It’s been a busy week, although I’ve just gone from Montgomery to Birmingham, a two-hour drive. I’ve never been to any part of Alabama before, so it’s been an exploration month for me.
First, time out for fun: P!nk in concert was a blast!
Yes, that is her in the spotlight, flying upside down and all over the arena, and singing while she did it! My first arena rock concert in years and well worth the effort to make it up to Birmingham in time for the start.
For a complete change of pace, I hit up the Birmingham Museum of Art. Completely free, it’s a lovely museum with good collections of Native American art that made me miss the Pacific Northwest, African textiles and pottery, and and a beautiful collection of Wedgewood pieces.
Many years ago, at a NASA-sponsored event at JPL, I met a guy with a weird twitter handle (@neoteotihuacan). We stayed in touch, sharing interests in photography, science, travel, and anthropology. Kyle, and his wonderful wife, live in Birmingham, so he’s been my tour guide this week and I’ve had a blast.
Birmingham is an interesting city. It’s less than 150 years old, so the State of California is older than Birmingham. Weird. It became the poster child for post-Reconstruction segregation and then ground zero in the fight for civil rights in the 1960s. Visiting the Civil Rights Institute and then the 16th Street Baptist Church were both moving experiences.
Walking around Birmingham is a constant stream of interesting architecture and the good thing about Kyle being a filmmaker and photographer is that he didn’t mind at all when I stopped to take a shot.
As the cherry on the top of the week’s adventures, we went to Sloss Furnaces, a National Historic Landmark in Birmingham. This iron foundry is important for two reasons: it was once the largest producer of pig iron in the world, and (2) it was one of the largest users of post-Civil War convict labor, mostly African-Americans, who worked in the worst of conditions. Interestingly, this latter fact is severely downplayed on the official website, but well-documented in books like Slavery By Another Name.
Despite its checkered past, the place is a photographer’s dream and we shot till I ran out my camera battery before heading to lunch.
Birmingham is a foodie’s dream. From homemade pecan pie to Nashville-style chicken and some of the best tacos I’ve had in a long while, I’ve eaten very well in this city. It’s nicknamed “The Magic City” and I can see why; it is more than its history, on the cusp of becoming something else. I can’t wait to see where this city goes in the next decade or two.
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Letter From the Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr.