Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas in the Deep South

Down on the bayou, once again, for the holidays. Lil' bit o'duck gumbo, some hush puppies, collard greens, fried okra and wash it down with a big fat dose of the blues. Best of all, my kindred are here and there is not a snow drift in sight. (Kinda miss it … until I heard another storm is headed in tomorrow.)

Last year, the Mississippi Gulf Coast experienced a tough Christmas post-Katrina. Antebellum mansions flattened, bridal gowns stuck in trees and casinos on the beach in a mangled heap. All this devastation was set against a grim brown background, with every blade of grass and leaf blown away. This year, there is more hope. Piles and piles of debris and ruined vehicles have been carried away and rebuilding is underway. At the very least, new street signs are up, which provide an uncanny sense of civilization to once bustling seaside towns.

Today, my sister-in-law, MaryAnn, and I cruised what used to be a proud downtown in Pass Christian, we came upon trailers marked "City Hall," and "Hancock Bank" and "Public Library." Of course, there is also, Pirate's Cove, the local bar trailer. Surveying the scene, it struck me that when rebuilding a town, we start with the basics: banks, books, bureaucracy and booze.

All this surveying made us thirsty so we picked up a six pack, a pack of cigarettes and two of the tiniest brown paper sacks I have ever seen. These were provided so that we could continue our drive while still enjoying liquid refreshment. Love that Southern service!

We hopped a car ferry Bay St. Louis and watched the Gulf sunset burn a line along the horizon. Approaching the still-charming town, I recognized a beachside church I had photographed years earlier, Our Lady of the Gulf, and was relieved to see it still standing proudly.

Once ashore, we explored the gutted Fire Dog Saloon, recently filled with sand for a Jimmy Buffett music video featuring a song about hurricanes … in Florida. Then, we headed home but not before stopping in at the lone gift shop open. Turns out, it was also connected to an elaborate grid of art galleries, many pieces of which focused on the surviving the storm. It was impossible to escape but people are moving forward – what else can they do?

Meanwhile, I worry about my new home town, whether it is prepared to handle another two feet of snow and all the headaches that will bring. Lucky for us, it will eventually melt.

1 comment:

Flea's Thoughts said...

ya'll have fun over there...I love it there...mearly a few hours away!!! They have done a lot of work but still have tons more to do. The spirit is there though and that is the best part of all!!!!