A Weekend In Atlanta, GA

So something else has occurred in my life to write about. I got to do something I haven’t done in quite a long while, visit a new place and explore for a while. The place obviously is Atlanta, GA. I not only got to go there, I had 48 hours to look around and see what was there. That might not sound like much, but for a truck driver, it is a lot. There have been many times I didn’t get that much time at my home for a weekend.

The weekend was both wonderful, and not so wonderful, well actually parts were outright bad. But I can say, only one of the bad parts was the fault of anything actually associated with Atlanta, and I could have avoided that if I had planned better.

Making Plans

The reason I was in Atlanta was to see Marian Call (@mariancall), whose music was the subject of my last post, in concert. She had 2 concerts scheduled for this weekend, a house concert on Friday night and a larger one on Saturday. I asked my dispatcher if it would be possible to get home on Friday, so I could drive down and see the Saturday concert, then drive back on Sunday to head out on the road again Monday morning. 600 miles one way may seem far to see one concert, but it is not my longest trip. I once flew to Maui to see Jimmy Buffett for one concert. And I like Ms. Call’s music much more than I like Jimmy’s. (I’m never going to be a true Parrothead. I’ll go with being a Zombie Cheerleader instead.) It would only leave me a few hours to see the city, but it would be a start. A couple of days later, I mentioned there was a Friday concert also, which would be great to see. My dispatcher said she would see what she could do, since it depended on what loads there were that week, which she wouldn’t know until that week.

So I did the RSVP for both concerts and waited to see what would happen. It is like that a lot for drivers, you are at the mercy of the customers for things like days off, including holidays off. You are also at the mercy of things like mechanical breakdowns and the weather. So I know idea if I would make either of the concerts. Until Wednesday morning of last week. I received a load on my Qualcomm (In-truck computer for anyone not familiar with it.) which didn’t get me home in time to drive down for either concert. Instead, I ended up in Atlanta late on Thursday night, and didn’t have to head back to Ohio until Sunday. So I could see both concerts and part of the city. (Why yes, I do owe my dispatcher big time. She was very considerate and helpful.)

House Concert

So Friday morning I was free to start exploring Atlanta. Theoretically anyway. The reality took much longer. I had to rent a car, get my stuff out of my truck, and get checked into a hotel, all of which took much more time than it should have. The biggest problem was the car. I needed to get from the company facility to the airport, which made me dependent on others for that part of the plan. I couldn’t empty my truck until I had somewhere to put my stuff. So I didn’t get to the airport until after 1:00 PM. Which meant I didn’t get to my hotel until almost 3:00. That basically left me enough time to unpack some stuff, get a shower and cleaned up, and head to the concert.

House concerts are small, intimate concerts, quite often set literally in someone’s home. Ms. Call does a better job explaining it then I ever could. I knew what they were, having followed her career for 3 years, but I had never experienced one. (This is part of why 600 miles for a concert was not a big deal. 3 years of not getting to see your favorite singer in concert, even when she had played close to your home a couple of times? Frustrating.)

Having now experienced one, I can say it is a wonderful experience. Ms. Call and her accompanist, Scott Barkan (@scottbarkan) (A very talented singer/songwriter in his own right. Check him out.) mingled and talked to the guests before, during, and after the show. The hosts had a nice supply of food and drink laid out, with several bottles of wine disappearing during the evening, and there were interesting people as guests, including Jonathan Strickland (@JonStrickland), a podcaster/writer from HowStuffWorks.

Paying attention
Marian and Scott have our attention.

Now a quick side note of explanation. I have brain damage. (Yes, there are plenty of folks that would confirm that without needing MRIs.) It affects my balance. When I first had the problem, I basically had to relearn how to walk. Unfortunately, that takes a lot more brainpower in your 40s then it did at 1. So when I am in a new situation, or meeting lots of new people, or am very tired and/or stressed, my ability to speak is disrupted, usually with a form of aphasia. How badly depends on how many of those things are present. With my family, I have slight hesitations that are barely noticeable. Friday night, I could barely get my name out.

