Today I left home with a belly full of breakfast from Toast, a bit of exhaustion and the anticipation of warmer weather. It has been a day of adventures — to say the least — and I figured I might as well use the blog to keep friends and family posted on the life and times of a would-be personal chef set loose on the outskirts of Atlanta.
I got squeezed into my window seat and watched people trickle on board as the seat to my right remained empty. Then, as the doors were practically closing, a man in a red and white hat came bumbling down the aisle, mumbling to himself.
Please, no, god there is no room for…crap.
With the strong scent of cigarettes and cheap beer wafting feet in front of him, my buddy for the next two hours plunked himself down next to me, continuing to mumble. He was short on teeth, long on chatter and it turns out Bud Light is his drink of choice. He actually ordered one, but then only had cash, so he said, “I’ll give her the money and she can put mine on her card.”
Um, what’s that now?
“Chivalry is not dead,” he tells me. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Confused, I politely say my bloody mary mix is sans booze but he doesn’t get it, mentioning over and over again during the next hour and a half that he is going to be buying my drink.
Soon into the flight, I pulled out a book, but it turns out he’s a reader. He breezes through 1 1/2 books with a giant $1.25 sticker on the covers of poorly drawn farm scenes with dogs. He tells me they are romantic mysteries “with just a bit-a Jesus in there.”
I decided I needed to watch something — perhaps headphones will force him to quietly read his book. I’m quite sure I jinxed myself last night when I told D that planes are the one place I don’t like to chat with people. With my headphones on, I start watching the latest episode of Top Chef on my computer. This. Didn’t. Slow. Him. Down. For. A. Second.
I learn about this unnamed friend that he is originally from Michigan but retired to Alabama. His wife (who won’t let him out of the house with a credit card) can’t even boil water, but his son, who owns a bar and grill in Michigan, has a culinary degree. He was confused when, at the end of the flight, he directly asks me what I’m going to Georgia for and when I tell him, he says he doesn’t understand why I didn’t tell him that when he told me about his chef son.
Keep in mind any of this conversation happened as I was watching the show. He would say something, I would hit the space bar to pause the show and turn to him.
What’s that? Mmm hmm. (Turn back to my computer)
Sometimes only 30 seconds went by between interruptions. I tried to come up with a nice way to tell him I would like to watch my show in peace, but came up with nothing. Fortunately, he fell asleep toward the end and I had a few minutes of peace. When he woke up, he was sure to mention that “Atlanta is a lot bigger than Detroit, little girl” and told me he hoped I would find a nice Southern gentleman. I showed him my engagement ring, and said I already had a gentleman and that he did have Southern blood.
I let some people go between he and I on our way off the plane and he started hitting on a nice young woman with curly extensions and a Steelers jacket, who told him she liked him for saying she was so pretty. Whew, that was a long, long flight. I hope by tomorrow I won’t experience phantom wafts of his scent.
Though it took a while due to a stopped train, I navigated the MARTA system well and made it to Decatur, just a few miles outside of Atlanta. In the few blocks to my hotel, I saw tons of adorable little shops, from kitschy kitchen stores and indie art shops to children’s bookstores and galleries. There is even a Starbucks along the way — which I’ll pass each day on my way to class.
Looking down the main drags were dozens of independent restaurants and only in the distance could I see one block of usual suspects like Ruby Tuesday, BW3 and Outback Steakhouse.
I checked in at the hotel and decided to head out in search of food, starving. The woman at the front desk said anything good in Decatur involves meat, but I might find something at a sushi place. I ignored that suggestion and headed back toward the cute area near the train station, when I happened upon a couple waiting to cross the street. Turns out Edie and Mike are vegetarian and full of suggestions!
I walked around a bit to finish my coffee, then ended up at the place they were heading — Brick Store Pub. I sat at a table near the front, sipping a great IPA out of Pennsylvania, as a table of old friends reunited in the window seat to my left — one of them from Ann Arbor.
I quietly read my personal chef reference manual and people watched. The customers and staff included everyone from grandmothers and families to young couples and hipsters sitting at the bar. I ordered the suggested pierogi primavera, which I tried so, so hard to finish but just couldn’t.
I walked back to the hotel and — when passing the lounge area — was asked to pledge an allegiance to either Green Bay or Pittsburgh (is that right? Whoever else is playing.) And, when forced to choose all I could say was that I used to live in Wisconsin, upsetting half the room.
A man sounding exactly like Borat, but roughly 75 years old, then got on the elevator with me. We shared that neither of us cared much for football, though he then asked if I wanted to have a drink and watch the game. I politely said no thanks as the elevator doors opened and quickly headed in the opposite direction.
Although I know I’ll be so busy I won’t have time (or likely energy), I wish my squeeze was here to explore with me. But I suppose the solitude will help me focus and hopefully I’ll become pals with some of the other students so we can keep in touch and bounce ideas off of each other down the line as we build our businesses throughout the country.
Fingers crossed I sleep more than I could last night. I haven’t been in class more than a decade — I need all the help I can get!