A Turn in the South


In an alumni magazine, they have printed excerpts from old “M-Books,” which are guides to students. Here is a nugget from the 1928-29 book: “Divide your time properly between work and play. There is a danger of your becoming either a ‘book worm’ or a ‘rah rah boy.’”

From 1929-30: “Avoid all upperclassmen who have nothing good to say about anybody or anything on the campus. They are dangerous.”

Also from 1929-30: “Don’t try to study with a picture of Mary in front of you, because she is much more interesting than math and you may flunk.” These days, of course, Mary herself is in the room, wearing nothing but a doobie in her mouth.

I have a great fondness for the older America.

And here come my critics: “What, you like segregation, Jim Crow?” No, dear ones, I don’t. You don’t have to tell me about injustice: I’m all too aware. But I am also aware of good.

“Yeah, and Hitler built the Autobahn, right?” Oh, come off it.

Behold a lunch at the Ajax Diner: grilled cheese sandwich, using pimento cheese; cucumber-and-onion salad; blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. That, my friends, is living.

The wedding is not in slick, upscale Oxford but in downhome Taylor, Miss., about 15 minutes away. The church is plain, white, and well-nigh idyllic. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

There are many beautiful women at this wedding, even glamorous ones, but don’t overlook the photographer — who makes Helen of Troy look like a mud toad. Wedding photographers didn’t used to look like this, in my experience.

As the first members of the wedding party walk down the aisle, I say to the guy standing next to me, “There’s no music.” He whispers back, “It’s a cappella.”

A little boy is dressed in a bear suit — white. He was told that he was going to be the ring bearer. He heard “ring bear.” He was looking forward to being the ring bear — and so he is.

The reception is not at City Grocery, but at Taylor Grocery, a short walk from the church. They are famous for catfish. You must stop in.

There is some serious star power at this wedding — a veritable Hollywood contingent. The actor Kris Polaha and his wife, the actress Julianne Morris. The actor Armie Hammer and his wife, the model-actress Elizabeth Chambers. A nicer bunch you will never run into.

You want politics? The author of the “a cappella” remark was Rep. Tim Griffin (R., Ark.).

On Sunday morning, back in Oxford, the Bottletree Bakery is hopping. The sign says, “Welcome. Be nice or leave.” That is a rule for life.

Outside a church, on this sun-drenched morning, they’re pickin’ pumpkins. Halloween is coming. Want to see a picture? Here you go.

On my way back to the Memphis airport, I note the town of Como. Nice to see this little echo of northern Italy in Mississippi. Over there, they have Lake Como. Here they have Sardis Lake. I don’t see it, though I see signs for it. How bad can it be?

Heading for the gate, I stop for a barbecue sandwich. My informant could not have been more right: Lousy. Why, I wonder, would the restaurant back in town want to “damage the brand” here at the airport?

But the people are so nice — “baby” and all. Who could complain about food?

Incidentally, the groom at this wedding was the brother of Julianne Morris, my dear friend Scott Morris, the novelist. Readers of this website know who he is. Here is something I wrote about his novel Waiting for April. There are other novels in the works. I’ve read one of them. You will be well pleased.

The bride was Katie Linde, daughter of Dennis Linde, the late Nashville songwriter (“Burning Love,” etc.). Oh, what a wonderful weekend.

Hope yours was good too, wherever it was. See you soon.