Day 2, Schedule Page Seven
What do you think when you hear the words: “Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Georgia”? I picture Southern, Tara-style mansions, sweeping lawns, perhaps women in crinoline fanning themselves elegantly while sipping mint juleps. Okay, well maybe not the last bit.
So it turns out Peachtree Road is exactly not like this. It is, for starters, one of the longest roads in Atlanta – apparently everyone wanted the Peachtree address, so they just extended it, and added a gazillion Peachtree Drives, Squares and Avenues to boot. If you want to go to Peachtree, the saying goes, you’d better know where you’re going.
And it is MODERN, like only Americans can do modern – towering, shiny marble-lined buildings in mall-sized lots, their windows glinting under a Southern sun. I’d like to say it was disappointing but there is something oddly energising about such an unapologetic embracing of all that is brand shiny and new.
I had flown over on Thursday morning, having spent a sticky hour on the runway at LaGuardia in an actual queue of planes. This would normally be enough to have me quaking (still not great at the whole flying thing) but my seat, it turned out, was between an off-duty pilot and an air stewardess (no, I hadn’t snuck into the cockpit. I haven’t done that since the whole restraining order thing). Who knew flight crew were such fun? I think I laughed for an entire hour. It is possible that my gaiety was heightened by the internal conversation in my head: “Yay! We have a spare pilot! And the stewardess is going to make sure I’m first off the plane if we crash!” But it was almost disappointing when the thirty planes in front of us finally took off and we made it into the air.
So last night, after several interviews and the best butterleaf salad I have ever eaten (to be fair, it was my first butterleaf salad) I gave a talk at the Georgia Centre for the Book. Georgia readers are proud of their literary heritage. You don’t meander too far through a conversation before the words: ‘Margaret Mitchell’ come up. Atlanta residents will tell you how much she earned for the film rights to Gone With The Wind back in 1936 (an astonishing $50,000), how she did her research (her grandfather’s friends, who had fought in the civil war) and still talk in hushed tones about the man who accidentally hit her with a car and how his life was never the same again, given the love Georgians held for her.
They will also, it turns out, tell you what a huge hit The Antiques Roadshow is in Atlanta. “It’s not surprising,” said my guide. “We all go crazy because we have nothing old of our own.” And then she told me about the Museum of Coca Cola down the road, and it was pretty hard to disagree.
NB There’s a great little clip on cable over here about a teenager who has been collecting people’s old spectacles and redistributing them among children who can’t afford their own. Wondering if there’s a similar scheme in the UK – from my house alone I could probably help an entire classroom….