but not gone
Five years later, the Gulf Coast is still trying to rebuild. What’s stopping them?
biloxi.indd 1 9/21/10 4:38:35 PM
All stories and photographs by Stry
4. The Thing That Saved Bobby Mahoney’s Ass
How duct tape, legalized gambling and shrimp gumbo kept one Biloxi institution in business.
6. In Ray’s Hands
Two hours in a town hall meeting with Ray Mabus, the man with the job no one wants.
10. The Eye of the Storm Still Sees
One Biloxi man doesn’t want to remember what he saw during the storm. So why can’t he forget?
18. No Vacancy
Business is slumping. But a hotelier with an unusual past thinks his town might have a strong future.
21. Jr.’s Last-Cast Efort
Mike Adams’ restaurant and charter businesses were going fne -- until the spill hit.
24. God Bless You, Walmart
The time the retail giant came to town, and mom and pop cheered.
26. Insuring Himself to the Death
Charlie Green is paid to understand the insurance industry. But if he can’t, who can?
29. George Sekul’s Last Rah-Rah
A football coach’s fnal dream: putting together a college all-star game in Biloxi.
biloxi.indd 2 9/21/10 4:38:43 PM
It was a stupid thing to do. He
knows that now, Bobby Mahoney
does. Bobby’s up in the second foor
of the home Mary built. The wa-
ter level’s inching up the walls. Hell
of a sturdy home, Bobby says. Ca-
mille’s knee-high water and triple-
digit winds made a mess of the old
home, but Camille was the worst.
That’s what they all said: the worst.
The mother of all hurricanes. A fve-
hundred year storm. So Bobby’s
Momma built back, Mary Mahoney
did. Rebar, pour concrete, more re-
bar, cinder blocks. Built a small for-
tress, really, just steps from the Gulf
of Mexico. Mary Mahoney knew it in
business and she knew it in homes:
you build to last.
But now here’s Bobby Mahoney,
looking out his second foor window,
and the water level’s right there. This
bitch of a storm, Katrina they’re call-
ing her, and this water’s higher than
anything Camille ever brought in.
These two panes on the window are
starting to bulge a little, pufng in
and out like they’ve got their own
breath, and Bobby’s brother-in-law’s
telling him to calm that window
down. Go put your hands on it or
something. Don’t let it break.
So Bobby goes and kneels down
next to the window, and he gets
one hand up against the window,
and then the second, and he’s got
just a little pressure on the panes,
slowing that rhythm down, the wa-
ter still rising up against the house,
and Bobby can see it coming clos-
er. The ’47 hurricane showed up at
night, and so did Camille, and so
has just about every other storm
that’s ever hit Biloxi, who knows
why, but Katrina’s come knocking
in the middle of the day, so Bob-
How duct tape, legalized gambling and shrimp gumbo kept one
Biloxi institution in business even after Hurricane Katrina hit.
The Thing That
Saved Bobby Mahoney’s Ass
Bobby Mahoney poses next
to the doorway where they
mark the water level from
Camille and Katrina at Mary
Mahoney’s restaurant in Biloxi.
biloxi.indd 4 9/21/10 4:38:57 PM
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1. Murella Herbert Powell, Biloxi’s historian emeritus, says Mahoney is lying. The city had few
slaves, and bricks on the building indicate that the Old French House was built in the 1800s.
The Thing That
Saved Bobby Mahoney’s Ass
by’s down against the frame, keep-
ing that window from pulsing and
looking straight down at this water
that’s rising up, which means that
he’s not even noticing that right in
front of him there’s this wave — no,
but waves are what you’d go surfng
on during your week-long Hawaiian
vacation, with ukuleles and leis and
little drinks with little umbrellas in
them, and this thing is more like a
sucker punch, breaking through the
glass and throwing Bobby Mahoney
20 feet back across the room, so no,
maybe wave isn’t exactly the right
word here, but whatever it is, it’s
here — and now the Gulf of Mexico
has shifted inside Mary Mahoney’s
rebar-and-concrete built-to-last for-
tress and is making itself at home on
the carpet.
Bobby is bleeding, now. There’s
three-and-a-half inches of glass
sticking straight out of his ass. The
hospital’s close enough that two po-
liceman are going to show up in fve
or six hours, grab two limbs each
and carry Bobby to the emergency
room, but the hospital’s under water
too at this moment. Someone else
takes a roll of duct tape and patch-
es up the bleeding. Bobby lies on
the carpet. A heart attack took his
Daddy on Wednesday, and they put
Robert Mahoney, Sr., in the ground
on Saturday. Today is Monday, and
Bobby Jr. is on the carpet, praying.
There are three-and-a-half inches of
glass in his ass, and duct tape keep-
ing the rest of it together, and each
little jab from Katrina is bringing
more of the Gulf of Mexico into the
room and shifting the carpet and
tossing Bobby Jr. around. He is pray-
ing, that the waves don’t get much
higher, that the rebar holds, that the
bleeding doesn’t get worse, that the
water will start to drain away, that
the city will be spared, and so will
their lives, and all of those things will
come to be.
Duct tape saved Bobby Mahoney’s
ass that day, and maybe his life.
¶ ¶ ¶
It took two weeks to re-open Mary
Mahoney’s Old French House after
Hurricane Camille hit. It took 55 days
to do it after Katrina.
But both times, the restaurant came
back. After Katrina, they marked Xs
through parts of the green spray
paint on the side of the building.
“We‘ll Be Are Back!” the words now
Bobby runs the place, and he re-
members the frst post-Katrina cus-
tomers well. Some walked out of
what was left of their homes, others
out of their news vans, and they sat
right down at white tablecloths and
ordered seafood gumbo.
“People wanted to come out,” Bobby
says. “They were living in trailers. This
was a little bit of sanity for them.”
But don’t mistake Mary Mahoney’s
for a neighborhood cofee shop. The
restaurant is just about the only non-
casino restaurant in Biloxi — pre- or
post-Katrina — that has tablecloths,
which makes it feel either quaint or
classy, which in today’s Biloxi makes
it the place tourists go to get a taste
of the city that, frankly, didn’t even
exist in restaurant form until Mary
Mahoney invented it back in 1964.
Her restaurant used to be on Mag-
nolia Street before the city changed
the name to Rue Magnolia. Paul
Newman and Tennessee Williams
ate here, and so did President Carter.
Grisham put the restaurant in two of
his books. The restaurant’s presiden-
tial platter — crab claws and soft
shell crabs — was served for the
President on the White House lawn
in the summer of 1984.
Mary’s not around anymore. She
died in ’85 of a brain tumor, a year
after serving that meal for the Rea-
gans. But the stories about Mary
have been around long enough
that the family can just trot them
out like so many servings of bread
pudding. Here’s Bobby talking about
his daddy heading to the newsstand
every week to pick up a copy of the
Sunday New York Times Magazine
for Mary. There’s one about the time
Gloria Vanderbilt stopped in for din-
ner, her son Anderson Cooper eat-
ing in just a towel. And here’s Bob-
by’s personal favorite little one-liner
about his momma, born without a
college education but with an ad-
vanced degree in what Bobby calls
“social endeavors.”
Then they’ll want to talk about her
restaurant. The dates get a little
fuzzy, but the restaurant is inside a
building that was built in 1737, slave
quarters and all, which Bobby says
makes the place even older than the
Biloxi home that locals actually call
The Old House.
Bobby’s maternal
grandfather, Tony Cvitanovich, came
to Biloxi from Croatia in 1898. He was
a fsherman there and a fsherman
here, which makes Bobby a part of
story continued on p. 31
biloxi.indd 5 9/21/10 4:38:57 PM
All they’re asking for is an end to
government corruption, and you
can do that for them, Ray, can’t you?
All they’re asking for is accountabil-
ity, Mr. Secretary, accountability and
an end to government corruption.
But since they’re asking already,
they’d also like money, and jobs, and
a brand new, just-like-it-was-before
Gulf, and more research, and enough
data to make an Excel spreadsheet
whimper, and an end to the use of
dispersants, and a promise to stop
erosion in the tidal estuaries, and
— and, hang on now, Mister Mabus,
they’re not done yet — and a trans-
lation of every document produced
by the government into English,
Spanish, Vietnamese, Cambodian
and Laotian, at the very minimum,
and a promise to end ofshore drill-
ing, and a promise to continue of-
shore drilling, and a promise to not
forget us, Mr. Secretary, the ones
who got you elected into ofce
three decades ago, remember us?,
and investigations into the efects
of oil on poor, helpless bacteria, and
meetings with the Governor, and
answers, and accountability, and an
end to government corruption, and
most especially their lives back. Give
them their lives back, Ray. You can
do that, can’t you?
Up front, a wireless mic pinned to
his tie, stands Ray Mabus, former
auditor of the state of Mississippi,
1984-1988, former Governor of the
state of Mississippi, 1988-1992, Sec-
retary of the Navy, 2009-present. The
President has asked Mabus to au-
thor the Gulf Coast Restoration Plan,
a plan that the federal government
will use as a guideline to rehabilitate
the Gulf of Mexico and the commu-
nities that depend on the water. The
President has asked Mabus to take
input from the people of the Gulf, so
Mabus has come to Ocean Springs,
Miss., to discuss what’s next now
that BP has plugged the leak below
the Deepwater Horizon ofshore oil
drilling rig.
Inside the Ocean Springs Civic Cen-
In Ray’s Hands
biloxi.indd 6 9/21/10 4:39:09 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| I
In Ray’s Hands
ter, a crowd of at least 250 has gath-
ered on a Saturday afternoon to
speak with Mabus. This is the ninth
town hall session that he’s hosted in
recent days.
