When the Braves game ended on Saturday night, we took the bus to the MARTA station at Five Points, and waited to take it south to where we'd parked. On our side, waiting for the southbound train toward the airport, were me, Joel, and his wife Katie, along with a handful of black people. On the other side, waiting for the northbound train, was a huge crowd, mostly white, decked out in Braves paraphernalia. The MARTA tracks divided us.
As I understand it, this situation sums up Atlanta fairly well. The city has one of the fastest growing white populations in the country, and they mostly live on the north side, while the south side is predominantly black. In the few days I spent in the city, I didn't see enough to be able to make such a claim. Joel told me it was so, and Google helped me find a few other sources to confirm it.
I don't know if you've been to Atlanta, or what it conjures up in your brain when you think of it, but I got off the plane there thinking it would be a pretty modern, progressive, cosmopolitan city, without really knowing for sure. And it is. But it's still decidedly southern. Within a few minutes in the airport, I was inundated with southern drawl, and I knew I was the one who talked funny.
The south is interesting, and I'd like to spend more time there someday. After all, I was born in Alabama, not far from the Gulf. (And I can't help but think this is why I like Bluegrass.) But I was whisked away before I was old enough to convince my parents to stay away from the snow. I can't fathom how different it would have been to grow up there, missing out on real winters, eating breakfast at Waffle House, and hearing an entirely different perspective on the Civil War and General Lee and Jefferson Davis. They're still heroes down there.
There's a giant carving of them, along with Stonewall Jackson, on Stone Mountain. It's like the Mount Rushmore of the south. Stone Mountain is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state, just 20 miles east of Atlanta, and you can climb it in about a half hour if you're good. We did that on Sunday, when it was perfectly clear and 70 degrees. From the top we could see all of Metro Atlanta, including the downtown and midtown skylines and Buckhead.
Of course I did all of the other touristy stuff, too. I visited the World of Coca-Cola, the CNN Center, and the Georgia Aquarium. They're all worth checking out, but go on a weekday morning if you can because they'll be crowded on the weekends. We hung out in Piedmont Park and went to a Braves game on Saturday night. We went to the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, in the east shadow of the skyline. Since it's a national park, it's all free. Also worth a look: A trip up the Westin hotel to its rotating restaurant, the sorta-cleverly titled SunDial. If you eat there - I can't afford to - it's free to go up. If you don't, you have to bribe them five bucks. Or, you have to pay five bucks for a ticket. I paid for my ticket and got a good view. If you want to get your bearings, do this first. Or just go up in the Marriott Marquis around the corner. It's not as tall, but it's free. We visited the Starbucks inside on Saturday and killed a few hours playing cards in their lobby. Probably the coolest lobby/atrium I've ever been in.
I don't usually think of Atlanta as a big tourist draw. It's just another big city, right? I went because I know people there. Back when I was in Tanzania, salivating at the thought of touring my country, I told my friend Joel I might want to visit. He invited me down, and when I got cabin fever in March, I decided to buy the ticket and go. It was worth it - there's plenty to do in Atlanta. It wasn't the most restful vacation ever, and there was no beach, but it was a change of pace. And I guess that's what I needed.
Top to bottom:
Carvings on Stone Mountain
Inside the CNN Center
Looking South from the Westin toward Turner Field
Olympic Park, from the Westin
Stoney Tangawizi, on tap at the World of Coca-Cola
Inside Turner Field
A "H8BAMA" license plate. They must really hate Alabama.
Looking north toward Midtown from the Westin