En route from Atlanta to New Orleans, I stopped in Hattiesburg, Mississippi to stretch my legs and drink beer in a low-rent dive called Swing Time. It was 2001, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the summer. The night was moonless, humid and uncomfortable. In Hattiesburg, there is almost no other kind.
At last call I headed out of the bar, where I had been one of less than a half-dozen patrons still around at that miserable hour. It’s a good thing too, because just as I stepped into the swampy night a Patriot Red 1995 Camaro Z28 jumped the curb on the other side of the street and crashed into a light pole. The driver was leaving another bar down the street and blacked out behind the wheel. I can only assume he survived, but I really don’t know.
“Discussions about old whores,” came a voice from beside me. I was watching steam pour out from under the folded hood of the Camaro, still stunned by the suddenness and closeness of the danger and I hadn’t seen anyone approach. It was an obese punk rocker. He hadn’t been inside Swing Time or I would have seen him.
“What?” I said.
He said something else about old whores.
“Were you just talking to someone about old whores?” I said, trying to understand but not sure why.
“No,” he slurred. “But I want to.”
“I can’t help you, man.” Had this guy not seen the accident? What was he talking about, old whores? It was terrible sounding nonsense and I was already beginning to sweat. The fat punk weaved his way down the sidewalk muttering to himself. When I looked back across the street, somebody was stealing stuff out of the crashed Camaro. My time was up in Hattiesburg and I never heard any sirens.
In the early evening of February 10, 2013, a tornado ripped Hattiesburg all to pieces. More specifically Hattiesburg was ripped all to pieces by an EF4 multiple-vortex wedge tornado. It was a low-end EF4, which means that the winds only reached 170 mph. Low-end or not, 51 homes, two high schools, and a bunch of other stuff was blown apart and the bits were scattered across two counties. Hearing about it didn’t do anything to contradict my impression of south-central Mississippi as dangerous and doomed.
This week, some hysterical relics crept out the shadows of 1937 to frighten everybody with some good ol’ fashioned reefer madness. Democratic Senator from California and very old lady Diane Feinstein is, like the song says, still crazy after all these years and she’s eager to prove it. She and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa recently sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State John Kerry saying how badly confused and bewildered they are by the Obama administration’s leniency in regard to the devil’s weed. That kind of gibberish is like oxygen for Holder, but one hopes that the Secretary of State has more important things on his mind these days, violent and unpredictable as they are. Also, I always just assume Kerry is stoned.
Feinstein’s lunatic opposition to marijuana legalization in California runs deep and counter to the position of many (most?) of her constituents who see it as inevitable. But, fight the good fight, Feinstein. Betty White is still on TV making people laugh. Send us a postcard.
The other gremlin that added her special shriek to the already tedious clamor was arch harpy Nancy Grace. She hashed out (pun intended) the topic of marijuana legalization with 2 Chainz, the rapper. If you had never heard of these two people before, Nancy Grace and 2 Chainz, do you think you could guess which person took which side of the debate? Grace stayed on-brand and took the stance of the belligerent imbecile, which is her hallmark. The rhetoric on both sides of the line has devolved into a pretty uninteresting drone.
The morbidly curious and masochistic can check out the debate here.
That’s all the help I’ll give you.
Watch 2 Chainz’ “Feds Watching” video instead and forget that other garbage. The house in the video is Jackie Treehorn’s house, the pornographer in The Big Lewbowski. The house, called the Sheats Goldstein Residence, actually belongs to multimillionaire James Goldstein. He rents it out for movies and music videos and fashion shoots and things like that. The house is located somewhere above Beverly Hills.
Which brings us back to California senators. The state’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris, made her bid for Barbara Boxer’s up-for-grabs senate seat and she will probably get it. But watch out, because “climate champion” Tom Steyer also has his eye on that seat. He’s a “billionaire environmentalist,” something that sounds just absurd enough to go over. But really, the smart money is on Harris. As for Feinstein, who knows how much longer we have to deal with that, but you can bet it will be like a trip to any retirement community: bittersweet when it’s not depressing or outright infuriating.
Hattiesburg was founded in 1882 on what had once been Choctaw land. The United States obtained the land under the Treaty of Mount Dexter in 1805. It is a flood zone, subject to extreme heat and humidity, low-end EF4’s, and other destructive and strange phenomena.
Recently, Mississippi State Representatives Michael Evans and Tom Miles introduced a bill that would make the Bible the Official State Book of Mississippi. Such a proposal has value only as symbolism, and these guys know it. They say they’re just hoping to generate some good PR for the Bible, a book they like a lot. Evans hopes the bill will create awareness of the Bible (hardly an obscurity, especially in Mississippi) and offset “all the bad things happening in the world.” He said that “it don’t force anybody to do anything.”
When I read that last part, with the piss-poor grammar, somehow it made the whole thing kind of endearing and, for a second, I almost wanted them to get their way. I won’t make a prediction on that score. I’m from the south-east and I know that folks down there will make peculiar choices when they’re under the strain of hot fog, violent weather, and being stereotyped as geeks and rednecks. There are indeed a lot of bad things happening. Evans and Miles are right about that, and one of the worst things is an unshakable definition of “bad.”
I drove out of Hattiesburg feeling lucky.