Friday, October 31, 2003


Mister Puck Scarborough Ferguson, 1997-2003
The Best Cat Ever

Mr. Puck, my beloved brilliant white cat, died Thursday mid-morning 10/30/2003.
He was struck by a car while reportedly trying to nap in the middle of Austin Avenue.

Despite rough beginnings, Mr. Puck overcame many traumas that would sour the disposition of lesser kitties. Mr. Puck and his siblings were abandoned in a suburban neighborhood off I-24 in the fall of 1997, where they were found wandering around by my sisters, Sara and Abigail, who called me and asked me to find them homes. We placed the other kittens with neighbors, but two of the litter - Mr. Puck and his sister, Titania, stayed with me. At the time I also had another kitten, Brigid.

Our happy home was not to last for long though; personal tragedy struck and I lost our apartment. Brigid was adopted by Ron and Dinan Spears, where she lived for another year before also losing her life to a speeding motorist. Titania was adopted by Andrew Anderson and Tony Gowell. Mr. Puck stayed with my sisters for the next six months while I tried to pull my life together. It wasn't easy for either of us.

In the fall, I snuck him into the MTSU dorms for a few months before we were busted. This was a happy time for Mr. Puck, who was young and enjoyed taking walks in the Peck Woods on a leash. There he would chase squirrels and be admired by other students. Many cats don't enjoy the figure-8 harness and leash, but Puck was an exceptional cat.

In the following years Puck and I would sometimes be parted for months at a stretch as I pursued my education - once I went to Spain for five weeks, another time he had to stay a semester each with Ryan Miller and then the Curboy family. He never held this against me, but instead always was happy to see me and curl against my stomach at night in the winter, or against my ankles in the summer. For years before we moved to Atlanta, Mr. Puck was better than any alarm clock; he got fed at 7 am and 7 pm, and in this way always woke me up. Being woken up by your cat is one of the best ways to wake up. Even once we moved and he got an automatic feeder, I loved to wake up and just spend a few quiet minutes with him before I got out of bed.

Puck's fur was closer to rabbit fur in texture than most cat's, and a bright white in color. He shared this fur with everyone ungrudingly, and was considered to be the most prolific shedder anyone had ever met. Many cats were envious of his shedding prowess.

Mr. Puck had been very ill earlier this year. He contracted heart worms from a mosquito bite, rare for a cat and often deadly. His vet gave him only a 50-50 chance of survival. I braced myself for the worst, but this did not happen. Although I would spend many sleepless nights during his illness listening to him struggle for air, and comforting him, Puck made it through with flying colors. He had a weight problem in the past, but after a year of regular exercise in houses with stairs - and overcoming a life-threatening illness - he had dropped his excess flab. The last thing I thought as I saw him Thursday morning was how healthy and beautiful he looked. His winter coat was coming in, tinted with white so bright it looked like silver. His eyes were large and clear green. Many people often commented on how beautiful a cat Mr. Puck was.

Mr. Puck is survived by his sister Titania, who had recently come to live with us again after an absence of 5 and a half years. Puck's current kitty lover, Tex, attended the burial.

A memorial has been built over his resting place. There's a circle of 6 fist-sized lumps of rose quarts, one for each year of his life. At the top of the circle is a small headstone. When I placed him in his cardboard coffin, I wrote on the outside in silver paint pen: Mr. Puck was the best cat ever. Mr. Puck was the best cat ever. Mr. Puck was the best cat ever. Over and over on each side. Because it was true.

Come spring, I'll make a big patch of catnip in that part of the garden. I think he would have liked that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Version 2.0 with links and better spelling.

Hate the game, not the player

Hungry like the Wolverine

I drove up to Knoxville Thursday night, late. Erin and I sat around for a few hours talking about comic books, writing, and art. This was what I needed. I was still sort of scattered and jumpy while visiting her, but after a big midnight breakfast and an evening's rest under a fuzzy red blanket in an apartment full of slash and fandom, I woke up the next morning totally restored. Her one bedroom apartment was a mirror image of Dustin's old K-town place, and even included many images and writings he had passed her during his time there. There is something nice and right about that apartment complex, but I can't put my finger on it exactly.

I am thinking more about living by myself lately. If I had to live by myself, I'd want an apartment just like Erin's.

I rode off the next morning to northern West Virginia. The mountains were beautiful, and on the way I listened to Liz Phair, The Postal Service, and Tears for Fears. It's 7 hours from Knoxville to Morgantown. I was alone, but happy.

Jill stayed with me at the Mountaineer Inn Friday night. We were both rather quiet, and full of our own thoughts. Most of the people Dustin hangs out with in Morgantown are younger than Jill, who is 21. I felt old and odd. We hung out at Dustin's apartment and several people hung with us; one was a 19 year old guy, beautiful, single, who I knew liked "older women". I managed to keep my nose in a book most of the evening, with said 19 year old in the corner of my eye. Dustin was much amused by the actions of two girls who came to the party, both of whom obviously held him in high regard. I tried to talk to one of the girls, who seemed smart and interesting. Unfortunately, it was one of those meetings of learning disabilities that should never happen; after a few minutes, our conversation went like this:

"So what I was saying earlier applies."
"About actors?"
"What were you talking about?"
"What I said earlier."

Dustin, sitting to my right, actually pushed his hands in a separating motion between us.

"OK, stop it ! You're in an ADD feedback loop!" and he grins as I and this other girl are staring at each other with puzzled looks, until we realize that we're both suddenly lost in the background noise of a party, unable to understand each other or comprehend where things went off track. No one had warned us about each other, because ADD is something you usually hide. We spent a few minutes later in the party talking about her experiences with the medications I still refuse, until something shiny or loud distracted us and ended the conversation. Or maybe one of us just wandered away. Honestly, I can't remember.

Jill and I slept in Saturday, read a bit, and then after lunch with she and Dust's mom and step dad wandered around Morgantown for a bit. Dustin's mom had wanted me to walk a bottle of champagne up to him after the first cast call of the show that night, but I was phobic about it. Jill agreed to the job in exchange for Godiva chocolates. I decided this was a good way to go; I didn't want to be next to him in front of all those people. Before Jill and I went to see the show, I took a nap and then showered, and leaned my forehead against the cheap plastic wall of the bath and just paid some attention to my breathing. Fill the lungs and expel them; this is life. Mountains, men, comic books, bitter chocolate, sharp vegetables, the parents of your friends, the presence of someone you know more through their writings than through their everyday life. Dustin's mother paid me some high compliments this weekend; I listened to his stepfather's stories, carefully watching his mouth so that I could not be distracted. Dustin grinned at this; he knows I am paying more attention because I have too. None of this is easy for me. I can do this, I can be nice, I can be good, I can behave. I will not drink nor deflower the 19 year old from the previous night's party on this trip. I will accidentally swear in front of Dust's mom twice, alienate a waitress at the Boston Beanery, and manage to dress badly for the one instance where someone is taking pictures. Que Sera.

The show is exceedingly good. An adaptation of Dr. Faustus incorporating the music of Soul Coughing and using puppets, somehow it made you think about what the nature of hell might be. Dust was soaked in sweat and glowing by the end.

When Devon and Erin and Elizabeth Rathgen arrive for the second show, I am so glad to see them that I am given to spontaneous expressions of joy, I bounce up and down, I hug them too much. Oh, thank god, other people. And later I go to pick up Underdown from the Pittsburgh airport, and we meet everyone at an old house full with and undergraduate party in full swing, drinking and smoking in the back yard, girls flirting, Dustin more drunk than I've ever seen him, and I manage to actually relax a little more, and all of us girls who have driven so far - me, Christi, Jill, Devon, Erin, and Elizabeth R - we end up leaving the party to discuss philosophy on a hillside, what happens to you when you die, Devon's got a good idea, Erin, Jill and Elizabeth R. aren't into the huge house party like I am but I hang out with them instead.

