Friday, July 24, 2009

Southern Comfort

Today was an all-around great day. I can't help but compare this trip to the one we did two years ago. This trip is a billion times easier. I am more relaxed. I've done this before. I know what we're doing. The other teacher on the trip is fabulous. We're simpatico.

We loved our hotel in Memphis. We're loving all our hotels and wishing we had more time to spend in them, but duty keeps calling. This morning we went to the National Civil Rights Museum first thing. It's in a newly-gentrified part of Memphis (biggest clue: the American Apparel storefront around the corner) and chock full of kitschy-chic retro diners, boutiques, and older buildings. I know I already wrote about this museum two years ago but I can't reiterate enough how overwhelming and heavy it is to go through the incredibly detailed and wordy exhibit displays that cover nearly every aspect of the entire American civil rights movement...there is a LOT of reading...and then all of a sudden *boom*, you're standing five feet from the spot where Dr. King stood when he was assassinated. Although there were many other groups at the museum with us, when I got to that spot I found myself completely alone for at least five minutes. I stood, staring outside the window to the balcony, thinking of how quickly everything can change and how change occurs even when it shouldn't. Yet again, I was overcome with tears.

Across the street, there is another exhibit dealing with the murder itself and the aftermath. There is also extensive attention paid to current civil rights struggles and how far we've come (and have yet to go). The combined exhibits are time-consuming, wordy, weighty, and somber.

After that we were sorely in need of a pick-me-up. Thank goodness I'd scheduled a visit to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. From the opening film and for the next hour, the music and raunchy, fun, boogie tunes kept all of us in the best of spirits. All 23 of us danced our way from one exhibit to the next. The collective favorite was Isaac Hayes' turquoise Cadillace with 24 karat gold detailing, shag carpet throughout the interior, and stocked wet bar. Many of us bought CDs and as soon as we boarded the bus, buoyed and renewed, we put on some Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Rufus Thomas, and Al Green and had us a bus dance party as we drove out of Memphis. It is most certainly a memory that will stay with me long after the students return home (a moment I don't even want to think about right now).

We drove onward to Birmingham, Alabama where we are staying in the nicest hotel yet. If you ever visit Birmingham - you must stay at theTutwiler Hotel. The prices are quite reasonable, especially considering the exquisite surroundings, excellent service, and really great amenities. We ordered a bunch of Chinese food to be delivered and got all the students in a conference room so they could work on their presentation for the Washington D.C. conference. Then G., the lead teacher, and I retired to the bar for a much-deserved and appreciated glass of wine. I'm now nestled into one of the most comfortable beds I've encountered in a hotel room. I won't want to leave in the morning!

Good night, all.

1 comment:

jessica said...

Man it sounds like a great trip...and I miss everyone. It is just not the same here without them. Went to the Cherokee Center today and have to drive to Fayetteville to take the trip to Eureka tomorrow...huh?