These hotel stays serve as my only access to television because we intentionally disconnected the cable at our house. Long story short, I am currently having a hay day watching the Olympic games. My adrenaline levels keep going up and down, up and down watching the athletes on the screen. Olympics are pure heaven to me. I could be riveted with them all day long if I let myself be. I'm sure I'll be writing more about the Olympics in the weeks to come.
We have officially arrived in Atlanta, Georgia. Stephanie Fleitas (the event organizer) and Mike Chin picked us up from the airport earlier today. We were laughing and talking the entire way to the hotel. It was one of those travel moments that felt completely in-alignment, like a reunion with long lost family members. I am thinking it is a sign of things to come at this particular workshop.
I am waiting two more days to make my final assessment, but so far it is looking like Atlanta may be a food city! I reserve that title of "food city" for the cities that boast the very best in culinary arts. So far, I’ve been superbly impressed by the food here. I stood for five minutes in a basic grocery store in front of a glass case filled with pastries that were so ornate, I felt like I was looking at a case full of sculptures. Each cup cake and tart was like a work of art. For a moment, I was regretting my lifestyle decision to stop eating sugar. Down deep, I know eating sugar leads to the collapse of my immune system (among other things) and that within minutes, my face would be red and my throat would start to hurt and I’d be filled with regret for indulging in a known neurotoxin. But all I can say is, neurotoxins can come in such beautiful shapes and sizes.
In the distance, dim lights emanate from the windows of the office buildings of downtown Atlanta. There are over five million people in this city and yet, it feels like Atlanta actually goes to sleep at night. In comparison with the other cities I’ve traveled to that buzz with a kind of 24-7 caffeinated air of vicious ambition, Atlanta is quite mellow and laid back.
In 2007, I traveled to Mississippi and Alabama and my post travel report read something like this: We should have let the south divide from the north. It is a like a different country anyway, different enough that one would expect a passport would be required to visit. I disliked it so much, I couldn’t wait to get home. This was a major let down, seeing as I had gone to the south full of grand expectations. Expectations put in my head by films like fried green tomatoes that romanticize the south. And we all hear about “southern hospitality”. To spare you the details, I found the people in Mississippi and Alabama to be some of the most bigoted and unhappy people I’d ever encountered. Given the miserable first encounter I had with the south, when I heard I was doing a synchronization workshop in the south, my first reaction was to reply jokingly… “Why? They’re probably going to shoot me on stage”. But as of today, I can officially say that I have found that southern hospitality. It resides in Georgia. Atlanta is a melting pot. A melting pot of some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. The cab drivers, the airline personnel, the waiters and waitresses and the citizens are all so friendly and accommodating it has truly surprised me. For the first time, I can officially say I feel welcome in a major metropolitan city.
There is a feeling of camaraderie in Atlanta. This is at once their strength and their weakness. Based on the vibration of the city, I’ve started to call it the “crab in a bucket” city. The story goes that crab fishers don’t have to put a lid over the top of crab buckets because as soon as one crab tries to climb out of the bucket, the others pull them back down. The general vibration of the city is just like that. There is a feeling of “I can’t” here, a basic belief in people that they cannot change or transcend their circumstances. And it is a belief the people seem to reinforce in each other. The energy on the buildings here is one of angst and desperation; the same kind of feeling a crab might get when it is trying to climb out with the weight of multiple other crabs pulling it down. It is as if the people with ambition, who try to succeed here, feel like they are pulling against the weight of their families and communities to get to where they want to go. A great many of the people here have accepted the fate of their circumstances and so, though oppressed, they have built supportive communities and built comfortable enough lives. But someone with great ambition, who wants to climb to the to invalidates this life they have built and sets himself or herself apart from the community. The camaraderie therefore serves as a source of support that buoys the collective enough to hold the collective vibration above victimhood. But it also serves as a weight to prevent the ambitious endeavor of the individual. It is a fascinating vibration to watch play out across the city.
We shall see what tomorrow brings.