“Some of the themes are becom-
ing clear,” Mabus told Stry after the
session had ended. He said his fnal
report to the President will likely
propose considerable local involve-
ment in all future recovery eforts, as
well as a suggestion to utilize much
of the available research that’s al-
ready being done in the Gulf.
Mabus is also worried about the
spill’s efect on the mental health of
Gulf residents, and he said his report
will take that into consideration.
As for a timetable for his fnal report
to the President, Mabus said, “I think
it’ll be done in the next few weeks.”
¶ ¶ ¶
These are, ofcially, not town halls.
Someone in Washington has given
these meetings a political label, and
while government jargon usually
conceals the truth, their phrasing
here unintentionally reveals it. Of-
cially, these are Ray Mabus Listening
Sessions, and that’s a perfect descrip-
tion for what ensues. After a short
introductory statement, Mabus asks
those with questions to step up to a
microphone and be heard.
The frst man at the mic tells Mabus,
“I’m glad you’re here, but I want to
get paid.”
The second man tells Mabus, “A lot
of people here have lost faith.”
The third, a woman in pink, says, “I
don’t trust the federal government
at all.”
The ffth, a fsherman: “We can’t get
paid,” with that drawn-out Southern
vowel that makes “can’t” rhyme with
The seventh or eighth, though the
Two hours in a town hall meeting with Ray Mabus, the man with
the job no one wants: fguring out what do with the Gulf of Mexico.
Mississippians present their
concerns and questions as the
Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus
(center), listens at a town hall
meeting in Ocean Springs, Miss.
biloxi.indd 7 9/21/10 4:39:23 PM
notes start getting fuzzy here: “Obama is lying to us”
and, “Oh, I know you want to speak, Mr. Mabus,” and,
“You can’t lie to me no more,” and, four or fve minutes
of semi-controlled rage later, “I love you, sir. God bless
The Ray Mabus Listening Session goes on like this for
two hours. It is two hours of open-mike psychiatry. Ma-
bus stands in the front of the room, fngers interlaced,
and allows those at the microphone to speak for as long
as they are willing. At the end of each comment, he re-
sponds briefy and then points to the next microphone.
In two hours, Mabus speaks for only about 20 minutes.
For the rest of the time, he’s a bureaucratic piñata. Stand
up and take a whack. Good for what ails you.
“I understand people being frustrated,” Mabus told Stry. “I
understand people being worried. I understand people
being scared because their livelihoods are threatened.”
The meeting shifts from topic to topic with no real direc-
tion, aside from oscillating levels of anger. No one starts
a “drill, baby, drill” chant, though several speakers sup-
port BP’s right to drill ofshore, and several others ask for
a government commitment to renewable energy. One
man reads Mabus a letter he’s written about his favorite
species of fsh. Several dozen Vietnamese fshermen in
the back row are wearing the big, black, over-the-ear
headphones that airlines used to give out on cross-
country fights; there is a man behind them feeding live
English-to-Vietnamese translation into those headsets.
One Vietnamese woman stands up toward the end of
the session and asks Mabus a question about receiving
payment for a
loss of servic-
es, and Mabus
directs her to
the BP table,
where the oil
rep will later
be accosted in
at least three
diferent lan-
The crowd
is diverse in
ways that, in
the South,
only exist in
the coastal
counties. They
are white,
black, Hispan-
ic and Asian.
There are men
in camo vi-
sors and men
in camo cowboy hats, politicians in fower-patterned
shirts and fsherman in blazers. There are Vietnamese-
Americans in some rows, and American vets who once
fought against the Vietnamese in others.
They are all asking for something: help, answers, a place
to vent. But what seems more important is that they are
all asking to be heard, and that one of the most power-
ful men in the United States has come to listen.
He can do that for them, at least.
story published on Sept. 2, 2010
Above, a fsherman listens
to one of Mabus’ answers. At
right, the man who President
Obama appointed to create a
post-Deepwater Horizon plan
for the Gulf Coast states.
biloxi.indd 8 9/21/10 4:39:31 PM
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biloxi.indd 9 9/21/10 4:39:42 PM

One east Biloxi man doesn’t want to remember the things he
witnessed during Hurricane Katrina. So why can’t he forget?
The Eye of the
Storm Still Sees
About a year after the storm that Anthony Tryba won’t name, he got a phone call
from a man in Jackson, Miss., a man whose name he doesn’t remember. And whoever
it was — John C. or Bill A. or Tom F., or something like that — asked Anthony if he was
the Anthony Tryba, and Anthony said yes, and the man started telling him that Anthony
should write a book. Anthony told the man that maybe he had called the wrong Anthony
Tryba. This Anthony Tryba was formerly an employee at the Grand Casino in Biloxi, Miss., and this
Anthony Tryba hadn’t written anything since graduating from Biloxi High with the class of 1972.
The man from Jackson asked Antho-
ny if he was the one he’d been read-
ing about in the papers. The one
who’d gone around in Biloxi shut-
ting of gas lines after the storm. The
one whose clocks had stopped right
at 9:16, the moment time stood still
on Crawford Street
Anthony said, Yes, I’m him, and the
man from Jackson said, Well, then,
you’re the one I’ve been looking
for. And he said it again: I think you
should write a book about what you
Anthony Tryba does not remem-
ber the man from Jackson’s name.
He does not have the man’s phone
number. He does not know if the
man is a book publisher or a literary
agent. He didn’t think to ask, really,
because Anthony Tryba is just a guy
who used to work at the Grand Casi-
no, and he’s not a reporter or a writer
or anything like that, and Anthony
Tryba doesn’t ask a lot of questions.
He doesn’t own a computer or a
typewriter or even a cell phone —
didn’t then, and still doesn’t, so you
But that day, Anthony Tryba decided
maybe he needed to share what he’d
seen. So he started writing a book.
¶ ¶ ¶
Before this story goes any further
— into the magnolia tree that saved
Anthony Tryba’s life, or the bodies he
saw foating below the water tower,
or the storm that destroyed Craw-
ford Street and left it a skeleton of
its former self — you need to know
that Anthony Tryba sufers from
post-traumatic stress disorder. The
case is, ofcially, undiagnosed. Tryba
has never been to a mental health
professional, and he may never go.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that’s
frequently mis- or overdiagnosed,
according to Jef Bennett, execu-
tive director of the Gulfport-based
Gulf Coast Mental Health Center.
There are thousands of people on
the coast who evacuated before the
storm, or who stayed but were nev-
er in serious danger during Katrina.
These are people, Bennett says, who
might be depressed from what they
saw after the storm. They’re sufer-
ing from anxiety, or possibly what
Bennett calls “malignant malaise.”
But PTSD is a condition that’s brought
on by much more severe conditions.
It’s commonly seen among soldiers
who’ve fought in war zones, and also
among those who’ve lived through
a severe accident or disaster.
In most cases, people who sufer
from PTSD survived a near-fatal situ-
ation and then continue to re-live
biloxi.indd 10 9/21/10 4:39:42 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 11
The Eye of the
Storm Still Sees
Anthony Tryba sits on the
front steps of his home at 211
Crawford Street. After Katrina
hit, he slept on a mattress on
his porch for months.
biloxi.indd 11 9/21/10 4:39:45 PM
that experience long after the dan-
ger has passed.
I ofer Bennett a few details of An-
thony Tryba’s Katrina story, and Ben-
nett cuts me of fve seconds in.
“Oh yeah,” he says. Bennett says fve
years later, just based of a detail or
two and a street address, he can tell
whether or not a person is a legiti-
mate PTSD candidate. Tryba’s infor-
mation fts the profle perfectly.
But even if Tryba does eventually de-
cide to visit a psychologist, or sits in
on a group ther-
apy session with
other Katrina
survivors, he will
not forget. He
cannot un-re-
member what
he saw. He may
be able to move
on — but he will
never forget.
In this, Tryba is
far from alone.
Bennett points
me to a just-
published report
from the journal
“Disaster Medicine and Public Health
Preparedness,” which studied the ef-
fects of Katrina on the coast’s youth.
They found that only half of the chil-
dren on the coast who needed help
from a mental health professional
actually received it. Some 20,000
children displaced by the storm are
still sufering from mental health
problems, they say.
Katrina is just part of the mental
health crisis on the coast. Bennett’s
team calls the current situation
“KEOS”: Katrina, the economy and
the oil spill. All three are sources of
stress for locals, and when all three
work in concert, the results can be
Since the Deepwater Horizon blow-
out, Bennett’s staf has distributed
800 surveys to current patients and
others in the community. The sur-
veys ask if locals are having trouble
sleeping lately, or if they’re feeling
angry, or depressed, or nervous, or if
they’ve been using drugs or alcohol
with frequency.
“Almost without exception, they’ll
check something,” Bennett says.
Local leaders are particularly worried
about the physical efects of these
stressors. Roberta Avila, a mental
health professional who also serves
as executive director of Biloxi’s Steps
Coalition, says domestic violence
increased immediately after the
“We saw a lot of that after Katrina,”
she says.
Now it’s back. Daniel Le of Boat
People SOS, an organization that
ofers social services to the coast’s
Vietnamese community, says when
the government shut down the Gulf
to fshing this spring, the fshermen
were forced inside, confned to their
homes. The result: an increase in do-
mestic violence. It’s a situation that
Bennett’s also hearing about at his
“If you can’t go out and boat, then
you’re at home,” Bennett says. “These
are guys, they’re used to being out
for several weeks at a time. So they’re
stuck. They’re not making any mon-
ey, and domestic
issues arise. Maybe
they get to drink-
ing. The wife said
something. The
next thing you
know, there’s a
fght, there’s physi-
cal violence. That
happened before,
but I think it’s more
likely to happen
now, just because
of marital proxim-
The problem is, as
Le notes, as many
as half of the Vietnamese on the
coast are either illiterate or non-
English speakers. Many would never
even consider spending a few hours
a month with a psychologist to dis-
cuss their issues — that is, if they
could even fnd one who speaks
their language.
