Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Where the heck is my........

One fine Sunday afternoon, I found myself at the Hartsfield Jackson International airport in Atlanta, giving a friend a lift. She'd spent the weekend in Atlanta, having flown here to celebrate her birthday with friends. As she hopped out of the car, I noticed something on the floor where she'd been sitting; some leather-backed cleaning pads I usually keep in the glove compartment.

Why would they be on the......never mind.

Hugs and kisses later, I'd said my goodbyes and departed the airport on my way home. Good and comfortable on the I-85, I remember taking a moment to put the cleaning pads away where they should have been in the first place. But in the few moments it took to open and close the glove box, something didn't look right.

Where the heck had my cheque book run off to (that would be checkbook you American readers)? Odd, my sunglasses were missing too....WTF?!  Mother of God, where's my GPS?!

At this point, I did a quick window check, none broken yet someone has obviously broken in. Come to think of it, the car was locked when I'd opened it that morning. Why exactly is shit missing from my................ooooooh, the mutha fuckin valets, gawd damn.

As it turned out, my friend had stayed at the W Hotel Downtown Atlanta during her weekend in Atlanta. Saturday evening, I'd parked the car over there, one of those asshole valets fleeced the car while it was parked (and had the nerve to charge me $10 plus tip for my trouble). There were no obvious signs of forced entry, no broken windows or anything of that nature and as had been my custom, I hadn't left anything visible in the vehicle or on the seats that would tempt someone to break in. These fools clearly had time to sit in the car at their leisure looking for shit to take, very neatly replacing the shit they didn't want.

As a trinidadian, I'd never quite warmed up to the concept of valet parking, I've always seen it as an unnecessary and annoying burden that we as trinbagonians don't have to deal with back home. What exactly is so wrong with my hands? What's the problem that prevents me from parking my own car? Learning to drive on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain was a harrowing enough experience that I think I've very fairly earned MY right to park MY own the right to not hand a total stranger the keys to my hard earned investment.

I like the concept even less when I'm given no choice but to use valet service; at the W, it was either valet parking or valet parking. The option to park your own vehicle simply wasn't available, you either use the valet or find somewhere to park down the street. Don't get me wrong, some people see this as a valuable service and I'm okay with that; I'm just not okay when I'm not given a choice in the matter.

When I pull up, point me in the direction of the nearest parking deck, I can drive. I did a pretty decent job getting the car this far buddy, I'm willing to bet that I know how to park. I don't need anyone else parking my chariot nor should I be forced to allow a total stranger to drive (and subsequently rifle through) my shit.

It's funny that with all the Bentleys, Aston Martins and Rolls Royce Phantoms parked outside the hotel, someone would pick the lowly '04 Honda Accord to steal from. Lesson learned, I'll be using the special valet key from now on whenever the car gets serviced or I'm forced to use the valet car park bandit services.

Anyways, rant dun, I out.


Southeastern Railway Museum

What do folks think of most often when Atlanta comes to mind? The Georgia Aquarium probably or World of Coca Cola. Stone Mountain Park is undeniably an Atlanta institution and what would the City be like without  Six Flags Over Georgia......and of course there's Atlanta traffic (sigh) which at this point, probably requires a state site designation of its own.

I love living here because of the very broad range of things to do. Even more so, I appreciate Georgia because of its wealth of important historical sites and parks, the state having played host to innumerable major events throughout history from the time of ancient indian civilizations, through the American Civil War and more recently the civil rights movement.

The Civil War era in particular oversaw Atlanta's rise to dominance as the industrial, economic, political (no disrespect Richmond) and transportation heart of the Confederate States of Americal, making the city an important strategic target for federal troops. The transportation aspect of the city's past is my focus today.

It's hard to believe that with the horrendous traffic conditions we endure each day, that Atlanta had once been so important to every major railroad in the south. The city itself had streetcars, railroad access to various cities throughout the region and seemed to be a testament to successful, transit-minded urban planning. Fast forward 150 years, what the heck happened?

Looks like a character from a Disney/Pixar movie
Tucked away in one quiet little corner of Duluth, GA, is the Southeastern Railway Museum, supposedly Georgia's official transportation history museum (which is interesting because I really don't know anyone who's even heard of the place). One must cross an active rail line then down a gravel driveway to get in but once in there, you are immediately transported back in time.

Almost the first thing you notice is how loud the place is with freight trains going by all the time, and the museum's own tour train blasting a warning every so often.

You get a real sense of history not only though the sights, but the smells as well. The WWII era Army car seemed to smell faintly of gun powder, munitions and terrible food, the older 1920's passenger cars had a grit and a worn look to them that gave you a real sense of just how old they really were. I half expected to see a train robber on horseback from the heady days of the wild west.

I honestly couldn't have asked for a better place to visit, a venue that appealed to both my affinity for history, and the masculine need for heavy equipment and raw power. I found a broad range of exhibits covering not just rail history, but transportation in general (excluding aviation), featuring buses and taxi cabs from the fifties and sixties as well as early 1920s farm equipment, tractors, etc. The older buses  on display gave me an uneasy feeling as I considered the era they were from and the civil rights struggles they'd come to symbolize.

The stars of the show of course were the steam locomotives from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. I was able to get up close to one in particular that almost felt like I was standing on a two-story building. You can never fully appreciate the true size of these behemoths till you see one in person.

