With temperatures now well into the thousands and the atmosphere more water than air, we stopped for lunch at Xan's Diner, which has Seaburg 160 Wall-a-Matic jukeboxes right at the booths. We experimented with the Seaburg 160 Wall-a-Matic to see if it would actually play selected songs over the restaurant music system, which it did. However, it would also play Shake, Rattle and Roll immediately after your song. Every... single... time. And if you selected nothing, it would cheerfully go right ahead and play Shake, Rattle and Roll anyway. I think I heard that song six times in half an hour. I'm almost certain that without the jukebox selections, this diner would play Shake, Rattle and Roll from opening until closing, or until an employee started ripping out the speakers and dropping them in the deep fryer, whichever came first.
We went to see Crystal Springs, because I've been told that half of my ancestors came from there. At least, I hope it was the right town; sometimes I forget details. The big surprise is that Crystal Springs is a much nicer place than I was expecting. That big white house (see photo) is there. We went downtown and stopped in at City Drugs, where they sell human hair. There are no refunds on hair "for health code reasons," though we all hope that human decency reasons also play a part in their decision not to resell unsatisfactory hair. Hair issues aside, Mississippi was surprisingly nice. Huge swaths of it were covered in well-maintained farms and beautiful plantation-style houses, and even the little houses right next to the highway were generally clean, modern and well kept. I hope no Mississippians will be offended when I say that I, and I think many city Yanks like me, kind of expected Mississippi to be a festering pit of squalor and poverty. If it is, though, they keep it very well hidden behind a facade of lush forest, rolling green hills, and magnificent country manors. There is one very odd thing about Mississippi, though: after looking unsuccessfully at four different locations for a Mississippi postcard to add to my collection, I came to the conclusion that Mississippi is trying to hide. It seems like a nice state, with plenty of scenery they might like to share in postcard form, but they don't. Selling postcards would mean that people in other states might learn of their existence, and violate the Mississippi state motto, which I believe to be "Nobody Here But Us Chickens!" I eventually found some at Wal-Mart, because those greedy bastards couldn't care less for the Mississippi Secrecy Pact if they can be making thirty cents off a tourist.
We ended the day in Baton Rouge at a hotel that had a lovely, large pool completely covered in a fine blanketing of dead bugs. When the humidity hits ninety trillion percent where you are, you can decide for yourself how important a few hundred dead bugs are. Later, we attempted to drive to dinner, a task made more challenging by the fact that the street names on the map and the street names on the actual street signs were never the same. Ever. In effect, the map may as well be labeled in Sanskrit for all the help it provides. Here's an idea for cartographers: why not actually go to the city you're making a map of? Hmmm? Get out of the office for a while? Maybe see what real people call those streets you've conveniently assigned a random number to? Maybe even make a little note of it, include that on your map? On the other hand, maybe the guys who make the road signs would like to consult one of these maps before they decide that "61" isn't a good enough name for their street? Or maybe we'll just keep on doing it this way, driving at random, swearing, and spending hours, even days, playing an endless game of Guess What Street.
We did eventually end up at Brunet's Cajun Restaurant, where ordering any one of the shellfish specials will produce enough food to make your heart throw up its tiny aortal hands and go on strike before you've even started eating. Crab gumbo, crab salad, fried crab claws, crab au gratin, stuffed crab, fried soft shell crab, crab etoufee, and then as if to mock you, a bowl of french fries and a roll. Two hours in Louisiana, and they were already trying to bloat us to death. More fried food lay ahead ... in New Orleans.