Saturday, October 24, 2009

Birmingham, AL

I went up to Birmingham today to see the Met's live HD broadcast of "Aida" (Birmingham was the closest city to have a movie theater that was carrying it).

On the drive up I65 I came across this:

It's a giant Confederate battle flag perched at the top of a hill right up against the road. The Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans bought the land and put the flag up as a gigantic "fuck you" to everyone who objects to the Confederate flag. It's the first real indication I've had that I'm now living in the South. I saw a sign for some kind of Confederate memorial or museum nearby; I'll have to check it out.

After the broadcast I drove to downtown Birmingham and walked around the area. I started with the 16th Street Baptist Church that was bombed by the Klan in 1963; four girls were killed.

Across the street from the church is Kelly Ingram Park. There are sculptures in the park that depict the violence inflicted on civil rights protesters during a May 1963 protest in the park (you've most likely seen footage of it in civil rights documentaries). Apparently people have complained that the statues are too vivid -- well, the police really did unleash attack dogs on children and blasted them with fire hoses. They show the truth. Suck it up.

Downtown Birmingham was actually quite nice.

You can view the pictures I took here.

There are lots of well kept brick and stone buildings from the 1890s through 1940s. It looks like they haven't ever torn anything down. The town, though, was deserted -- it's a business district with no restaurants or shops. It's a shame because it could be a great downtown area because of all of the historic buildings.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Misc Apartment Stuff

One of the major downsides of urban apartment living is that you have no place to barbecue. So I went and bought a barbecue the other night. Home Depot had an end of the season sale -- only $100. And you'll notice that it is on my deck.

I tried out the neighborhood pizza place tonight, Tomatinos. While it's no Mama Palma's or Slice, it was pretty good. And I can walk to it. Their larges cost up to $25; that's expensive even by Philly standards. I'll have to investigate.

Some pictures of the apartment:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Moved into Apt

Despite all of my stuff being in Philly, and being unable to get it shipped to me until next week, I moved into the apartment. I didn't want to keep staying in the hotel which was isolated at the edge of town. I got an air mattress so I wouldn't have to sleep on the floor, and a few hundred dollars worth of stuff from IKEA (had to drive two hours to Atlanta).

The trash collection situation is unusual. Two days a week they collect "trash" -- anything you can fit into a 96 gallon city issued toter (that's right! After attacking toter users and haulers for 9 months, I'm now a toter user). Once a week they collect "garbage" which is anything in a bag. So that means I have trash collection 3 times a week. And I pay the city a fee for this.

The title of this blog should have something about shopping centers in it. I went to Target tonight for bed sheets. I quickly pulled the location up in google maps and saw it was a few miles down a road off exit 11 on I85. So I'm driving down the road, see a big shopping center and pull onto it. I can't find Target, look up the location on my phone, and see that I need to drive a few miles more. I get back on the road, a minute or so later hit amother shopping center, and pull into it. Still no Target. I pull out my phone and see I need to keep driving. I hit another shopping center and this is the one with Target. To get back to I85 I need to keep driving down that road. Another mile later I hit a fourth shopping center. Montgomery is the frigging shopping center capital of the south. And the 10% sales tax is killing me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Initial Montgomery Impressions

So I've been in Montgomery for 5 days now. It's surprisingly normal. With few exceptions, there are all the same stores here that there are in any other city. There's even a gourmet supermarket called The Fresh Market. It's a pretty good substitute for Di Bruno Brothers, so I can officially live Montgomery, AL.

Despite housing the State Capitol and a slew of government buildings, the downtown area is always desolate. Even at rush hour there is no traffic or pedestrians. I'm planning on biking there because it is always so wide open. The rest of the city is suburban -- single family homes with lawns. Having a car is a must -- there are no sidewalks. One final note about the city: there are shopping centers all over the place -- it seems like way more than a city of 200,000 can support. There are 3 Wal-Marts within the city limits, all within 5 miles of each other. That feels like a lot.

During lunch on Wednesday I walked over to the First White House of the Confederacy. For some reason I found it incredibly creepy that self-guided tour always referred to Jefferson Davis as President Jefferson Davis. Besides learning that Davis was the greatest American ever, the tour also taught me that General Lee didn't know his ass from his elbow when it came to warfare, and Davis had to tell him everything to do (so does that mean Davis is to blame for the military failure of the South?).

I was able to find an apartment quickly. I'll post more on it later, but it's two bedrooms, probably 900 sq ft, has a deck, yard, hardwood floors, and is across the street from a strip of (non-chain) restaurants (I've eaten at two and they're good). The real estate broker wanted $700 a month; I'm a bit nervous that I was able to get him down to $650 with little effort. I feel like there must be something wrong with the apartment. The only problem I foresee is that the kitchen does not have a garbage disposal. I'm tempted to spend my own money to have one installed. The apartment also has hookups for a washer and dryer. After seeing the costs of the cheapest units at Home Depot, I think I'm just going to use the laundromat down the street. When I factor in energy costs, it's going to take years for these units to pay for themselves.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Philadelphia to Montgomery

Day 1: Philadelphia to Richmond, VA
Day 2: Richmond, VA to Charlotte, NC
Day 3: Charlotte, NC to Montgomery, AL

Nothing to report from the drive -- I didn't kill anyone and I wasn't killed. Many thanks to my co-workers in Philly who got me some Cannolis from Termini Brothers; I ate them all in the car on the way down to Richmond.

Because I have yet to find an apartment in Montgomery, I loaded up my car with the essentials for living:
  • Clothes
  • Bike
  • 2 month supply of pasta, tomato sauce, and balsamic vinegar from Di Bruno Bros
  • Salad spinner
Once I find an apartment I'll have the rest of my stuff shipped down, which mostly consists of:
  • CDs
  • DVDs
  • Books
  • TV
  • Audio Equipment
  • Furniture
The people who know me well won't be surprised to hear that the CDs take up more cubic footage than the furniture I own.

This got me thinking about how much stuff I own that is replaceable. My irreplaceable items come down to this milk container:

In it I have three external hard drives that have all of my computer data going back to the first computer I owned (minus my video projects from college -- they're on two other drives), and the Szell Centennial Compact Disc Edition (live recordings of music George Szell never commercially recorded -- the Cleveland Orchestra released a limited number of box sets in the late 90s; it's been out of print for years; it seems unlikely that these recordings will ever be released again). If everything else were to accidentally be destroyed, as long as the insurance company paid up, it wouldn't be that big of a deal.

The Car:

2009 Honda Fit Sport
I averaged 38.8 MPG