9/4/09: To the Beach in Gulfport

I had agreed to drive my mother down to Gulfport, Mississippi for her high-school reunion, so we stopped by a Starbucks in Memphis for a pick-up breakfast, and then we headed down I-55, breaking for lunch in Jackson, Mississippi at Majestic Burger. In Gulfport, I had reserved a room for us in the Holiday Inn, which turned out not to be the old hotel I remembered on Highway 49, but a new one around the corner which had just opened in November and was beautiful. Our room was luxurious and comfortable. The party for my mother’s class was at a house on the Tchouticabouffa River north of Biloxi, so I drove her out there, and met a number of her friends from school. The event was held underneath the new house, which had been built since Katrina, on a patio that backed up to the bayou and boat slips. Afterwards, I had hoped to get beignets, but the Mary Mahoney’s LaCafe that used to stay open for 24 hours and which offered them had not been rebuilt since Katrina, so instead we drove across the new Highway 90 bridge, which was lit up in blue neon, across to Ocean Springs and then back to Gulfport along the beach. In most of these areas, there is almost nothing left of the houses and businesses that once stood across from the beaches. A few buildings survived, and new condominiums and motels have gone up, but the rebuilding process is slow, seemingly much slower than New Orleans, perhaps hindered by the bad economy and less familiarity. Biloxi just doesn’t draw the tourists that New Orleans does, even with the casinos.

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