As Yet Unsorted

Writing to get where I hope to be.


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I Spent Some Time at the Lorraine Motel Today

I’ve been to a few new places this week, and have seen and done things I won’t forget anytime soon, but today’s trip to the National Civil Rights Museum has earned the distinction of being the most affecting experience thus far. I had idly noticed it on a map last night, but hadn’t given much thought to whether I would go to it; I didn’t know what I’d do in Memphis, beyond sleeping, honestly.

This morning when I moved my car before breakfast, I saw one entrance, and thought maybe I’d take a look after I ate, but I still didn’t truly grasp what I was seeing. I got my eggs and biscuits and grits at the oldest diner in Memphis, then still had an hour on the meter, so decided to take a walk. It was the vintage motel sign that caught my eye. I walked down the hill to get a closer look, and it was only then that I understood where I was. The Lorraine Motel is the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. It has been both preserved and transformed, along with the rooming house across the street where James Earl Ray is said to have fired the shot from a second floor bathroom window, into the National Civil Rights Museum. At first, I simply stood in the courtyard, looking up at the balcony outside of room 306, and listening to Dr. King’s voice. It was already enough to fill my eyes with tears. Scattered across the courtyard are four listening posts, which provide short videos about the sanitation strike that brought him there that day, and about the day itself. I watched them all, and watched other people filter across the courtyard, pausing in the same way I had, then make their way into the building.

I only had about half an hour left on my meter, but I figured I’d at least take a quick look. I went in, bought my ticket, and 20 minutes later, left to move my car into their lot before going in to see the introductory film. I left again nearly four hours later.

The exhibits begin with the slave trade and Middle Passage, and work their way up to the Black Power movement and beyond. Over, and over, I found myself unable to fathom the depth of hatred involved over something as basic as skin color. I don’t understand, and my main reaction to that lack of understanding was the impulse to cry over the brutality and bravery in turns. I knew much of what was presented, but I had never seen it all in one place, at one time, and the effect, for me, was profound.

The questions I keep coming back to are: 

What could Dr. King have done if he’d had a life of a more natural duration (he was only 39 years old, he was killed just over two years before I was born, and yet his legacy is immense and enduring)?

What would he, and others who didn’t live through the turmoil of the time, think about the fact that, in many ways, we are right back where we were when they were fighting so valiantly for change and equality?

I don’t know the answers to either of them, but thinking of what I saw and heard today makes my hair stand up, and I can only hope that, one day, somehow, we will learn from the past and be able to embrace a vision of the future in which equality is finally a reality.


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Two Nights In Asheville, and Tennessee From East to West

My original plan had been to spend only one night in any spot on my way out, but changing plans on the fly is one of the beauties of a road trip, right? I got into Asheville at about 9 pm Tuesday evening, 13 hours after leaving Lancaster. I had expected 11, 12 tops, because of stops I knew I wanted to make, but I hadn’t accounted for a long, slow gps-induced detour. I now plan on using gps only for specific addresses within cities I am already in, because on the macro level of this trip, my instincts and the pile of maps in my passenger seat are already proving much more reliable.

  My decision to stay in Asheville a second night was eased by the fact that my airbnb room was available, which meant not having to move my stuff. And since I had driven out of my way to stay here in the first place, it made little sense to not see the place while I had a chance.

I spent yesterday morning and afternoon wandering downtown, ogling all of the Art Deco architecture and marveling at the fact that there seems to be a brewery every few blocks. If my stomach had been in better shape, I could have spent the middle of the day pinballing my way between breweries and chocolate shops, but instead I window-shopped and people-watched in parks, and bought carrot/citrus/turmeric juice at a farmer’s market.

Later in the afternoon, at the suggestion of the guy I sat next to at breakfast (who showed me photos on his phone that his friend who had just returned from Taos had taken), I drove north on the Blue Ridge Parkway (via one of the steepest, windiest, narrowest roads I have ever been on — thanks for the white knuckles, gps) to Craggy Gardens, which is a heath bald, covered in hardy, gnarled rhododendron varieties, rather than trees. It was significantly cooler on top of the mountain than it had been in the city, and the short section of the nature trail I hiked was damp, because storms blow through there that don’t necessarily make it down into the valleys. The goal was to watch the sun set from the overlook, but storm clouds rolled in, and after the ride up, I wasn’t sure about finding my way back down in the dark.

After I made my way back down out of the mountains, by a slightly less nerve-wracking route than I took up, I went back to where I was staying so that I could research my dinner options. I chose Ben’s Tune-Up, which repurposed an old garage building, as well as the name of the business. The airbnb caretaker joined me to have a drink while I ate. As it happened, there was a band playing, so we got to have good conversation and good music.

This morning I got up to watch the sunrise from the deck again, chatted more with the caretaker, Elaine, and walked to Vortex Donuts for some sweet breakfast to go. Biscuithead had been suggested, but I was afraid of a heavy meal not sitting well on a long drive. On my way out of town, I stopped briefly at Downtown Books and News, and wished I’d found it yesterday.

All in all, Asheville was delightful, and I look forward to my next visit.

