10 Commandments of Bay Living

We are a laid-back bunch on the Bay. It’s part of our charm. But there’s a difference between laid-back and flat out horizontal. There are rules that must be followed. Actually, we have commandments, 10 of them. And here they are, with apologies to Moses. For it is written …

1. Thou shalt learn to pronounce the city we love.

A mobile, pronounced “mo-bul, ” is a whimsical contraption suspended over an infant’s crib with Winnie the Pooh characters tethered from strings and accompanied by lullaby music. Being mobile, pronounced the same as aforementioned, is a state of movement, as in, “After using my toe to tease the blue crab, I became mobile.”

Know your syllables! “Mo–BEE-el, ” is the Port City. The emphasis is on the “Beeel, ” not the Mo. So there ya go.

2. Thou shalt have no graven images before the Admiral Semmes statue.

Mobile’s most famous statue stands proudly at the mouth of Government Street’s Bankhead Tunnel. The depiction shows Confederate Navy hero Admiral Raphael Semmes gazing toward the sea, perhaps looking for ships, which he will never find. His back is turned to the river. Our iconic statue is made of bronze so as not to be taken for granite. 

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Admiral Raphael Semmes died from eating bad shrimp. Coincidentally, his statue has turned bright green, perhaps just like he did after that rancid dinner. 

3. Remember thine squirrels, and feed with caution.

Here’s a Bienville Square magic trick: Sit on a park bench and toss a peanut to a lone squirrel. Close your eyes, count to 10 and open. Then there will be three squirrels. Close and open your eyes again. Then there will be a dozen rowdy rodents, ready to rumble. Do not close your eyes again. Leave the peanuts. Take refuge.

4. Honor thy big ship with thine presence.

The Carnival cruise ship, Fantasy, and the GulfQuest Maritime Museum are almost side-by-side and look alike. To avoid confusion, use the two-day rule: If after boarding the Fantasy, two days have passed, and you still see Mobile, it is not the Fantasy. If you enter GulfQuest, two days have passed and you see Mexico, it is not GulfQuest.  

5. Honor thy Mardi Gras and not that of New Orleans.

Oh sure, the Big Easy’s celebration is bigger — but not better. Crescent City revelers receive more national publicity. They’re also famous for streets named with 24 consonants and no vowels, below sea-level cemeteries where pallbearers wear SCUBA gear and native inhabitants who suck the brains from crustaceans. 

Mardi Gras originated in Mobile. Beautiful floats parade before crowds with outstretched arms, and maskers toss delicious MoonPies. New Orleans’ maskers on the other hand, well, maybe they toss decapitated crustaceans.

6. Thou shalt not bear false witness about a jubilee.

Jubilee is a rare phenomenon where masses of fish literally flop on beaches, offering free seafood for the taking. Those who happen to experience the aquatic miracle often embellish their fishy stories, just for the halibut. 

I’m sorry, but from the midnight tides of Point Clear, you did not scoop Jubilee tuna, Alaskan salmon or GPS-impaired New England lobsters. So stop it. Lobsters are from Maine, and they do not adorn their pinchers with Costco duct tape. Nice try, Captain Ahab. 

7. Make a joyful noise in thine tunnels.

No one knows why we blow automobile horns while driving below the Mobile River. Submarines run silent and deep. They never go beep-beep, but we do. We don’t try to explain: We just do it. 

Traveling in the tunnels while tooting horns is perfectly acceptable, but driving through the underwater thoroughfare and impishly pointing at its ceiling while shouting “Leak! There she blows!” is not. 

8. Thou shalt not fake the “Sandy Shake.”

In 2013, social media ignited with the “Sandy Shake.” In a 30, 000-hit video on YouTube, in what appears to be a strategy session, Mobile mayoral candidate Sandy Stimpson broke into a rendition of the Harlem Shake. Staffers joined in, with gyrations not seen since Hormel introduced 12-Alarm Chili. Many tried emulating the Sandy Shake. None were successful. Six months later, Stimpson was elected. To date, he has not appeared on “Dancing with the Stars, ” nor have any Mobile city councilmembers, who were unavailable for comment. 

9. Thou shalt not covet thine neighbor’s team. 

Badgers, Rams, Jaguars, Tigers or Elephants, our college team mascots have one commonality: They are all animals not native to our state. Most are not even native to America.

Similarly, when the Iron Bowl ends, regardless of the outcome, let there be peace on earth, and let the elephant lie down with the tiger. But until then — Roll Tide, baby! 

10. Remember thy sunscreen, and keep it handy.

A Psalm to the Sunburned: 

On Gulf Shores beaches a stranger did play, On a clear and hot, July summer’s day. 
When behold, his skin took a reddish hue, Then baked, nay cooked, like barbecue. 
“What sorcery is this?” the Yankee did cry,  
As he fell victim to rays from Baldwin skies. 
Woe unto thee, with skin parching unreal. For ye learned the hard way, thou shalt surely peel.

text by Emmett Burnett • illustration by laurie kilpatrick

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