Friday, August 30, 2019

Birmingham

On Setting a (Bad) Tone

Newark Airport
Terminal C, Newark Liberty God-Bless-America Apple Pie Airport

Thursday, August 29, 2019
Atlanta, GA


Outside the Game: 
So, work had been a dumpster fire, even more so than usual. I had a trip to Tennessee planned between this one and North Carolina, and I had to cancel it because of work issues. So there was no way that I was canceling this one, especially since the upper management at the company had decided in their wisdom to finally move me off the crazy client for the stupidest reason ever. At any rate, work was a disaster area, and I was trying my best to help the new person assigned to the crazy client, but on the other hand, I was also walking out the door at 6 PM this day no matter what. However, even before I left, I received a text from the airline three hours before departure that my flight was going to be delayed--never a good start.

I did leave work on time, and I was off to the races with the subway to the train. My second indication that my travel experience was going to be subpar was on the train to Newark. Stressed out and exhausted, I quickly drifted off to sleep, but I was brought back to annoying reality by a jackass in the row behind me who had his phone alarm go off. What was more surprising was that I was the only one who had to go over the seat and wake this jackwad up to tell him to turn off his goddamn alarm after five minutes. Foreshadowing, my friends.

I eventually made it to the airport and the monorail, and I checked in for my boarding pass. Because I had managed to accidentally buy a "budget economy" ticket, or whatever euphemism they used for it, I wasn't allowed to check in until I got to the airport, which just added to my regular travel stress. Well, I managed to use a kiosk to get my boarding pass, and I "quickly" was through security in 20 minutes.

With some time to kill because of the departure delay, I went to the Italian place and had some leisurely pasta, while United Airlines argued with itself. The text messages I was receiving were the good cop, saying the flight was back to its original departure time and was boarding soon. The email alerts that I was receiving were the bad cop, saying that the flight was additionally delayed and then re-delayed.

As it turned out, I should I have just paid attention to the first, half-hour delay message that I received while still at work, which is what turned out to be the only accurate message, as we boarded just about a half-hour late, and every other communication I received after that was pointless. At any rate, I boarded with the last group, but as I just had my rucksack with me, I didn't care too much. While I was waiting to go in, a nervous-looking guy asked me if I had the seat he was looking for. I said yes, and he asked if we could switch seats so he could sit next to his girlfriend. This guy was clearly terrified of flying and didn't want to fly alone, and I told him I'd think about it, but then realizing that it was a two-seat by two-seat plane and I wouldn't be stick in a middle seat, I agreed to move, and scooted up two rows in the trade. I ended up sitting next to a guy who was in the last leg of travel that started in Nigeria this morning. So there's that.

The flight itself was fine. I spent most of it watching some Marvel movie or other, and we were, as tradition, dumped out into the furthest gate in the very long Atlanta airport. Eventually, I made it to the looped rail line out to the rental car places. The counter for my rental place was closed, and I thought the sign at the closed counter said to go to the garage, but it was actually saying to go to another car agency in the building, so after a good deal of walking around sorting that out, I found the correct counter and presented my reservation.

And the lady said all they had available were minivans. And I told her I didn't want a minivan, and that, in fact, I had reserved an economy car. And we reached an impasse. So I went next door to Alamo and had an economy car in five minutes for not that much more, but certainly worth the price. I grabbed my Nissan whatever and made the short drive to the hotel.

Rental car
Because economy cars didn't cease to exist

Now, I had chosen this particular hotel for a number of reasons. In addition to being reasonably affordable, close to the airport, and quiet, the last time I went and had to check in late, there was a nice old lady who was working the counter who made the awfulness of checking in somehow less, and damned if she wasn't working the counter again this night. And she was nice as always, and I felt a little better about the world.

I mean, not enough to make up for all the garbage I had to deal with so far, but every little bit helps.


The Accommodations: 
Southern Inn & Suites, College Park
Southern Inn & Suites, College Park

This was literally the only good thing about the day, and I didn't even spend all that much time at the Southern Inn & Suites at Atlanta Airport.

As with my previous visits, there was no airport noise, which was worth the short drive there from the same. My room had its lengthy bathroom right at the entrance to the room. The entranceway opened into the bedroom, with the king-sized bed and lounge chair on one side of the room, and the desk, dresser, and TV on the other.

I pretty much slept here and had breakfast, but it was everything I needed it to be.



