The walking sign

The photograph I most regret not taking was this:

I was driving along Interstate 10 in Mississippi several years ago. The night before someone must have driven a car right into a big highway sign. One of the legs was completely mangled and the other was bent. The sign looked like it had come to life, started walking along the shoulder, and then froze mid-step as if the life had gone out of it as suddenly as it appeared. The highway department fixed the sign before I got around to photographing it.

Native Guard

All the grave markers, all the crude headstones—
water-lost. Now fish dart among their bones,
and we listen for what the waves intone.
Only the fort remains, near forty feet high,
round, unfinished, half-open to the sky,
the elements— wind, rain— God’s deliberate eye.

Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard

I heard on the radio that the United States has a new poet-laureate. This is not something I usually pay much attention to, except that Natasha Trethewey’s name is familiar to me. I met her when she visited Ship Island to learn more about the Louisiana Native Guard, black soldiers who were stationed there during the Civil War. Her resulting Pulitzer Prize winning poetry book Native Guard is named after those soldiers. So after hearing the news I picked up that book from the library.

Poetry, like jazz, often eludes my attempts at appreciation, even though I write an occasional doggerel verse. The poems in Native Guard are accessible to poetry non-readers like me. They weave Trethewey’s tragic Mississippi childhood (her abusive stepfather murdered her mother) with aspects of Mississippi’s tortured racial history. Trethewey’s mother and father were respectively black and white, their marriage in those days a crime in the state (a poem about this is titled “Miscegenation”).

It wasn’t Trethewey’s personal interpretation of Mississippi that I related to most, but her verbal rendering of the national park I worked at for three and a half years. In the same poem quoted at the top of this post, titled “Elegy for the Native Guards” she writes of her visit to Fort Massachusetts on Ship island:

Inside we follow the ranger, hurried
though we are to get to the beach…

I didn’t lead that particular tour, but she captured my professional existence out there pretty succinctly. Brava!

MC-252

I saw this in a movie once:
The farther upstream you go, the crazier everyone gets.
So two New Yorkers on a fast boat brought me way out to this desert island.
There is no water and no shade
But fifty people in hard-hats and Ty-Vek suits work in slow motion
In Mississippi’s midday sun shoveling oily sand into Hefty bags.
I think the heat is getting to them.

February 2, 2011. Each year the city solicits poems for its Poetry in Public Program. Again, I dashed off a last minute verse. Again it was not selected. That’s the problem with living in a UNESCO City of Literature—too many poets.

I saw this in a movie once:

The farther upstream you go, the crazier everyone gets.

So two New Yorkers on a fast boat brought me way out to this desert island.

There is no water and no shade

But fifty people in hard-hats and Ty-Vek suits work in slow motion

In Mississippi’s midday sun shoveling oily sand into Hefty bags.

I think the heat is getting to them.

The big mess in the Gulf

If you want to feel like you know nothing, be an information officer on the oil spill response.

I used to work on the Gulf Coast. I was there during Katrina and I have a connection to the place. I really wanted to help, so as my agency prepared a response I volunteered to go as a public information officer (PIO). In the three weeks I was there, I was outraged by the effects of the catastrophe and disappointed by feelings of my own futility. It was only during my last week that I was assigned to the actual shoreline, at the national park where I used to work.

Orange blobs and a silvery sheen of oil on the water's surface.
Oily water off Florida

I spent my first week about as far from the oil and shoreline as anyone on the response: at the Unified Command in Robert, Louisiana. Robert was the field headquarters for the whole response effort. Run from a Shell training facility rented by BP, it oversaw the various area commands where most of the response operations were run out of. My first impressions were “what a complete clusterfuck” and “wow, a lot of people are working very hard to solve this problem.” I spent much my first afternoon getting my laptop working in the External Affairs trailer. The External Affairs division comprised public relations professionals from various federal agencies. They reminded me of characters on “The West Wing” in that they took themselves a little too seriously.

