Opening my latest water and sewer bill and seeing a $65.00 sewer fee (that’s for the sewer ALONE; it doesn’t include the water) almost made we write a post about stuff I won’t miss. But I’ve already griped plenty enough. So here are some of the things I really loved about Alabama in general and B’ham in particular.
I just returned from lunch at T-bones, my favorite lunch place, so I’ll start with the eats. I know it’s not a B’ham native, but for breakfast the Original Pancake House in five points is our favorite. (Hmmm, peach pancakes with whipped cream, hmmmm). V-Richards is a close second, though. (Hmmm, Greek Omelette and cheese grits, hmmm). For dinner, if we want to eat outside, it’s either Rojo, the Grill, or Mellow Mushroom. We really aren’t cool enough for Rojo, and the Grill ain’t the Mill, so usually it ends up being Mellow Mushroom. Like the Pancake House, it’s not a B’ham native, but the pizza is good and they have a great selection of draft beer. For Mexican, it’s El Cazador on Montclair. Alfredo’s has the best pizza in town. Never heard of it? That’s probably because they are hidden back by the Burlington’s in the rear corner of the festival center on Crestwood Blvd (US 78) and they don’t deliver. I could go on and on, (Fish Market, Silvertron, DaVinci’s, Crestline Bagel) as B’ham has plenty of good food.
I like to eat, so I need to exercise, and another thing I’ll miss is the great riding and running opportunities. The Mercedes Marathon is a great event. I was in my third year of law school when I ran it for the first time. The feeling upon completing the marathon – my first – was infinitely better than what I felt when I finished law school. If you want something shorter, the Vulcan Run has all the community spirit, but only a quarter of the distance. For cycling, granted, it doesn’t start in Alabama, but the 3-state 3-moutnain challenge - my all time favorite bike ride – does go over Alabama’s Sand Mountain on it’s way through Alabama and Georgia back to the starting place of Chattanooga. Locally the best ride is the weekly Tuesday Night World’s, starting from Homewood Cycles at around 5:00. It’s thirty miles of race-intensity action.
I don’t need organized events, though. I have plenty of my own running and riding routes, all of which start from my front door in Crestwood. My favorite running route is an eight mile run going from my house over to Highland Ave and then up to Key Circle before hitting Altamont and then snaking back down through Forrest Park and South Avondale to my house. As for the bike, I don’t know. Turkey Creek, Brookside, Bessemer: Each is great in its own way. Then there’s the PTA ride, which takes me by various roads (Essex, Stone River, Karl Daly, AL 25) up and over Red Mountain, Shades Mountain, Oak Mountain, and Coosa Mountain, and then back the exact same way. PTA stands for Pain, Torture, and Agony. For off road rides (and runs) my trail of choice is the JCC. Being able to ride your bike to a trail is a rare treat.
O.k., now I’ll just list random stuff.
1) Do Dah Day. In Shreveport, or any other decent sized city, I’ll still be able to do stuff like everything else on this list. But Do Dah Day is sui generis.
2) The Sipsey Wilderness. Every time I go, I look forward to the decent from the rolling hill tops down into those amazingly beautiful, cool, moss covered, water-fall filled canyons.
3) The Alabama Theatre. It doesn’t matter what’s playing, the Showplace of the South is a treat by itself. It makes a fantastic show – for instance the Nickel Creek concert we saw there a few years ago – even better, and a painful one – I first saw Gone with the Wind at the Alabama – endurable.
4) WorkPlay. Another outstanding venue. Among other great show we’ve seen there are Josh Ritter, HEM, the Damnwells and Catlin Cary.
5) Laser’s Edge. All the attributes of a local music shop with none of the Jack Black in High Fidelity attitude. I’m a dork, yet they always talk to me when I go in there.
6) Continuing the music theme, Reg’s Coffee House. “Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakie. It’s time once again for Reg’s Coffee house, your weekly trip into the world of the singer song writer.”
7) The Black & White and the B’ham Weekly. It’s always been my blogger’s dream to one day be popular enough that I could get someone like Courtney Haden or Kyle Whitmire to guest post.
8. The woodpeckers who live in the little stand of trees across the street from my house. Really cool birds, except when one of them decided to announce his presence by banging on the downspout next to our bedroom window at 5:30 in the morning.
9) The trees. Redbuds, Tulip Trees, Dogwoods, Cherries, Bradfords, Magnolias, I’ve never lived anywhere with as many beautiful flowering trees. I love riding my bike in the spring when the dogwoods and cherries are blooming. There’s parts of Mountain Brook and Redmont that look like it’s snowing when the wind blows through those things. The fall ain’t bad around here, either.
10) Here’s a list of stuff I already miss, these things having gone the way of the buffalo: Highland Coffee Company, La Reunion (I know it’s still there, but in name only), the movie theater in the festival plaza, the bookstore in forest park (Bought my first Wendell Berry book there, yet I’ve already forgoten the name).
11) The Iron Man. I know he’s also a symbol of federal pork, but hey, you gotta love Vulcan.
12) Local television loonies: Suzuki Man, James Spann (well, pretty much all the weather guys), and the endless parade of Reverend Apostle Bishop Doctor Blowhards on the public access channel.
13) St. Paul’s Cathedral. That’s where we joined the church and where our kids were baptized. Fr. Donahoe gives religion a good name. It’s a beautiful building, too. What I’ll always remember is that during the spring, and again in the fall, there’s a moment or two in the Saturday Evening mass when the sun shines through one of the stained glass windows so brightly that you can’t even look at it. You have to sit in the southeast corner (that’s rear right, if facing front) to see it. The window is in the northwest corner (front left, if facing front). The window is red surrounding a gold grail. The sun at that time of day and that time of the year also sets in a reddish gold color, hence the spectacular results when the sun crosses in front of the grail. Beautiful.
14) Walking. Thanks to geography, racism, balkanization and non-existant planning, the metro area is seriously car dependant. However, our little corner of the world, featuring sidewalks and interconnected neighborhoods, is pedestrian friendly, if you don’t mind a few hills. Most Sunday afternoons, we load the kids in the jogger, grab the dog and head off to explore. The route will usually involve some combination of Crestwood, Avondale and Forest Park. Occasionally we make it all the way to Highland. No matter where we go, though, the old homes, carefully maintained gardens, and picturesque views make for a great trip.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten things, but this is what comes to mind when I think about leaving. What about you? What do you like about Alabama?