It is easy to see why I had a problem. I didn’t have just one of the things that could make my speech worse. I had all of them present. Brand new place, with almost 20 people I didn’t know, tired from a week driving, stress from both the hassles of getting things done that day and meeting my favorite singer, who I like and admire as a person, and who happens to be a beautiful woman. I am probably lucky I was able to speak as well as I could. But at the time all I felt was embarrassment and frustration about it. The music was great, but I couldn’t talk to anyone.The one saving grace to it was the problem only affects my ability to talk. I can still sing, and was able to join in on the audience participation and sing the rest of the songs to myself. I have had this for 6 years now. Mostly it is a very slight annoyance, trying to find a word. Occasionally it is very frustrating when I am tired or stressed. Friday night was the first time it felt like a handicap. And it makes me very thankful that it is usually minor and something I can joke about.

Exploring Atlanta

So Saturday, I had an entire day to explore Atlanta. But I had not had time to do my usual checking of things to do and see while on a trip. So I relied on Twitter. One of the people coming to the Saturday Marian Call concert was flying in from LA (I’m not the only one that thinks Ms. Call is worth traveling to see.) and mentioned the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. (She also does things with puppets and was meeting like-minded people in Atlanta.) So I went to check it out. It turns out, a large part of the Center is the various shows that are running there. I got there at an awkward time for seeing any of them, so settled for just looking at the museum exhibits. The majority of the exhibits had to do with Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets and so much more. They basically went through and traced his career, showing how had advanced the arts of puppetry far beyond where they had been before his time. Without seeing the shows or doing the workshops in the center, it can take on the air of a memorial to Jim Henson and his life’s work. But if ever a man deserved that, he does and it was well worth the time and money to see.

Next, some poor planning on my part resulted in the only sour note from my sightseeing. I wanted to check out the Georgia Aquarium and the Coke Museum. They have a combined ticket that is a bit cheaper than paying for them individually, but I had decided not to buy one online since I didn’t know what time I would be at their location. Big mistake, don’t ever do that if you actually want to see much.

On arriving I saw signs saying the combined ticket could be purchased at the box office of either building, so I got in the line for the Coke Museum, which were much shorter than the Aquarium. But when I got to the window, I was told that those signs are liars, the combined ticket was only sold at the Aquarium box office. So it was over to the even longer line than before at the Aquarium. Where after almost 40 minutes, I had just reached the actual section that was enclosed in tape to start weaving you back and forth. At that point I bailed. I was frustrated and had reached a saturation point of being surrounded by people.

KAWS, Companion Passing Through
KAWS Companion welcoming High Museum visitors.

So I looked on my phone and found the High Museum of Art not too far away. Once I got there, I paid a very reasonable entry fee, read their rules on photographing exhibits (which resulted in my not taking any photos, since I could not show them online) and starting wandering.

I searched out the Folk Art section first, which had a wide variety of exhibits using all kinds of materials. There was an exhibit on Howard Finster, who I remember reading about years ago. He created some interesting and in some ways beautiful art in his quest to save people for the Lord.

There were some fascinating pieces in the Modern Art collection, with a couple of works by Gerhard Richter using glass that were really interesting to me. The 7 panes piece seemed to be commenting on how ephemeral we are as we pass through this world. The reflections getting dimmer on each pane as you look through them.

The Picasso to Warhol exhibit was nice. The big names on each end pulled people in to see some lesser known artwork that most people never heard of. Some of it was interesting, most of it was not to my taste. Still good to get the chance to explore new things.

The KAWS: DOWN TIME exhibition told me one thing for certain. The KAWS artist is strange. Very good, fascinating to look at, and kind of neat. But definitely strange.

Civic Center Concert

At that point it was time to drive back to my hotel, so I could get ready and then drive all the way to the other end of the city for my second Marian Call concert experience. It was kind of early, but I planned on grabbing a bite to eat on the way to the concert so wanted to leave early. Which was very fortunate on my part.

Getting to the Doraville Civic Center from my hotel called for me to drive up I285 for the entire length of Atlanta. Unfortunately, the highway department decide that Saturday night was an excellent time for closing 2 lanes of I285 for construction. (I can see their point. Considering the back up doing it on a weekend cause, I can’t imagine what would happen during weekday traffic.) Which meant that less than 5 miles from the concert, I was moving about 5 miles an hour, with 45 minutes to get there. After grabbing an exit and exploring some of the Atlanta suburbs (Thank goodness for GPS) I made it to the concert with 15 minutes to spare. But without getting to eat or stop at an ATM.

Singing Away
Special Guests

The feeling of the concert was very different from the house concert. It felt more formal because of the stage/audience setup. More like a concert at a club setting rather than someone singing at a party, which the house concert felt like. (Not too much, just a bit more separation between the artist and audience, at least at the beginning.) The music was again wonderful, and the chorus line of puppets that showed up made a very fun addition to a couple of songs.

