Jesse Florence Zenor wants to make a difference. After completing architectural studies at Auburn, she moved to the Gulf Coast to do Hurricane Katrina relief work. She stayed. After the cleanup and a stint in an architectural design firm, Jesse craved a deeper community connection. She opened The Greenhouse on Porter, a coffeehouse in the small town of Ocean Springs.
The coffee house is located in a former greenhouse that had been empty since Katrina. The menu is simple: hand cut biscuits and coffee and beer. The social itinerary is more complex. The coffee house sponsors Saturday morning bike rides, musical events, lectures, and art shows. This week it got a ”takeover” by a group of high school girls who coordinated music and art to an Instagram feed.
The night I arrived in Ocean Springs, Jesse took me to a dinner party: four women and six men, only one of whom had gray hair. Some were single, some coupled. They worked a variety of occupations, from shipyard worker to State Department official, school administrator to hurricane chaser. The group meets every Sunday for potluck. “What we have in common is no children.”
The potluck group began as a social activity. However, they have developed a vested interest in local issues. They regularly attend city council meetings, where they tweak the established powers. They organize community forums to surface and debate local concerns. We sat on deck raised over a swamp discussing the stuff of Mississippi life: wind and flood insurance premiums that exceed monthly mortgages, the resurgence of otters, the demise of Lightning bug’s. These folks know a lot about snakes.
How will we live tomorrow?
“Free.” – Charlie
“As a scientist I think we have two change many things in our world. I hear the stories my father told me about how things were when we were young. So much of that is gone. What will I have two give my children that’s valuable, that’s still left? That’s why I do what I do.” – Charles, Oyster Researcher for State of Mississippi.
“Brewing and bonding. The way the world is changing requires us to be able to change and accept change. I think the enthusiasm over Wal-Mart and McDonald’s is turning around and we are returning to small-scale, decentralized commerce.” – Jesse
“Without pressure.” – Ali
“I suppose ultimately everything we do is based on experiences we’ve already had. Tomorrow, we will make decisions in the moment that will determine what we do. No decisions are made without prior information.” – James