Friday, February 22, 2008

Vice Tan You Got There

Driving from one end of town to the other today I noticed three separate tanning salons, a fact I find quite perplexing given that:

  • This small town has a population of only 3,000+ souls;
  • 46% of the population is of color, so not likely to be in the market for a tanning salon;
  • Women over the age of 20 who were "brought up right" still believe that a lady should glow with only a hint of sun-kissed color, not be brown;
  • A good portion of men over the age of 20 work outdoors, have farmer's tans, and could care less about tanning beds;
  • The average income in this rural county is $19,111 per working adult; and
  • We live a mere 32 miles from the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, where tanning is free.

How then can it be that one small town supports three locations? To be fair, one of them isn't a tanning salon per se; it consists of a couple of tanning beds located in a video rental store (remember rural diversification?). This is a combination I can't fathom: one is supposed to cover the eyes with opaque protection when using a tanning bed, so it's not as if the customer could watch the video playing in the store while absorbing the UV rays...

Perhaps I'm not the insider I thought I was, since I haven't been able to unravel the mystery of this secret vice. Then again...I never see folks around here with that fake, I-got-it-in-a-tanning-bed tan, so perhaps there's another use for the beds that I haven't yet learned?

Current Events

Looking through the paper for things to do this weekend yielded some interesting options.

"And You Thought There Was No Culture In Mississippi":

  • Second Saturday Art Walk in Bay St. Louis
  • Biloxi Theatre Presents "A Raisin in The Sun"
  • The International Ballet Competition takes place once every four years in Mississippi (no, this is not a joke), at Thalia Mara Hall in downtown Jackson, and some of the best in ballet from around the world compete.

If you'd rather do something outdoors, you can select from:

  • Educational Tours at the MS Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge
  • Gulf Coast Garden and Patio Show
  • Magnolia State Volkssport Club Volksmarch

For all you sports fans:

  • Sea Wolves ice hockey game (vs. Pensacola)
  • Stock Car Racing at the South Mississippi Speedway
  • Gulf Coast Winter Classics Horse Show

"You Know There's Jus' No Culturin' Some Folks":

  • The Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi presents "Rockin' the Cage--MMA featuring BUTTERBEAN!" For all the uninitiated (including me), MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts--kind of the Kung Fu version of World Wrestling Federation. But a guy called Butterbean??? The name doesn't exactly leave opponents quaking in fear...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Only in a Country Song

I've grown to love country music. Just about every time I turn on the radio, I hear a phrase that makes me laugh out loud.

In a country song you'll find self-deprecating humor and a down-to-earth look at life and human circumstance. There are unapologetic proclamations of faith, love, and patriotism. The singers admit their personal tastes, make honest self-appraisals, and sometimes get just plain silly.

Only in a country song will you find gems such as these:

Romantic overtures
"I sure wanna check you for ticks."

Reflections on What Went Wrong
"Grease and love both cause heartache."
"Well, there was the time I told that cowboy that you used to be a man..."

Know Thyself
"I live my life in Wal Mart fashion, and I like my sushi southern fried."
"I don't like politics, hypocrites, or folks with poodles dressed like kids; I'm a hounddog fan."
"I'm just a product of my raising: I say 'hey y'all' and 'yee haw'."

On Happiness and Simple Pleasures
"If French fries were fat free and you loved me, what a wonderful world this would be."
"It's alright to have a girl name'a Thelma Lou, that don't mind a little kiss when you got a little chew."
"Lookin' back I never have regretted takin' off early or callin' in sick, or lovin' away a Sunday afternoon."

Important Qualities in a Mate
"Someone who knows what I like in my coffee, and the shape of my ol' hat..."
"You look in my eyes and see my thinkin'..."
"She cranks my tractor with just one kiss."

Why Women Fall in Love With Country Boys

Every woman's fantasy...

She says not to buy her flowers
Or big expensive gifts
She says she don't want jewlery
And she doesn't need another dress
If I want to show her how much I adore her
The best way that I've found
Is to make sure when I'm finished
I put that toilet seat down ...

I know it's kind of funny
You can teach a little puppy
But it's very hard to train a grown man
When I'm all about my buisiness
And the path of least resistance
She's the one that suffers in the end

In the middle of the night
It's cold and it's dark
And when I hear my name in vain
I know I haven't done my part
She just wants me to support her
And the best way that I've found
So with a gentle hand and a loving touch
I put that toilet seat down
Down, down

from Ode de Toilette
(Brad Paisley)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Signs and Wonders

Ever since I learned to read as a child, I've always noticed signs. Most advertise a business name or a location; others, a special event. Still more of them offer us direction: 'merge left', or 'line forms here'. A select few strike me as funny, and the rest just make me wonder...

Though I've seen many humorous signs over the past 36 years, there have been more that I absolutely love here in rural Mississippi than any place else on earth.

Some of my favorites are a tribute to rural practicality. When you live in a town of 3,000, there isn't enough business to support one store for work clothes and one for tuxedo rentals; they are conveniently found under the same roof! Up North, though, you'd never see these two signs by the same front door:

Of necessity, country folks are experts at multitasking. It isn't uncommon for one person to run more than one small business, or to run one small business with many facets.

'Diversification' may be a big buzz word in Corporate America, but I've yet to see anything quite as diverse as this one:

The Parker Clan pretty much covers one big hill nearby, and they grow a lot of pecans. They also buy scrap metal of all kinds, which comes in especially handy when cleaning up after a hurricane. I don't know of too many hunters these days who sell pelts, but I suppose there's a need. I just can't imagine any three more unrelated objects than pecans, scrap metal, and fur! (Fishing lures, concrete, and lingerie, perhaps?) I giggle every time I pass by.

