Monday, December 28, 2009

Stop the Presses (Pascagoula, MS)

Brandon, Marie, her dog Paris, me and Laura near Ocean Springs, MS on Monday night

My three week dance with Alabama ended Monday morning. I entered the state on Sunday, Dec. 6th knowing no one. I leave it 22 days later, with scores of friends and a truckload of stories indelibly etched into my consciousness.

Before I got to Alabama, I had only two small newspaper articles written about my journey over the course of over three months. In the next three weeks I was covered by two large newspapers, three smaller ones and had three news pieces broadcast on regional TV stations. I never desired that this trip be publicized and I never reached out to any news organization except for the tiny Greenville Advocate, but somehow in Alabama it took on a life of its own. I held to the decision I had made before I started. I wouldn't seek out the press, but if they reached out to me I would be happy to engage them. In retrospect, I probably couldn't have found all the hosts I did in Alabama without the publicity. All things happen for a reason.

On Monday I started the morning in Grand Bay, Alabama and by the afternoon I was in Pascagoula, MS. I hadn't been at the library for two minutes before I got a call from John Rogers at Fox 10 News in Mobile. He wanted to drive out and do a story on me. I guess I must have had one space left on my Alabama media dance card. So be it.

John and his camera man couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating. Without exception the press has treated me wonderfully. We talked and shot our piece and then, as if on cue, my host Marie Davis pulled up to the library to meet me with her daughter and son-in-law - Laura & Brandon Gross. We greeted each other and hugged and the cameras kept rolling and then John came over to talk with her about why she chose to be a part of this journey. We pulled out from the library and waved goodbye to Fox 10 news. Inside of me I knew that was it. It was time to stop the presses. I had said what I could say in that format. Save these last few blog entries before I get to New Orleans, the rest of what I want to share will be of a very different type. I will spend the better part of the next 9 months trying to write a collection of very honest essays about my life experience, inspired by this walk.

I drove home with Marie and her family and it sunk in that only a week separates me from Jackson Square, New Orleans. The four of us spent a wonderful evening together. They took me out for Chinese food and I got the distinct pleasure of getting to talk with Brandon and Laura about New York City. They live in Queens and work in midtown and all the familiar references made me feel closer to a home I haven't been in four months. After dinner we sat around the living room, chatting and laughing and sharing the simple pleasure of companionship that has marked so many evenings of this journey. I even managed to stay up and see if my story made the Fox 10 nightly news. It did. We all watched it together and then I went to sleep. It felt like a fitting close to the Alabama chapter of my trip.

From here on out it will just be me, my thoughts, the Gulf Coast and my hosts. The presses have been stopped, but I thank them for their help and enthusiasm. And thanks to Marie Davis, one of the small handful of people who called me solely from seeing me on TV or in the newspaper and offered me a place to stay, no questions asked. I hope the experience hosting me rewarded that trust.

Note: Some of you might have noticed that I took myself off Facebook. I still want to be in touch with any of you who were connected with me on that site. It just means that I have decided not to use that venue. I would love it if you called me should you want to say hi. My phone number is listed on the right hand side.


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