A Pit Stop in Atlanta

I have been in Los Angeles for about two months now, everything still fresh as the day I arrived. Yet with the trip to Bali less than five days away as of now, the excitement for yet another change is kicking in.  While I have not created roots, found a real place of my own to live or sprouted many friendships, I am beyond ready for this next adventure. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and something I still cannot quite fathom was given to me. However, last week the anticipation of leaving the country for two months totally freaked me out. I sat in the airport on my way home from visiting my aunts in Las Vegas wondering if I should hit Atlanta prior to my big departure. I chalked the initial feeling up to being homesick so I pushed it to the back of mind for a few days. And no matter how hard I tried, I could not shake the feeling. I booked a red eye flight for Friday night and would return early Tuesday morning (a.k.a this morning). I called my friend and politely begged her to help me around Atlanta seeing as my car now has a home on the streets in Los Angeles. She obliged, and it was just working down the days until my departure. Once Friday I arrived, I was dropped off at the airport and then the enthusiasm really kicked in. I did not sleep a wink on the four hour plane ride, and was totally okay with it (The Departed  is a crazy movie, and I was hooked the minute I decided to start it).

 The trip began with the first surprise at the airport, as I saw Mama Dubon scurry across the airport and embrace me in a hug. I felt the tears in my eyes begin to swell, and I knew the day would be filled with this exact feeling on repeat as I sneaked up on all my loved ones. She drove me back to the house where I knocked out on the couch for an hour and a half before my alarm woke me, letting me know it was time to visit my own mother. I grabbed a lift from Chris, and walked into the lower level of Belk. I saw my mom walk behind the register, only to double take for the sheer fact that she could not believe it was me, that her baby was indeed home. She squealed my name and we hurried over to one another. With a long embrace, she told me how happy she was that I was home. We both just stood there for a couple minutes crying and milking up every minute of the moment before pulling apart. She apologized profusely to the customer she had been helping and hugged me once more before I went upstairs to surprise my best friend of ten years, Karina.

 When I hit the second floor, I could see her behind the register assisting a customer. Before I could reach her though, she began power walking to the first stock room. I followed her in with Anthony, and just stood there at the entrance waiting for her to notice me. When she finally did, she dropped the shoes in her hand and pulled me in tight. She whispered in my ear how much she missed me and the waterworks began, for both parties. We caught up for a little bit, and made plans to see one another that night.

 Before leaving Belk, I pulled Chris in for a hug and said my good bye. I thanked him for all the help he has given me in my new city, as well as the assistance in bringing me home. I told him to behave, and to please PUH LEASE pick me up from the airport after Bali. 

 Briana, the rad friend that would help me get around, picked me up from Belk doors and we strolled over to McAllister’s to say hello to my twin. We checked the parking lot to make sure she was there and not roaming around filling a catering gig. I walked in, looking for her little body behind the rather large counter and she had the same reaction as my mom. She quickly glanced over the direction of the door, only to double take before rushing around the counter and literally jumping on me. She screamed and I quote, “Oh my god, why are you here?” I laughed as I hugged her back, and asked if there was somewhere else she prefer I be ( Briana caught the whole thing on tape, there is proof).  

 We headed home to drop my bag off, and pit stopped to see my older sister, Ana, before finally heading out to Atlanta. Ana is the only one in the family who knew I was coming; she helped me put the plan in motion and made sure everyone was available for some serious bonding. We chit chatted for a bit, before she had to get back to work.  

 After all my morning surprises were completed, it was time for some good times and good vibes with Briana. We headed down the highway, en route to the city of Atlanta. I took a quick pit stop at Live Free Tattoo to see Miguel before making my way to the Beltline. I picked his brain about artists in Los Angeles and told him I would be back for touch ups and a small piece on my next visit.

 We walked about a mile of the Beltline, grabbed some Popsicle and headed back due to the fact that is was five and my father would be home any minute. I said my good bye to Briana and praised her for helping make the first round of surprises as majestic as they were. I strolled inside to discover that my father was not home, and asked my twin to take me to Target. Not only did I need to collect some supplies for my trip, I wanted to say hello to TJ. We chatted for about fifteen minutes before he had to return to work, I hugged him and went on my merry way.  As we pulled into the neighborhood, Katrina received a text from papa bear and I knew it meant he was finally home. She pulled into the garage, and I walked into the house. I could see his flat top sitting over the top of the couch, and tip toed my way over as Katrina recorded from behind. I stood in front of him as he finished up a text message; he looked up at me and over at Katrina before it hit him that I had come home. He stood up, and I could hear the crack in his voice as he asked me, “What are you doing home bro?”

 Shortly after, my mom rolled in and we headed out to dinner. I gave the fam a run through of my experience in Los Angeles, with a slideshow to match (For anyone that does not know me, I am such a tourist. I take pictures of everything. My phone is stacked with photos that I cannot bring myself to delete). The dinner was simple, delicious, and exactly what I needed. I caught up on their adventures and we cracked jokes like we would at any family dinner. With a stuffed belly, I was ready to return home. 

