Catching up with an old friend

It’s been pretty cold lately. Really cold by Alabama standards. Free time has been spent curled up in blankets drinking tea, cooking at home, and watching movies with friends. Good, comfortable, cozy.

We have a nice little home and in my enjoyment of it I forgot something: I really like this city!

Ok, it’s definitely not perfect. But it has its charm. Sort of a mix between down-home and urban industrial, with multicultural pockets.

I have lived in (I grew up in) a small town. It was charming but utterly limiting.

I have lived in a big city (the D.C. metro area). It was exciting, varied, and hard to get to know.

This city…it’s not hard to get to know, if you make the effort, but there always seems to be some new or unfamiliar spot to discover.

Today I went to a couple of places I haven’t been to in, oh, maybe two or three years – not because I don’t like them, but because I moved away for a time and just haven’t been since I moved back.

First I had lunch with a friend at a hole-in-the-wall “deli” where you can get a burger or a shwarma wrap or the most divine baba ghanouj. There’s no inside seating, so you can brave the cold or sit in a tented section with outdoor heaters.

Afterward I took an instrument for repairs at another hole-in-the-wall, only the walls of this hole are lined with stringed instruments, of varying size and condition. Violins of all sizes, mandolins, guitars, ukuleles, banjo-ukuleles, other strange indescribable instrument hybrids. Books and boxes stacked here and there, a closet-sized studio in the back, and a luthier’s workroom more than twice the size of the storefront. You’re attended to by the waistcoat-wearing shop owner, who will peer at your instrument through coke bottle glasses and talk until he’s fixed it.

Our city (yes, I now claim ownership of it, having lived here on and off for more than six years) gets flack, and it’s imperfect and not glamorous, but it has its charm, if you’re willing to open your eyes and look for it.

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