Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Atlanta, it turns out, has major league traffic heading out of town as early as 2pm on a Friday afternoon. We were on our way to Highlands, North Carolina and Route 85 wasn’t cooperating. Fortunately we had good air conditioning and had been upgraded to a PC Cruiser--a convertible, no less--for no extra money. I'd never been in one. It turned out to be very comfortable and fun to drive, particularly on the many heavily curved switchback roads we had to negotiate for the rest of the weekend. Highlands is called Highlands for a very good reason. Situated in the mountains southwest of Ashville, North Carolina, every road into town goes either up or down along the edges of steep hills or through very narrow gaps with continual tight curves. I loved it. I thought the roads were fun and a great challenge to a driver. Fritz and our traveling companion were less thrilled.
In Highlands we settled into our inn and were soon attending the first event of the weekend, the rehearsal dinner (none of us had to rehearse, just be on hand afterwards for the food and the wine and the big family reunion). I met several members of Fritz's family I hadn't yet had the pleasure of meeting, and enjoyed seeing his nephew S again. S, a very talented mokume artist (a Japanese technique for fusing metals of different colors together to make jewelry and art objects) had made our wedding rings, as he just finished doing for the bride and groom (his elder son).
There were two video features during dinner: a lovely retrospective of photos of the couple growing up through the years individually and then pictures of them together. The second was an animated movie made by the Groom's younger sister and their father(S) that was a risqué, tongue in cheek chronicle of their meeting, courtship and (presumed) wedding night to come. Not everyone was pleased. Fritz and I thought it was great and the younger crowd, of course, was in hysterics. Having some semi-obscene references at a wedding is a very ancient and honorable custom.
Saturday was a lazy day, with a little exploration around town (filled with wealthy Republicans on shopping jags), some down time, tea at the inn (they had addictive, buttery biscuits made with candied ginger), and then the wedding itself out of town in the fields below an incredible cliff rearing high above us, crowned with a fringe of Georgia pine. We then retreated to a tent set for dinner and dancing. Lots of good wine, excellent filet of beef with a superb horseradish sauce, the best grits I've ever had (white grits turned out almost like polenta and full of flavor), Cajun shrimp, ratatouille, and salad. I also encountered an old custom I didn't know--the Wedding cake and the Groom's cake.
In the "old days" the Wedding cake was eaten as dessert and the Groom's cake was cut up into pieces, carefully wrapped, and given to the unmarried to put under their pillows when they went to sleep, the better to dream of a perfect mate. They did this for several nights and then they finally got to eat the cake (I'm not sure I want to think about that too long). These days, fortunately, everybody just gets a piece of both cakes to eat right then and there. The Groom's cake was chocolate with a complex frosting and just yummy. The wedding cake itself was a rich carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and big--BIG--strawberries.
Sunday began with a farewell brunch at the inn, lots of talk and trading of email addresses to share pictures. We left around eleven and began to make our way back to Atlanta. The weather was perfect and traffic almost non-existent. I'd booked us into the Highland Inn (no relation to the inn in Highlands, NC), an old-fashioned, gay-friendly, comfortable place near the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site, where our "room" turned out to be a three room suite including a full kitchen, in the northeast section of the inner city.
We spent the afternoon at the High Museum of Art downtown, a striking Richard Meyer-designed complex of buildings with wonderful light in the galleries. The major exhibitions began with a big Annie Leibovitz retrospective (including her pictures documenting her partner Susan Sontag's last illness and death) focused mostly around her photos of various celebrities and public figures in deeply personal, very revealing moments. It was gay daddy day at the museum apparently; we saw a couple of families including one male couple with an enchanting four and a half month old daughter.
From there, we crossed a bridge into the museum's other pavilion to see three of the legendary gilded bronze door panels from the Baptistry of the Cathedral of Florence, Italy. The panels are about 30 x 30 inches and have been painstakingly cleaned of centuries of grime, chemical corrosion and weathering. There were also several of the framing panels demonstrating the stages of cleaning down to the original, highly detailed and beautifully composed gilded bronze surfaces. As it was close to closing, we took pot luck and just wandered randomly around the rest of the place--through some amazing rural Georgia folk art, through furniture from the arts and crafts movement, and finally we found ourselves at a stunning mid-19th century Italian statue of a classical Roman woman with a sheer gauze veil over her head and face. We, along with another couple, stopped in astonishment at this piece. The technique was so sure and virtuosic that we could all have sworn we were looking at her face through actual gauze.
For dinner we went back to our neighborhood and Babette’s Café (named for the movie Babette's Feast, I suspect) that promised "European Farmhouse Cuisine" and delivered handsomely. We both had first class paella, splitting a bottle of crisp Chilean chardonnay and ending with ice cream (Fritz) and date/pistachio pastries (me).
We spent Monday morning in the Jimmy Carter Museum and Library. It's well laid out and, while inclusive, isn't either exhausting or intimidating. We toured around the grounds, walking through the Japanese Garden, and then went and had lunch with JB, the friend of whom I spoke last time. He lives in one of the many relaxed but elegant 1920s bungalows that fill this section of Atlanta and neither he nor his boyfriend is afraid of color. The living room walls are a deep cranberry, other walls are in Tuscan gold or orange. We had lunch at a neighborhood hangout for the local Democrats (Js into "guy food"), then walked back to the house with him, kissed him good-bye, got back into the Cruiser and drove out to the airport to fly home.
Now here's an interesting side note. On Friday evening I noticed that there was a change going on in my pierced left nipple. I had it done at least twelve years ago, a closed ball ring for starters, replaced eventually by a heavier gauge curved barbell. I noticed that the barbell was closer to the tip of the nipple than previously and as the weekend progressed, it seemed to be pushed further and further forward. On Saturday, I mentioned to Fritz that I thought my body was rejecting the piercing and by Monday morning there was only a very thin, virtually transparent film of skin over the stainless steel of the curved bar. Not wanting it to rip itself out, I undid one ball and slipped it out, the thin skin almost disintegrating as I did so. I would never have thought it possible, but after a dozen years, I no longer have a nipple piercing, just one regular-sized nipple (the unpierced one on the right) and the one on the left that became rather enlarged in response to being pierced.
Fritz thinks it's somehow symbolic of the big change that's happening in my life.
So now you are "lop-nippled"!
After I got the barbell out, I kidded Fritz about some of the places in my body I could have it put but that's not going to happen. He just isn't into piercing and I respect that completely.
One reason I had the piercing was that my nipples had little or no sensitivity and I was told there was a very good chance that a piercing would awaken them--even if only one was pierced. And that happened. The one that was pierced was always more sensitive, but both gained some sensuous feeling.
Thom--I love "lop-nippled" and, yes, I am!
Bottom line: I came away with a really good impression of Atlanta and would not be unhappy to find myself there again sometime. And young Atlanta gay daddies are really cute!
But who knows? I realize I'm under a certain amount of stress these days, and maybe my body dumps excess baggage in such times. If I could get it to dump about twelve more pounds and actually get just below my ideal weight for a change, I'd be thrilled!