The Vietnamese ft in with a coastal
culture that takes great pride in its
own resiliency. In my three months
on the coast, I’ve heard stories of
men and women who rode out the
storm while sitting on their front
Buddy the dog, who needed
ffteen minutes to safely
paddle to the magnolia tree.
biloxi.indd 12 9/21/10 4:39:45 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 11
porches, and even of some who sat
on their roofs in folding chairs and
watched the storm pass overhead.
This is a working-class city, and its
citizens are not easily convinced
that they should ask for help.
“They’re not people who traditional-
ly seek mental health services,” Ben-
nett says. “They’re macho fsherman,
and they’re going to solve their own
Mental health also traditionally runs
up against another aspect of the
Biloxi lifestyle: God. Alice Graham
— a reverend, mental health profes-
sional and executive director of the
Interfaith Disaster Task Force — says
there’s a disconnect that existed be-
fore Katrina, one that local religious
leaders had inadvertently created.
“Too often, the way that they minis-
tered to people was around a denial
of mental health needs,” she says.
“That if you were faithful enough,
religious enough, you didn’t have
mental heath needs.”
So the Interfaith Disaster Task Force
worked to bridge that disconnect.
They started a series of programs
to teach clergy how to recognize
mental health issues — anxiety, de-
pression, addiction — and what to
do when they spotted it. This year,
the Task Force held its fourth annual
Community Health Summit, and
Graham says local religious leaders
have started to embrace the goals
of the mental health community.
But they need more — more money,
more mental health professionals,
more understanding, more educa-
tion, more time. They’re still waiting.
And there’s this catch: the people
who are working to cure the coast
of anxiety are themselves anxious
about what happens if they can’t fx
the problem.
¶ ¶ ¶
There is a wrench in Anthony Tryba’s
hand and a thought on Anthony
Tryba’s mind: do the right thing.
Down by the water, he saw where
he used to work: the Grand Casino.
This was back when the state legis-
lature had decided that gaming was
not allowed on land, so every casino
bought a giant barge and docked it
underneath their hotel. In the winds
of Katrina, the Grand’s barge had de-
fed state law and plowed right onto
land, across Highway 90 and into
some buildings.
Anthony wouldn’t be going back to
work for a while, but he kept walk-
ing. He smelled the dead bodies un-
derneath the water tower before he
saw them. He walked past his own
street — the one he’d grown up on,
the only street he’d ever lived on in
his 50 years — and didn’t even rec-
ognize it. He walked right past Craw-
ford Street, there on the east side of
Biloxi; it just didn’t look the same
He lived now at 211 Crawford, but
he’d grown up two doors down, in
the home his momma had lived her
whole life in. Daddy wasn’t from here.
Daddy was the man who’d grown
up in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and had been
sent to work in the coal mines at
the age of 12. Daddy, the man who
Anthony remembers walking in on
when he was a child and hearing
the words, “Aren’t you going to say
hello to the President?”, and Anthony
looking around and not seeing any-
one else in the room. But that’s the
childhood of the son of a paranoid
schizophrenic, of a man who lived in
a world of his own creation. At 22,
the man wanted out, and found his
exit from the open end of a gun.
It went on. The mud was everywhere.
The taste of gasoline was replaced
by the smell of natural gas. Anthony
heard a man yelling for help, and he
helped. He guided a mom and chil-
dren out of one home. He knocked
down a fence and used it to give
some elderly women a dry path to
escape their home, which had been
dislodged from its slab and crash-
landed in the middle of the road.
He found a bike with a fat tire and
started pedaling, down to Oak
Street. Stevie was alive there, some-
how, and Anthony found a ladder to
help him out of his house. The stairs
up to the front door had been de-
stroyed by the water.
Stevie smelled it too: the gas, escap-
ing out of pipes. Anthony pulled out
the wrench and started shutting of
gas lines, home by home, the frst
among the frst responders. They
went at it for hours. Anthony walked
Stevie home, and then went back to
Crawford Street. He found a banana
in the mud, peeled it and ate it. It
was the frst thing he’d eaten since
the storm. He still hadn’t gotten any
Anthony got up the next day and
kept shutting of gas lines. He found
a Salvation Army truck that was
handing out food and water, and
a man there asked him about the
wrenches. Anthony told him what he
was doing, and the man took him to
the back of the truck and gave him a
bottle of water and some fruit. Two
reporters from USA Today stopped
biloxi.indd 13 9/21/10 4:39:46 PM
to ask him some questions, and An-
thony gave them his story.
That night, sitting on his porch
on Crawford Street, Anthony saw
something he hadn’t seen since the
storm: a car coming down his street.
It stopped in front of his house.
The driver rolled down his window.
“Would you like a ham po-boy?” he
In his hand, he had half of a sand-
wich, a bag of chips and a bottle
of water, in a box from McAlister’s
Deli. Even fve years
later, Anthony wants
to thank the man for
that frst meal after
the storm, but he
doesn’t know where
to turn.
It went on. After the
frst article in USA To-
day, reporters started
coming to Anthony
to hear his story.
They came from as
far away as Chicago.
Their questions were
the same, Anthony
remembers. His answers were the
Anthony kept walking, his feet blis-
tering up until he started walking
with a limp. He stopped going past
the water tower, where the stench
from the bodies was overpowering.
The eye of the storm had passed 40
minutes to the west of Biloxi, but it
was here, in Anthony’s neighbor-
hood, where they had sufered the
most severe fooding. The streets
were empty. His neighbors were the
ones who’d called 911 that night,
in tears. Months later, the city of Bi-
loxi had to bring in counselors to
work with their 911 operators. They
couldn’t forget the voices: I’m in my
attic. The water’s up to my neck. This
is my social security number. Tell my
family I love them.
Anthony’s family found him on the
second day after the storm, but it
wasn’t until a week had passed that
they fnally convinced him that he
should get out of Biloxi for more
than a few hours. At his brother’s
home in the Back Bay, Anthony fell
asleep for the frst time in a week.
He woke up, and asked to be driven
back to Crawford Street. His fam-
ily insisted that he stay, sleep a few
hours more, but Anthony refused.
He’d gotten this unrelenting feeling
into his head, this desire to do the
right thing, and he couldn’t let it go.
That’s what he told his family. The
day before the storm, his brother,
Joey, called, and Anthony told him,
I’m staying on Crawford Street. I’ll
do the right thing. His friend, Da-
vid, called and said, Hey, T-Man, why
don’t you get out of there, and An-
thony told him, Don’t worry, I’ll do
the right thing. His niece, Wendy,
called, and Anthony told her, Don’t
worry, I’ll do the right thing. His baby
brother, Johnny, called, and Anthony
told him, Don’t worry, I’ll do the right
thing. Johnny’s daughter, Melaney,
called, and Anthony told her, It’ll be
alright. I’ll do the right thing.
Now Anthony was walking around
streets he no longer recognized, and
Anthony, man of God, was asking
himself, Why did my God do this?
Four hours he’d spent balled up on
the roof above his home while 135
mile-per-hour winds whipped over
him. Why had it
happened? Why
had he survived?
And Anthony start-
ed to think: Maybe
it was so I could
do the right thing.
Maybe it was so
I could do some-
thing to help.
So he stayed to shut
of gas lines, to act
as a guide for the
relief workers who
didn’t know their
way around the neighborhood the
way Anthony did. He slept on a mat-
tress on his front porch for months,
and every time a gust of wind rattled
his front door, Anthony would wake
up, convinced Katrina was back to
hit the neighborhood again. The
feeling never really went away. Liv-
ing on Crawford Street, surrounded
by the destruction, the homes shat-
tered and bent and bruised, the
neighbors dead or gone or forgot-
ten, he couldn’t stop the storm from
reliving itself over and over in his
It felt like time had stopped on that
The magnolia tree that An-
thony climbed to his roof.
biloxi.indd 14 9/21/10 4:39:46 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 1î
day, and in some ways, it did. An-
thony had two battery-operated
clocks sitting in his living room. Both
stopped fve seconds apart at 9:16
a.m., the moment the food waters
reached the little hand.
He did more interviews, sharing his
story with reporters, until one day, he
just didn’t feel like sharing anymore.
He couldn’t. He stopped referring to
the storm by name. Giving it a name
gave it an identity, and Anthony just
couldn’t grant it that.
About a year after the storm, the man
from Jackson called, and Anthony
decided that it was time to share his
story for the fnal time. So he started
writing, longhand, on big legal pads,
a story linear and haunting. He was
living in a FEMA trailer by then. His
sister took the pages and typed it
into Anthony’s book. He called it,
“My Side of the Eye,” after the center
of the storm that had passed over
his coast. Anthony’s not an author;
he says he doesn’t know what to do
with the words he’s written. So his
book has sat on a thumb drive in his
house, dormant, the story he meant
to share but hasn’t yet.
This year, he moved across the Back
Bay to D’Iberville. He still has trouble
sleeping, away from the only other
street he’s ever known, and the
home he put his life into, and the
humidity of those frst nights on the
front porch. The memories aren’t as
close now, he says. But they’re still
I tell him about what Bennett told
me, about PTSD, about it all, and An-
thony doesn’t seem too worried. He
tells me he doesn’t have it so bad. He
asks me where a guy like him could
even go to see a mental health
professional, and I ofer him a few
options. But that doesn’t seem to
take. He tells me he feels alright. He
doesn’t talk about it much anymore,
the storm, except to trade stories
on weekends. His neighbors had it
worse, he tells me. They’re the ones
who stood up to their necks in water
when the storm came in. They’re the
ones who needed saving.
