Sunday, February 26, 2012

Georgia on my Mind- 1978-1980

So we started a little community on Arlington Avenue in Macon. Our house was divided into the bottom half- one apartment, and the top half- two apartments. Our upstairs neighbor was a very well educated fellow from New York who was studying the historical aspects of Macon. He got very excited, for example, when he "discovered" an old mill in Juliette (where some of the Fried Green Tomatoes movie was filmed) that had lots of grits bags lying around. To John they were like finding buried treasure. He shared my love of all things romantic and Macon/Middle Georgia. Macon is also close to Atlanta, on I-75, and thus was not really off the beaten path. I met so many interesting people there, who were far and away more worldly than most of the people I grew up with in Alabama.

Phil and I hung out at The Cottage a lot. We went to Atlanta to see Bob Marley at the Fox. We went to hear Barry Commoner speak at Emory about energy solutions. We started an anti-nuclear group. We ate at the H and H and were treated like part of the family. I enjoyed the pace and relaxation in Macon, and left behind all the uptightness and uncertainties of Birmingham. I met a very unusual teacher named Al who was head of the sociology department at Mercer. His classes were unusual as well. Since I was doing a self designed major, and had really completed all the heavy courses at UAB, I was free to dabble in whatever interested me. All the classes I took were top notch. Only Bob Penny's English class at UAB could compare.

Al's class was a community sociology class, and the assignments involved doing something in the community. I chose a class where I would learn to make tofu at the home of Mary and Pat. Mary and Pat were true hippies and their home and lifestyle were amazing. Pat was a jewelry maker and junk collector. Mary knew everything there was to know about organic and whole foods, herbs, vegetarianism, alternative medicine, etc. I learned how to make tofu in their kitchen and still make the barbecue tofu that Mary used to take to pot lucks. Later I joined the food co-op and pursued a full education in healthy alternatives. I felt like I was in graduate school, and indeed I really was. I loved the philosophy classes, the excellent psychology classes and the lack of repressive moralizing by the faculty. Here people seemed genuinely interested in the pursuit of education. What a concept!

Life was so easy in Macon. Phil and I did not have much money, but we had great friends, lots to do, and no real obstacles to achieving our goals. He did well at Mercer Law School, and I did well at Mercer. I was not allowed to graduate Magna Cum Laude even though I had a 4.0 grade average because I had transferred from UAB.

What happened? Well, as best I can tell, my resolve to drink less fell by the wayside, I began to see that graduation was approaching, and I met someone. It all started with the women's softball team- The Cottage Cheese. And that, is a whole other story.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Transition to Georgia

Life on Southside after 1975 grew routine. What to do? I went back to school. I tried to find something that interested me. It seemed as though nothing was happening. When I looked around the room at night it was full of friends but there was no conversation. Blah. I grew restless. One day I thought up the idea of a beach vacation with my friend Phil who was a quadriplegic. We came up with a plan to go to Panama City for a week. I had a friend with a house for rent, and he had two friends who agreed to drive him and stay there with us. I talked another friend into driving me to Auburn where we met up.

We did have a blast. We went to St Joe and stayed all day on the deserted seashore. We caught crabs and drank beer after beer. I was out on break so I had no other thoughts or worries. At the end of the week, Phil talked me into going to Macon to see it before going back to Birmingham. When I did I fell in love at first site.

The first night there we stayed on Orange Street in a house that was built in the early to mid 1800's. The ceilings were very high, and it had huge white columns on the front porch. It was much older and more elegant than anything I had seen in Birmingham. And there was a whole town full of places just like it.

Macon was truly magical and romantic. I felt something there that I had never felt. I felt the life of the city, the soul of the city, and the rhythm of the city. This new rhythm was very different from Birmingham. You can imagine the feel of Birmingham, with its history of firehoses and marches, the letter from the Birmingham jail, the bombings and intimidation. Macon was much more relaxed and very pretty in a European sort of way. It rose up on the bluff above the river, with little cobblestone side streets and carriage houses. Very quaint. The next night I rode out to Fort Valley in the countryside with one of Phil's friends named Lauren. The moon was full and we drove past the pecan tree orchards to her little house. I became enamored of everyone I met there. Somehow, I thought, I must live here.

Because Phil was a quad, he was getting money from Vocational Rehabilitation to go to law school at Mercer University. Since I had experience as a rehabilitation nurse, I qualified to be his attendant. He worked out an agreement with his Voc Rehab counselor to pay me a salary to take care of him. I worked out a transfer to Mercer to finish my bachelor's degree in my self designed major. At that point I had already been going to college for about 5 years, and had my RN plus the time I spent at Auburn and at UAB. I ended up having to go another 2 years to finish, but it was worth it. I was so poor I qualified for a Basic Educational Opportunity Grant. That's right kids, back then they gave you the money to go to school.

So I went back to Birmingham and finished the fall quarter, got everything in place, and moved to Macon in 1977 I think. At that point I had no income and no vehicle (having sold my truck to use the money to live on).

Phil and I rented a Victorian gingerbread house on Arlington Avenue. The house was next door to Paragon- the booking agency that booked all the Capricorn recording artists. Down the street was the house that Wet Willie lived in previously. The Allman Brothers Big House was a few blocks away on Vineville Avenue.

We used to go the the H and H to eat soul food. The H and H is home to owner Mama Louise who used to cook for the Allman Brothers. The H and H is still there, and you can see the painting of Dwayne Allman playing his guitar in heaven on the wall. The H and H is on Cotton Avenue where the Capricorn Recording studio was located. I was sorry to have missed all the action. Everybody had some connection to the Brothers and Sisters.

Phil did go to law school, and I went to Mercer. I loved Mercer. The faculty was liberal even though the student body was not, but I was a little older, and so had a different group of friends through Phil and through some of the faculty.

There was so much going on there, and I was introduced to all the things that have made a big difference in my life and how I live my life. With that, I will close for now, savoring the lovely memories of sweet Macon life.