Sunday, December 11, 2011

Atlanta -- Day Three

Another night of solid sleep makes me wonder if I was running at a deficit or am just starting to unwind? Anyway, up at 8:00 and today I exercised some restraint at breakfast. I had the chef whip up some waffles and I had strawberries and pineapple, one cheese blintz, OJ and coffee. Miraculously, another carb-laden breakfast lasted me until well after 1:00. Those waffles were delectable. Very light and fluffy.

I headed out into a very cold Atlanta morning. Hey, I left Boston thinking it’d be warmer, why am I wrapping a scarf around my neck and hunkering down against the wind? I took the MARTA to Five Points and switched to the Blue Line to take me to the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site, which is on Auburn Avenue where he was born, preached and was buried from (and is still buried today). I went to the National Park Service’s information center, which had some interesting exhibits on his life and sermons. There was a LOT of video and photos I’d never seen before, as well as a theater that ran movies on his life. On the corner is the new Ebenezer Baptist Church which is across the street from the (now non-functioning) original. Next to that is the King Center where King’s and his wife Coretta’s tomb is outside. Up the street about a block is his birth home. This is the second time recently I’ve visited sites with the National Park Service (Philly was the other) and I’m impressed by how friendly and informative the rangers are. This was a good experience on its own. But something told me to go to church.

So just before 11 I headed into Ebenezer Baptist Church, where I was welcomed by a member. She handed me the program for today and asked me to complete a visitor’s card. I was led inside and I had my pick of seats among the congregants. Everyone made eye contact and smiled and welcomed me. I was quite obviously a visitor. The service started with lots of music and people standing to sway and wave their arms. The music was amazing, really very uplifting. Very early in the service, a member of the congregation stood at the mic and read out the names and hometowns of visitors. Oh good lord, there was a reason for filling out that card? When visitors heard their names, they were asked to stand and remain standing. Once all visitors were standing, the music started up again and the regular members all walked and greeted each visitor with a handshake and “God bless” or “Hallelujah” or “Happy Holidays”. I was blown away. Here I was, miles from home in a church not my own and I was made to feel welcome right away.

The pastor was energetic and inspiring. His sermon was based on a reading from Matthew where Joseph was told to take Jesus and Mary and flee from Bethlehem. If he had stayed in one place, Jesus may not have lived. The pastor wove that story into the moral that we must step outside of our comfort zone, that in order to fulfill our destiny we have to move on, but bearing in mind that however small it feels where we are now, from something small, something big can grow. Like Jesus growing from the animals’ trough in the manger to the cross. Those of you who know me know that I don’t consider myself terribly religious but for some reason these words rang true. After a few more songs and a benediction, the service ended, a very quick 2 hours later. I was glad I followed my whim, that was a memory made for certain.

I took the MARTA to the High Museum of Art, which I was hoping would have some of my favorite Impressionists on display and I was planning to pop into the Picasso to Warhol (from MOMA in NYC) exhibition. Alas, I only found one Monet and it was a canal view from Zaandam in Holland. I really should have remembered how much I cannot seem to appreciate modern art, because while I’m sure the exhibition was good – 14 artists selected by MOMA to be shown together in the south – I felt like I was drowning in art I just couldn’t “get”. I was also reminded how blessed we are in Boston to have the MFA with such a stellar collection.

Tired and cold, I headed back to the room to blog and email and warm up with a cappuccino. I canceled my pre-existing reservation for tonight to hopefully get into Pitty Pat’s Porch, a very popular Southern restaurant nearby. Here’s hoping…

Editing to add: I actually did make it to Pitty Pat's Porch.  They weren't very busy yet at 5:30 when I went by.  I thought for sure I'd be fighting to get in.  The server here was phenomenal too. I'm starting to think it's "just" southern hospitality and not that they're great servers!  Anyway, I started with a peach margarita which was fabulous and apparently bottomless and very strong on the spirits.  I had the fried green tomatoes (as usual, but I love them!) and a couple of wonderful, warm sweet potato muffins that came with the meal (instead of corn bread which I'd been expecting).  I had the Savannah crabcakes over grits, with a red pepper sauce lightly drizzled over it (can you tell this was to die for?).  With the entree, diners have access to the side bar, which is like a Southern style salad bar.  I skipped most of the salad fixings and instead tried things like macaroni salad, chicken salad and black-eyed peas (which seem more like beans?)  I managed to save enough room for a heavenly bowl of hot peach cobbler with cinnamon ice cream.  Sinful!  All this well worth the expectation!

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