He changes the subject. When the
weather cools down, and when his
back feels better, he wants to do
some more work on his Crawford
Street home. The place is still a mess.
After Katrina, he mopped the foors
and moved some stuf around, but
there’s plenty left to fx. He has a job
with a shipbuilder in Pascagoula,
but he’s been on leave for months
because of his back, which contin-
ues to bother him.
Some pain is easier to spot than oth-
¶ ¶ ¶
There’s this other part of the coast’s
mental health problem that goes
beyond any crisis of natural or eco-
nomic proportions. What’s going
on is easy to dismiss because, on its
face, it sounds ridiculous. Think of
it this way: in other cities, identity
is partially linked to monuments or
buildings, or songs or sports teams.
But the coast has none of those.
Their ancestry is the only thing that
gives them a sense of uniqueness.
These are communities whose iden-
tity is wholly tied to their people.
And right now, the people are fac-
ing a crisis of confdence.
What it stems from is this coast’s
unusual history with New Orleans.
French settlers frst landed on the
Mississippi coast in 1699 and placed
the capital of their new territory
here. Two decades later, they found-
ed New Orleans, and moved the
capital there.
The coast was where New Orleans
families traveled to — frst by steam-
boat, and later by rail or car — to
get away from the yellow fever that
plagued the city in summertime.
In 1892, after the Biloxi fshing feet
was destroyed by a hurricane, the
city appealed to New Orleans for
help, and help they received.
In terms of culture — especially
food, art and music — the coast
shares more in common with New
Orleans than it does with the rest of
the state of Mississippi. But the coast
can never break free of their ties to
Mississippi, and of all the things that
come with it: a long history of pov-
erty and racism; school systems that
consistently rate among the lowest-
ranked in America; and illiteracy.
New Orleans is considered an Amer-
ican treasure. The coast, it seems, is
The only things that break the mal-
aise here are these spurts of irratio-
nal exuberance. The coast knows
how to throw a party, especially on
Mardi Gras, where the celebration
“We’re as good as
they are. But
nobody’s paying
any attention.”
biloxi.indd 15 9/21/10 4:39:47 PM

rivals only — naturally — the one
thrown by their neighbors in New
Orleans. Graham, the executive di-
rector of the Interfaith Disaster Task
Force, says the parties are a coping
mechanism for the coast.
“It’s the way they manage the dis-
missal by the rest of the country….,”
she says. “It’s the way that they
survive, the way that they make
sense of it.”
But since Katrina, the dismissal
has only gotten worse. The eye
of the storm passed over Mis-
sissippi, and the worst of the
waves and winds hit the coast.
Locals know the story well,
though: in New Orleans, engi-
neering failures caused massive
fooding, and that’s what drew
news reporters to the city.
On the Mississippi coast, lo-
cals wanted to show of their
strength. Their governor fout-
ed government aid — we don’t
need the feds, he’d tell anyone
who’d listen — but at the same
time, his people wondered
when their help would arrive.
It’s a strange contradiction: the
locals who pride themselves on re-
siliency also feel envious — not re-
sentment, but envy — of their Loui-
siana neighbors, who received the
majority of the attention and aid.
Every time the President heads to
New Orleans for a stump speech,
or the government pledges more
money for schools there, or some-
one asks, But did the storm even hit
Biloxi?, locals here cringe.
“It’s kind of like family, when you’ve
got a favorite child, and then Freck-
les always takes the heat,” says the
Gulf Coast Mental Health Center’s
Bennett. “It has some impact on
you. It kind of diminishes your self-
esteem, maybe your general public
self-esteem is diminished in some
way. You feel less worthy, and then
you get defensive: ‘We’re as good as
they are. But nobody’s paying any
attention to us.’”
Locals don’t like, as Bennett puts it,
playing “second fddle to the metro
area.” They don’t understand why
they’ve been forgotten, and they do
feel forgotten.
For as bad as things were in New Or-
leans, things were worse here.
¶ ¶ ¶
Anthony Tryba’s parents always told
him: when the food waters come,
open the doors. Better to let the
house food than to let the whole
thing foat away.
He needs to throw himself out of the
home and into the magnolia tree,
because if he does not, he is going
to die in this home. The back door
is open, and the house is fooding.
And that’s about the point where
Anthony starts to realize what he’s
actually up against. He could
die; he may die; he cannot say.
Anthony is a man of God, and
out in his front yard is a tree of
life, that big hundred-year-old
magnolia just about as thick as
it is tall. This is Anthony’s last-
best plan.
Inside the house, it’s just him,
his dog Buddy and Kym. Kym is
Anthony’s ex-girl. They lived to-
gether on Crawford Street from
’87 until ’98, then broke up. In
’03, when her landlord jacked
up the price on her apartment,
Anthony let her move back in.
Stevie’s over in his house on
Oak Street, 20 feet up on stilts,
but he told Anthony the night
before that he didn’t want to
come over. They talked a few
minutes earlier; Stevie says he’s
watching refrigerators foat down
his street.
Then the water hit Crawford Street.
The speed limit’s 25 miles per hour,
but the water’s moving faster than
that, Anthony thinks. It hits his front
yard and starts rising, and Anthony
starts talking back to it, like it’s a
golf ball rolling past the hole: Slow-
He wants a camera, to take a photo
of what he’s seeing, but he doesn’t
have one. He wants a boat, or a lad-
der, or a helicopter, or a second foor
Anthony and his magnolia tree.
biloxi.indd 16 9/21/10 4:39:48 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 1I
on his home to get him the hell
away from this thing, but he doesn’t
have any of those, either.
It’s not like Anthony’s not wise to
the power of storms. He’s a veteran:
Camille, Elena, Georges. In Febru-
ary 1988, he received a U.S. pat-
ent — number 4726149 — for an
installable window protector that
could stop debris from fying into
your living room during a hurricane,
because he’s seen what happens
when bits of home and car get sent
airborne. When a storm’s coming,
Anthony turns on South Mississip-
pi’s only local TV station, ABC-afli-
ate WLOX, and listens for one thing:
the wind forecast. That’s what you’re
afraid of in a big storm when you’re
a half-mile to the tenth place from
the Gulf of Mexico. The meteorolo-
gist on WLOX is Mike Reader, and
Anthony heard what Mike had said:
when it made landfall, Katrina would
be moving at 135 miles per hour,
and Anthony thought, Hell, that’s
nothing. Camille hit us at 200 miles
per hour, and we can take anything
less than that.
But the water keeps rising through
the open back door, just like Antho-
ny’s momma said to do, and Antho-
ny’s chest is beating quadruple time.
He can’t breathe; is this a heart at-
tack? The thoughts start crashing in.
Where do I go? What do I do? Could
the water, maybe, just stop right
there, and drain right back out? The
water. Anthony doesn’t have food
insurance. He grabs photos and
throws them in a box. He fnds his
still-unopened, original-packaging-
and-all Mr. Potato Head, the one he’d
gotten from momma before going
under for hernia surgery in 1964. He
puts it all on top of the mattress in
his bedroom, which by now is foat-
ing on top of the water and debris.
He grabs the antique Coke machine,
the one he’d promised Wendy, and
stufs it into a high corner of the
kitchen. He has this thought that
Wendy will kill him if he loses that
Coke machine, but doesn’t want
to consider the fact that the water
might kill him frst. Not the time, re-
ally, to let something like that in.
His refrigerator has tipped over. Fur-
niture that used to belong to his
grandmother is foating. The water is
up above Anthony’s chest. Anthony
wrestles all 50 lbs. of Buddy of the
guest room mattress — wrestles be-
ing the literal term here: Buddy can’t
swim, and Anthony barely weighs a
buck-twenty, and this is a pretty fair
fght — and lifts him over his head,
and starts wading across the furni-
ture in his living room, hopping from
island to island. Kym follows. There is
a pack of D-cell batteries in his shirt
pocket and a Maglite tucked into the
back pocket of his jeans, and a 50-lb.
dog whimpering above his head.
They get to the front door, but it’s
swelling to cartoonish sizes. It won’t
open. Kym holds Buddy as An-
thony pulls and tugs and yanks on
the door, but it doesn’t budge. The
water is splashing up onto his face.
His mouth tastes of gasoline. And
then — Anthony doesn’t know why
— the door does the right thing and
nudges open, and Anthony grabs
his dog and pushes outside. They
get to the edge of the porch. The
magnolia’s ten, maybe twelve feet
Kym jumps frst, swims and grabs
some limbs. She’s safe.
Anthony takes Buddy and tries to
almost shot-put him into the tree.
Doesn’t work. Buddy comes up
eight feet short, and now the dog
that can’t swim starts trying to pad-
dle against the current, and the nails
and debris that are coming with it.
Then Anthony jumps in, and he’s
getting carried upstream, too. He’d
once been a junior lifeguard, but that
doesn’t really train you for something
like this. He’s 25 feet north of the tree
before he even gets in a stroke, he
and Buddy simultaneously strug-
gling against the water, swimming
toward the only thing left that can
save them.
Anthony keeps getting close. He
works his way up to the tree and
grabs, but can’t. He does it again,
and misses. Buddy’s still a few feet
back, trying to get to the magnolia.
Kym’s calling out Buddy’s name. An-
thony starts to think: maybe if I get
a few strokes past the tree, I might
be able to grab onto something.
