I arrived in Atlanta on Thursday. I was attending the Aiming Low Non-Conference, which was convening at Callaway Gardens, a resort/hotel an hour outside of the city.
I went to Avis to pick up a car. After the nice salesgirl with the Southern accent unsuccessfully tried to sell me a GPS, extra insurance, and a complicated gasoline plan, she took a different tact in order to earn Avis some extra of my money.
“You look like the type of man who likes to drive a Mercedes sportscar, and you are in luck, because just today I can give you…”
I told the Avis sales rep that she misread me (pay $30 a day extra for a sportscar — was she crazy? I wouldn’t pay that even if Georgia State’s homecoming queen was my chauffeur!).
Soon afterwards, I drove my bland American economy car towards Callaway Gardens, travelling along Atlanta’s highway, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the ugliness of the Los Angeles freeway
About ten minutes of driving, I noticed a yellow sign on the side of the road that read, “Waffle House – next exit.”
I have never been to the “real” South, but I am lover of movies that take place below the Macon-Dixon line, and I had heard quite a lot about this famous Waffle House. I made my way off the highway for a quick breakfast.
The Waffle House was as grungy and wonderful as I expected. I was the only white person there and everyone was super friendly. I ordered the specialty — the waffles with some sort of white creamy blob smothering it, a pile of steaming grits, and overly-buttered raisin toast. It was perfect, and I could feel my cholesterol rising by the moment. Proud to tell the world about my new worldly achievement, I went on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, announcing to the world that I had finally made it to THE WAFFLE HOUSE!
Unfortunately, when I returned to the road, I noticed another Waffle House at the next exit, and then a Waffle House at every exit for the next fifty miles. I had thought I had just eaten a meal at the ONE-AND-ONLY famous Waffle House, not just one in a ubiquitous chain of 10,000 Waffle Houses!
The Aiming Low Non-Conference was terrific, a 180 degree turn from the chaos of BlogHer in New York City. It was a quite small group, and we were all trapped in the middle of nowhere. Even the local BBQ place down the road seemed to close at 8PM. The whole weekend was extremely mellow, mostly hanging out, chatting, and taking photos in front of this fake nature background they had set up in the lobby. I loved it!
Sure there was parties, but it all seemed so manageable and friendly. The only real “superstar moment” of the conference was the arrival of The Pioneer Woman, but even one of the blogging world’s biggest stars seemed to appreciate the low-key atmosphere of the event, posing with everyone for silly photos.
On Saturday morning, I lead a mobile phone photowalk around the beautiful grounds of Callaway Gardens. It was a great honor. If anyone had told me two years ago that I would be a trusted person in anything photographic, I would have laughed!
That said, I was probably the wrong person to lead this particular photowalk, which consisted mostly of trees, flowers, and butterflies. You know something is wrong when the “instructor” is saying “these butterflies are boring as hell,” and the participants are arguing with you, trying to get you to appreciate their beauty. So while my “students” took photos of the butterflies, I fell back on my forte, taking photos of the cute women participants taking photos of the butterflies.
Thank you, Anissa. Thank you Faiqa. Thank you everyone at the conference. It was a lot of fun.
And thank you, Muskrat for our BBQ lunch back in Atlanta. Definitely a cool city that I still don’t quite understand. Black. White. Rich. Poor. Conservative. Liberal. I even found myself getting lost in the middle of Atlanta’s Gay Pride Parade!