My Recent Southern Sojourn

 I made my annual migration to the Redneck Riviera all of last week. For those unfamiliar with the affectionate(?) appellation “Redneck Riviera”, it is generally used to refer to the beaches of the Florida Panhandle, where Bubbas and Bubbettes go to bask in the sun and drink copiously. I am not really a huge beach fan per se, but it is an opportunity to relax and take my mind off of things.

 The specific destination I visited for my peregrination was Panama City Beach, which arguably might be said to be the capital of the aforementioned Riviera. This place is the quintessence of a tourist trap. Every chain store known to mankind graces the strip malls. Souvenir shops crowd the sidewalks like seagulls to bread crusts. Bars, nightclubs, and liquor stores are EVERYWHERE. Hell, alcohol might as well be the official beverage of the city. There really isn’t much that stands out in this sandy oasis of gilded Southern decadence, but one place I can mention as being rather interesting is Pier Park, an outdoor mall that encompasses an impressive array of boutiques and restaurants. I always stop by the Pepper Palace to pick up a bottle of hot sauce and to sample the latest Hottest of the Hot, which I unadvisedly always do, which sets me running to the frozen yogurt joint across the way (Bippy’s) to soothe my flaming oral soft tissues. But the paramount attraction is the Miracle Strip, which boasts carnival rides for the whole family, including a new roller coaster, which I will never get on, because I am deathly afraid of any of that sort of attraction. And it’s still under construction, so there’s more fun to come. Besides Pier Park and the beach itself, it’s mostly overpriced food and trinkets, which I try to stay away from generally, but am obliged to purchase occasionally.

 The trip down to PCB from Nashville includes the usual religious billboards (which I unfortunately forgot to take pictures of), and the road also goes through Montgomery, AL. I lived in this former Confederate capital in my younger days, as my father was stationed at Maxwell AFB in his last PCS. The place doesn’t bring back particulalry fond memories, as the weather was for shit, the people were 100 kinds of stupid, and it was the location of my first panic attack and my descent into my first bout of depression (to be fair, it was more a biochemical issue than situational). Anyhow, when I drive through that way, I am struck by how much of a rundown ghost town it currently resembles. To be sure, it was no urban utopia when I resided there some 20 years ago, but now it resemble some post-apocalyptic hellscape. There are more vacant then occupied businesses; the infrastructure is falling apart; and everything has a dingy, decrepit appearance. Is this what being a Christian region in America gets you? Shouldn’t all that praying and churching get you something other than dire poverty? Well, as they say, God works in mysterious (read: sadistic) ways.

  If you or someone you know is thinking of going down to Florida, don’t go to PCB. Do your research and find some other not-so-crowded destinations. It’s good for the redneck young adults who like to party and destroy their skin and livers with sun and liquor, as well as old, drunken, leather-skinned rednecks with faded tattoos, who kick back cheap domestic beer in coozies in the ocean and pine for more youthful days when hope was a burning flame rather than a weak ember. It’s not so good for someone with half a brain who wants something rather less commercial and more unique. Hell, go to California if you can afford it. At least it’s a blue state.


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