I suppose it wouldn't be much of a train museum if you couldn't ride one right? My sentiments exactly. Thankfully for just a few dollars more, you do have the option of a 15 minute ride in full-sized caboose and there is even a mini-train for the kids. If like me, you have even a passing fascination with history and large mechanical objects, Southeastern might be worth a visit.

This photo does not do this locomotive any justice, it's far grander in person.

Southeastern Railway Museum
3595 Buford Hwy
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 476-2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Careful out there folks

So someone drowned this weekend at Panama City Beach barely a half mile from where we spent our day.

I make mention of this not only because of the obvious tragedy, but also because I remember thinking to myself how dangerous the water conditions were when I first got there.

And just to confirm my own suspicions, the flags prominently posted at each beach entry point clearly indicated "double caution".......i.e. SWIMMING GENERALLY PROHIBITED. There were two flags on the same pole, a red flag with a swimmer crossed out, and an orange flag. It doesn't take a Harvard degree to realize that those flags mean no swimming. Recreation authorities even went as far as to fly a plane up and down the coastline dragging a "Stay Out Of The Water!!!" sign behind it.

And even if you felt like the warnings weren't serious enough to warrant attention, one step into the gulf should have been convincing enough. The rip currents were horrendous and there was a serious undertow. I consider myself a competent swimmer and even I found myself in trouble at times, and in positions that caused my heart to skip a few beats.

I clearly had to keep more than just an eye on this "Mr. Thinks He's A Fish" son of mine.

So yeah, I'm not surprised at all that somebody drowned; it was a sobering end to an otherwise fantastic weekend. I'm sorry it happened, but I'm glad it didn't happen to any of mine. We as adults all saw the warnings, we all made conscious decisions to ignore those warnings and in the end someone paid for it.

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Post Carnival Recap - Part 2 (Holy Shit Sunday)

(yes I realize this is more than a month bad) 

Sunday May 26th I decided I was going to sleep in because shit, I'm not a facking cyborg, I'd been partying since Thursday, fuck.

I mean think about it, I'd seen Bunji at Anti-Stush on Thursday, went to GBM Showcase Friday night, spent most of Saturday at the parade and Carnival Village then went straight to Kooler Fete. Somewhere along the line, I had developed a pressing and very compelling need to sleep. 

As a result I was a no-show at Sunday Morning Breakfast Fete and Unity Festival but hey, shit happens. On the plus side, I'd gained enough rest to prepare me for an epic final night of partying. On the schedule was Peachfest with Machel and Mr. Vegas, Wear White and one or two breakfast parties to choose from. 

Peachfest - Machel Montano, Farmer Nappy, Mr. Vegas, Burning Flames, Talpree, Edwin Yearwood, Pumpa, Lavaman..........all for $45?! Stop playing.

The fete was good, Machel is one hell of a performer, Mr. Vegas did his thing too. As a matter of fact, the quality of this one singular event brought into stark relief, the blatant failings of just about every other party I'd been to up to that point. Yes the lines were long, yes half the advertised artistes didn't perform and for all that is good and holy in this world, why do they keep cutting Machel's performances short? It would help if concerts of this calibre are held outside the geographical boundaries of the City of Atlanta and it's infuriating laws that prevent partying past breakfast. (3:00 a.m. actually)

But aside from the usual complaints, Peachfest was an otherwise very well organized and extremely well produced concert (*cough by Caribbean standards of *cough course). Apart from the main bar, there were mini-bars spread throughout the venue negating the need to backtrack too far for libations. The sound set-up was top notch so either the building's acoustics were spot on or the sound engineer was a magician; no complaints to be had about faulty microphones or odd sounding speakers. 

pictured.........a complete, total lack of giving a fuck. 
But all good things must come to an end, by 4 a.m. security busied themselves kicking our collective asses out the building. Thank goodness Wear White was still jumping and folks still had a good hour and thirty minutes to jam until even the white party had to shut down. But it's at this point, I tent to admire the resilience of my Caribbean people and their determination to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment from a circumstance.

Determined to not let a party end without a fight, some enterprising young ladies pulled up in the car park outside Golden Glide (where Wear White was held), turned up some soca, somebody whipped out a conch shell, an iron somehow found it's way and before long, Wear White - The Parking Lot Edition, was in full effect. I mean people were out there jamming HARD. I've come to learn that we Caribbean people have no behaviour when alcohol and soca is involved.

Believe it or not, even after the after after party, the crew still managed to make it to a 3rd fete that night morning.

Atlanta 2013 from a strictly partying perspective, was one of the best years I've experienced so far. For the first time in memory, Atlanta played host to most of the biggest names in soca helping to firmly establish the city as a viable carnival destination.

Atlanta 2013 from a festival perspective, left much to be desired. The band leaders association needs to get its act together and figure out what isn't working. The issues with the parade route, the worrying conditions at the Carnival Village, the crappy official Carnival events that nobody went to, the lost 501(c)3 non-profit status, the unpaid prize monies.....get it together guys.

Though Atlanta has improved, it has a long way to go before it can truly be compared to the likes of Miami or New York but I'm proud to say we seem to be moving in the right direction.

DTJ out.....peace.