My supposed function was fielding media inquiries about national parks. However, when I got to Robert, oil was in the South Louisiana marshes and BP was attempting the “top kill”, so national parks were off everybody’s radar. So my only routine task was to each morning write up a statistical summary that worked its way up to the White House. It was an easy enough job that I could finish before 7:30 a.m., but the imprecise business of gathering statistics caused some complications. For example, I pointed out a drop in the reckoned total personnel working on the response from one day to the next and this sent a young Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guy into a panic. The administration had been saying that 20,000 people are working on the response. This number turned out to be in error and was more like 15,000. Reporting smaller figures is apparently worse than being precise, so the DHS guy had to come up with some justification for continuing to use the 20,000 figure. He found one, and Obama used the 20,000 figure in a press conference that afternoon. This contributed to feeling that I was not doing anything particularly important.

Seashells and other ocean debris covered in oil on the beach.
Oily wrack

There were a handful of national parks people in a sea of Coast Guard and BP at Robert. I think we were there just to remind those folks that the National Parks exist (eight on the Gulf Coast and South Florida) and were at risk of oil contamination. I made a few efforts to raise the NPS profile on the response website, with mixed results. After a week of this, I suggested that my knowledge of the Gulf Coast would be better used elsewhere. So I was sent to the Mobile, Alabama command responsible for Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle.

My first week in Mobile was a busier version of what I was doing in Robert: contributing little to what I thought was important from an unsatisfying position in a headquarters building. Mostly I compiled reports of interest only to invisible officials in Washington, D.C. Except for a brief stop in Ocean Springs on my way to Mobile I hadn’t yet set foot on the shoreline. Nominally, I was assigned to the Joint Information Center (JIC), though my reporting responsibilities to my agency pulled me away from this Q & A work. That put me into a somewhat isolated and dreary position. But I was happy to oblige and I did the job well, so when I was asked to extend for a week, I agreed with the condition that I be sent into the field.

People, mainly journalists, called the JIC to ask questions, usually not the answer-at-your-fingertips kind. The information officers at the JIC had to go find the answers. The intensity at the JIC went in and out with the tide, or as oil washed up on the beaches in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. It took a few days just to get my bearings. Being a massive and complex incident it was very hard to grasp it all. It was busiest the weekend oil started washing up on the beaches around Pensacola. Even though oil had washed ashore in Mississippi and Alabama earlier in the week, oil on Florida beaches attracted much more attention. It was as if oil isn’t really on the beach until it’s on a Florida beach.

Orange boom floats along a stretch of island beach.
Containment boom

The reports we had access to rarely had the exact answers to the reporters’ questions, so we had to find someone in another section for the answer. For example, I might ask someone at the Florida operations branch if they know what kind of oil, where, and how far off of Pensacola is it? Or, where are the skimmers and how many are working where? How many feet of containment boom are deployed around Pensacola Bay? They might in turn refer me to the SCAT (shoreline clean-up assessment technique) coordinators or to the situation group in the planning section. I would later discover that the maps and figures didn’t always jive with the reality in the field, but I couldn’t know that from the suburban office building where we were working.

Two boats drag a sorbent boom to soak up oil on the water's surface.
Two boats drag a sorbent boom to soak up oil on the water’s surface.

After beach-goers and reporters harassed some clean-up crews on Santa Rosa Island, our growing national park cohort at the JIC started sending more PIOs to Gulf Islands National Seashore. Our strategy was to assist the clean-up crews and the resource advisors (READs)—biologists who kept the responders from doing further harm to the park as they cleaned up—deal with the media and visitors so they could do their jobs.

I was a little underwhelmed, but still disgusted, by the oil I saw on Santa Rosa Island during my first day in the field: mostly little blobs the size of a dime scattered along the wrack line, and much had been cleaned up. It was unlike the solid slicks that the media showed inundating the Louisiana marshes. I saw worse later.

A television reporter on a boat pauses while filming.
These reporters from a Czech news agency covered the oil spill in the Gulf.

Media interest waned somewhat after the first oily weekend in Florida but we continued to assist the READs and offer “media availabilities”. I accompanied a media entourage on a vessel that took them off the Alabama coast to “look for oil”. The reporters preferred to talk to the Coast Guard, but none of their PIOs were available for this boat, so they had to settle for a park ranger. One of the local TV reporters on my boat interviewed me while she did her makeup. When they could get along side the other media boat, they interviewed the Coast Guard PIO on it while filming nasty orange blobs and silvery sheens on the water.

