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  • Hannah Grabenstein

Days 4&5, Charleston and Atlanta

I find it so trite when someone goes to a new place and finds a way in which her expectations, which were largely based on tired stereotypes, are subverted.


So imagine my bummer when the Cracker Barrel in rural North Carolina where we had lunch was across the street from a pretty large Tesla charging station, and when the gas station in even more rural Georgia is one of only two gas stations I've ever been to that had mobile pay at the pump. Consider me trite. On the flip side, there's a lot of cotton in the in this part of the country, so I can exhale there. Expectations met.


Also, I am looking forward to seeing what things I have left behind me, like the wake of a hurricane, at each person's place. So far I have certainly lost socks. I have used all my bags and totes and boxes to pack up my life, so when we stay somewhere I carry my clothing loose in my arms. I should buy a bag.


I'm joined on this portion of my trip by my friend Nicole, with whom I also moved to LA for a summer when we were 21. So we've driven across the country together before, although last time she had let her driver's license lapse and so when it was time for us to drive back east, only one of us (me) could actually drive. I like driving a lot, and she likes sleeping in cars a lot, so actually it worked out very well.


Nicole told me Wednesday night she doesn't fall asleep in cars anymore. When we left Thursday morning she fell asleep almost immediately. She does have a valid license now, though, so that's different.


Oh I've already forgotten. Wednesday night I accidentally ran over a (very cheap, definitely clearance) ceramic Target bowl that tumbled from my car and I was super anxious I'd punctured a tire, but I knew there was nothing I could do at that point. Then Thursday morning we got in the car to leave and immediately my tire light came on and my car beeped at me. I knew it was because it was 20 degrees outside, I was sure it was because it was cold, I was 100% sure, but I also did not want to start driving and then have to change a tire on the side of the road and also how would I even reach the donut (presumably? Did I even have a donut?) under all my shit in the trunk and it was so cold. So we went to the Jiffy Lube where of course my feminism was challenged.


A woman came to help us, and I explained what happened and that I just wanted them to check and make sure I didn't have a leak. When she looked at the rear driver's side tire she noticed a staple in it - seemingly unrelated to the bowl incident because like most bowls this one didn't have staples.


The tire light was on because the tire pressure was slightly low because it was cold (of course), but she recommended that I buy a new tire to replace the one with the staple in it because I was going on a trip and yes, the tire didn't seem to be leaking now but what if the air pressure and the cold and the heat and then she lost me. But she successfully scared me into buy a new tire!


A man started to ring me up. It would be $90 for the new tire and an hour and a half wait, and we were already running an hour behind. Decisions normally do not come easily to me. I agonize and worry about making the wrong choice, and go back and forth constantly; this was no different. I decided that yes, I'd buy the tire. Then I thought no, maybe that was overreacting. Then I thought but I'm going to drive across the country and the mechanic had suggested it! Then I thought yes but of course she did, it was a sale. I asked the guy at the counter what he thought, and he initially agreed I should replace it. Then the went out to look for himself.


When he came back, he was totally different. Absolutely not, he said. The staple didn't pierce the tire at all. It could be pulled out by hand.

That was enough for me. Trying to ignore the fact that I'd disregarded the opinion of the female mechanic and trusted the opinion of the man, I pulled the staple out and we drove off. We've had no tire problems. I had to break down the interaction with Nicole to see if I was being misogynistic. Typical.


Other things have happened. Charleston is a gorgeous city, and we drove in right at 4 or so in the afternoon so the water and the buildings were all golden as the sun began to set. We stayed with my friend's brother, who is also my friend, but that is how I describe him. Nicole and I walked around the city at night while Brian worked (he's an actor at Dock Street Theater) and we saw the water and lovely old houses which I would bet are very expensive and monuments, from the two big wars. Only one side was memorialized for each war; you guess. Also, we saw the oldest synagogue in America, which was beautiful and imposing. We got Cuban food for dinner, naturally, and wandered through an beautiful photography gallery about the New American South at the school of contemporary art. Nicole also was disappointed that she'd forgotten about Husk, a famous restaurant in the city, when we'd already eaten dinner. So we caved got drinks and a snack there. Then more drinks with Brian and his friends after they finished rehearsal, which was also fun. Good time all around.


At the last minute we decided to head to Atlanta and Birmingham instead of Florida, so we drove to Atlanta yesterday. We had lunch with my cousin who also took us to the new stadium for the Braves which is massive and corporate but also cool. She hates it which I understand. It's new and cold and #branded. And if anyone does that to Camden Yards I'll lead the revolt.


Last night we stayed with a college friend of Nicole's. Atlanta is hosting the Super Bowl this weekend but we have successfully avoided all Super Bowl-related activities. Instead we had Korean barbecue (for lunch we'd had American barbecue. All tasty!) and went out for a drink where we debated whether Virginia Gov. Northam should resign and and whether the upcoming generation is cool and woke or whether I'm turning into a grouch. The answer is probably both!


Staying a day each with friends and family is lovely. We get to see a little of their lives, impose for just a minute, and move on. I like it.


Thursday's playlist:

1. Reply All #135 Robocall: Bang Bang

2. Playlist of a saved Google Instant Mix starting with One Headlight, by The Wallflowers

3. Tim, The Replacements

4. A series of started and unfinished podcasts, because Nicole and I have vastly different podcast taste, including Headlong: Surviving Y2K (Bonus: Josh Gondelman's Y2K), The Ezra Klein Show: Sam Rosenfeld recommends 3 books on the history of political polarization, The Impact: The incredible shrinking city

5. Silence


Friday's playlist:

1. Half of a Google Instant Mix starting with Oh, Atlanta, by Little Feat (Nicole said it was too on the nose)

2. In the Dark, Season 2, Episode 1

3. Spooked, The Watcher and Lost in Time

4. Risk!, Double Down

5. Ask Me Another, Nick Kroll: The Story of the Toothpaste Wedgie

6. A Google Instant Mix starting with Changes, by Charles Bradley

7. Silence