Bittersweet Biloxi

This week’s activities included an overnight trip to the Gulf Coast. We spent the night in Biloxi, had lunch in the French Quarter of New Orleans and were home in time for the picnic and (cancelled) bonfire at school. Having gotten back into running one of the attractions of this trip was a morning run on the beach, which we did.

Brenda running on Beach in Biloxi

Brenda having fun doing her best Gilad impression on the beach.

Who’s Gilad? Click here.

I’ve been told that running on sand is great because it’s softer and easier on the legs than most other surfaces. And it was great fun, the salt air blowing in from the Gulf, startling the gulls and terns off the sand, the sun rising over the garish Hard Rock and Beaux Rivage casinos looming to the east of the beach, marking the distance by the cigarette butts and beer cans left from the night before … what could be more romantic?

Biloxi, about an hour after sunrise, with the Beaux Rivage, Hard Rock, and Grand Casinos, along with a fake light house. What says "romantic ocean beach" more than a fake light house and casino?

The beach that runs along Biloxi and Gulfport is also treacherous. It is covered with thousands of oyster shells. They are easily seen in the sand out in the water and are thick along the beach itself. In places you have to move up into the soft sand in order to avoid the shells (and a turned ankle) half-buried in the harder sand down by the water.

Later in the morning, along another beach in Pass Christian (west of Gulfport) we briefly visited with a clean-up crew walking the beach. (They are still cleaning up tar balls from oil spill.) These folks said the oysters were killed by the aftermath of the oil spill. (Whether it was the oil itself or the highly toxic dispersants that Shell used which are banned in many countries but allowed in American waters, no one knows for sure.)

Another big surprise was the miles and miles of beach front property for sale all along the coast from Biloxi to St. Louis Bay. Since Hurricane Katrina flattened that area in ’05, many new condos, motels, and business have gone up along the beach, but there are also vast swatches of vacant land “filled” only with cement slabs and empty foundations, intersected by abandoned streets, and marked off by broken trees, an abundance of real estate placards, and lonely business signs with no evidence of the businesses that once stood there.

I suspect this is for the best. In contrast to these lonely stretches are the casinos in Biloxi and Gulfport that fester out of the sand like postules, bus-loads of gamblers swarming in like flies and oozing out of them when the money’s gone, while the casino owners suck the profits from the battered communities, leaving a few minimum-wage jobs as a sop. Leave the Gulf Coast to the fishermen and dock workers. (Both Biloxi and Gulfport are among the 100 largest ports in the U.S.) Such a life may not create the sort of wealth that America’s all-consuming greed demands, but it may be more appropriate and sustainable in the end.

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