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  • Hannah Grabenstein

Days 6&7, Birmingham and New Orleans

Nicole and I have been joined by our mutual friend Jade, which is kind of a weird way to describe her. Nicole and Jade went to high school together, and Jade has since moved to Little Rock (after stopping in a few other parts of the country). Nicole and I went to college together, so I really would never have had the opportunity to meet Jade.


Then I moved to Little Rock and Nicole helped introduce us. And then all three of us were separately friends together, but had never all hung out. Now, here we all are, in New Orleans!


When Nicole and I were telling Jade about our trip so far, Jade very nicely asked why we went to Birmingham if we didn't have anyone to stay with and no offense, it's not exactly a destination like New Orleans.


The answer of course is that it broke up the Atlanta to New Orleans route and also we'd been told by a few people it was a fun little city.


Nicole and I went to the civil rights museum there, as well as the 16th St. Church, neither of which I would describe as "fun" but both of which were moving. At the museum, which closed about an hour after we arrived, we couldn't tear ourselves away from a CBS report from early 1960something about Birmingham, after an article in The New York Times came out which called it, I think, the most racist city in America? The report was just filled to the brim of different types of racist white people, including a white man (a colonel and newspaper writer!) who thought that the black race was just, of course, inherently inferior and weren't white people doing them a favor? And a white lady, sitting all fancy on a couch, who was lamenting how sad it was that she never heard black people singing these days. Her servants all used to sing, she said, and now - nothing.


Beyond that though, it was also incredible to see the man say the reason he was talking to the reporter was because they'd developed a rapport and he trusted them to represent him fairly, not like The New York Times, which published all those lies about his city. He could have been talking about "fake news" in 2018.


We also walked to the Vulcan statue in Birmingham (the Roman god, not a general statue of a Star Trek character), and then climbed the stairs to the top despite the incredulity of the ticket taker ("Sure, you can take the stairs, but the elevator is right here??"). Plus later I had a salad with fried catfish (apparently I'm nostalgic for Little Rock???) at a Delta tamales place. Nicole got tamales and fried pickles and we both agreed that it's impossible to not order fried pickles if they're on the menu.


In Birmingham, since we had no one to stay with, we rented a hotel room with TWO QUEEN SIZED BEDS and also a TV with cable, so we luxuriated in those while we watched my new favorite unbelievably niche competition show on History, Fired in Forge, which is basically Chopped but for sword and knife-making?

That night I had three awful dreams, including one where my dog died and came back to life and it was very scary, one where I had a massive argument with a former friend and one where I was supposed to be a spy in an already-crafted story, and I didn't stop the hero (not me, apparently?) from drinking poison in time. I get it brain. I could use therapy.


Yesterday morning we hit the road kind of late but here is the most important part of the story: I paid $1.83 for gas at a Pilot in Alabama. ONE DOLLAR AND EIGHTY THREE CENTS A GALLON IN 2019! What a world!

Loaded with dirt cheap gas we drove through Alabama and Mississippi straight into Louisiana. This state has not forgiven the NFL for its perceived recent refereeing transgressions, let me say that. There were people in Saints jerseys everywhere. And while no one was happy the Pats won last night, everyone was glad the Rams lost, except our Uber driver who said he didn't fault the Rams for the refs' mistake. He also had very thoughtful and some might say sacrilegious opinions on Drew Brees, namely that he is old and getting paid too much.


Bourbon Street reminded me of Beale Street, but longer and maybe less intense? We also were walking around on a Sunday night and it was booming, so perhaps Friday and Saturday nights are just as crazy as Beale. I've been trying to think about any other place that's like those two streets and I can't come up with one. Las Vegas is maybe a little like it, but it's not the same. The music pulsating out of every bar, the crush of stumbling crowds, the alcohol everywhere and out in the open, the warmth - what a unique area.


We got a cheese plate and wine at Bacchanal and beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde. We wandered for a while till we suddenly found ourselves on Bourbon, then we ambled down that stretch for awhile till we suddenly found ourselves exhausted. Now we've had a lovely rest in a shotgun house Airbnb, and we'll do more touristy stuff today.


One last little sentimental thing - getting to see different cities in this country is incredible. The different vibes, the different themes (music! quaint southern city! civil rights! college town!) and the differences in people are great. We've got such a diverse country and I am so lucky to be able to see so much of it.


Finally, I've decided my next stop is Houston, to see my very first best friend, whom I love and with whom I never talk anymore.


Saturday's (short) playlist:

1. The first few episodes of Uncover Season 2: Bomb on Board

2. The start of a Google Instant Mix starting with Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd


Sunday's playlist:

1. Other People's Problems, Season 2, Episode 1, Ellie

2. Dear Prudence: The "Overloaded Friend" Edition

3. Rough Translation: The Congo We Listen To

4. Rough Translation: American Surrogate

5. Rough Translation: Ghana's Parent Trap

6. Rough Translation: Austenistan

7. More of the Google Instant Mix starting with Sweet Home Alabama