The Car Diaries: Summer Tour 2015 Pt 7: Atlanta GA. The Final Chapter

So I recently went on a tour of the southern United States along with my child and my wife. This is that story. It waited until I got back so I didn’t have my house broken into. The story, or blog, is being broken into several parts.

Leaving my friend in Alpharetta, we head towards Atlanta where we are making our final destination. It’s Atlanta so, traffic.  
I’m biased against Atlanta. It is the one city I’ve told my wife I really would not like to live in. It is a city, not built on a waterway, but as a train station essentially. The lack of water still seems to be a problem there today.  

That’s not to say I dislike visiting Atlanta, it’s just not a place I see myself living with my family. I love being by the water, be it lake, ocean, or large river. Two of my favorite bars are there (El Myr and Star Bar) and my favorite diner (Ria’s Bluebird Diner) are all located there. I’ve been to a handful of bachelor parties there. I’ve seen a lot of concerts there. I’ve been to some baseball games (still not a Braves fan). I have friends who live there. And my brother and sister in laws live there. They are just genuine and nice people.
My brother in law and sister in law are a couple years younger than me. They are in that time frame of late 20’s early 30’s when all of your friends are getting married it seems like. Because of this, my brother in law was going to be out of town at a bachelor party. He has a job with CNN and it offers fantastic vacation time. Between trips and work he often travels to interesting places and interviews charismatic people. All of my brother in laws (I have 4) are really great guys, but I’m probably closest with this one. My sister in law is equally impressive, working with disadvantaged youth as a speech pathologist. She’s also the sister in law I’m closest with (she’s my only sister in law but she’s cool!). 

My wife and her sister are super close. My wife also has two good friends who are like sisters to her. One of those friends lives in Atlanta and the other just moved from there (and to Memphis). So they all decided to go see Shania Twain on her farewell tour since they had seen her in high school. Also my sister in law really wanted to hang out with the baby, and had volunteered to babysit. And while I really didn’t have a desire to go see Shania Twain, El Myr is right down the street from their house.  
 What ended up happening the night of concert was; I picked up food for everyone. We all ate at the house and then the ladies went to the concert. I put the baby to bed and then my sister in law and I watched True Detective all night. I’m pretty sure I had worn myself out traveling by this point. 

We managed to see some of the sites while we we there. We walked the green way. I got to see some friends and family. We went to Ria’s. 
Traveling with the baby was challenging at points, but no more than I think traveling with anyone else. She was a champ this whole trip. There were some fussy times but she probably had less of those times than me. And I’m sure traveling with her will evolve and change throughout both of our lives. Let’s see how this camping trip I’ve planned turns out next!


Friend in Need

A friend sent me this today:

“Hey Mike! I was hoping you could do me a favor and take a look at my fundraiser to get the bus on the road. This fundraiser is a continuation of the last one, which didn’t quite meet it’s goal, and I’m really happy that now I can make people’s contributions tax deductible. This fundraiser won’t just get me on the road, but will also bolster my ability to apply for grants in the future.
It would mean a lot to me–this project has been long and difficult, but I BELIEVE in it. The goal is $1500–which is so easily attainable. Any donation amount makes this possible.
But believe me, nobody sympathizes or judges less than me if you just aren’t in a position to donate right now. But you can still help by spreading the word.
Thank you so much for your support–it means the world to me!”

So if anyone out there in the internet land wants to help a friend of mine out, both she and I would appreciate it.  Plus my friend Sam is a fantastic singer and plays the banjo.  Who doesn’t want a super singer lady playing banjo going town to town?  This is how America gets fixed people.  Plus, she’s a Professor Longhair fan.  And she loves babies, kittens, and puppies.

Poster by Cheyne Dowds


27 Shots: The 4 month appointment

Going to the doctor can be nerve wracking. Taking your child to the doctor is terrifying. No matter what your rational brain tells you, there’s part of you that fears your kid is going to have to go in for extra testing and something is going to be horribly wrong.  

In the waiting room they play the Frozen movie, not Fugazi

Luckily this didn’t happen today. We got a very positive update. Our little tree frog is doing everything someone her age should be doing. It is a little heart breaking when they’re getting their shots (please don’t remember how I held down your arms while the nurse stuck you). But do you know what is more heartbreaking? Your kid dying from a disease that has long since been cured. Seriously people, vaccinate your kids. Don’t be a fucking idiot. If you think that Jenny McCarthy is a credible source and every scientist in the world is lying to you then you’re a moron. If you think that Jesus is going to protect your kids from disease then you’re a moron.  

Be a grown up. Use your brain. Take your kid to the doctor.


