March 13, 2023

Dateline – Augusta, Georgia

He’s in travel mode again… But it’s nothing terribly exciting. Just a quick hop over to East Georgia in order to make a presentation about The Accidental Plague Diaries to the regional VA geriatrics consortium. I wish I could give you a breathless description of cultural wonders and impressive scenery but five hours of I-20 eastbound simply isn’t conducive to that. The best I have to say is that the redbuds and the wisteria along the interstate are all in bloom. And something is blooming that’s making my eyes sting and water occasionally. It only seems to happen when I’m in the car so I assume it’s something that gets into the air circulation system from the outside and then blows repeatedly in my face until I’m tearing so badly that I can barely see.

There is one respite from rolling hills and vegetation at the half way point, but that’s downtown Atlanta, which remains one of my least favorite American cities. At least I timed it so I didn’t hit it at rush hour and there were only a couple of brief slowdowns as I made my way through. I do take an occasional Atlanta weekend, mainly around a theater production or opera I want to see. Atlanta Opera is doing Paul Moravec’s The Shining next season (yes, based on that novel) and I will make an attempt to go see that as I just want to see how it adapts itself to the opera stage. The themes are certainly operatic in scope and the word of mouth on previous productions has been pretty positive so I’m hopeful. Although I assume blowing up the hotel and a few things of that type will have to be presented conceptually rather than fully staged. The fire department frowns when you burn down the theater with an audience inside it. Shades of the Iroquois in Chicago…

I made it to Augusta unscathed and am ensconced at the Doubletree on the federal government rate. I’m also in one of the oddest hotel rooms I have ever occupied. It’s a pretty standard queen double, but the one window looks out into a hallway and this floor’s elevator lobby. I have drawn the blackout drapes as I really don’t wish to have an audience of random passers by as I sleep tonight. I can’t imagine this was designed deliberately but is rather a consequence of some building addition blocking the previous view of the parking lot. But one never knows, does one.

I think I’m ready for my presentation tomorrow morning. As it’s more or less about narrative in medicine and how my interest in that subject was one of the impetuses that led me to do the writing that became the two, soon to be three, volumes of The Accidental Plague Diaries, I’m pretty much going to wing it from an outline. If you’re going to tell stories, it’s best to just tell them but have a good idea beforehand where they’re supposed to go so you don’t wander too far out into the rough. I’m giving a pulpit message at church in a couple of weeks on a somewhat similar topic. That I will fully write before hand. When you’re in a pulpit you need to consider all of your words carefully. Plus I’ll want Reverend Julie to vet it before hand to make sure there’s nothing in there that would rebound on her or the church in someway, particularly as we now stream all the services on YouTube and who knows who is watching.

I missed the Oscar telecast last night due to Opera Birmingham commitments but there were a couple of awards that connected into my life. The big winners were, of course, the team behind Everything, Everywhere, All at Once which is an incredibly unique film and worth a watch if you have not yet seen it. I’ve now seen it twice and I’m sure there’s lots I still haven’t got what with its multiple parallel universes and interacting story lines. It was written and directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, collectively known as the Daniels. Daniel Scheinert is a local boy who came out of Birmingham theater. I met him a couple of times fifteen years ago when he was doing local stage and before he gravitated to film but I can’t say I really know him, but lots of friends know him and his family well and all of Birmingham performing arts has been rooting for him all awards season. I can certainly see the influence of the anarchic early Theater Downtown and enfant terrible Billy Ray Brewton in his movie work. The other winner I crossed paths with years ago was Brendan Fraser, back when he was a gawky teen drama student at Cornish Institute and the box office assistant for my friend Sue at Intiman Theater in the late 80s. Those of us who knew him then would not have picked him as he once was to be a movie star and Oscar winner. Things change.

This isn’t my first time in Augusta. Tommy and I spent a few weekends here over the years. We had a few favorite restaurants and walks we used to do. I don’t think I have the heart to look any of them up this trip. I’ll probably stick pretty close to the hotel. I wouldn’t turn down an invitation to see the club that’s the home of The Masters but I doubt that’s forthcoming. I’m not important enough.

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