Homer's Travels: July 2021

Friday, July 23, 2021

How To Fix The Olympic Games

Every two years, more or less, I plant myself in front of the television and watch the best of world athletic competition.  The Olympics is one of the few sporting events I watch.  I guess I enjoy the individual triumphs more than the team successes more commonly seen in sports.  But the Olympics have problems.  The primary problem is they are so expensive to host.

Hosting the Olympic games is expensive.  Billions of dollars are spent building venues, housing the athletes and the spectators.  Infrastructure has to be improved and the area around the games are often beautified at the expense of the local residents.  The cost is getting so high that some bids to host have been withdrawn after public outcry.  The games are becoming an economic superpowers only club in terms of hosting the events.  I think this hurts the spirit of the games.

This is just my two cents and I doubt it will be seen by more than a handful of people but here is my solution: Divide up the games  amongst several nations.  The Olympic games are already sort of divided up: Swimming, gymnastics, track & field, field games like soccer.  I propose dividing up the games by these event categories and have nations bid to host a category.  This would make it much more affordable to smaller countries to host part of the games.  An example, South Africa could never host the entire Olympic games without going into massive soul crushing debt but they could host the soccer portion since they already successfully hosted a World Cup in 2010.

Dividing the games up over several nations would bring more internationalism back into the game.  More nations would be invested in seeing a successful Olympic games and they would do it without incurring much hardship.  Also, in the age of COVID, if the games were divided up the chance of the entire Olympic games having to be cancelled due to disease or disaster would be reduced and the risk more spread out.

The only downside would be the lack of opening and closing ceremonies involving all the athletes.  Perhaps another way to open and close the games that would include all participating nations could be worked out.

What do you think?

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 13 And Epilogue

Our last day of our summer travels was a combination of civil rights and literature.  We got up early, checked out of our hotel, and headed up Highway 80 to Selma, AL.  This is the route taken by Civil Rights marchers in 1965.  The route is designated the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.  Along the route there were camp markers where the marchers spent the night on the way to Montgomery.  The National Historic Trail visitor's center was unfortunately closed due to COVID when we stopped.

The Edmund Pettus bridge.
We reached Selma where we went to a Mr. Waffle for breakfast.  From there we were pleasantly surprised to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge visitor's center was open.  We walked through the modest but moving museum and bought magnets before we walked across the bridge named for a senior officer of the Confederate Army who would become a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.  It is where Civil Rights marchers, including John Lewis, were beaten as they tried to march over the bridge on the way to Montgomery.

The plaque on the bridge.
We stopped at a gift shop on the other side of the bridge to purchase magnets.  There is a National Voting Rights museum across the street but it appeared closed and a bit run down … which seems a bit symbolic of of how our country's voting rights are heading at the moment.

The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.
(Picture taken by the Wife.)
We returned to Montgomery and stopped at the Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and house.  The Fitzgerald's moved around seasonally and this house was one they lived in in 1931-1932.  The museum was well done and showcased their writing, Zelda's art, and their lives and correspondence.  The really cool part is that the top floor house is an airbnb and we spent the night in the house for our last night in Montgomery.

The sitting room in the F. Scott Fitzgerald room.
The next two days were just driving through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky (Where we saw the largest Confederate flag flying in a public area), Missouri, on the way home.  Our roadtrip was 15 days long and covered around three thousand and nine hundred miles.  It did not come close to covering all the history in the area but I think there is only so much of the sordid southern history one can take at a time.  We will probably go back someday to visit a few more spots we skipped this time but I'm not sure it will be anytime soon.  This was a good trip but it was taxing emotionally and it just proved that this country has a long ways to go.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 12

Today was going to be a somber day.  We were going to visit three places connected to civil rights struggles and the systemic racism the black people have endured over too many years.