The Oldenbetters' line of business is antique car restoration. I guess the name is proof that some things do improve with age!

I keep waiting for someone to build another garage on the lot next door and open up shop installing panel-rattling vehicle sound systems for the 20-something crowd. They could call the place "Youngenlouder"...but I don't see that happening.

You see, next door to Oldenbetters' is a bar with a very large sign out front stating "Hunters Welcome". (Translation: If you smell bad after 3 days in the woods and gutting a deer, we don't mind.). Now, around here, hunters--when they're not in the woods--listen to country or classic rock, and none of them would mind leveling a 12-gauge at any mega-woofers driving by. I guess the Oldenbetters will keep turning out classics in relative peace.

This may be the Buckle of the Bible Belt, but it's also the home of Rebel Pride. The two cultural movements combine to provide a unique ministry: The Biker Church ("for bikers and those who love them"). This is not a motorcycle club; it is a non-denominational church. The childrens' Christian education program is called "Trikers' Church", and there are Fellowship Rides after every service. Most unique!

Saturday, February 9, 2008


I will personally send a jar of Mickle's Not So Hot Jalapeno Pickles to the first person who can email me with the correct pronunciation of this word:



Caveat Auscultator

(listener, beware)

A disclaimer, properly defined, is a statement that:
--Communicates warnings;
--Communicates expectations, usually negative ones;
--Implies that situations involve some level of uncertainty;
--Implies that situations are risky;
--Shows a duty of care (we are obligated to prevent harm or injury where possible); and
--Attempts to limit damages after harm or injury has occurred.

Up North and Out West, disclaimers are long-winded diatribes. Paragraph upon paragraph of legalese supposedly absolves and protects the person expressing his/her opinion from any resulting upset or damage. These elaborate safeguards seem to make it easier for folks to be downright nasty to one another.

Now Down South, it's another matter entirely. The Magnolia isn't the Mississippi State Flower for nothin'! Magnolias, in many cultures, symbolize candor. I can't think of any other place on earth where folks are as candid as they are here.

You'll never have to wonder what someone thinks. Trust me; you'll know.

This being the case, there's only one disclaimer used in the South. It fulfills every legal purpose of a disclaimer as defined above, and it does so in one beautifully simple turn of phrase: around these parts, you can utter absolutely any insult about any individual, so long as you follow it with, "Well, bless his/her little heart".

"Billy is dumber than a doornail, bless his little heart."

"SueEllen got hit with the biggest stick off the ugly tree, bless her little heart."

"Jim Bob is aggravatin' me to no end, bless his little heart, and if he don't stop I am gonna just BLESS HIS LITTLE HEART!!"

"If you send Jackson to the store for a loaf of bread with $20 in his pocket, he'll come back with a slice of bread and a dime, bless his little heart."

"The last time Johnny tried to fix the ceiling fan, all the power went out in town for half an hour, bless his little heart."

I don't think there is any other single sentence on earth, spoken in any context, that is such an all-encompassing caveat. In an oddly affectionate way it seems to say, "Honey, you're not perfect, but I love you just the way you are."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me me a humorous e-mail entitled, "You Know You're From Mississippi if....". I'll be honest; the redneck jokes do get a little old. At second glance, though, a few of them were actually true. In case you were wondering which ones, or were getting ready to check, here they are:

1. You can properly pronounce Neshoba, Chata, DeKalb, Kosciusko, Decatur, Yazoo, Pascagoula, Picayune, and Scooba.
2. You think people who complain about the wind in their states are sissies.
3. Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor on the highway.
4. You've ever had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.
5. You know that the true value of a parking space is not determined by the distance to the door, but by the availability of shade.
6. Stores don't have bags; they have sacks.
7. You don't push your groceries in a cart; you use a buggy.
8. You measure distance in minutes.
9. You listen to the weather forecast before picking out an outfit.
10. You aren't surprised to find movie rental, ammunition, and bait all in the same store.
11. A Mercedes Benz isn't a status symbol, but a Ford F-350 Extended Bed Crew Cab is.

Name That Town

If you're thinking about moving South to experience small town living for yourself, you may find that you end up with a much more interesting mailing address than your current one.

Many, if not most roads in the Deep South are named for either

- a local landmark (Old Pump House Road, Paper Mill Road);
- a topographical feature (Big Level, Swampy Lick);
- a navigational use (Shortcut); or
- someone who owns, or once owned, the land (Billy Bob Thornton Road, Cletis Pipkins Road).

Although many communities are named after their founders, many more have absolutely intriguing names. On my honor, I did not make these up!

In Mississippi, you might enjoy setting up house in:

Coffeeville (no tea drinkers allowed)
Coldwater (if you like hot showers, you're out of luck)
Ecru (don't even think about painting your house red!)
Guntown (residency requirement: must own minimum of 3 firearms)
Quitman (they give up easily here)
Scooba (alas...nowhere near water)
Soso (Mediocrity Capitol of the World)

If you'd rather live in Alabama, there's:

Boligee (Inside my head, I hear this spoken in a thick Indian accent: "Bolly gee, boss, I was only kidding!")
Eclectic (We Welcome All Kinds)
Moody (PMS Capitol of the World?)
Reform (straighten up...or else!)
Shorter (Alas, Taller is nowhere to be found)
Trussville (Hernia Sufferers' colony?)

If worse comes to worse, there's always Louisiana:

Cut Off (don't expect to have many visitors here)
Eros (if you're looking for love...)
Sulfur (Brimstone is just down the road a bit)