The blood of a turnip

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A turnip, a stone, and my right hand have the same thing in common — you can’t get blood from any of them. Also, I have no future as a hand model.

It has been a year since our exodus from Florida. Overall, we’ve managed to survive in Mississippi, and my husband has thrived in the job that brought us here. Despite this milestone, I’ve had to confront another reminder of how I still don’t belong here, and likely never will.

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Light it up, blow it up for the holidays

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Winter wonderland, or portal to a special aesthetic hell? You be the judge.

Last year, I took minimalism to the limit when it came to Christmas decorations. Our furniture and possessions were crammed into a 576-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in south Florida, so the best I could do was an 18-inch felt Christmas tree from Target, adorned with small red pom-poms as ornaments, perched on the ledge by the kitchen sink. This year, in Mississippi, I have borne witness to the opposite Yuletide extreme.  Continue reading

Walking in Memphis — a travelogue

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It has taken us seven months, but at long last, we’ve visited Memphis, Tennessee, for reasons that don’t involve using the airport. This is a good thing because, among the city’s various claims to fame, some of its welcome signs bill it as “America’s Distribution Center,” and the airport terminal has all the ambiance of one. It would have been tragic if the airport and its environs were the only things we ever experienced in Memphis, the closest major city to Tupelo.  Continue reading

Yearning to break free

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This man wants to “help you break free.” For several inmates in Mississippi and Alabama, that’s been a do-it-yourself project.

One of the worst local TV commercials in heavy rotation – it’s too difficult to narrow them down to just one, which is a blog post for another day – is for a criminal defense lawyer who cares deeply about helping you beat the rap if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the law in northeast Mississippi.

Even when you consider the sleaziness that’s to be expected from ambulance chasers, this ad takes the genre to a new, sub-basement level. Kerry M. Bryson, of the Bryson Law Firm right here in Tupelo, is so committed to helping you avoid the ignominy and perpetual unemployability wrought by a criminal record (or as he puts it, good people who find themselves in “unfortunate situations”) that he winds down his 30-second pitch by declaring that he wants to “help you break free.” He stands just outside the perimeter fence of what appears to be the Lee County Jail, brandishing a bolt cutter for added subtlety.

In the nearly six months I’ve spent in the Magnolia State, I’ve seen numerous examples of individuals here and in neighboring Alabama whose desire for freedom was so strong that by sheer force of will and the desperation of those with nothing left to lose, they achieved it without Mr. Bryson’s help, if only temporarily. Jail breaks, most commonly from county facilities or local lockups, are a staple of local news.  Continue reading

What a nothing burger really tastes like

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Behold the nothingness of the slugburger.

I have eaten my weight in hamburgers and then some during my lifetime, but up until this past weekend, I had never consumed a slugburger. The city of Corinth, less than an hour north of Tupelo near the Tennessee line, was hosting its 30th annual Slugburger Festival, so I decided it was time to blaze a new trail in experiencing Mississippi culture. Continue reading

Doing hard time at the DMV

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Complaining about the DMV is an admittedly banal exercise. Just like death and taxes, a trip to obtain, renew, or restore a driver’s license is inevitable, and no matter where you are, the ambiance is best described as “hell’s antechamber.” If you value your driving privileges, the universe declares, then suck it up, buttercup.

I’ve experienced epic wait times of up to 2-3 hours in New Jersey, which is practically world renowned for “worst DMV experience of all time,” and easily an hour in the Philadelphia suburbs. In Florida, the county tax collector’s office instructs you to book an appointment online for the privilege of waiting in line for half an hour or more.

In Tupelo, the waiting isn’t the hardest part. But just as Tolstoy famously wrote that “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” every state’s DMV system is a unique incarnation of Hades on Earth, and Mississippi is no exception. Continue reading