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Ghost Hotel March 20, 2012

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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Today’s poem from Poetry Daily, Looking for The Gulf Motel, reminds me why I have avoided the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It is bad enough to go to Florida, to note the absence of the old aquamarine cinder block motels of my childhood, restaurants without a hint of Jimmy Buffet about them, to remember the vendors all down Highway 90 selling satellite kites. I could probably whistle if not sing every words to the jingle for the Friendship House restaurant, can still see the lobster chef sign outside greeting customers.

After I read the poem I remembered my grandfather taking us to the coast for the day to swim in the Edgewater Hotel pool. I sensed something was wrong as we dressed in the pool-side bathrooms but this was before the day of electronic key guarded gates. I stayed there once, the year my sister was getting married and between the cost and the time it was consuming my parents opted for a week at the Edgewater. In the late 1960s there was no in-room movies or DVD players. We ate a dinner of fish we had caught from the pier and delivered to the kitchen, the went to play bingo. I won, and my father insisted I treat everyone to ice cream.

A few years later, the hotel was imploded to make way for a Sears for the adjacent shopping center.

And so it goes.

At the risk of sounding all hurricane maudlin after all these years, the Mississippi coast is particularly painful. My cousins lived in Waveland until they were washed out for the second time in living memory. The oldest I hear is back, practicing law but he’s so much older than I am that I barely know him. No one is quite sure where Tucker, the one closest to my age, might be. He hated law and was dealing in the casinos last anyone heard. My father’s brother Phillip is long gone.

I have vague memories of Bay St. Louis after Camille, the stone bank building downtown gone and the safe–which must outweigh a brace of locomotives–shifted across the empty slab. My more recent memories are much more graphic: returning from Florida and deciding at the last minute to get off on the winding two lane to Pass Christian and emerging at the Mississippi Sound into nothing, the faux antebellum beach homes of the wealthy reduced to steps as certainly as the houses of the Ninth Ward. Then there was the visit to Waveland itself a year later, to the trailer a friend had purchased to replace a beach cottage. It stood in an unlighted field of slabs as far as the eye can see.

I have some friends I have promised to visit in Waveland. It would be nice to see Tucker, to reintroduce myself to the eldest of my aunt’s children. Letting go is as inevitable a part of the future as releasing your grip on the bars at the top of the high board and stepping off into the pool’s blue sky bottom.

When I go I will drive as far as I have to until I find a satellite kite, will drive in an endless circuit to Pascagoula and back to Pass Christian if I must until I have traveled so far and so fast that time will slip just enough for me to reach back and snatch the bright cardboard kite my father never let me stop to buy.

Comments»

1. sara - March 28, 2012

Thanks so much for sharing this. I feel the same way, even though I didn’t grow up here. I loved going to Bay St. Louis and Waveland, always thought of taking pictures of those beautiful mansions on the water but never did. . . always thinking “next time” and of course, there is no “next time.” Used to take my big rottweiler to the beach in Waveland. Spent two weeks in Bay St. Louis for a class and thought it would be neat to live there some day. It’s just such a big loss. I did get to see some of those little beachy motels in the south when I hitch hiked around in the 70s just before I got to New Orleans. I loved the funkyness of it. Now, of course, everything is condos and highrises and gated resorts. Where ya gonna go for a funky beachfront vacation anymore?

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