What You Can Get for Four Quarters in Meridian, Mississippi

This was my one and only impression of Mississippi this summer: condom dispensers in gas station bathrooms. The text on the machines read "Hygeia helps protect against AIDS and other sexually-transmitted infections. However, the best way to avoid AIDS is to practice abstinence, and to remain in monogamous relationships until marriage."

I added the "sexless" part. The sign seemed to hope that gas station patrons were virgins.

Below the text were arrows and explicit instructions reading put all four quarters into the appropriate slot.

I'll never forget emerging from that bathroom with a sense of glee, not sure whether Mississippi was beating the system or creating it. Ryan reported that the same sign and machine was posted in the men's bathroom.

Needless to say, we did not spend the night in Mississippi.

Legend of the Frenchman Street Raccoon

We saw, in the distance, the rare and mysterious Frenchman Street raccoon, who uttered the simple phrase, "j'accuse," before disappearing into the gutter...

This cartoon was inspired by a taxidermied raccoon perched above a stage at Checkpoint Charlie's bar in New Orleans. It even wore a little bowler hat. Ryan and I were admiring it when the bartender walked up and pointed out the little sign propped against the critter's paw. "J'accuse."

Some things are better left unexplained.

On Happiness

There is a story behind this. In Brooklyn we visited lots of friends, including Ryan's friend Brett. I'd never met Brett but from all accounts he is a fun and lively guy. Apparently just three short weeks before we made it to New York, he was biking through the city when a police car ran a red light, causing a garbage truck to slam on its brakes in the middle of a busy intersection. You might guess where Brett was when that happened.

Needless to say, he split his kneecap, had emergency surgery and now has a full length leg cast. All things considering, he seemed to be doing well when we stopped by his apartment, which is (rather frustratingly) on the second floor. My drawing skills are amateur at best, and so when I showed him the portrait I said, "I didn't mean to make you look so sad. Say something happy and I'll write it down."

I realized as soon as I'd said it how annoying that request must seem -- hey, be chipper! -- and to his eternal credit, Brett's response was "I have nothing happy to say."

Happily, he seems to be recovering well.

The musician at Checkpoint Charlie

This is the drawing that made us friends at the Frenchman Street bar Checkpoint Charlie's, in New Orleans. This skinny bearded singer was the first to take the stage. He kept beating his narrow little cowboy boots against the floor, and sang with an intense, Southern twang, but when I went to ask him to autograph my drawing, he was calm and demure. The bartender loved the little sketch, but added that he needed more hair. At one point she even wandered over with a bottle of White-Out, which she dabbed across the beard, insisting that I draw it darker and curlier. I did my best.