The chimps hit the road in South Mississippi

Every spring the drivers get nuts here. This time of year I always see more accidents. I have dodged three accidents in the last couple of weeks, and by dodged I mean physically moved my car out of impending danger. And then today I turned onto US 90. A truck traveling in the same direction came up behind me fast and did not slow down. Even as I was moving out of the lane he honked at me. We were both stopped at the same red light about three seconds later. Totally unnecessary.

Island meditation

Work was slow. Jack, our longtime volunteer, suggested I take a long walk while he watched the fort. I walked the mile or so around the west point of the island. There were some formidable dunes with sea oats there before, now the dune ridge is somewhat flatter and the grasses are short. There is enough debris washed up on the north shore to make it unattractive. I found a little tidal outlet from the marsh that was cut off from the sound. The water was dark brown in the manner of these little pools. I think the marsh deposits a lot of tannins into it as the plant matter decays. Fast little fish swam away from me as I walked past. Fiddler crabs were everywhere along the edge of the pool. I have never seen them before on this island.

Down at the point the sound and the gulf were sloshing together creating a long sand spit almost parallel to the south shore. I walked out to the end of it. No garbage there. The water was sea green and choppy. A big hermit crab in a whelk shell was crawling around the swash zone. The waves would sometimes knock it over. If it was upside down it would wait for another wave to right it. Being a hermit crab must mean a life of patience.

The west point was a little Wild America experience. I saw a shark (or maybe a lemonfish) in the shallow water about twenty yards out, and a school of sheepshead. Some least terns were fishing along the beach. They hovered, sometimes amost over the sand and then dive headfirst into the water to catch small fish that you and I never notice when we go swimming. Least terns make little rattles and squeak-toy noises. A few other birds, royal terns, forster’s terns, laughing gulls, and brown pelicans, hung about nearby. A couple of medium-sized brown birds flew by, heading north and making a bee line for the mainland. Probably they are spring migrants from the Yucatan that otherwise have no business in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact we passed some migrating songbirds on the ferry ride to the island this morning. I’ll be looking for them around the fort, because sometimes woodland birds stop there for a break.

The wind blew from the north today, so the south shore was calmer and I didn’t hear the wind in my ears. The water was unusually murky, a rich brown to reddish; I could see little bits of detritus washing up as waves lapped weakly on the beach. They will fertilize the sterile sand. Otherwise I couldn’t see into the water too much (a couple of sheepshead and a sea nettle). I know with that silty, nutrient-laden water brings the whole food chain with it. I wondered if this was a red tide. I couldn’t smell anything funny the red algae produces a noxious gas), but I was upwind from the water anyway.

I’m glad I didn’t have a camera. I like taking pictures but it gives you cameravision: you start looking through the narrow world of the viewfinder and stop paying attention to your other senses. A couple of sandpipers ran from me along the sand flats; a pair of ospreys is nesting in the Coast Guard’s range tower–the only other structure left on the island–and I could hear them chirping a quarter mile away at the fort. The island is coming back to life. I will miss watching it do that.

Rain today

I didn’t ride my bike into town anticipating it, though I would have been all right had I gone around lunchtime. I’m feeling really sluggish anyway. I feel better after yoga, as usually. I’ve been making half-asses stabs at getting ready for my move. I don’t want to move stuff I don’t want to keep, so I’m purging my files of old bank statements and such. My little shredder isn’t cut out for heavy-duty expungings of the record. It keeps overheating and shutting off.

At the grocery store tonight I saw a guy with a swastika tattooed on his forearm. He might as well have had “I am an ignorant dickhead” tattooed on him.

No crackers

I’m ready to leave Mississippi just because it’s time to move on. Three more weeks, and it’s already been almost two months since I accepted the job in Iowa. Went out to the island today. The weather was perfect but it was more of the redneck beer crowd than the family crowd out there. Whoever takes my place this summer is going to have a hell of a time keeping the fort clean and orderly. We don’t have any signs or anything. I’m thinking about painting the rules on the .5-inch plywood door (our ersatz sally port gate). I know it will look like crap, but so do cigarette butts and beer cans and urine and drunk, sunburned crackers.

