Archive for the ‘Alabama’ Category

Santos L. Halper

Apr 23

Rob and I lost a combined total of $12.00 at the dog track.

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Apr 23

Despite its name, I was surprised to discover that Mobile, Alabama was really quite stationary. 

Picture New Orleans.  Then pump it full of downers.  That, in a nutshell, is Mobile.  It does have all of the prettiness, French roots, architecture, and seafood of NOLA, but it does not have the madness, with the exception of the man standing up at the table of his cafe randomly singing opera. 

What Mobile does have, that we were denied in Pensacola (which is why there was no real post for Florida) was a special little place I like to call The Dog Track. Oh yes.  Instead of betting on the ponies, Rob and I went to bet on the greyhounds!

I’d show you the photos we took, but we were yelled at by a security guard for taking out our cameras.  There are signs literally everywhere asking the patrons to refrain from profanity, and there are literally people swearing up a storm all around these signs.  There was not one sign telling us not to take pictures, but we were shut-down by security the moment we reached for our cameras. It’s a whole other culture down here.

Tune in to the next post to find out how much we won at the dog track!!!$$$

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Redneck Riviera

Apr 20

That’s right, folks.  Y’all heard of the French Riviera (that one there’s for Frenches), but this right here in our backyard is the best ole beaches y’ever will find.  And that, frankly, is fairly true.  Rob and I have made our way to Gulf Shores, Alabama: the sand is pure white, the weather is in the 80s, and the fresh seafood tastes divine.

It was a three day recharge by the beach and we were both happy to have it.  Not a lot happened, just some good walks on the beach, soaking in the weather, a brief detour to Pensacola, Florida; but I think this scene was the most notable and certainly, one of the most enjoyable so far.

One night, Rob and I went to the pier, which, as it happens, is also part of a state park.  I do love that America makes everything  worthy of its being so a park and protects it.  The night air was spectacular, with a nice breeze coming off the gulf (Gulf of Mexico to orient you), and many of the locals spend the evening fishing here.  It’s a great place to people watch.  And to instill a fear of the Gulf in you for all of your days on Earth.

Rob set up his camera at the end of the dock, next to a nice man with his young boy and their Mexican friend, all of whom had come here on a fishing trip from Arkansas.

The boy was on fire!  He was catching fish every time he cast his reel.  “Is it a keeper, Papa?”  he ask in a ridiculously adorable voice.  Most of his fish were.  Some, his father let him keep regardless, because by now the boy noticed our interest in him and wanted to show off.  I wanted to take him home.  I realized it was both impractical and illegal.

Finally, his father got a bite.  “Oh, it’s a double,”  his father exclaimed as he struggled to bring his catch from the water.  It wasn’t a double.  It was a monster!  There was this fish; normal looking catch, but attached to this normal fish was this long sea-creature snake eel horror thing that even the man had never encountered before.  Both fish and monster remained alive.

We all stood around, offering suggestions as to what it could be as the man, bravely in my opinion, tried to cut off the head of the monster with his pocket knife. “Aguilla,” the Mexican kept repeating over and over again, until the man finally wrestled his catch free, and kicked the monster back into the deep water once again.  If the Mexican was right, it was an eel.  To me, it will always be a monster.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…another catch and commotion on the other side of the dock.  We all ran together to take a look.  Someone had caught an octopus.  Ever seen an octopus outside of the water?  It ain’t pretty.  The awkward tentacles flailing, the over-sized head flopping to and fro.  I am getting shivers just thinking of it now.

This, too, shall pass.  Off the hook and back into the Gulf for this at least identifiable monster.  Another tourist couple, clearly from the North, said to me and Rob, “there are some terrifying things down there.”

“Yes,” I responded as Rob and I turned to go, “we’re headed straight for the desert.”

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Ebony and Ivory

Apr 20

I have to say, Montgomery is the most historically opposed and interesting city I have ever been to.  Where else can you find a wealth of landmarks dedicated to the Confederacy, right alongside those noble benchmark achievements of the civil rights movement?  In a matter of blocks and minutes, you can stand on the very spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as President of the Confederate States, and then sit on the very bench where Rosa Parks waited for the bus ride that would change the course of history? 


Montgomery also boasts the first White House of the Confederacy, where you can very freely roam the grounds and look around.  In contrast, follow the trail of the march from Selma to Montgomery which helped define the struggle for human rights.  Every turn leads you to a different relevent, fascinating piece of history.  It’s almost overwhelming.