The Car Diaries: Summer Tour 2015 Pt 6: Alpharetta GA

So I recently went on a tour of the southern United States along with my child and my wife. This is that story. It waited until I got back so I didn’t have my house broken into. The story, or blog, is being broken into several parts

Alright. Moving right along.  

Our time ends in Knoxville. We say our goodbyes to my wife’s father and get on the road. After 2 weeks in Knoxville we are fatter, the cars are fixed, and all the drawers are level in the house. We’ve seen most of the relatives and friends.

Part 7 of this story takes us to Atlanta. Atlanta was a planned stop months in advance. I got in touch with a friend I care about a lot and made a stop in Alpharetta, which makes this, Part 6. Don’t go skipping ahead.

So we’re driving to Alpharetta. We’ve made lunch plans to grill out with my friend. My wife and I are talking about moving to Tennessee (sorry Charleston Grit…I may be leaving you. Sorry online readers of my personal blog. Charleston Grit is the publishing company that thinks my blog is worth publishing). One of the places we’re talking about moving is Chattanooga.  

Chattanooga is about the halfway point. We figure we can drive around, get some breakfast, feed the kid, and get some groceries to help contribute to this cookout. I’ve not spent much time in Chattanooga. I am looking out the window and see what appears to be an area with some shopping centers. I pull off the interstate, onto a highway, take an exit, and I find a shopping center.  
I have pulled up to the shopping center.

The shopping center where Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez first opened fire. It is a very sobering moment. One that makes me so grateful to have a loving and supportive family, the best friends a guy could have, a job I really enjoy, and my baby daughter who I love to the moon and back. Love one another people. Life is too short to carry hatred in your heart. Life is too short to want to commit murder.  

We take a moment.

We make our way to Alpharetta. There we meet up with my close friend. We have a lovely lunch. Her family reaffirms my earlier feelings on loving one another. She has moved back in with her parents and twin sisters. They all joke around with each other, give each other a little grief, but you can tell that they love each other. I’m really glad to see my friend doing so well and being so happy. Of course I miss seeing her in Charleston but sometimes it’s all worth it. I’m really glad my daughter got to be in that environment, this whole trip. The environment of happy and loving people.
To be continued…


The Car Diaries: Summer Tour 2015 Pt 5 Memphis

So I recently went on a tour of the southern United States along with my child and my wife. This is that story. It waited until I got back so I didn’t have my house broken into. The story, or blog, is being broken into several parts.

Tour Stop 4: Memphis

So in order to preserve both my own and my father Inlaws’ sanity, I took four days to go to visit Memphis. My wife and I had spent 4 years living there while she was in medical school and I still have lots of friends who live there.  

Two of my Memphis friends will be getting married this October. I’m an ordained minister and will be performing their ceremony. I’m also an atheist. Years ago I lived at the NotSo Hostel on Spring St in Charleston when a friend owned it. The hostel was just getting off the ground and she let me rent a room in the middle house. I thought being able to marry people might provide me with a little extra money so I became ordained. It never has but it has allowed me to marry a handful of friends.

My friends who are getting married also just bought a house. There was an intention of helping doing some repairs around it along with some yard work. I initially was going to drive my pickup truck on this trip but with all the packing we did, we ended up having to take my wife’s sedan. Also, due to reasons we’ll get into later, no actual work besides poorly putting on a towel rack, was completed.  

So I left early in the morning from Knoxville. I had a bag full of clothes and a cooler full of Charleston local products to bring my friends (beer from Holy City and Westbrook, coffee from Camino Coffee, and tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation. Okay I brought them things to drink). I made fantastic time (thanks again Waze!) and ended up getting there a little early. 

To pass the time before my friends got off work I went to a bar (Celtic Crossing) where one of my all time favorite bartenders, Allan Creasy, works. Allan, his customers, and I began to talk about the shooting that took place at Emmanuel AME, Charleston (and its role in slavery), the Confederacy, Nathan Bedford Forest, and a host of other topics which are of importance. I’ve always enjoyed talking with Allan. He’s quick with wit, is educated and often will bring up a perspective that differs from my own because of his educational background (although we both have degrees from the University of Memphis). He also hails from the Mid South. I love Memphis and consider it, along with Charleston, to be my favorite city (Go Grizzlies. Grit n Grind).  However, the view point shared by people living there is somewhat different than it is living on the coast. So with all of this going on, one pint turned into three or four, and I hadn’t eaten lunch. 

My friend called to let me know that she was off work and we ended up walking down the street to get some food. We ended up at The Slider Inn. We ate food, sat at the bar, and may have had a couple more drinks (we had more drinks). Then we went to another bar to see another friend who was bartending (see a pattern here?).  


4am shots.


