Saturday, December 23, 2006

When I first moved to Jackson in 1987, Pearl was described as the armpit of Jackson, not an inviting place, to be sure, especially at Christmastime. Lots of poor people live in low rent houses and mobile homes in Pearl. Some of the yards stay decorated year-round with Frosty the Snowman and other seasonal tackiness. Northpark Mall was new and County Line Rd was the place to be if you enjoyed doing the bottleneck boogie. For years I fought its crowds and got entangled in all its holiday traffic. After Flowood built its new mall and shopping centers, Lakeland Drive became another County Line Road.

Then one Christmas when I was not in the mood for crowds and road rage, I ventured into the discount stores in Pearl. Roses's was my favorite. It's been a store I've patronized several times since, and not just at Christmas. Yesterday was the day. Where else can a shopper park within 10 feet of the store's door and then find bargains galore? I regretted not having done more of my shopping there earlier.

From there I went to Crossgates, which the upper class Pearl people developed to overcome the stigma of the old stores in the original shopping centers of their town. Fred's, Big Lots, Dollar General, Hancock's and Fads and Frames were where I spent several hours yesterday, enjoying Christmas music, neat stores, low prices, helpful store clerks, and no crowds. Why would anybody choose insanity over sanity?

I noticed that most of the shoppers were close to my age or older. Wisdom of the aged, perhaps? Even Santa Claus was there, incognito, of course. He is a jolly old elf, and somewhat of a flirt. He followed me around Dollar General to see if I knew all the words to "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree." (I did.) When he saw the candy I was buying for choir friends, he volunteered to come sing in our choir. "Tenor or bass?" I asked him. "I actually used to sing tenor in my church's choir," he confessed. "Oh, good, we need another tenor," I said. (What church choir doesn't?) Turns out, Santa is a Baptist, and quit the choir after he retired, and started doing Santa gigs for private parties.

Now if we'd had rain and cooler temps, the day would have been perfect, but overall, on a scale of 1-10, I'd have to say it was a 9. I've used online shopping, but it doesn't satisfy my need to actually touch and feel and smell and push buttons... or to sing my way through shops among strangers.

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