The Capital building is a stunning momument to this greatly conflicted state.  There are even a few surprises on the grounds, like a statue to Dr. J. Marion Sims, considered to be the father of modern genecology. 

But even odder than our good doctor, and certainly farther reaching, was this find.

Why is Rob wrapped around this tree in a rapture of love?  Because, this is a Moon Tree.  That’s right.  The seeds that were used to grow this tree were brought aboard the Apollo 14 flight to the moon.  Amazing.  With all of its contrasts, it’s really a tree from the moon that brings us all together.

Truly, Montgomery is the gift that keeps on giving.

How Do You Like Your Peanuts?

Apr 18

One of the most fun things about road travel in America is what you find at the side of the road.  Not only did I see roadkill Armadillo, we came across a staple of the South:  a road-side stand selling boiled peanuts.

Rob pulled off the road immediately, hopped out of the car, and shortly returned with a large brown paper bag filled with hot, steamy peanuts still in their shells.  The peanuts are boiled in their shell for about 12 hours, in a great deal of water and a whole lot of salt.  More salt, I am told, than I can imagine. 

After popping one of these Southern treats in my mouth, I could actually imagine, quite vividly and horribly, how much salt went into the boiling.  My blood pressure on the rise and my taste buds under assault (hee), I reached behind me, grabbed some napkins, and both Rob and I, together, spit the damn things out.

Lesson: sometimes, the things you find on the side of the road should stay on the side of the road.

Sweet Home Alabama

Apr 18

Imagine how disappointed I was when we arrived in Birmingham to discover that no one was loving the governor.  The song (see title of post) does suggest it was ‘love’ rather than ‘loving’ -a continuing action- so I suppose I just missed it.  Sigh.  So, what else is there to do in Birmingham?

Birmingham is of particular note to both me and Rob.  It is the birthplace of everyone’s favo(u)rite of all of Charlie’s Angels:  ‘the smart one’, Kate Jackson.  From what I’ve learned of America, each town or city is very proud of its own.  Those who make it get recognized.  Hell, go to the birthplace of Lucille Ball (Jamestown, NY), and it’s practically a shrine to her.  Needless to say, I was expecting something.  After all, Charlie’s Angels changed TV, and the lives of private investigators, forever. 

Can you imagine our surprise, again, when Birmingham failed to acknowledge her most fam0(u)s daughter, anywhere?  Sigh.  That’s strike number two.

Without Kate Jackson or the loving of the governor (who, as it turns out, is not in Birmingham; but instead, in the capital, Montgomery of course) is there something that can salvage a stop in this city?  I won’t keep you in suspense.  This is America.  Of course there is something.  And here he is!

This fine figure of a statue is Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge.  He was chosen as the symbol of the city, hearkening its deep roots in the steel industry and iron.  He stands 56 feet tall, and is the world’s largest cast iron statue. Offered up for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, our man Vulcan now towers over the city, and provides an exceptional view for those brave enough to endevo(u)r to the top.  I made it as far as the elevator ride up.  The floor beneath the platform is grated, and the coward in me kicked in when I saw the ground below.  Rob stayed, and got some great photographs for his efforts.

All right, Birmingham.  You pulled it out in the clutch.  Congratulations.  Next time, though, I expect the same treatment for Kate Jackson that you gave to a Roman god.

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Detour, Decatur

Apr 17

The Socratic method at work:  I date Rob.  Rob loves American Bar-be-que. Therefore, I have eaten a lot of American Bar-be-que. 

Okay, so I missed a few steps and purists will haunt me for it.  I am willing to live with it in the name of brevity. 

Bar-be-que is one of my favo(u)rite things.  America is, as it often claims to be on billboards and signs and just about anything you can write in really big letters on, the BEST IN THE WORLD at it.  At Big Bob Gibson’s bar-be-que in Decatur, however, there is a twist.  It’s an Alabama twist; something you will find only out here.   See, round these here parts, the sauce that y’all put on your bar-be-que; why, that sauce is white*! 

Alabama’s bar-be-que sauce is mayonnaise based.  Mayo and vinegar from what I can tell.  And when Rob and I sat down at our rustic but still modern table, we couldn’t wait to try this variation.  We were not disappointed.