This was my first look at oily offshore waters. It appeared very difficult to clean. Skimmer boats tried soaking it up by dragging sorbent booms between them. Another skimmer used the pompom-like absorbent parts from a snare boom attached to a long pole to (literally) mop up mats of oil. They wore full protective suits. They must have been broiling.

Workers in yellow suits mop up oil in the water with absorbent materials.
These workers were literally mopping up oil from the water.

The next day I was called out to Petit Bois Island in Mississippi. The READs had requested a PIO to deal some media hovering around the island on a boat. Of course by the time I got out there the reporters had departed. I stayed on the island in case they returned, and learned a lot about what those report figures meant in living color at a national park.

Petit Bois Island is a desert. It is hot and exposed. There is no shade except what you erect and no drinkable water except what you bring. The sand is white and reflects heat right back up at you. The clean-up crews erected little shade shelters every quarter-mile or so.

As well as being a desert, Petis Bois was a mess. There were large puddles of brown oil, some maybe 10 feet by 5 feet and an inch thick in patches along the oil-soaked wrack line. The work crews, because they were dealing with heavy concentrations, wore plastic suits to their waists, boots, gloves, and—for some reason—hard hats. With the humidity the heat index was way past 100 degrees—and they worked through the middle of the day. I was hot just watching them. They took long and frequent breaks.

Workers in protective gear scoop mats of oil off a white sand beach.
You can see some of the equipment involved in cleaning up Petit Bois Island.
Workers load bags of oil onto a work boat.
Loading up bags of oil

Also a mess was the impact on the island. Petit Bois is federal wilderness area which, in the words of Wilderness Act of 1964, is to be a place “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.” But in order to clean up oil along six or more miles of an offshore Gulf beach you need dozens of workers, utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), shade, water, fuel, food, toilets, boats, landing areas—all while attempting to not disturb sensitive bird and turtle nesting areas or fragile dunes systems and seagrass beds. The crews and the biologists were diligent and innovative as they tried to strike a balance among safety, clean-up, and protection of the natural resources, but neither the catastrophic oil pollution nor this massive clean-up operation honored the spirit of the wilderness.

Even though I didn’t catch up with any reporters that day on Petit Bois Island, I was on television and on radio and quoted in the newspaper. My usual question and answer functions as a park ranger were at once highly simplified and greatly magnified. Most of my previous experience with news reporters has been pretty straightforward, and if I screw up it doesn’t get into the national news.

As a PIO for a national incident I had to stick to a few key messages and wasn’t afforded much candor. On the media boat tour I was confined to the vessel with eight reporters for six hours. Everything I said could have been fair game to them so I spoke as little and as carefully as possible, which seems an impediment to transparency. I’m not entirely comfortable with that; there is an art to it which takes preparation and practice. Public relations folks (like the “West Wing” types in Robert) labor under the presumption that they can (and should) manipulate the media into reporting the news their way with pre-packaged messages. I concluded that though skillful people can pull that off, the media have to want to hear what you have to say first.

Oil pollution stretched along the entire shoreline of a barrier island beach.
Oil polluted miles of shoreline on Petit Bois Island.

Tuesday we were at Rosamond Johnson Beach on Perdido Key, Florida. This was a little case study in how hard it was getting accurate information and everybody on the same page. We arrived just in time for heavy oil to wash up on the beach. Crews had been cleaning it all weekend. The lifeguards asked the swimmers to leave the water. They don’t have authority to close the beach or the water, and it wasn’t clear who does. Closing beaches and waters is a touchy subject and, also impractical, according to someone I spoke with at the Florida Department of Health. The READs and the lifeguards wanted the waters closed or at least a strongly worded official health advisory issued from park management, which wasn’t forthcoming. There was also, according to the lifeguards, a state or county health advisory for county waters that ended at the park boundary. I discovered that everything is a rumor until verified, but as PIO I had to be prepared to answer questions about the lifeguards’ decision and the park’s inconsistency with the county’s health advisory, and whether the oil on the beach is dangerous or not. We never did untangle it all but the media let us off the hook by not showing up. The beach-goers, for their part, had mixed reactions. Most stayed out of the water, but not all. One lady said they only came down to the beach once or twice a year, and that they would risk it for the sake of saving their vacation.

