Hello from Alabama
Hey folks, I didn’t drop off the face of the earth, just had connectivity issues at our hotel. We’re staying at the historic Tutwiler Hotel in downtown Birmingham, and while the room has wireless, the “hot spots” are inconsistent from room-to-room. They had to send the “tech engineer” (the front desk person’s words) up while we were out during the next day to deal with that.
Anyway, Downtown Birmingham has an extremely beautiful skyline (the above pic is just one I took of a tiny slice from the freeway; I snatched some better web ones below), with a huge amount of early 20th century office buildings that were completely abandoned. The city has clearly suffered from commercial and “white flight” in this space over the last 40 years or so, with businesses moving to the outskirts of town and residents to the substantial ‘burbs, an sad problem in many larger cities across the nation. It’s the largest city in Alabama, and has a historical economy based on iron and steel production, but today the largest employer here is the University of Alabama — the school and hospital. There is a huge, newish magnet high school, School of the Fine Arts, that is also downtown.
These abandoned office buildings are being bought, renovated and turned into loft and hip commercial spaces. We had the fortunate timing to be here for the Historic Footnotes Loft Tour, and spent several enjoyable hours yesterday seeing some spectacular conversions with Kate’s dad and brother, who are extremely knowledgable about downtown history. I’ll post more on the tour in another entry, but it’s safe to say we know where the gay population lives in Birmingham. We are yet again the homesteaders in an urban space, making it safe for the straight folks to come back to a revitalizing area. As you would also expect, the kinds of businesses that are the first to move back include the artsy ones — architects, graphic and web designers, etc. And these spaces are kick-ass designs. One, Kinetic Communications, has done a gorgeous job with its offices.
There were plenty of queer folks on this loft tour, though, given we are in Alabama, I didn’t sense that I could walk up to these folks and assume they would either: 1) self-identify or 2) engage in a conversation about gay life here. We saw no visible evidence of a lesbian population or openly gay nightlife (though this site says it’s here). The closet is deep here; outside of this loft district, it’s apparent that gay folks are invisible.
Once I get home I’ll post more about this tour, since I have to scan the brochure that has pictures of the interiors and descriptions of them. I love these kinds of tours, so I’m glad the timing was right.
In other notes, Kate and I went to visit relatives in a small town yesterday (a wonderful place on a lake), and I snapped these church sign pictures along the way.
Yesterday, also during the drive to the lake house, Kate’s sister told us about a local radio station, Y94.5 (home of the Rick and Bubba Show, I kid you not), that is running a listener feedback campaign to determine its playlist (currently Soft Rock). They are actually banning certain records from the air that people find “offensive.” Two songs given the boot that she personally heard about while driving were “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye and “Into the Night” by Benny Mardones (remember this one — “she was 16 years old, leave her alone, they say…”). Oh, man, we just could not stop laughing at the wingnuttery.