After getting soaked at the end of my afternoon excursion on Birchmore Trail, I stopped in for a set of clean, dry clothes and figured, what the heck? Why not check out Lake Herrick at sunset? It’s only a few miles from my place. The lake is part of Oconee Forest Park, and both are adjacent to a huge recreation complex for University of Georgia’s intramural sports. Woven into the landscape are several tennis courts, a mini football field for the marching band to practice on, and much more. I didn’t get a chance to explore the forest trails of Oconee, but it looks to be a beautiful place to return to for a stroll sometime when dusk is not swiftly surrendering to night’s advances.
Only unpowered boats are allowed on the lake, so it’s really a lovely, peaceful spot on a spring evening. Magnolias were blooming. A pair of geese tended to their fuzzy gosling between the shore and the trail, and people were stopping to hang out with them. My pictures of the birds did not turn out well enough to share, but I was glad to get some shots of the pretty sunset clouds reflected in water. At times, there was the kind of softly colored haze you might see in a classic landscape painting due to the recent storm and humidity. I hope to visit again soon.
The afternoon was 90 degrees Fahrenheit and oppressively humid, but since it was my last full day with my rental car from the weekend’s travels, I wasn’t going to let the weather stop me from exploring Birchmore Trail, which is part of Memorial Park. It’s only a few miles from my new place, but there’s no bus from here to there, and the roads aren’t pedestrian-friendly. I took the trail head from a dead-end residential street and was happy to find such a pretty, green place to walk nestled in the city. It starts at “The Great Wall of Happy Hollow” and winds alongside and across some creeks, and at least one of the many magnolia trees was in bloom with big white flowers.
I hoped to walk the entire trail and maybe stop at Bear Hollow Zoo, which is about halfway through the entire trail’s loop from where I started. But the humidity was insane, and the sandwich I’d taken didn’t agree with me. I did not regret my decision for long, because a couple of minutes after heading back the way I came, massive thunder rolled in. Rain began a few minutes later, and although I got quite wet, I would have been absolutely drenched in the ensuing thunderstorm. The rain was hitting my car so hard that it sounded like hail! Then after a torrential twenty minutes, the rain stopped and the big fluffy clouds looked gorgeous in the sunshine.
It was a good walk, and I look forward to visiting the rest of the trail in the future.
It’s the morning of my third full day as a resident of Athens, GA, so I am going to take a little break from unpacking and assembling shit, put on the kettle for a second coffee in my brand-new, one-of-a-kind Meteor Mags mug, and recap how I got here.
It begins with Fugazi. In 1996, I drove from Ann Arbor, MI to Georgia to catch as many concerts as I could by my favorite band: Fugazi from D.C. I’ve told the tale many times, and it now appears in the book Two Hundred, my published scrapbook of drawings, memoirs, poems, and song lyric from the 1990s and early 2000s. The first concert on that journey was at the Masquerade in Atlanta. So in January 2023, when I was staying at my sister’s house north of Atlanta and looking for a place of my own, I checked out the Masquerade’s concert schedule.
I was thrilled to see on the calendar one of my favorite heavy rock bands. King Buffalo has been rocking hard for a decade and recorded a trilogy of brilliant albums during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. But despite appearing on the Masquerade’s calendar, the concert was actually at a smaller venue called Hendershot’s in Athens. I bought a ticket anyway. Compared to the absolutely bonkers road trips I took in the name of music in my twenties, renting a car for a 2.5-hour trek east seemed both like small potatoes and an opportunity to re-connect with the more adventurous guy I used to be before spending my forties mostly isolated indoors bashing out the world’s awesomest fiction series.
