Georgia - Athens

Leave it out!

“Shiny Happy People”

In MY day, hero-worshipping followed a formula - stick a poster on your wall, beg/borrow/steal copies of every word/note/utterance from your idol, painfully straddle your fingers across the play and record button on your ghettoblaster, poised to capture the DJs proclamation, several hours earlier, that your hero’s song was about to be played. Nowadays, kids chase the ‘@’, throw half an hour at Social media and you could be photobombing a celebrity’s selfie at a superhero’s supermarket near you!

I don’t want to meet my heroes, I also don’t want to meet my enemies, frenemies, and part time Kennedys. I am more than happy to keep those whose art I respect firmly nailed to their pedestals. Nobody needs to see the person they admire negotiating their way around an In n’Out 4x4 burger with fries ‘animal style’. I have watched my husband eat this very meal (more than once). It is not a sight for the faint hearted.

A few years back, Dom added the college town of Athens, Georgia, to our Southern road trip, solely so he could pay homage to a band we all grew up listening to: REM. Every album was played over and over as we ripped along highways and trucked through small towns.

1, 2, 3 - everybody loves the Graduate Hotel

We stayed in the Graduate Hotel, it was our second stay in one of these boutique hotels that are popping up in college towns (see post on Wisconsin here). I love them, the décor riffs off the college theme, the staff were laid back but friendly and helpful. I felt like a freshman staying in a very clean frat house staffed by a very polite fraternity.

The next day we pottered around town doing our own unofficial REM tour. We stopped at Weaver D's cafe for a snap of the “Automatic for the people” sign that has always hung outside and inspired the name of REM's 1992 album. The lady brushing up outside the cafe found it startling that we were taking photos of this out of the way cafe. She looked a bit startled in general, I’m not sure she was aware of REM or indeed the day of the week.

"Hey Kids, Where Are You?"

Our next stop startled me, we scamped through bushes and trampled across undergrowth to get to the railway trestle from the back cover of REMs first album Murmur. Dom assured me this was the money shot. As Roisin grabbed fistfuls of nettles and I flicked creep crawlies off my shins, Dom informed us that their first album has no clichés, no guitar solos or synthesizers, “Timeless” he described it. “Speaking of time” said I with a discreet watch tap. While Dom went to town on the action photos of these immovable railway beams, I enjoyed kicking through the fall leaves with Roisin.

Back on the road, we screeched to a halt beside a battered lone steeple (the rest of the abandoned church had been pulled down). REMs first ever gig was in this lonely church. The steeple was due to be pulled down but REM fans petitioned for its preservation. As more fervent photos were taken of a spire with no church, I was beginning to wonder if Dom was one of those petitioners! As he took the photos I half expected him to start shouting at the belfry “Give me shock!” <click>, “Give me abandonment” <snap, snap>, “Ok that’s a wrap, thank you everyone. Steeple, you nailed it!”

Get in my belly

That evening we decided to skip night swimming and took a walk in downtown Athens. It was as cute as a button, small but substantial. I enjoyed flittering in and out of the shops. Our last stop was the 40 Watt Club, the place where REM played most of their early gigs and collected their college following. It was instrumental in the 1980s and 90s in launching American punk rock, new wave music, and a generation losing their religion.

The more we explored Athens, the more and more I liked it. On our way out of town we drove down some random offshoot residential street simply called 'Boulevard'. It was house after house out of my friggin dreams. I am all about verandas, esp after visiting Charleston (read here) and Savannah (here). I would sell my family for a veranda.

Nah, probably not, who would go on roadtrips with me!

It’s slightly sad that I’ve reached an age where I get more excited about a nice garden than a heaving mosh pit. But as you age your heroes aren’t on MTV anymore, instead they sit across from you every night at dinner.

“This one goes out to the ones I love”

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