In a John le Carre novel, a despised character is called the Ginger Pig. (“Ginger,” in England, is a derogatory way to describe someone.) We have our very own Ginger Pig in the United States but I’m not going to write about that now, for a number of reasons but mostly because, on this wonderfully weathered February Day, I don’t want to deal with such a gingersome subject. I could write about holistic plumbing, but I don’t think so.
Not when there’s Unicorn Latte at The End in Brooklyn and so many new entities by creative, entrepreneurial young people in Laurel, down in the Piney Woods of south Mississippi.
I had lived away from Laurel for decades and when I moved back down here, where I was born and raised and where there was a large, vital downtown, I found that the powers that be had gutted and reduced the downtown and marred it with pods that looked like they had been deposited on the streets by alien creatures with really bad taste.
When elected, Mayor Susan Vincent had the pods removed but, except for a lonely business here and there, people thought that downtown would never be revived.
Now, it’s a few years later and downtown is being revitalized with a new business opening every couple of weeks. Such one-of-a-kind and only-in-Laurel places such as Adam Trest Home, J. Parker’s Reclaimed and the Laurel Mercantile Company’s eclectic Americana have joined with older businesses such as the antique mall, Cafe La Fleur, Lee’s Coffee and Tea and the venerable granddaddy of Laurel businesses, Lott Furniture, which is being revitalized with a new blog by the fresh, creative energy of Keri Rowell.
Lord love a duck, I was walking from eating shrimp creole at Cafe La Fleur and I passed the two newest entities to open in Laurel, the Loblolly Boutique (for children) and Molly Renee’s Boutique (for women)—just across Magnolia Street from Home and J. Parker—and as I got to Lee’s, the door was opened by Patrick Tibbs, who had just returned from a month visiting his family in Uganda. Patrick played at Wimbleton, is an imminent tennis pro and his wife is a respected pediatrician.
Such a thing back in my growing-up-in-Laurel days would have been not only impossible but unthinkable. Now the mayor and police chief are black. Since my return, I’ve sensed no racial tension at all.
(Not like those earlier days, when I stood next to a mob waiting to lynch Willie McGee, who had been convicted of raping a white woman. No lynching occurred. McGee was executed in the state’s traveling electric chair.)
About the Ginger Pig: I’ll only mention an ancient Greek word—kakistocracy—which means government by the worst people.