On Continuing a Pretty Bad Experience

Regions Field, 2019
Regions Field, 2019
Friday, August 30, 2019
Biloxi Shuckers (Milwaukee Brewers) vs.
Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox)
Regions Field
Southern League (AA)
Birmingham, AL
7:05 PM


Outside the Game: 
This annoying day started annoyingly with me waking up extra early due to poor sleep. I kept jolting up every hour or so, and once that starts, there is no way to stop it. I kept falling back to sleep, but arose for good at around 8 AM, when I grumpily trudged downstairs to the actually quite lovely buffet. As I was eating, there was disturbing news about the hurricane making its way towards Florida, and I tuned it out as much as possible with food.

After eating, I went back up to my room to book my hotel for tonight in Birmingham and buy tickets for the game. I called up the ticket office to be surprised by a random guy answering the phone. I thought I had the wrong number, but he confirmed that I had the Baron's ticket office, and he just answered because sometimes suppliers call him early in the morning before they open. I asked what time it was, and he told me an hour earlier than I was expecting, and it was then that I realized I had forgotten Alabama was in another time zone. I apologized and said I'd call back in an hour. In the interim, I showered, packed up, and booked a hotel for the night in Birmingham a short walk from the ballpark. At the appropriate time, I called back to the ballpark, and found that it wasn't open yet because the ticket guys just weren't in yet. I spent some time working out what to do for the day, called back, the ticket office was open, and I finally purchased a ticket.

Trying to get some karma going my way, I called up the Southern Inn & Suites to leave some praise for the night clerk, and after a long and all-too-complicated process, I was able to do so. When people wonder why they don't get many compliments for their staff, it just might be because they make it too time-consuming to do so. To be fair, they were dealing with a lot of cancellations because of the storm approaching Florida, but still.

I also realized that because of the time difference, I also wasn't likely to go to Mobile, the proposed third stop for this trip. It was going to be a long drive back to begin with on Sunday, I had to get in early to check in with my stupid ticket, it was not going to be an early Sunday game in Mobile, and now I was also going to lose an hour on the drive back. So that was that.

I grabbed one more nap and then checked out. In putting my bag in the trunk, I realized that I had left said trunk open all night. I worry about myself sometimes.

I headed out to Birmingham, and although it was only about a 2.5 hour drive, it felt extremely long. Maybe it was because I was crossing a date line. I decided to stop first at Rickwood Field, the Baron's old turn-of-the-century stadium that was still in use. Well, I was doing okay with that plan, until the main highway that goes through Birmingham stopped. There is a big construction project and a detour (apparently part of a three-year construction project--can you imagine?), and it screwed my GPS up, and I don't know where I ended up, but it wasn't at the park. I decided to cut my losses and go back to the hotel. I was able to check in early and buy some lunch from the hotel store and eat it in my room.

Lunch
Civilized lunch

After that, I walked over to the ballpark to take some outside pictures and pick up my ticket. I did so successfully, along with some shopping at the team store. One of the other things I was super-excited to visit on this trip was the Negro Southern League Museum, which was located in the back of the ballpark. But once I got back there, I found it closed indefinitely because of construction of a restaurant next door. This was confirmed when I asked at the team store, and another failure made its mark on this trip. I asked for some more specific directions to the old ballpark and how to get in, trying to avoid a second failure. They assured me that someone was usually there, and you could walk right in, and all I really had to do was follow the road right outside the new park. Well, alright. I went back to my hotel and dropped off my gains and drove off.

The directions he gave worked like a charm. The other information, on the other hand, was less reliable. There was, in fact, no one at the park, and there was no way in that wasn't chained up. That said, I did love what I could see of the venerable old park from the outside. It was a giant bandstand place, still mostly of wood, with old style ticket booths with naked light bulbs above them, and a giant hand-operated scoreboard in left field. The only problem with seeing this all is it made me want to see more, and I couldn't.

Rickwood Field
Stately Rickwood Field

With another mild failure under my arm, I drove back to the hotel and took a little nap to shove off some of the afternoon heat. Upon waking, I grabbed my game bag and headed off, and I lined up at the gate that was in the shade, joined by a father with his kid who never stopped asking questions. We did get the gates opened a little early, and that was about the last good thing that happened that night.

After the game was over, I stayed around to watch a little of the fireworks and then walked to the hotel. I bought some more food and had a nightcap meal in my room before grabbing a shower to wash the day off and hitting the hay.