The night ends with me, Underdown, Devon and Jill talking about...I can't remember. My memory extends as far as an image of me lying next to Underdown on the hotel bed while she and Devon and Jill converse. Devon is exhausted as well, but Jill is lit up in the presence of Underdown and Devon, Jill is animated and excited to talk to them.

I sleep alone, kicking the covers off my bed, disturbing the liner, tossing while Jill and Underdown are passed out on the other bed. The other girls are down the hall. There are so many of us up here, supporting one another all in one way or the other. We are all leaning a bit, Christi leans on me and I lean on Erin who is supported perhaps by the weight of all of us leaning, Devon is maybe abandoning her dream of being a writer, and where does that leave me, who is so much less talented? Jill wears a pair of pants covered in quotes she wrote last summer, her jeans covered in words. She writes in a little dark green spiral bound notebook all weekend. On the cover of this notebook is a metal hand. I once wrote a series of essays about hands, puppets, and comic books. I sent the essays away; I don't have them anymore.

The next day we all check out of the hotel, invade Dust's apartment, and end up eating a big meal together. Christi takes shots of people's plates for me, we make our own food porn. There is a long table with only six of us now, Jill left in the morning with her mom and step-dad.

At this table there are three of us on either side, so that no one sits at the head. On one side sits me, Underdown, and then Elizabeth Rathgen. On the other side sits Devon directly across from me, then Dust across from Christi, with Erin facing Elizabeth Rathgen. All of us get the breakfast bar except for Dust, so that his plate comes as a different shape from ours and unmoving from his chair he becomes the anchor, our center, and rightfully so as we have all come to celebrate him and his artistic success. This show is the equivalent of publishing on a higher production scale than most of us have previously enjoyed, at the moment he is the most artistically successful of us all.

Erin and I have a project due out next year that is already 2 months overdue in process; Devon is contemplating leaving Naropa; Christi hasn't published since Scribbling Mob; Jill scribbles in notebooks, but I don't know that she produces either. None of us are 19 anymore, although truthfully I don't remember being 19 that well. Dustin is still bathed in that light of artistic endeavor that I know have to search so hard for.

In the face of this midmorning gathering, as a table of writers, poets and artists, we do what comes naturally - we talk about comic books. Specifically, X-men. There was a boy at the party last night named Logan who had sideburns, this starts it off. Is Hugh Jackman good or bad for the character?

"I like my Wolverine short and ugly." I say, because it's true.

"But Hugh Jackman..." Says Erin, and goes on to pontificate that Hugh Jackman is rather nice to look at, and everyone is nodding. Also, points out Erin, Hugh Jackman's attitude lets him carry it all off. Wolverine is more of a state of mind.

"but the point of Wolverine's character is that he's short and ugly." I protest. "That's why he can never have Jean."

"But in the comics, it's not about why he can't have Jean. It's about him wandering around in the woods getting into fights."

I frown. "Only in the past decade has he been out in the woods wandering around, looking for fights. He wasn't always that way."

"Well, so, they get Hugh Jackman and say, 'hey, people like this tension between him and Jean, let's play up that.' ."

"But it was always there. I like my comic book characters miserable. If they're not in pain, I'm not interested."

"It's unrequited love" says Devon over her coffee. For the first time ever, I notice how blue her eyes are. I thought she was wearing contacts, but no, her eyes are an ultra-light blue, just like my cousin Joe's, and they're focused on me now.

Erin leans over the table, so that Dustin has to sit back a little so Erin can get my attention, because we're at opposite ends and I've been distracted again.

"About unrequited love...look, Wolverine loved Jean, but it would never happen. After a period of years, it just became this understood thing between all of them. The unrequited love faded into this deep friendship where everything was unspoken. Everybody knew it was there, and there was nothing to be done, so it was all underneath the surface. Because unrequited love either deepens into friendship or hardens into resentment."

Devon is looking at Erin over her glasses. "A bitter Wolverine full of resentment wouldn't be a very interesting character. They have to work together as a team to get things done."