Jars of soil collected at sites of racial terrorism.
The first stop was the Legacy Museum.  The museum covers the injustices starting with enslavement, through Jim Crow and lynchings, to mass incarcerations.  Most of the displays were based on first hand experience and testament of those who suffered.  It was a moving and sadly depressing history that too many are trying to erase.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
From there we visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.  This memorial, opened in 2018, is often deferred to as the lynching museum.  A good memorial should stir feeling in those who see it and this one does just that.  Metal boxes engraved with the names of people lynched are suspended from the roof.  Rows upon rows of rusting boxes, thousands of victims of racial terrorism.  It is hard to visit this place and not feel emotional.  Sadly the amount of security I noticed around the memorial suggests the the emotions stirred by the memorial are mixed in our divided nation.

The hanging boxes engraved with the names of the dead.
Duplicates of the six-footer boxes are laid out beside the memorial in order of state and county allowing for a closer look at the names and numbers. The sides of the memorial are open to the weather so the hanging boxes along the edges will get wet when it rains.  Over time the runoff will leave red rust stains running down the concrete like blood.  The memorial will just become more compelling over time.

The rather modest Civil Rights Memorial.
Our last stop of the day was the Civil Rights Memorial.  The center connected to the memorial is temporarily closed but the memorial itself is outside and accessible.  It is a rather modest memorial displaying highlights of the civil Rights struggle.  Across the street was a simple painted memorial to Congressman John Lewis.

This was a tough day but it was also another highlight for this year's travels.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Friday, July 09, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 11

Before tackling Montgomery we headed to another literary town, Monroeville, AL.  Monroeville is the birthplace of Harper Lee and Truman Capote.

We got to town a bit early for thing to be open so we decided to rearrange a few things.  First we went to the cemetery to pay our respects to Harper Lee.  Next we drove by Truman Capote's childhood home which, sadly, no longer exists but there is a marker on the site.

The courtroom the movie set was based on.
We parked near the courthouse that was used as a model for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and explored an antique store nearby before walking to a nearby diner for lunch.

Literature is important one Monroeville.
By the time we finished our excellent lunch we went to the courthouse which is now the Old Courthouse Museum dedicated Monroeville history, Lee, and Capote.  In Alabama the masks went back on for any indoor space.  The museum was self guided and included lawyer offices, the courtroom that was used as inspiration for the movie (The movie courtroom was built on a set), and exhibits covering Harper Lee and Truman Capote.  It was a nice setup and we both thought Monroeville seemed like a nice town.  We ended the visit with some ice cream.

A Rosa Parks Statue in the museum lobby.
Not sure they meant the "Please Do Not Sit" sign was supposed to be ironic.
The next stop for the day was in Montgomery, AL.  The Rosa Parks Museum covered Rosa Parks and the bus boycott that helped move civil rights forward in America.  It was a well done exhibit but did not allow photography.

Tomorrow we will continue to explore the civil Rights movement in Montgomery.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 10

We left Savannah and headed northwest.  While we couldn't visit Flannery O'Connor's childhood home we would visit her farm, Andalusia, near Milledgeville, GA.

Flannery O'Connors home at Andalusia Farm.
Flannery O'Connor wrote in a farmhouse, living with her overbearing mother, until she lost her life to lupus.  The house is full of the period furniture.  It felt very much like a typical farmhouse.  Flannery's room had her typewriter next to her bed so she could lay down when the lupus was having the best of her.  The house has a sad feeling.

Flannery's favorite birds: Peacocks
Along with the house there are several outbuildings including pens holding a pair of Peacocks.  Flannery was a bird lover and peacocks were her favorite.

We left the farm (they are in the process of adding a visitor's center) past the cop car who may have been on a stakeout of the hotel across the street, and drove to the cemetery where Flannery was buried to pay out respects.

The second stop for the day was a dark piece of Civil War history, Andersonville.  Andersonville was the infamous Confederate prison of war camp where thirteen thousand prisoners died during the Civil War.  The National Historical Site consists of the camp, a Prisoner of War museum, and a national cemetery.

We visited the museum first.  It was a fairly comprehensive history of how prisoners of war from all US involved wars were treated.  Sadly, this story was also sanitized to some extent.  In one section showing how US Troops were mistreated after being captured reminded me a lot of how many were mistreated in Iraq and Afghanistan by their US captors.  These stories were conveniently left out.  America is a country afraid to learn from its mistakes.

