Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mississippi Bound!

How I decided to move to Mississippi

 (It was not a difficult decision. I was seduced.)

Part I: The Siren Song—Mississippi's Alure

This is Waverly Mansion outside
of Columbus, Mississippi
It all started when my partner and I drove through Mississippi on our way back home to New Mexico. He was looking for properties. I was going to convince him of the utter insanity of buying any property in any Deep South state, but especially Mississippi. After all, conventional wisdom (blind ignorance) has it that of all the states in the lower 48, Mississippi is at the bottom of the barrel, that it's poor, ignorant, fat, racist, and proud of all that. The surprise is that nothing could be farther from the truth.

How I decided to purchase a home there and moving ahead of my partner to take up residence is the subject of this postcard.

Columbus is in Lowndes County, in the
upper top-right quadrant
We passed into Mississippi from Arkansas and just the tip of Tennessee one early afternoon in October 2014. We'd of course just crossed the Mississippi River, skirted the edge of Memphis, and entered Mississippi. Later, I was relieved that the traffic abated as we headed southeast. We stopped in a small, but very historic town called Holly Springs. As we had done on the rest of the trip that included Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, we had property picked out to view (if not directly and in detail, then at least as a stop-and-look drive-by). We had lunch on the old square in Holly Springs, and aside from the fact that it looked a little weary and deserted during that time of day, it was still charming. 

We kept driving. Our goal was to spend a few days in another small town, Aberdeen, where once again we had our sights set on a particular property. It's odd, but we had no houses selected in Columbus; it hadn't come across as bearing any truly "wow" properties.

And so, after we spent our three days in Aberdeen, we sailed down Highway 45, skirted Columbus, and made our way to Natchez, Mississippi, where we would spend the night and then complete our trip back to New Mexico. We didn't know it then, when we barely skirted through the big-box store area of Columbus, that we were passing one of the most exciting, historic, and culturally rich small cities in all of Mississippi. What happened after our trip in October 2014 is another postcard. Watch for it.

Suffice it to say that during our first trip through Mississippi I heard a siren singing, beckoning. We drove down the Natchez Trace Parkway on part of our trek on the way to Natchez. But almost from the time we first entered Mississippi until we exited the state at Natchez, when we crossed the Mississippi River into Louisiana, I (much more so than my partner) had a completely changed attitude about Mississippi. We sailed along on silk-smooth roads, ate in charming restaurants, talked to many friendly, warm, and welcoming people, and were wrapped in what to our eyes from the desert was lush greenery.

Continue on to Part II after the video...

Part II Embracing Mississippi (How could I not?)

Fast forward to February 2016...Once we got back home, even my partner could not quit researching Mississippi, and he finally gleaned that there was this town that we had skirted on our first trip that bore taking a closer look at. Columbus, Mississippi. He selected several properties he really wanted to look at and we arranged for him to fly there, talk to the realtors, visit the houses—and then in a last minute decision, I also decided to return. It was a burden for us to travel again so soon, but I drove and picked him up at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport between Columbus and Starkville, Mississippi (home of Mississippi State University).

We spent several days looking at all the properties he had on his list, put an offer on one of them, but even though it had been on the market for well over a year, it turned out that the day before he made the offer, someone else had and their offer had been accepted. So in the final day there, he was distraught and I was disappointed that he couldn't buy the property he wanted. On a lark, we looked at one more house, a little Victorian cottage in the premium area of Columbus's historic district. This little house wasn't the kind of square footage or lineage that my partner was looking for, but we had time to kill before he had to get back to the airport. The house spoke to me with its wide center hallway, twelve- and eleven-foot ceilings, firm and well-preserved hardwood floors, a formal dining room with pin-striped wall paper and wainscoting. The large bedrooms, the large back yard (1/4 acre), easy access to the small university there (The Mississippi University for Women), where Eudora Welty went to school, and of course downtown Columbus, with its active restaurants, coffee shops, and individually owned businesses—all of this was a siren song, luring me. I ended up putting an offer on the house. And we went back to the realtor's office and I signed the paperwork.

This is a street that runs through
my neighborhood in Columbus
A couple of weeks passed, I sent all my financials, applied for a VA loan, got approved, and so from February through April, processes churned, and I returned April 20th to close on the house. Now, here it is mid-May and in just a few days, I will be traveling alone back to Columbus to move into the house. My partner of 25 years will stay behind and get his house ready to put on the market. We'll be separated for a year, maybe more, but in the end we will both be able to embrace Mississippi.

The irony is, of course, that a siren's song and embracing it has sinister consequences—at least for the ancient mariners. Maybe...I'm enthrall to Mississippi. Yes, the rest of the US looks down on this state. I intend to show that, like anywhere else, Mississippi has a lot more to offer than people might think.

Once I get to Columbus, I will continue sending dispatches on this blog. My goal is not to wallow in the many negative issues that affect Mississippi and its citizens but to present what's good about it. I've lived off and on in the desert all my life. In a real sense I love the desert and the panoramic vistas that one can see, from the far off mountains that rise up out of the desert to the endless sunlight. But I have also lived in lush climates, and one thing that draws me to Mississippi is its languid, syrupy warmth and greenery. I know it comes with bugs, but so does the desert. But I'm ready for the change.