Alabama Redux 2023
When I read Jorge Luis Borges, I become a different person. I slip into his mindset, looking at and feeling the world through his filter. Reading Borges carefully, I feel as if I myself am capable of his deep, fantastical thoughts.
Reading Peter Watts’ Blindsight, watching Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible or Bradley Cooper in Burnt, I am an alien-watcher, an incredibly adept and luck spy, or an obsessed, artistic chef.
It’s the Walter Mitty effect that fiction so delightfully provides.
I think that this is, likewise, the attraction of traveling. Granted, there are some places that are more magical or alluring or romantic than others, but in the end, what is important is to get away from your life. To escape the geography that bounds your existence and the daily cares that inevitably get left behind, even if they plague us in some measure in thought and dream. But even then, we can shrug our shoulders. You can think I’m far from home, what can I do, as you reach for another beer or glass of wine.
Or just drink a bottle of cool water as you tag along with the riot of your three grandchildren.
Alabama the second time around was a joy.
With the exception of a hot dog at the Space Center and huevos rancheros at a (you guessed it) a Mexican Restaurant on our last day there, the food was common at best, mediocre at worst.
But the rest? Ah…
There was a hike at Madison County Nature Trail that started with a small lake and took us on a pathway of tiny frogs and multiple brightly colored mushrooms under a canopy of shading, breeze ruffled trees.
There was, again, the Space Center with videos of the space race’s history and the marvelous artifacts of the Space Age. Not to mention the aforementioned hot dog.
There was a 2 hour excursion on a small boat with a crusty captain who had interesting tales to share on Lake Wheeler that revealed the local flora and fauna and a peaceful and exciting.
The weather was hot and humid, but this made many of our destinations — the bowling alley, the Space Center, the Lowe Mill artists collective in Huntsville, the snow cone shop — were cool, air conditioned respites. The drives between locales were vividly green and bucolic and widely disbursed. The cloud-work was gorgeous, the blue sky suffused with a light that a painter would marvel at.
And there was a leisurely amble through downtown Huntsville. We fed the ducks at a huge pond, and walked through a park that had a free book kiosk, where I found a book I’d meant to buy before leaving L.A., Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Writings. Score! We ate at a local artisanal brewery and had gelato at a pizza parlor, resting our dogs and recharging.
And yes, it was a challenging delight seeing the grandkids — ages 7, 9 11. A shame they live so far away.
I miss Alabama already.
Everybody is from somewhere, and everyone wants to go somewhere else. Los Angeles, California is my city. People come from all around the world to visit us and to sample our wonders. But living everyday in paradise inures you to the wonder.
Alabama was wondrous.