Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

Wealth of Ways

10 August 2010

Dear J-

So yesterday I get back to the hotel and it suddenly occurs to me that the last thing I want to do is hang out with those guys: there’s nothing wrong with them, and they’re great fun to be around during an audit (the very word that strikes fear into the hearts of millions), but I’d been together with them for the last ten hours and I was done. After my obligatory underwear time (pants off, alone — there’s so much to recommend) I went to explore Anniston a bit. It’s Calhoun County, but the Oxford-Anniston Metro Area and, having seen what Oxford is like from my window, wanted to see what lay off the path in Anniston instead.

There was a sign that piqued my interest on the way home last night: “Historical Zinn Park” pointing west, so I dutifully followed and parked in the street bisecting the park. Did you ever hear the phrase “there’s no there THERE?” I tried to find some kind of historical marker, but the whole thing remains vaguely unremarkable for now — lawn, stairs, and disrepair in the ring of abandoned buildings forming its borders. It did suit my taste at the time, but only for a little bit: the wretched sense of decay made me think that I was the last person left in the world. So I end up wandering about a little more and hoping that I don’t get mugged (tourist, camera) instead.

We may be in for a couple of long, slogging days starting tomorrow. Whether or not the hours are shorter, or the scenery is different, work is still work. It has been, like the last audit trip I took, a fresh way of looking at the things I do — there are so many people who have to team up to get the parts you need. It makes me a little more humble as to what I can actually accomplish and more willing to speak up asking for help. Kublai Khan couldn’t be richer than me, you know?



Full Tank

9 August 2010

Dear J-

One day into this audit — and life in Alabama — and I think I’ve got a little handle on things. As it turns out I was the last to arrive and so the team lead was waiting for me (patiently, I hope) outside of the hotel when I pulled up. Oh, I had all kinds of wonderful plans for the trip over: I’d hook up on the GPS and plot a route over here and unerringly steer my way into the hotel like some racing driver. Instead the batteries conked out of everything I owned (there’s that remnant of last week: I don’t care what you say about making your own luck, because everything I touched then turned to crap) while on the plane and I managed to get myself pointed in the right direction. If not for the lucky phone call at the last minute, I may still be driving around in the dark of Alabama.

The weather here is not as miserable as I thought, although apparently the local sport is to comment on the weather at length and then go hide in frigid air-conditioned cold — no wonder it’s so hot out there, if everyone’s dumping their heat out that way. We scooted out to the factory, where it was educational to watch blank forgings being turned into valves I’ve pulled of the warehouse shelf. It’s interesting to put faces behind the names and voices I’ve seen on documents; somewhere out there are folks who I’ve muttered about on the phone after hanging up, and that knowledge makes me a smaller man.

There are more than enough restaurants here — and especially along Alabama Highway 21, which runs up to Jacksonville State University and then beyond to our vendor — with interesting decor and menus that I shouldn’t have to repeat my experiment last night (yep, McDonald’s is pretty much the same everywhere in the US) and I’ll do my best to avoid chains altogether. On the other hand, I don’t know that a steady diet of barbecue and fried chicken won’t kill me, and there’s not a lot of choice otherwise. Travel is about new experiences, after all, and I’ve got a tank full of gas.