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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Moments of grace

Last night Tim and I went to the cute section of town, the neighborhood known as Old Cloverdale. The one block in Montgomery that has an independent movie theatre, the live music venue, a few restaurants, and a real coffeehouse. The restaurant where we had dinner was a tiny, hole-in-the-wall pizza place. The building had 15-foot ceilings, hammered tin on the wall, and local artwork hanging all around. The floor was dusty and scuffed painted wood, and the tip jar by the register was made of hand-blown glass. Our waitress was wearing a hemp necklace and a headwrap that I would bet covered up hippie-girl dreadlocks. The other waitress had a back tattoo. I didn't know places and people like this existed here.

I probably spent the whole dinner exclaiming over how cool it was, and just seeping in its atmosphere. And the pizza was delicious. With a whole-wheat crust, even. It's hard to articulate what a place like that does for my soul. I wouldn't probably think twice of a restaurant like that in Chicago. But it reminded me of counter-culture, which I really didn't think existed here.

(Can organic food even be considered counter-culture? Sounds like a stretch to me, but . . . the world is different down here.)

After, we asked the waitress about a good bar. She recommended one by saying, "Lots of gays go there, but it's still cool." (Which makes me wonder what kind of recommendation she thinks she's making. Which also makes me wonder how many gays and lesbians live here—someplace I believe is pretty gay-unfriendly.) It was in the Old Alabama section of town. The business area, near the Capitol and the courthouse.

The Montgomery downtown looked like any small-town downtown. Old, decaying department stores, wide empty streets; a ghost town once 5 o'clock strikes and the government workers go home. A wasteland. I wouldn't want to be there alone after dark. In front of the recommended bar (closed on Mondays), cars were parked on the middle yellow line, and a few people were just hanging out in them. It was surreal.

So we went back to Old Cloverdale to 1048, an old house that has been renovated into a music joint. Dusty wooden floors, sports on TV and blues on the jukebox, the place was quiet but the bar stools filled with men contemplating their drafts. Two older men played backgammon at a table in the corner. They had Newcastle on draft, but it was the kind of place that makes me want to drink PBR from the bottle, shoot whiskey from a jar, and slowly draw in on a cigarette. It was home to me. I'm glad we found it.

If we can find moments of grace here like this night, then I feel like I belong somewhere.


Blogger joolz said...

I totally have chills, Ellie. It sounds wonderful. I love moments like that.

3:11 PM  

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