The Stadium & Fans: 
Home to center, Regions Field
Home plate to center field, Regions Field

Regions Field, despite all the problems I had there, is a nice park. It has some architectural flair, which is rare in parks these days, so while there are some pretty obvious flourishes, the park itself also has a lot of subtle things to set it apart. By the numbers, it is similar to many minor-league parks at this level: two main entrances; one big promenade running around the entire park at the top of the seating area; a (larger-than-average) second tier holding the press box, luxury suites, and party decks; the kids play area beyond left field; and the giant video board in left-center against the city backdrop.

Some of the more obvious deviations are the Switchyard, an area behind first base with camp games and tables on artificial turf in the middle of classic Airstream trailers. The Switchyard is under the giant, light-up "Birmingham" sign that is scrawled across the first-base side of the park. There are a lot of little touches, too, such as references to Birmingham's industrial history, and--most impressively--the layout of the park feels cozy even with a capacity of 8,000 or so.

There's a statue to Willie Mays out front, and if you didn't know that this was the minor-league franchise where Michael Jordan played during his brief baseball career, you will know from the various signs and such you see before you leave. Other alumni such as Piper Davis and Reggie Jackson get murals near the Switchyard.

Mascot dog Babe Ruff and human MC RC (say that five times fast) run the on-field entertainment, which is mostly minor-league standards, with unique things like a plane-throwing contest (sponsored by the local airport) and--I swear to friggin' god--sponsored hit batsmen (from a local personal injury lawyer) in the mix. The crowd was big and involved, but even though it was a sellout, there were still lots of empty seats, and not all of them could be stuck in the sometimes titanic concession lines in the park. The line for Dreamland BBQ looked like the Shake Shack line at Not Shea and was proportionally longer, somehow.

Mascot
Babe Ruff--get it?

Now, the local children's hospital is just beyond right field. During the 7th Inning Stretch, they have everyone turn on their phone lights and wave to the children in the hospital, and the nurses in the hospital wave back with their lights. I'm not sure what kind of absolute monster you'd have to be to be against that, but if you're anti-helping sick children, well, then, you probably deserve to be living in Alabama.


At the Game with Oogie: 
Grub
At least there was BBQ

Okay, I'm just going to come out and say that this was the worst experience I've ever had at a ballpark.

It didn't start too bad. I went in when the gates opened, bought a scorecard, and had the foresight to buy some Dreamland BBQ from the concession right as I went past the first time. By the second time around the park, the Dreamland line was to the end of the chains. For the rest of the evening, the line was snaked halfway to right field. To be fair, there were long lines at nearly all the concessions, but Dreamland was easily the longest, by far.

So I ate my sandwich and walked around and took my pictures, and everything was relatively alright until it was time to go to my seat. And at the top of my section, there was a film crew and a sign that said if you sit in this section, you are saying that you consent to be in a commercial. Now under normal circumstances, I wouldn't do this, but especially in Alabama--the state that nearly elected a pedophile senator after the news broke--I shudder to think what my likeness might be used to support.

Okay, no problem. I went back to the customer service desk and said I don't consent to sit in that section, and can they please get me another ticket? Well, they called some guy on the walkie talkie, and I waited, and waited. The guy there told me to just go to the ticket booth and tell them to switch my ticket while we wait. No problem. I went to the ticket booth, and an annoyed lady told me there were no tickets to be had. I was a little incredulous, but whatever. I went back in, and the guy they radioed showed up. I explained my situation to him, he was apologetic, and he went off to the ticket booth and came back with a ticket for me. Okay, fine. Was that hard?

As I walked to me new seat, I noticed it was towards the right field corner, but whatever. But when I arrived at my seat, there was no seat. There literally not a seat there: a space where one should be, but not actual seat, per se. I went back fuming and said that my seat didn't exist. The radio guy had left by that point, and the original guy said that it was a handicapped seat. I was pretty pissed and said I'm not going from your most expensive seat to standing where a seat should be in the far right field corner for the entire game. He said he could get me a chair to sit in, but at that point, I told him to forget it, and I found a standing room seat at a rail at the top of first base.

He eventually found me again and was angry because he had gotten a chair for me. I told him I had told him to forget it, but I guess he didn't hear me, and that's about the only part of this whole thing I feel bad about. I stood for most of the game watching all the empty seats that were clearly available around the park until I grabbed an unoccupied seat in the section I was above, sitting for the rest of the game. My mood was somewhat alleviated by a funny family that was also squatting in my section, so it is always important to concentrate on the positive, I suppose.

