Nov 21, 2008
|A cold memorial cast in granite - Friday, November 21
We spent a nice morning with Sky and Diana, then gave their cat Oscar a last pat on the head, said a reluctant ’goodbye’ and got on the road. Our destination was Stone Mountain on the other side of Atlanta. The drive was short, and like most mountains this one was easy to find.
Stone Mountain is just what the name implies - a small mountain of solid granite that rises abruptly from the Atlanta plain. I say ‘small’ because at 30mph you can drive around it in 20 minutes, but it’s the highest point around and the view from the top must be spectacular. Unlike other mountains this stone is so monolithic there are few places for plants to take root, leaving the steep sides and even the top mostly barren of vegetation.
On the steepest face of this monolith a memorial to the Confederacy is carved, and while we don’t like the Confederacy we do like sculpture and this is one we wanted to see. We entered the park and got on the loop road that circles the mountain. A few miles later we parked at the base their aerial tram (it was closed due to high winds) and we took a short walk to the building that houses the Stone Mountain Museum. It is from this building that you get the best view of the memorial, which is carved fairly low on the mountain and cannot be seen from most places because of the trees.
We walked out on an observation deck where we had a clear view of the carving, but the sun was over and slightly behind the mountain and it was shining directly into our eyes, making the carving hard to see and showing it flat against the wall with no shadows to bring it to life. The carving is said to be larger than Mt. Rushmore, but it is nowhere near as impressive. It is of three men on horses who are carved in relief against the flat face of the mountain.
From left to right they are; Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Lee is in front of Davis and his horse’s head is down so it doesn’t block the view of Davis’s horse. Stonewall brings up the rear. All three men are bare headed, Davis because he’s the only civilian, and Lee and Jackson with their uniform hats in hand. Their faces are grim, as well they should be, and while the carving is well done the net effect is disappointing compared to Rushmore and Crazy Horse in South Dakota.
Gutzon Borglum, who carved Mt. Rushmore was originally consulted about the memorial. He developed a design which had an army of soldiers following Lee, but after a disagreement they fired him and the sculpture ended up as we see it today, a sad memorial to brave men who fought and died for a wretched cause.
A high point of the afternoon was Poco Bistro, a fine little restaurant located in the Museum building. It is owned by a couple who run it as independent contractors, and we met and had a great visit with David, the husband of the team. He looked slightly Asian and he was so genuinely friendly and talkative that it was a joy to meet him. He and his wife came to Georgia from Colorado, and they have also had a restaurant in Philadelphia.
He told us the KKK used to hold their meetings on the site where the building is located, and when I told him I hoped they are all dead he grinned and decided we were his kind of people. He told us he had actually encountered just as much racism in Philadelphia, but it is subtle and therefore more hypocritical. The food was excellent, and they had a jalapeno cold slaw that was delicious. I asked him if Georgia crackers eat many jalapenos? He laughed and said ‘yes’ and they also get many visitors like us who do. He told us we should really come back that night to see the lights, and he even took us outside to show us some places to park. We decided to take his advice, and we added Poco Bistro to our list of fine places and good people.
We drove to the campground and got a site, then despite the frigid weather we returned to the mountain and went to the compound where they hold their Christmas festivities. The temperature, even at 5:30 PM was down around freezing, and the first show we came to was being held outside! But it was a favorite of mine so we sat down on cold log benches to watch the local production of Charles Dickens’ ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’. By the time it was over we’d forgotten all about the cold and it became one of the highpoints of our day, if not our trip.
The cast of four came out to do a preshow warm-up and it was soon obvious that this was not going to be your average production of Dickens. They were very funny, and in the course of querying the audience about where we lived they asked us why we’d come to Georgia all the way from California? We told them it was to see them. They made some jokes about Alabama and Mississippi and then asked us who we make fun of in California. When I said, ‘Georgia’ we were off and running, and they told me they were putting me on their ‘List’, and then added, ‘the SHORT List!”
It became evident that at each performance they single out someone in the audience to pick on, and this performance it was me. Throughout the play they would frequently work in a mention of ‘Dimitri’ always accompanied by a roll of the eyes and an inflection that said I was nuts. From time to time during moments of high emotion a cast member would jump off the stage and rush out to me for a ’hug’. The audience got as much fun out of it as I did, and for the rest of the night there was one group who would yell out ‘Dimitri!’ whenever they saw me anywhere on the grounds.
After the show we went up to thank them for a great time, and they thanked me for being a good sport. They welcomed me onto the stage so Madolyn could take a picture, and it became one of those great unforgettable experiences that you laugh about for years.
For the rest of the night we enjoyed their fine variety shows and the spirited atmosphere of lights and music and fun. We rode the real train around the mountain and rode the 4D movie version of the Polar Express, and by the end of the evening we’d had so much fun that, except for the weather, we hated to leave. That night it got down to 20.1!