I left Arizona and moved to Georgia to be closer to my mother and sister, but I was having zero luck finding affordable housing in their neighborhoods or in any location where public transportation could get me there. My search began broadening in ever-widening circles. And I thought, “As long as I am not going to get the location I want, why don’t I consider Macon and Athens as possibilities?” They both have universities, which tends to make for a more progressive and artistic local vibe compared to other areas of any state. Macon must not be a total hillbilly hellhole if Adam Ragusea can enjoy living there, and Athens has a relatively hip reputation compared to the rest of Georgia. I’d been to Athens once before in the early 2000s but only for a couple of hours and wasn’t impressed, but times change and maybe it deserved a second look. I’d be there anyway for King frickin’ Buffaloooooo! So what the hell.
Mom graciously offered to pay for a rental car and hotel if I took the opportunity to scout for my own place to live, so I reserved a compact car through Enterprise. A compact is the smallest size you can get at Enterprise, even smaller than “economy” size. But on the day I picked it up, no compacts were ready for me. So for the same price, I got a goddamn beast.
The Toyota 4Runner SR5 is a bit too much car for my taste. I prefer something smaller that gets great mileage and can easily get in and out of tight spaces. And I certainly don’t need six bloody seats. But the beast ran great, rode smoothly, handled well, had serious pickup, and was overall pretty fun to drive. Plus, it was my favorite color and went with everything I wear, and its voluminous interior came in handy for moving my stuff. 9/10, would destroy civilization again with this gas-guzzling monster.
The King Buffalo concert was good. I was disappointed that I didn’t have much of a view of the band — just the tops of their heads, mostly — but I got the last available seat at the bar, enjoyed a pint of a great local ale and one of my old favorites from Michigan, and was blown away by how the band sounded even more awesome in person than on album. Hendershot’s clearly wasn’t built with the acoustics of a loud rock performance in mind, but the sound guy did an amazing job with the rhythm section. The bass guitar and bass drum were vibrating my barstool, and the snare-drum hits cracked like lightning. The audience and staff were friendly and mellow despite the place being fully packed, and everyone seemed to be having a groovy time. I’m sure I will be visiting Hendershot’s for more entertainment and hanging out.
I spent the rest of my days and nights that week scouting Athens and applying for apartments from the comfort of the Howard Johnson hotel, and on my final day got approved for a place within easy walking distance to the county library, public transportation for getting to downtown, and a Kroger to get food and supplies.
The stuff that looks like weed in the picture above is Urb, and it is legal in Georgia for two reasons. One, it has a mild chemical called Delta-8 THC, not the Delta-9 TetraHydroCannibinol responsible for the “high” of marijuana. Two, the THC content is 0.24 percent, well below the legal limit for Georgia. By comparison, in states such as Arizona that have legalized weed for both medical and recreational purposes, you can walk into a dispensary any day of the week and buy stuff that is one hundred times stronger at twenty-four percent THC. When I saw Urb for sale at the local Hop-In convenience store in Kennesaw, I figured what the hell. You could probably get just as much of a buzz from smoking cooking sage: a mild relaxation that goes great with a pint or two. You can read all about this wacky product and why it is legal in all fifty states in a 2021 RollingStone article.
While waiting for my move-in day, I returned to my sister’s place and spent the next two weeks taking nature walks. The walks were a confluence of many things. I had wheels and time. I needed exercise after medical problems rendered me mostly immobile for three months last year. I had just bought my first pair of prescription eyeglasses for distance viewing, which meant I could see mother nature in high definition again after several years of deteriorating eyesight. And much like my decision to travel 2.5 hours to see one of my favorite bands, I needed to reconnect with a sense of spontaneous adventure and exploration I kind of lost in my forties.
Now my second cup of coffee is done, and I guess I should get some more things sorted in my new place before my virtual storytime group meets this afternoon to begin celebrating its fifteenth anniversary. After three months, my scanner is now unpacked, and in its absence I’ve accumulated so many recent additions to the big box of comics to share with you in upcoming weeks. Plus, I need to call an author to wrap up my editing of his third novel and move forward with producing it for print and ebook.
Huge thanks to my mother and sister for all their love and support during this transition.