It was nice to enjoy a weekend of culture

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What do you do when you live in a small rural town? That is the question that so many of my urban friends have asked me over these many years. They can’t seem to understand the attractions that appeal to those of us who grew up in this type of environment and remained to raise our own families.

The obvious things are the hunting, fishing and water sports that are plentiful for anyone that enjoys them. There aren’t any traffic jams, unless it is in front of the high schools at 3 p.m. We wear short-sleeve shirts when our friends up north are shoveling snow just to get their car out of the garage.

No place, north or south, compares to a small town when it comes to actually having a village help raise your children. There is a sense that people look out for each other. I always knew there were many sets of eyes watching out for my children.

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Another advantage of living in southwest Georgia is that you can be at the beach in less than two hours and you can take advantage of all that a world-class city has to offer in less than four.
Mary Lou and I spent many, many weekends enjoying the sights, sounds, food and entertainment of Atlanta in the early years of our marriage and during my political years. However, it has been quite a while since we have been to Hotlanta just to play and soak up the ambiance of the city.
We arrived in midtown in time to check into the Loew’s Hotel before the show at the Fox Theater. The Loew’s didn’t even exist the last time we were in this neighborhood. Our view from the sleek, modern hotel took in all the lights of midtown and downtown, as well as the green space of Piedmont Park.

We actually walked the six blocks to the Fox Theater, something you would not have dared attempt just a few years ago. Hundreds of people were out walking and the sidewalk cafés were all full.
At the Fox we took in Les Miserables, the musical drawn from the famous book by the French novelist Victor Hugo. It was written during the American Civil War and is set in France between 1815 and 1832. It remains one of the most famous novels of the 19th century.

It had been 25 years since we saw the same play, also at the Fox. At that time I was just caught up in the majesty of the music and the dramatic props that were a trendsetter in the mid 1980’s.
This time around I actually knew the story and related to the sung word in a better way. The sets had been updated and technology that didn’t even exist when I first saw the play now brought certain scenes to life in ways you would not expect in a stage production.

We followed up the play with dessert back at the hotel. The combination of people out for a couple of weddings, several proms, nightclubs and the theater made for an electric atmosphere and energy.

We followed our night at the theater with a day at the museums. We walked to the High Museum for their last weekend of their show entitled “Picasso to Warhol,” showcasing paintings on loan from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thirteen artists from the 20th century were featured, all chosen because of their influence on modern art.

I must admit that modern art has never been my favorite, but the museum did an excellent job of explaining the progression of the art and how one artist might have influenced another.

There were some paintings on exhibit that everyone would be familiar with, regardless of their love or lack thereof of modern art. I really liked maybe 20 percent of the exhibit. Most of the art was just not my cup of tea, but I could understand how someone else with different taste might enjoy them.

However, another 20 percent were just awful. No matter how much I tried, I could not fathom how anyone could call certain pieces “art.” One art work entailed a shovel hanging from a rope in the ceiling. It was lit from several different directions. However, in the end it was just a shovel. Even I could have done that.

After lunch in a café, we went to the World of Coca-Cola Museum at Centennial Park. No matter how many times I have been to this collection of memorabilia, I am always struck by the impact that Coke has had on our lives. Indeed, our vision of the modern day Santa Claus is the result of Coca-Cola advertising in the earlier part of the 20th century.

Their collection of advertising spanning the entire history of television showcases music and scenes that are embedded deep in the back of our brains. Many surveys rank the “Mean Joe Greene” commercial as the best commercial of all time.

We had dinner with a couple of close college friends that evening before having brunch Sunday morning at Einstein’s, a favorite sidewalk café where we have eaten for many years. My sister and her husband joined us there for a delightful meal and conversation.

It was then that I realized yet again that for all its culture, food, and entertainment, the only thing I really like about Atlanta over my hometown is their lack of gnats. Eating on a bug-free patio is just a special experience that unfortunately we can’t really do very much in our part of the world. Add in some mosquitoes and love bugs and you get the picture.

We arrived home having enjoyed our cultural fix and pledging to go back more often. However, when we settled into bed that night, we both said the same thing. It was nice to be home.

Dan Ponder can be reached at