Going to a movie for some politically incorrect entertainment shortly: “Thank You for Smoking”.

Broken glasses

The left ear thing on my glasses broke out at the island. I had a pair of prescription sunglasses as back-up but, lo, we got our first rain in four months. It was dark as night on the road and I had to hold my broken glasses together the best I could.

I’m wearing my former pair of glasses as I write this. I retired them four or five years ago. Four winters on the beach in New York left them scratch almost to uselessness. I’ll have to perservere through the weekend. I hope its sunny and bright.

Irish nuns, Charlie Rose, and tornados

A couple of Irish nuns from Biloxi joined my fort tour today. They were the nicest ladies, though I heard later one of them was once handy with the switch.

I turned on Charlie Rose last night and Bill Safire was sitting in for Charlie. Bill Safire? What the frig? Turns out Charlie Rose is in the hospital for some emergency heart surgery. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the man. It’s the only thing on TV worth watching.

My uncle left a message from his classroom this morning. His third graders are researching tornados and discovered that Iowa is right in the tornado belt. Knowing that I am moving there from hurricane country, they were concern and thought he should call me. In fact, Iowa City was smacked by a tornado a couple of days after I visited. But they are not as frequent there as in other parts of the Midwest.


For the second time this week I had to swerve my car to avoid death. This time for a jackass who started to make a left turn right in front of me. Not only did I deftly evade a collision, but I managed to share my thoughts with him (“Fucking idiot!”) as I did it. This was strange: at some point when I swerved the car shifted into neutral. I don’t remember hitting the gearshift and didn’t even notice until I tried to accelerate again. In fact I couldn’t figure it out until I pulled over.

I was a disaster at yoga tonight. I’m still a bit congested, but even a bit congested makes yoga difficult since it involves breathing through your nose. I also drank too much lemonade before class; it started gurgling up every time I bent forward which was like every five seconds. Not to be disgusting but that’s what happened to me at yoga tonight.

Movie catch-up

Some of the Academy Award movies are out on video. I rented “Brokeback Mountain” and “Capote”, both very good. I can see why “Brokeback Mountain” was so successful. It could have been a big joke, gay cowboys and all, but it wasn’t. The focus was on how they felt, which was probably really hard to pull off.

They should do a whole Village People franchise: “Brokeback Precinct”, “Brokeback Construction”, “Brokeback Reservation”, and so forth. Had to get that in…

“Capote” was even slower than “Brokeback Mountain”, but man, Truman Capote was one fucked up dude! I’m going read his book when I get a chance. I heard Phillip Seymour Hoffman stayed in character throughout the entire production. I’m sure everyone was real sick of him.

I’ve been dawdling, I have to start getting ready for this move in less than a month.

On my way to Gulfport

I witnessed an accident–had to swerve to avoid it really. One of the cars was pretty smashed up. I saw benefits of an airbag for the first time. Without it one of the drivers would have been a trauma case.

A nice day to get back to the island. It was pretty balmy out there. I’ve been talking to reporters a lot over the last couple of days. The resumption of ferry service is generating a lot of news media attention. Today went about as well as could be expected.


I’m on a different work schedule and keep forgetting it is Friday. On my way to Gulfport this morning I witnessed an accident. With the Biloxi Bay bridge out, all of the Biloxi-bound Highway 90 traffic has to merge into one lane to turn north toward I-10. People were weaving in and around each other trying to jockey into the turning lane, including one woman who passed me on the right. I thought, “there is going to be an accident here,” and sure enough about one second later this same woman rear-ended the car in front of her. I swerved out of the way to miss her. Her airbag went off. She was really stunned. Her car was smashed up, the lady she hit couldn’t get hers started up again. I was frightened at first because I saw the windsheild cracked, but it was either the airbag or the impact that did it, not something (or someone) inside the car.

