When I do get around, I write about it. If you want to read exclusively about my visits to United States presidential sites, you can do that over here.
Georgia is really big, and even so, 80 percent of it is Atlanta. I've also been to Stone Mountain (which I don't have notes on, but liked) and the FDR site in Warm Springs.
Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site
November 7, 2008
As part of my continuing quest to become America's Tour Guide, I rolled out of bed bright and early today (11:12 a.m.) and headed to downtown Atlana for the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site. I'm actually kind of glad I put it off until this visit until this week: all the pictures of angry white people turning firehoses on peaceful protesters give a little perspective to the pictures of black crowds celebrating in the streets Tuesday night. Also, because it meant there was still a free attraction in Atlanta that I hadn't tried yet, and as you may have heard I am cheap.
You can't get a full appreciation of King's story without visiting Alabama, but since that would involve actually going to Alabama, the historic site is an excellent Plan B. Right now, the focal point is his birth home, an upper-middle class house that would have been crammed with his parents, siblings, grandparents and some aunts and uncles. It's restored to 1930s condition, and if anything, it's ... plain. Everything about it. The outside, the inside, the stories about him as a kid (torturing his sister, playing baseball, hiding from chores). He lived on a street with mansions and working-class homes, and the King household was smack in the middle.
Some of his prominence seems to have been a case of "right place, right time" -- he was working in Montgomery at the time of the bus boycotts and became its leader, vaulting him to a national stage. You do get some hints about where the legend began, though. The parents were iron disciplinarians; if they told you to do something, you did it. His dad insisted on family meals together, and before the meal he made all the kids recite Bible passages every night (Martin had a great memory). Dad let the kids join in dinner table discussions. Every male member of the family who lived in that house was or eventually became a minister; every woman became a teacher.
Just down the hill is Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin King Sr. (and later Jr.) worked; it's closed for repairs but it's still cool to see. And King is now buried in between the house and the church, in the middle of a fountain with Coretta:
The museums ain't bad ... there's a pretty decent timeline-style display that walks you through the highlights of King's career, right up to the assassination; there's another building that has some personal effects, like his tattered personal Bible, his travel bag (he gave more than 400 speeches a year at points in his career), his Nobel prize, and the motel key for his room in Memphis. Right now, there's a really striking exhibit which has his funeral cart and a series of photographs that cover the shooting and his funeral procession. You could study the faces in those pictures for hours.
There is a bit of a whitewash (which is odd for the Park Service) -- you don't get any really serious detail in on his personal life (flattering or unflattering), or much of an idea about what the guy was like away from the public eye.But on the other hand, he didn't get to spend much time out of the public eye from 1955 until his death. As far as moving America forward, the public figure is all that really mattered.
The one thing I'm wondering as I type this is what would have become of Martin Luther King had he lived. By 1968 a lot of people were getting turned off to nonviolent protest and more radical elements were grabbing headlines; when he was shot he was starting to push hard for anti-poverty programs (across all races) where the lines of right and wrong aren't quite as defined as in the civil rights struggle. My impression is that it was getting harder to push public opinion in the late 60s; society was just having a hard time digesting all the change and turmoil fast enough. He seemed to be coming up on a crossroads at the time of his death. It would be fascinating to know what he'd say about American society today, what needs fixing, and how to go about it ...
Yet another strong case for time travel. Someone please get on that.
Oh, and the eternal flame at his grave was out. Someone work on that, too.
November 7, 2008
Martin Luther King's house is about three blocks from Oakland, which is a very nice spot in downtown Atlanta where they store dead people. I know my readers like to be kept up on the latest in cemetery news, and so: NEWS FLASH! Margaret Mitchell has Gone With the Worms.
Mitchell is what we would call a "one-hit wonder" of the literary world, in that she won the Pulitzer Prize for her work, then did nothing else, and then died. I think VH1 should dedicate a few hours to this, including such luminaries as Harper Lee, and Anne Frank. Yes, I know that's in poor taste.
Meanwhile, in sports, Bobby Jones has made a hole in one.
Those are golf balls laid at the base of his grave. Some had writing on them, including one that said "Hit Straight in Heaven Bobby." This would make sense to me if Bobby Jones had died last week, but he died in 1971, which calendar experts will note is significantly before last week. I'm pretty sure that if he's at the 19th Hole in the sky, he's not checking messages at this point. Also, I was sort of hoping his grave would be a putting green with one of those special mini-golf holes where you don't get your ball back placed right in front of the headstone. But that's probably why I'm not a funeral director.
You Gotta Know When to Fold 'Em
September 9, 2007
Though my team usually has a way of stumbling over the finish line, CHRIS WHITE FINISHES THE BASEBALL SEASON STRONG!
755 Hank Aaron Drive was the latest stop on the American Pastime Summer Extravaganza Tour 2007, as I watched my (adopted) hometown Washington Nationals paste the (evil, godless) Atlanta Braves at Turner Field by a score of 7-4 on Sunday afternoon. The big stick belonged to Ryan Church, who absolutely cranked a ball over the wall in dead center field for a 3-run home run to put the Nationals ahead for good in the 6th. I would say that Church silenced the crowd, but Atlanta sports fans are a complete joke and were never really loud to begin with. They must have been bored into silence by those 14 straight division titles. Ingrates.
