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For the Days I Spent with M.L.K. Jr., Scarlett O'Hara, and Atlanta, Georgia on My Mind................ The Struggle is Real

How does one get to Atlanta, Georgia? I know Gladys Knight took a midnight train and perhaps I should have too. It might have been easier than trying to fly there. I say try because it took more than one time to get it right and at one point I was convinced walking would have been faster.

It all started one seemingly pleasant Friday morning. It was Halloween weekend and I was thrilled to be going on a girl’s weekend trip to Atlanta. I was meeting my friends in the Peach State. There are direct flights from New York City daily so it seemed reasonably simple that I could hop on a plane and be there within a few hours. Apparently I was underestimating the task.

I was scheduled on the first flight out and had my whole day planned. I was super eager to land and kick off my trip. Everything was going swimmingly, at first. I hit no traffic on the way to the airport and was lucky enough to get a ride there. The lines at security weren’t too bad and before I knew it I was eating my breakfast and drinking my first cup of coffee of the day at the gate. It was about an hour prior to boarding time.

As I sat there all settled in and the time kept passing I noticed that there didn’t seem to be many people at the gate. Naturally I inquired but was assured I was at the right gate at the right time. I suppose you see what is coming next but I surely did not.

Before I knew it I heard last call to board my flight and of course I was not where I needed to be. I attempted with every fiber of my being to get to the proper location but my luck it was clear across the other side of the airport. At that precise moment my heart sank and tears streamed from my eyes. After the purging of some much needed anger I found someone who helped me rebook my flight. The only other disappointment was that it wouldn’t take off until the afternoon landing me in Atlanta in the early evening hours.

So I took my sad sorry self home to wait it out. Once there I rested and regrouped. I knew some of the activities I so longed to do would now be cut from my trip. That was the hardest part. I had to resign myself that I would have to wait for another time. I always knew one weekend is never enough time to properly explore any region but what I have to give up was on top upon my to do list, which still saddens me.  

I assumed, and you know what happens when you assume, that upon my return to the airport everything would go smoothly but I had fear in the pit of my gut. It turns out my gut is never wrong.

J.F.K. airport in Queens, New York is not one of my favs by any means. There is always a tremendous wait at the luggage carousel and the staff at security to the gates are clearly not comprised of the best we have to offer. However I did not think it an impossible task to get on a flight to Atlanta. That was my biggest mistake.

This time around I was hyper conscious about getting to the right gate on time but the number changed three times while I was on the security line and everyone I asked had a different answer. Long story short, I end up getting on a tram to the other side of the airport, hustling myself to get there because boarding time is approaching only to run back towards the gate I originally missed my first flight at. We were boarding fifteen minutes behind schedule because the gates kept changing and they were never next to each other. I was starting to think Atlanta was doing all it could to keep me at bay.

Happily the rest of my travel that day was uneventful and I finally landed in Atlanta. After a few minutes out of the gate on my way to pick up my luggage, which actually managed to get that first flight out, I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. This airport seemed to be twice the size of the largest airports I had previously visited like O’Hare in Chicago or LAX in Los Angeles. I was beginning to sweat and reach the point of exhaustion when I arrived at the mechanical walkways.

As I was moving closer towards my goal I was astounded by what I was seeing. I was suddenly in a room like any modern museum in any city. There were works of art everywhere. I was completely stunned. I have never seen anything like this in any airport either domestically or internationally. But as soon as I was in I was out. The next exhibit would be nothing like this.

Recently I discovered an article about the next exhibit, a truly forest like transformation, in Atlanta magazine that was published last month. It was quite informative. Officially known as flight paths between terminals, “the installation includes approximately 13,000 individual leaves and 24,000 LED lights. Sharp-eared listeners will hear the calls of 20 different birds, from cardinals and hawks to waterfowl like ducks and herons.”

I felt like I had stepped into the Amazon rainforests. It was beyond anything I could comprehend. I was on a motored walkway trying to pay attention but I was totally focused on trying to find my phone to snap a pic. I knew no one back home would believe me when I described what I was seeing. I hardly could believe it. Atlanta’s major airport was huge but certainly impressive and getting more so by the moment.

These amazing exhibits are funded by only one percent of the purchases paid inside the airport. More so they cost approximately four million dollars.

Despite these grand rooms I was more amazed by the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) train that seemed to be racing beside me the entire time. As I followed the luggage claim signs one pointed straight while one pointed right towards the train. I didn’t get it until it was too late. That’s right folks; it turns out this easy, air-conditioned train makes multiple stops around Atlanta and throughout the airport!! When I was flying home I was smart enough to take the MARTA and I couldn’t get enough. Most major cities, New York City included, don’t have as nice transportation anywhere let alone in the airport. Well-done Atlanta.

With such a high functioning place I was not at all surprised my luggage was easily located and had been awaiting my arrival. There seems to be nothing Atlanta and its airport can’t handle.

To say I saved the best part of this day for last is an understatement.

This evening ended with my very first meal in the city after a lovely drive looking at the beautiful nighttime sky. This was my introduction to the skyline and it filled me with the same kind of joy I felt my first evening in Pittsburgh ( when I explored their skyline also for the first time at night.

My first meal in HotLanta, as I prefer to call this city, was at Mary Mac’s Tea Room one of the oldest restaurants (going on over seventy years) in town. Along the walls are pictures of all of the celebrity visitors they have hosted from the Dalai Lama to Steve Martin. Speaking of which, I have to remember to send them my photo. As of 2011 Mary Mac’s was declared Atlanta’s dining room by the Georgia Congress.

“A city that often looked over its shoulder for culinary validation and inspiration is coming into its own.”

This sweet spot has numerous dining rooms and many seats so I cannot imagine having to wait very long. Thankfully this was the case because I was ravenous. To place your order you fill out a small receipt like paper and voila your food is on its way! Since I was in the South I had to have the fried chicken, mac and cheese, and fried green tomatoes naturally with a glass of sweet tea, the water of any region below Virginia. I would move on to the peach cobbler for dessert.

The food was glorious and I think the best part had to be the fried green tomatoes not only because they were delicious but because I finally find the best I have ever had. I have tried them in Memphis, New Orleans, Savannah, and countless other cities but here at Mary Mac’s were the best of the best!!

The fried chicken and mac and cheese were also very good but very filling as Southern cuisine can be. Also I have to accept that sweet tea is way too sweet for me but I felt I needed to at least have one glass while I was there. The peach cobbler was very good and actually less sweet than the tea. I enjoyed it but that too remained unfinished. A lot of might was packed into that small bowl.

While writing about the Tea Room I began to hum an old nursery rhyme, Miss Mary Mack. I doubted these two were connected but since I didn’t know the origin of the song I looked into it. I couldn’t hold out until Find Out Friday.

There isn’t too much about the song or the lyrics out there but what most can agree on is that this is based on the name of a warship, the USS Merrimack, called so for the river of the same name that “would have been black with silvery rivets.”

The song is also thought to be a Negro spiritual that was taught to children by slaves working the fields. There seems to be some secret meanings such as the mother reference is meant to be America, fifty cents as a means of change, the elephants are the Republican party who would free them.

Even though the two Mary’s are connected should you happen to visit the Tea Room you may feel like singing and clapping just for fun.

Now that dinner was done, I was beyond beat and ready for bed. I couldn’t wait to wake up refreshed to begin my first full day exploring what would ultimately become my new favorite neighborhood in this nation of ours.

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