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Goin’ downtown

Normally when I have mail I drop it into a basket at the apartment office, where it will be picked up and delivered at some unknown point in the future. Today, though, I drove my large envelope down Jackson Road to the post office, where I could be sure it would be sorted and sent today. I’m applying for a job with the U.S. Army Signal Corps, as editor of the main publication of that worthy body. I don’t believe I am qualified, at least not in writing; however, I do know that I could do all the tasks described in the job posting. It pays extremely well, and it’s right here in Augusta–more precisely, Fort Gordon–so it would be perfect for me. I hope the recruiters won’t hold my lack of experience against me.

After that I turned around and headed back towards home, but instead of continuing on I turned right onto Walton Way, one of the prettiest roads in all of Augusta, where trees and old-timey manor houses line the street. I had my camera with me.

Since the self-actualization exercise, I’ve been eager to get out and about, but as I am easily bored, my apartment complex parking lot wasn’t going to cut it forever. On Sunday, I amused myself by running around the complex taking pictures. Yesterday, I went to Augusta Mall, and took more (mainly of emptiness and ambulating oldsters, since the stores weren’t open at 9 am). Today, I went downtown.

It was really a spontaneous decision. I had thrown on some stretch pants, my Obi-Wan shirt, and some sneakers, and pulled my hair back into a Hairagami bun. But as I was preparing to leave with my mail, I thought about taking the camera with me and snapping shots of Walton Way. I then pondered stopping occasionally to take better pictures, perhaps posing for a few. My slovenly outfit wouldn’t do for pictures, so I changed into my grey dress pants and blue flowered shell with the sheer, short-sleeved outer shirt. Stepping into my brown loafers, I decided to put on my contact lenses, some makeup, and some jewelry. When I was finally satisfied with my appearance, I took a few pictures of the apartment and the driveway and finally made it out onto the road.

The trip to the post office didn’t take long, and then I was off. I had a vague idea about heading downtown, but I just figured I would go wherever Walton Way took me. And so I did.

I passed through the upscale houses swathed in regal old pines and out into another commercial district. The Partridge Inn, a lovely, rather famous old hotel, went by on my right. I’d considered it for the wedding; it’s so stately and elegant. Next door to the Inn was Smoak’s Bakery, where we got our lovely wedding cake. I flew past them both and kept going, snapping pictures all the way. I had now firmly decided that I was going downtown to take pictures.

When Walton Way ended, a weird series of twists and turns landed me on Riverfront Parkway, a lovely lane running along the Savannah River. You can’t see the river from the street, but you can tell that it’s there. I got the same feeling from a little road running alongside the Ohio River in Louisville. The street was quite lovely; I imagined that it must be rather nice to live there.

A sweeping turn landed me on Broad Street. Figuring that I was still west of the city, I turned left and barrelled forward. Things were looking pretty thin and pokey, and I wondered how much farther I had to go.

And then, somehow, I wasn’t on Broad Street anymore, but some sort of highway. Fascinated, I kept driving. I’m at the point with Augusta that I have a vague idea of where everything is, but there are so many gaps in my knowledge that a wrong turn can lead to quite an adventure. I drove and drove, finally passing over the Savannah River before coming to a large sign.

Oops. I’d blown through Augusta and into Aiken County, South Carolina.

No matter. I turned around and headed back. This time I knew that the street I was on would turn into Broad Street…and I already knew that Broad Street was the main hub of downtown Augusta.

When things finally started looking familiar, I pulled over into one of the parking spaces the city provides down the center of Broad Street. Gathering my camera and purse, I proceeded into town on foot, looking for good photo opportunities.

My wanderings led me down to 6th Street, where I encountered to my right the Augusta Museum of History. It’s a grand building, brick, with a brick and cast iron fence running along the front and forming a regal gate. I decided to turn right and pass the museum. I knew that Riverwalk was somewhere along the Savannah River and that the Savannah River was in that direction. I figured if I kept walking, I’d happen upon it.

I passed the museum, what I believe was an old Pabst Blue Ribbon bottling factory with the words “Cream of Kentucky” in huge faded letters across the side, and a regal church, and I saw that I was coming upon a large metal bridge. I’ve always loved bridges like that; they look so old-timey that they practically belong wherever they are. Maybe it reminded me of High Bridge in Wilmore, Kentucky, a place I’d visited several times as a teenager. Or maybe I just like bridges. Whatever the reason, I eagerly approached it.

There was a bricked walkway leading up to and around the railway bridge. I followed the brick and concrete path to the top and looked down into what must be Augusta Marina, a small line of boats along the Savannah River. It was all very beautiful and peaceful. As I snapped pictures of the bridge, a woman towing her dog along commented to her husband, “Oh, I should have brought the camera!” As I’m usually the one saying that, I had to grin.

