Friday, April 25, 2014

All Roads Lead There

All roads lead to Rome, although in our case we arrived on Georgia S.R. 53. Personally, it followed long and tortured travel. The Martin Luther King National Historic Site was our most significant destination but Ria's Bluebird was the highlight of the day-and-a-half that ended with the Lexington Legends punishing the Rome Braves; Monday, April 14.

Let's get that prologue out of the way: a long wait for the F train and another long wait to transfer to the A led to a half-hour wait for a NJ Transit train to Newark International Airport that resulted in me missing my flight. Should it really take twice as long to go from Brooklyn to EWR as it does to fly from there to ATL?

While I waited three hours more to fly standby, Melvin and Watson went to Turner Field, where through some wrinkle in time and space they caught up with the ice cream of the future. Will we continue to outpace Dippin' Dots and some day look back on the confection as a source of great nostalgia?

Twelve hours after I woke up, I joined them at our hotel. It was a short walk from there to Folk Art Park, on the Courtland Street Bridge over I-75. A panel stated 22 unlisted artists were (once) represented but only six apparently remain, and in poor repair at that.

Detail: "Star Wheel with Guitar Girls," James Harold Jennings (1931-1999)

We had all been looking forward to Sunday Supper, proper noun, at JCT. Kitchen and Bar. The food was fine but less impressive than the promised "fancy meat and three." Our server was the worst waiter I have experienced in years and, years from now, what we will remember most about the meal.

Breakfast the next morning at Ria's Bluebird more than made up for it. Watson had shrimp and grits, Melvin had country fried tempeh and I had brisket with a couple poached eggs. Everything was superb and the service outstanding.

Our first destination that Monday was the Martin Luther King National Historic Site, a rambling campus of historic buildings and new infill. The visitors' center is a book-on-a-wall exhibit with little original material. Melvin and I compared it to other civil rights museums that we have visited and found it wanting.

Image by Adam Jones used through Creative Commons license.

The National Civil Rights Museum  (above) is encyclopedic and interesting visually. (The exhibit has been redesigned since we toured it in 2012.) Given its location at the former Lorraine Motel, where King was murdered, the Memphis museum analyzes the assassination in detail, something the federal facility barely mentions.

Melvin and I remember the National Voting Rights Museum, at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, as powerfully intimate. (It too looks like it has been redesigned since our 2010 visit.) Reading the material at the national historic site felt dutiful.

There is additional original material across the street at The King Center, also the resting place of Dr. and Mrs. King.  It's not a lot and I suspect most of the visitors skip the building, designed by J. Max Bond Jr. in 1981 but looking stylistically older.

The most moving experience, we thought, is the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Rev. King first preached in 1948 and where he was co-pastor from 1960 until his death six years later. Sitting in the pews while a recorded sermon played, the empty sanctuary became a metaphor for his absence.

"Crackers baseball crowd, Ponce de Leon Park stadium, Atlanta, Georgia, Jul7 21, 1950."

We filled the afternoon with a series of lesser destinations. I was personally most interested in seeing the magnolia tree that once stood in deep centerfield in Ponce de Leon Park, home to the Atlanta Crackers (1907-1959, 1962-1964) and Atlanta Black Crackers (1920-1937, 1940).

Reportedly, the only batters to hit the tree on the fly were Babe Ruth and Eddie Murray, hitting in exhibition games. Today, the magnolia stands behind the Whole Foods in the Midtown Place shopping center.

Also on the itinerary was rusty sculpture by Clark Ashton, the site of the future Braves stadium (nothing to see), the Henderson Family Cemetery in a shopping center in Tucker, The Big Chicken in Marietta, and Sam Edwards' tree house. We skipped the attraction that had a sign out front, "White History Year"—won't even mention it by name. Lunch was biscuit sandwiches at The Red Eyed Mule.

We had supper at State Mutual Stadium, beginning with a $15 dollar bucket of ice with shrimp and lemon wedge garnish. The Rome Braves' staff is probably still laughing at the northerners who were stupid enough to buy the "bucket of shrimp."

half done

It was the Lexington Legends, however, who laughed hardest that night, crushing the home team 17-0. Not quite half of the runs were scored in the third inning when the visitors sent 12 men to the plate and eight of them would cross it later.  The Braves committed three errors in the game, but none of them were in the third.

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