Thoughts on Mississippi

Today I’d like to talk a bit about the month I just spent in Mississippi. I stayed in Bay St Louis/Waveland area for a month. I have to confess that I was smack dab in the middle, between Mobile Alabama, the birthplace of the Mardi Gras and New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I was loving going to both locations often. Even though I was off to those locations often, I attempted to get to know the local flavor in Mississippi. There are a lot of jokes regarding Mississippi circulating out there, things like Louisiana is thrilled to be next to Mississippi because then Louisiana doesn’t have to be in last place when making comparisons between the states.

As it turns out Mississippi does regularly excel in at least one category – Obesity. I was hoping to be in the fat motherland where fat acceptance was, well accepted. I have to admit I really did not see that many fat folk there, which kind of bummed me out but made me think where are all the fat people? Do they hide them away in the basement? Do they keep them in the corner and are not allowed to wander in public? These are good questions to ponder when I get back there.

Let’s talk about the good.
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I know when I accepted the job at the Stennis Space Center a few years ago, there were a lot of jokes about me being the 3rd smartest person in the state. I was not sure who the first 2 smartest people were but I’m sure NASA had a few rocket scientists there that are probably smarter than me, of course it might just be a tossup.  Regardless, I met some very quality people in Mississippi. I think it gets a bit of a bad rap. I’d also like to give a shout out to a neighborhood bar called Harold and Lillian’s. This is a neighborhood bar with a pool table, juke box, electronic dart board, and karaoke on Friday nights and finally to round the entertainment out, a stripper pole. This place had it all.  I totally did get the urge on more than one occassion to take a twirl on that stripper pole in all my big girl glory, but did refrain because of course in my mind, I could envision my attempt showing up on you tube and getting a billion hits as a major fail, me swinging on the pole and having it break away from the ceiling. But I really wanted to see what it was like. That will probably be one of my great regrets in life – it’s rare that I pass up an opportunity when it arises. At first blush I’m sure a bunch of you are saying “Oh Margaret what could be good about that place?” It sounds sort of like a dive bar and it kind of was, however they had one very great thing going for it, the people. This was definitely a working class bar and a local bar. Somebody at the campground tipped me off to this place and I had to check it out. Have you ever walked into a bar outside of your home turf and there is that awful awkward moment where every person in the bar looks your way with a scowl on their face and doesn’t say a word just stares at you as you walk through the bar? Internally as you are walking through the bar, you are fighting that flight or fight impulse. That does not happen at Harold and Lillian’s. People smile at you. Then they get up and introduce themselves to you and shake your hand, or better yet, give you a hug. Then they introduce you to everyone else at the bar who greets you warmly. What a treat! Everyone was sooo nice and I had so much fun!!! I even I got the ladies in the bar to do the Cupid Shuffle and the Wobble with me and they were great at it!

Speaking of great people I met several Teenagers in Pass Christian pronounced Pass Chris-tee-ann. They were building a memorial to three students that passed away in a recent car accident. Then this group of enterprising kids, broadened the scope to all the children that passed away at the high school there. What made it special is that they were doing this from their hearts not expecting anything in return like putting it on a collage resume or earning a Girl Scout gold award or an Eagle Scout award. They just wanted their friends to be remembered. How awesome is that?

The weather doesn’t suck compared to the north.

Many items are much cheaper than other places around the US.

Let’s talk about the bad.

I have to say that I never thought I’d encounter worse beaches than Connecticut beaches but Mississippi beaches are worse, if not worse then they are tied for sure. For my peeps that know nothing about Connecticut beaches, Connecticut is on Long Island sound which blocks the really big waves. In fact it’s been my observation that the Great Lakes have bigger waves then Connecticut beaches. Unless you own property on or near the Connecticut shore, no one goes to Connecticut to go to the beach. Many people in Connecticut will argue that they are not beaches at all and those folks generally will drive the extra 30 mins and go to Rhode Island beaches where there are real waves and open ocean. With that said, Connecticut has softer sand and better parking lots that accommodate enough people at the beaches which is woefully small at Mississsippi beaches which leads me to believe that people don’t go to the beaches in Mississippi in big numbers. The only people that seem to use it are the boat people to moor their boat at the marina.

Now for the ugly

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Imagine if you will, a small city block with 4 story buildings all around the block. There were 2 of those, which contained piles of refuse from the BP oil spill. When I asked a local about what they were, I was informed that they were full of chemicals for gathering the oil at the surface of the water. I looked at the base of the mounds and there was nothing preventing the chemicals from leaching into the ground and water supply. Beyond that there were about 6 kids playing on the mounds and the guy I was talking to about the mounds just shook his head and said “I don’t know how their parents will let these kids play there with all those chemicals in them things.” He says everyone knows what they are and what’s in them. I pray that the good people of this community don’t all end up with cancer.

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Margaret Webster

Margaret Webster

What happens when an upbeat, sociable, single, empty nester in midlife, outdoor enthusiast, critter gal, science geek, history buff, treasure hunter with an addiction to brown signs and the wanderlust, embarks on a 4 month road trip in her Chevy pickup truck, loaded with a tent, kayak, bicycle, 5 changes of clothes, her laptop, and cell phone, by herself, that essentially turned into a fulltime lifestyle?

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