Monday, May 7th, 2007
My mom and I went to Athens, Georgia, this weekend to visit my sister, who just moved there. It’s a great little city, and I’m mad at myself for deciding not to take my camera. My sister is a photographer, so it always seems slightly pointless to carry around my own camera, but I wish I had some photos of the hip, bustling downtown area and the bungalow-licious streets surrounding it to share.
My sister works right downtown within walking distance of everything. I’m a little jealous that she gets to live in such a cool, hipster-y town and have caramel cake and creamed corn at the famous Weaver D’s whenever she pleases.
Athens is similar in size to Tuscaloosa, the university town where I grew up and still work. As we roamed the streets and popped in the many fabulous little shops in Athens (several of which were mentioned in my favorite magazine Lucky, like Helix, where I bought Kelly a Little Red Riding Hood finger puppet for her birthday), we found ourselves ranting, “Why can’t Tuscaloosa be more like this?” And Eutaw, too, for that matter.
It feels vaguely blasphemous to compare the home of the Crimson Tide unfavorably to the home of the University of Georgia, but facts are facts. Athens is just so much more interesting.
Seeing a city that has it right makes me feel happy in one sense and sad in another. Happy that somewhere it’s possible to have thriving small businesses and preservation efforts without thwarting progress. Sad that it’s so hard to turn a place around.
Eutaw’s square, for example, could be so charming. Instead it’s mostly not. I love the idea of a beautification effort – a unification, too – instead of ragamuffin, haphazard covered walkways and buildings. But how do you create charm with no money? And how do you get all the building owners to cooperate?
At home in our non-hipster-y towns, we do not have Human Rights Festivals with real live llamas standing on the street corners. But we can hope strangers will find us charming, even in our imperfection.