my penpal of the week interview was posted yesterday

Read it and bask in my awesomeness.

Last weekend was the first of what I hope will be an annual road trip for my meetup group, to Mississippi. (It won’t always be in MS, though. The plan is for north Louisiana, the Galveston/Beaumont area of Texas, and possibly Arkansas.) We spent Saturday in Canton and Sunday in McComb. I don’t have any photos developed yet; I’m going to use the rest of the rolls at Laos New Year in Lanexang Village this weekend.

Canton is really beautiful. The downtown is arranged around a square containing the Madison County Courthouse, a very Classical white-columned building with a distinctive dome. Quite a few movies have been filmed in Canton, mostly because of the courthouse. It’s like the go-to town in Mississippi for whenever producers want a really southern old-timey looking courthouse. It was the courthouse in A Time to Kill–or, as I think of it: You can Be a Racist or a Vigilante, Take Your Pick.

The buildings in the streets around the square are really old (at least to my California frame of reference), a lot of them painted bright colors and with original details like stamped ceilings or little petal-shaped windows. Canton has a ginormous antiques festival twice a year, so there are a lot of year-round antique stores. I bought a pair of opera glasses at one, which should look nifty next to my absinthe spoons. BELL EPOQUE YO.

We also went to the cemetery that was the original cemetery of the town, and it’s next to the old Madison County Jail, which was being fixed up by the local historical society.

On the way to McComb, we stopped at a charming store called Dirt Cheap in Brookhaven. Hope goes there whenever she goes to The Dinner Bell (of which more later). It’s like a Dollar General, but not QUITE as clean or charming. However, they did have Kodak film and disposable cameras for $3. Which for some reason rang up as “health & beauty items”. I haven’t done any disposable distortion in a while, so I stocked up. (In the same section we also found dirt cheap condoms, next to dirt cheap pregnancy tests. Probably if you use the former, you find yourself in need of the latter.)

McComb is near the Louisiana border, on the Bogue Chitto River. It’s actually where my father was born, but his family moved to North Platte, Nebraska when he was very young and he and his siblings thought of themselves as midwesterners, not southerners. I’d never been to the town. We didn’t get any photos of the town, but we drove through a fair bit of it. There’s a lot of suburban sprawl around the edges–the town isn’t big, but it’s the only town of ANY size in Pike County (weird to be dealing with counties again, rather than parishes), so they have a lot of the businesses that serve the whole county. But looking at the old center of the town, I could imagine how it must have looked when my father was a child. It was pretty hilly, which I wasn’t expecting. I guess whenever I think of MS, I think of the delta, which is as low and flat as south Louisiana. It was nice, I miss hills.

We spent the morning trying to find the damn river (Hope’s GPS is easily confused), also stopping to photograph another cemetery we came across. But we mostly stopped in the town in the first place to eat lunch at The Dinner Bell. It’s a round table restaurant in a converted private house: you sit at a table topped with a giant lazy susan with a dozen other people, the servers bring out dish after dish of southern home cooking, and everyone helps themselves. Fried chicken, ham, potato salad, turnip greens, butter beans, sweet potatoes, macaroni cheese, and the best fried eggplant I’ve had IN MY LIFE. Hope sometimes drives all the way from Baton Rouge just to eat lunch there.

This trip made me realize how truly awful Louisiana drivers are. I drove hundreds of miles in MS, and not once did I see someone hanging out in the passing lane mile after mile, going half the posted speed limit. I see that literally every day in LA.

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