been so nondescript from a planning standpoint. Right next to each other, you might have a trailer, a mobile home, a 3,000-square-foot home and a business that's been there for years.''

Still, he likes the Westside for its old-fashioned qualities. Take youth sports, for example: Hogan's got nothing against soccer, but on the Westside, it's still a relatively newfangled thing - kind of a yuppie curiosity.

''All my boys play baseball,'' he said proudly.

Still, a couple of years ago, his youngest son decided to play soccer at Paxon High School. He was fast, but he was still at a big disadvantage to the other players, who'd been playing the sport in other parts of town since they were 5 or 6.

It was a different kind of experience.

''We were noticing all the Volvos around when we came out for the first game. And all the parents were standing around yelling, 'Mark the man, mark the man!' We had no idea what they were talking about.''

Hogan laughs.

''Soccer's growing, but baseball and football still rule on the Westside.''

Working people

Don Walton runs Don's Music & Pawn on Blanding Boulevard, a gathering place for musicians, home to new guitars and some choice older ones too.

The Westside's full of musicians, from Skynyrd on down to the humblest bar band.

''We've got people, third-, fourth-, fifth-generation musicians, here. Their grandfathers came out of the mountains, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and they played for entertainment before TV,'' said Walton.

''It's been passed down, almost like a craft.''

That's one of the reasons he, a Northside native, opened his store on the Westside - and then chose to live there, in the Lakeshore neighborhood.

''There are a lot of good hard-working honest folks here, for the most part. They're not pretentious. Most of them have done better than their parents, and they try to instill a lot of that in their kids. Still, by and large it's lower-middle class. But there's a lot of pride in that, in not slipping.

''I think people go, 'Well, with hard work you can get there.' ''


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