MARTY RUSSELL: Something’s burning and it’s an Oxford motorist

By Marty Russell/NEMS Daily Journal

I’m thinking of burning an Oxford street map. OK, so it’s not the Quran but the maps are free in some places so it’s not likely to cost me anything as compared to burning a Quran which could cost you your life.
Actually, the planned burning of a Quran by the ridiculously ludicrously named Dove World church in Gainesville, Fla., might actually serve to bring Muslims and tolerant Christians together if only to deal with the church’s pastor, Terry Jones, for being so intolerant and lumping all followers of Islam into the same category as the extremists we are currently at war with.
But back to the street map. Anyone who has spent any time navigating the streets of Oxford, particularly when school is in session at Ole Miss (i.e. always) and even more particularly on football weekends like last weekend, know how hard it is to get from Point A to Point B without resisting the urge to point a particular finger at whoever laid this place out. That’s assuming, of course, that actual thought went into the planning of Oxford’s streets, which has yet to be proven. I would venture a guess that old animal trails were simply paved over except for the fact that the even the deer don’t use the crossings anymore.
Oxford has, as best as I’ve been able to tell in six years of living here, one main artery – Jackson/University Avenue – which is surrounded by a bad case of varicose veins. It’s not hard to figure this out when, as I was Tuesday trying to turn off Jackson onto Heritage, you’re the fifth car stuck in a turning queue that only holds at most two VW Beetles or one Humvee and the Humvees far outnumber the Beetles in this town. This means that one lane of Jackson becomes completely clogged until the queue empties turning a major artery into a one-lane street. I don’t think clot-busting drugs will help but blood pressure medicine might come in handy for drivers like me glued to their rear-view mirrors as vehicles roar up behind you only to find the lane blocked so they have to try and swerve around you at the last minute.
Tupelo had some of these same problems years ago with so many dog-legged intersections (i.e. streets that cross main streets but don’t line up straight on either side) that there had to be traffic signals every few feet. That seems to be Oxford’s main problem but, unlike Tupelo which undertook the massive Major Thoroughfare Program to remedy the situation, Oxford seems content to just ignore it. Even when the town has a chance to make some improvements, such as the repaving of University a year or so ago when a turn lane could have been added down the middle, it doesn’t.
Apparently there is a feeling among those in authority here that Oxford should stay a quaint, unchanging country town even if that means some minor inconveniences for drivers. In other words, progress is unnecessary. How quaint.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at

Click video to hear audio