This is how Memphis turned out. My friend getting married and I decided to turn the weekend into his bachelor party since I wasn’t going to be able to go on his actual one. There were shots of tequila. We had a fancy dinner at the delightful Andrew Michael’s Kitchen.  We went shopping for comic books (Comics & Collectibles on Poplar). We made spaghetti and drank wine.  My friend and I made a fancy brunch one morning.  I went and had a delicious meal of inexpensive Vietnamese food.  We watched stupid action movies. There were all the things I couldn’t do or don’t have time to do in my now real life.  


Comics & Collectibles on Poplar Ave


And the whole time I missed my daughter. Red eyes with a cup of coffee I made my way back to Knoxville to resume real life.


The Car Diaries: Summer Tour 2015 Part 4

So I recently went on a tour of the southern United States along with my child and my wife. This is that story. It waited until I got back so I didn’t have my house broken into. The story, or blog, is being broken into several parts.

Tour Stop 3: Knoxville

So Sunday we wake up and go about our day. My wife heads off to work. I’ve become an expert in the hotel breakfast bar at this point in my life (ProTip: mix the blueberries from the fruit bar in with the waffle mix to make passable blueberry waffles) and spend a little time eating, watching some tv, and re packing the car. Okay I spend a lot of time re packing the car. This task is now Herculean in nature. I’m one arming everything while I’m carrying the kid in the other. The other part of this is, the hotel checkout time is noon. My wife works until 2:30 or so. So I pack the kid up and we go to the Barnes and Nobel across the street. They are always well air conditioned, it’s relatively quiet, and I can pass more than 20 minutes looking at books, something I can’t do with clothes. We also get lunch, where I sit next to a bunch of ladies with big bangs talking about their church, how President Obama is terrible, and how important it is to have two parents at home (while eyeing me suspiciously). Clearly we were going to get along swimmingly. So I fed her while I waited for my food, scarfed my food down once it came, and left the server with a big tip because I felt bad that I had taken up a whole booth just for me and the kid on a Sunday, post church when a lot of people eat out. So by this point I went and gassed up the car and my wife was ready to leave.  

We were taking a trip to Knoxville because my wife’s mother was going on a trip with some of her girlfriends to Alaska. My father in law would’ve been lonely without company (or so we decided). Tracy and I didn’t mind helping out by going there. I think it’s important for my child to spend time with her Grandparents. 

Grandpa and Baby


We were also looking forward to seeing lots of friends and family while we were there. My wife has lots of extended family who lives in the area and they were all excited about the chance to hold my daughter. We even talked one of them into babysitting while we went on a date with some friends. (If you’re in Knoxville, Nama has some pretty wonderful sushi).   

Date Night with Friends

My wife has a not so hidden agenda for us to move back to Tennessee. Specifically Knoxville. This is another reason why we went. Knoxville offers a lot of positives. There is the bonus of us having lots of friends and family in the area. It’s not a large city but it’s large enough to have some interesting restaurants, a small art scene, and some good musical acts that come through. The city is also close to a lot of great camping and other outdoor activities. The main problems I have with the city is the conservativeness and homogeneous of the population. I also don’t really care that much about football, the topic that dominates much of the Knoxville cultural scene.  

At an Uncle’s Farm, Just Outside of the City

So my wife and I settle into a routine pretty quickly in Knoxville. We wake up and we eat. A couple hours later, we eat. Then I go to the grocery store to find things to eat. And then, you guessed it, we eat them. My father in law spends his time watching TV and old movies. I like old movies but I can’t spend all day watching them. So I found small tasks to do around the house. I fixed the cabinets, I’d clean the overhead lights, I’d clean the garage, and I’d get the cars running. My Inlaws own 4 cars. My mother in law drives her Mini Cooper frequently. The other 3 cars don’t get much use. There are two SUVs and a convertible. I’ve tried to talk my Inlaws into just selling two of the vehicles to have them off their property and gone. I see them as liability issues. However, the good part about them keeping the cars is that I have things to do while I’m in Knoxville.  

Overall Knoxville was a pleasant experience. I’m sure my father in law got sick of me being around after awhile. I did manage to take some time to myself in the two weeks we were there and I went to Memphis, which I’ll write about in Tour Stop 4.

To be continued….


The Car Diaries: Summer Tour 2015 (pt 3)

So I recently went on a tour of the southern United States along with my child and my wife. This is that story. It waited until I got back so I didn’t have my house broken into. The story, or blog, is being broken into several parts.

Tour Stop 2: Charlotte

So my parents recently moved back to Charlotte. With the move, combined with one of my sisters undergoing a complicated pregnancy and my mother’s job, my parents haven’t got to spend much time with my daughter. My father recently retired and my mom can work from home.

