Atlanta

The very first friend I met in 2001 when I started working at Random Nonprofit Publisher (RNP) was a woman named Pat. Eager to make a good impression, I often showed up a good 30 minutes before my scheduled time. She had a different schedule, so she’d be there in our big communal office, and for those 30 minutes before anyone else started filtering in, she and I shared lots of laughs.

She’s about 30 years older than I am, and six years ago she and her husband retired to Cumming, Georgia, to be closer to her son, his wife, and their two grandchildren. We’ve stayed in touch, of course, thanks to email and the occasional phone call. The subject of many a morning back in our shared-office days was the state of my dating life (hilariously bad). She was an only child too, and though she had gotten lucky in her 20s by marrying the love of her life, she also knew the importance of independence and, especially, not settling. She seemed to understand my rather casual approach to not rushing in and instead waiting for the right guy.

Of course, by the time I did finally find the love of my life, she had already moved to Georgia, so she never got to meet him. I shared stories with her and the occasional photo, but she really wanted to meet this fella I couldn’t shut up about. So he and I finally took her up on her offer for a weekend visit. Her mobility isn’t what it used to be, so she didn’t hang out with us during the day, insisting that we take her car for sightseeing during the afternoons after breakfast. We would have dinner together and share our adventures from the afternoon. One morning she came out to find me standing in the kitchen in my wedding dress. I’d taken it along so she could see it up close and personal. Her expression made lugging that heavy thing in my suitcase totally worth it.

Neither she nor Espen knew what to expect from the other, but they became fast friends. Pat is a no-bullshit kind of woman, and if she likes you, she likes you. It meant the world to me that they got to meet and that they enjoyed each other.

What’ll Ya Have?

This was my second visit to Atlanta. I went several years ago with my cousin Gina. We walked around downtown and went dancing at some club, and I have vague memories of eating at a Mexican place where the margarita was the size of my head. And of course there was the visit to the MLK church and memorial. But otherwise, the city was, dare I say, unremarkable. If my opinion has changed any, it’s for the worse. There’s no character, no personality to the city. And though it could have been a jewel, the Underground is instead a wasteland of deserted and boarded-up shops and vagrants. Had I not been with my 6’4″ husband, I’d have felt unsafe walking through there.

As we tend to do on our trips, we parked and walked the city. We made our through The Underground and headed to CNN to wander around. We didn’t do a tour, but it was fun to walk through for a bit to, if nothing else, escape the heat for a bit. (And it gave Espen a chance to increase his collection of T-shirts with U.S. sports team logos.) After, we had lunch at The Varsity, home of the “what’ll ya have?” shout-out. (The hot dogs are not extraordinary in the least. It’s more about the personality of the place, I’ve decided. For my money, I’d rather have a dog from Ben’s Chili Bowl.) And then it was a tour through the Center for Civil and Human Rights, located just across Coca-Cola World. What was originally a way for us to while away some time until our reservation at Coca-Cola, the tour through the center was easily the highlight of the afternoon. It’s exceptionally well done. The interactive lunch counter in particular is equal parts moving and horrifying, and it was a struggle for me to last the three minutes. If you’re ever in Atlanta, it is absolutely worth the price of admission.

Coca-Cola World is the touristy type of place you’d expect, but it’s still fun. And although I come from a long(ish) line of Pepsi drinkers, the free bottle of Coke was welcome. There’s a reason Atlanta is nicknamed HotLanta.

Before and during our visit, Pat came up with things for us to do. Before we got there, I’d come home to mail from her with informative clippings about various sights in the area. During our visit, Espen and I would wake up to clippings on the kitchen table. It was one of those in the latter location that led us to the Booth Western Art Museum, in Cartersville, Georgia. It was a nice drive from Cumming to a charming little town, where, inexplicably, an alternative music band was playing in the town square. (Also in attendance were members of a biker club, complete with their black leather vests with Confederate Flag patches. This was in a pre-Trump America, and it was still scary. As a person of color, I’m always on edge in such company, which I suppose is their goal. How these people aren’t considered terrorists is beyond me. I digress.)

The museum is bigger than expected and worth the drive. Sure, after a while you reach your saturation point for cowboy art, but it’s a really beautiful space and thoughtfully laid out, and the town has a nice mix of restaurants and small shops … most of which were closed since we were there on Sunday. Still, it was a good walk through town before we had lunch and then drove to Amicalola Falls State Park, home of, well, Amicalola Falls. It’s also noteworthy for being the entry point of the famous Appalachian Trail.

The highlight of the trip, though, was seeing Pat. I’m so thankful for the invitation and I’m glad we found a weekend for the visit.

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