Sunday, July 3, 2016

One Month Anniversary, Living in Columbus, Mississippi

Here's Columbus, Mississippi

Downtown Columbus, MS, heading east on Main Street
Living in a place slowly becomes familiar and the ways of getting around town eventually sink in, and places that seemed confusing to get to at first become familiar. But even before I actually saw Columbus for the first time, I had done a great deal of "street view" driving on Google Earth. One thing I noticed even before I got here was a great portion of Columbus has numbered avenues and numbered streets, and you just have to remember that any street or avenue followed by N is north of Main and any street or avenue followed by S is south of main.

This is just one of hundreds of historical houses in
Columbus, Mississippi
The next thing I noticed and read about was that Columbus sits on a bluff, of sorts, which is why it is high above the Tom Bigbee River to the west, and if you take 7th Street N, you soon get into higher rolling hills that are neighborhoods of winding roads and cul-de-sacs, none of which are numbered streets or avenues. Coming from the desert, to me it's like driving into a well maintained park that has become a residential area. If you head out east on Main, it soon levels out a little, and you cross over creeks, full of running water (amazing to me from the desert). Several major highways criss-cross Columbus, and in moments, you can be headed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to the east, Tupelo to the north, Meridian to the southeast. So even though Columbus is in an "out-of-the-way" place geographically, it really doesn't feel like a small town surrounded by smaller towns. I've already talked about the pocket of big box stores, all seemingly contained in the north-western part of Columbus, so if you want to go to Walmart or Sears, etc. you head up 5th Street N and there you have it.

West of Columbus, just off the downtown is a large soccer complex between downtown and the river. There will soon be an equine center there, as well. A portion of the river close to downtown also has a riverwalk that is nicely kept. On the east side of town is a large park, where people gather for picnics, next to one of the creeks, and it's hilly and green and nice, and as you drive along the east part of Main, you can see runners and others enjoying it.

This is an interior shot of the famous Waverly
Mansion, between Columbus and West Point,
Mississippi. It stood abandoned for 50 years,
and then a family bought it and have spent their
lives slowly renovating it. The tours are
fascinating and the only way this family can
afford to keep up with the maintenance.
I took a drive out east on Main and then turned south onto another nice highway, and I saw that there's an industrial park in that area. Columbus also participates in the Golden Triangle industrial park that is part of the regional airport, with companies like Airbus and Paccar. In the same area as the regional airport is Eastern Mississippi Community College, Golden Triangle Campus. It is the oldest and largest of the community college complexes in the state and services students in the technical fields, getting them ready for the industries that have moved to the area.

The drive between Columbus and Starkville (along the highway where the regional airport and the community college is located) is a modern, clean, and pleasant area. This is all west of the Tom Bigbee River, and the view is a little more open to those who want to see farther than you can along other tree-lined highways. Starkville and home to Mississippi State University is only twenty miles from Columbus, and there you can enjoy big league college sports. When there are major games in town, many people prefer to stay in Columbus, and during those times, Columbus, which is usually busy downtown any night of the week, is especially busy, and you might as well give up on getting into one of the many fine restaurants without a reservation—or go very early.

Hmmm...I sound like a travelogue, but that's what two years of research on this small city has provided me. Now that I've been here a month, I feel an intimacy with Columbus that just continues to grow. Stepping outdoors in the evening when the humidity is higher than the temperature feels like I'm being enclosed in a warm, wet glove and, really, one just has to accept it before it has a kind of womblike (or so I imagine, hahaha) feel. I might be screaming "Stella-a-a-ah!" like Marlon Brando before the summer is over, but I'm taking this one day at a time.

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