The chicken was done to perfection (and chicken is hard to do), but that sauce…ooooh.  Being mayo based, I assumed it was going to be thick.  Not at all.  A bit runny, maybe, even, but it coated the chicken perfectly.  My mouth exploded in happiness at this new flavo(u)r discovered, and ended up eating more for lunch than I normally do all day. 

Thank you, Big Bob, for introducing me to a brand new world. And thank you, Rob, for buying up some bottles to take home with us.  Y’all come over this summer and try it, ya hear?

By the way, I’m the one on the left.  I think.  I just ate so dang much.

*You’ll be pleased to know that the white sauce was nestled without conflict next to the darker sauce on the table.  Alabama has come a long way indeed.


Apr 16

Imagine taking 118 German rocket scientists fresh from surrendering at the end of WWII and plunking them in the middle of Huntsville Alabama. A recipe for great comedy, and success. How successful? Well, when we say, ‘reach for the moon’, we don’t actually mean it literally. These men; they did mean it literally. They meant it so literally, that they actually got us there.

After the arrival of the invading hoards of German geniuses, Huntsville, being a child of the South, welcomed them with open arms. They also took the opportunity to rename their fine city, Rocket City. Take a trip to The NASA Marshall Flight Space Cent(r)er and you’ll see why they did.

First of all: Space Camp! There is actually a Space Camp for kids! Really. I always believed that it was a construct of situation comedies to mock the geeky children. Evidently, no. It’s real and it’s there and I saw it and kids go there and learn things. Exceptional when art imitates life.

Secondly, when we were touring the facilities (see pics below), we came across a moon rock. I really never get tired of them. Who would? HUMAN BEINGS WENT TO THE MOON!!! WE LEFT THE EARTH AND WENT SOMEWHERE ELSE!!! Even if it was just to play a round of golf, we did it. I know this moon-walking ‘theory’ has its detractors.  I like to call them, crazies.  While we were admiring the moon rock, a man who worked* there came up to us. “You know last week,” he said, ” a guy came in here and said that the moon landing was fake.  He’s crazy.  I know we went to the moon.  I just don’t think that rock is 3 billion years old.”  Oy vey.  Moon landing happened.  Creationism did, too.  Sigh.  One myth at a time, Lisa.  Winning is busting  one myth at a time.

The Cent(r)er was full of rockets and science. Ironically, it was also filled with hope and promise. Most of the exhibits were designed before the wise Obama decided in his Infinite Wisdom that science and exploration, and I paraphrase here again, suck. Because imagination doesn’t lead to progress. Because inspiration doesn’t spring from example and success. Because innovation just doesn’t get you votes.

Despite my being preachy and a bit down, I was heartened by watching all of the children there; learning, hoping, dreaming, striving. After all, they are the ones who are going to bring us back, aren’t they?

*The gentleman who worked at the Space Cent(r)er wore a full NASA jumpsuit, which, clearly, gave us the impression and him the authority that he worked there.  Later on that same day, Rob and I discoverd that those same jumpsuits were available for purchase inthe gift shop.  I smell my first conspiracy…

Southern Hospitality

Apr 16

Allow me to take a moment to preach. At the visitors cent(r)er in Huntsville, there was the sweetest, nicest, Lady of the South I’d ever met.  That list includes Rosalynn Carter*, too, by the way.  I mention this only because I opened the Alabama segment with my fear of the Hillbilly Redneck.  The South really does get a bad name, and from what I have experienced, it certainly doesn’t deserve it.  These are genuine people; polite, talkative (see Rosalynn Carter note), interested, interesting, and sincerely concerned about making you comfortable.

Remember the recent**  movie, “The Blindside”, starring poor Sandra Bullock***?   Well, being here, you can understand how a person comes to befriend and then take in a complete stranger.  It’s nice.  I wish more things were like the South.

We now resume our regularly scheduled blogs.

*Rob and I did meet Rosalynn Carter at her husband’s library (he’s former President Jimmy Carter for those of you who don’t know) on a different journey. Very nice.  Sweet.  Talkative.  We actually had to end the conversation with her because she wouldn’t shut-up.  Shhhh, Mrs. Carter. Shhhhh.  I think I see some humanity that needs a habitat over there.

**The Blindside was recent at the time of posting.  I am choosing to believe this blog will live on in eternity.

***See above, Sandra Bullock was going through a nasty divorce at the time of posting. By the time your generation is reading this, I’m sure it all works out.  And that we are all living in outer space.

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Alabama Here We Come!

Apr 15

 Lisa and Rob are not millionaires.

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