It’s the trunk of the tree that fnally
takes hold, and Anthony climbs up.
Buddy reaches the tree. It’s been ff-
teen minutes in the water for both
of them, and Anthony reaches down
and gets his dog into the magnolia.
Then they start climbing, Buddy in
Anthony’s arms, Kym behind. They
climb back toward the house, out
on the limbs of the tree, to where
the branches hang over Anthony’s
roof. To shelter.
Anthony balls up there on his roof
just like a baby, getting as fat to
the roof as possible, his face in the
air, trying to wash the gasoline taste
out of his mouth with rainwater. He’s
thinking that even now, he does not
know if he will live.
story published on Sept. 17, 2010
biloxi.indd 17 9/21/10 4:39:48 PM

I have known Bob Bennett for about
10 minutes, and I cannot decide
if he’s making everything up. He’s
just spent the previous 10 minutes
confessing to the kind of stuf that
usually doesn’t get confessed in the
presence of a working tape record-
er, but hell, he’s the guy with the
Tulane Law degree and I’m the guy
with the tape recorder, and I’d hope
he knows more about what’s admis-
sible in court than I do.
I’ve come to his Biloxi-based seaside
hotel, the Edgewater Inn, to ask how,
exactly, business is these days, with
the oil spill hurting tourism and all,
and when, exactly, he started work-
ing in this business, and Bennett
has instead launched into a story
that involves racketeering, money
laundering, a judge in Des Moines,
Iowa, and Jimmy Freaking Hofa,
and I’m not even sure if I feel com-
fortable printing the whole thing.
Short version is, Bennett’s daddy’s
name was Harry, a Jew
with a head
for numbers. Momma was a Cajun-
Catholic named Ora, and you are
what you momma is, so Bennett is
a Cajun-Catholic too. Harry worked
as a bookie at a few casinos up and
down the coast in the ’40s and ’50s,
and when I mention to Bennett that
gambling wasn’t legalized in Missis-
sippi until the Clinton presidency,
he just sort of stares at me as if I’m
struggling to fnish the maze that
they print on the side of a Lucky
Charms box.
“You gonna call it illegal gambling,”
he says, “but it was just paying of
the sherif, paying the D.A., paying
the governor….”
In the ’60s, Harry and Ora launched a
new nightclub, the Red Carpet Club,
right up on Beach Boulevard next to
the Gulf. The RICO Act
things a little for daddy and mom-
ma, but the nightclub kept on
The place survived Camille,
but in ’85, a nothing storm called
Elena shorted out some circuits, and
the club burned to the ground. So
Bennett decided to take the place
and turn it into something honest.
In June of ’87, he opened the Edge-
water Inn, with 32 units by the sea.
He dedicated the place to momma.
Anyway, that’s how Bob Bennett
ended up the owner and operator
of the Edgewater Inn.
¶ ¶ ¶
“Theoretically, this a dream,” Bennett
tells me. “40 percent of my competi-
tion disappeared. So you’d think that
I would be in the catbird seat, right?
But now the tourists aren’t coming.”
I backtrack Bennett two sentences.
Your competition, I say. They…. dis-
“Katrina,” he says, and that explains
But the Edgewater, Bennett says,
was built to withstand winds up to
300 miles per hour, even though
nothing above 200 mph had ever
been measured on the coast.
“I had lived through Camille,” he
says. “I understood the dangers of
a major hurricane, because of Ca-
mille. And my brother was a builder,
so I asked good questions, and I had
the architect design it purposefully
to take that much wind. In other
words, if you’re in an area that you
know is subject to hurricanes, it
The tourism business is slumping in Biloxi these days. But a
hotelier with an unusual past is optimistic about his town’s future.
No Vacancy
1. who, naturally, was not in the mafa, Bennett assures me, which is kind of de-assuring in a
way, since I’ve been Jewish all my life and have never once been mistaken for Pacino, DeNiro or
Liotta, but anyway
2. Of which Section 1, Sub-section A reads, “(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or
threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in
obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical, which is chargeable
under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one year,” which should give
you an idea of what we’re dealing with here.
3. Daddy did not. In 1969, Harry was killed in what was later called a “gangland-style murder.”
Harry was allegedly about to testify to the feds about a crooked dice game at the Red Carpet.
biloxi.indd 18 9/21/10 4:39:49 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 19
No Vacancy
would be stupid to not design a ho-
tel to withstand the winds. And the
reason we’re at 28 feet elevation,
same thing. I wanted to be above
the water.”
In his entire hotel, only 10 rooms
— those that he had added in the
’90s and had built only 26 feet above
sea level — were damaged and shut
down by local ofcials. The rest of the
hotel never closed, Bennett says.
But competitors saw their build-
ings cut down to mere slabs. A few
chain hotels eventually returned,
but the mom-and-pop lodging did
not come back after the storm, ac-
cording to Bennett, who’s also the
president of the Mississippi Hotel
and Lodging Association.
A boutique hotel like the Edgewater
— which features jacuzzis in many
rooms and multi-bedroom cottages
for rent — saw loyal clientele return
quickly, Bennett says. He took a hit
during the recession in 2009, and
he feels lucky to have only sufered
“It wasn’t a recession as far as the
lodging industry” was concerned,
says Linda Hornsby, executive di-
rector of the Mississippi Hotel and
Lodging Association, of 2009. “It was
a depression.”
But in late spring of this year, Ben-
nett’s hotel was sold out four weeks
in a row. “There were signs that this
was going to be a breakout year,” he
Then the oil spill hit.
When President Obama came on a
visit to the coast in June, Bennett’s
wife, Mary Alice, was among the in-
vited business leaders who spoke
with the President.
And Mary Alice,
who everyone calls Missy, even got
the thumbs up from the President,
and this part I absolutely believe to
be true, since it’s in an ofcial White
House transcript:
see, this is a spectacular beach.
You’ve got Missy, who’s got a won-
derful inn, the Edgewater Inn –
MISSY BENNETT (co-owner, Edge-
water Inn): Thank you.
Bob Bennett inside one of the
suites at his boutique hotel,
the Edgewater Inn. Revenues
are down 40 percent this year
due to the oil spill, he says.
4. An aside from Bennett about his wife. They met in New Orleans 46 years ago. Someone set
them up on a blind date. 20 minutes into the date, he proposed. She said yes. A few weeks later, he
got on one knee and closed the deal. 18 months later, they were married, and nine months and
17 days after that, they had their frst child. Their son is now the manager of the Edgewater Inn.
biloxi.indd 19 9/21/10 4:39:49 PM

— and George (sic),
who’s got a terrifc
restaurant. What’s the
name of the restau-
Blow Fly Inn.
And Missy was men-
tioning she’s already
seen a 40 percent
drop in her occu-
pancy since this crisis
occurred, partly be-
cause of cancellations
of large groups that
were planning to stay
there. It just gives you
a sense — and those
folks who were going
to stay at Missy’s would have been
eating at George’s (sic).
Now, Bennett says the President’s
numbers were a bit of. Occupancy
has held steady since the spill. It’s
the revenue per available room
that’s dropped 40 percent.
The reason why is that the Edgewa-
ter is among the properties that’s
been renting out rooms to BP clean-
up workers. But the bad news for
Biloxi is that the high rate of occu-
pancy has not carried over to other
local businesses.
The BP employees are “not your
typical tourist, so the impact is felt
throughout tourism,” Hornsby says.
“BP contractors don’t rent jet skis.”
Bennett isn’t thrilled about renting
out rooms at heavily discounted
long-term rates, but he says he has
no alternatives.
“The reason I took it is because if I
didn’t take it, I’d have no business,”
he says. “The tourists are not com-
ing. So I took that business, as much
of it as I could take while still keep-
ing room for my repeat guests.”
Those BP workers will soon be clear-
ing out of his hotel, he says, and his
rate of occupancy will drop with it.
“When they go, I don’t know what
I’m going to do,” he says. “That’s
when it’s going to be bad.”
¶ ¶ ¶
Bennett was among those who
pushed the state Hotel and Lodg-
ing Association to endorse legalized
gambling in the 1990s.
His hotel
is next door to the Treasure Bay Ca-
sino, and he says he’s a true believer
when it comes to the casinos’ ability
to generate economic growth along
the coast. The fact that it’s not hap-
pening right now hasn’t dissuaded
him of that belief. When he looks at
Biloxi, he sees a potential gem of the
“Where we are now is analogous
to where we were after Camille,” he
says. “When you have a clean slate,
like we do now, of course you have
problems: insurance problems, pro-
motional problems, the oil problem.
But ultimately, we’re on the road to
becoming a premier destination….
“It’ll come back, bigger and better
than it ever was,” he says. “No doubt
in my mind.”
story published on Aug. 9, 2010
The Edgewater Inn’s loyal cli-
entele has returned this sum-
mer, Bennett says. It’s the more
casual travelers who are wary
of coming to the Gulf Coast.
5. Again, this despite the fact that gambling
in Biloxi eventually led to his father’s death.
biloxi.indd 20 9/21/10 4:39:55 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 11
Jr.’s Last-
Cast Efort
Michael Adams, Jr., was a successful restaurant manager,
boat captain and bass fsherman. Then the oil spill hit.
The dream, all along, was to fsh. ¶¶ Mike Jr.’s dad was the oyster-shucking
champion of the coast 14 years running. Mike Jr.’s neighborhood backed up
to the piers on Biloxi’s back bay, where the shrimp boats were hauling in
seafood faster than they could sell it. Mike Jr. was 11 years old, and all he want-
ed to do was fsh. ¶¶ Then it all started to happen. He’d hit
33, and after 15 years working maintenance for the county,
he’d quit. His parents had just opened Mikey’s on the
Bayou, a restaurant in St. Martin’s, to great acclaim,
and they decided to open a second location
over in D’Iberville. They called it Mikey’s
Cafe and Oyster Bar, and they made Mike
Mike Adams, Jr., tosses out a cast
in the bayou just east of Biloxi.
