The extra ultra mundane very dull first day of our trip

The first day of our trip was all last minute errands, like buying a camera. But first we went to get our new glasses, which were thankfully ready, and dealt with the slowest optician in the world who was very pleasant but still very very very slow and had an odd way of speaking so that one had the impression he was Bill Murray’s brother begotten by artificial insemination and neither one has a clue the other exists but every one who meets Bill Murray II has the distinct impression they’re reliving a film comedy except they can’t recollect having seen it. When fitting co-adult’s glasses he mused flatly that these were good Japanese glasses, that the Germans used to do the best but after the wall went down it changed and finally the Japanese are better. It took him a while to relate this. I know this doesn’t sound amusing, and he didn’t mean for it to be amusing, but it was in the way where you discreetly exchange a glance with your partner and you know what will be the first topic of conversation as soon as you’re out the glass doors. My new bifocals are for some reason rather longer than any of the eyeglass cases they had available and though I told the optician this he went about meticulously taking each eyeglass case and trying to fit the glasses in them, even though I pointed out I’d already done this (though I didn’t say I had done it at the speed of light in comparison). One case after another he took, even cases that were obviously duplicates just colored differently, and tried to fit them in. “Doesn’t fit that one,” he’d softly say and slowly, deliberately move to the next.

It wasn’t until we were on the Interstate that I realized my new sunglasses had several big scratches on them and that they’d done the reading prescription so that they focus 24 inches from your face. Co-adult’s are tuned to focus even closer. Which drove us nuts throughout the trip and we vowed to return them, but now we seem to be resigned and reluctant to go through the bother. Almost. Co-adult needs to be able to see the keyboard keys which he can’t through these wonderful Japanese glasses which focus at about 20 inches.

Again, the first day of our trip was all last minute errands that are a part of everyone else’s normal routine, but we put everything off until we’re going on a trip and then must go shopping, except that buying a camera isn’t an everyday event, no. Mine wasn’t out of the shop and a friend had sent a small Kodak which was sweet of her to do (and will be great for H.o.p., whose Nikon Coolpix is usually nonfunctional now) but lack of pixel quality was stressing me, especially since I planned to take enough pics of the Grand Canyon and scenery to have me deep in Photoshop doing post production for a year. I was reluctant but am glad co-adult shoved me into a Best Buys to get a digital SLR as my early Christmas present. Having read up on them I had in mind what I’d probably get, but when I told the camera saleswoman I was looking for a digital Single Lens Reflex Camera and inclined my head toward the models at hand and she vacantly but smilingly replied, “Is that a special function of an SLR?” I was thrown into an alternate universe where I felt my vocabulary was apparently not in sync any longer with the norm, for certainly a camera salesperson must have some knowledge of what they’re selling so something must be wrong with me, and my brain said bye-bye and my ability to respond intelligently vanished. Plus, I was getting ready to make a major purchase and I rarely buy anything for myself and stress out over major purchases–the kind of stressing out where it takes me years to buy anything big usually. I don’t recall saying anything in response but she groked a change in wind and promptly directed us to a salesman she said knew more (co-adult said, “He would have to…”) and he too befuddled me because information he listed on available models was about 1/1000th of what you will get in a fundamental online review. He was basically, “Do you want a Nikon or Canon or Sony?” and hadn’t much more to offer after that other than “Pick ’em up and see which one you like.” My senses were overloading with big store stimuli and what I wanted was a prejudiced salesman who would help me make up my mind between a Nikon and Canon, as years ago I used to own a good Nikon and loved it and didn’t like Canon, but was inclined to the Canon from what I’d read as to what was kind-of affordable for a digital SLR. I wanted a salesman who would offer an opinion, but he wasn’t about to do it. I had told him we were going to be easy customers because we needed a camera now, today, as we were going on vacation. That to me is something a salesman should consider when showing us available models, because when I eventually selected the Canon XTi 400D, he replied, “We don’t have that in stock.” Sooooo, I went with an older model of the XTi, scratching my head, wondering why he had been showing us the 400D when it wasn’t in stock.

Then we got out on the road, very late in the day, and I struggled with the camera. Eventually it would turn out to be defective and would need to be returned. But I didn’t know that yet.

Really, our first day of the trip was shopping day. We shopped clear across Alabama. So it’s nice that some towns consist of a mall on the side of the Interstate. And the malls and shopping centers don’t leave much to the imagination as far as the interests of people living in the area. In Oxford, a Best Buys is located next to a Hobby Lobby that’s just as large, and across from a huge LIFEWAY Xtian bookstore.

From the town’s lamp posts hung banners reading,


But the people at the Oxford mall were nice, and if I note this like it’s something deserving to be mentioned in a vacation post, it’s because I so loathe malls that I only step foot in them once every blue moon when I’m on vacation and have forgotten something and must resort to a mall. For which reason I was in the mall at a Gap store in Oxford Alabama looking for a pair of jeans. A salesman was immediately at my service and very nice and helpful trying to find a size 28 in a boot cut, but when I pointed out they seemed a lot lot lot bigger than my several month old Gap boot cut jeans that I like and that I was wearing, and I asked if it was my imagination or not, he would offer no opinion. I asked again because I wear loose loose loose jeans but I didn’t want this pair falling down to my knees. No matter how I phrased my question the helpful salesman would offer no opinion as to whether or not they were bigger and as these were the only boot cuts I went ahead and purchased them and he helpfully directed me to where I could get some good coffee. When I was leaving the Gap store another salesman literally leaped from six feet away to cheerfully wish that I would have a Good Evening! so surprising me that I jumped back a foot, but recovered, thinking, “Wow! Aren’t we all cheerful and friendly in Oxford without seeming strained about it?!” and wished him a good evening as well. I wondered if everyone was so cheerful because they’d had a big prep talk about the Christmas season, Christmas music already playing and Christmasy things decorating the place.

