Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ah! Birmingham!

Ah Birmingham, you plucky little city, you. Birthplace of everyone’s favorite food, the hamburger. What’s that my trusty fact-checking sidekick? The hamburger was not invented in Birmingham? Well it should have been ‘cause Lord knows Birmingham needs to be known for more than just being the place where four little girls got blown up by some neo-Nazi KKK fuck-o’s. Now why am I singing the praises of Birmingham? Well, because at the beginning of the week I got to spend almost 24 hours wallowing in all of its urbane beauty. My company dispatched me to Birmingham to lay some knowledge on some personnel there and the trip would have been nice except the people I had to travel with really irritated me. I am sure part of this was due to my lack of sleep, coming directly after my recent involvement in the Adventures of Drunk Girl, which you can read here. Beyond my short-temperedness, there were three things about my traveling companions that bugged me.

The first was the incessant complaining about the hotel we were staying in. We were quartered in the Tutwiler, which is now owned by Wyndam. The Tutwiler was built in the 1920s and according to the website was restored in 2000. The place had an air of elegant decay about it. The moment you walked in to the building you could tell she was the Grand Dame of a bygone era and stepping into the marble floored elevators with their mirror and hardwood walls drove home the point. Monday night I popped open the windows to my room and sat out on the balcony just contemplating, and it was an excellent place for contemplation as the public library was right across the street. I could close my eyes and feel the memories in the old building. She was not meant for the business traveler with their computers and cellphones and hectic pace. She was a place for a more genteel pace. In her heyday there would be the Saturday afternoon crowd who would while away the afternoon on the porch drinking Mint Juleps. Then Saturday evening would come and everyone would get all gussied up, have a nice dinner, and then dance. I will admit that the hotel could have been in better shape, particularly in light of the fact that it had been renovated in 2000, however I slept well and enjoyed spending a night with the relic of a bygone era, so I had no complaints.

The second thing that they did to annoy me was be indecisive. Since there were no eateries located near the hotel, which I think is on the north side of town (North side represent!), we decided to go to the Five Points area, which is on the south side of town, to grab some grub. Before we left the hotel one of my compatriots, who we shall refer to a Dover (which is actually funny if you know his real first name), got a list of places to try in the Five Points area. When we got there Dover had no idea where any of the places were so we ended up wandering around for about 30 minutes. Throughout this whole time I was suggesting places we were walking by, like the sushi place (Dover: I don’t do foreign food,) and the pizza place (Other Person: No pizza tonight,) and Subway. Nothing appealed to their refined palates. Finally I put my foot down and informed them that we would just go into the Five Points Grill and get dinner. Once we were seated there was another twenty minutes of mulling over the menu before they decided whether we would actually stay there or not. I was going to stay regardless of their decision because at this point I had transformed from mild-mannered data ninja James to surly, ready to kill indecisive co-workers James. Plus I was HONGRY! And I don’t mean normal hungry either, I was hungry, hungry Hippos, hungry. Now, it sounds like I am being extra special whiney, however there are two rules to dealing with James when he is hungry and tired:

1. If you are going to poo-poo a suggestion you better make one of your own. I don’t want to play the game where I list everything and you say no to everything. I really don’t care where we eat. I can find something I like on almost any menu.
2. Take action. After we wandered and ended up back at our starting point we stood there and discussed what we wanted to eat for like ten minutes. Of course this discussion was moot because we didn’t know where anything was! We could have kept walking around, trying to find something, but no, we just stood there.

As it turns out the Five Points Grill was set up to cater to my dining needs. They had beer, many dishes featuring meat, and the scenery was nice (and for those of you who might harbor some foolish delusions about what I mean by scenery, I mean that there were several young women who were easy on the eyes). I had my favorite pizza, which is any pizza with meat, meat, meat, meat, cheese, and sauce as toppings, and a pint of the Sweet Georgia Brown Ale. The pizza was great however the Sweet Georgia Brown Ale had a taste somewhere between foul and butt, but with a nice honey twist to it. In the end dinner was good, despite a disappointing ale.

The third thing bothering me on this trip was Dover. That guy is just an idiot. He thinks he has something funny to say about everything and unlike me he is just not funny. While we were in the cab from the airport he kept calling the hotel the Rotweiller, which had our cabbie confused. (Oh, and if you are wondering it appears the cabbie from the Indian subcontinent cliché exists in the deep south as well.) I can’t remember what else he said throughout the evening and the next day, but basically he was very insulting about the city. Now this may sound hypocritical to those of you who have read the first paragraph of this post, however while I am being insulting about the city, I at least have the good sense to do it while I am not in the city itself and, more to the point, I hope to redeem my snide comments later in the post. I guess what it boils down to is that Dover behaves like a five year old without any of the social breaks that even a five year old has and, for all my immaturity, this bugs me. There are times where you just need to shut up.

Now that I am done being whiney about the trip I want to say that Birmingham is actually a very beautiful city. The downtown streets were lined with trees and there was a massive park across the street from the hotel. Had I been in town longer there are a couple of things I would have liked to check out, such as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Sloss Furnaces, and the Southern Museum of Flight. While this is not a city that cries out for me to return, like Colorado Springs or Seoul, I could see myself spending a month or so writing my great American novel here, taking afternoons off to enjoy a mint julep or two.

Oh yeah, I took some pictures which you can view here, however since Webshots is being a git they are not going to be properly oriented.

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