Mullet — the fying fsh locals
call “Biloxi bacon” — are
prevalent in these waters.
biloxi.indd 21 9/21/10 4:40:05 PM
Jr. manager. Place opened in Sep-
tember 2007.
Then it really started to happen. Mike
Jr. had been fshing semi-pro over in
the FLW’s Bass Fishing League, may-
be 10 events a year all around the
country. He wasn’t part of some big-
time fshing conglomerate. On his
competition uniform, it read, “Team
Mom & Dad.” But then in October
2007, he went up to Gilbertsville,
Ky., about halfway between St. Louis
and Nashville, and Mike Jr. nabbed
himself a prize-winning bass. They
gave him a boat and $40,000 as the
grand prize winner of the Kentucky
Lake BFL Regional.
Then Michael Adams Jr.’s luck ran
¶ ¶ ¶
Mikey’s Cafe and Oyster Bar will close
tomorrow, a few days shy of its third
anniversary. The promise was huge
for a place like Mikey’s, down of of
Central Ave. in D’Iberville. The tables
turned on pork chop night, and
the catfsh plates sold, and a 120 lb.
sack of oysters couldn’t stay full. The
economy was moving, and every-
one had a FEMA check to spend.
But then the economy swung, and
Mikey’s customers, almost all local,
stopped eating out as often. Adams
started selling 60 percent fewer pork
chops on pork chop night. Then
the BP well blew sky high, and the
price of seafood went with it. Sales
dropped 30 percent.
“It’d done well, and then it kind of
gradually slumped with the econ-
omy,” he says. “But we were doing
good. But when the oil hit, it just
done us in.”
The frst time I met Adams, he was
quietly boiling over. He’d been to
the BP claims ofce again, and he’d
seen it happen — again. He’d seen
the characters from a CCR song walk
in there and walk out with a guaran-
tee that BP would pay them to cater
a lunch for cleanup workers. Adams
just wanted to do the same.
But Mike Jr. wasn’t a senator’s son,
and when it came time to decide
who’d get the bid on the a cater-
ing job, it wasn’t much of a choice
between the son of the politician
and the son of the oyster-shucking
In three months, Adams had been
given one catering job by BP — “just
about had to beg them” to get it, he
says — but it kept the lights on at
Mikey’s. A month ago, Adams was
worried about the arrival of fall,
when D’Iberville’s set to begin con-
struction on Central Avenue, of of
which Mikey’s sits. When construc-
tion’s done in a year, city ofcials
predict that it’ll do great things for
business, but Adams was worried
that construction crews could scare
customers away.
“I’m hoping its not the nail in the
cofn,” he told me.
To keep the business going, Adams
opted to stop serving dinner on all
but Thursdays and Fridays. Then,
when we spoke two weeks ago,
Adams admitted that unless some-
thing changed, he was going to
have to shut down.
This week, the fnal decision was
made: close Mikey’s.
“It’s kind of been coming,” he says.
“We were hoping BP would bail us
out, but we didn’t see a dime.”
¶ ¶ ¶
The bad luck kept coming. In March,
Adams launched Fort Bayou Char-
ters, his charter fshing company. For
anywhere between $300 and $500,
Adams will take a small group out
for a full day of fshing. He says he
started to book charters quickly.
“For just starting out, it was looking
good,” he says.
His bass fshing boat could only car-
ry two other passengers, so Adams
decided to buy to a bigger boat. He
had a dozen charters booked for the
month of May when the blowout on
the Deepwater Horizon caused oil to
begin hemorrhaging into the Gulf.
State ofcials closed local waters,
but Adams was hearing that the well
would be fxed quickly. He assured
customers that the fshing would
resume soon, and he went ahead
and purchased his new boat. Within
days, all but one of the charters had
Since the spill, Adams says he’s char-
tered just three fshing trips. And
more bad news: two weeks ago, his
new boat just stopped running out
in the middle of the Gulf. Two weeks
later, his mechanic’s still not entirely
sure what’s wrong with it.
“We were hoping
BP would bail us
out, but we didn’t
see a dime.”
biloxi.indd 22 9/21/10 4:40:06 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 11
“I never should have bought that
damn boat,” he says.
¶ ¶ ¶
Adams takes me out on his boat
— the working, bass one — to see
the backwaters near his other res-
taurant, Mikey’s on the Bayou. That’s
where, as of Monday, he’ll be work-
ing as manager. He says the view of
the water helps bring in customers
to the restaurant, and business there
is still strong.
For someone who’s been so thor-
oughly hosed by BP — his restau-
rant is closing because they dou-
bled or tripled the price of seafood,
and then they wouldn’t toss him but
a single catering job, and then their
oil shut down his fshing business —
Adams doesn’t seem to be that out-
raged, at least outwardly. I ask him
about this, and he reminds me that
fve years ago, he was driving a truck
for the county government. Now,
he’s working two jobs he loves.
“Once you’ve done tasted this,” he
says, “and you enjoy something as
much as this, you’re willing to work
on it and sacrifce things.”
Still, Adams knows what’s at risk.
He’s got a wife and two children.
Since Katrina, he’s been the sole
source of income for his family. The
money from his 2007 bass fshing
win has run out, and he’d like to
fnd a new revenue stream.
So he’s got this other idea in the
works: a bayou tour. Biloxi already
has a shrimp tour, where for $15,
tourists can go out on a boat and
see what it’s like to be a shrimper.
Adams wants to do the same for
the bayou. He wants to dock a boat
next to Mikey’s on the Bayou and
ofer daily tours for a dozen or so
people. He’d charge $25 a head.
He’d ofer the history of the homes
along the bayou, and point out
wildlife on the way, and toss a giant
net out into the water to catch mul-
let, the foot-long fsh that locals call
“Biloxi bacon.” He thinks that once it
launches — and once he buys the
boat big enough to make it work
— it’ll sell.
But the plan hinges on one thing:
tourists returning to the coast. If
they don’t come, Adams doesn’t
know what he’s going to do.
Or maybe something will break his
way. Adams will take his bass boat
north to Florence, Ala., at the end
of the month for a FLW American
Fishing Series event. Winner gets a
boat, a truck and a big cash prize.
One great cast could make it all
happen again.
story published on Sept. 2, 2010
Out on the Gulf, Adams says he feels con-
fdent that business will return. At least
on the surface, there isn’t any oil visible
along the Mississippi shoreline.
biloxi.indd 23 9/21/10 4:40:13 PM
God Bless
You, Walmart
In Pass Christian,
they give thanks
for what they have.
And these days,
they’re saying...
Chipper McDermott has not forgot-
ten the date: February 8, 2008, the
day a town called Pass Christian
found a savior.
The cry went out from the roof-
tops, or whatever was left of them:
Walmart was coming home.
“It was a damn big day,” says McDer-
mott, the city’s mayor.
So this is not the story of big, bad
Walmart, coming in and taking busi-
ness away from local stores. In Pass
Christian — the west Mississippi
town that Camille knocked fat to
the ground and that Katrina top-
pled again — Walmart’s return to its
beachfront, pre-Katrina location was
cause for celebration.
“It was almost a rebirth,” says Huey
Bang, a city alderman. “It was just
pure excitement. It was that vitamin
shot you needed…. It sure makes
life a lot easier.”
Understand where Pass Christian
is coming from. It’s a six-mile-wide
strip of land that stretches, at its
farthest, a mile from the water. Mc-
Dermott says the city has always
made its money of of ad valorem
taxes, which are based on the value
of land. And along the beach, Pass
Christian’s land is very valuable. Mc-
Dermott says in the ’50s, the city’s
Scenic Avenue was the third richest
street in the country. Wall Street was
number one.
But Hurricane Camille devastated
the city. The eye of the storm passed
directly over Pass Christian, bringing
with it waves that were measured at
22 feet, 6 inches. It was the highest
recorded storm surge in American
“Destruction in this area was virtu-
ally complete, resembling more the
efect of a tornado than a hurricane,”
said the U.S. Army Corps of Engi-
neers of Mobile, Ala., in a May 1970
report. At least half, or maybe two-
thirds of taxable property in the city
was wiped out.
Of the 4,000 people living in Pass
Christian at the time of Camille, doz-
ens died. A week after the storm, the
Daily Herald newspaper published
an article titled, “Pass Not to Be Put
biloxi.indd 24 9/21/10 4:40:14 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 1î
God Bless
You, Walmart
to Torch,” in which “Navy ofcials at-
tempted to disqualify rumors which
have prevailed over the past two or
three days that Pass Christian was so
devastated by Hurricane Camille that
it was going to be burned.” Mayor J.J.
Wittman told reporters that week, “I
am mayor of a city in name only.”
¶ ¶ ¶
The city did rebuild, eventually. A
new City Hall went up on the highest
land that Pass Christian has — about
24 feet above sea
level. By the 2000
Census, over 6,000
people lived in Pass
But Pass Christian re-
mained a residential
area. They live here,
Bang says, but lo-
cals work elsewhere
— in Gulfport, say,
15 minutes to the
west, or out at busi-
nesses near Inter-
state 10.
In 2002, Census workers charting
economic data found that Pass
Christian had only 20 retail stores,
employing a total of 168 people.