Anyway, the jeans, which I thought were much larger than my other Gap boot cuts (but which I purchased anyway thinking they couldn’t be that that that much bigger), turned out to be so big they fall straight to the floor. And yeah I could have tried them on at the store but I’m one of those people who never does.

At Anniston we passed LUCKY’S GUN TACKLE and the INTERNATIONAL MOTOR SPORT HALL OF FAME. The hot pink evening sun had dropped behind the horizon. We switched the satellite radio to a French station. And that felt odd, driving through Alabama listening to a French-speaking DJ rattling off names of American bands.

We passed huge BASS PRO SHOPS that seemed as big as a shopping center and lots and lots of RV sales places. Where else are you going to set up your recreational vehicle shop but on the Interstate. Only makes sense.

I thought about how in some places architecture is so generic that the BASS PRO SHOPS look like giant versions of middle-upper middle class suburban homes look like hospitals look like big hotels look like malls look like professional office parks.

Billboards in Birmingham tended to messages like LEAD PAINT CAN POISON and help for alcoholism and advertising vendors of beauty supplies.

Lots of billboards across the country with emblems like the cross alongside hopeful promises such as WE RESTORE LIVES. Back in the mid 20th century such religious billboards tended to be seen only in certain out-of-the-way areas in the Bible Belt South. But something happened (somethings such as Jim and Tammy Fay Baker and Pat Robertson) and the billboards went mainstream and are now everywhere offering restoration through faith, which suggests a lot of people are not happy with their lives. And that churches make big bucks promising to make you feel better.

The factory side of Birmingham instead had rundown billboards reading PLACE YOUR AD HERE.

A lot of the comedy on satellite radio was concerned with people going to the mall and Costco.

I have never been in a Costco.

Tuscaloosa! What was it with the miles of nearly standstill traffic at Tuscaloosa? Ah, Game Day! Sports. Football! In the meanwhile, Grouch Marx was singing about Omaha Nebraska on the radio.


I thought about that proud billboard for a good ten minutes because it seemed to me a given that Tuscaloosa is going to be the home of Tuscaloosa’s number one Toyota dealer.

The sports stadium was huge and bright as ten suns far off to the right of the interstate. CRIMSON TIDE.

We passed the MOUNDVILLE ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK exit, one of those places we keep intending to go visit one day but haven’t gotten around to it.

Having started out late in the day, we were in Meridian, Mississippi when we decided dinner was in order. Because we’d started out late in the day there would be no fun doings, and in lieu of any fun doings we stopped at a Pizza Hut for H.o.p., because he loves Pizza Hut pizza.

Meridian, Mississippi is the home of of the Peavey musical equipment company. Because co-adult is a musician and PEAVEY is a name I’m well-acquainted with, I always expect Meridian Mississippi to be a PLACE, to have presence. I read there’s a lot to see in Meridian…I just haven’t seen it yet.

So, passing through Meridian (and wondering again just where this town is), we stopped at Pizza Hut for dinner because we knew H.o.p. would like pizza. We went in and there was a hostess. We are particular about our pizza at home and never eat at Pizza Hut (we only do take out from it once a year when a brother of co-adult visits who happens to like Pizza Hut), so is this normal that Pizza Huts have hostesses now? I didn’t know, but was surprised. I’m endlessly surprised while on vacation–by things like this. Other people will know that Pizza Huts now have hostesses. Me? I know nothing about this kind of stuff. It was only about 10 pm and the establishment was supposed to be open until midnight but they were already empty and cleaning up for the night. The hostess sat us down and brought us water and announced she would be our waitress and then never returned. In the meanwhile of waiting for her never to return, I told the co-adult I’d have salad. Eyeing the salad bar, he said he thought I was taking my life in my hands. Though I knew what was in the salad bar would be what’s in the kitchen, I said I’d go with a salad from the kitchen, because I am, by and large, irrational, and so is co-adult. We were cheerful vacationers still and after about 15 minutes (maybe more) of waiting for our waitress to stop mopping the floor over yonder, I felt my cheeriness evaporating and would have been long since ready to leave but I was determined to remain cheerful and co-adult got another woman’s attention and we were polite and nice about it all and she profoundly apologized and offered us free salad bar along with our pizza, which I turned down and went with a salad from the kitchen because co-adult had insisted I’d be taking my life in my hands to touch the salad bar and I was being agreeable with him by not doing so, and then co-adult goes over and gets a big salad from the salad bar and I sat and stared at it and wondered why I’d just ordered a salad when I could have eaten the salad bar for free. While eating, we watched a bit of some of the television shows on the three televisions in the place, which is an exceptional event for me because we don’t have cable and I never watch television shows anyway.

H.o.p. loved the Pizza Hut pizza.

We stayed the night in Jackson MS which was all abroil with football and the hotels pretty much packed out.

I took no pics the first day. Here are a couple more of Gulfport, MS.
Gulfport-Biloxi, Mississippi #53
Gulfport-Biloxi, Mississippi #53

Gulfport-Biloxi, Mississippi #24
Gulfport-Biloxi, Mississippi #24

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

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