Thursday, April 15, 2010

Census Count

According to St Luke "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world." And everybody obediently went to their ancestral home to get counted. Nowadays submitting to Caesar's ten year count is an act of submission to an overly intrusive government. Unless, like me, you figure it's a not unreasonable thing for the government to know how many people actually live in the country we call home. Mind you we live in weird times when a good proportion of the population seems to think the world will end in a couple of years thanks to the Mayan calendar nonsense some illiterates are putting about. I welcomed the census taker into my home where she planted a chip under my skin so the government can trace my every move. Actually she just asked a few questions, I got most of them right and she handed me a piece of paper listing my options.
I am actually "White, Non Hispanic" but I want to be "Some Other Race." I haven't exactly decided what. Had my wife been home she might have been pissed that there wasn't a box for "Jew." But with the coming Fascist era, promised this November, that may be no bad thing. The census lady was charming and commiserated with me that Cheyenne should count, but doesn't.
Five minutes later I was all done and now the government had my secret information, all that stuff that is already on my driver license and credit reports. And passport application. Job applications. Shopping bar codes at Publix and Winn Dixie. My motorcycle tag. My blog. Anyway all that secret information that the government can only wrench out of me by sending a suspicious person to my house to ask me. Onward and upward then. Perhaps I should have Netflix send my discs inconveniently to a PO Box where the government can't spy on my movie choices? Ad i ca't forget how my details are listed on my library card...my Google browser...my bank account...my health insurance card. Damn these intrusive census takers! What would Jesus have done? Given unto Caesar? I think not; he would have run, not walked from the Government census taker.

Reaching Alabama

I left off yesterday as we turned around and started to head back north towards Alabama, though I did just want to throw a few pictures of White Springs into the mix. This funky little village is close enough to the Georgia State Line to qualify as one of those ambiguous Florida communities that many people argue should put the northern part of the sunshine State squarely in Georgia.Florida was handed over wholesale to the United States by Spain and the shape of the state was set in stone, as it were, at that time. Besides, in the 18th century, peninsula Florida was pretty much uninhabitable except by people who were escaping the law, Native Americans, runaway slaves and eccentric hunters who preferred to share their lives with mosquitoes than with people. So the state capital was put in Tallahassee, a city on the periphery of the state as a whole, and only 50 miles from the date line that separates Eastern Time from Central Time.Northern Florida is a world apart from the palms and development and carpet baggers (like me) who prefer the southern sun to the northern Spanish Moss. It's that cold up here that temperatures around freezing are quite common even of a normal winter. Stephen Foster made a good living writing southern songs though he never actually saw the Suwannee River he made famous. There is a state park dedicated to him hereabouts and fame is a cause of tourism, if you have time to stop and look around. We didn't unfortunately as the Florida Panhandle is unconscionably long and we hadn't yet covered enough of the 900 miles (1500kms) separating Key West from Birmingham, home of Johnny Coley. Northern Florida is very picturesque. We drove and drove and drove, along the dark dips and hills of I-10 westbound. This is desolate country and exits are few and far between. You drive miles and miles of dark forests cut open by four lanes of traffic and not much else. There are no gas stations, no towns, nothing much to see. It was a relief when we turned north on the Federal highway toward Dothan, Alabama, at last. We stopped for dinner before we crossed into Georgia and found a rather peculiar chain restaurant, elderly, run down and quiet. We played silly games waiting for our food.We shared a dinner and spent $6 including a large (sweet) tea.Clockwise we see: Black eyed peas, grits, mac and cheese, sweet rolls, a chop and fried chicken. Very filling.And then it was onwards and up wards driving through the night. We were two days behind and we didn't want to waste a minute before we had to be back in Key West on Friday. Ah, dog-friendly La Quinta!
When you travel with a dog you get to see all sorts of things you never bother to look for when you are dog-less. Dothan by night, a string of neon surrounding the old historic district lost in the middle of the highway ring that streams traffic north and south as expeditiously as possible.
We don't have TV reception at home so television is a weird and wonderful change for us. We are invariably disappointed by the offerings...
...but the advertising is inevitably an education for me. I never realized how much money is spent advertising our high cost drugs in the US. Every ad offered relief from myriad pains I never knew I had. All offer side effects for free.
Thank you President Clinton for allowing this filth on the air. I turned in grumbling about the state of the world and the cost of medicines. In the morning I had something real to grumble about (note my Nissan Maxima comes equipped with a tach as standard equipment). These were winter temperatures I was seeing.
And soon enough I was grumbling about mainland traffic patterns.Oh for the open road!By the time Montgomery was coming into sight Cheyenne's head shaking was becoming unbearable. We looked for a vet and found one roadside. Dr Drake's ancestors came from England but he has never left his hometown and doesn't want to. He diagnosed Cheyenne who sat quietly on the examining table and took an injection of antibiotics up the butt with not even a whimper. My girl!
A hundred dollars later we left with good cheer on all sides and piles of medicine. An excellent deal all round and the head shaking stopped a few hours later as her ear infection subsided.
At last we took one more sloping hill and found the Magic City below, two days late but better Tuesday than never.
Spring had sprung and it was better than 70 degrees when we arrived. We were in for a warming spell and Birmingham was it's best, all full of blossoms and students at UAB.
University of Alabama, Birmingham is a big deal in the Magic City now that iron and steel production has tapered off. The city is overseen by a statue of Vulcan, the God of the Iron Forge, who represents the wealth that came to this instant city, created in the 19th century to exploit coal and ore reserves.Of course I had to forgo a trip to see Vulcan as our schedule was horribly compressed by our mechanical delays. I did get to see the Barber Museum though and all those lovely motorcycles...Lots to see apparently if you have a big camera.Birmingham is built of brick, new and old:
And up there on the left on Highland Avenue is Johnny Coley's apartment.
A hell of a character that Johnny Coley.