It was my first visit to Turner Field, so I say the trip merits the Jacob's Field treatment.
Location: D. This sounds bad, but it's probably as good of a grade as you can possibly have in Atlanta. It's walking distance from ... uh, neighborhoods that you wouldn't want to walk to. It's conveniently right off the highway ... in one of the worst (soon to be THE worst -- you can do it, ATL!) driving cities in America. So you're going to eat $12 parking fees if you don't take public transit. I didn't really notice anything else to do in the vicinity. Maybe there's a secret crunk club under one of the parking lots? The actually campus for the park is nice though ... there's a nice plaza around the entrance, etc. You're close enough to downtown to get an OK view of the skyline in the outfield, but there's nothing that great about the skyline.
Fun fact: Turner Field was originally Olympic Stadium. After the Paralympics were done, they tore down chunks of the building to make the existing baseball stadium. If you ever doubted that the IOC is one of the most crooked organizations in the world, hang out in Atlanta for a while and try to figure out how the city landed the 1996 games. If your answer doesn't involve a group of greasy European bureaucrats having a one-week orgy with Gold Club strippers on a pile of bribe money and fresh peaches, the I will be shocked.
Food: C. There was nothing interesting or regional. There's a BBQ restaurant, but to qualify as "stadium food," the item in question must be capable of landing, when thrown from wherever you are eating it, either on the field or within 100 feet of the field. I wasn't expecting a grits stand, but there wasn't even a signature hot dog. Considering there's a famous hot dog place called the Varsity about a mile from the stadium, that is sad. Even if you don't want to hook up with the Varsity, how about covering a hot dog with peach salsa? These are free ideas, world. Take them.
Also: The "souvenir" soda cup does not have a Braves logo, a Braves schedule, or anything Braves related anywhere on the cup. It says "Coca-Cola." Yes, Coke is from Atlanta, but I want the satisfaction of watching Andruw Jones' head slowly fading to oblivion in my dishwasher over the course of three years.
History: B. Kudos to the Braves for including a nice little team Hall of Fame ($2 admission) that includes valuable info on the team's time in Boston and Milwaukee, including the fabulous factoid that Milwaukee Braves attendance plummeted the year their stadium's BYOB policy ended. Did you know that, despite their two moves and several name changes, the Braves are the oldest continually operating franchise in baseball? I didn't. There's also the ball from Hank Aaron's 715th home run, and an old Pullman train car decked out to show how the teams would have traveled in the old days. Go figure. Outside the stadium, they have some decent statues (Warren Spahn, Aaron, Ty "Georgia Peach" Cobb, Phil Neikro), and inside the concourse, they have official team photos arranged chronologically as you walk around the building. This is a very nice touch, and it will also let you know that the Braves employed a midget as their traveling secretary during part of the 70s. You learn something new every day. Cincinnati's Hall of Fame is better, and Detroit's statues are better, but the Braves have a respectable package going here.
Seating: B. Me gusta that they have the nice sightlines of the standard "new stadium" seating arrangement. No me gusta that you can't see the field from the concourse behind home plate -- structurally, there are concession stands and bathrooms there. Also, they have some pavilions and whatnot in the outfield that kind of force you to stand a little bit back from the action and give you an obstructed view if you're walking around the park.
Scoreboard: B. The tremendously huge scoreboard is in dead center field, and it is modern and soulless aside from one team logo on top. BUT ... it functions as one AWESOMELY HUGE TV. Amazing clarity, great graphics ... the most technologically impressive scoreboard I've seen. If you had it in your living room, you would definitely be the guy that everyone pestered to buy NFL Sunday Ticket.
Fans: D. Atlanta fans, for every sport, stink. Most are fair-weather fans, and even then they aren't GOOD fair-weather fans. The Braves weren't selling out playoff games at the end of their streak of 14 STRAIGHT DIVISION TITLES. I blame the Tomahawk Chop. No one at the stadium cheered without it. They waited for that music before doing anything. No "Let's Go Braves," no "Nationals Suck," no nickname to hoot for any of the players (some of whom have been with the Braves for a decade), no nothing. Everyone is conditioned to wait for the damn music. And they only play the chop after something good is happening -- never when they WANT something good to happen. Sad.
Odd note: No real mascot to speak of. There was a standard baseball-headed guy named "Homer" who plays a giant war drum in center field, but he wasn't working the crowd. However, I admire that they haven't gone for the "furry pile of crap with legs" to please the kids.
Overall: It's a nice facility, if a little bland. The concourse has a "multipurpose stadium" feel left over from the Olympics, which is unfortunate given all the cool things they're doing with all the other newish baseball-only parks. But I liked all the Hank Aaron tributes, and when you factor in that I hate the Braves with the fury of a thousand suns, I have to round up a little. B minus -- comparable to Jacobs Field (better history but not as aesthetically pleasing, and similar game presentation).
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