Friday, April 9, 2010

Mississippi (Not) on My Mind

Though there is apparently no connection between Jackson, Mississippi, and the nigh-legendary urban-hillbilly sect the Jackson Whites (or, for that matter, the Jackson Five), I still found myself thinking about pretty much anything and anywhere other than where we wound up tonight. The capital of Mississippi just doesn’t hold much fascination for me, I guess—even though crossing into this state means that I’ve been to all but two of the lower 48: Arkansas and New Mexico, y’all are on notice. [Edit: I got ahead of myself. Now that we've been to Louisiana it's down to two states, but when I wrote this it was still three. I know y'all really care.]

But in fairness to this blighted commonwealth, this whole trip is slightly rushed on account of the tight schedule and the need to be in New Orleans by an increasingly early hour on Saturday morning, on account of my job. So we didn’t linger in Montgomery—apart from Martha’s, I’m not sure we missed too much. We saw a notable number of abandoned gas stations, restaurants, and other dispiriting shacks along the way.

We made decent time over to Selma. When I remarked that I thought it was farther away, Rob said, “It is if you walk it.” Which was a reminder of the day’s history lesson. But first we wanted breakfast. The Downtowner—essentially the only place to eat downtown that was open—had just stopped serving breakfast while they prepared for lunch, but they obliged these lazy and effete northerners with a couple of sandwiches. Ordinarily I would say that Selma has apparently seen better days, but that might not be true. It may have seen happier economic times, but of course there were other issues.

After a bit of misdirection involving an Israeli flag and a pitbull barking at us from the second story of a mostly vacant shell of an office building…

…we found the new location of the Voting Rights Museum, at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the infamous “Bloody Sunday” of March 7, 1965, erupted. The museum is only a semipro affair, but the story it tells remains shocking and vibrant—especially since you can look from some of the photographs to the very street outside and recognize bits of the landscape.

Back on the road, we found about thismuch to say about Demopolis, Meridian, and the other points en route. Perhaps the high point was crossing the Chunky River, but I slept through it.

In Jackson, we met a friend of a friend—an architecture professor who guided us in a slightly-too-leisurely fashion to the Auditorium, the only high-school multipurpose room that to my knowledge has been converted into a plausible restaurant. Catfish, grits, andouille, shrimp, beer, comeback sauce, etc. etc., and before you know it the game started ten minutes ago.

What, a baseball game? There was a baseball game?

In Mississippi, baseball is basically just something to do when there’s no football or NASCAR on. Actually, there were a couple TVs at the stadium tuned to car racing, so it may be an even worse situation than I think. It was another chilly night, but at least we were closer to properly dressed for it. The Mississippi Braves hosted the Tennessee Smokies, the Double-A affiliate of the Cubs. The Smokies brought along shortstop Starlin Castro, who had spectacular spring training in Arizona but for us went just 1 for 5—hey, he’s just barely 20. Half the fun is his name alone, which conjours both the creator of '70s comic-book space operas and a certain Cuban shortstop.

This was actually a good, close game, seesawing along to a 5-4 final. But it was still a Braves game, which meant there was that ugly logo, that blasted tomahawk-chop groan, and lots and lots of cheerleaders—wait, that last item is another Mississippians-missing-football thing, not really a Braves thing. Still, there were a lot of teenagers in short shorts waggling pompoms, which isn’t my understanding of what Abner Doubleday had in mind—at least not when he created baseball. If in fact, he even did that.

Anyway, we wound up spending a surprising amount of time watching the eyeballs get ready.

Yep, those people are dressed like eyeballs and getting ready to run across the field as part of a between-innings promotion.

In the event, one of the orbs cheated (by running straight across the field instead of along the warning track as instructed) and had to be plucked out.

We sat back for the rest of the game, as the temperature continued to plummet.

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