Recommended book: George Orwell’s ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’
Currently listening: Smif N Wessun
My travel history: Albania, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, United States
Cities I've lived: Paris, France; Sydney, Australia; Isla Vista, California
I'm most inspired by: George Orwell
In my suitcase I always carry: My Kindle
Words to live by: "When you travel you do new things, you meet new people, you grow wiser, you grow smarter. A person who just knows their own block doesn't know anything about the world. You gotta travel the world and know the world. Not everybody's the same, not everybody thinks the same. This is what makes the world special" - Pete Rock
Keith Richards, whilst on the Rolling Stones’ infamous US tour of 1975, records much of the bands time in Mississippi as an incredible education, and writes with great enthusiasm about their experience, saying “if you went down south, it was endless," boasting the band playing between two & three gigs per day.
On crossing the border from Louisiana to Mississippi, a large sign reads ‘Welcome to Mississippi, Birthplace of America’s Music’, which may indeed be so, being home to blues music which developed among the freed African Americans in the latter half of the 19th century. Iconic Mississippian artists like BB King and Muddy Waters helped with this evolution. But Mississippi nowadays doesn’t have much going for it. The capital, Jackson, is a depressing sight. The epitome of a ghost town. And the music? Imagine the sound a tree makes when it falls in the forest, with no one around.
When entering Jackson one of the more prominent streets ‘John R. Lynch Street’ will catch your eye; perhaps just a coincidence, but an oversized Confederate flag proudly flies next to the sign, which also happens to be the state flag of Mississippi. Downtown you will see children throwing rocks at moving cargo trains with parental encouragement, and drunk people outside the Employment Opportunity Centre; there are few jobs, however, with 23% of the population living in poverty.
It seemed as though the billboards advertised only one of three things, such as weight loss centres, and for good reason. Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in all of the US: 30% of Mississippians being obese. Advertisements for bankruptcy lawyers are also everywhere; Mississippi boasts the lowest average income in the entire US, at around $15,000 lower than the national average, with the Bankruptcy Court in downtown Jackson conveniently appearing to be the most modern looking building visible in the whole state. Billboards advocating the benefits of abstinence are seen often too; what ever happened to the days of contraception? Even Lonely Planet, which loves to glorify inglorious places couldn’t do the job with Jackson, calling it “hardly glamorous.”
Mississippi is the state where around 90% of white Mississippians voted for Romney in 2012, and about 98% of African-Americans voted Obama, making Mississippi perhaps the most racially polarised state in the US. The last Democratic presidential nominee to win Mississippi was Jimmy Carter in 1976, and due to Mississippi's right-leaning policies today, welfare, food stamps and various other social programs are often eliminated. Is there much hope for Mississippi? Probably not, given that poverty and unemployment are rising each year; but one thing is for sure, the music has certainly stopped.