To sum up my admittedly limited experiences and observations: there is nothing easy about fixing the big, complicated mess down on the Gulf Coast. I spoke to a lot of people living and working there who just shook their heads in anger, sadness, and disappointment. I found myself shaking my head a lot too.

Recovery of the barrier islands six months after Katrina

Wind and waves are always rearranging barrier islands. If you’ve ever stood on the beach at the edge of the water and watched the sand sloshing around your feet in the waves, you’ve seen it action. On breezy days you can feel bits of the island blowing by in the form of sand against your face. Hurricanes are the most radical versions of this constant movement. When Katrina’s giant storm surge washed across the barrier islands of Gulf Islands National Seashore, it leveled their dune systems, scoured out new channels, and washed away sand flats at the islands extremities. It also swept away and drowned plants and animals.

In February I rode out to the islands with our park biologist to take photos. The islands looked pretty bleak. Little of the massive dunes of Horn Island are left: eroded rumps clustered around broken trees. The trees that stood up to the surge are gray and dry, and only sun-bleached and leafless stems remain of many of the smaller plants that covered the islands’ interiors.

But I didn’t go to take pictures of destruction. If you’re like me, you’re probably tired of looking at the devastation. I was looking for signs of natural renewal, and evidence that Katrina might even have been beneficial to the islands or to the life they host. After all, these islands have survived hurricanes since the first day of their existence.

The first living thing I noticed when I went ashore on Petit Bois Island was a small indestructible mustard plant called sea rocket. Sea rocket lives on the margins of the habitable island. It is found on the bare, infertile sand of the upper beach–the part of the beach that is closest to the water but doesn’t get wet during most high tides. It lives exposed to extremes of summer heat and windy winter cold, to the frequent pelting of airborne sand and the occasional pounding surf. It lives there because it is the best adapted plant at doing so. It has tenacious roots that soak up scarce fresh water during rains and thick rubbery leaves that lock in moisture against evaporation. (Sea rocket is one tough plant. I once found one growing on a beach in New York, its tiny purple four-petal flowers blooming in defiance of the howling, sub-zero winter day.)

It turns out that sea rocket can grow anywhere on the island. The storm surge moved a lot of things around the Mississippi Sound: refrigerators, roofs, casinos, etc. But it also moved sea rocket around the islands. I found sea rocket growing in an unusual place: in the middle of Petit Bois Island, under the shade of some pine trees, through a heavy litter of pine needles. It is growing there now because it took hold ahead of the island interior’s usual inhabitants. Those other plants may come back later, fed by nutrients washed ashore by the storm, and push the sea rocket back to the beach.

Signs of natural renewal are everywhere on the barrier islands. Besides the amazing sea rocket, beach grasses are now poking through the sand, and saw palmettos and prickly pear cactuses are re-sprouting. Around the island’s brackish ponds and marshes, plants like cord grass and black needle-rush that live partly submerged during high tides are doing just fine. A close look at a stand of yaupon holly reveals new growth. Even many of the slash pines, reddened by the initial burn of wind of salt water then fading to a drab gray, are showing a little green these days.

Island animals are clinging to these little bits of green. Dragonflies still buzz around the ponds and marshes. There are monarch butterflies and song sparrows in the bushes, and footprints of herons and raccoons around the tidal pools. A pair of bald eagles is already nesting in a tree on what’s left East Ship Island. This spring we’ll be looking for ospreys, skimmers, and terns to return to their island breeding grounds.

You can see it all for yourself. Ferry service to West Ship Island will resume on April 14, though amenities on the island will be very limited. If you have your own boat, you can also visit Petit Bois, Horn, and East Ship Islands (Cat Island is still closed). You can help the islands recover by being a low impact visitor. Stay off the dunes and steer clear of osprey nests and ground-nesting shorebirds.

The hardest thing for us people–park staff and visitors–to cope with out there will be the loss of our facilities and the damage to our monuments. Work and money will heal those wounds. If we let nature take its course the islands, and their plants and animals, will take of themselves.

