Jackson, MS -- August 16, 2007

(crab cakes, rice fried okra and cornbread from the Mayflower cafe)

Some of the best food I ate on my trip was from Greyhound bus stations. No one expects me to say that. But, it was true, especially in Dallas. Greyhound cafeterias were refuges where, at all hours of the day you could get biscuits and gravy, grits, fried okra--good southern cooking. But, in Jackson I didn't know that yet. I hadn't been to Dallas. So, when I asked the Greyhound ticket agent where I should eat while I was in town--I seriously doubted I could find find food to rival my Grammy's but I had to at least try--and he suggested the caffeteria, I pretended my laugher was cough, hid it in my sleeve, whacked myself on the chest a couple of times, thanked him kindly, and walked right out the door.

I was famished and made it only two blocks away, to the Mayflower cafe where, after I was comotose from crabcakes and fried okra (Greyhound makes better okra), I explained to the waitress my mission and asked her where to go to find readers. She suggested a coffee shop called Cups.

As a general rule, when I would ask someone where to go, they would recommend places where I will blend in. Cups was a cafe like the cafes in my neighborhood back at home--predominately young white people typing away at their laptops, researching international vacations or doing billable work, though, I did find a couple people reading. Next door, also typical of places I would be guided to, was a health food store where I bought pumpkin seeds and stood behind people in line buying soy milk and sprouts.

To get to Cups I took a taxi. Walking, I was told, was not the thing to do. But, on the way back I wanted to stop into places along the way. So, I walked. I went into a couple of hospitals, but people told me no, and, by even suggesting that my mission was something they might be concerned about, I felt like I had been callous. These people were hurting inside and I was, probably, a little too perky.

But, despite the lack of enthusiasm I'd just encountered, on this road, on my way back to the greyhound station, I really felt like this is what my adventure was all about--sludging through the American landscape, breathing its air, standing before empty porchwswings and thinking, do people read here in the evenings? Timing was everything. I'd often find prime places for readers and wish that I could, like my dad's method of hunting, just sit back, campout and wait for the animals. But, I didn't have time for that. I had a bus to catch.

On this road I focused on how my body felt moving and, even when I did, eventually, have to get in a taxi, I wanted to keep walking, even with my 25 pound pack, the 91% humidity and 99 degree heat. And, the reason is this: in Cincinnati I had traded my blue jeans in for a lightweight cotton dress.

It was the technology equivalent of, in my 750km hike through the French Pyrenees, of getting trekking poles.

In the man-against nature struggle, I had triumphed. But, I need to be careful with this new dress. My first day with the trekking poles, though I had done in one day what a man and his teenage son had done in two, winning the "mon dieu!" of everyone at the gîte d'étape I stayed at, I got sick a few days later because I had completely overdone it. Even with the dress, I have to still follow the mantra, that I had learned in the Murakami novel, After Dark, at the beginning of the trip--walk slowly and drink lots of water.

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