I curled up on the couch as my parents watched Law & Order SVU, my dad’s favorite show. I dozed in and out of consciousness until Jarred, Courtney and Karina arrived for the night’s adventure. We began to get ready and left the house around ten thirty to head down to Athens. With nothing but smooth jams all the way down, we sung along to each and every song.

 When we arrived in Athens, we parked the car in the north deck and strolled on over to downtown. I decided to remain sober for the sheer fact that I already felt like shit and the alcohol would only add to it. Our first stop was Starbucks to say hello to an old friend who always warms my heart. With a quick catching up, I told him to give me a ring if he would like to grab a drink after his shift. I said my goodbye and we did a quick lap around downtown before settling down in AllGood for whiskey sours. I watched my friends drink a little and get a little whacky. We danced to the wide variety of music the bar had to offer before heading over to Magnolia’s. At this point in the night, we were all a little tired and just chatting it up with one another. Katrina took a single shot, and decided it was time to roll. With a forty five minute drive standing between me and my bed, I let the music consume me.  I finally hit the sheets around three only to be woken up at nine by my alarm to take the last of my typhoid fever vaccination pills. I pulled myself out of bed, swallowed the pill and crashed back into the sheets before finally emerging at eleven to the smell of fresh biscuits.

 We ate breakfast, got fresh and headed to Fairburn for the Georgia Renaissance Fair. It was an interesting experience to say the least, lots of good raunchy humor. My twin and dad threw axes, while I took my turn at throwing knives. I got the knife to stick on my first shot and realized I could be armed and dangerous if I so decided, ha. We strolled around, just watching the shows on the sides and eating the fair food. We spent about two hours there before calling it a day and heading back home. My parents made the famous spaghetti sauce and I had the good Italian food I had been missing.

 After dinner, the family headed over to Twisted Taco to grab a drink from my two favorite bartenders, Kathleen and Kathryn. We drank margaritas, ate some chips and salsa and just enjoyed one another’s company. I watched my mom get drunk off of one margarita, and it was hilariously amazing. She asked Kathryn for an elevator because the stairs were not an acceptable option. My dad helped her down off the stool, and as she tried to open her mints, she shot two across the bar and just began laughing; no worries, she made is home safely and she quickly hit the bed when we got home. I stayed up with Jarred and Katrina for a few more hours before calling it a night myself.

 I woke up around nine o clock the next morning, hopped straight in the shower and prepared myself for my last day. It began with a morning stroll through the Oakland Cemetery with my dad and Katrina. Since it was my dad’s first visit, we gave him a customized hour tour. I actually saw Bobby Jones’ tombstone for first time, and fun fact: people leave signed golf balls stacked around his grave. With my stomach craving some food, we headed over to Krog Street Market for some barbeque. And dude, if that was not the best beef brisket I have had in my life, then whoa. We also showed him the Krog Street Tunnel, where he got to see someone tag it. Overall, I would say it was a ten out of ten experience.

With the afternoon ending, we decided it was best to get out of the city before the traffic began. We hit REI on the way back, where I picked up a heavy duty fanny pack. I do not think Bali is ready for how hardcore it is, ha. When we arrived back at the house, I made my way to the couch because my body was still tired. My mom began cooking dinner, and we ate shortly after. After dinner, we watched The Intern with Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. I cannot say I am a huge fan of the movie, the plot was rather slow and the ending very abrupt.

 After the movie, I made my way to Taco Mac to meet up with the homies one last time. We all grabbed some beers and nachos or fries before just reminiscing about the past and catching up with the present. We talked well into the night because the next time I looked at the clock it was after midnight. I hugged everyone, sent out my love and told them I would be back soon. Maggie and I followed Courtney over to Stars and Strikes where we bowled for half an hour with Victor and Tyler. The first ball I threw was a strike, and the rest of the night was filled with gutter balls and shame. At around one, the alleys closed up and I said my final farewells.

 I fell asleep around two thirty that night and woke up at four (Do not book flights early in the morning, I do it every single time and I always struggle). My heart became heavy in the car as my parents thanked me for taking the time to come out. When we arrived at the airport, I gave a quick good bye and did not look back because I knew the moment I did, I would fall apart.  Once I reached the gate, I sent a text to my parents letting them know I was through and would hit them up when I landed in Los Angeles.

 All in all, the trip was necessary and in a way recharged me. There is an insurmountable amount of love back in Georgia and the south will always hold a little piece of my heart. Which of course, only makes it harder to leave and say good bye, but I know that Los Angeles is good for me individually. I will struggle, fall apart and fail that I am sure of, but it will help me grow in ways I never deemed imaginable.  It is always good to return home when you have family values as high as my own.