A Redneck Riviera Xmas

Greetings from the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida! Wish I could report it was sunny and warm, but sadly it is not. Stella and I nearly froze today on a little trip out to the beach. More on that forthwith.

I rarely come to my hometown to see my parents (they’re quick to load up the car and come to us), so I decided to create a commemorative photo essay. Chapter the first: a trip back to my old high school, where my mother volunteers five days a week. I was most intrigued by the numerous FEMA trailers, delivered here after the town and school were torn up in Hurricane Ivan two summers ago. Though most of the school has been repaired, kids still go to some classes in these trailers.

fema trailer

Inside, it’s just like you’d expect a FEMA trailer to look like. Functional, kind of grubby.

fema trailer interior

I stopped by to see my old basketball coach, who’s now a dean. To preserve her privacy (she hates having her picture taken), I’ll crop this photo of her to just the top of her head. The best part, anyway, is the sign she has posted in her office.


Wandering through the hallways, I discovered that things have certainly changed since I was in high school. Heaven forfend you should wear a baseball cap or sunglasses. You’ll have a trip to see the red-haired lady above in your future.

the rulz

And no tour of my high school would be complete without a shot of the strange little brown hut-like classroom where I took my most memorable class, “Americanism vs. Communism.” This was a requirement for graduation from all public high schools in Florida during the ’80s. We sat in this un-air-conditioned hut and read about the plight of unfortunates all across the Eastern Bloc.
us vs. the commies

That’s it for the high school. Now, chapter the second: About town.

If you want to buy a Porsche Cayman S (and you know you do!), heed this billboard. It is ONLY available in Mobile, Alabama. Sorry, New Yorkers! Sorry, Los Angelenos!

only in mobile

Perhaps appropriately, graffiti downtown describes what we should do to those lucky Mobilians who happen to own fancy cars.

eat the rich

And speaking of the great economic divide, I was fascinated by the civic solution to a troubled neighborhood just on the other side of the railroad tracks (cliched but true) from my own. This is Truman Arms, a drug- and crime-plagued neighborhood that apparently got to be too much for the local authorities to handle. Their solution? Just build a big wall around it.

t arms

But not just any wall. Look more closely… isn’t that… razor-tipped barbed wire?

t arms closeup

In fairness, there is much to love about our little town, including these views from the downtown area, restored after the hurricane. Here are some whimsical carved statues holding up tree limbs in a leafy square.
tree limbs

And a beautifully restored old church.


Chapter the third: Christmas day.

The tree, decorated by my ma.


Dinner, prepared by same.


Excellent monkey jammies, gifted to me by Stella.

monkey jammies

And… chapter the fourth: The trip to the beach.

Normally, a trip to the beach here is a placid affair, no matter what time of year you go. But today, as we drove out across the inlet, which is normally glassy-smooth, we saw palm trees groaning and whitecaps on the water:

too windy

We drove across the long bridge to the beach proper, and were welcomed by the hot dog stand at the foot of the pier. A red flag informed us that the water had dangerous currents and high surf – not that we’d have gone in anyway, considering how cold it was.

hot dogs, cold beer

The wind was fierce, freezing our ears and nearly blowing my hair right off my head:

wind in my hair

But still, it was beautiful. Crashing surf, rising swells, a riot of clouds drifting fast overhead, and off in the distance, a little patch of sunlight peeking through. It was a lovely sight.

more the sea

the sea, the sea

How was your Christmas?

8 responses to “A Redneck Riviera Xmas”

  1. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Great photos, Lisa.

    Thanks for sharing a Christmas from a place like none I’ve been around.

    I did, however, immediately recognize your former coach and she is totally busted.

    Our holidays were a lot of fun, the kids are 3 1/2 and really “got” a lot more of the Santa story, etc.

    We had so much excitement that we are on our way to Vegas for a little solo time. We’ll miss all of you back in Philly for the hootenanny-were very close to making it back there but will just have to wait until next year.

    And yes, by all the mean, eat the rich.

    (Saw an article on the web that spelled out how relative and sobering that can be-apparently having $ 2,200 puts you in some top percentile of wealth for the world’s population and $ 66,000 put one in the top 1% given that so many people live on less than $ 2 a day).

  2. Lisa Tremain says:

    This year at the holidays, I have become a baker. I have made:

    Christmas fudge
    Poppyseed bread
    Peanutbutter cookies
    Fresh orange marmalade (from the tree outside our door)

    and today I’m fixin’ to make
    Swedish visiting cake (inspired by Josh)
    and banana bread.

    Who is this girl?

  3. Dave says:

    Yeah, baking. So strangely satisfying.

    I got to spend Christmas Eve at the fabulous annual Slade bash, and then the next day at the Smith-Waterman pad with SSW’s visiting parents. Some other friends came over for dinner, which was another of Bryan’s crazy delicious feasts. Very nice, and suitably secular.

  4. bryan says:

    Dave is being modest. He stole the show with his ancient family recipe carrot pudding. He reunited it with the long-lost rum sauce, which has apparently been set aside for the last several decades. Other baking highlights included Ian’s gingerbread cake house, which also went well with the rum sauce. I made pumpkin and mincemeat pies. Both received the approval of Steph’s famous-for-her-baked-goods grandmother. I don’t bake a lot, but Dave and I collaborated on a crust for the pumpkin pie that I have to say looked and tasted fantastic.

  5. Lisa Tremain says:

    sounds like everything kinda goes well with rum sauce.

  6. bryan says:

    except for electronic devices.

    did anyone else notice that “CDs” and “MP3s” were listed in the poster above as electronic devices that weren’t allowed on campus? It’s almost as if the dean had *heard* of these newfangled things but wasn’t sure whether they were devices or media or formats or what have you. But note that she did not pluralize them using apostrophes. That’s how I know she’s on my team.

    Lisa Parrish — my favorite part of today’s post was the photo of your hair blowing away. Those waves were nice too.

  7. Lisa Parrish says:

    Bryan – I really thought my hair would blow right off – it was crazy windy out there. I also made a great short video of Stella getting blown in the wind, her hair whipping around like a thing possessed. It was a great, dramatic day to be at the beach, though I would also have loved to be in the new Smith-Waterman home, with all the baked goods and happy relatives and friends. Sounds like heaven.

    Can’t wait to see everybody this weekend!

  8. Jeremy Zitter says:

    Eat the rich. Yummy.

    Can’t wait to see y’all…