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Critical Hour – Artist Spotlight

This Saturday, The Thirsty Devil is hosting an amazing band named Critical Hour starting at 9:00. Our Tupelo’s own Marla Gibson had a chance to sit down and talk with the band.
“It Factor” : Something super critical when it comes to musicians trying to make it big, and it is something that this band has in spades. They ooze Charisma and “Rockstardom.” I have been following this band for a while now and it has been a real privilege watching them from early beginnings to where they are now.
When I first saw them at Romie’s Grocery almost a year ago, I really wasn’t expecting much. There was almost no one on the back patio to see them play, just a few people who were obviously friends with the band. But when they stepped on that stage, the entire atmosphere changed on the patio — it became vibrant and energetic. I was floored!
There were four young men jamming out to music that I grew up with, music that I cherished and adored, and they were killing it. I instantly became a fan and I have been following them ever since. Now when you see them play at The Thirsty Devil or Romie’s Grocery, it quickly becomes standing room only. The word has certainly started to spread around town about these talented musicians.
Critical Hour consists of Trey Chadwick, Keaton Barkstrom, Cody Barnes, and Nik Barkstrom. Currently, they are playing in the Tupelo area as a rock cover band, but they are currently working on cutting their first full-length album of original music. They cover a wide range of rock music that spans several decades. Everything from Led Zeppelin to ZZ Top, Foo Fighters to Stone Temple Pilots, Panic at the Disco to Highly Suspect, and many others.
These guys are super talented and they always put on a great show. The energy they put out is amazing and you can tell that they really enjoy rocking out with the crowd. One of the things I most admire about them is that when they take a break they actually go out among the crowd and introduce themselves. It has been rather amazing to watch as they make not only new fans but new friends as well.
I could tell you how they have some pretty deep roots in the North Mississippi music scene. Trey’s father, Jerry, is the bassist for Full Tilt and was also associated with another well-known cover band here called the Spunk Monkees. Cody’s dad was also in a band called Hired Gun. I really did think about going into that in depth in this article, but I won’t. I really think that even with all the musical roots that these guys have, that their own music and performances speak for itself. They do not need any name-dropping to highlight what they do so well that is consistently getting them booked at local venues in the area. If you haven’t made a point to go see them play you are certainly missing out.
I sent the guys some questions to do a Q&A session with them. Here are 16 questions with Critical Hour.
Marla: What is the origin of the name Critical Hour?
CH: We used the name from Trey’s old band from around 2007 or 2008. There’s not really any significance behind it, we just thought it sounded cool so we stuck with it.
Marla: Please list the name, age, location and respective instruments of each band member.
CH: Cody Barnes, 24, Pontotoc, Mississippi, Drums.
Trey Chadwick, 22, Blue Springs, Mississippi, Bass/Lead Vocals.
Nik Barkstrom, 21, New Albany, Mississippi, Keyboards/Guitar/Bass.
Keaton Barkstrom, 23, New Albany, Mississippi, Guitar/Backing Vocals.
Marla: What genre of music do you consider your original work to be? What are your major influences?
CH: Post-hardcore/Experimental Rock. Some bands that influenced our sound would be: Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Enter Shikari, Silverstein, Linkin Park, and Chiodos.
Marla: How long have you all known each other and where did you meet?
CH: Trey and Nik met through mutual friends in 2011. From there, the band was initially formed in March 2013. Later that year, we shared a stage with Cody while he was playing with his former band, Of The Coast. In 2014, we started writing and trying to record an album of original songs, which we are only just now finishing up with the help of a producer, Kevin Langley, at All In Recordings, based out of Alabama.
Marla: When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?
CH: We started playing covers with Cody in June 2017, which is how the 4 of us started playing together. Music has always played a big role in our lives, so it just kind of happened.
Marla: Which songs do you cover most frequently? Do you have a set playlist for each show?
