The bartender at my hotel in downtown Huntsville, Al., grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. He moved downstate, to Brooklyn and Washington Heights—neighborhoods just a short bus or subway ride from my own—and knows the New York of Giuliani (the one I grew up with).
He moved to Huntsville 12 years ago— “for love,” as he says—and relishes the lilting pace of life here. It used to annoy him at first, he admits, acknowledging that he initially found the native population far too slow for him.
“But you adjust,” he says, grinning.
The drive from Huntsville to Atlanta takes somewhere between three and a half and four hours, depending on how backed up I-75 is, and how scenic you’re looking to get.
Our rented VW station wagon rolls through the undulating hills of Appalachia. The countryside is dotted by cows, farms, and megachurches. Our route seems to take us back in time, crossing freight railroad tracks and lazy clapboard houses with rocking chairs out front.
As the navigator, I force my parents to listen to my preferred driving soundtrack—The Strokes, Drake, far more One Direction than I should admit. My dad slows down so I can snap a photo of the hazy blue peaks of northern Alabama. This isn’t something you find in Cambridge.
The pork at Old South Bar-B-Q in Smyrna, Ga., can be served three ways—sliced, chopped, or pulled.
When I order pork on garlic toast for lunch on Sunday at Old South, the waitress asks me how I’d like it prepared. Her favorite, she explains, is pulled, adding the requisite “honey” on to the end of her explanation. I’ll have it just as she likes it, I respond.
Old South is the oldest restaurant in Smyrna, established in 1968. It still operates out of the converted single-family home in which it began. Its light wood walls are covered in photo collages of locals who have frequented the joint for decades. You can see pigs on the smoker behind the cashier. My sandwich is fresh and hot. I happily douse it in the vinegar-heavy house sauce. There are hush puppies involved.
A leisurely, filling lunch for three runs under $30, and our waitress reminds us to hurry back as we leave. We may be 25 miles from the airport with just 90 minutes until our flights depart, but as I climb back in the car with my parents, we’re nothing but satisfied.
On Monday night, I linger in the conference room here at The Crimson with two writers and a designer after our weekly meetings.
We all have plenty of work to be done—papers that need writing, midterms approaching, neglected thesis research—but there’s not a bit of restlessness in the room. We relax into leather couches and talk for hours. I stretch my legs and rest them on the table in front of me as we laugh, gossip, whisper, and whine.
I do not look at my phone (it’s dead) and lose track of time until it’s midnight and our eyelids start to grow heavy. The only thing we’re really in a hurry for is some sleep.