Local History

Published on February 16th, 2015 | by Rafael Alvarez


The Great Magnolia Vagabond – No. 2

About a year ago, late February 2014, I was driving north through Mississippi from New Orleans to visit artist friends Pati D’Mico and Bill Warren in Water Valley, population 3,400.

On Saturday the 22nd, I showered at a truck stop in Purvis and treated myself to a couple RafaelVagabond2of chili dogs at Ward’s on Old Highway 11. They were fabulous and, belching mustard and onions, I napped contentedly in the back of the truck on the restaurant parking lot.

That night, I ate a plate of awful Chinese food at a strip mall in Hattiesburg while talking with Steven Barthelme, an old friend and University of Southern Mississippi writing instructor whose new book is Hush, Hush from Melville House Books. Steve is a man of few words and I have none to quote here.

The next morning, to paraphrase the Texan T-Bone Walker, “the next day I went to church to kneel down and pray…”

Passing through Jackson, I stopped at St. Peter’s Cathedral on West Street for morning Mass.  

I don’t recall the name of the priest who celebrated Mass that day but I will never forget the rhetorical question he asked from the altar and the nettlesome answer that followed.

“Why love our enemies as we do our friends? Because often they are the same people.”

And then it was Communion: “God was here, right here Rafael, while you were in a corner counting your sins”; and back to Interstate-55. The Local Voice Ligature

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About the Author

Rafael Alvarez is a reporter, short story writer & screenwriter based in Baltimore. He has been visiting & writing about Mississippi since 1984. A former staff writer for HBO's "The Wire," his new book is a collection of short fiction called "Tales From the Holy Land."

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