CH: We will occasionally make a set list so that we can keep the downtime to a minimum, but usually we like to play what it seems like the crowd is feeling, so even when we do make a set list, we often times switch songs out for others on the spot if we feel like it fits the atmosphere better. The songs that we cover most frequently would probably be a range of classic hard-hitting classic rock songs and a few more popular modern songs to try to appeal to a wide age range.
Marla: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week that you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
CH: We practice according to everyone’s schedule and availability. Usually about once or twice a week. Rehearsals are mostly a mix of jamming and practicing songs to play at upcoming gigs.
Marla: How has your music evolved since you first started playing together?
CH: Well, we really first started just by jamming and feeling out a sound for ourselves, first as more of a Hard Rock sound, then getting more experimental with different synth sounds, heavier riffs, and different vocal styles. Then as composition came, a more articulated sound came through, mapping it out on music software, until we felt like we had something solid.
Marla: What do you do outside of music that contributes to your musicality?
CH: It’s different for each of us in some ways, though we definitely share some interests. Trey, for instance, enjoys cooking, which he does for work. Reading can be a source of creativity. Pretty much all of the lyrics of our original songs are based on the stories of characters from books or movies. Going to see movies is really energizing as well.
Marla: Do you have a formal music education or were you self-taught?
CH: Between 7th grade and junior year of high school, Trey was in choir, which emphasized proper vowel shaping and other projection techniques. The rest of us were all self-taught. Growing up, Cody’s dad was a drummer, so he always had a drum kit around whenever he wanted to play and other drummers who were friends of his dad would show him things. Nik started first with piano and moved on to synthesizers, which opened up a wider space for experimenting and learning about, then incorporated guitar later. Keaton started with guitar and moved on to learning more about music theory and composition.
Marla: What are you working on right now as a band?
CH: Right now, we are mostly working on finishing up our first album. Outside of that, we are also trying to build up a large enough repertoire of covers to give a different performance for whatever kind of crowd we are playing to.
Marla: How do you feel about the internet in the music business?
CH: With a virtually free way to globally market anything today, it is the dawning of the independent artist. But since everyone now has a voice, oversaturation could definitely be an issue. So, now artists not only have to have a unique product but also almost have to be as much of a marketer as a musician. It’s definitely a good thing in the end because record label domination doesn’t have to dictate what is listened to.
Marla: How would you describe and rate the current music scene in Tupelo right now?
CH: There is definitely a lot of talent to be seen in Tupelo and it seems like the music scene is slowly growing. We’ve personally seen more and more people showing up to our shows in Tupelo than when we first started.
Marla: What is next for Critical Hour?
CH: With the release of this album, we will be looking to do more original shows, maybe opening for touring acts. We have also been thinking about going under a different name for our original music and continuing our covers with the name Critical Hour, either way, we still look forward to playing more cover shows as well as debuting these originals that we’ve been working on for a long time.
Marla: Please recommend 2 artists to our readers, which you feel deserve their attention, either local or national.
CH: We’d say Full Tilt and Magnolia Cult. They are both talented local bands and if you haven’t seen them yet, you are missing out.
Marla: Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge or thank for helping you achieve your current level of success?
CH: We definitely want to thank the local venues of Tupelo, particularly Romie’s Grocery and The Thirsty Devil, for giving us the opportunity to play there. Also, a big thanks to our friends and family for coming out and having a good time with us.
You can next see Critical Hour perform at The Thirsty Devil on July 28th. I highly recommend it! The band does have their own Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/criticalhour
Check them out! Support Local Music!

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My Brush With Natural History


The relative brevity of human life is a recurring theme in my astronomy class. In fact, I start the semester by telling my students that I’m going to die soon. I have no terminal illness, nor do I lead a lifestyle that would put me at higher risk for accidental death. Even so, I’m going to die soon – my life cycle, even if I live to a ripe old age, is minuscule when compared to the life cycle of stars (our star, the Sun, is about 5 billion years old and will live for another 5 billion) or the age of the observable universe (13.8 billion years).mammoth photo

This humbling perspective is not only useful in the study of astronomy, but in other sciences as well. Just last week, I was telling my students how much I enjoy taking my sons to Coon Creek Nature Center in Adamsville, TN (http://www.memphismuseums.org/coon-creek-science-center/).

Every year, they host a Pink Palace Members’ Day during which attendees get to unearth fossils of aquatic life from about 70 million years ago when our region was submerged as part of the ancient Gulf of Mexico.

Inspired by this tale of fossil hunting, this week one of my students brought in this beautiful fossil specimen found even closer to home (Pontotoc County).

The Earth is rich with history if you know where to look.

Any idea what it might be? Turns out it is a mastodon tooth. My student’s son just happened to step on it as he was crossing a creek and later unearthed it.

The Earth is rich with history if you know where to look.

Mastodons were distant relatives of modern elephants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastodon) and roamed North America perhaps as early as 5 million years ago before becoming extinct about 11,000 years ago.

The Earth is rich with history if you know where to look.

I often advise my astronomy students to “Keep looking up,” but this fossil find makes it clear that it is worth looking down as well.

The Rundown 11/16/18

It’s Friday, so we can all go home right? No? Ok, then here’s where some good food is, and what to do when the day is over.
Today is Friday, November 16 2018. It is the 320th day of the year and there are 45 days left. Thanksgiving is 6 days away. Winter’s “official” start is 35 days away, and Christmas is 38 days away.
Here’s what WTVA – The Weather Authority has to say about the weather today:
A few high, thin clouds are likely this Friday morning. But otherwise, we’re just mostly clear and freezing in many spots. Temperatures begin in the lower to mid-30s with a few in the upper 20s. Wind chills will be in the mid-20s and lower 30s. Throughout the day, we’ll see abundant sunshine and a light southwest wind. Temperatures will be much warmer than yesterday, likely into the mid to upper 50s and lower 60s in spots. No rain is anticipated.

It’s Food Truck Friday Y’all!

local MOBILE, Gypsy Roadside Mobile, @Brunch Box, Big Bad Wolf Truck, Indulge Mobile, & MS Edible Bliss are all at Fairpark, so brave the heatwave today and have something good to eat!
Not near Fairpark today? If you are near the hospital, grab you some Jo’s Cafe across from the walking track.
If you are on the West side of Main, its a great day for some authentic Mexican street food at Taquería Ferrus between Computer Universe and Choice Pawn Tupelo
Happening Today
Join O.D. for story time at Oren Dunn City Museum O.D. will read a story selected to teach preschool children about history and have fun while they are at it! A short activity will follow.Contact the museum to schedule your group or family. Multiple times from which to choose. Times: 9-10 AM; 11 AM-12 PM; 1-2 PM.


Nothing says Christmas like the annual Welcome Santa Parade at The Mall at Barnes Crossing. Join Santa and his helpers as they set up the local workshop. Pictures will begin tonight, and Santa will post his schedule later in the day. The parade is from 6:00-7:00
GumTree Museum of Art presents the Opening Reception for Charlie Buckley & Allan Innman’s As Above, So Below exhibit. Come meet the artist, view their works, and enjoy delicious appetizers & wine. 5:30-7:00
Tupelo Community Theatre presents “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by Edward Albee at 213 East Franklin Street Nov. 16 and 17 at 7 p.m. Winner of the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play, the Broadway production of this play was a shattering and memorable experience and proclaimed the author as a major American playwright. The play has been described as a scorching, scalding, revealing and completely engrossing drama and a brilliant piece of writing. The story involves a professor at a small college and his wife who have returned home drunk from a party. The wife announces that she has invited a young couple, an opportunistic new professor at the college and his shatteringly naïve new bride, to stop by and the charade begins when they arrive. Ticket prices are $20 for adults and $10 for students. 7:00-10:00
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A WATER CIRCUS Tupelo, Mississippi?!?! Cirque Italia brings it’s BRAND NEW 2018 SHOW at The Mall at Barnes CrossingNovember 15-18 – ONE WEEK ONLY – DON’T MISS IT!!! Don’t miss out on STATE-OF-THE-ART Water Fountains and a mesmerizing water curtain! Contortionists that will bend like a pretzel, AN AMAZING WHEEL OF DEATH and SO MUCH MORE! All above our 35K gallon water stage!! GET YOUR TICKETS NOW at cirqueitalia.com or call 941-704-8572!! 7:30-9:30
If you like sweet or dry adult beverages, love good food, and are craving an evening out, head down to Queen’s Reward Meadery and join Gypsy Roadside Mobile from 5:00-8:00 for a good helping of all three.

