Lyle hates when I say that because of the Johnny Cash song: “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout”.
Jacksonville, Alabama was an eye-opening visit with my high school friend Paul. He was the ringleader in our circle of friends and went on to become a history professor at Jacksonville State University. He’s incredibly brilliant and I sat in on his US Survey 202 class full of freshmen. I have not been in a college lecture in 25 years. He was fabulous, entertaining and I hung on his every word. Mostly because I’ve lived some of the concepts he’s talking about. Money follows power, the need for regulating the “captains of industry” and the iron triangle or circle in which the system for business, politicians and corrupt contracts were the norm in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s.
It strikes me as I drive through Alabama and Mississippi that we have not come that far. The Walmarts have done such a good job of wiping out culture and small business and vibrancy in these poor towns. The property taxes are almost nothing according to Paul and there is no funding to renovate the schools etc that are downtown. They build cheaply out by Walmart and the strip malls taking more life and business with them. As a traveler, all I want to do is go to a town without strip malls and Walmarts. Hard to find in this area. It makes me very nervous about the impending development in Chatham County and the threat of losing our eccentric personality of Pittsboro.
Paul has a 12 year old precocious daughter, Ginger. I had never met her and I think she thought I was a little strange driving up to her house in a hippie van, reminiscing with her Dad about the time I took his teddy bear hostage and possibly tortured it, etc etc. She took to her room, which most teens do about that age. Ginger had a soccer game. Paul and I watched for 2 hours in 34 degree weather…and after they lost, we took the very disillusioned Ginger to a brew-pub for dinner. She was not happy. But I heard a soft voice in the back seat say “I like your van”. During dinner we tried to talk above the full on brass band, although a challenge. Finally, Ginger, with big eyes said “I’m having an existential crisis” I said happily “why do you think I’m driving across the country in a blue bus?!” Finally, Ginger and I could relate to one another.
Jackson, Mississippi was next…partly because they had a co-op grocery, yoga studio and Eudora Welty’s house was there. I walked into the tour and they said “You are a Eudora Welty scholar?” I said no. They said “You are a big fan and have read lots of her writings?” I said no. It was a great tour.
Never mind that it was rainy and 34 degrees and I’ve NEVER CAMPED in this situation. In fact, this would be the 2nd night alone in Baby Blue and it was cold as hell. I searched for a small space heater and all the big boxes were sold out. Like a beacon, I drove to the co-op grocery and there was an old timey hardware store that had 3 heaters left. I felt like the Universe was looking after. I went to a drill sergeant yoga class….jeez, she was so bad, no spirit in that girl. Then back to the dark campground to cook and stay warm for the night. My spot, #11 had a broken electrical outlet, so no heat for me after all. I heated soup which warmed the van about 2 degrees and got into Lyle’s mummy sleeping bag. My girlfriend, Melissa was texting me photos of her 4 course dinner in San Francisco. After about an hour of trying to keep my nose warm, I fell asleep and woke up to a cold sunshiny day. Today I feel empowered that I survived a potential hypothermia or asphyxiation death.
New Orleans, here I come!
P.S. I’m still terribly homesick for Lyle, Zafer, Arlo and PBO.