Life in Pearlington: Killer po’ boys, killer gnats |

Life in Pearlington: Killer po’ boys, killer gnats

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

In true journalistic fashion, photographer Paul Conrad and I sniffed out the only restaurant in Pearlington today, one day after we found the only bar in town. To call the L&M Cafe a restaurant would be generous. It is a glorified hotdog stand with a major exception. It serves killer po boys, the sandwich of choice for the South. Although it is located well off the beaten path in the towns only functioning RV park, it does a well-deserved brisk lunch business. Besides the locals, the L&M pulls in big business from the hordes of volunteers still swarming in Pearlington. The center of town is dominated by two big camps, including one for a group known as Burners without Borders, an offshoot of the Burning Man Festival. A crew from that organization includes a heavy equipment operator who has a heck of a reputation for the magic he allegedly performed building and tearing down structures at the annual festival in the desert. The Lindsay Co. of Ashland, Ore., donated a large trackhoe and loader to Burners Without Borders and let them go to work on the demolition of devastated homes in Pearlington. After about one month, the crew has dismantled about 13 homes in town, for free. Two homeowners we talked to said they would still be waiting for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors to undertake the demo if not for the Burners. Speaking of swarms, a couple of others are apparent in Pearlington. Around virtually every corner is a worker for the telephone company. Pearlington residents finally got their land lines restored a month or so ago when temporary lines were laid. Now, crews are coming back in to bury lines. But the real swarms are the gnats. They are thick even by locals standards. The stagnant pools of water just about everywhere apparently provide extraordinary breeding grounds. The gnats are out early in the morning, disappear for midday, then return with a vengeance for their afternoon feeding. Anyone who can, flees inside. The big rumor circulating at the Turtle Landing tent tavern on Wednesday was that developers are circling the town like vultures. One bar patron spoke with supposed authority that condominium developers, apparently regarded as the lowest on the food chain, wanted to buy everything between Pearlingtons main drag and the East Pearl River just a few blocks away. The goal, according to the bar talk, was to snatch up Pearlington land while the getting was cheap and build condos that will inevitably lure second-home owners to the Gulf Coast once again. Another bar patron claimed, again on supposedly good authority, that a helicopter that flew over town on Tuesday transported developers scoping out opportunities. The distribution center for free food and supplies at Pearlington has been dubbed Pearl Mart in reference to a certain giant retailer. The operators of the center have shown their sense of humor recovered sometime after the shock of the devastation wore off. We love Pearlington. We will not be undersold, said one sign. Another proclaimed, If you cant fund it at Pearl Mart, its not in Hancock County.

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