Hi, Melina here, your Deep South correspondent for the summer.
So I just finished unpacking here in Mississippi. The 13-hour drive, which I spread over two days, turned out to be lots of fun. I have an absurd control station on my passenger seat: inverter, cell phone, cell phone charger, i-pod, i-pod charger, bags of food and papers, shopping bags full of garbage, garbage bags full of my clothes, and the paint I bought to touch up my horrible rusting hood (it's especially unfortunate driving at 60 mph, when you can see all the little flaps of peeling paint standing straight up from the hood).
Peach season has just started in South Carolina - I stopped at a stand by the side of the road and got some fresh ones. They were tasty, but eating peaches, while driving, with no napkins, was kind of gross. My steering wheel got sticky. My other early mistake was that I timed the first day's drive just a little bit wrong. I had planned to get to Atlanta by four, which I thought would get me safely through town before rush hour, but I didn't get there until 4:15. You would think that wasn't a big deal, right? Maybe it was hopeless anyway. I got into downtown okay, and the 12-lane highway was moving along smoothly, but by the time I got out toward the other side of the city (4:30...4:35...the clock is ticking in my head) rush hour traffic caught up with me like a tidal wave.
It started to thunder and lightning and pour rain. I turn on the radio only to discover that there was apparently a flaming tractor trailer blocking 5 lanes of traffic on I-85 South - luckily, I had passed that point before the truck burst into flames - but it was apparently making things even more complicated all over the place. Even the rush-hour traffic reporters seemed a little bit impressed by the burning tractor trailer (which somehow caught another car on fire while it was burning) but not too impressed. They'd seen worse.
So I got just to the beginning of the road headed toward Mississippi and then I had to stop for the night because traffic was not moving. Hotel was not interesting in any way, except I was watching a VH1 gossip special and saw that Noelle Hancock, a former columnist for my college's newspaper who graduated only two years ago, was one of the talking heads.
[Noelle gets to be on cable TV saying things like , "Jennifer Lopez is all about being the best, and knowing she's the best. When she saw a leather bag she liked, she asked the designer to make her a custom version out of the skin of endangered baby pythons, which she knew would be totally unique."]
So that was neat. A fellow alumna is on the fast track in the world of celebrity yakity-yak.
My first book on tape, played through the i-pod apparatus, turned out to be terrible. It was called "Being Dead." I found it through the New York Times's "recommended book" archives but I, personally, would not recommend it at all. In a nutshell, it's a very long and morose description of a couple who gets killed by a mugger (this takes three chapters). The book goes on to describe, in great detail, what it was like for them to be dead (perhaps 8 more chapters) for the five days before their bodies were found. I guess I should have known from the title, huh? These descriptions of withering flesh take up pages upon pages (or, in my case, two-and-a-half states), but to fill up even more time the author also provides life-coming-full-circle-type flashbacks to a day thirty years before when the couple met and, like, this other girl dies on --- get this-- the SAME BEACH. What a coincidence!
I survived (mentally and physically) the first seven hours of this, trying to get my money's worth, and then I just gave up, a mere 20 minutes before the end. This sounds pretty stupid, I guess, but it's not like there was going to be any suspense, since everybody was already dead. My new book on tape "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" is very good. it is about magicians in England in the early 19th century and is slightly more, shall we say, plot driven.
After Atlanta nothing was very notable except lots of roadkilled armadillos (Joke from the Sweet Potato Queens: Q: If you're lost in the woods, what's the first thing you should do? A: Find an armadillo, because that sucker's heading straight for a road). Everything gets flatter and swampier as you leave the very end of the Appalachians in Georgia and head down into what must be the Mississippi river basin. The soil goes from clumpy and red to dry, layered, and chalky.
Notable rest stop #1: The first one in Georgia, which has a plaque out front commemorating those who died in the "War Between the States" (Is this just out of spite? Is the term "Civil War" somehow objectionable? Having just taken a class on the Civil War, and having not quite forgotten all of it yet, I can theorize that if you consider secession to have been legitimate, it can't have been a civil war because the states were not technically IN the United States when they were fighting a war against, uh, it (them?).
Notable rest stop #2: The glorious first rest stop of Mississippi, where you go in the front door and the hostesses race to bring you an iced beverage and entreat you to sign their guest book. The "Homemakers of America" are also stationed there. The homemakers sit behind an impressive spread of baked goods, which they ask you to eat, and in front of a banner which says "without homemakers we can't get anywhere" or something like that. After visiting this rest stop I am inclined to agree. This even beat my previous favorite state for rest stops, Vermont, where they give you free coffee to keep you awake. [If you visit their website they will tell you other fun things, like how NOW is carrying out the will of Satan.]
Jackson is a series of terrifying highways with lots of exits that all have the same name. To find the office, I had to call when I was about 20 minutes out, and stay on the phone with them until I arrived through a maze of service roads. My roommate/fellow intern lead me to the apartment which is a wonderfully spacious duplex in a neighborhood only five minutes from the office. And the real question you've been waiting for me to answer? where am I writing this from? Well! My neighbors in this duplex have wireless, and since my room is right next to the wall, I can steal it! This fills me with joy. My mooching skills, learned in college, can in fact be applied to real-world situations!