Saturday, April 28, 2018

Atlanta: Day 3

This being our last day here, we took on the day and the city with an energy and fervor that would have shamed Sherman. The day started at Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta's famed resting place of many famous sons and daughters and thousands of not-so-famous. Now serving a dual role of burial grounds and city park, it is a rich dichotomy of the living and dead. There are beautiful horticulture displays, gardens, and large, ancient trees that were there long before any of the residents were born and will be there long after those residents' descendants  join them. There are people jogging and walking dogs and strolling the grounds. The city is just a few blocks away so you hear the cars and the trains and the din of people.

We opted for a walking tour which was supposed to be about an hour but was more like an hour and a half. Our tour guide, Marvin, was as much an enigma as the place itself. His crisp Magellan fishing shirt and friendly, robust knowledge of the cemetery, its occupants, and the city in which they all reside lay in contrast to his self-described Atlanta roots and his Southern drawl. When he pronounced "history" with two syllables, I felt like we were in good hands. 

Next on the agenda was the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. Jimmy may have been a proponent for peace and civil rights, but I'd have liked him to push for better signage at his library. We finally made our way in and began the tour. As with many of these type establishments, the tour began with a short film.  But this one wasn't narrated by just anyone.  No, it was narrated by someone who thinks he was president, Martin Sheen. 

Look, most of you know where I fall on the political spectrum. There's left wing and yellow dog and middle-of-the-road (aka, "undecided") on one side and on the other, there's right wing, tea party, far right and then far Valerie. Until the last little bit (the last 10-18 years, give or take), Carter typically made the list of "not the greatest Presidents." But no one can argue that he seems like a genuinely nice person.  A good guy. If anything, I would say that he was too nice to be a politician, let alone leader of the free world. 

Exhausted and needing to eat (President Carter, if you read this by some small chance, I'd like to suggest some directional signs on the campus of your library to indictate where one should park and extend the on-site cafe's hours so it can be open on the weekend), we headed home for a late lunch and a long, spring's nap (second only to its cousin in the winter). 

Dinner tonight was at The Southern Gentleman. I wanted to like it. I really did. It was in a high-end retail district, flanked by Hermes, Jimmy Choo, Louboutin and Tom Ford, I thought we might dine with the rich and famous. Instead, we dined with the overserved and disengaged. Some of our fellow guests talked too much and laughed too loudly. And the staff, from hostess to server, were just a bit standoffish  and distant. The food was fine but this diner thinks it could have been finer. 

The bookend of our day was a short drive out of the city to a community theatre for a live stage production of Godspell. As we planned this trip and researched events and happenings that would happen during our stay, I came across this option. Intrigued, I tried my darndest to find out what exactly Godspell was. Fearing it had the sacrilegious blasphemy associated with "Jesus Christ Superstar," I went into it with more than one serving of trepidation, yet something pushed me forward. It was delightful. If you get the chance to see it, go. It's a depiction of several parables (mostly from the book of Matthew), set in current day and to modern music with lyrics from well-known hymns, it was beautifully done and truly a religious experience. Here's to the weekend of trying new things and getting outside of my incredibly small comfort zone. 

We head home tomorrow. It's been great fun, but I miss my dog, my people, and my bed. Oh, I suppose I'm supposed to say "in no particular order." There.  I said it. ;)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Atlanta: Day 2

Other than college, I've not lived in an apartment and this Air BnB has opened my eyes to just how good I have things, all snuggled in my suburbanian hideaway. For instance, as I lay in bed around midnight last night, missing my dog and tossing aimlessly, I began to hear horns honking from the parking garage. It was the millennials' way of saying, "honey, I'm home" as they returned from their Thursday night revelry. Remember when Thursday night was just "pregame" for the weekend? Then I heard someone walking their dog outside, which included some yip-yapping followed by someone whisper-screaming, "shush!" Finally, you have the doors slamming and the walls rattling and what I can only assume is an apartment of Sumo wrestlers upstairs breaking in new shoes. This cacophony of sounds makes me long for the familiar sounds of home: distant lawn mowers, the AC running, the sound of Amazon backing out of my driveway...oh, wait. My husband may read this.

Today, we started by meeting a high school friend who calls ATL home for breakfast. She suggested a placed called the Flying Biscuit and I thought something with such a whimsical name had to be good. Then I checked out their menu online and was sold when I came across an item near and dear to this Southern girl's heart (and waist and hips):  creamy, dreamy grits. That wasn't just me waxing poetic. That's the actual menu item-- creamy dreamy grits. And to quote the old lady from Titanic, "it was. It truly was." We had great fun catching up and visiting. There's something special about a friend who has known you most of your life. And there's something extra special when months and sometimes years go by in between visits and you're still able to sit down and jump right back in. 

Our next stop was a tour of the CNN Studios. This behind-the-scenes tour took us backstage and gave us an up close view of the control center, the newsroom, the various anchor desks and explained the process of how a tip or idea makes its way onto the air. As a bonus, we rode the world's tallest free-standing escalator up eight stories to begin the tour and our descent down through various stops and studios. 

Lunch at Corner Bakery was followed by afternoon siesta time.

Dinner tonight was at Twelve Eighty. This establishment is on the site of and across a courtyard from Atlanta's Symphony and the High Museum. This was perfect since we had tickets for a show after dinner. From the outside and even from just inside the door, it looked pretty unassuming. If you've ever in desperation utilized the on-site cafe at an art museum, picture that. But our meal was delicious and cooked perfectly and it was a surprisingly fine-dining experience so I was pleasantly surprised. 

Following dinner, we made our way across the plaza to see Rob Lowe. Yes, Rob Lowe as in the Outsiders and West Wing and the weird cable or Verizon commercials and Parks and Recreation and Brothers and Sisters. He stood on stage for 55 minutes, telling stories that can only be described as enthralling. I can't do them justice but I can point you here where you can buy his book and probably read an excerpt. This was followed by 20 minutes of Q&A, which was equally entertaining and interesting. 

This morning on the way to breakfast, we saw a homeless woman near a bus stop, bending over and picking up cigarette butts, collecting them in a cupped hand. While waiting at a red light, I watched her and thought, "I guess she's going to try to smoke whatever is left on each of these." But then something surprising and totally unexpected happened: when her hand was full, she walked over to an adjacent trash can and threw them away, shaking her head in disgust at people's laziness and disregard.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

Atlanta: Day 1

Well, my bestie, Alison, and I are off on another adventure.  If you missed the last one, you can visit here to see how we took on the nation's capital. 2018 finds us in Atlanta and we're excited to share the trip with you.

Being one of the most change-averse people I know, I made a vow to be open-minded (take deep breath) and try new things (easy, girl) outside of my comfort zone (ok, here's a lunch sack...). The first exercise was in our lodging. Rather than find a comfy/cozy Westin, we opted to both experience Air BnB for the first time. After hours of searches and asking various hosts a litany of questions ("the front door doesn't appear to have a lock. Does it lock?"), we selected an apartment in Buckhead, Atlanta's way of saying, "I got ya, girl."

When we arrived in ATL, our first stop was lunch at The Varsity. It's unassuming in a "we've been open for 90 years and for 24 hours/day" kind of way. The prices were reasonable and the food was good and utterly unhealthy.

As we headed south today, it was with some lingering trepidation that I took off, still wary that this whole Air BnB thing is just a front for human organ trafficking.  The "check in" process did nothing to alleviate my fears as we met our host in a parking lot, he handed me the key and gate clicker to our place, and then instructed me to follow him as we drove to the apartment. Reluctantly, I followed the order, wondering to myself what was it I read recently about how to call 9-1-1 from your cell on the sly.  Was it press and hold the start button? No, I think it was press the start button like five times. Oh, who am I kidding? I've never done anything sly in my life and in the unlikely event that I would actually need to try to execute this maneuver, I'd more than likely snap a pic of my feet, then the last words I'd hear would be Siri saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't understand your request."

We parked.  He led us inside the building and to our door and motioned for me to use the key. As I was thinking, "well, here it goes. This is it.  I hope my family knows I loved them," he watched me open the door and said, "well, ok, then. Have a nice visit." Non-event.

After counting our organs and being grateful that we still had all that we came with, we made a Target run. Forgetting we weren't in Nashville anymore, Toto, we marveled at the two-story Target and enjoyed the process of navigating the two floors with our carts.

For dinner tonight, we tried Bistro Niko, a wonderful place that Zagat calls "a casual but upscale 'hot place' that makes you feel like you're sitting in a cafe in Paris." Indeed.

Alison and I have been friends since we were in kindergarten. As far as I know, we've never liked the same boy and never voted the same way. But it's these differences that make our friendship all the more unique and rewarding.

Editor's note:  Alison would like you to know that we have voted the same in at least two presidential elections.