Scoring
Seated scoring, finally

But still: This was the worst customer service I've ever experienced at a game, anywhere.


The Game:
First pitch, Shuckers vs. Barons
First pitch, Shuckers vs. Barons

In a game that looked to be over early between the division-leading Biloxi Shuckers and the bottom-dwelling Birmingham Barons, appearances would be deceiving, and the game wouldn't actually be decided until late.

The game began inauspiciously in the top of the first, with the shortstop muffing a leadoff grounder, leading to the first Shucker baserunner. A fielder's choice eliminated the lead runner, and a strikeout got it to two outs, and then the wheels came off the bus. A walk was followed by four straight singles and then a double, and when the smoke cleared, the Shuckers batted around and had a 5-0 lead in the top of the first. Birmingham didn't get knocked out, though, with a leadoff walk followed by a double and a single to drive in a couple, and then a hit-by-pitch and two walks loaded the bases. A walk brought in another run, cutting the early lead to 5-3 by the end of the first. Biloxi went in order in the second, and the Barons got a runner to third on a walk, stolen base, and wild pitch, but stranded him there with three straight strikeouts. Both sides went in order in the third.

The Shuckers only had a leadoff walk to show for the fourth, while Birmingham stranded a single and a walk. In the fifth, Biloxi had a leadoff hit batsman, but he got picked off, and they went in order again. In the bottom of the fifth, the Barons got another run back, with back-to-back singles to start the inning, and a sacrifice fly to bring in the lead runner and tie up the game. The Shuckers went in order again in the sixth, but Birmingham kept on the horse. A leadoff double was sacrificed over to third, and he scored on a ground-out, taking the lead for the first time 6-5.

Biloxi again went in order in the seventh, while the Barons got a one-out single all the way to third, but stranded him there. Yet again, the Shuckers started the eighth by going in order, and Birmingham stranded more runners, with back-to-back leadoff singles moved up on a double-steal and then died on the vine. In their last licks, Biloxi only managed to get a one-out baserunner on an error, leaving the game to the home team with a 6-5 victory.


The Scorecard:
Shuckers vs, Barons, 08-30-19. Barons win, 6-5.Shuckers vs, Barons, 08-30-19. Barons win, 6-5.
Shuckers vs, Barons, 08/30/19. Barons win, 6-5.

The scorecard was a $1 purchase, and in addition to the bi-fold cardstock scorecard, you receive the rosters and the gameday pamphlet program. The scorecard is quite nice in a lot of ways. The front cover has the rules for scoring, and only the back cover has a full-age ad. The inner centerfold is just the scorecard.

The defensive alignments are included at the top of each side, alongside game data on the left side and umpire lineups on the right side. The pitching lines, with plenty of space for pitchers, is next, and on the right side of the card, the line score and game totals are to the left of the pitching lines. The pitching lines themselves were quite comprehensive, and included "at bats" and "batters faced," which I don't think I've seen on any other scorecard before. It is an interesting metric to see how effective the pitchers are by comparing those two numbers, though.

The batting lines follow underneath the pitching lines. Each of the nine batting lines has space for three replacements. The batter's position and batting average are next, and each of the 10 inning columns has runs/earned runs, hits, errors, and left on bases. These are all part of the game totals (plus double plays) on the middle-right of the card. There are no cumulative batting totals for each batter, however. There is background printing on the scoring squares, but it isn't too obtrusive, although it wears with erasing. The scoring boxes themselves are large and comfortable, and there is a lot of white space around the card for notes, though no specified note area.

This game was really, really weird. Both starters didn't make it out of the first, and the Shuckers batted around in the top of the first and then stopped doing anything resembling offense. There were two plays of literal note. An E1 in the bottom of the seventh was expanded upon to note that it was a blown pick-off attempt at first. And in the bottom the eighth, the infield fly rule was noted that it was invoked when the shortstop dropped a routine pop-up with men on first and second. The home first baseman got a sombrero.

Each team had one gem play. In the bottom of the third, the pitcher made an amazing play on a chop grounder to get a 1!-3 play at first, and in the top of the fourth, the third baseman made an incredible dive and throw on a 5!-3 putout.


The Accommodations:
Home 2, Birmingham
Home2, Birmingham

The Home2 in downtown Birmingham was everything I needed it to be. It was nice, it was quiet, and it was within walking distance of the ballpark. In fact, there was some extra kismet, as my floor in the hotel had a Barons display by the elevators.

