After a long but easy bus ride, I arrived in Atlanta and took the train out toward the airport. My flight was the next morning, being far too early for me to arrive same day, so I would be staying at a hotel near the airport. I settled into my room, ate the rest of the food I had packed for the journey, and watched the movie Into the Wild. I had never seen it before, and it was quite a fascinating tale.
Many of the sentiments expressed by Alexander Supertramp were familiar to me from my own early twenties. Although I was far less extreme than he, I too forsook the conventional life path and opted instead to have wild, unscripted, sometimes dangerous vagabonding adventures. When the film first came out, I had quite a few people tell me that I should see it and/or read the book, though I never did until yesterday. A tragic tale, and one to get you thinking about the things we hold dear.
The inconvenience I was to suffer the following morning pales in comparison to the horror of starving to death in the wilderness. I set the alarm and went to bed at a fairly decent hour, but when I woke the next morning, it was an hour later than I’d intended. When I looked at my phone, it indicated that the alarm was going off, but for some reason it was silent. It was not muted; it just wasn’t making any noise. Blast the luck!
I doubted I would make my flight, but I hustled out anyway, arriving about thirty minutes before the plane was to depart. Too late. And worse, they had no more flights for the rest of the day. All overbooked, I was told. I would have to take the same flight on the following morning. Short of buying a whole new ticket via another airline, this was my only option. So back to the hotel to reclaim my old room, drop off my stuff, and see what there was to do in Atlanta.
I had never visited the Martin Luther King Memorial, which I learned is a national historic site. I bought myself a daylong pass for the MARTA and headed into the city, the Memorial my first stop. Right across the street from Ebenezer Baptist, the King family’s church, stood the visitor’s center, which had the architecture and landscaping of a college campus. Inside was an extensive about the civil rights movement and the life of Martin Luther King Jr., including many photos and historical films. I spent about an hour perusing the main floor, and I signed up to tour the King home.
Ebenezer Baptist, where King was a third-generation preacher, is also open to the public, maintained as a museum. A newer, much larger church building now hosts Ebenezer's congregation for Sunday services, which Martin’s older sister Alberta still attends.
The King’s house has been preserved, and though the family still owns it, the park service runs it as a museum, and they offer tours to the public. How interesting it was too peer into the childhood home of such a key figure in human history. Much of the house was just how it had been during those years. The game of monopoly was out and set up, and our guide explained that Martin Luther King Sr. believed it was important for young people to understand real estate. Several family photos were on display, as was the piano that Martin and his siblings played when they took lessons during childhood.
Photos were not allowed in the house, which is often the case in these historic homes. For anyone with spare time in Atlanta, it’s well worth the visit. All the programs of the Memorial were free, and the whole day was enjoyable and educational. The sight of an old Baptist hymnal that was on display at the church sent me back to my childhood. I had used that same hymnal in various Baptist churches across the south in my early life.
As I walked through the Ebenezer Baptist sanctuary, a recording of one of King’s sermons was playing. He was an excellent speaker. I love the speech he made about reaching the promise land, shortly before he was killed. He was a true servant of humanity, clear in his calling and resolute in his insistence that we rethink what is considered normal and acceptable in our society.
After several hours at the Memorial, I walked up towards Piedmont Park. I realized after about half an hour that this journey (which looked shorter on the map) probably merited taking the train, but it was nice to have a long walk through the city. I passed many old houses, some of which were way above the street on steep hills. The stairs that led up to these houses were intense. The area I was traversing looked rather run down, and I passed many places where the sidewalk was closed due to downed trees. I suppose the recent hurricane affected Atlanta more than Asheville. Piedmont Park was beautiful, though it was the heat of the afternoon and I didn’t end up staying very long. On to midtown, and then back towards downtown.
I went up into a tall building as well, to get some overhead views of the city. A nice lady at the front desk of some law firm welcomed me to take pictures from the lobby windows. I had a good view of Stone Mountain, and I am determined to bring my family there, and to Atlanta in general, where we can have a great unschooling/worldschooling adventure.
This city is certainly not dull. All sorts of wild crowds of people hung out downtown in the evenings, loud boisterous, with lots of shouting. It was all in fun, but the energy of such a congregation gave me an unsettling sense of foreboding, as though mass malarkey was just barely being contained. I never felt unsafe, but I still kept my wits about me.
Crime in Atlanta is pretty bad. Just the night before, loud sirens started sounding outside of my hotel room, long and close enough to draw my attention. Across the street a McDonald’s was surrounded by flashing police vehicles and a helicopter was flying overhead. I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but I later learned that two masked assailants locked the doors and robbed everyone at gunpoint, cleaning out the registers as well. Then, as they were making their escape, one robber killed the other and dumped his body behind the dumpster. He has, thus far, eluded the police.
A day in the life. This city is rough. Midtown seemed nicer, but many parts of Atlanta are impoverished, and when you are in the underworld of human society, you can certainly feel it. Walking through town all day got me wanting to listen to Immortal Technique, so when I got back to the hotel that evening, I did. Starting, of course, with the song Civil War, which opens with MLK’s promise land speech. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”
Before going to bed that night, I made sure to request a wake-up call from the front desk. I managed to get a good night’s sleep and I made my flight the next morning with no problems. In fact, I was lucky enough to get through security with my brand new full-sized shampoo bottle, which I forgot to put in my checked luggage. On to my next destination, which was Portland. I had a difficult two months ahead of me, but I knew that it had to be done. Money runs the world, so people give pieces of their lives to get it. I would love to figure out a different system (and believe me, I have some ideas) but for now, money’s what you’ve gotta have. So just let me get some real quick…