What Is Between What Is Out There


Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by me, June 2023.

The road has had more of my time this year like an old friend calling me on the phone for a long catch-up conversation. I am not good at ending conversations; I am bad at knowing when to wrap things up and have to let the other person do it when the pauses grow too long. Every conversation could be the last and it should count for something, as I see it. For those who have endured the hours-long phone conversations with me, they deserve to be appreciated. 


I like being on the road, watching the sunset between the white stripes of a rest area parking lot, not caring all that much about a place, after all, I am only passing through and watching the crazies tailgate each other in the fast lane. I am not ready to end the conversation with the road, hang up and say, "Bye-bye." I want to see what is out there and what is in between what is out there. I have had a lot of long drives and conversations in my lifetime.

The Birmingham skyline. Photo by me, June 2023.


I was in Birmingham, Alabama two weeks ago. Small to mid-sized cities are time capsules of the past. They remind me of Atlanta in the 1980s and 90s, before traffic reached twenty-four-hour gridlock and all of the cool places and people were priced out. Small cities have just enough of the ingredients of the magic of possibility to not bore me without overwhelming me.

The car radio scanned and I was surprised that Birmingham had an alternative station, 107.3 FM Mountain Radio. I listened through the eastern suburbs and spent the rest of my time in the city listening to a classic rock station that played too much AC/DC. Back in Black greeted me as the skyline came into view. My mind veered to the early 1980s and I was hearing that music coming from my brother's bedroom and it seemed angry in the way teenagers pose as rebels against everything.

I have a little history with the city and plenty with the state of Alabama. Alabama, contrary to popular opinion, is not a foreign country for gays. The gays there are the rebel weed dandelions growing through the sidewalk cracks and surviving through the adversity of existence. In the 2000s, I occasionally partied at a club called Quest. It was one of the few gay bars in the city and in the state and it was open 24 hours. The attraction was that it was always open, never closed, and open later than the Atlanta bars that closed at three in the morning. These trips were never planned and were spur-of-the moment excursions. I visited a few times danced until sunrise or so, grabbed a hotel room to crash for a few hours and went to The Galleria mall to buy fresh clothes. The locals at Quest were friendly and recognized that I was not a local. I would say I was from Atlanta and that led to too many questions and unwanted offers to buy coke. I raised the guards and applied my fake bar name, Eric.

Birmingham. Photo by me, June 2023.

My reason for being in Birmingham this time around was to visit an antique store. The times have changed. The store was on the south side, in the same neighborhood as Quest. I parked on the street and walked on a windless, hot day as smoke from the forest fires in Canada glazed the sky. I relaxed and felt the relief of having more space around me than in Georgia. 


I smelled the stale scent of a time capsule opening.

Photo by me, June 2023.

It was a large and interesting store and a few purchases were made. The prices were better than what can be found in Georgia, another benefit of being a less populated place.

I loafed around Birmingham for the day, seeing new places, eating barbecue at Dreamland on 14th Avenue and then headed home to Georgia. The radio stayed on the classic rock station on Interstate 20 as far east as Anniston, another place with a history for me and radio and Susquehanna, until the static choked it out. The last song I heard was The Marshall Tucker Band's Can't You See

The road called, the conversation was had and I was out there seeing what was in between through the crackling static. The last of the sun fell on me at the Georgia welcome center parking lot. A family posed in front of the state sign with a peach on it. I must have looked as silly as them on some of my travels too. Life is going by the same as the cars on the asphalt and there is no slowing down.