Rows upon row upon rows.
We visited the cemetery next.  The rows and rows of stones were a sobering reminder of the horrors of war.  We checked but there are no Nebraskans in the cemetery.  This makes sense since Nebraska was still a territory during the Civil War and few fought and even fewer were trusted by the Union.

The rows just go on.
We finished the visit with a drive around the field where the prison camp once stood.  The most notable thing was the lack of trees.  Prisoners were exposed to the elements and the hot Georgian sun which contributed to the number of deaths.

On that sobering note we headed west to our next destination.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Days 8 And 9

We got up early, the first in a week I think.  We really slept in a lot this vacation which was very welcome.  We headed south to our next destination, Savannah, GA.

The truth be told, we really didn't have any concrete plans for Savannah.  Since we didn't have anything big like the Hunley or Fort Sumter we decided to do what we did in our Canadian train trip and ride the hop on hop off trolly.  Riding the trolly would give us the lay of the land and show us what Savannah has to offer.

The Basilica stained glass.
Savannah is a beautiful city with historic buildings and streets lined with spanish moss draped trees.  The historic portion of the city is built around 22 squares.  There were once 24 squares but some were lost to development. The city is currently reclaiming one of the lost squares so it can be restored.

A statue dedicated to a black Haitien regiment who fought in the Civil War.
Our trolly tour was narrated by a docent in historic costume and, at random stops along the route other costumed characters would board the trolly to explain part of the city's history.  It was interesting but, once again, it was a bit whitewashed and fixated on death (The trolly company does haunted tours which bled over into the standard tour a bit).

After doing the full two hour loop we stayed on and returned to a square next to a Catholic basilica and the childhood home of Flannery O'Connor.  The Flannery house was closed when we got there.  It appears that COVID did a number on a lot of the museum's and historic homes in Savannah.  The Wife called a number and sent an email to an address on a sign outside the house hoping to set up a tour of the house but she never received an answer.

After that disappointment we went into the lovely Catholic Church and cooled off a bit before getting back on the trolly and heading for another landmark, Leopold's Ice Cream shop.  Unfortunately we misread where it was and got off at the wrong trolly stop.  We decided to walk the eight blocks or so to the shop.  By the time we got there we were hot and sweaty and we were greeted by a long line snaking outside Leopold's.  We stood in line for ten or fifteen minutes before giving up.  It was too hot and the line was moving too slow.  We walked to the nearest trolly (the one we should have gotten off at) and road the trolly back to where our car was parked.  Not a very satisfying day so far.

The Chandler Oak, here since the 1700s, draped in spanish moss.
We checked into our hotel which was close to a trolly stop and the city market area.  We walked down to the city market and looked for a place to eat.  There were fewer places here than we expected.  We finally settled on a cafe/bar that actually had good food.  The rest of the city market was a bit underwhelming.  It was very small, just two blocks, and lacked character.
The famous Forsyth Park fountain.
On day nine we were going back to a couple places along the trolly route.  The first was Forsyth Park. The park was a nice place to walk despite of the large Confederate soldier memorial.  The memorial was balanced in the park by a large fountain.  A lot of people were out in the park today and it was nice seeing people out and about.  The park was full of trees covered in Spanish moss, a type of bromeliad.  Across the street from the park a large and very old tree called the Chandler Oak Tree stands in front of what once was a hospital.  The tree has been here since the 1700s.

The Waving Girl of Savannah.
We got back on the trolley and headed for River Street.  This street is lined with restaurants and souvenir shops.  Very touristy but a good place to procure magnets.  There were also statues dedicated to enslaved families and Florence Martus (the waving girl).

It was along here that we encountered our first mask required visitor's center.  Until then masks had been optional and were rarely seen.

We returned to the hotel, cooled off a bit, then ended up going back to the same restaurant we'd eaten at the day before.  There were plenty of restaurants in the Savannah historic district but they were all a bit ... froo-froo for us.

We came into Savannah with low expectations and that's what we got.  The place felt older as opposed to Charleston which attracted a younger crowd.  Sometime when we go into a place cold like this we find something that pleasantly surprises us.  Savannah had few surprises.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.