New Mississippi coast just isn’t the same

By TIM BEELAND,

Having just returned from a four- day business meeting/convention on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I have to admit it just isn’t like it was down there in the good ole days. Casinos may have been good for the economy back in the ‘90s, but today some of them are run down, dark and stinky.
Such was the case at the Golden Nugget where the Mississippi Press Association held a joint summer convention with the Louisiana Press Association.
It rained much of the time we were there. Just like around here, I suppose. Several of the storms were severe, so much so, that during the opening luncheon buckets had to be brought in and tables of conventioneers moved around so the rain dripping from the ceiling could be caught.
That should have been a sign.
There you had a room full of newspaper editors and publishers trying to be respectful to the speaker, Dallas Morning News Editor Mike Wilson, and watch the water dripping from a bulging roofing panel. And to add insult to agony, or agony to insult, whichever way that goes, it was bitter cold in the meeting rooms. I mean bitter cold.
Top that all with marginal convention food — if there is such a thing — including a breakfast of Jimmy Dean microwave biscuit sandwiches and, well, you get the idea. For the record I do like Jimmy Dean sandwiches okay, but prefer them hot and there was no microwave in the meeting room.
The coffee was palatable but the water in the guest rooms smelled heavily of sulphur and the lady, whom I did not know, sitting next to me at the luncheon said she had drawn herself a bath that morning and the tub was filled with brown water. I only took showers and didn’t notice the same, but did wonder about that smell. Especially when I was making coffee each morning in one of those little single serve coffee makers in the room.
At the “dinner party” as it was pegged Friday night, the buffet featured boiled shrimp, fried chicken nuggets, green salad, a vat of gumbo, and cornbread. It was a pretty wimpy set up and I don’t like cornbread. There used to be huge spreads overflowing with fresh fruits from the sea. No more!
Perhaps I’m picky or was spoiled to the ways of the days of old. Either way having been conventionizing with MPA for 33 years now I do know what was good and what is not now.
Even the year following Hurricane Katrina, as newspaper people, we were determined to show our support to the coast and returned there for convention. We had to move inland to the IP Casino since pretty much everything along the waterfront was gone.
That year it rained some too, and the IP still suffering from Katrina’s wrath leaked as well. But, they had good reason.
When my age group of paper people first started going to conventions we were obviously much younger, much thinner, and still had hair. We also had little children and the conventions were grand family affairs. There were press camps for the kiddos while the moms and dads were in meetings, or out for dinner.
Our children loved getting together with their newspaper family brothers and sisters and doing arts and crafts and going on dauphine cruises and the like. And there were lots of them. This year there were two in kids camp. Three one day.
Back in those old days, we were set up in the grand old beach front hotels that had big back yards with little bungalows for the guests. It was like we had our on own beach house and our own front yard. No elevators, no smoky hallways, no stinky water.
The swimming pools were family friendly and there was always a little time for taking the kids for a dip. Pools today are more like bars and you never really know what you might see out there. I saw a good bit in one hour late Friday afternoon.
I doubt things will ever change back, but I’m happy to have been a part of the good ole days and I’m glad my daughter got to grow up with those newspaper brothers and sisters.
My wife didn’t even attend this year so it was just me and a few old buddies hanging out in the casino.
There was one big bonus to being on the beach this past weekend. Fresh Gulf shrimp were really cheap right off the boat, and about 80 lbs made the long ride back home with me.
Did you know it takes five-and-a-half hours to pop the heads off 80 pounds of shrimp? I’m going to have to remember that next year!