May 27, 2008 :: Empty. Manhattan Cafe, Athens, GA
I do love the city. Don't get me wrong. But visiting places that confront me just a bit less with the seething crush of humanity one experiences in downtown Atlanta always soften me around the edges a little. It reminds me of growing up rural. Makes me slow down and take notice of detail, light, sound (or the absence of it). Where I live, there's too many cars by about a million. There's no such thing as an empty store, a lunch that doesn't require about ten more minutes wait than you wanted, an armpit-to-the-face (or bumper-to-the-bumper) ride home. And I know I'm complaining about very little, given this isn't Manhattan at rush hour, or even Chicago inside the loop. To be honest, I don't even really notice this stuff...until Blake and I walk into a restaurant and are greeted warmly, immediately, and shown to a table where a pleasant waitperson wants to know what we're drinking. I don't even think about it, until I walk right up to the hotel front desk and check in. Until I walk into a little coffee-shop and don't have ten 6-step lattes barking trash into cell phones in front of me. (Ok, so the great servers thing absolutely happens in my neighborhood, but you have to work hard at it. Until you know the staff, their spouses' names, their shifts and their plans for the next tattoo, you're often gettin' a big pint of nuthin'. Awesome. But, there's also something about being treated nicely...by someone that doesn't know you.)
So that little bit of calm (the empty, post-semester dive bar, the pub with free bread and cheese, the quiet streets dotted with vendors) was what I took from our weekend trip to Athens. Well, that and impromptu music sets full of country-rock covers, 2AM taco bell and a bed the size of my living room, all shared with my favorite traveling companion (Mr. Rainey, of course) make for the best kind of 24-hour getaway.
But then it was over, and we came back to the steaming city. The bustling, teeming mess. To be greeted by a solitary Monday morning stroll, ten empty seats at the neighborhood cafe, and a wonderful salmon-and-lox brunch with the small pup in tow. All that, and a friendly, genuinely nice waitress to boot.
Maybe we brought some empty back with us.