Jase Graves: Snacks, Steel and Civil Rights in Magic Town | Homes and lifestyle


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(Cartoon by John Darkow / caglecartoons.com)

Jase Graves

It’s time for another episode of “Places You Should Visit Before Your Loved Ones Start Choosing Your Funeral Underwear!”

Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Birmingham, Alabama to attend the annual convention of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists so that I could collect another “floor lamp” for humor writing. “That’s a major reward!”

The drive to Birmingham from East Texas took 7.5 hours, so we treated ourselves to several convenience store restroom stops along the way. I’ve found that interstate restrooms offer a real sense of an area’s distinctiveness – and you can usually wash them if you use enough warm water and antibacterial soap.

When we finally arrived in the quaint town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians, we were starving – as usual. And because we wanted to try regional cuisine that truly represents the unique culture of the Deep South, we naturally chose a Tex-Mex chain restaurant.

In fact, I’ve read that Birmingham is sometimes referred to as “The Magic City” because of how quickly the former industrial powerhouse grew after it was founded, but I’m now convinced that the name represents the fact that it is home to two of my favorite Mexican restaurants. franchises (Chuy’s and Superior Grill) within 3½ miles of each other. Abracadabra, indeed!

When we returned to our DoubleTree hotel after supper, the clerk presented us each with a famous (and hearty) DoubleTree cookie. Unable to resist such an unhealthy treat, I inhaled my own in the elevator, and because I always look out for my lovely wife’s best interests, I waited until she was in the shower to eat hers.

The next day we took a whirlwind history tour of the city, the highlight of which (besides the included snacks) was a stroll through Kelly Ingram Park and a visit to the 16th Street Baptist Church – ground zero for civil rights. struggle in America.

The whole area has a powerfully sacred aura about it, and I was so moved by the history and symbolism of the place that I actually forgot to eat – briefly.

Speaking of eating, we also visited the historic Alabama Peanut Company, where we sampled typical southern boiled peanuts. This was my second time trying them, and they’re still the peanut-flavored peanut-shaped things I’ve ever eaten – other than these Orange Marshmallow Circus Peanuts that look like chewing on a flip flop flavor of banana. Boiled peanuts are similar in taste and texture to cooked beans – if the beans were to be eaten two at a time and came in a soggy, inedible shell full of salt solution.

We found ourselves without a snack again when the tour took us to the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Site – because who doesn’t want to explore a run-down industrial complex that looks like the perfect location for a serial murder?

Seriously, though, the towering, labyrinthine site was beautiful – even in its rusty ruined state, and learning about the countless laborers who spent decades in the oppressive heat and noise of huge kilns reminded me why I’m became an English major.

The final stop on our tour was Vulcan Park & ​​Museum, located atop Red Mountain and featuring the largest cast iron statue in the world, depicting Vulcan, the Roman god of iron, the forge and, from his rear view , without pants. The park offers an awe-inspiring view of the cityscape for visitors able to take their eyes off Vulcan’s massive metallic badonkadonk.

After the tour, we attended the NSNC Awards Banquet where we had a tasty meal of baked salmon and white beans (or maybe they were boiled peanuts) and were honored to meet legendary columnists from across the country, some of whom even cheered on an East Goofball from Texas when I received my award.

Our weekend getaway to Birmingham was fun and educational for my wife and I, and I hope she forgets the whole cookie incident before she starts picking out my funeral underwear.

— Jase Graves is an award-winning comedy columnist whose columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times in Louisiana, and the Kilgore News Herald and Longview News-Journal in Texas. Contact him at [email protected] or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.


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