We began our morning at the Atlanta Aquarium. I should say upfront that I feel about aquariums and zoos the same way I feel about Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone. That is, I know everyone else thinks they are beyond wonderful, and yet just being around them always make me uncomfortable and wishing I had chosen to be anywhere else. My problem with the Georgia Atlanta aquarium was twofold. First, I fundamentally am troubled by animals in captivity, as even this state-of-the-art facility places their animals in confined, unnatural, and cramped habitats. Second, as a long time proponent of partnerships between nonprofits and philanthropic community stakeholders, I recognize the importance of recognizing sponsors in a meaningful way. The aquarium, however, handled this responsibility so ineffectively, that visitors are utterly overwhelmed, distracted and bombarded by the logos, messaging, signage, commercials, and branding of their sponsors.
After being enticed by iconic yellow signs with black lettering throughout the southern states that are placed high up on poles in the sky, we finally stopped at a small Waffle House that time had forgotten. The waffles we were served may have been the best waffles ever made. Their waitresses had just stepped off the set of the old TV sitcom called “Alice” starring Linda Lavin. The Waffle House and its inhabitants were infinitely more interesting and comfortable in their natural habitat than anything we encountered at the aquarium.
We next drove to Birmingham to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The exhibits were exceptional, well-conceived, well-executed, remarkably informative and profoundly moving. Birmingham has a long and disturbing history which was frankly and accurately illustrated in a broader historical context. Mariah and I returned to our car feeling upset. The Civil Rights Institute was a stark reminder of just how recently and widespread ignorance, racial prejudice and inhumanity were prevalent in our country. Sadly, many of these issues remain unresolved today.
Before bunking down in Huntsville, we stopped at a classic dive restaurant for dinner. If you don’t mind long lines, styrofoam plates and plastic forks, wobbly tables with dalapidated wooden stools, and an off-putting entranceway – we have a real deal barbecue joint to recommend to you. It was oh so good and oh so cool.