We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, June 30. 2009
I like to explore and learn a bit about the places I go to.
Birmingham, Alabama is a rather new city, by Eastern standards. Even the "old" stuff there isn't very old. There wasn't much of anything there until after the Civil War. Railroads (it has no navigable river), coal and iron ore were the key to that city's wealth, hence the borrowing of the name from the Brits. Amost all of that is now gone.
A new city in the New South.
With a metropolitan population of around 1 million, it's a good-sized city, but the city proper lacks downtown residences. It's a biz center now (most recently a banking center) - not a hopping urban scene. The Univ of Alabama Medical Center also is growing like crazy.
Still, there is no visible urban scene: life happens in the leafy, lovely, quiet suburbs.
On a weekend, there is not a soul to be seen on the streets yet it looks clean, prosperous, and safe. No "mixed use" as you find in NYC. A Jane Jacobs case study, because I have seen photos of the downtown in the 1920s which were packed with people on weekends and holidays, with the streets lined with storefronts.
In recent decades, the suburbs which had been part of the city spun themselves off so as to be independent of the constantly-alleged and often court-confirmed corruption of the Dem machine which runs it, and which seems determined to drive people out of town.
One cool thing about cities this size: you can get from Mountain Brook, Homewood, or downtown, to the airport in about 15 minutes. Everything seems easy to do. It's manageable and friendly. For the comfortable, golf seems to be king in Birmingham. Too darn hot for tennis, if you ask me.
Beautiful: the tee of the 4th (or 14th?) hole at Shoal Creek:
A free ad for the nifty mag Garden and Gun, with another golf course in the background:
Every city carries its burden of woeful history. The 16th St. Baptist Church, where the Civil Rights movement tragically obtained energy when some KKK killed four choir girls in church in 1963. The reputation of the fine people of the city was smeared for a generation by the behavior of a handful of murderous scumbags.
More below on continuation page -
A cool urban garden in downtown B'ham. Five acres of serious, for profit vegetable gardens, with the spanking-new government-subsidized housing on the right. We liked this mini-farm very much. Rus in urbe. Our only beef with the housing (which replaced the demolished high-rise poor folk housing which had stood in this neighborhood) is that there are no friendly storefronts. Even today, planners always get something wrong.
I saw no baseball diamond either.
Vulcan stands proud and bare-assed (it gets hot down there) as a memorial to the steel mills which built the city.
I said that downtown is empty on weekends - with the exception of the line to get into the library to enjoy the a/c:
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my birth state. Either there or Albania, i never could get ma and pa to make up they minds.
But seriously, the last of those church bombers wasn't brought to justice until a few years ago. It is a blot on the city, no two ways about it. Then Eric Rudolph didn't help any, bombing that B'ham abortion clinic.
More proudly, well in the martial sense, it was an Alabama unit that very nearly took Little Round Top (of Josh Chamberlain fame) on July 2 at Gettysburg. Had Chamberlain --whose 20th Maine was out of ammo --not fixed bayonets and charged downhill into the enemy just as the Alabamians were about to envelop them, Lee's batteries would've had his position to enfilade the whole union line. Pickett's Charge would not have needed making, Meade would've likely withdrawn to defend DC, Britain and maybe a few other Euro powers would've come in with the South, and history would've been different the world over.
If you ever find yourself down here, take a little time and drive around. You can see the Copena Indian mounds in Oakville (one of the collection points for the Cherokee before they were moved west to Oklahoma) - cross over into the Free State of Winston County (which seceded from the State when the State seceded from the union) and see Natural Bridge (the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies - head back east through Birmingham to Gadsden and Fort Payne (Noccalula Falls and Little River Canyon). Come south and you can see Montgomery - which has one of the premiere Shakespeare companies in the country; the Civil Rights Memorial designed by Maya Lin; the First White House of the Confederacy; the Alabama Department of Archives and History (home of one of the largest collection of Confederate Flags outside of Richmond). Continue south on I-65 and you can turn off on U.S. 84 to Monroeville and see the town made famous in "To Kill a Mockingbird" including its old courthouse, now museum. Should you continue further west on 84, you can see the home of William Barett Travis (of the Alamo) and the courthouse where he practiced law is still standing. Head south down 43 to Mobile and see the USS Alabama - cross over the causeway and eat at Ed's Seafood Shed - then come back north up 225 to I-65. I agree it is too hot to play tennis - particularly if you're not used to our heat - so come in the winter when it is a chilly 40 degrees. Also, if you play the Robert Trent Jones Trail, it will take you near a lot of these places. For nightlife in Birmingham, you'd need to hit 5 Points near U.A. Birimgham.
Reminds me of that old song...
You border on the Gulf of Mexico
You are not terribly mountainous
And your chief export is cotton
i like the chorus to that old song:
"Coal, iron, and limestone are found in you,
and you have a nice electrical grid toooooo."
Yep. I heard ya. It's all in that most excellent book: "Killer Angels".
oh, have you read "Killer Angels"? I had NO idear!
(seriously, i am and will --it is still right there next to the bedstid awaiting)
Pants on fiarre, Buddy Larsen. Onlee readin' nex to yore bed is Playboy.
Pick up "Killer Angels", open the book to the first readin' page, and take 30mg. Adderall ER. Get comfy and keep yore eyes on the first page so when the Adderall hits, you wont be lukin at Playboy and wine up daid of a hard attak next mornin'. You will finish that book and then you will say... "Meta, why I tayke so long to lissen to you??"
sheesh --i'd trade my brand new 45 hp diesel Branson for one o them addyeralls. i would'nt need a tractor, i'd be a human steam shovel. for awhile anyways.
Phooey. jus go tell yore doc: "Gimme some Adderall to go, thankye." An stay off the tractor else you mow for 18 hours an wondre why ever wun else aint owt mowing cos hits so fun.
I look at that photo from the tee at Shoal Creek and imagine my ball arcing up past the trees and sailing in to the bunker on the right. Ker-plop.
I'll have to try it someday and see if I can avoid my imagined fate.
I'm a born and bred Western guy but I do love the South. I sense a trip there with the missus coming on later this summer if I'm not too busy.
If you've never been, do it. It has its own unique pleasures.
I've been to parts of the South several times but she's never been. I want to plan something we can do in two weeks or so without killing ourselves. Just have a nice relaxing time.
If you pass through Nashville don't miss the Hermitage. Otherwise I have no other suggestions, everything I know has changed there in the last forty years since I left.
Take a stroll around the Vanderbilt campus. It's beautiful.
Check out one of the sea islands between Savannah and Charleston.... those closer to Charleston, maybe. You'll think you're going back in time. Our plantation is in the Ace Basin, an area full of plantations, and if you can get to any of them, you will shake your head and wonder if you've time warped. Sea Island Cotton - that's what they exported.
I really hope you get to do the trip and get to meet some old-timey southerners. That would be so neat!
The hardwoods in the rolling hills in the area,
make for a spectacular autumn.
Don't forget that seacoast with the sparkling sky blue water --being upcurrent of the Mighty Mississip, the sea is more Caribbean than points west.
and the 'redneck riviera' from Gulf Shores, AL around the FL panhandle to about Panama City. You'll still find some old style gulf coast treasures amidst the development.
Yes. I know the southern half a bit plus Miami - Ft. Lauderdale, but don't know the panhandle at all.
You make now thank Maggie's Farm's Tourist Guide section. :)
Skook: "Gee, honey, I think our vacation this year will be nine months.... is that okay with you?"
Well, you know what we say down here. The only people who obey the stop signs are tourists.