Monday, December 20, 2010


Day Three: 'Bama, y'all!

I lost my niece's dog for a while this morning. I know almost nothing about dogs, and everyone who knows me knows I detest them, but the least I can do when staying at my sister's house is feed Bosco and open the slider door for him. He is the only dog I will tolerate because his family loves him so much, and I love them. After letting him out this morning, he never came back. I left the door open thinking he would pad back inside when he was finished, but when I emerged from my ablutions, I could not find that big dog. I went out to the back yard and called him. Nothing. Went out to the front yard. Nothing. Like I said, I know nothing about dogs, so I started having terrible thoughts of Bosco wandering out to the highway and the situation ending with his demise and with my niece resenting me until I die for letting her dog out to play Frogger. I kept getting ready for my road trip and going outside to call for him (me, whistling for a dog, imagine that), and half an hour later I saw his shadow on the patio. That dog was back. He smelled like he had killed something out by the creek river near my sister's house. I checked him to see if he had rolled around in Florida gator poop or something, but he didn't have any strange substances on him. We'll see how stinky he is when I get back. I will just die if I have to give Bosco a bath. I am not a dog person. One of Becky's friends is coming to feed and play with Bosco while I am on my trip.

I continued my morning by driving to Monroeville, Ala., to visit the town that, in part, inspired Harper Lee to write To Kill a Mockingbird, the official "Best Novel of the Century." I passed through some seriously Southern teensy towns on the way. Every porch, every one of them, had a stiff-back chair on it, just sittin' there waiting for hot weather to return. I saw a lot of Waffle Houses. Do not think I am ending this vacation without some Waffle House down my gullet.

In M'ville, I walked all around the Old Courthouse Museum, and it was neat to go upstairs in the courtroom and look down onto the court just like Scout did in the book and Lee did in real life as she watched her father. The courtroom is not the one in the film, but the set was created to look almost exactly like the real courtroom, and you wouldn't even know the difference.

Nobody was in the museum but me, and when I returned to the main floor to look for a postcard and a magnet, I heard some men's voices coming from another part of the building. I went to find them and declare myself present, and the way they greeted me was lovely. It was two real old guys and the museum attendant, and their short conversation with me was all one long, lazy syllable. I could have talked with them all day. One of the men actually tipped his hat at me.

A few minutes later in the gift shop, I overheard them talking about Nelle this and Nelle that. Nelle is Harper Lee's first name, and I just know they were talking about her. I eavesdropped, feigning interest in the Mockingbird T-shirts next to where they were standing. How could I not listen in to gossip about one of the most reclusive authors in America? Out of respect to her, I will keep their conversation to myself. Then, upon taking my leave, I made an arse of myself by telling the museum guy that I am an English teacher and I just LOVE Mockingbird and it's so wonderful. Like every other woman traipsing through there isn't an English teacher. They even sell lesson plans in the gift shop. The man graciously listened to me and wished me a safe trip "north" to Nashville.

Because the courthouse was only open in the early part of the day this Christmas week, I was done in Monroeville at 11 or so and headed to Montgomery, where I had not planned on spending the better part of the day.

Correct punctuation pleases me.
To be honest, I did not expect this in Alabama.
I am humbled.

Unprepared, I went first to the Montgomery visitor center, and that started a day of learning about a place where I thought I was just going to spend the night. The woman at the visitor center told me to hop on the 40-minute trolley tour ($1, the driver's waitin' for ya, go get on it there) to get a feel for Montgomery and where I might like to go that day.

The pipe bomb exploded right behind that pole that shows the house number.
The steps up to the house slant down on the right where they were rebuilt as a result of the bomb.
The people in the photo are looking down at the bomb hole that's still on the porch.

The driver toodled us around town and gave us the story of about a dozen different places that we could return to later to explore in more depth. I saw a home (above) that Martin Luther King Jr. lived in that was pipe-bombed. I saw slaves' quarters in the old town. I saw the bus stop where Rosa Parks boarded the day she refused to give up her seat. I consider myself to have a decent knowledge of the civil rights movement, but today was experiential learning all the way.

I returned after the trolley ride to the Civil Rights Memorial Center and heard stories about people I had never heard of who suffered this difficult time in history.

I stuck my hand in the water flowing over the memorial.

I signed my name on the Wall of Tolerance, which means I am officially committed to working for human rights in my daily life. I have come a long way in my racial identity and overcoming my ignorance, and today was a nice pause to think about where I am now and how far I still need to go to evolve my thinking. I was heartened to see that the center was not solely focused on African American civil rights, although it understandably could have been, but also touched on the rights of gays and other oppressed peoples. I am grateful I arrived early enough to experience this place.

Dinner, on the other hand, I chose to tolerate. This pint bowl of tom yum cost $7.70 and was absolutely the worst Thai anything I have ever eaten. Not terrible enough to toss, though, heh. I am cheap. I think the soup's shrimp was thrown in in from one of those frozen round trays you can get at the grocery store. I also stopped at a Wal-Mart, an honest-to-gawd Alabama Wal-Mart, to pick up some blog-writing wine and a corkscrew. Nothing out of the ordinary happened there, other than the cashier apologized three times that she had to card me. I didn't know whether to be understanding or to make a self-deprecating joke about my age, so I opted for the former. Clearly, I look 23.

The desk attendant at my motel is named Albert, and I just cannot get enough of the Alabama accent on these people. I know that makes me sound ignorant, that thing I was saying earlier that I need to work on. I keep calling him at the front desk for information (wireless password, where's the drug store, where's the ice machine) just to hear him talk. He keeps calling me Miss Amy. How about that?

Tomorrow is Atlanta, but I'm not feeling it. I'm not in the mood for a big city at all, so I might veer west a day early. That's what you can do on a no-agenda road trip. By the way, having a navigation system is fantastic. I took not one wrong turn today.

P.S. Of course, Me and Marley is on HBO right now. I cannot even get away from dogs on my vacation.

I, too, could listen to a Southern accent all day. It has nothing to do with ignorance or being judgmental. That accent is like the song of the south. And my 7th grade year in the south is the reason I use Sir and Mame to this day when addressing mostly anyone I do not know personally. Glad you are mostly enjoying yourself. You deserve it. xoxoxo
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