road trip: O, black water – in Columbus, Mississippi with Maw-Maw

In the ladies' guide to the apocalypse by summerburkesLeave a Comment

March 31, 2007 – outside Columbus, Mississippi

Kinda wish we lived here again, sometimes. In the country. Looks like Sonoma County, but flatter and swampier.

Being a snotty art weirdo in a one-step-above-state-run nursing home facility in north Mississippi is kind of like being trapped in a short film by a snotty art weirdo who’s trying to rip off Terry Gilliam but falls a little too short on laughs and a little too heavy on the mercilessly f’ed up parts.

“HEEEELLLLLP!”, the woman down the hallway screams nearly constantly. Others in the corridor call for assistance too, strapped as they are into wheelchairs or wearing boxing helmets for the fall-down spells.

The aged Southern belle who shares a room with my beloved and spry Mamaw watches TV the way other people blink — channel-surfing with the frequency of a drunk, male, thirtysomething sports fan.

To add to the attention-deficit vibe in Mamaw’s home of the past half decade, various nurses and attendants walk by, drop in, distribute meds, and make frequent announcements on the facility’s loudspeaker.

“Attention ladies and gentlemen, I need a nurse in the dining room stat. Nurse in the dining room stat.”

Five minutes later, we go outside to answer a phone call, but can’t hear because of the waiting ambulance’s diesel roar. So we go back into the air conditioning and sit down with Mamaw to sew, and to try to listen to some of the country music we brought to sing along with. Except the other lady’s TV is on. Loud. Click. Click. Click. “HEEEELLLLLP!” …

Through it all, Mawmaw smiles at us, smiling smiling smiling, because we’re here, finally. Most of the time she’s probably bored to death, watching her “stories” and making internal-monologue jokes to herself we wish she could somehow tape record for us.

Still, they are well taken care of, the old folks here. It’s like a college dorm, but with … old folks. The staff are friendly and mellow, and the food rocks — they gave us some.

We don’t think we’ve hung out exclusively with humans over the age of 70 for an extended amount of time, ever. These past three weeks have been a lot. We’re sure we’ll find they were just what needed to happen, though — even if right now all we want is to blast the Melvins or make a pop culture reference or say a cuss word or play flaming redneck soccer.

Sigh. We love Mississippi though. Last night at our cousin’s house, we cursorily explored the work shed, where Cousin and his boy have placed three deer’s heads on the roof to let nature take its course before they mount the nine-point plus two eight-points on the wall somewhere in this film-worthy turn-of-last-century home. (Yes, hippies, they ate/will eat the meat.)

Despite efforts to the contrary, when we got back to the house from the nursing home last night, our shoulders were tight, tight with anticipating the death of loved ones, and being surrounded by the ends of lives all day. Then we answered a friend’s call on the phone by saying this:

“Hang on — gonna go sit on the front porch swing to talk to you and listen to the crickets and look at the pond in the moonlight before walkin’ the dog in the hundred-year-old graveyard over the hill.”

And on to New Orleans. Finally leaving the land of the old ones… to hit up an ancient and post-apocalyptic wonderland where things are slightly faster, and more colorful and populated, and a sexier kind of ugly.

If only the squares didn’t hate on the freaks so much, brothers and sisters in our Mississippi homeland, we would still be there. Gosh we miss Dixie.


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