I considered following the bricked path the way the couple and their dog were, but it didn’t seem to lead anywhere. Looking down to the building that lay below and beside the bridge, I saw that there seemed to be a garden path. I chose the low road, stepping down the grassy hill to the bottom.

I then realized I was at the Riverwalk. This was perfect, of course, because I wanted to be at the Riverwalk. It’s gorgeous, and I’ve always wanted to take pictures of it. I have the niggling feeling that I have taken at least a few pictures before. But if I have, they must still be on a roll of undeveloped film somewhere.

In any case, I slipped across some rectangular terra cotta garden stones and into the Riverwalk proper. The complex is a series of bricked walks leading along the Savannah River, with staircases and ramps leading to higher ground. The whole area is filled with trees, shrubs, and flowers. Even now, in February, there are trees and plants in bloom. I took a moment to explore the Marina before entering the gates to Riverwalk.

The day was warm and mildly overcast, but still very beautiful. I paused to talk to a toddler who was tripping about Oglethorpe Park–I wouldn’t realize the significance of the name ‘Oglethorpe’ until later–and then moved on to get more pictures. There were a handful of people at Riverwalk, strolling about or power-walking for exercise. I spoke briefly with a man who seemed to be aimlessly observing the pigeons and seagulls; he noted that I seemed to be having fun with my camera, and I remarked that the weather was quite different from the ice storms in Kentucky. Above all else, I took lots and lots of pictures.

I worked my way down to the amphitheater and decided to call it quits. There was more Riverwalk to be seen: the Japanese Pocket Garden and a few more delights lay beyond. But I was about out of pictures and batteries, and I was growing weary, so instead of continuing onwards I climbed the bricked steps of the amphitheater to put myself out at the main entrance of Riverwalk, on 9th Street.

Brick seems to be the theme here, but it’s done quite beautifully. I love this part of town. I could–and did–stay there for hours.

Moving down the bricked portion of 9th Street and out to Reynolds Street, I made a left turn and continued on until I noticed a lovely courtyard smack in the middle of town, with gardens and statues. Beyond it lay Broad Street, which was where I was parked. I cut across Reynolds and into the park, which turned out to be the “Original Augusta Common”, established in 1736. It was a quaint little spot, rather open, but not barren or lonely. It felt rather comfortable, right down to the little chess table off to one side.

Down towards the end of the Common, I discovered the Oglethorpe connection. Apparently he is the “Father of Georgia” and the “Founder of Augusta”.

The text on the statue reads:

The thinking of the Misfortunes of others, and giving Succour to the afflicted, even before they ask, is the most glorious Action that can be performed by a mere human Creature.

Oglethorpe 1732

It sounds like General James Edward Oglethorpe was a pretty good guy.

I made my way back down Broad Street again, seeing a few blocks I’d missed due to cutting towards the river at 6th Street. There were huge, imposing bank buildings with massive columns and looming gargoyles; there were quaint and funny shops; there was the Theatre, which I vowed to someday visit; but I have pictures of none of these, as I had used my last shot on General Oglethorpe’s statue. Mourning this fact, I continued on, promising myself that one day I would return and take pictures only of downtown.

On my way, though, I saw that I was passing a gigantic ivory spire…and the inscription on the side said something to the extent of “a nation whose purposes were only Pure”. Already I was thinking that it couldn’t be…but as I rounded the statue I saw that it was.

TO OUR CONFEDERATE DEAD

A million conflicting emotions rose in me then, but amusement won out, and I knew I had to have a picture of this monument. I chose one of the less spectacular Riverwalk shots and deleted it to make room. Unfortunately, a group of tourists planted themselves smack in front of the thing, posing for pictures, debating and teasing each other instead of hurrying to take the group shot. I didn’t have anywhere to go, particularly, but a young businesswoman who was getting into her car kept giving me strange looks, as if she was wondering why I was standing there with a camera. It was rather disconcerting. Finally I decided that it might be funny to have the pack of white tourists in the shot with the Confederate memorial, and so I quickly took my picture and scuttled off. Unfortunately, the inscriptions on the stone base are too blurry in my hasty picture, so the humor is completely lost.

And so that was my day, through the early afternoon. I hopped back in my car and hightailed it home, ready for my snack of potato chips and Vanilla Coke. Believe it or not, I’ve spent the rest of my time resizing and cropping pictures and writing this journal entry. I think it’s about time to stop now. All in all, it was fun, and I’m looking forward to going back to get more pictures of downtown.