I don't know what to say. I'm lost in the implications of all of this. So I say: "But I like my comic book characters miserable. If they ain't suffering, I don't want them. For Halloween, I'm going to be Jessica Jones. I'm just going to wear my leather jacket with a nametag on it that says HELLO MY NAME IS Jessica Jones, Fuck You."

Dustin nods, because he's the only one who reads Alias. I focus in on him. I can't believe he doesn't look hung over after all the partying he did last night.

"What do you think?" I ask him, because he's got that sly thoughtful look.

"I think that the name tag should just say Jessica. After all, there's only one place where that character would wear a name tag, and they don't let you have last names there."

Everyone else looks puzzled, so I lean back and explain: "He's talking about Alcoholics Anonymous. Jessica's an addict."

There is a communal shrug, and the conversation shifts, tilts, and moves on. Later there is a misunderstanding between Christi and Dust, and she and I drive for 10 hours back to Atlanta, and spend another two settling rental car matters and such. I miss her. I'll write more about that, later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

To Cure, Apply Party Liberally

I've been working too much lately. Evidence:

To: Max
From: Elizabeth
#####: ********
############ *******


I was so exhausted this morning that when you complimented my "LJ", I thought you meant Leather Jacket for some unknown reason, and so I said "Thanks, it's pretty hot, but it's waterproof and I think it's going to rain really hard today."

And now that I've woken up 5 hours later I realize that you were complimenting my *Live Journal*, and that my response must have seemed kind of odd.

I worked 14 hours yesterday, and now I'm going to go home and take a nap, so that I might make some goddamned sense.

See you Monday.



Yes, I thought it was an odd response, but I figured you were using some new slang I was unaware of. Get some sleep and I'll see you Monday!

Nice jacket too...though. Max


Notice that above I said "I've been working too much", not "I've been working too hard". There comes a point where you've worked yourself for so long that you're no longer very productive, but you have to keep pounding away at things anyway. My boss is annoyed with me because I seem so slow. But I've just overdone everything this month, physically, emotionally, and practically. I've had to learn a ton of new information, radically alter my relationship with my room mates, and get
over a bunch of soul searching crap regarding romantic relations. Oh, and my Grandfather was in a diabetic coma for part of last week. I try not to talk about my private life at work, but goddamn, I need a break.

I feel broken from all the new information and processes. On the upside, they did give me one of those little pins that says "Great Job!". And then they told me to quit using the internet so much and pick up the pace a little.

I'm going to take a huge crazy break for my own mental health. I'm driving up into the mountains to watch an update of Dr. Faustus with puppetry. I plan on getting wasted and being surrounded by friends and some dear acquaintances. I'll be back late Sunday night. Don't try to stop me, I've got to just take a break for a while, listen to music, and try to get my head together for the holidays.

Nothing can stop me, nothing can stop me, nothing can stop me, except maybe myself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Daredevil red & Batman Navy

I'm feeling really warm and content and happy right now. No real reason why that I could think of, just thought I'd pass it along.

Daredevil Red and Batman Navy

I finally found the money to paint my room. I primed the walls white over six weeks ago, but then ran out of funds and patience to do more. Now two of the walls will be dark red, two of them will be dark blue, and the trim will alternate. Because I am insane. And I like to paint. I suspect stamping will be involved before the project is finished, and I don’t know that I’ll be finished any earlier than Saturday night.

Putting on the colors is actually a lot more fun than priming was. I’m more patient with the plaster this time because I’ve worked with it before. Also, I’m not trying to cover up bivouac green with white primer. No, no. Now I’m working with tones that I like.

I also have a lot more room to work with since last weekend when Ron, Dinan and I reorganized half the house. After a week of fights the house got redistributed. The house works much better now, with Ron and I each having a separate room to relax and watch television in, with the both of us having separate cable modem connections. Oh, and we don’t really talk any more. Because we don’t really care for one another. But other than that, things are fine. Truthfully, while I’m sad that our friendship has pretty much ended, I’m also sort of relieved. I felt like I was having to tiptoe around him way too much, and the stress of trying to remain friends was waaaayyy too much at the end. So when things finally got broken for good between us, it was hurtful – but necessary, I think. I had given every effort I could to try and preserve our friendship, and it just wasn’t working. I was on edge all the time in my own house, where I need to relax and unwind at the end of the day. Since we’ve re-organized things I’ve been ridiculously happy, bouncy, and good natured.