Live Music Tonight

Bart Mason & Brian McGraw are at Forklift 7:00-9:00 Busy Petites are at Blue Canoe 9:30-11:30 Sean Austin is at Stables Tupelo 9:00-12:30 Full Tilt is at Steele’s Dive 8:30-11:30 3:6 Teen is at The Thirsty Devil 9:00-12:30
At BancorpSouth Arena the big concert of the week is Mission Temple Fireworks Revival, featuring Paul Thorn Band, Blind Boys of Alabama, and McCrary Sisters. Tickets are still available. The concert begins at 7:30
We’ve got a busy weekend coming up, with more “weather on shuffle” so have fun, be excellent to each other, and have an awesome day.

The Rundown 11/15/18


Good Thursday Morning Tupelo! Y’all, its COLD!

Today is Thursday, November 15th, 2018. Today is the 319th day of the year and there are 46 days left in the year. Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday, so 7 days away. Lots of us will be traveling, and some parts of the country are likely to have rough conditions so be careful out there. Winter starts in 36 days (Officially, but I’m pretty sure we can say it’s here now) and Christmas is 39 days from today.
Here’s a quote pulled from WTVA – The Weather Authority
We continue to see clouds across the region along with freezing temperatures and north winds. Along with these clouds could come a few lingering flurries for those along the Tennessee state line. But more than likely, all the moisture is out of the region. There has also been some fog over West Tennessee, some of which could drift into our northern counties. So watch for slick spots on bridges and overpasses early this morning in our northern counties. Otherwise, we’ll gradually clear out the clouds and sunshine returns by mid-afternoon. Temperatures will warm from the upper 20s and lower 30s to the upper 30s to lower 40s.

Food Trucks


Jo’s Cafe is on West Main, across from Todd’s Big Star
local MOBILE is at Mid-town Point on Industrial Rd Gypsy Roadside Mobile is be at The Cotton Bolt (Magnolia Fabric), on McCullough Blvd
Taquería Ferrus is on Main St beside Computer Universe



Join the Community Development Foundation for the ribbon cutting and grand opening of Right Track Medical Group a new Mental Health-care Clinic at 4428 S. Eason Blvd. Meet the staff, tour the facilities, and enjoy refreshments provided by Sweet treats by Margaret. 11:00-12:30
At 1:00 Community Development Foundation will have a ribbon cutting at the new location of Endville Bakery, 1487 N. Coley Rd.
At 1:30, City of Tupelo – Mayor’s Office invites you to their Community Outreach Taskforce’s Community Thanksgiving Celebration. Held at the reception hall of the Link Centre (bottom floor on the “back” side of the building) this luncheon and meet&greet will give local community members and organizers a chance to join together and give thanks.




ICC astronomy instructor Bob Swanson invites you to Backyard Astronomy — a free educational astronomy event open to the public and suitable for all ages. Come join the fun at ICC Tupelo’s Health Sciences Building where you’ll be able to see the stars inside the dome of a 17-foot inflatable planetarium. Other activities include a general-interest program featuring Bob Swanson’s science-inspired music, as well as short presentations by current astronomy students. Weather-permitting, attendees will view the Moon, Mars, and the Pleiades star cluster using ICC’s telescopes. Event is come-and-go from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Free refreshments will be served.
Relias Healthcare welcomes all medical professions to their Jim Spruiell Northern Region Emergency Medicine Collaborative Meeting. Join them at the BancorpSouth Conference Center for a presentation by Scott Weingart, MD on the topic of Cognitive Bias in Clinical Decision Making. Dinner will be provided. 6:00-8:00
Tupelo Community Theatre will present Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee November 15-17 at 7 p.m. at @TCT Off Broadway, 213 East Franklin. Winner of the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play, the Broadway production of this play was a shattering and memorable experience and proclaimed the author as a major American playwright. The play has been described as a scorching, scalding, revealing and completely engrossing drama and a brilliant piece of writing. The story involves a professor at a small college and his wife who have returned home drunk from a party. The wife announces that she has invited a young couple, an opportunistic new professor at the college and his shatteringly naïve new bride, to stop by and the charade begins when they arrive. The play is R rated for language and discussions some patrons may find offensive. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and may be purchased by calling the TCT office at 844-1935.
Join Jo’s Cafe as Queen’s Reward Meadery presents a fun night of Trivia sponsored by our friends at Blue Delta Jean Co. 7:00-9:00
In town this week, set up by The Mall at Barnes Crossing, Cirque Italia-Gold Unit presents their amazing water circus. Packed full of incredible acts, there is no room for boredom. The variety presented is exceptional. For those who enjoy whimsy, we have an Avatar. There is almost no bodily limit for our contortionist, Ricardo, as he bends in ways you never would have imagined. Our incredible wheel of death performance features a front somersault flip, something you will be hard-pressed to see anywhere else. If that doesn’t get your head spinning, perhaps our 5 roller skaters and their incredible tricks and turns will. And although Cirque Italia does not use animals in our performances, this year we will be featuring amazing lifelike elephant puppets. They are so well made, you might just think they are real. Whether it’s a futuristic laser act or mesmerizing aerial performances, the show has something for all tastes and expectations. One thing Cirque Italia sets out to accomplish is to create a type of world-class entertainment suitable for all age groups. For more information visit www.cirqueitalia.com and make sure to check all our social media accounts. Tickets can be purchased now starting at $10.00-$50.00 depending on availability. Cirque Italia offers one free child admission with every full priced paying adult ticket in levels 2 or 3.

Live Music Tonight


Link Centre presents The Monthly Music Mix. Take Jerry Lee Lewis, add some Victor Borge, Beethoven on steroids, garnish with Schroeder from Peanuts, throw it all in a blender, and what comes out is an unmistakable Jason Farnham show. Link Centre Concert Hall $12/advance $15/door $8/students
Jamie Davis is at Steele’s Dive 7:30-10:30 Its Thursday Night
Karaoke at Woody’s Tupelo 8:30-11:30
I feel like I’ve missed somewhere so if you know of an event going on that I don’t have list, pleas add it in the comments and I’ll try to get it on the list.
Thank you everyone, and have an awesome day!



So, just to tell you a little bit about myself.. I have lived in and out of the Tupelo area my whole life. I love it. I cherish it. I don’t think I’ll ever leave the place permanently. Currently, I take online courses with ICC, I help run Tupelo Con (insert plug here), I have a sweet 12 year old daughter, a bomb diggity fiancé, I also work full time, and now I’ll be writing for you! I have a freakish obsession with Microsoft Excel, which aids in my love of organization and lists. This is why I give you the very self-indulgent Love it AND List it!

Like most people of the Internet, I love click-bait lists and countdowns. So, I figure I’m definitely important enough for other people to enjoy my lists of beloved goodies, right? Well, maybe not, but I’ll put them out there anyway. I like telling people to try things and how much they will like it. Doesn’t everyone love being hounded into trying something new? Well then, I’m your new best friend that thinks their taste and opinions matter most!

To start you off, I will give you a sampling of some random things that have made 2018 slightly better than 2017 for me.


StrangeBrew, and particularly The Dark Knight mocha-esque drink, has made many a morning more manageable this year. The Dark Knight not only has a sweet name, but it’s flavored with white chocolate, dark chocolate and butterscotch. Yass! It also helps that the Tupelo location is neatly situated next to my daughter’s school and on my way to work. I buy coffee for my employees to bribe them into thinking I am the best boss ever. When really, I just use them as an excuse to buy myself coffee. Strange Brew is my jim jam.

It’s taken me a while, but I have finally ventured into trying out an online meal delivery service. After reading several lists (ha) of reviews and rankings of the services, I decided to try Plated. Man, where has this been all my life? It can be pricey in any of the variations and websites you go to, but Plated has desserts, so I had to try it first. I have loved every recipe. The recipe cards are beautiful and promote making the recipes again. The packaging is labelled clearly and organized into individual bags for each recipe. I love food and this brings more variety into my life. I find myself craving less take out or dining out and look forward to coming home to cook. It’s worth the price for the laziness and hatred of grocery shopping and making dietary improvements in my life.

Crave is a magical place where I can get desserts during the hours that normal healthy people stop eating. Why not hit up Crave on a Saturday at 10 p.m. just because? My thoughts exactly. I have tried many things on the menu, but I have to say, the S’mores pie has a hold on me like no other dessert. It has a melty brownie consistency with melted marshmallow on top with a graham cracker crust. I can’t even finish telling you about it before going to get a piece. BRB.