Then Walmart showed up in 2003
and changed all that. The store hired
over 300 people, according to com-
pany reports. Most remarkable of all,
McDermott notes, is that the store
even decided to come to Pass Chris-
tian. The city lobbied Walmart for
months, but company executives
were concerned about the location.
The Beach Boulevard property is just
feet from the water, and Walmart
analysts were looking at what was
inside a fve-mile radius of the prop-
erty. Half of that territory is in the
Gulf of Mexico; Walmart would’ve
preferred a large neighborhood of
discount shoppers.
Still, city leaders managed to land
the store. Pass Christian had never
made much money of sales tax
before, but that number started to
grow now that Walmart was in town.
The housing market was also boom-
ing across the coast.
And then Katrina hit.
Remember those 22.6-foot surges
from 1969’s Camille? Katrina’s surge
rose to 27.8 feet in Pass Christian,
which is a mark that’s still yet to be
topped. Homes that had been re-
built after Camille had to be rebuilt
again. Even the Walmart was de-
McDermott became mayor in 2006,
with two questions on his mind: Can
we rebuild? And how?
City Hall was destroyed, so they
held meetings at the fre house un-
til FEMA trailers arrived. Help came
from unexpected sources: the na-
tion of Qatar gave $5 million. Naper-
ville, Ill., gave $1.2 million. Menno-
nites showed up to build two dozen
Then came the best news of all. Just
as recovery funds were starting to
slow, Walmart decided to return,
but only after moving to a location
about 1,500 feet back from the wa-
ter. The store reopened on October
14, 2009. McDermott says it’s gener-
ating 70 percent of the sales tax rev-
enue in the city, which might mean
an additional $600,000 this year to
help balance
the city’s bud-
get. It will not
keep the city
afoat, he says,
but it will help.
¶ ¶ ¶
Cons t r uct i on
work is under-
way across all
parts of the
city. There’s still
much to be
done on the
new $25 million harbor, and on the
$11 million downtown. But McDer-
mott’s thrilled about the view from
his new ofce. After four years, he’s
fnally moved out of his trailer and
into the $6 million, U.S. taxpayer-
funded City Hall, which reopened
last month.
The city, though, is returning more
slowly. In the upcoming Census re-
port, McDermott expects the city to
measure at just over 4,000 residents.
Bang says he’s been frustrated,
sometimes, at the rate of re-growth
story continued on p. 30
Above, the harbor in Pass Christian is about to undergo $25
million in renovations. At left, a bust of W. Dayton Robinson,
whose $2 million donation helped City Hall expand after Katrina.
biloxi.indd 25 9/21/10 4:40:15 PM

Insuring Himself
to the Death
Gulf Coast home insurance policies aren’t easy to understand. Not
even for the businessmen who deal with them on a daily basis.
Twenty dollars could have saved
Charlie Green thousands.
Green doesn’t have much of an
excuse. He was an insurance agent
in Pascagoula, Miss., for nearly a
decade. Then he started his own,
self-titled real estate agency in the
1970s, and in the early 1990s, he
founded his own construction com-
pany, Green Way Builders. He has
about 40 properties along the coast
that he rents. He’s spent his life
working with homes along the Gulf
Coast, and he’s lived through both
hurricanes Camille and Katrina. He’s
the seventh of nine generations
of Greens who’ve lived in Jackson
County, and his family knows the
history of storms that have hit the
Gulf. If anyone was going to get his
home insurance policy right, it was
going to be Green.
But even Charlie Green didn’t.
“I wish I’d known,” he says. “I should
have known.”
Green had several forms of insur-
ance on his home, he says. He
had a homeowner’s policy, which
covers fre and theft. He had insur-
This is what the post-Katrina
building codes call for: homes
standing up to 25 feet in the
air. This one, in east Biloxi, is
just a FEMA trailer on stilts.
biloxi.indd 26 9/21/10 4:40:16 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 1I
Insuring Himself
to the Death
ance covering both wind and hail.
He also had complete food insur-
ance — at least he thought he did
— covering both building and
There isn’t a single policy that cov-
ers both types of food insurance
anymore. In case of food, building
coverage pays for the structure
itself, as well as the foundation
and items like a water heater or
refrigerator. But other items are
not included in building coverage.
It covers homeowners for built-in
dishwashers but not portable ones.
Stoves are included, but washing
machines are not.
To get full coverage on everything
inside a property, homeowners also
need contents coverage, and Green
didn’t have it. His insurance agent
had called over the previous years
to try to sell him on things he didn’t
need, like nursing home insurance,
but he says his agent had never
once mentioned the food-related
hole in his insurance coverage.
When Katrina hit, Green found out
how big the hole was.
“I lost everything on the bottom
foor,” he says. “We had to throw
everything away. All the kids’ stuf,
all the appliances, all the electri-
cal stuf. Everything. And I had to
replace every bit of it out of pocket,
because none of it was covered for
lack of a $22 addition to my policy.”
¶ ¶ ¶
The frst time I heard the phrase
was from Bill Stallworth, a Biloxi city
councilman. He serves in Ward 2,
the strip of the city that is to Biloxi
what the Lower Ninth Ward is to
New Orleans. It was the hardest hit
during Katrina, and it’s also the area
that, fnancially, is still struggling to
build back.
So when it comes to the insurance
companies — or any real estate
suitor looking to buy land for cheap
in Biloxi — Stallworth says his con-
stituents have a phrase:
Make me whole.
These locals aren’t looking for a
payday, Stallworth assures me. But if
they lost something, and they had
insurance on it, they’d like to be
reimbursed in full.
Still, fve years after Katrina, the
refrain across the Gulf Coast is that
the insurance companies have not
been fair to locals. The Deepwater
Horizon disaster has hit the tourism
and seafood industries especially
hard, and the economy has hurt
builders and buyers, but no single
class, race or industry has been
unafected by the decisions of the
insurance companies.
I put the subject to two current
mayors on the Gulf Coast, as well
as three retired mayors of Biloxi,
and all fve men suggested that the
single greatest obstacle holding
back the coast is insurance costs.
The insurance industry’s post-Ka-
trina infuence came up so often
during interviews — and without
my prompting — that I stopped
asking about it, and instead just
waited for the interviewee to steer
the conversation in that direction.
They always do. The head of the
Biloxi school system told me that
his enrollment is down because
parents have moved to areas where
insurance costs are afordable. The
president of the local branch of the
NAACP wanted to speak on the
subject, and so did an Irish-born
Catholic priest and a Biloxi-born
bishop. In interviews, architects,
city councilmen, restaurant owners,
auto mechanics, fshermen, art-
ists, librarians and retirees have all
pointed to insurance costs as the
no. 1 reason why the coast has not
built back in full.
“It’s just outrageous,” says Biloxi
mayor A.J. Holloway. Pass Christian
mayor Chipper McDermott put it
another way: “Insurance is killing
everybody. That’s why you haven’t
seen the coast jump back like it did
in the old days.”
Across the coast, residents say their
insurance costs have risen any-
where from several dozen to several
hundred percent since the storm.
The only coast-based business, it
seems, that’s been done right by
the insurance companies is Wafe
House. There are dozens of Wafe
Houses that dot both sides of High-
way 90, the road that runs right up
against Mississippi’s coastline. Bob
Bennett, owner of the Edgewater
Inn and the Wafe House that sits
on his property, told me that the
restaurant chain purchased excel-
lent insurance before Katrina, and
payouts from those policies meant
that it cost Wafe House just pen-
nies to rebuild their stores in full.
On the stretch of Highway 90 from
Biloxi to Gulfport, there used to be
dozens of restaurants. Now, plots
of land sit vacant, the Scrabble tiles
of the Wafe Houses illuminating
nearby land that’s since become
too expensive to build on.
biloxi.indd 27 9/21/10 4:40:16 PM

¶ ¶ ¶
There was a point, Charlie Green
remembers, when homeowner’s
policies were simpler, and when
they actually covered the home
and everything inside. The prob-
lem is that many of these hom-
eowners are unaware that their
policies no longer ofer total cov-
erage. A survey released Tuesday
by MetLife Auto & Home found
that 71 percent of homeowners
do not actually know how much
an insurance company would pay
out in case of a natural disaster.
Today’s insurance policies are bro-
ken up into several segments:
* The basic homeowner’s policy
is still covered by any number of
insurance agents on the coast or
around the country.
* Flood insurance — for both
building and contents — is cov-
ered through the National Flood
Insurance Program, which is ad-
ministered by FEMA. Unlike other
insurance policies, the costs are set
by the federal government, not by
insurance companies or agents.
But a policy must still be purchased
through a licensed agent.
* Wind insurance in the south-
ernmost counties is often provided
through the Mississippi Windstorm
Underwriting Association. Rates
vary depending on which of the
four designated zones a home is lo-
cated in. Zone A covers beachfront
property, Zone B covers most of the
land south of Interstate 10, and so
on moving north. The windpool, as
it’s called, has lowered their rates
recently to reduce some of the
insurance burden on homeowners.
New insurance regulations have
also been added after Katrina to
ensure that holes in coverage are
closed. If a homeowner does not
have complete coverage, the state
will now send the homeowner a
certifed letter explaining the gap.
¶ ¶ ¶
Many insurance companies ofer
“safe driver” discounts for those
who are less likely to get into ac-
cidents. Less risky drivers pay less.
But building codes on the coast
are up to their highest standards
ever, which makes these homes less
likely to be destroyed by a hurri-
cane. So if there’s less risk of prop-
erty destruction, why aren’t home
insurance costs actually lower than
they were before Katrina?
The answer: the insurance compa-
nies say that those building codes
are still not strong enough.
