Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Robert St. John: A True Magical Mystery Tour

LIVERPOOL— I am midway through a 10-day tour of England and Scotland with a group of 26 Americans. All have travelled with me before. For a few of them it’s their seventh trip as my guests. They are a stellar crew and I have become friends with all of them before this current journey started.

Our bond grew stronger on our visit to Liverpool.

Part One:

I am writing this on the jump seat of a bus somewhere in the pastoral English countryside between The Cotswolds and Liverpool. The 26 Americans sitting behind me have entrusted 10 days of their lives in my hands. This tour started in London several days ago and will end in Edinburgh, Scotland several days from now.

I have hosted approximately 47 of these tours with somewhere over 1,100 guests— most over the past six years— with two years off during Covid. All have been great adventures with wonderful people. None have been like this group and this trip.

My travel company— RSJ Yonderlust Tours— formed organically several years ago and now keeps me busy for six weeks in the fall and six weeks in the spring. Even though we are travelling with a couple of dozen people, these trips have never felt like group travel. I always feel as if I have made friends at the end of every trip. This group and I became friends a long time ago and we have shared some amazing experiences throughout Europe.

The very first tour I co-hosted started in London before heading south under the Channel into Belgium, Normandy, and Paris. This time I’m headed north. More importantly I am headed through a sort of personal mecca for me— Liverpool. There are many items on my bucket list, one that is near the top is to visit Liverpool and trace the steps of the greatest band that ever existed, one that fostered my love of music, and one that has kept me passionate about music for over six decades, The Beatles.

My grandmother traveled the world mostly as a member of groups and clubs to which she belonged. My grandfather wasn’t interested in traveling abroad. He took the train to Chicago once a year to see the White Sox play, but worked seven days a week, otherwise, and was content to send her all over the world. As a kid I remember hearing stories of her European travels at the dinner table. I don’t remember ever dreaming of taking a Grand Tour, but I can remember, as a 10-year-old thinking of how great it would be to visit Liverpool one day.

To be honest, for most of my life I never thought that day would come.

We had an early departure from Lower Slaughters in the Cotswolds and the inn opened the dining room 30 minutes early for our group. My love for these guests grew even deeper when I walked into the dining room and all the ladies— and some of the men—were dressed in 1960s Beatles-era costumes! They know my love of The Beatles. I was moved, deeply.

Though I worried that a one-day stop in Liverpool was a too self-indulgent and selfish as it was a bucket list item for me, and probably not many of my guests. I design these tours to cover what is best for my guests. I had never taken such personal preferences before. To my delight, they were all elated.

Part Two:

I write this on a bus just north of Liverpool as we head to the Scottish Highlands. Yesterday will go down as one of the more memorable days of my life. It was an all-Beatles tour, all day long. We visited all the historic spots known for the band: The Casbah Club where they played their very first gigs as teenagers, Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, their childhood homes, dined in the Cavern Pub and went into the Cavern Club where the honed their skills after a long stretch of marathon nights in Hamburg, Germany. The Beatles played The Cavern 291 times between February 9, 1961 (seven months before I was born) and August 3, 1963. After that, Beatlemania happened and their lives— and the music world— were never the same.

It was an emotional day for me, and my emotions overcame me several times, mainly when I thought of the friends who I wished were with me enjoying all we were experiencing.

My emotions overcame me for the final time at the end of the day, standing in the middle of The Cavern Club listening to a cover band play, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” (the first record I owned).

I thought back to my childhood bedroom on 22nd Avenue in my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi when I first heard that song on my toy record player. I thought of my grandmother and was grateful she instilled a love of travel in me at an early age. I thought of my friends who also love The Beatles but weren’t there. I felt gratitude for the friends who were with me in that moment, and then the song was over. And the day was over.

The Beatles loaded up on a bus and toured the English countryside for the movie “Magical Mystery Tour.” It struck me that we are doing the same thing. I am honored that people trust me to travel with them. I am appreciative for the leadership team back home who hold down the fort at New South Restaurant Group. I am thankful for the team that works with me to put these trips together. I am especially grateful for my friend Jesse Marinus who helped me organize this trip and made it possible to have one of the most memorable days of my life.


Apple Cobbler

Apple Filling

8 cups Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup water

2 Tbl unsalted butter, softened


1 1/2 cup flour, sifted

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375

For the filling:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, salt, vanilla extract and water. Using one tablespoon of butter, butter a 9X14 baking dish. Spread the apple mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish. Dot the tops of the apples with the remaining tablespoon of softened butter. For the topping:

Combine the sifted flour, brown sugar. Baking powder and salt and blend well. Blend in the butter and beaten egg. Drop the batter into 12 portions, over the apples, spacing the batter out evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the apples are tender and the crust is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow the cobbler to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with cinnamon ice cream.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

5 cups heavy cream

2 1/2 cups whole milk

Pinch salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 cinnamon stick

12 large egg yolks

To make the cinnamon ice cream ice cream: Combine the cream, milk, salt, 3/4 cup of the sugar and cinnamon stick in a large pot. Split the vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife; add them to the pot and toss in the pods for added flavor. Place the cream mixture over medium heat, and bring up to a simmer; stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Cook for about 15 minutes, being careful that the mixture does not boil, simmer or scald. Shut off the heat, cover the pot, and allow the cream mixture to steep for 15 minutes to further infuse the cinnamon and vanilla flavor.

In the meantime, combine the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and blend them lightly with a wire whisk. Gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar and continue to whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved and the eggs are thick and pale yellow; about 6 minutes.

Using a large ladle or measuring cup, temper the eggs by gradually whisking in about 2 cups of the hot cream mixture. Return this back to the rest of the cream in the saucepan and turn the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until the custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of a spoon when you run your finger across it, about 10 to 12 minutes (do not let boil.)

Strain through a fine strainer into a mixing bowl and place it over an ice bath and chill completely. Stir the mixture while it is cooling. For best flavor results, store the ice cream base covered over night in the refrigerator. Following the manufacturer’s instructions of your ice cream maker, freeze the ice cream. Transfer to airtight containers and freeze until needed.

Yield: 1/2 gallon

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS