18 hours after leaving Washington DC, past the blue hills of Virginia, through Knoxville, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and innumerable Cracker Barrels, my mom and I tumbled out of the jam-packed Prius onto the parking lot of Jackson, Mississippi’s very own Marriott Courtyard.
And thus commenced 3 consecutive days of the mind-numbing yet requisite chores that come with moving to any new place–finding a mattress, activating the utilities, unpacking stuff, cleaning (and I mean CLEANING), garage sale-ing, Craigslist-ing, and running between Salvation Army and Target for all the boring necessities (like Pinesol and trash bags). Ok fine, I’ll spare you the details. All I have to say about those three days is: bless my mom’s little heart. Without her help I probably would still be biking up highway 55 to Bed Bath and Beyond to get sheets.
My new place is actually pretty interesting. It’s a Sears house that was built in 1939, with wood floors, high ceilings, and a myriad of random rooms that will be empty for the foreseeable future due to the fact that my roommates and I have no furniture. Compared to my “English basement” apartment in DC ( just get over yourself, DC, and call it a basement), this 3 bedroom house is GINORMOUS. And it comes with a big weedy backyard, a haunted attic, a mysterious fire place, and a slightly swampy smell. Did I say it’s also charming?
The house is in Fondren, a quirky, artsy neighborhood of Jackson. If you’ve seen The Help (which I still haven’t), you’d recognize a lot of familiar sights. State Street, the main drag, is lined with pastel colored shops reminiscent of the 1950s. Brent’s Drugs Soda Fountain (also featured in The Help) still has its authentic Elvis-blue vinyl covered booths. But as my mom and I discovered, Fondren also has a pretty good selection of good, modern, and not-fried food, like Mississippi’s only vegetarian restaurant. We ate there three times in four days.
Other unexpected Jackson highlights have included a community bike ride with 40 other Jackson bikers, an intimate tour of Eudora Welty’s home led by one of her former writing students, and a hand-delivered letter and personal welcome from my mailman (indicative of how friendly people are here).
And here are a couple “lowlights” to balance out my cloying optimism: realizing that my 6.5 mile daily commute to Magnolia Speech School is not bike friendly. The roads here are poorly maintained, and people don’t really know how to drive with bikes on the road. Also cockroaches. I told my landlord that I had seen a couple of cockroaches in the kitchen and his response was: “they make great fishing bait.” Y’all cockroaches are part of the reality here.
Cockroaches and non-existent bike lanes aside, I’m liking this place. So far I’ve had great chats with my supervisors. And today I checked out the awesome farmer’s market and spoke with some local farmers about sourcing their produce to my school. Tonight I’m going to a Blues and Barbeque competition in downtown Jackson.
And then I officially start work on Wednesday!