A lot of people told me not to move in with friends. I did it anyway; it had been years since I’d had a bad room mate experience. I miss you, Aral, Jennifer, Mikele I suppose room mate luck just doesn’t last forever. Dinan and I remain on good terms, but often her body language is quite tense, which is understandable. It sucks that Ron and I can’t get along.

Now I have more of my own comfort zone; now I can curl up with hot chocolate and watch the new season on Angel or pore over comic books or lay about on MSN messenger chatting with friends for hours. Now I have more space to be myself in my own environment. I’m starting to feel settled and happy on a level I haven’t felt for two years. I’m incredibly happy with my job, where I get fulfilled in this way that I know I’m lucky to experience. I have good books to read, good friends to talk to, and I’m making my room into my own warm little cave for the winter.

In other news I’ve found a going-to-the-movies friend in my upstairs neighbor J. It’s a relief to know someone who will see anything, just like I will. It’s also a relief to start meeting more people here in town. These things take time. It’s all about space and time. There’s no forcing those two aspects of nature to flex more than they already do.

Friday, October 10, 2003

The 6th pillar of character.

The 6th pillar of character.

Thursday night I was in the Savannah River Valley, and I got to watch one of my cousins teach a High School marching band routine. This was just what I needed.

Picture a warm moonlit South Carolina night. Four dozen awkward teens, one of whom was another cousin, were spread out over a large mown green, lit by klieg lights. In front of the teens was a two story wooden tower built by the locals. On top of the wooden platform was a rather large guy in his late twenties, the High School band director, and my cousin, the same height and build as me but blonde. My cousin is the Middle School band director, but there aren’t enough kids out there to make a full marching band from just one school, so they have to combine forces a little bit. We’re in deep rural suburban South, and in front of the green is a road, behind it is a low brick High School from the early late 80’s or early 90’s.

As I walk up to this scene I actually watch the girls is the flag core jumping around, one by one, like idiots while the HS band director yells at them:


I start to giggle. I look at my cousin on the platform, who is also grinning. “Is that girl doing jazz hands? Am I actually seeing jazz hands out here?”

He waves he hands around. “Spirit fingers. We call them spirit fingers.”

I turn to yet another cousin – the one who had directed me to this whole scene – and he’s just shaking his head. We climb up on the tower, and watch the show and talk. Watching the rehearsal was just what I needed after a grim week of spectacular fights with my roommates and a workload so heavy I had to question my commitment to grants. What am I doing here in the South, exactly? Why aren’t I planning to go right back up north when I get enough money? Oh, right, this. Warm nights with family, watching a HS band show. It’s nice.

My band director cousin points out his students on the field to me – a girl on the flag core so graceless they call her Maytag, after the washing machine flourishes she manages; the one he calls his “anger management child”, a girl whom he pays extra attention too because she seems to have some problems relating to others; the guy who consistently runs over other people; our own relation, the biggest guy on the field, carrying the bass drum. He loves this, directing marching band shows.

I like the show too. There are dorky synchronized dancing bits and the flag core passes around some of those plastic geometric expanding balls for some reason.

The theme of the show is “The 6 pillars of character”, but my cousins can’t remember what those pillars are supposed to be, exactly; they’re concentrating on the marching routine and the music. The theater department is working on the pillars; I understand clouds and drapery are involved.

One of the pillars is definitely patriotism though. Halfway through the show, the entire band stops and yells “ONE NATION UNDER GOD, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!” And then they play Amazing Grace for a few bars.

“And then you should tell the band judges that if they don’t vote for your show, they’re atheist pinkos.” I hiss to my band directing cousin.

“Hey! That’s not a bad idea!”