March 20, 2006. This article appeared in Arrowhead, the newsletter of the Employees and Alumni Association of the National Park Service, published by Eastern National, Spring 2006, vol. 13, no. 2.

Interpreting the salt marsh

“Where’s the beach?”

When I worked in New York City, I brought a new park ranger to see the salt marsh at Great Kills Park on Staten Island. He remembered going to the broad sand beaches there when he was younger. I showed him a place where the beach had eroded to an abrupt dirt slope. A few feet below was the leading edge of a growing salt marsh. When he looked out at the narrow green ribbon that had once been a hundred yards of sand beach he said with horror, “My God, look at the destruction!” Continue reading Interpreting the salt marsh

Employee assistance after Katrina

While Hurricane Katrina pulverized the Mississippi Gulf Coast early on Monday, August 29 I visited the little shotgun shack in Tupelo where Elvis Presley was born. I waited out the diminishing storm that night with a friend in Oxford as it passed through northern Mississippi. Though I was having an uncommonly good week hanging out with graduate students at Ole Miss, the inability to communicate with the coast was maddening. I didn’t drive the six hours back to Ocean Springs until Saturday, when I knew that an NPS recovery team was in place and I’d have a regular supply of drinkable water. I wasn’t sure of the condition of my apartment but had heard third-hand on Friday that it was “fine.” Continue reading Employee assistance after Katrina

Mississippi Public Broadcasting

I wrote this letter about a radio segment I endured every morning in Mississippi. The Mississippi Public Broadcasting official who wrote back actually thought I wanted them to program a segment on aquariums.

June 7, 2004

Norman Winter must be stopped. His radio show “Southern Gardening” has no place on public radio.

I do not have a garden and I am not interested in starting one. I do not even have a yard. However, if I had a garden or wanted to start one, I would not find his show useful. Every morning, five days a week, this guy gets on the radio and tells me about the latest new colorful strain of flower I should buy and plant. I have learned nothing about botany, or about the planning, arrangement, and maintenance of a garden in a year and a half of listening.

Say Norman Winter had a show about aquariums. If I took his advice, my tank would be filled with fish after a couple of weeks. There would be no water. The fish on the bottom would be suffocated and at the same time crushed by the weight of successive layers of the latest new fish. The stench would be horrible.

None of this, of course, would teach me anything about fish or make me want to keep an aquarium.

Norman Winter’s radio spots, which are veiled advertisements for garden supply retailers, are not of educational value to any listener, gardener or not. Accordingly, the show should be cancelled and replaced with, perhaps, a show about aquariums.

Therefore, I propose an embargo: for every day I hear Norman Winter’s imbecilic radio show while I am brushing my teeth, I will reduce or delay my generous contributions to Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

Thank you for your prompt and favorable action on this matter.

And away I go…

I am getting out of here much later than I wanted to. The movers never came to pack yesterday, then they came late today. It’s funny, the movers were a married couple, and they travel in the big tractor-trailer with their dog. They even talked to each other like a married couple. “Honey, can you help me move this box?”

The bottom line is I am out of here.

Good-bye Ship Island

We had Lance’s farewell Friday night at The Shed Barbecue, the coast’s flagship barbecue spot in Vancleave. And then we had an extended farewell at Kwitzky’s Dugout in Ocean Springs.

And so I was pretty tired for my long last day Saturday. After the 2:30 boat left the island, I went for a walk to the east end of the island, maybe two miles from the fort. There were some nudists on the south beach a mile east of the boardwalk. I steered clear of them, but walking along the shoreline for the last time gave me the urge to go swimming; had nobody been around I might have disrobed and dove in for a quick swim.

Even without a last swim I had a nice walk. I like to think that I appreciate the subtleties of the beach as much as anyone: the wave-sculpted rills and washboarding in sand, the mixture of light and dark grains, bare little sandbars, the many hues the surface of the water takes on according the bottom. The beach dissolved into muddy flats at the east end; lots of the usual shorebirds were there. I hoofed it back to the fort to close up and take my last look around my little kingdom of the last three and half years.

