By Diane Ako
We've decided to go South this year. On the travel wish list, South hadn't been a big priority for me before, but as it turns out, I had a magical combination of vacation days to use or lose, and a good friend who works at CNN Atlanta, who so kindly opened her apartment to us for a visit. Georgia it is!
This Atlanta friend, Martha, suggested that we might as well pay a visit to the Hostess City of Savannah, as well as Charleston in South Carolina while there. After all, it'll probably be a long time until we make time to get to this region again. Done!
In mid-February, my husband, child, and I packed up and headed for the Peach State. After an eight hour flight and a lost reservation at the car rental counter, we made it to Martha's apartment in Buckhead, a glitzy neighborhood just north of the city proper.
We were exhausted, because we all only slept a few hours on the plane, so we immediately fell into a long nap. Oddly, I hadn't considered that we could be hit by jet lag in this time zone, so I had a full day of activities planned for just after we stepped off the plane. Wrong.
What we ended up doing was walking around Lenox Square Mall and eating at Chick-fil-A. I would not have eaten at a mall food court, except my brain was totally zombied out from travel. If I have to eat at the mall, my best method of challenging globalization was to at least eat at a fast-food restaurant I hadn't experienced before. Chick-Fil-A has a political history, after last summer's same-sex marriage controversy, which makes it a more interesting food choice.
I marched up to the counter and ordered a classic: a Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich, with a side of fries. I could do this, because I am straight. I ate the chicken sandwich. It was tasty. I did not feel homophobic after I consumed it. Did I eat it correctly?
We strolled around the mall for a while. Claus is already on the losing side of this equation as a man who doesn't want to be shopping at a mall, but he's also got numbers against him, because he has a daughter and a wife who like to look at shiny stuff. It was a lot of jewelry, purse, and ladies' clothing stores.
To counteract this heavy dose of estrogen, he later forced us to look at Dick's. We had been picking up food stuffs at Publix grocery store, and a huge, three-story Dick's was in the same complex. Dick's had all the things in it you'd expect at Sports Authority here in Hawaii, but with an entire floor dedicated to guns, camoflauge, and hunting accessories. This was very boring for Olivia and me, but he felt like his Man Card was restored after this brief immersion.
The next day, we spent a couple hours at CNN on the inside-inside tour, thanks to Martha! CNN is a crazy behemoth of a news operation. There was CNN Espanol, CNN Airport, CNN Radio, CNN International. The network functions very differently from a local newsroom in that it's like local news on steroids. It was head-spinning.
A news anchor walked by and I was sort of awe struck, like I have never been in front of a camera before. The funniest thing was that there are general public tours constantly flowing past their work spaces, so they say they feel like zoo animals who are always being photographed.
Looking at people at work sure works up an appetite, so we ate at a lovely restaurant called Einstein's near Piedmont Park, where I cobbled together for myself a Southern sampler of fried green tomatoes, fried okra, cheese grits, biscuits and gravy, and pecan pie. I finally get the whole Southern food thing! Yum!
Dinner was at a hip restaurant - a former gas station - called Leon's in Dekalb. We ended the day with looking at the Dekalb Farmer's Market, which reminded me of the Ward Farmer's Market.
It is very cold. It is in the 30s. For some reason, every time I visit with Martha (New Jersey, New York), it's accompanied by an extreme weather occurrence. It's therefore par for the course that the forecast calls for "a light dusting" in Atlanta while I'm here.
We toured Margaret Mitchell's house, which bored Olivia stiff; wandered around the Virginia-Highlands area; drove past the super-rich homes in East Paces Ferry; walked Piedmont Park; and looked at the grave of Ms. Mitchell at Oakland Cemetery.
At this cemetery, there was a century-old lamp post that had been damaged by shrapnel during the Civil War. It's not only still standing, but it was still working, with a flame glowing despite it being mid-afternoon. It's amazing!
If you've seen the Oscar-winning movie Argo, you'll know there's an elite school referenced called Pace Academy in Buckhead. We drove past Pace Academy.
A humor highlight of our afternoon was that Claus was carded when ordering beer at Taco Mac for lunch. Claus is in his 40's.
It's cold, but we're having a nice time.
Next blog: Savannah!