The room was quite nice, if a rather odd shade of green. The kitchen and bathroom were right by the entrance to the room, with the kitchen on the right and short bathroom on the left. There was a squat vanity across from a sliding-door shower (and why don't these places ever have proper tubs?).

A small living room was next into the room, with a desk and a couch and a curtain to separate it from the bedroom, where the king-sized bed sat on one wall, opposite the dresser and TV on the other wall. The blinding southern sun was effectively countered by the blackout shades.



On the Wildest Extent of Implausibilities

Montgomery
A deserted city
Saturday, August 31, 2019
Montgomery, AL


Outside the Game: 
This day didn't start too badly. I went down to the copious breakfast and ate well from the big spread, joined by a good number of active duty military that were staying at the hotel for some reason. Quite full, I marched back up to my room for some lying around and planning.

And that's where it all fell apart. I was already heavily leaning to not go down to Mobile because it would be too much driving, and, oh, there was a hurricane blowing up that way. (While it not was threatening the area, no matter how much the president alters maps, it was still likely to be raining.) So, I was going to go to Montgomery and see the Biscuits. I confirmed on the Internet the date and time for the game that night, and tried to call the ticket office. No one answered, and there were no special messages when it went to voice mail, but it was still early, and everyone was still probably hung over, so I arranged for my hotel for the night, and then called back solidly in ticket office hours.

And there was no answer. I checked the Internet again, and the team Website. Outside of seeing an unannounced double-header the night before (a not uncommon occurrence with rain-outs late in the season), there was still a schedule for the game, but no one was answering the phone. I decided to try and buy tickets online, but there were no tickets for sale. I started to worry now, as maybe the game was a sell-out. I went to secondary outlets, but there were plenty of tickets left for the game there, so I was less worried, but still concerned that I could not get anyone on the phone.

After not getting an answer anywhere, I tried calling all the departments I could find in the phone tree, and finally had someone answered at the team store. The clueless college student there said that there was a double-header today, which I told her was unlikely, but she finally told me something that made sense: There was a funeral.

For those of you who missed the story, a minor-league player had a tragic turn this season, as his brother-in-law murdered his wife, child, and mother-in-law, finally being apprehended naked and disoriented. Well, that player played for the Biscuits, the team I was trying to see that day. After digging into every source I could find, there was one Twitter post by the team saying that the Saturday game was going to be postponed for the funerals, with the game made-up by the Friday's double-header.

And then it all fell into place. And I was screwed. I could have diverted and gone down to Mobile for the game that night instead of Sunday and at least seen two teams on this trip, but I already had my non-refundable hotel booked, and screw every last thing about Alabama anyway.

sigh

Nothing to be done about it. So it goes.

I dejectedly packed up all my stuff and checked out of the hotel, and decided to make the most of my day at the Civil Rights Museum downtown. I hit some street parking and bought my ticket, and then had to go through a depressingly long security briefing about what was and was not allowed in the museum, realizing there must be a reason for each and every one of those security precautions. The museum was depressing, if very well done. It was also humbling to realize all these people who had far more bravery on a daily basis than I ever had in my life. Just looking at the nearly destroyed Freedom Rider bus that they had in the museum, I knew fundamentally that I would never be able to do anything like that, and the profound respect I had for the people who did.

Birmingham Civil Rights Museum
Birmingham Civil Rights Museum

I of course grabbed some books in the gift shop, and while checking out, I got to talking with the attendant, who said one of the books I was buying was out of stock for a while because of a shipping delay, and how the price on Amazon went to something like $50 per book. I explained to him about the automated pricing that resellers use that can get out of hand, and we both agreed that was pretty stupid.

With a little more morning to kill, I went up to the Vulcan center, home of the largest cast-iron statue in the world. You can climb up stairs or take an elevator to the top of the statue for a lovely view of the entirety of Birmingham, but there is also a nice little museum talking about the historical industries in Birmingham, along with the statue itself.

Vulcan
Fire god

Having my fill, I got back into the car for the short drive down to Montgomery. It was uneventful, at least for me. There was a major accident on the other side of whatever highway I was on that was backed up for miles and miles.

