Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Poor Susanna!

Susanna Cornett is finally here amongst us, and her take on Birmingham is a delight to read, at least to this old-timer:

Notes from Alabama - Wednesday, January 21

I saw hippies today in Birmingham, a girl and a guy in hugely bell-bottomed jeans, long hair and Salvation Army accessories. They were crossing the street near the natural foods store, which carries soy ice cream and a full range of homeopathic remedies. Just a block away was the first Starbuck's I've seen here, close to an art store and a small gallery. This is the trendy part of Birmingham, I'm told, called Five Point or Southside.

Yep, that there is Counterculture Central, or Birmingham's version thereof, where young slackers can act all apathetic and dreary. And get ice cream! Five Points South is the exact name, and it's in the larger Southside area. (Southside being the area south of the railroad tracks, generally between the Red Mountain Expressway and I-65 to the west and east, and Red Mountain to the south.) It used to be an old streetcar suburb with a turnaround in the center of five intersecting streets, hence the name.

I sat in the library and read a Stephen King novel for an hour, my car parked on the street at a meter allowing 10 hours of parking without moving. There's people in NYC who'd pay rent for that space, transferred to their fair city.

Heh. Just wait until you try to go back at night to eat supper or something! Parking is turning into a running gun battle due to the growing number of entertainment places and finite number of available spaces. Part of the problem is that everyone wants to park right by the front door of where ever they are going. Part of it is restaurant owners taking over public streets and parking spaces for their customers. Gritty urban drama!

Downtown Birmingham has the odd distinction of having parallel streets with the same numbers, only with N or S on them. So you have larger numbers with South on them (8 Street South) going down to First Street South as it moves north, until it hits some street in the midst of it all (I never could find a sign with its name) where the numbers change - now it's all North. So you can travel north and pass Second Street South, First Street South, Unnamed Middle Street, First Street North, Second Street North, etc. Freaky, and nothing I've seen before. But simple. I should do okay. Actually, I did do okay, going to a meeting downtown today. Pretty city, no heavy traffic, empty parking spaces everywhere. I could grow to like this. [...]

Ahh, yes. The Grid. It really is simple, I promise. What you have to remember is that 1) the railroad tracks bifurcate the downtown area , 2) streets run N-S, avenues run E-W, 3) stuff north of the tracks are Whatver Address, NORTH and the stuff south is Whatever Address, SOUTH, 4) numerical avenue designations ascend, starting at the railroad tracks and working to the north and the south, i.e. 1st Avenue, North is closer to the tracks than 4th Avenue, North, and 5) the first one or two numbers in a street address designate the particular avenue or street--2114 1st Avenue, North, for example, means that the address is along 1st Avenue, North (north of the railroad tracks) between 21st and 22nd Streets. You can also have something like 108 22nd Street, North--an address that is along 22nd Street, North, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

NOW, this is SUPPOSED to be the way it is. There are, however, clashing and bashing intersecting lines whenever you leave the very center of town as over the years outlying suburbs were annexed. And to make it even more confusing are the two tiny streets hard on the tracks--Morris to the north, and Powell to the south. Each is named for one of the founders of Birmingham, and they intermittently stop and start along their length all the way out to East Lake. (This is what you call your Unnamed Middle Street.)

Second, North Birmingham, out beyond the Convention Center, was once its own town and has its own numbering system, as does Ensley, on the west. Ensley especially is confounding due to the use of both numbers AND letters, as well as a wide variety of lettered courts, ways, places and avenues--Avenue B might go to Court B then Avenue C then Court C then Place C then Avenue E. Maddening. Likewise East Lake and Woodlawn, each their own places until the early 'teens with their own illogical grids.

And then there are the one-way streets downtown. You'll have to figure those out on your own. Remember, two wrongs don't make a right, but three rights makes a left.

Oh well, you'll eventually get it straight. It really is easy to get around downtown, and yes, for all you who might be tempted to think otherwise, it really is a nice looking place.

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