I’ve hit a rut. (-cringe-) It’s true. I’ve been in The Magic City four months (give or take a few days) and the newness is beginning to wear off. I realized this just yesterday, actually, as I was driving down 22nd Street. I’d dropped off something at the American Red Cross office (don’t forget about Paint the Town Red this Saturday!!) on 9th Avenue North and took 22nd Street all the way to Highland Avenue where it directly funnels to Highway 280.
It struck me. I know my way around this place. I knew that if I took this street, going southbound, that I’d travel through the valley and up the incline that leads up and over the mountain and back down, all the way to the sprawl of Hoover. I know there’s a great little Asian market on the corner of 7th and 22nd (just before University Blvd.) and I love to take Sweet Pea with me because the delightful young girls that work there always say he looks like Shiloh Jolie-Pitt (which leads me to believe Boss and I must resemble Sir Brad and Lady Angelina). I knew that by taking this familiar street I wouldn’t get lost… Why, all winter long I just drove around with a blissful, aimless curiosity. Every road, every curve, every hill was a new adventure because it was new to me. This is how The Manifesto came to be…
Have I already lost my sense of adventure? Surely not…I’ve barely even skimmed the surface of all this city has in store.
Maybe it’s all that’s going on right now. By day I chase around a rambunctious toddler (best job I’ll ever have and he’s become an accomplished co-pilot on my wandering voyages). By night Boss and make the hour-long round trip to the new (old) house to paint or scrape or tile or whatever is next to be done. On the weekends? Same routine. Spring is exploding in Birmingham and I’m watching it pass by through the windows of Home Depot, a Honda Accord, and blue painters tape… I’m not complaining, though. Our Magic City Nest is going to be awesome. Awe-some.
This weekend was a big one for Birmingham. The Indy Grand Prix brought tens of thousands of sports enthusiasts to the Magic City. The media flocked in herds to this internationally reported event and the coverage was immense. There wasn’t a lot of exposure, though, for the chestnut tree planting (in honor of Anne Frank) at Kelly Ingram Park on Sunday. I get it. I didn’t attend either. I was painting trim.
Sunday morning I woke up at the Sheraton downtown next to the Civic Center. My mother and father were in town to help us out with the house and I’d bunked in their hotel room in hopes that I’d steal back a few moments of youth (unsuccessful attempt, by the way). As we made our way out of the ridiculously large complex that was bustling with racing fans from all parts of the country, I took a few moments to catch the view from our ninth floor assignment that overlooked Jones Valley and from that vantage point I easily identified Sloss’ magnificent towers, a dot in the distance I presumed to be Vulcan high up on Red Mountain, the magnificent Birmingham Museum of Art just below, UAB’s grand distinctions, and the bowl full of brick and steel that makes up downtown. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The green trees were vibrant and abundant (this is such a green city and I love that). It was peaceful from that side of the glass, looking out. I almost didn’t notice the busy interstate, cutting in to the skyline. Birmingham looked so beautiful and I wondered if all these Indy spectators saw it, too, even though they probably wouldn’t embark on a tour of the many unique pockets of the city during their brief stay. I could look down 22nd Street and run my eyes up its path. From above it looked so dense, so full of promise, so ready for me to be snug as a bug, down in the middle of it. And then I found myself right in that very spot yesterday and I didn’t feel even a hint of excitement. That corridor between the corporate district on the north side and the more affluent area ascending to Highland is, when you’re on ground level, quite desolate. Massive, century-old buildings are vacant, their storefronts pale and unfilled.
My father remarked as we drove over to the house Sunday morning that “Birmingham is so clean”. (We were, you guessed it, on 22nd Street.) And my response? “But look, Dad. It’s empty. Take a left up here on 5th.”
Okay, so it’s been an evolution, a process. Now that the bees are buzzing and the leaves have returned to fill in what was just weeks ago stark landscape I have found my way around the Magic City. Truthfully, I have a lot to learn, but I can get from here-to-there and I know a few shortcuts and express routes. I suppose now here’s the bigger challenge. What to do with this knowledge? And, notably, during these four quick months I’ve been meeting all sorts of dynamic people, people who are leading business development, civic dialogue, and cultural expansion. I (internally) ask myself again – What to do with this knowledge, with this view, with these encounters, with this promise of a Magic City Spring?
Today I’m packing a lunch, Sweet Pea, and my camera and I’m going to Ruffner Mountain for a hike. We’ll meet two new friends there (something we didn’t have when we moved here) and we’ll see a different side of Birmingham. I think it’s important to note that, according to Zest.com, Birmingham ranks in the top 50 “Most Adventurous” cities in the nation, joining the ranks with places like Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Austin. This alone should be evidence that I have much to look forward to…
It’s time to shift gears a bit. So now I know how to find my way about this mountainous village known as Birmingham. I might have to postpone a few outings as we chip away at getting this house to a livable state, but that doesn’t constitute a “rut”. By the way, if you look up the word “rut” in a thesaurus, you’ll see these cool words keeping her company: groove, channel…
The adventure is far from over. Did somebody say Spring Market at Pepper Place, this Saturday? Why, I think I will.