Crossing the Mississippi

If all y’all’ve been wonderin’ where I’ve been lately, you’re not alone. Some days I wake up and wonder that myself. But this time I know where I was and why you haven’t heard from me. After several months of back-breaking, mind-taxing semi-retirement, I decided I needed a change of scenery to sit outside and drink beer, so we went on vacation to Biloxi, Mississippi.

Now, some of y’all might be asking, “Why Biloxi?” Well, the missus and I both enjoy sitting on a beach, relaxing and reading a good book. Our reading material differs greatly, but we both enjoy sipping a cold beer while watching the waves roll in. Yeah, I know we can do that on Padre Island, but there are other reasons we chose Biloxi.

I did quite a bit of googling and discovered there is really good seafood served along the Mississippi coast, and I sure do love good seafood, especially shrimp. There’s fried shrimp, grilled shrimp, shrimp gumbo… And before you say anything about good seafood restaurants here in Texas, let me tell y’all about the third reason we were eastbound and down. There are casinos in Mississippi. You won’t find casinos in Texas without entering Indian Territory, but along the Mississippi coast, there’s a bunch of ‘em.

Since you won’t find anything in this here newspaper chatting about traveling across the USA, allow me to describe my recent tri-state voyage. First of all, you know how I hate driving in Austin with all those nutjobs on the road. Well, Houston is worse. Maneuvering through Houston on I-10 reminds me of a movie about the Battle of Britain. A mess of German bombers are flying to England when out of the blue, dozens of Spitfires and Hurricanes zoom in from all directions. That’s what I witnessed in Houston. Driving through that metropolis has left me with PTSD, Post Traffic Stress Disorder.

There’s not much to say about Louisiana. We didn’t stop in that state except at several spots where poorly designed highway interchanges had us thinking we were back in Austin during rush hour. Stop-and-go travel in Louisiana tacked an extra hour on our drive, but we passed the time looking out the car windows searching for gators and a Sasquatch out in the swamp.

Once we reached Biloxi, we knew we picked a good spot for our vacation. We immediately saw white sandy beaches, lots of seafood restaurants with decks looking out over the gulf, and BIG casinos with neon signs glowing like human bug-zappers. Shortly after arriving at our resort, we traded our car seats for barstools in front of some slot machines. I suppose 16 hours of inactivity might be considered unhealthy, but after three or four free beers in the casino, I didn’t care what the surgeon general recommends.

On the subject of health care, with all the restrictions and warnings about puffing on cigarettes, why do casinos still allow smoking? As soon as you enter a casino, whether it’s in Mississippi, Las Vegas or some Indian reservation, you are knocked back by cigarette smoke. Smoking on airplanes isn’t permitted, and smoking in most public places has been banned, yet very few casinos are smoke-free.

I am shocked at the number of folks at slot machines who are sitting in a wheelchair, an oxygen tube crammed up their nostrils and puffing on an unfiltered cigarette. Now, I’m no chemist, but it seems to me this is a bit hazardous.

Did I mention how good the food is in Biloxi? I have heard that Mississippi is one of the poorest states, but by the sheer girth of most of the local folks on the beach, I can’t say most Mississippians are starving.

I won’t brag about all my winnings or describe the delicious shrimp and fish tacos I consumed last week. I will say Biloxi is a nice place to visit, but the next time I get the craving for salt air, good seafood and a relaxing atmosphere, I’m heading to Padre Island. You don’t have to drive through Houston to get there.

Give Clint Younts some shrimp and beer, and he’ll be your friend for life. That’s one reason we pay him for his columns with beer. Seems like a good trade.


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