Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stories From Mississippi: Pt. 1

In a recent Song of the Day post I did of Johnny Cash, I made reference to experiences that I had had in Mississippi during the time I lived there, because the song I chose was Starkville City Jail. Pendullum commented a suggestion that I share one such experience - and I think it's high time I started doing just that.

First, a little background:

I went to the University of Mississippi in the 90's for three years. I chose this school because my mother was filming Miss Firecracker in Yazoo City, MS when I was in high school; and after going on location with her (during which time I hung out with the crew and locals of the town, and first experienced drinking, pot, and fooling around with boys) I associated all the fun I had that summer with the state of Mississippi itself. When the time came for college hunting, I applied to several, but Ole Miss had all the fun plus other things like a great English department that I wanted, so I decided to go there.

Most of my friends thought I was insane. Here I was, a private school brat from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, who was about to embark on a journey to a part of the country that most of us city kids couldn't even find on a map, and what most of my peers associated with racism, incest, farm animals and Ned Beatty taking it up the ass by banjo-playing Lenny Small wanna-be's (the fact that those kinds of Mountain Men are usually found more often in upstate New York than in even the deepest of the Deep South did not factor into their minds).

However, although in retrospect my mind was focusing on all the partying I was going to do once I got to Ole Miss (it was voted by Playboy as one of the Top Ten Party Schools in the nation at the time), I kept telling everyone that I was going to benefit from the extreme cultural experience of moving to a small town from the big city - and expand my horizons. I truly believed that myself, and to this day, think it was the best thing I could have done.

Would I have done it differently when I was there? Some things, yes. Absolutely. I partied too much and missed out on a lot of the education opportunities that Ole Miss had to offer - it's a great school. Socially and culturally, though, I grew a great deal, and came to appreciate so many things that I had taken for granted here in the city. But I will get back to that another time...

Now, for a little story that feeds into the angst of what it must have been like for Johnny Cash to get locked up for picking flowers after curfew in a little town of Starkville, Mississippi...

Nothing quite so dramatic, but here is a little something that was one of my introductions to the Ole Miss campus:

I was walking back from a friend's house one night during my sophomore year. By this point, most of my friends had moved off of campus, and although I had as well, I lived very near campus. I was with about three male friends, all of us sporting long hair and and either tie-dyes or crumpled t-shirts. At least two of us were wearing sandals. We were very stoned and obviously leaning more toward the "hippie" side than the "frat boy/sorority chick" side. We were all headed toward my crib, where we were going to probably engage in something highly intellectual and cerebral like doing bong hits and play "Road Rage" on my Sega Genesis system. I had on an Indonesian ankle bracelet with little bells on it that I picked up at a Grateful Dead show; it jingled when I walked. The scent of patchouli followed us.

I remember we were having an interesting conversation; I was always the female advice section to these guys who were trying to figure out women like a Rubik's Cube. Two of the three had hardly any experience with girls, and I felt like it was my job to help them gain some insight. That was part of the joy of being the only chick among male friends.

Boy 1: "So should I call her? She gave me her number, and I want to call her tonight, but is that going to seem too desperate?"

Boy 2: "I dunno, man. Maybe you should wait a few days and then call her. Make her sweat it out."

Me: "That's ridiculous, man, why play games? Dude, if you operate that way, you'll still be a virgin by the time your in your 30's."

Boy 2: "I'm not a virgin."

Boy 1: "Dude, your Mom doesn't count."

Boy 3: (taking a drag of his cigarette and trying to look cool) "Yeah, besides, by the time you wait to call her, she'll have found someone else. Like me, for instance."

All of the sudden, we hear a CRASH next to where we're standing/walking. Glass goes everywhere, and we hear yelling and hollering as a car is speeding past us.

"FUCKING HIPPIES! Take a fucking SHOWER and get the hell off our campus!!!"

At least two more bottles were thrown at us as the car's tires shrieked and it raced off into the night. A car full of boys with baseball caps and fraternity stickers on the bumper sped off, weaving a little bit. I don't care what anyone says about smoking pot vs. drinking alcohol, the legalities of one vs. the other; pot doesn't make you a dangerous ornery asswipe, and four people walking around high are much safer company than four people drunk and driving.

Immediately, playing mother hen, I checked the boys to make sure nobody got glass in their eyes or cut at all. I was worried that I might have gotten my foot cut by the glass, but everything was okay. We all shook out our hair and any possible shards that might have flown into it. One of my friends had long blond hair, beautiful stuff, about as long as mine, but much thicker. He didn't brush it out often, so it was starting to dread in some places, but just looked like a big bird's nest.

We were in shock.

All three boys were from Mississippi and I'm sure that they had seen similar attacks or knew of things like that happening, but I don't think it had ever happened to them. Getting assaulted because we were long-haired hippies? I know one of us had seen drug wars and had witnessed a friend being gunned down years before, but there is still something different when you are minding your own business one minute, and then having bottles thrown at your head the next because you're wearing a t-shirt with psychedelic colors and big mushrooms.

I think of all of us, I was the most surprised and horrified; the girl from the big city of New York. I started to cry and then I got mad, and then I wanted to go after them, and then I started to curse like a sailor...every word that came out of my mouth sounded like a mafioso from Brooklyn about to kick somebody's ass.

But what scared me the most was that I had thought I was safe in Mississippi - and it seemed that I had been safer in New York. At least there I expected this kind of thing; perhaps a different situation or reason for the attack (getting mugged vs. this) but it wouldn't have been such a shock.

So there's one story.


Blogger Pendullum said...

I am so glad I asked...
What a story...
I will now try and rent your mother's film and think of you growing up there...
and as for the other Easy Rider story... it just blows me away...
My husband many years back wore a ponytail... and one night he had a whole bunch of skinheads start with the abuse...
Scared me half to death... and just reading about your mishap... makes me so angry for the ignorance... glad that no one was hurt... But what an impact...

3:56 PM  
Blogger Maritza said...

I've always felt safer in NYC alone at night than in some town like Hoboken that have young frat guys who feel entitled to get drunk and stupid and harass people especially women.

Did I mention that I tagged you to post a list of your favourite books on your blog?

6:06 PM  
Blogger Billychic said...

Thank you both, for your comments!

Pendullum - I'm so glad that he's okay - that must have been so scary for both of you.

Maritza - Doh! I didn't know I got tagged - how GROOVY. I shall get on that at once.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Pendullum said...

Thank you for sharing your stories...
They are truly amazing when you write...AS we are there on a journey...and lucky to have you at the end of it!

11:13 PM  

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