Today, I drove across Tennessee, and east-to-west, there’s a lot of it! The mountains and trees were beautiful, and I was perfectly content to drive along looking at them. The rest stops are cute, made to look like log cabins or mountain homes, complete with fireplaces and rocking chairs.

I was less charmed by Nashville, but that may have been because I really didn’t know what I was looking for, or was feeling harried by sports (college football?) traffic, or annoyed by having to pay to park for twice as long as I planned to be there.

I wandered into the Silver Dollar Saloon for a beer and to listen to a guy with a twang and a guitar. He wasn’t bad, but you know what doesn’t translate well to country? Reggae. Seriously. Just as I finished my beer, he started “Wagon Wheel,” which was my cue to be on my way. 

I found coffee and wifi a few blocks away, made arrangements for a place to stay in Memphis, and hit the road again… at rush hour. Timing was not working for me today, especially since it took me so long to get free of Nashville traffic that there was no way I’d make it to Memphis before dark.

I consoled myself on the last couple of hours of the drive by relishing the beautiful sunset as I drove toward it, and singing loudly and poorly along with hair bands (and others) on classic rock stations. Nothing solidifies your middle-age status more than hearing music from your high school and college years labeled “classic.”

I’m in Memphis, and in for the evening, because wandering around in the dark in a part of a strange city with very few people on the streets just seemed unwise. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.


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Two Nights In Asheville, and Tennessee From East to West

My original plan had been to spend only one night in any spot on my way out, but changing plans on the fly is one of the beauties of a road trip, right? I got into Asheville at about 9 pm Tuesday evening, 13 hours after leaving Lancaster. I had expected 11, 12 tops, because of stops I knew I wanted to make, but I hadn’t accounted for a long, slow gps-induced detour. I now plan on using gps only for specific addresses within cities I am already in, because on the macro level of this trip, my instincts and the pile of maps in my passenger seat are already proving much more reliable.

  My decision to stay in Asheville a second night was eased by the fact that my airbnb room was available, which meant not having to move my stuff. And since I had driven out of my way to stay here in the first place, it made little sense to not see the place while I had a chance.

I spent yesterday morning and afternoon wandering downtown, ogling all of the Art Deco architecture and marveling at the fact that there seems to be a brewery every few blocks. If my stomach had been in better shape, I could have spent the middle of the day pinballing my way between breweries and chocolate shops, but instead I window-shopped and people-watched in parks, and bought carrot/citrus/turmeric juice at a farmer’s market.

Later in the afternoon, at the suggestion of the guy I sat next to at breakfast (who showed me photos on his phone that his friend who had just returned from Taos had taken), I drove north on the Blue Ridge Parkway (via one of the steepest, windiest, narrowest roads I have ever been on — thanks for the white knuckles, gps) to Craggy Gardens, which is a heath bald, covered in hardy, gnarled rhododendron varieties, rather than trees. It was significantly cooler on top of the mountain than it had been in the city, and the short section of the nature trail I hiked was damp, because storms blow through there that don’t necessarily make it down into the valleys. The goal was to watch the sun set from the overlook, but storm clouds rolled in, and after the ride up, I wasn’t sure about finding my way back down in the dark.

After I made my way back down out of the mountains, by a slightly less nerve-wracking route than I took up, I went back to where I was staying so that I could research my dinner options. I chose Ben’s Tune-Up, which repurposed an old garage building, as well as the name of the business. The airbnb caretaker joined me to have a drink while I ate. As it happened, there was a band playing, so we got to have good conversation and good music.

This morning I got up to watch the sunrise from the deck again, chatted more with the caretaker, Elaine, and walked to Vortex Donuts for some sweet breakfast to go. Biscuithead had been suggested, but I was afraid of a heavy meal not sitting well on a long drive. On my way out of town, I stopped briefly at Downtown Books and News, and wished I’d found it yesterday.

All in all, Asheville was delightful, and I look forward to my next visit.

Today, I drove across Tennessee, and east-to-west, there’s a lot of it! The mountains and trees were beautiful, and I was perfectly content to drive along looking at them. The rest stops are cute, made to look like log cabins or mountain homes, complete with fireplaces and rocking chairs.

I was less charmed by Nashville, but that may have been because I really didn’t know what I was looking for, or was feeling harried by sports (college football?) traffic, or annoyed by having to pay to park for twice as long as I planned to be there.

I wandered into the Silver Dollar Saloon for a beer and to listen to a guy with a twang and a guitar. He wasn’t bad, but you know what doesn’t translate well to country? Reggae. Seriously. Just as I finished my beer, he started “Wagon Wheel,” which was my cue to be on my way. 

I found coffee and wifi a few blocks away, made arrangements for a place to stay in Memphis, and hit the road again… at rush hour. Timing was not working for me today, especially since it took me so long to get free of Nashville traffic that there was no way I’d make it to Memphis before dark.

I consoled myself on the last couple of hours of the drive by relishing the beautiful sunset as I drove toward it, and singing loudly and poorly along with hair bands (and others) on classic rock stations. Nothing solidifies your middle-age status more than hearing music from your high school and college years labeled “classic.”

I’m in Memphis, and in for the evening, because wandering around in the dark in a part of a strange city with very few people on the streets just seemed unwise. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.