So with Charlotte only being two hours away from Greenville I thought I’d take Virginia up to see them for the day. So we all got up that morning pretty early. My wife fed the kid and then I dropped her off at work. We started our first solo parent trip.

Despite heavy traffic and there being about a million cops between Greenville and the state line the trip was going pretty smoothly. (Thanks Waze for alerting me to all the cops before I came up on them! Seriously, download Waze. Use it every time you drive. Speed traps are bullshit.). The terrain was a nice reminder about how beautiful that area is. I grew up in Charlotte but spent the many days of my summers with my grandparents on Lake Keowee. The familiar sight of the giant peach in Gaffney SC flooded back memories of driving past it as a child and imagining that was the final resting place of Roald Dahl’s creation. 

The Peach that put Gaffney on the map

Just past the state line, I was lured from my daydreams by cries from the backseat. It sounded like my child was hungry so I made a pit stop in Belmont NC.  

I chose Belmont for a couple of reasons. Growing up Catholic in Charlotte, field trips were often taken to Holy Angels where we’d sing songs for and meet kids who were Developmentally Disabled. I also knew that Belmont Abbey College was there. Our high school religion teachers often espoused its virtues. It was with that in mind that some of my high school friends went there. When Hurricane Floyd evacuated Charleston, I found myself invited to a frat party there. I had never been to a frat party, often regarding frats as the epicenter in the late 90’s of guys who frosted their hair tips and listened to bands like 2 Skinny J’s. I decided that I had nothing better to do, and my high school friends were alright guys, so I picked up a couple cases of crappy beer and drove on over.  At Belmont Abbey the frats are in the dorms, a fact that I wasn’t aware of until I showed up.  So when I got to this party it was about 20/25 guys hanging around in this dorm room, lit by lava lamps and Christmas lights, while hoping that the one guy whose girlfriend showed up would bring some of her friends around.  Someone suggested we play drinking games.  So after winning a couple in a row, by a considerable margin, a couple members of the frat asked me to be an honorary member.  I declined.  On the heels of this, an older (22/23) guy came into the dorm. The party instantly got a little quieter. The guy came over to me and asked me my name and I told him. He asked me what dorm I was in and well now I’m thinking this is a little odd. I tell him I’m not in a dorm and am visiting some friends. He tells me that he’s the RA and that there had been a noise complaint. I laughed and offered him a beer. I didn’t realize, coming from the College of Charleston, that he was serious. And that’s how I got kicked off the Belmont Abbey campus. So with this in mind I figured, hey, why not Belmont.

So I pull of the interstate and into a Hardee’s. Belmont NC is pretty rural still. And this Hardee’s was packed with people. I pull into the parking lot and am feeding and changing my daughter’s diaper. People are giving me all sorts of weird looks. I decide that it would be in my best interest to get out of the car and go inside and get a cup of coffee. Luckily, this seemed to alleviate the fears of either myself or the natives and they stopped looking at me like I had kidnapped a child.  

So I get back on the road and make it to my parents house. They are now technically living in Fort Mill, SC. When I moved away from Charlotte in 1998, this area was in the middle of nowhere. I had been out there once as a kid to take part of the area’s Little League All Star Game. When I was in high school the Ballantyne area was starting to be developed but mostly we used it for 4-wheeling.  

My parents house is in a 55 years old and older community. And while my mother is happy to be there around all of her friends from when they initially lived in Charlotte, my dad hasn’t quite figured out what to do with himself in retirement. My mom keeps suggesting all these clubs for my dad to join but most of the clubs sound like the type of thing my dad would hate. For example my mom will say, “Mike, why don’t you join the bike club!” My dads ears will twitch and he’ll perk up and say “IS IT A MOTORCYCLE GANG!?!?” And then my mother with shoot death rays from her eyes at him. The other problem is the fact that my parents built a brand new house there, giving my father no projects around the house to fix. My father worked as a Civil Engineer for 40 years and now has nothing to fix. So he’s driving my mother insane.  

So we get there and the house is lovely, but needs unpacking still. My parents are really happy to see Virginia and take turns holding her. My mom is really fitting into her role as Grandma nicely. She has a bunch of toys around the house to let all the grand babies play with. One of my older sisters had been there the week before and had dropped off a bag of clothing for my daughter as well. Which then presented another problem in, where the hell am I going to put this bag of stuff in the car (see the post about packing). Then my parents took us out for lunch where I got to meet up with an old friend who runs a pizza shop there who had made my daughter a needlepoint.  

I then made the drive back to Greenville in order to pick my wife up from work. Basically I drove 4 hours so my parents could see my kid for 3 hours. Still it was totally worth it. I love my parents and am happy that Virginia will have such amazing Grandparents.