The Three Best Friends that Any Man Could Have

When you decide in February to take a trip in May and don’t do anything about until the middle of May, you end up driving to Atlanta in the dead of night or at least that was the case for me, my lady, her sister and husband. Somehow we decided that with four drivers and twelve hours, it would be a piece of cake, the only piece of cake was the slice I purchased from The Beautiful (more on them later). But there we were; four individuals, two couples, four personalities, two types of relationships, setting out on a road trip. In some instances, it’s a recipe for disaster, for us, pure comedy!
We came up with a 7:00pm departure time, thinking we’ll beat the traffic and have the entire next day in Atlanta. Old folks did it, so it sounded right! It was all good in theory and actually worked that way…except for the fact that I drew the straw to drive the graveyard shift. So here I am, awake for nearly 20 hours barreling down 85 South through North Carolina with my co-pilot and his wife sleep and my other half buried beneath a blanket, awake, but cold. I’m a trooper, I was intent on finishing out the drive, but my sister-in-law took over just outside of South Carolina and I decided to get some sleep.

An hour or so later, I wake up and see her nodding off in the passenger seat…say what?!? That jolt of energy she got wore off at the Georgia border, even after she fell asleep before we were out of Philly and more than half of the trip! Hilarious, but if I’m a trooper, my woman is a gladiator; she took the wheel again and navigated the Atlanta traffic right up to our hotel door. We were right about the twelve hour ride, wrong about being able to have the next day in Atlanta, we retreated to our bedrooms after checking in and emerged around noon, ready for the world…or at least Atlanta.

“If you pay for 15 minutes, make sure you’re back in 15 minutes or they’ll put a boot in your car!”

That was the warning from the woman with the brother that took too long to return to his car and found it booted. You don’t have to tell me twice, we paid for all-day parking just to be sure. If my brother-in-law and I know anything, it’s that we have some serious shoppers on our hands, so Downtown Atlanta it was to do some window shopping and get a bite an eat. We don’t have window shoppers, they bought dresses and shirts and shoes and bangles and bracelets and earrings and freedom papers, they bought everything! He got a beef patty and got wings,
I see why folks in Atlanta hardly know anything about places on the margins of the city; we sat in traffic for nearly an hour going to pick up their brother from work. Somehow, we still arrived an hour early, only to witness the strongest rain storm any of us have ever seen. It was especially scary in wake of all of the tornadoes that ravaged the Midwest and South last week, but it passed, even though two folks right down the street from us were killed and the pickup truck was a few feet closer to us.

The weather changed the meeting between me and my future brother-in-law, but sitting in more traffic gave us a chance to talk. When we finally made it back downtown, the lights were out damn near everywhere! Restaurants closed. Traffic lights dark. Bad drivers making decisions. A total mess. Yet, there wasn’t a cop in sight, maybe they were guarding the hood, making sure that looters didn’t realize that the lights were out and they remained out until around midnight. But we had a good time over dinner, a few drinks and the bootleg man.

A trip to Atlanta isn’t complete without a visit to the King Center and no matter how many times you make that visit, there’s an overwhelming sense of history, power, legacy, sacrifice and responsibility that overtakes you. It really got to me on this trip for some reason; I could barely contain myself after a certain point and luckily was saved by my grandfather’s arrival. I haven’t seen my grandfather since my last spur of the moment trip to Atlanta three years ago, so I was happy to see him and have him meet the lady in my life. After a couple dozen pictures and a few moments of a sermon in Ebenezer Baptist Church, I saw one of my cousins for the first time in 7 or 8 years, but had to cut the visit short because of the chorus of growling stomachs.

If you’re ever in Atlanta, stop by Gladys Knight and Ron Winan’s Chicken & Waffles, but don’t plan on doing anything the rest of the day. After “the itis” kicked in, we were done. Well, almost, Atlantic Station and more shopping called before getting up with the ATL family and setting plans for the night. There was one more stop needed before heading back to the hotel; my cousin told us that we needed to eat at “The Beautiful”, a soul food joint. We had no idea what we were getting into as we drove through the hood, the woods and four decades to arrive in 1960’s Atlanta. For the sake of time I’ll give this piece of advice: Don’t ask any questions just make sure you order two sides, because “It’s just cheaper!”

I slept in while they went to a Caribbean parade and caught up with them just in time for the cookout…8pm! Yup, we started a cookout at roughly 6 in the evening, because we learned from the err in our ways and were getting out of dodge by noon the next day. But it was a good time, spent with family and the people you love. You laugh, you joke, you eat, you shop, you learn, you experience, you get frustrated with one another, you listen to 80’s music on Pandora for the entire trip and then you realize that we all make too much money to ever take that drive again!

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