Look back and say ‘I’m glad I did that’

October 7, 2013 

Explorer_Gum_Tree

Theresa and Jimmy Halloway leave S&S Cafeteria on Riverside Drive in Macon in September. Jimmy said that he’s being eating at the restaurant for more than 30 years, but has never left a piece of gum on the gum tree.

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com Buy Photo

This is not a bucket list, by any means. It’s more of a small pail.

It is not a mandate of items you absolutely, positively have to do before you die ... or dye your hair orange for a Mercer University football game. There are no crazy dares, like on a reality television show.

There have always been some unwritten rules of must-sees and must-dos of life in Middle Georgia. It is part of our initiation, our registration fee.

We are told we should climb to the top of the Great Temple Mound at the Ocmulgee National Monument. We are encouraged to experience the Fourth of July fireworks show in Warner Robins. And, for a bite of nostalgia, enjoy a hot dog at the Nu-Way Weiners on Cotton Avenue, which has been around for almost 100 years.

But here are 10 suggestions that are both simple and out of the box.

Remember the late, great Grady Nutt? The preacher, writer and shade-tree philosopher from “Hee Haw” once said: “I believe that the essence of living is this: To be able to look back and say with a smile, ‘I’m glad I did that!’ ”

Go. Explore. I command you.

• Attend a high school football game. (My favorite places have always been Dan Pitts Stadium at Mary Persons in Forsyth, Anderson Stadium in Fort Valley and McConnell-Talbert Stadium in Warner Robins.) You won’t find a stronger sense of community than under the Friday night lights.

• Eat a stack of pancakes at Central City Park during the Cherry Blossom Festival. (Pink does not mean medium rare.) It’s an annual tradition of the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department, and it’s for a great cause. Proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

• Sing an Otis Redding song at the top of your lungs. (But make sure you’re alone.) You could start out with “These Arms of Mine” then move into a rendition of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now).” You could save “Try A Little Tenderness” for your encore. Redding was a Macon treasure. And we could all use some soul in our buckets.

• Visit the gum tree at the S&S Cafeteria on Riverside Drive. It’s not really a tree. It’s a small boxwood in the center island near the flagpole. It even has its own sign. A tradition since 1985, it has become the final resting place for thousands of pieces of Juicy Fruit and Dentyne. Countless gum chewers have contributed to its flavored foliage. And, yes, it’s a little gross. But at least folks don’t spit their Double Bubble on the sidewalk, where it can end up on the bottom of your shoes.

• Take the back roads. Forget the interstates. They may be faster, but they are nothing but boring sameness. On back roads, you might happen upon a yard sale or someone selling fresh vegetables at a roadside stand. There are very few tourist traps. And almost every small town still has a Dairy Queen. There is more to life than green exit signs.

• Listen for the church bells. Many churches around town ring bells at regular intervals and several chime hymns at vespers. There is something very comforting about religious freedom. Take time to be quiet, listen to your heart and find something sacred in the music.

• Locate the marker for the 1928 plane crash in the sidewalk at 580 Cherry Street. (It’s just an emblem with a propeller and no mention of the crash that killed three people. But it is a fascinating part of Macon’s history. And if you’ve never been told the story, ask around. Somebody will know.)

• Support community theater. I’m often surprised at the number of people who have never seen a show at Macon Little Theatre, Theatre Macon or any of the other fine community theaters in the area. There is nothing that can compare to a live performance. It is a magical experience that should not be missed. I especially love musicals.

• Take your camera to the Woodruff House and get a photograph looking up the spiral staircase. Impress your friends. Amaze your family. It’s as cool a picture as you will ever snap. And that crystal embedded in the banister at the base of the stairs? It was once a symbol of having paid off your mortgage. (You’ve probably never seen one of those.)

• Don’t forget your library card. It’s free. Read for fun. Read to learn new things. Read to get smart. We sure could use more smart people in the world. One of my favorite writers is Rick Bragg. I love what he recently wrote in Southern Living.

“I hope I will never have a life that is not surrounded by books, by books that are bound in paper and cloth and glue, such perishable things for ideas have lasted thousands of years,” Bragg said. “I hope I am always walled in by the very weight and breadth and clumsy, inefficient, antiquated bulk of them, hope that I spend my last days on this Earth arranging and rearranging them on thrones of good, honest pine, oak and mahogany, because I just like to look at their covers, and dream of the promise of the great stories inside.”

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