Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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Why Not Discuss?

2009.February.5

It was going to be hard to top Inauguration Day, so Wednesday had us playing tourist. It was my first trip to Atlanta.

Ostensibly, this trip was about research as much as seeing sights, but I was shy more than once about approaching strangers for their insights on race and class. A peculiar incident on this day was a conversation with the owner and a regular patron at a gentrification coffee shop. The owner was a middle-aged White man, the patron a Black man in his late twenties or early thirties, and the two had already been talking about insurance or something-or-other. The older man invited his friend to dinner; he began talking to us as the younger man gathered his belongings. After a few pleasantries, I told them I was doing research for a book on race and class (I was not more specific, though I my topic is actually much more focused). They laughed and wished me good luck. They recommended checking out some other places in Georgia, which I jotted down, but the conversation waned quickly and they left. I’m sure either of them would have been able to offer some interesting perspective, but I held back the particulars that might have grabbed their attention and proven I wasn’t some clueless, over-reaching young fool (well at least not completely).

I had to ask myself afterward why I had held back. Was I reluctant to engage the (presumably middle-class) latte culture before I had really talked to anyone from the working class, which is the actual focus of my book? Did I feel vulnerable because they already knew each other, or because race is always easier to talk about one-on-one? Was I unwilling to betray my background, for fear it would affect our discussion, or that I would subliminally let slip the crass notes I had been making about this very shop the night before? Or was I just settled into my tourist and cuddling mode and not willing to get out of it for people who obviously weren’t going to be around for long?

Yes, I think so.

Sights: World of Coca-Cola (yes, I know they’re an evil corporation but I’m a soda aficionado), the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, and oh, technically we drove through Centennial Olympic Park.

Topics: “simulation mode” at spectator factories, the creepy extended version of “The Happiness Factory“, corporate indoctrination, potential subversion by advertising agencies, Pemberton/Candler/Woodruff, charging 5 cents for 50 years, omitted chemicals, bottling for GIs, New Coke, aluminum bottles, sampling everything (including Beverly), the absence of real Pibb, lack of water fountains around the sample room, corporate credit unions, the future Center for Civil and Human Rights, real estate around tourist attractions, the King Center’s two bookstores, respect, frozen fountains, reaching out to educate kids, entropy, Wormsloe Plantation, homeschooling, panhandling

Soundtrack: U2, Sinead O’Connor, Johnny Cash, Kimya Dawson

That night, we drove into our eastern-most destination: Savannah.

[ETA some topics]

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Where Was the Best Place to Watch the Inauguration?

2009.January.27

If you were in Atlanta, probably the big gathering at Centennial Olympic Park, but if you couldn’t make it into town, you’d be hard pressed to beat a warm house with a big TV, which is what we ended up doing. I was glad to hear from friends who were part of the DC throngs we saw on screen, but I was just a digital age spectator. After the ceremony and Obama’s drive/walk to the White House, we found a Five Guys for lunch (A DC institution! What was it doing in Georgia?). In the evening, we drove into downtown Atlanta just to explore. We found a gentrified neighborhood near the MLK Center and talked over coffee.

Sights: Underground Atlanta, Sweet Auburn

Topics: What lyrics might have been going through Obama’s mind as he stepped onto the inaugural stage, Rick Warren‘s inoffensive invocation, whether Aretha and the classical ensemble would release their performances as singles on iTunes, Feinstein‘s inoffensive hosting, whether Biden (or the new administration in general) got to choose which Associate Justice administered his oath, Roberts’ flubbing the oath, the President’s inaugural speech (one of my favorites so far, including the first mention of “nonbelievers” in such a prominent national address), the poor delivery of the poet, how great was Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery’s benediction, whether Obama had to remind himself “cab, not blades” as he led Bush to his helicopter, how distracted the NAACP’s new president might have been at Love Shack being played in the background during his CSPAN interview; the merits and drawbacks of franchising and its explosive growth in recent years (leading me to wonder whether there isn’t a franchisor out there who is franchising the business of franchising), the resemblance of Atlanta’s streets to those in Lower Manhattan, awareness of privilege by White men, the resemblance of a certain statue to John McCain, whether a swimming pool was an appropriate tribute to MLK, and the repurposing of old buildings.

Soundtrack: Johnny Lloyd Rollins, Barenaked Ladies, Guy Forsyth.

The next day we returned to Cold-lanta…

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