Six bucks richer

I sold my three angelfish today for two dollars each. They are pretty nice fish and the lady at the pet store agreed. I told her these fish were survivors. They survived once ast year when my filtration system broke down while I was away and again after Hurricane Katrina brought prolonged periods of power outages and unusable tap water. The tank never recovered from all of that. I lost most of my fish but the three angels survived. They were so easy to catch I felt bad. They didn’t evade the net the way other fish do. When I put them into the bag I wondered what they thought. Did they think they were dead? Do they remember this happening when I brought them home? I’ve watched them a lot and I’m pretty sure they don’t do a lot of thinking. Pretty much they are creatures of stimulus and response. They’d swim to the glass when I was nearby only because I was the bringer of food. Still, they’ve been my only roommates most of my time here in Mississippi.


I must have caught a cold in Iowa because I feel totally dreck. Yesterday my throat was so sore I felt like I had swallowed a baseball. I feel a little better today, but really out of it. I keep dropping stuff and I spend most of the day walking around with my fly unbuttoned. I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night, so I bought some Nyquil. I hope to make it to the end of this sentence.

Journey to the center of America!

Iowa seems like a pretty nice place to live. There are farms everywhere. In fact everything is either a town or a farm. There is no vacant space or wilderness. Even the ditches are managed. It’s very pretty. West Branch looks like it’s out of Norman Rockwell painting. It is also tiny; I could probably walk around it half an hour. Iowa City is a fun university town. I haven’t made up my mind where to live, but I think I’d like to live in Iowa City and commute the 10 miles to West Branch, though I did find a nice, reasonable apartment in West Branch. Iowa is also much more bicycle-friendly than Mississippi. I might invest in a better bike if I can ride it around more.

Speaking of bikes and Mississippi… the first thing I saw tonight when I stepped out of the Gulfport Airport were two bicycle cops stopping a motorist. This guy was driving some old GM beater that looked like it fell off a bridge. Most of the front end was busted up and neither headlight worked. This is at 9 p.m. If I had to pick one place that I would always find a cop these days it would be the airport. I would not drive my illegal car in the dark to get there.

It funny, the Gulfport airport has been undergoing major renovation almost since I moved here. The construction went into full swing last year; people visiting the coast for the first time probably think the airport was destroyed by hurricane Katrina.

Today I was paid to paint a cannon in the sun.

I went to the island to do some more painting and other stuff. Paint a cannon carriage is really tedious. Plus it is massive. You know, considering there’s not much left on that island there still a lot of work to do before the ferry service resumes next Friday. I put some ant poison down in the fort as per agency protocols.

Tomorrow I’m flying to Iowa for a couple of nights. I’ll do some househunting and get a PO Box set up. I’ll have to pack tomorrow morning. I wasted most of this evening on taxes. I’m not sure if I have to file a return for Tennessee. If I do I may not owe anything; if I do owe it’ll screw my Mississippi return because I’m paying a full year of taxes here.

Bah. Anyway…

Why couldn’t forts be made of styrofoam?


I’m flying to Iowa on Thursday to scope out the new environs.

I’ve spent the last two weeks at work trying to coordinate a work day out on the island. The big day was this Saturday; it went well but we didn’t get everything done I had hoped. Part of it was sheer impossibility. We had to move these huge iron shutters out of one of the powder magazines. They weighed at least 300 pounds each, even a few stout airmen couldn’t get it all done.

Adventures in delegating: I had forty people and three projects to oversee, so I delegated. The iron-artifact movers took the he-man approach and moved several thousand pounds by hand; they didn’t use the refrigerator dolly they were provided. I spent most of my lunch break improvising a ramp over the magazine stoop, but they were pretty beat after that. I have much to learn, Master Kenobi.