“Aren’t you sort of emotionally blackmailing them with the pledge and Amazing Grace and everything?”

“My God, I hope so.” He says, pushing his glasses a little higher. We both know we’re joking, and he tells me about last year’s show, a tribute to the history of aviation where the kids formed 9 triangles and mimicked an air show. At the end of this year’s show, the kids perfectly manage to form first the school’s initials, and then USA on the field. I jump up and down and clap along with the others on the platform. But my cousin is shaking his head and calling out specific students on the ground.

“Hey! Flutes! It’s supposed to be a circle AND MY GOD YOU”VE GOT A PERFECT 90 DEGREE ANGLE! IT’S PERFECT! IF ONLY WE WEREN”T SUPPOSED TO BE A CIRCLE! You – yes, you! Don’t play to the hot dog vendors, I’m up here.” He turns to another teacher. “We need more vibrato.”

Yeah, they do need more vibrato. But that’s OK. I liked it anyway. The kids at least sounded great. My cousin hugged me, really hugged me, as I left. I want to go back and watch more shows. The kids try so hard, and it really is neat to watch my cousin do his thing.

My other cousin and I climbed back into my rental car. The two of us had a buffet dinner earlier in honor of our two birthdays in previous weeks. We’d eaten fried okra and other things at a gross country buffet that was nothing but a convinent place to get fed while we talked. I dropped him off near the river before driving myself back to Atlanta for the night, and his 19 year old body, pale as mine, was swallowed whole by the dark after he ran just a few hundred feet from me.

I drove home exhausted beyond belief but happy. Okra and hugs and band shows and warm nights in October, that’s what I’m here for. Please don’t let me forget it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I had a good birthday

The Republican.

Christi Underdown had planned to come visit me for my birthday weekend, and oh, the fun we were going to have. I was so excited. Then Christi got rear-ended at the intersection of Murfreesboro and Waldron Road (accursed intersection, you have thwarted my plans for the last time! I moved away and still you haunt me!). Remind me to tell you a story some time about that intersection, my dad's heart attack, Scribbling Mob and cock fighting. It's a good story.

Christi couldn't come visit; her back is ripped up and her transmission isn't doing well. So The Republican came instead, bringing with him a weekend of movie watching and my favorite cookies.

I'm not seeing The Republican. Of course, I'm not not seeing him, either. It's complicated, as these things tend to be. We live some hours distance from each other, and he hates Hillary Clinton. He's also an anglophile, a product of sexually segregated schools and he wears loafers. He builds roads, which I hate, and he listens to godrock, which makes me want to hurl.

He's also really, really nice to me. He has worn me down with his niceness and compliments. He's a source of interesting conversation; he's classically schooled, and can discuss history and mythology in depth. He's well traveled, impeccably mannered, and open-minded. He's an active pagan, and has a great deal of verse memorized (although most of it is Victorian, and I dislike Victorian verse). He's a friend of many other good friends, and so is recommended by his company.

But there's that Republican thing...

"I want to hang out with him", said Dinan. "We never debate politics around here; we all agree with each other. You should have him in the living room more often; I want to talk with him for a bit. I want to know why he thinks the way he does."

I groan at this. "Dinan. He's hopelessly outnumbered here. It's 3 to 1. And Ron gets going about the godless English, and it's all over with."

She sighed. "You're right."

I talked to Dust about it. About how ambivalent I am. I could hear his breathing on the other end of the telephone line; Dust's slow intake and exhalation of thoughts, the way his brain moved around the idea of me taking long walks through the park with a Republican of exclusively English descent, and worse, a member of the oppressive class.

"Well, it's like this: I'd rather see you with a Republican who is nice to you and treats you well than with a guy who works at DC comics, dresses great, is artistically brilliant but treats you like shit. I'd rather see you with the guy who wears loafers and is good to you than with a guy who is mean."

I paused, but only for a minute. "ARE YOU CRAZY!?! If I was dating a guy who worked for DC comics, we'd get preview issues, Dustin! That's comics a whole month early! We'd know who Power Girl's parents are right now! I'd totally rather date the guy who was mean to me!"

