Dylan wrote a song about this southern state. So did Sheryl Crow, Charlie Daniels, Kid Rock, Afro Man, Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill and ZZ Top. Jimmy Buffet covered Jesse Winchester’s, “Biloxi” on his Changes in Latitudes album. And a song put out by The Loved Ones, is about the rebuilding of the hurricane ravaged areas in the gulf.
At the Waffle House is where I had begun to write this. I was enthusiastically using the fork to shovel a heaping plate of cheesy grits and cheesy scrambled eggs into my mouth. I chased it down with crispy bacon and one maple-soaked double-butter waffle. I could feel my eyes beginning to close shut with the final bites I was taking. A lethargic and bloated feeling came over me as I sat there, heavy, balancing on the bar stool.
I waddled out into the bright sun, holding my stomach, squinting at Jo who was snoozing in his wagon.
Beyond the pier, past the small fishing harbor and alongside the Biloxi bay front, is the Golden Nugget. I walked inside, finding a corner in the dark casino coffee shop to sit and write the rest…
John picked me up from Rebekah’s yesterday at about noon. He was headed back to Mobile with his two friends and offered to give me a lift. Avoiding the congested, fast moving highway that leaves New Orleans is a good idea, so I hopped in.
We barreled by the “Welcome to Mississippi” road sign and soon found my exit, Highway 49. We hung around the McDonald’s together for awhile, having a final visit, then said our goodbyes, hugged, and headed off in different directions.
I pedaled through Gulfport, following the roads through the towns neighborhoods. People are waiving at me; a few from their front porch, a man working in his yard, and another from their car. I felt like a transient celebrity of sorts, waiving back at them, saying “have a nice day!”
Eventually we made our way to the waters edge, the gulf coast. The sandy beaches were dotted with sun bathers and water waders.
Jo and I were in no hurry making our way along the shoreline, stopping every mile or so, enjoying the scenery around us.
When we reached the Biloxi city limits, I started looking for Southern Comfort. It’s the name of the RV park and campground that I located online and where we would lay our heads. We were warmly welcomed by the host and pointed to our grass pad.
After setting up camp, I left Jo in his wagon and walked across the street to Shaggy’s on the beach. It’s a Saturday night in Biloxi. From my patio seat I could see a bonfire blazing on the beach, watch someone singing karaoke and overhear the live band next door at The Reef. And there was a group entertaining me, and themselves, line dancing.
Lauren and Jay sat next to me. They both have lived in the area for most of their lives. Lauren tells me stories about Katrina, what it was like before and then after.
When the storm hit, she was inland about three miles, taking shelter in her high stilted house. The water rose to her doorway. She was lucky. Her dad was able to drive his fishing boat over to her place. He rescued the ninety year old neighbor lady from her attic and helped a few others down from their rooftops. Lauren said she had seventeen people staying with her, having one of the only houses that didn’t flood or get wiped off its foundation.
The three of us chatted about Operation Elf Box in length. Lauren seemed to think that a free toy store, loving people, in Biloxi, would be proper. It’s one of the poorest cities in the state. She’s employed at a staffing agency and meets with people everyday who want to work but there are fewer jobs these days.
I’ve been chatting with Crystal and her husband, Will. They live in Pensacola but are staying here at the Golden Nugget enjoying a weekend away. We also talked about Operation Elf Box, the mission of creating a brighter Christmas for children, everywhere. And why not have one in Pensacola? We swap info, connecting on Facebook and decide to discuss it further this summer.
Just as we were wrapping up our conversation, Barbara walks over to me and hands me her number that she had written down on a coffee sleeve. She mentioned that she overheard me talking about ‘free toy stores’ and love, and that she lives in Elberta, Alabama, that I should call her and talk about a store there too.
I walked over and stood in line to grab something caffeinated. I could tell the woman in front of me was having trouble with her transaction, fumbling with her wallet. The lady behind me was acting out like a child, being impatient, and was talking under her breath. But really, I imagine all she wanted was her first cup of coffee.
Since I was next, I suggested she go ahead of me, and then I tried to buy her mocha for her; a random act of love. I thought that might change her mood and the course of her day. And It did. She was declining my offer, becoming cheerful, smiling, saying that she wanted to buy mine instead. We stood there shaking our debit cards in the cashier’s face, both of us insisting she not take the other persons payment.
When we respond with love, we become the evidence of a greater Love, and we encourage others to be love.