I swooped into my hotel about when I expected to, but it was also as the first college football game of the year for University of Alabama (Roll Tide), and the city was deserted. Even when I went inside the hotel to check in, the good-natured guy behind the counter was clearly watching the game that was conveniently playing on the TV strategically placed on the wall across from the check-in desk. When I mentioned it, he tossed out a casual "Roll Tide," in the way that I imagine Colonel Gentleman can spit out, "Go Team Venture."

I dumped all my stuff in my room and tried to work out what to do with the night. I quickly found that there was a Dreamland BBQ in town, and after stopping for some directions downstairs, I headed off. As luck would have it, the restaurant was right across the street from the baseball stadium, and I stopped over there to take some pictures, because, hell, I was here.

Riverwalk Stadium
Not quite abandoned

I was rather surprised to find a large group of people milling around outside the park. Then, I realized. There was not an update on the main sign at the stadium. There weren't any notices posted anywhere that the game was cancelled. Now, I understand that the entire team was off to a funeral, and it was a sad time, but at least let people know. If I hadn't tracked down that tweet, I'd be in the same boat as these people. I went to the group to let them know that the game was cancelled and why, and one couple, fans of the visiting Pensacola team, expressed their disappointment after travelling all this way, and I explained that it could be worse.

When the situation literally descended into parody was when a cop rode up on his bike. He was expecting to be providing security for the game, and while it was bad enough that they didn't go out of their way to tell the fans that the game was cancelled, not telling the police that were providing security the game was off was beyond all the pale.

My good deed for the day done, I went to Dreamland BBQ and filled up on ribs and sides while everyone else in the joint was watching college football. Suitably filled with ribs and regret, I decided to walk around some more in the deserted city, going to the riverfront park and then downtown before retreating back to the hotel.

Ribs
RIBS

After some small talk with the guy at the hotel counter, I had a lazy lay-around night in my room. I checked the weather, caught up on writing, and planned for the next day and hoped for the best. I made some free popcorn and then crawled into bed for an early night of it.


The Accommodations: 
Staybridge Suites, Montgomery
Staybridge Suites, Montgomery

At least my hotel for the evening was copacetic. The downtown Staybridge Suites was a fine place to spend a frustrating day, especially considering that the entire city was abandoned to people watching college football.

My suite opened up into the kitchen right by the door. Further down the room was the bedroom, with a couch and a desk on one wall and a king-sized bed and dresser on the other, with the TV strangely mounted on the adjoining wall, between the windows. The bathroom was accessed through a door on the kitchen-side of the bedroom, with mood lighting, a small vanity, and the regulation overly fancy shower.

It was a nice enough place to deal with my profound disappointment.



On Bad Events, Good Information, and Stupidity

Judgement
Judgement
Sunday, September 1, 2019
Atlanta, GA


Outside the Game: 
I was up early after going to bed early. It was another lavish breakfast spread with a ton of food that I took advantage of, especially the grits. Afterward, I was back up to the room for a lazy morning of packing, naps, and planning for the night. The boutique hotel I stayed in last time in Atlanta was booked out, but I found another Staybridge to reside at for that evening.

I eventually finished packing, checked out, and headed out. One of the few museums open on Sundays was the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Firstly, it had all the security that was had the previous day at the Civil Rights Museum. I had a brief chat with the security guard, who was from NY. He wanted to know how the Knicks were looking this year, and I didn't know what to tell him.

The memorial, on lynching, was devastatingly well done. It unflinchingly talked about it being a memorial to the victims of white terrorist violence. It listed all the names of the victims of lynchings prior to 1950 on a sea of metal boxes organized by county. (A depressing number of them only had pseudonyms or "Unknown.") As you walk further into the memorial, the floor slopes away, and you eventually realize that the boxes are hung from the ceiling like the victims, and it makes you feel very, very uncomfortable.

National Memorial for Peace and Justice
Hanging

It was one of the most effective displays I'd ever been to. Depressing, but effective. The sister museum, The Legacy Center, was a short drive downtown. The Center is at the location of the old storage warehouse where slaves were kept before sale in Montgomery. The museum starts with several holographic videos in some reproduction holding cells, featuring a separated family and other lost souls. They were simply heartbreaking and all-to-real stories, and while I was watching, an elderly African-American lady was being pushed by her family through the exhibit. After watching one of them, she just nodded and declared solemnly, "Like granny said." And I've never felt worse about being a white person than I did at that moment.

The rest of the museum was broken up into the three major injustices that blacks faced in America: the injustice of slavery, the injustice of segregation, and the injustice of the justice and penal system. It was all thought-provoking and utterly awful, especially in the national environment we find ourselves victims of these days.