Chomp! Chomp!
It’s Shark Week!

For the first time this weekend, I heard a Marian Call song I didn’t know the words to. But since it was only about the fourth time they had performed it, and it isn’t available online, I didn’t feel bad. But now I want to sing “Shark Week, its Shark Week” like a pirate all the time.

Directing the Rhythym Section
Keeping us in time.

Scott had a slight mishap at one point, with one of his strings breaking during a song. He ripped it off and finished the song, then had to go to the side to replace it quickly. This led to Ms. Call starting some audience participation, keeping the tune to Jayne going while she sang it, until Scott jumped back in near the end and tore into the music so hard I was afraid he would break another string.

Near the end of the concert, during a cover of a Jimmy Hendrix song, I had my worst time of the weekend. My speech problem is caused by my brain having to work too hard to process information. After a long day, not enough food, and the fun I was having, my brain decided it needed a rest. So I got too dizzy to stand. This happened occasionally when I pressed too hard to keep going, but it has been years since the last time. There was a seat available, so I was able to avoid falling, but then I did something stupid, because I didn’t want to embarrass myself more. I didn’t tell anyone I needed help to my car. I sat there in the way, until most people had left and I had recovered enough to get to my coat, then started working my way to my car.

Unfortunately, my car was at the bottom of a stairway and sloping path, and the first step was enough to convince me I was not able to get there yet. So I sat there, while everyone packed up and left, probably thinking I was really weird to be sitting out in the cold like that. But I wasn’t, well, I am but not that weird. I was just too embarrassed about something I had no control over to ask for the help I needed. Which I guess makes me human. I finally made it back to my car a little after 11:00 PM, then sat until I could drive safely.

Updated: The host of Ms. Call and Mr. Barkan for her stay in Atlanta was in on a surprise for the second song of the concert. He had his video camera ready for “Good Morning Moon” with a guest chorus.

All Done

Now it is time to get the car back to Avis and my stuff back to my truck, then back on the road. My weekend in Atlanta had some really great experiences, and some really bad ones. The bad ones I can only blame on myself. The great ones, I have to credit to Ms. Call and Mr. Barkan. They are both very talented musicians, and I hope I can arrange to see them perform again in the future. Their music, individually and together is worth the effort to hear.Maybe then I will be able to talk to them, as well as socially impaired nerd can anyway. And I recommend attending any house concerts you get the chance to. Assuming you are able to speak, they are great ways to meet people and especially the artist.

Overall, I would do it again in a heartbeat, even the bad stuff. Well, I hope I would be smart enough to ask for help. And I hope that is a lesson I remember if I need it in the future.


March 13, 2012 – I added a picture from the first concert and the wonderful video phlebas shot of “Good Morning Moon.”

March 15, 2012 – Added some pictures from the Doraville concert and the High Museum of Art.

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2 Responses to A Weekend In Atlanta, GA

  1. phlebas says:

    Damn, that was you out there? I thought you were just waiting for a ride that was running late. Sorry, man — I should have gone over to see if I could help. My only excuse is that I was mostly frazzled from keeping the snacks flowing during the show 🙂

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the shows. Sorry about the madness down at the aquarium. I’ve never been, but I haven’t heard anyone describe it as “not a madhouse.”

    And I have no excuses for the construction on 285. I think they started repairs on that road about 30 years ago and have been moving in a very slow circle around and around ever since.

    Marian will be back down here for Dragon*Con. Sounds like crowds that big may not be your bag, but if you come anyway, give me a heads up. I have secret Jedi skills to share about moving around this hard-baked, pollinated city.
    phlebas recently posted..The Call girl swiped my house key!

    • Tom B. says:

      No worries. I should have said something long before I got there. And I could have said something when I heard you folks packing up. Stupidity (pride? same thing in the end.) kept my mouth shut and left me sitting there when I didn’t have to.

      I appreciate the offer of Dragon*Con, but I live in Ohio, and getting down there is not easy most of the time. Plus I may be helping friends work at Worldcon in Chicago that weekend. (Why they were crazy enough to bid for the same weekend as Dragon*Con I will never understand.) I hope to hear Marian again sometime. It only took me a bit over 3 years for my first 2 concerts. Anytime before September of ’13 will be improving my average wait time. 🙂

      BTW, great video, I am getting ready to embed it at the end of the post here.

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