As if being the 40th anniversary of George Michael's birth didn't already make this summer special enough, I was recently reminded that we're approaching the 40th anniversary of the massive civil rights march on Washington, D.C., at which The Greatest Atlantan Ever-Ever, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. To celebrate, I visited the King Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which is just across Auburn Avenue and run by the National Park Service.
Because King is buried there, the King Center will always be an important destination. Unfortunately, its museum area is kinda pathetic. The room dedicated to Rosa Parks doesn't even really explain her significance. The Gandhi room has some paintings and some books, but lacks a decent explanation of who he is or his significance to King. And while MLK memorabilia such as his clothes, empty aftershave bottles (he used Aramis, same as my dad did) and posthumous Grammy are interesting, the displays hardly give a hint about King's importance in our history. (How about some listening stations playing his speeches?)
The National Historic Site across the street is a little better, but its exhibits are more focused on the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. The man was as interesting as he was brilliant. And for fuck's sake, other than Jesus Christ, he's the only single person with his own national holiday. There's no excuse for the King Center being that dull.
Of all places, the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum has a much more interesting public King exhibit than the King Center. The museum currently houses a collection of amazing Bob Adelman photographs documenting some key events in King's public life. Appropriately enough, the house also has an impressive lot of Margaret Mitchell artifacts.
Mitchell -- the author of such literary classics as Autant En Emporte Le Vent, Pe Aripile Vintului, Tuulen Viemaa and, of course, Lo Que El Viento Se Llevo -- is best known to Atlantans for her first novel, Gone With the Wind. Buildings on that 10th-and-Peachtree plot have a tendency to burn down, so the house is actually a re-creation, but it's still fun. Tour guide Karen Adams explained to the group how Mitchell very nearly pulled an anti-Dickens by originally naming the book's lead character Pansy instead of Scarlett. Adams also talked about how Mitchell farmed her personal life for GWTW characters. For example, she had a relative named Sister Melanie who, in her pre-nun days, had a romance with Doc Holliday. Melanie and Doc are thought to have inspired GWTW's Melanie and that wuss Ashley. Come to think of it, it's Ashley who should've been called Pansy.
One of the tour's highlights is the video that precedes the guided tour. In it, Atlanta celebs and Mitchell's acquaintances talk about her. One female friend in the video described her as "toujours gay, when it was all right to use the word gay."
Ma'am, at 10th and Peachtree, it's still perfectly all right to use the word gay.
Straight to Zell: The Atlanta branch of Women's Action for New Directions just celebrated the first anniversary of its Noon Friday demonstrations in front of Sen. Zell Miller's Colony Square office in Midtown. Guess how they celebrated? With a drug-fueled bash at Eleven50 DJed by Sasha and Digweed? Nice guess, but no.
They celebrated by demonstrating in front of Sen. Zell Miller's office last Friday at noon. They've been demonstrating for a year because they're pissed at Zell for supporting a wasteful "defense" policy that puts Americans in danger while ignoring economic and environmental concerns at home (yes, those quotation marks are sarcastic). None of the protesters mentioned it, but I'd bet they're also pissed off at Zell for pooh-poohing CBS's proposed hillbilly reality show.
Facing traffic at 14th and Peachtree, many of the demonstrators held up signs saying, "Honk for peace." The signs prompted an impressive amount of supportive honking to go along with the usual "you're a terrible driver and I hate you" honking that usually fills busy Atlanta intersections. I witnessed very little in the way of counter-protest -- except for one man with the moronic idea that people who haven't served in the military (like him) shouldn't protest military activities. Thanks for defending the Constitution, mister. How about reading it now?
Never did no wanderin': If you had the good fortune to kum ba Roswell's town square last Saturday or Sunday, you probably caught a little of the Roswell Heritage Music Weekend. There was bluegrass, folk, country and (that North Fulton heritage staple) funnel cake.
Early Sunday afternoon, the event featured an old-time gospel sing-along led by members of the acoustic country group Polecat Creek, probably a dozen of so people with guitars, mandolins and fiddles. I'm not particularly old-timey or gospelly, so I didn't know the words to the songs (stuff about having a friend in Jesus and washing with the blood of lambs, etc.). It was nevertheless fun. Imagine O Brother, Where Art Thou? meets A Mighty Wind.
Here's some Roswell trivia I picked up in the visitors center: To keep the damned Yankees from burning down the Roswell mill during the Civil War, one of the mill's French co-owners flew his country's flag over it and claimed the place was French, not Confederate. It didn't work.
You are on my side: On Aug. 21, singer/ artist Wesley Willis died in Chicago. At the time of his death, he suffered from Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. He was 40 years old. His music is a wellspring of humor and honesty that fans will always treasure. Thank you, Wesley.
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