So, my sister and my daughter have been urging me to watch Sing Street for like a bajillion years. Okay, maybe more like a year. (Sorry, guys!) For my birthday this year, my daughter and I actually had a small window of downtime in our lives and she requested that I finally give in and watch this movie. I caved this time primarily because she pulled the whole “mommy-daughter time” maneuver on me. You know the one. Well, I watched it expecting cheesy 80’s fakery, which is what I got, but in the best way possible. What I also got was a feel-good, motivational glory fest with an excellent soundtrack. I listen to Drive It Like You Stole It daily at this point for over two weeks now and most days I listen to it at least ten times. It’s on Netflix, so you have no excuse not to try it. Add it to that queue.

First off, I will watch or read almost anything that has to do with time travel. (I’ll have to list all my time travel love in a separate list!) Secondly, I’ll watch anything that stars or involves Peeta, I mean, Josh Hutcherson. I did not expect the whacked out entertainment that Hulu’s Original show gave me. I went into the show ready to love Josh Hutcherson’s character, Josh Futterman, but fell hardest in love with the character of Wolf played by Derek Wilson. Unless you just enjoy throwbacks to 1999 with a grown-up Sixth Sense’s Haley Joel Osment as Dr. Stu Camillio, Wolf will surely win you over with entirely too quotable lines such as, “I need 16 straws and a bump of coke”. Start watching for nekkid Josh Hutcherson (Aww yeyah), but stay for Wolf.

Who knew that America loved weekly ritualistic self-inflicted pain? And how! I don’t think there’s been a single episode that hasn’t made me ugly cry. Actually, probably the Kevin’s backstory in season two, episode eight didn’t make me cry, but that’s because that character is the least lovable of them all. There’s not much I can say about this show that everyone on your FB feed probably isn’t already saying. Even if you’re not watching it, you probably still know how good it is in your very soul. Milo Ventimiglia has been in my faves for a very long time (Peter Petrelli and Team Jesse, of course!), but as Jack Pearson, he wins. At what does he win, you say? Just, all of it. Watch it. Enjoy that weekly cry. Release that stress.

I had the opportunity to check out the board game, Kill Doctor Lucky, at an event hosted by Tupelo Game Days, where they let you try out any of the board and card games in their expansive library. While we speed read the instructions that day and essentially butchered the way it is supposed to play, we were intrigued enough to purchase it ourselves. The game is akin to Clue, but reverse in that you are trying to kill Doctor Lucky instead of solving his murder. It has alternate play in the game which involves a cat or dog. I kicked major tail with the cat play rules and my friends are still butt hurt about it. I am absolutely not just biased because I won this game; it’s just plain fun.

I only live 1.9 miles from Ichiban, and honestly, most places on Tupelo2Go’s website, but that doesn’t stop me from needing, wanting, and utilizing their service constantly. It has menus for me to gawk at and total up costs all in my own sweet time in my jammies. More than anything, just in 2018, it has kept me from having to leave the house while dealing with a flu ridden child and from leaving my desk while catching up from snow days. It’s worth the $3.99 delivery fee. Trust me.

This is probably the most mundane and adult thing on my list, but hey, I love me some office supplies. A few weeks ago, I went frivolously to Office Max in search of a nice notebook and ring binder combo for organizing that looked fancier and more professional than my pink bubble trapper keeper from high school. It was there I found the TUL Custom Note-Taking System, which is basically a choose your own adventure of professional looking notepads. I advise anyone with a need (or love) for organization and/or office supplies to check them out online or in our Tupelo store.

When I have pants on and feel like eating, but don’t feel like being disciplined and eating my Plated meals, I will always choose to eat at El Vera Cruz. (Sorry, family!) They have the best table side guacamole I have ever eaten and the best traditional carnitas tacos ever. I know Mexican restaurants are a dime a dozen around here, but this one is hands down my favorite. It’s worth the little extra time to go to the outskirts of Tupelo, since it is located in Skyline.