Well, said Dustin, that's your issue.

Indeed it is. We spent the next half hour discussing Power Girl's possible origin.

And The Republican is nice to me; I had the best birthday, where we went to the museum and looked at the Etruscan exhibit - he was actually more excited to see the Etruscans than I was! That was lovely. We also went to see a good 'ol monster movie where vampires beat up werewolves. He enjoyed that too. Do you know how hard it is to find a guy who understands my love of bad monster movies and who likes special effects and the Pelopenissian wars? Those are darn rare qualities to find in the same person.

I'm converting him to comic fandom, I think. He's already read the Sandman series, just recently, and that's the best hook anyone can sink into him. I sent him home with Kingdom Come, which may not really do it for him (but I can hope). We'll see. We'll see. We'll see if I can put up with someone who is incredibly nice to me.

And he is, really. He's good to me in this way that I really need. So we're communicating a bit, feeling things out. But he is entirely different in type than any other buy I've dated before. Probably this is not a bad thing.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I'm 27

9 months down, 9 months to go.
Fly Delta Jets

It's October, and this weekend I will be 27, the age rock stars die. Quick, name as many tragically dead rock starts as you can: KurtCobainJanisJoplinJimi HendricksBrianJonesJimMorrison. All 27 when they bit it, as if this was the age that divided them from ever getting old, as if this is the last year you're allowed to be wild and free and alone.

Everything outside in Georgia is swollen with seeds, on the verge of bursting with new life. That's because we don't really get a winter here, but rather an autumn more like a New England Spring. Strange flowers bloom overnight, and while the pumpkins and apples are shipped in from other regions, I saw the orange trees in Florida last weekend working on sweets that won't be ready for a good while yet. After this wet mild autumn in Atlanta will come a winter where it probably won't snow, where the puddles only *might* freeze over. And then the real spring will just be another wet, muddy fall leading into June, nine months from now, when the sun will come back again in full force and I will feel happy to see it.

I went to Florida on business, flew into the panhandle and out again on the same date. While I was traveling, I had time to reflect on how much I love the Atlanta airport.

The airport is 6 different buildings, Gates A B C D E and Terminal. These buildings stand free of each other above ground so that the airplanes can drive all the way around them, giving ATL the most space for people to connect with their flights as possible. Below ground, the buildings are connected by a long, wide, brightly lit passage. Inside this passage is a train that goes to all 6 buildings, long conveyer-belt moving walkways if you don't like trains, and a lot of public art.

The Terminal building connects to MARTA (the subway system in town), and they've got it set up so that if you ride the train you can pick up your Delta ticket right at MARTA and then scoot to your flight as quickly as possible. This bias toward Delta, based in Atlanta, is also visible when you fly into ATL at night and a giant red neon sign informs you to FLY DELTA JETS. I wouldn't, if I were you, though; they're now no longer serving food, but trying to sell it to you at prices that would make a movie theater blush.

The Terminal only has a few gates, mainly it's the building where you check your baggage and get your ticket. There's also a big center court with a few places to eat and shop. But mostly you go through the Terminal to get through security so you can make it to gates A-E.

This is brilliant security, by the way; Atlanta was up on all the international measures long before most of the rest of the states because of the 1996 Olympics.

Once you get through security, you have a choice: Conveyor-belt walkways or the train. It's always a tough choice for me.

The train is always cleancleanclean and has metal poles and strapser staps for holding or a bench at either end to sit on. And it announces everything in a clean woman's voice, and when it takes off there's this lurch of inertia that always makes me grin, I love the way the train speeds from one building to the next, I love watching tourists fall over themselves, I love the train.

But the walkways are nice cheifly because Atlanta uses the wide hallways to exhibit a lot of art. Right now there's all these stone statues from Africa in between building A and Terminal. They're beautiful; my favorite was of green stone, at least seven feet long, and was a woman swimming. Gorgeous.

Don't believe it's one of the best airports in the world? Look here:

Best Airports
Worst Airports