Took the whole family.
And another family just for good measure.
Glad I did.
Although my buddy John has observed that Atlanta is what 300,000 Southern boys died to keep from happening, the South needs Atlanta.
True, Atlanta's slogan — "the city too busy to hate" — seems to suggest that, given the time, Atlantans could do some hating for you. But when my buddy Jim, back during the 1996 Olympics, suggested a better slogan would be "Atlanta, pretty good for Georgia," his idea was roundly rejected. So I guess they are stuck with what they've got.
(Occasionally, someone calls it "the next great international city," which only underscores that it ain't there yet. I have also heard tongue-clickers and head-shakers call it "Sodom and Gomorrah on the Chattahoochee" and "Babylon in Buckhead," but you know how those folks are.)
So off we went, to eat with the Jacksonville State crowd at The Varsity, watch our football team, listen to our band, stay overnight and soak in the ambiance, of which there is a bunch.
Varsity food was greasy and great (eat those onion rings fast or they will set up on you), I was proud of the Gamecocks and the Marching Southerners, and my kids had their first MARTA experience.
Unable to get rooms at a walking distance hotel (JSU playing Georgia Tech, Alabama playing Virginia Tech, a black gay pride celebration, geeks in town for Dragon.com, a Britney Spears concert and NASCAR at the speedway booked things solid) we found a place a few miles north and took the train into the game. The biggest problem getting there was finding a place at the station to park the car. The biggest problem getting back was taking the wrong train, but hey, we're from outta town.
Afterward, we went out and ate Greek food — a first for the kids — then returned to the hotel to watch football in an empty bar; everybody else was somewhere else. The next day we went down into one of the in-town neighborhoods to have brunch at a trendy (and very good) eatery near the place where I once lived.
Which brings me around to why Dixie needs Atlanta.
A lot has happened to the city since I was an Atlantan. But in the time I was, I got to do and see things that without Atlanta I never would have gotten to see and do.
And guess what, most of those things are still around to be seen and done.
Last weekend, I picked up a couple of those semi-underground newspapers cities like Atlanta have and was happy to find that they are raising money to restore the Little Five Points Community Center — home of WRFG ("Radio Free Georgia") and practice-place for the Feed and Seed Marching Abominable Band. In neighborhoods that were "Yuppified" in the 1990s, an antique store is collecting blankets for the homeless, a local extension service is offering a program on "composting" for urban dwellers, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore is restoring just about anything you want to bring in for resale to raise money for Habitat, all sorts of fall festivals are being planned and "Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" is being revived one more time.
And there is recreational eating, for from the number of cafes and restaurants and such advertised in the papers it appears that eating for fun is what in-town Atlantans do best.
The point is — and, yes, there is one — if you can get past the ads and announcements that cause many Alabamians to suck in air and mutter "I thought that was illegal," those papers reveal how cities like Atlanta are great places to experience the diversity of what really is the New South. While riding MARTA I counted at least five separate, identifiable nationalities, and Lord only knows how many ethnic groups were part of the mix. There we were, all together, all hustle and bustle and confusion and courtesy and taking the wrong train and finding someone to tell you which was the right one.
And it is good to know that during the next few weeks, within a couple of hours' drive from where I write right now, you can attend the Parkview Church Women's Bible Studies, take a course on "Savvy Social Security for Boomers," get involved with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, get a free kidney health screening, go on the Walk for Obesity, join two different Zydeco dance groups, attend a monthly Sacred Harp singing, get information from the Chinese Children Adoption International and attend the Southern Fried Smackdown Atlanta Rollergirls' first-ever South Central Regional Tournament at the Yaarab Shrine Temple on Ponce De Leon Avenue.
That is why Dixie needs Atlanta.
We gotta have a place to put it all.
Harvey H. ("Hardy") Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.