I am not inclined to consider my departure from the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a sad thing. I never wanted to stay here more than a few years. I know am better off for having spent the time here–and I hope the park is better off for it as well–but it is time to move on. But as the island receded from the stern of the ferry, and as a pod of dolphins played in the surf nearby, and as the soft swells sloshed against the hull, and as the warm breeze and gentle sun of a perfect spring afternoon touched my face, I felt sad.

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”.

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.

What I will and won’t miss about Mississippi

I will miss:

  • Working on a beach on an island in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The Cajun butcher
  • Friendliness
  • Politeness
  • Good catfish and crawfish
  • The scenic beachfront (already gone)
  • The artistic heritage
  • A few good people
  • The way French Louisianans cook
  • The Sound-off page in the Sun Herald
  • Downtown Ocean Springs
  • The pretty good pizza at the Mellow Mushroom
  • Amazing Fort Massachusetts, my own little kingdom
  • My perfectly liveable apartment
  • 90 miles from New Orleans, for whatever that is worth
  • The feeling that you’re not just a rat in a cage full of rats

I won’t miss:

  • Neo-confederates and their flag
  • Living in a “deep-red” state
  • Hurricanes
  • Insincerity
  • Circumspectness
  • Living in the state that ranks 49th and 50th (or in some cases 1st or 2nd) in just about everything. It is worst in highway safety, lowest in per capita income, has the highest rates of STDs. It has at once the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and infant mortality, but it’s nearly impossible to get an abortion. Ah, the “culture of life.”
  • Writing to redneck elected officials (Senators Lott and Cochrane I mean you) who you don’t give a shit about your point of view.
  • The way French Louisianans dress
  • The state pastime of “letting loose crap fall out of the back of your pickup onto the roadway”
  • The absolutely filthy roads
  • “Southern Gardening with Norman Winter”
  • The amazingly slack service at the Mellow Mushroom
  • People who have apparently never seen a picture of the 8,000 year old Pyramids of Giza commenting on how amazing a feat of engineering is Fort Massachusetts (built 1859-1867)
  • The increasingly dangerous traffic at the entrance to my apartment complex
  • Other drivers who wave you on even though you have the right of way. This is more annoying than it might seem at first
  • The total lack of ambition of the local youths
  • Single Southern women

I’m sure there’s more of each.

The good the bad and the ugly

Today was the Ocean Springs Mardi Gras parade. The weather was fair and I walked the two miles into town to see it. In Kentucky I walked a few miles each days and lost some weight and felt generally better. The parade was pretty nice: plenty of floats, but not heavily attended. I got some beads, some candy, and a few good photos.

The walk into town isn’t a very nice one. The road is a busy one and highways in Mississippi are as dirty as any (lately more so than usual). A lot of dogs get killed on the roads here. In fact there was a freshly dead chocolate lab. It had tags on it. You could still see the skid marks and the blood on the road. Nearby was another carcass. God knows how long it had been there but it was literally a bag of bones. The whole scene was gruesome. Across the road some stupid lady was walking her dog off its leash, within sight of the dead lab and just feet from the cars zipping by. What was the matter with her?

I wish that wasn’t what I remembered most about today but it is.

Wasabi!

I finally tried one of the two new sushi places in town. Lance and I split a couple of rolls. The place is pretty good. Wasabi is good shit. Then we went to a mellow new bar up the street. Ocean Springs is starting to liven up a little. It has an nice little downtown but nothing was ever open at night. Then again, downtown Ocean Springs is the only thing going on the coast west of Mobile.

There was some celebrity dance contest on the TV in the bar. Some were good dancers, some were not. All were washed up, like Tia Carreri, George Hamilton, and Tatum O’Neal. One of the judges looked like Jacques Chirac. I kept imaging him saying things like… well, never mind. Nobody gets my Jacques Chirac jokes.

Home

I got in okay last night, not too hung over from Evrim’s vodka milkshakes. The flight out of Atlanta was delayed by two hours, but nothing too bad.

Winter in Mississippi means the frogs calling were last night when I came back to my apartment. There was even a toad waiting for me in front of my building.

New Year’s in New Jersey to singing frogs in Mississippi in 24 hours. I love modern travel.