Thursday, June 26, 2008

Eating food in Atlanta

So for the past days, I've been in Atlanta to attend a conference. The conference was decent - I actually walked away with a couple of things that I could use. I wasn't under pressure to make connections, so I didn't need to schmooze unnecessarily, which makes for a more casual experience. Unfortunately, I probably got a total of 9 hours of sleep from Sunday though Wednesday as I went to bed at 2-3am and woke up at 7am.

Insomniac + jet lag = disaster.

I was excited to go to Atlanta though. I've never been to the South (well actually, I've been to Florida and to New Orleans, but Florida doesn't really count and New Orleans is its own special little place). Atlanta is probably as South as I'm going to get... lol

Things I did...

Martin Luther King Center. Got to see his birth home (but had to sweet talk my way into the tour) which was much bigger than I'd imagined. I got to see his Nobel Peace Prize, his burial site, his personal bible, and see handwritten drafts of his speech. Heard/saw videos of him delivering his prescient "I've been to the mountaintop" speech the day before his assassination which never fails to give me chills. Also went by the Ebenzer Baptist Church, where I chatted with Marvin, an elderly gentleman who is a deacon at the church. He mentioned off-handedly that he knew King and that his brother is seated alongside him on the photo displayed on a placard in front of the church. He was charming, polite, and had that wonderful accent. It was awesome.

Birth home:
Grave site:

Things I learned:
  • MLK's favorite game as a child was monopoly.
  • MLK's family had a formal dinner every Sunday where they dressed up and ate only when the father came home.
  • MLK's house is less than a block away from the church where he and his father preached at.

I was reluctant to pay the $30 entry fee, but then offering to send a copy of my dissertation to a fellow conference-goer scored me two free tickets (she got them with the price of her hotel room, but was going to be leaving early and so couldn't use them.) Score! So I happily went after the conference was over and it was amazing. Even though there were kids running around, visitors snapping pictures everywhere you turned, and crowds galore - when you stood in front of the large viewing windows and gazed into the saltwater environment teeming with colorful fish, it was incredibly peaceful and a feeling of quiet enveloped me. Then someone jabbed me a stroller, and the mood was broken.

I bet that place would be amazing without all the people.

Things I learned:
  • A starfish is actually a "sea star" as it is not a fish, but a crustean. They feel soft and rough.
  • Beluga whales are the only whales that can turn their necks.
  • There are penguins in South Africa.
  • Sea anemones' suction cups stick to your finger when you touch them.

Hey! It's me. (This picture's totally fake. I was standing in front of a green screen. Too bad they didn't have one of me being faced with the gaping maw of a hammerhead.)

Coca-Cola Museum, er, the "World of Coca-Cola".

I had some time to kill - 2 hours until I was supposed to be at the airport. It was next door to the aquarium. I figured it would be an interesting sociological experience and was curious to see how Coke discussed their hegemonic influence on the world. So I did it. I paid $15 for the priviledge of being bomarded by advertisements and marketing.


Let's see. You could take a picture with the Coca-Cola polar bear, watch Coke commercials from around the world, see artists who have used Coke logos in their work, look at Coke memorabilia until your eyes bled, trace the Coke logo on a touch screen computer, see how they bottle Coke, and watch a 3-d film about something Coke-related with some animation in a theater with seats that moved around and sprayed water at you.

The thing I found most interesting were "Coke story" letters/notes that people had written. One man talked about Coke allowed him to get up the courage to talk to his future wife - "let me have a Coke. And your phone number." There were a couple from soldiers who mentioned that a bottle of Coke during World War 2 reminded them of home. Another one from a woman whose husband would wake her and her daughters up with a nice glass of Coke - so that no matter what they'd always have a nice start to the day and enjoy waking up. I got to thinking - what is my Coke story? One day when I was in seventh grade, my mother brought home a denim jacket that had a red ribbon running down along the button holes emblazoned with the Coca Cola logo. There was also a leather Coke patch on the back of the jacket. I was mortified and hid the jacket in the back of my closet and never, ever wore it to school. The end. Now, I acknowledge that I attachments to products and maybe even brands - I love my computer, for example, and cried my 92 Honda Civic and I parted ways (and then dreamed about it). That Coke stuff was just weird though. Maybe it's because my mom never let us drink soda - I don't know.

The "best" part though, would have to be the Coke tasting room.

You walk around with a plastic cup (made from corn of course) and visit soda dispensers spewing out Coke products from around the world. The floor of the tasting room is movie-theater sticky and my fellow visitors seemed hopped up on sugar. I took a sip of some sort of lychee soda from Japan, grimaced, and poured the remainder down the drain. I tried a couple more until I stumbled upon this one soda from Germany (I think) that started with a "b". It tasted like tonic water and was in stark contrast to the high-fructose corn syrup bonanza around me. At first I just stood back and watched people drink it. One woman actually spit it out back into her cup. Then I started nudging people towards it - "Have you tried this one? It's really interesting." Ah, it was great. I grabbed a souvenir bottle upon exiting, and gave it to a woman who was with some girl scouts, as I couldn't take it with me on the plane.

Things I learned:

  • People in Europe don't like things as sweet as Americans.
  • Coke's production lines are incredibly fast and the bottles travel through the conveyor belts in a blur.
  • There are people really like Coke. I mean really like it.
  • Coke used to be 5 cents.

Things I ate...

Okay - so can you tell I'm trying to stall with the whole "eating food" thing? lol
It was a friggin disaster folks. It started with me eating a large plate of fried catfish, barbequed pork, the best macaroni cheese that I had ever eaten (sorry Mom!), and collard greens and it ended with me scarfing down a styrofoam tray of roasted chicken, black eyed peas, and dirty rice as I sat in the airport waiting for my flight back to Los Angeles. When in Rome, I rationalized. And I didn't want to sound like an West Coast asshole by questioning people about the origins of their produce/meat - "yes, yes - but is this fried okra locally grown and organic?" Add to the fact that I was stuck in the touristy downtown area, with no use of a car.

Of course, if I had done a simple google search before I left, I could have found something like this. (sigh) I suck. It was pretty pathetic as I was really adhering to the plan prior to my trip. When I stay in hotels, everything goes to crap. Okay - enough self-flagellating. Tomorrow/today is another day... and I found this place that makes the best veggie burgers that I've ever eaten. The veggie burgers are actually better than the beef versions... I meant to take a picture of it, but by the time Mr. Insomniac reminded me, I only had a couple of bites left. Next time I will exercise more discretion.


WeezerMonkey said...

(1) So cool re MLK tour.

(2) Then someone jabbed me a stroller, and the mood was broken. It's stuff like this that makes me love you.

(3) Then I started nudging people towards it - "Have you tried this one? It's really interesting." Ah, it was great. See comment in #2.

(4) I'm excited to hear that eating was disastrous. That means you had a delicious time!

Jen said...

Your blog is great! I hope you'll keep it up after the 30 days are up. I tagged you: