We've been on the road for a little over a week now and I'm starting to get a sense of just how varied this vast country is. After a brief stop in Bloomington, Indiana to visit friends and a couple of days in Nashville (yes, we do go to the Grand Ole Opry and yes, it is bonkers and genius all at once) we find ourselves in Birmingham to take in some history.
Through some careful research, Bobs has hunted down a veggie friendly place called The Bottle Tree and the night we're due to be in town tapes n tapes are playing. We figure this could be a great night out so we plan to find the venue, get some food, find a hotel and head back for the show.
And then my heart sinks. I know I'm not an authority and I'm aware I'm making this judgement based on a 30 minute drive but Birmingham seems to be a city in bits. As we drive through the town to find the venue, the scale of poverty is something I've never witnessed in a European city. And, of course, the people in the most run down areas are exclusively black. The next day we visit the Civil Rights Institute and it's an awe inspiring place filled with stories of dignity, strength and the potential for humans to display sheer guts and fight for freedom in the face of tyranny. But why have the people of Birmingham not been liberated from this crushing poverty?
Eventually, we find the venue and it is a great little place. Nice selection of veggie food, good range of board games to waste time on, a cool indie band sound checking in the next room and a great little patio where the Birmingham hipsters seem to have congregated. Something's not quite right though and it's blindingly obvious what it is. The guy working the bar and taking our order is deeply unpleasant. Nothing manifest, just his attitude and manner. This guy really stinks. His conversation is fouled by constant expletives of the most offensive type and the overall vibe he gives off is that of a jock trapped in a tattooed punker's body.
The veggie burger is really poor also. It's a black bean burger but seems to taste of very little. The salad has seen better days, the bun is inoffensively bland and the presentation is shockingly bad.
Our quest for a nearby hotel fails and we end up in a budget motel a fair bit away. It's depressing as hell. We skip the show and vow to get up and do good stuff the next day. We do. And my faith in humanity is restored.