Sunday, August 12, 2007

Goodbye, Sweet Georgia

In Georgia, Every Block Has A Steeple
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

August 12, 2007, Atlanta, GA:

Goodbye, Sweet Georgia

On my last day in Georgia I decided to go take a look at a bunch of dead people, a big-ass chicken and a grocery store, all of them in what appears to be a rapidly growing Mexican enclave of Atlanta—Marietta.

The first stop was the Marietta National Cemetery.

I love going to cemeteries, for it is almost always a beautiful respite to the usual scurry of life, it is peaceful and respectful, unlike life in the city can be. Moreover, the aesthetics are usually extraordinary—meticulously carved marble statues of cherubs, eerie looking ladies and the like; a well-kept and crafted landscape; as well as a sun that streams the essence of life through trees—combined these elements make me feel like a teenager gawking at all the girls on the beach.

Alas, there was no wood to bury in the sand this time. The only thing that turned me on was the dead wives club gathered at the top of the hill. I was ignorant of the fact that apparently wives of military men can elect to be buried along with them at our national cemeteries, and thus it tickled me to learn something new. Most of the gravestones in this area were conspicuously absent of any names though, apparently plots to be filled by those widows who never marry again.

Moving on, I had planned to visit the Confederate Cemetery, but with a little more than a couple of hours left before flight time, I skipped it and stopped by Harry’s instead. This made my little detour back to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport all worth the while.

But first, I paid my respect to The Big Chicken, a wonderfully unique historical landmark which the locals apparently use to direct people about — "In the shadow of the Big Chicken" being a common phrase around town. The original owner, Tubby Davis, decided to ward off competition to his hamburger franchise, Johnny Reb’s, by focusing on fried chicken instead and thus commissioned Hubert Puckett to design and build the sheet metal structure that rose 56 feet above the ground.

Over time though, the giant bird dilapidated until finally KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) came to the rescue in 1993. After pressure from the community to keep it, the company chose to refurbish and keep the gargantuan icon.

Apparently, Pepsi made an even more prudent choice when it bought KFC. Because, not only did it acquire a staple of food in the south—fried chicken—but it also got a notable landmark in turn. Quite a coup, considering Atlanta is staunch Coca-Cola country.

At Harry’s Farmer’s Market, although the synopsis on intrigued me—“The ethnically diverse staff at Harry's crosses every racial line and geopolitical border. So do the vegetables. It is easy to find vegetables that you probably have never heard of, and probably can't pronounce the name, so don't try.“ —admittedly, I was pleasantly surprised to find much more than I could have ever imagined or expected.

Beyond the impressive variety of fresh produce, the arrangement of every basket of exotic fruit, root and vegetable was more aesthetically pleasing then any visit that I’ve ever paid to the Met, MoMA or the Guggenheim. I was convinced that whomever arranges their food must have went to art school. Moreover, I haven’t been this picture hungry since the last time I was in aVallarta popular Mexican supermarket in Pasadena, California.

That time though I was accosted by the store manager and asked to stop taking photos—with anthrax scares and 9.11 weighing heavy on everyone’s souls, having some uninvited phototog taking pictures was a bit too unnerving.

I also figured that they might also be afraid that I was a health inspector or journalist looking to exploit the fact that Mexicans like me eat chicken feet and tripa,stomach lining, which is a key ingredient in the Mexican breakfast of champions, Menudo, one of my all-time favorite dishes.

Nonetheless, this time I got away with it and I felt as if I had just stolen a bunch of Mirots, Pollocks, and Manets.

As I finished my tour of this amazingly artful supermarket, I realized that I was only an hour and a half away from my flight.

Of course, suddenly my corporate AMEX didn’t work at the check out counter, so I had to pay for breakfast out of my own pocket today. Despite the delay, the young man at the counter assured me that I was only half an hour away from the airport.

Thus, with all the good folks in churches there was very little traffic at this time I was able to cruise along at an 80-mile an hour clip (no one seems to heed the speed limit down here). This allowed me to say goodbye to sweet Georgia, with a few self portraits.

Along the way I heard a new favorite song, Bucky Covington’s It’s a Different World, which is number 6 on the country charts right now. It made me feel quite nostalgic. More importantly, it made me think about how much I miss my boys—because I truly miss them a whole damn bunch. I can only hope that their childhoods don’t pass me by while I vie to make an example of my life.

We were born to mothers who smoked and drank
Our cribs were covered in lead-based paint
No childproof lids
No seatbelts in cars
Rode bikes with no helmets
and still here we are
Still here we are

We got daddy's belt when we misbehaved
Had three TV channels you got up to change
No video games and no satellite
All we had were friends and they were outside
Playing outside

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

School always started the same everyday
the pledge of allegiance, then someone would pray
not every kid made the team when they tried
We got disappointed but that was alright

We turned out alright

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

No bottled water
We'd drink from a garden hose
And every Sunday,
All the stores were closed.

It was a different life
When we were boys and girls
Not just a different time
It was a different world

—Bucky Covington, A Different World

After dropping off the sporty Mariner at the car rental station and taking the shuttle to the check-in counter, once again, for some strange reason, my charge card failed to work for me.

The e-ticket kiosk said it could not check me in. When I asked for some assistance I was informed that it wasn’t the card’s fault. Apparently, no one had bothered to tell me that beyond dressing in pajamas so that I can get through the security line easier; putting liquid toiletries in a clear zip-lock bag, and not carrying nail clippers, lighters and corkscrews, two of which I’ve lost to the security agents before, one of them this time around; apparently now you have to arrive at least 45 minutes before your scheduled departure at the ATL or otherwise they won’t let you on the plane.

At least you’re not supposed to be checked in—for even though I had missed the cut-off point by five minutes the stern lady gave me a break after I softened her up with her my biggest, most charming, humblest smile ever and politely asked if she could please make an exception on my behalf this time around. Gratefully , she did—and so I ran and was the last person to board the plane.

It was a fairly full flight but to my delight I was able to switch to a three-seat emergency exit row, which I had to myself for the next 2.5 hours, while everyone else had to share their rows on the plane.

I scrawled away and read most of the time, and as usual, was also inclined to take a few pictures of the majestic sky at 30,000 feet. Very few things beyond the beauty of a woman, art, and now, some gorgeously arranged groceries have so consistently turned me on aesthetically as the heavens above have, especially when I’m flying or enjoying the good life down south in sweet-sweet Georgia.

Nonetheless, as great of a time I had while working and spending time with good ol’ and gorgeous new friends, I’m looking forward to coming back home—and seeing my children, getting back to the grind, and taking more of the kind of photos that I love to take most—of the city, the streets, and its people.

For as much as I love the country, I still thank God that I’m a city boy.

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