This exhaustive heat wave we're going through has me thinking of something.
I need to get away from it all.
I was recently told I had to pick a date, before mid-November, for my week-long vacation. If I didn't take my break by then, I'd lose that vacation time.
I'd already been thinking of a mid-fall vacation. I even bought a book on European vacations while I was in a bookstore at LaGuardia International Airport in New York City, on the way back from my grandmother's funeral in June. I was looking at what was the best (cheapest) time of year to visit the "old world," and see what there was to do on the other side of "the pond."
But, when I had to make a decision about when to take my vacation, I had only one destination in mind - Mississippi.
Go ahead, scratch your head and laugh. Get it out of your system, but I'm serious.
Mid-October is traditionally homecoming time at the University of Southern Mississippi, my alma mater. I haven't seen a homecoming at the school since 2004, and it's high time I went back. There's nothing that can really compare with homecoming at Southern Mississippi. Everyone comes back. Many barbecue in their nicest clothes, and alumni receptions abound across the campus.
Former Dixie Darlings (the Rockettes-type dancers who perform with the marching band) from across the organization's five decades come back and perform during half time. Some of them can't do the tin soldier-esque running (arms and legs straight and swinging back and forth) onto the field anymore, because of age and arthritis, but they still try their best.
All the former members try to do the high kicks during "Are You from Dixie?" with the current members. Some have more success than others.
The intramural field next to M.M. Roberts stadium is "RV city," and everyone has two or three black and gold (our school colors) tents lined up with buffets for anyone who wanders by. It's all the barbecue, cole slaw and deviled eggs you can eat.
It's truly a beautiful sight, better than the fraternities and sororities tailgating up in "The District" between the Ogletree Alumni House and Lake Byron.
Oh yeah, there's going to be a football game against Southern Methodist University (SMU) as well.
But a visit to south Mississippi isn't going to be all about tailgating and seeing the campus again. No trip to that part of the world is complete without a visit to Gulfport and Biloxi, where I went many weekends for a little get away.
The buffets at homecoming will be great, but the ones at the casinos are just killer.
I've been wanting to visit the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Biloxi for years. I remember they were just about to open it when I graduated from college, and then Hurricane Katrina pushed the opening date back a couple of years. It finally opened in July, and my friends who live in the area think it's heaven on earth.
Yeah, I'll probably do a little gambling while I'm there. Back in college, I never lost money at a casino. I may have broken even, or made a small profit, but I never lost a dime (even when I was gambling on someone else's dime.)
While the casinos are a big draw, I'll want to see a few landmarks (or at least see if the landmarks still exist) on the coast. One is the S.S. Hurricane Camille, an old red and white tugboat that was grounded in across the street from the beach in front of a small souvenir shop. I've heard it took a beating during Katrina, but Camille survived the storm.
All in all, this is going to be the perfect vacation - a trip to a place that's just like heaven. True, it's not Rome or Madrid, but it's going to be just as enjoyable to me.
Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 247 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.