Five weeks ago we moved from downtown Los Angeles to rural Mississippi. Following is a list of some early observations and impressions:
- People are generally very friendly. I am gradually becoming used to hearing people address me as “Mr. Clay,” even though it makes me feel like a Beverly Hills hairdresser. There are no other circumstances under which I have ever felt like a Beverly Hills hairdresser so this is something new.
- Drivers Education in Mississippi schools apparently does not cover the use, or existence, of turn-signal levers in motor vehicles. It is often necessary to intuit the meaning of brake lights.
- On the Interstate, a 70-mph speed limit means 70, while a 45-mph speed limit in town means 35. Don’t get me started on what a 35-mph limit means.
- Some towns are pizza-happy and you see pizza places on every block. Other towns are hamburger-happy, hot dog-happy or enchilada-happy. I spent two nights once in Marquette, Michigan, and it is Cornish pasty-happy up there. McComb and Summit in southwest Mississippi are snow cone-happy. I’ll cover this in more detail in a future installment but so far I’ve seen Sno-cones, flavored ice, frozen ice (don’t doubt me on this stuff), Ice-Kones, Fruitee-Ice and Sno-ice.
- It rains here. I haven’t lived in a place where it rains since February of 2000, when I left Chicago, and I like it very much. It rained a good bit in early 2013 in Fitou in France, too. I came to like the rain here only after realizing that our roof doesn’t leak, which was an early concern.
- I have heard the n-word used casually. That jars me and it should, but it will take more than a little time to ruminate over the extent to which it matters to me when people say such things without intending offense. Not two minutes ago, in a laundromat, I heard the manager’s husband – a little man you’d think of as “kindly” – refer to a previous customer as a “colored boy.”
- There’s an election coming up for some local offices, and judging by the number of yard signs you see, approximately one adult in six is a candidate for Pike County Sheriff.
- In Summit alone (pop. ±1700) there are at least 35 churches but no synagogues or mosques.