Culture Shock

Once upon a time, there was a woman who found herself living in the deep south. She wasn’t from there. She didn’t really fit in. She stubbornly refused to adopt a southern accent, and it was pointed out on occasion by various people she interacted with. “Where are you from?” they’d ask.

direction photoDepending on her mood, she’d answer Michigan, New Jersey, or Massachusetts. All were true, to a point. Born in Michigan, formative years in Jersey, and graduated high school in New England. She definitely did not have a childhood anything like many of the people she knew. She found many people, especially in rural America, lived relatively sheltered lives, even in this age of global connectivity. They have lived in the same relative area their entire lives, and often their parents and grandparents grew up there, as well. They went to school with the same group of kids from kindergarten through high school. They have had the same neighbors for years on end. And they hear the same ideas, political, religious, and social, in every direction. One has to consciously look for dissenting opinions in a homogeneous society. That is not a comfortable thing to do, and most people prefer to be comfortable.

Moving frequently as a child and young adult meant that the protagonist in our little story here was repeatedly confronted with people who didn’t think like her. Different backgrounds, different groups of peers, and different experiences led to different outlooks. The new kid on the block always feels the differences, and our Yankee in Robert E Lee’s Garden never felt them more strongly than when the southern culture shock set in.

After graduating to “official adulthood”, this woman had settled in to life in the south as best she could. She was raising her kids – kids who articulated their words in a peculiar way according to those who heard them. Clearly raised by a Yankee, and a former English teacher at that. She would deny any hint that she was “from” Mississippi vehemently, but she was ok living there. She would always claim any other place she’d ever lived as her origin before she claimed the south. In 2018, though, she realized that she had lived more of her life in Mississippi than in all the other places combined.

mississippi photoWhy did she resist claiming the state so desperately? Maybe it was time to open her eyes and her arms and embrace fully the fact that, though she was from elsewhere, Mississippi was home. Home to a liberal, secular, freethinking Yankee. 

What Tupelo Means To Me

I was recently asked, “What does Tupelo mean to you?” As I pondered this question, I realized there was no simple answer. You see, Tupelo’s meaning to me has evolved greatly in my 30 years living near or in this great city.

As a young girl growing up in nearby Amory, Tupelo was the “big city” I begged my mom to take me to on the weekends. I wanted to visit the mall or see a movie, and we always included a stop at TCBY on the way home. It was the place where I went during preadolescence to transform from an ugly duckling to a kind of pretty swan with braces from Hodges Orthodontics. As a teenager, it’s where I went to buy music at Album Alley and ride “The Loop.”

Tupelo was the place where I finally felt free to be me. It’s where I embraced the weirdo in me and transformed my way of thinking. I made friends from all walks of life, and I learned not to be afraid of things and people I didn’t quite understand.

Tupelo was the place where I found love…three different times. I met my high school sweetheart at The Loop, my college sweetheart through mutual friends in Tupelo, and later, I met my husband outside a little bar that occupied the old Ribcage building, known as Boondock’s Grill back then.

Tupelo was the city where this girl became a woman. I got my first real job in Tupelo, and I paid my first rent on a little house on Wayside Street in East Tupelo, right next to Johnny’s Drive In. I was in Tupelo when I learned I was pregnant with both of my children, who are now 8 and 2 years old.

Tupelo was also a place where I made some mistakes and experienced a little heartache and pain. But, I am even grateful for those moments, because they forced me to grow and change some things about myself that desperately needed changing.

I can’t talk about what Tupelo means to me without bringing up one of my greatest loves – music. What an amazing yet underrated little music scene this city has! I’ve danced to the likes of musicians like Keller Williams, Alabama Shakes, Galactic, and Marty Stuart, and discovered unbelievably talented local artists like John West, The Bad Hand, and Scott Chism and the Better Half at little bars like the Stables and Blue Canoe.

I don’t live in Tupelo anymore. My husband brought our family a little north of there, just south of Baldwyn, but I still visit Tupelo almost daily and consider it my city.

Now, it’s the “big city” where I take my kids to play at the splash park at Veteran’s Memorial, to see the animals at the Buffalo Park, or to get Spiderman’s autograph at the Mall.

It’s where I go when I’m in the mood for the best burger I can find, a craving that can only be satisfied with a Smash Burger from Neon Pig.

It’s where I go to occasionally unwind from mom life with a drink with friends at Thirsty Devil or Blue Canoe.

It’s where my husband and I escape for the rare date night at one of the many amazing restaurants in town.

Though my address now says differently, Tupelo is still “my Tupelo” in every way that counts.