The Institute for Business and Home
Safety — an insurance indus-
try-funded group that features
executives from Allstate, Farmers
Insurance, MetLife, Nationwide and
State Farm on its board of directors
— released a report last week stat-
ing the building codes in Louisiana
were up to par, but standards in
Alabama and Mississippi were
deemed inadequate.
The same report, however, said that
the three coastal counties in Mis-
sissippi — Jackson, Hancock and
Harrison — had building codes that
were up to their standards. It’s the
inland counties of Mississippi that
insurance companies are worried
about. Many homes in those coun-
ties sufered damages in Katrina
due to wind, but none were hit
with the fooding that caused the
majority of the destruction along
the coast.
Green says he just cannot under-
stand why he’s paying so much for
insurance, especially if the homes
he owns — and the homes he’s
building — are up to code. Person-
ally, he says, he thinks the insurance
companies have been “treating
people like they’re dog dookie.”
“Quite frankly,” he says, “I wish they’d
have a catastrophe to put every
one of these sons of bitches out of
business. That’s how I feel about it.”
story published on Aug. 25, 2010
Charlie Green at the Pascagoula ofce for his real estate and con-
struction companies. He says that insurance issues are taking up
more of his time -- and causing more headaches -- than ever before.
biloxi.indd 28 9/21/10 4:40:22 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 19
George Sekul’s
Last Rah-Rah
The local coaching legend’s fnal dream: an all-star game in Biloxi.
It’s 1 p.m. in Biloxi, Miss., and let’s talk
about dreams for a second. Buy a
home, build a home, raise a family,
send ‘em of to college, start a busi-
ness, sell a business, make a million,
or two, or fve, or make something,
at least. All dreams, all out there.
George Sekul just wants a football
Right up there on that brand-new
all-weather Biloxi H.S. football feld
that sales tax built: the Beau Rivage
Junior College East-West All-Ameri-
can Game. Or, if the NJCAA regents
don’t like that, maybe just the George
Sekul Junior College All-American
Game. Either’ll do.
And nobody’s disputing that Sekul’s
got the C.V. to do it. He won when
he was the quarterback at Biloxi
High. Won a Division II national
championship as QB at Southern
Miss in ’58. Went to the Senior Bowl
in Mobile in ’59. Took over the job at
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community
College in ’61, and won two titles
there, the frst two years after Hur-
ricane Camille hit. Lifetime record of
204-77. Winningest coach in junior
college football history when he re-
tired. Bought a yacht and named it
“Rah-Rah,” with everything but the
exclamation point on the end to
let you know that this is a man who
measures himself by down and dis-
His father had dreams. Built a small
seafood empire starting from just
a third-grade education. Bought a
home down on Myrtle Street, so
close to the shore, when Camille
came in, the place flled up with
four feet of water before the second
hand had swung back around to the
12. Got a couple of shrimping boats
out on the Gulf, and named the frst
one “Captain Blood,” because that’s
what the workers called him. Named
the fourth one “Quarterback.” Guess
who that one’s for.
The Quarterback’s done impossible
before. He got a college scholar-
ship standing 5’10” and weighing
not much more than the critters
his daddy was dragging in from the
Gulf. In ’69, after the frst storm-of-a-
lifetime, his MGCCC team got asked
to play just days after the hurricane
hit. Some of the team decided not
to come back, or others just didn’t
return until weeks later. The team
had a week’s worth of practice to-
gether before taking the feld. The
Quarterback gave ‘em the rah-rah
and whirled ‘em out there.
“We got our butts beat,” he says.
But no excuses! Sekul learned it in
football and he learned it in busi-
George Sekul, the head coach
with the dream of one last
great football game.
biloxi.indd 29 9/21/10 4:40:29 PM

in Pass Christian. But he also admits that his expecta-
tions continue to change.
“My thought after the storm was, in a couple years, we’ll
have all new structures all over the place,” he says. “I was
naive in thinking that it was only going to be a couple
of years.”
But growth can still come, even for a
tiny town like Pass Christian. McDer-
mott’s team is ready to make a push
to annex some of the land north of
Pass Christian. Much of it is a bayou
that’s unft for building, but McDer-
mott’s confdent that he’ll be able to
expand the city limits — and maybe
take the city a few steps beyond the
pre-Katrina days.
But no matter how far inland the
city goes, McDermott knows that it’s
the view of the Gulf that’s going to keep Pass Christian
“Natural beauty’s what built this town,” he says, “and
that’s what’s going to save it.”
story published on Aug. 11, 2010
God Bless You, Walmart
ness, and he learned it again in 2005,
because after Katrina, nobody was
thinking about coming back to Bi-
loxi. And of course not! There are 40-
year-old men living along the Gulf
Coast who’ve already lived through
two once-in-a-lifetime storms. There
are men in FEMA jumpsuits saying
that new homes in the newly-ex-
panded food zone have to start 20
feet in the air, and there are insur-
ance agents with clipboards saying
that you’ve never seen anything
quite as high as the insurance bill
you’re about to open. If you’re gon-
na stay, you’ve got to wanna.
So make something. Sekul can’t
build a casino, and there’s nothing
but a slab from where his father’s
seafood business once sat. A foot-
ball coach retired 19 years just has to
dig way back and fnd that one last
pylon to aim for.
“Every day, I think about another
goal I had, which I haven’t given up
yet,” he says. “I want to bring a junior
college All-American game to Bi-
There hasn’t been a game like this
played since ’56 — when Sekul
played in it. That’s the game that got
Sekul noticed by Southern Miss, and
into school, and into coaching, and
into the only life he’ll ever know. His
father wanted him to be bigger than
shrimping, and that all-star game
made it so. Maybe it could do the
same for some other local kid.
“Got a dream?” Sekul keeps remind-
ing himself, the old ballcoach the
only man left to hear that last rah-
rah. “Go get it.”
He says he wants to pick up the
phone. Shouldn’t be too hard con-
vincing the NJCAA; he’s already in
their Hall of Fame.
Thing just needs a name. Funny
thing about a place like Biloxi is how
things get passed down: homes, trin-
kets, names. How many generations
you had family here? Just count the
digits on the end of the frst born’s
birth certifcate. There isn’t a square
inch of the Biloxi phone book that
doesn’t have a Jr. or a III or even a
few IVs in it. Pick a name and hang
onto it for a few hundred years.
The George Sekul Junior College All-
American Game?
That could do.
story published on Aug. 5, 2010
story continued from p. 25
The Pass Christian Walmart,
just a few steps from the beach
and the Gulf of Mexico.
biloxi.indd 30 9/21/10 4:40:35 PM
tep|ca|, aet t¡p|ca| 11
a remarkable lineage of Biloxians in
his own right.
Back in the ’80s, Bobby recalls, the fu-
ture for Biloxi was unclear. The coast
had rebuilt after Camille, and the
city had paid of its debts. But Biloxi
faced new economic challenges.
“We were a tourist town without
tourists,” he says. Gerald Blessey, the
mayor at the time, says fve of the
city’s hotels were in bankruptcy.
Mary Mahoney’s $14 seafood gum-
bo wasn’t much in vogue.
“We needed an attraction,” Blessey
But then the other thing arrived that
saved Bobby Mahoney’s ass: legal-
ized gambling.
Make a list of things that kept Biloxi
in business, Bobby says, and “casinos
would be 90 percent of the list.” He
says after casinos arrived in the early
1990s, his business tripled.
“Yeah, we were smoking,” he said.
Then Katrina came and knocked the
casinos ofine for a year, some for
18 months. But they did come back,
and impressively so. In 2007, Biloxi
pulled in more than $1 billion in
gross gaming revenue, higher than
at any point before Katrina, accord-
ing to city records.
Thanks to tourism, Bobby says busi-
ness is doing fne. Mary Mahoney’s is
right there on Casino Row, Highway
90 in downtown, a crosswalk away
from both the Hard Rock and the
Beau Rivage. Tourism is down a few
ticks due to the economy and the
oil spill this year, but as Bobby notes,
“that entertainment dollar is always
the last one to go in a recession.”
“They’ll cut out buying big cars,” he
says. “They’ll cut out buying appli-
ances and homes and things like
that. But that last dollar to go is the
one we can eat with and drink with.”
As long as people are still spend-
ing money on casino vacations, he
says, they’ll fnd their way across the
street for white tablecloths and low
lighting and gumbo. He says he’s
not seeing growth in revenues right
now, but his numbers have stayed
fat these last two years. Many in Bi-
loxi aren’t as lucky.
His prices haven’t risen due to spill-
infated seafood prices, either. He
says his margins are enough as is to
make do for the restaurant and the
three generations of Mahoneys that
depend on it. Most in Biloxi aren’t as
Yes, Mary Mahoney’s is the excep-
tion in town. It is fne dining in a
city where, during the casino boom
of the late 1990s, income still mea-
sured less than $18,000 per capita.
Three blocks away, homes still under
construction sit on stilts, but here at
the Old French House, there is just
the warm bubble of Casino Row, in-
sulating all that sit within.
Camille couldn’t fnish of Bobby
Mahoney, and neither could Katrina,
or for that matter a piece of glass, or
a recession, or the largest environ-
mental disaster in American history.
The tourists just keep coming, the
tables just keep turning over. Here at
the restaurant Mary created, her son
can look out from inside the bubble
of Casino Row and wonder if this, f-
nally this, was built to last.
story published on Aug. 1, 2010
The Thing That
Saved Bobby
Mahoney’s Ass
story continued from p. 5
One of the dining rooms at
Mary Mahoney’s, which
survived despite severe water
damage caused by fooding
during Hurricane Katrina.
biloxi.indd 31 9/21/10 4:40:36 PM