I was a tourist in my hometown Thursday.
I took one of those “staycations.” I traveled 37 miles, mostly in a low, slow orbit of downtown. I packed light ... just a note pad and a ballpoint pen.
I drove up Poplar, down Plum, hit every red light on Walnut and staked out old folks on New Street. I have been taking these random snapshots every June since 2001. It’s a tradition I call “Postcards from a Summer Day.” I always time it around the first day of summer, which is Saturday.
Postcards don’t always come from the beach. They don’t have to bear postmarks of mountain sunsets or enchanted moments from the Magic Kingdom.
Beauty is in the eyes of the observer.
Last year, I roamed the back roads from Eatonton to Perry, Lake Jackson to Lake Tobesofkee. This summer, with gas prices hovering around $3.43 a gallon, I chose to stay close to the nest.
I drove around, walked around, sat and parked. Downtown is an interesting place if you want your words to capture the mechanisms of daily life. It is a melting pot. Literally.
I watched people coming in and out of offices, restaurants and shops. I saw folks treading across parking lots and retreating to park benches, seeking shade and air conditioner vents. I observed the homeless and the aimless.
I stood by as a teenage girl was taking her driver’s test behind the Terminal Station, where she went through the motions of blinkers, brakes, cones and nerves. At lunchtime, I walked down the most aromatic alley in Macon, which runs next to the delicious smells of Lemongrass. My sunglasses followed a logging truck coming across the Otis Redding Bridge, on its way to the pulp mill to become tomorrow’s newspaper.
Along the riverwalk, I saw two women wearing headphones as they took their strolls. (Personally I prefer listening to the birds.) I passed three guys shooting hoops at Daisy Park before they leaned against the fence to take a break.
By all accounts, it was a scorcher. By the time I posted my final postcard at 4:20 p.m., the temperature on the sign at the Atlanta Postal Credit Union (corner of Third and Mulberry) read 97 degrees. Earlier, I walked past a young man camped out next to a floor fan in an open doorway at Doughboy Pizza. I saw a woman leaving the main post office using her Telegraph comic page umbrella as mobile shade as she walked to the bus stop on Hardeman Avenue.
I watched a mother at the Macon Health Department carrying an infant in a car seat and a large diaper bag in a futile attempt at weight distribution. I saw another mother, with her two young boys, returning library books at Washington Memorial Library, then heading up the elevator to the third floor to check out several more.
At the Marriott City Center, I noticed a lady placing her coffee cup on top of her car as she loaded her suitcase in the trunk. (I sure hope she remembered it before she drove off.) And I saw an employee loading a bouquet of flowers in a delivery van behind Lawrence Mayer Florist.
On a hot, bumpy ride down Fifth Street, I observed a man riding in the back of a truck with a lawn mower. I got stuck behind a garbage truck on College Street near Stewarts Lane. I pulled over on Orange Terrace to watch a mailman walking on foot from porch to porch, then backtracking across the red brick road. I saw a man stretching his leg muscles against the brick wall before a workout at the Macon Health Club.
On a bench inside Jeneane’s Cafe on Mulberry, I shook hands with two men who have been friends with each other since elementary school and had sat down to visit. I took note of a man with a broom and a dustpan sweeping the sidewalk in front of Downtown Motors at the corner of Second and Plum.
In a moment of weakness, I almost braked for the “Baconzilla” burger sign at Cheddars on Spring Street. (Everything is better with bacon.) But I kept moving up to Rose Hill where I rode through the cemetery. I saw a man walking between the railroad tracks and Soldier Square, where the headstones of more than 600 Confederate soldiers stand at attention along a slope above the Ocmulgee River.
I passed a work detail at Washington Park and a young man helping a lady take her groceries to her car at the J&L Food Mart at the corner or Third and Arch. I stopped to let a blind man, dressed in a suit, make his way on the crosswalk in front of me at The Medical Center of Central Georgia.
I silently paid my respects during a late-morning funeral procession down Cherry Street. At the foot of Cherry, I heard hammers in the doorway as construction continued on the new Tubman African American Museum. Across the plaza, I poked my head inside the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, where a group of 32 students from Community Christian School in Stockbridge were taking a tour.
I watched a young man, wearing his baseball cap backward, ride a green bicycle on the sidewalk along First Street. At Ocmulgee Traders, the city’s newly opened downtown grocery, I observed three tables of women enjoying lunch next to large windows and a sign that reads: “Good Food. Good People.”
On my final spin through Central City Park, an old man with a cane sitting alone under a picnic shed saw me and waved. Maybe he thought he should be in the postcard, too. Maybe he was right.
It was a postcard kind of day.
Wish you could have been there.
Maybe you were.
Contact Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.