By the time I wandered out into daylight, I ditched my plans for trying to visit the local zoo and just stopped for a quick lunch at Jimmy John's before heading to the Hank Williams Museum. I hadn't known or thought much about Hank Williams, outside of his son being a racist idiot, but in doing research, I had realized how many songs of Hank's that I knew. The owner of my guitar store had a side project that he started after jamming on Hank Williams music, and with that all, I was in the man's town, so I might as visit the museum.

Hank Williams Museum
Hank you for visiting

And it was a very hand-made affair that showed a great amount of love for its subject. It was all hand-typed labels on mis-matched display cases wedged into an old downtown storefront. There was the ever-present sounds of his music, as well as his furniture, awards, and even the Cadillac that he died in, which was somehow brought into the tiny entrance. I had way more fun than I was expecting, and blew some cash at the gift shop on the way out.

There was nothing left but to drive back to Atlanta, so I packed into the car and headed northeast. The drive was going fine until a huge rainstorm hit just as I crossed the border and time zone line to Georgia. It transitioned from drizzle, to heavy rain, to blinding squalls with annoying regularity, and the drive took about a half-hour or so longer than I was expecting.

But I eventually completed the drive and went straight to the airport to drop off my rental car. Since I wasn't able to check-in with my accidental budget ticket except at the airport, I decided to replicate my night from the last time I was down in Atlanta and have dinner at the steakhouse at the airport and get my boarding pass, then grab the shuttle to the hotel.

Everything went to plan until I went to check in. Apparently, the rules on the stupid ticket were not "you have to check in at the airport." The rule is "you have to check in at the airport no longer than six hours before your flight." Alright, whatever, United. I'm going to try to never fly you again after this anyway. The guy at the counter did warn me to show up early the next day, because it was going to be a heavy travel day because of the local comic convention ending, as well as the holiday weekend.

I had a grumpy dinner at the steakhouse (or as grumpy as you can while having steak), and then got the shuttle out to my hotel. I checked in with a way too up-with-people counterperson and then went to my room.

I got my clothes ready for the next day, re-packed, showered up, did some writing, and then had my free popcorn and went to bed early to get at least some sleep for the night.


The Accommodations:
Staybridge Suites, College Park
Staybridge Suites, College Park

With my other hotel option booked out, I took another roll on Staybridge Suites. While I didn't get there as early as I was expecting, it was still a nice enough room for the night.

The kitchen in the room with the full refrigerator was to the right of the entrance in its own alcove. The bedroom was further in, with a desk and dresser on one wall, the king-sized bed and built-in nightstands on the wall opposite, and a couch on the wall between. The bathroom was a long room with a vanity, ending in a separate room with toilet and fancy shower.

The only thing Staybridge needs to work on is getting some damn tubs in their places, and it would be largely perfect.



On Finally Putting a Bullet in the Stupid Weekend

Atlanta Airport
Atlanta airport, early
Monday, September 2, 2019
Jersey City, NJ


Outside the Game: 
It was another stupidly early morning, starting with angry recriminations at the alarm clock. I was up an out in time to catch the 6 AM shuttle, which was fine, as I was still worried about getting checked in, and the weather, and the holiday airport traffic.

I shouldn't have worried. I checked in immediately at a kiosk, and I was through security in literally five minutes, and suddenly I had a lot of time to kill. I walked around for a bit to check my options, and then I stopped off for a leisurely breakfast at Bojangles.

Breakfast
Biscuits make it better

And then more waiting. I found a spot and did Duolingo Italian for a while and successfully killed time until boarding. The weather was not yet an issue, as there were still flights to Miami leaving before my flight boarded. And the boarding was all on time, and we got on easily, and I was even able to grab an overhead bin for my rucksack. I was seated next to a nice old lady, and we didn't speak for the entire flight.

I watched They Shall Not Grow Old and bits and pieces of Endgame to kill the time. Ironically, we had some weather-related issues at Newark, as there were thunderstorms that the plane had to fly behind to land, and we received more than our share of chop on the way down. But we landed on time, and I ordered up a Lyft in the rain to deliver me home.

I called my parents on the drive back, and then spent the afternoon doing laundry and the like, trying to ignore the crushing disappointment of the knowledge that I'd have to return to Alabama at some point in the future.


The Accommodations: 
Home, sweet Jersey City




2019 Stand-Alone Side Trip -- Alabama