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No, I didn't go to the Red Bull Soapbox Race (and other things I might never do)



At a cookout this past Saturday evening, several smiley and sunburned people who'd been at the Red Bull Soapbox Race earlier in the day asked if I'd also been at the race (despite my characteristic pallor). Nope, I told them, I hadn't. Later that night, at a bar in Poncey-Highland, at least two more people asked the same question. Again, I politely said no, and then I let them show me pictures of the coolest cars and listened with my head cocked as they criticized certain lackluster pre-race performances (apparently, the Cheetah's dancers disappointed).

If I wasn't so much of a perennially pleasant person, here's what I might've said: An energy drink-sponsored soapbox derby sounds super boring and dorky (not to mention hot and crowded), and it never would have occurred to me to attend it. I responded with roughly this amount of tact when my brother from another mother and father, Thomas Wheatley, texted to ask if I was going to the Virginia-Highland Summer Fest a couple weekends ago. It was a perfectly reasonable question considering I live in the neighborhood, but I shot back a terse, "Hell no." Long beer lines, longer Porta-Potty lines, crappy craft booths — think I'll stay in and watch a "Snapped" marathon on Oxygen instead.

So, maybe I'm boring. Maybe I'm a brat. Maybe I watch too much of a show about women who murder their husbands. But I'm not too much of a boring, brat, aspiring man-murderer to recognize that in both cases, I was missing the point altogether. 'Round here it's not about the event, necessarily. It's about the fact that Atlantans like getting together. Between the neighborhood festivals and beer festivals and music festivals and art festivals, there is forever a "gathering" happening in Atlanta. And even though that's not a thing I've always taken advantage of, I have to start thinking about it being a thing I might miss.

It's with a heavy heart, misty eyes, and a sweaty brow (it's hot outside) that I announce my departure from CL and Atlanta for the rolling plains of the Midwest. The simplest way I've found to explain the decision: I'm turning 30 and I'm having an adventure. As excited as I am by the prospect of doing something so potentially imprudent, I've already started experiencing those uncomfortable twinges of loss and melancholy for all the things I've grown to love about Atlanta. And now I'm torn. Do I spend my last couple weeks in town really taking in a city I'm preparing to leave — visit the places I never got around to visiting, revisit all my favorites spots — or do I just pack and go for fear of bumming myself out?

Should I choose the former, I will ...

• See one last double feature at Starlight Six Drive-In. This place is a tremendous asset to the city, despite a recent and unfortunate instance of random violence. Besides the friends and co-workers I love so very much, I might miss Starlight most of all, especially when I'm in Chicago and the closest drive-in is a single-screener 35 minutes away.

• Visit Helen again. My boyfriend and I spent last New Year's up in the adorably/ridiculously kitschy mountain town. We stayed in a place that looked (almost) like a chateau, was infested with ladybugs, and was decorated like a grandma's guestroom, all mismatched linens and towels. We had a prime rib dinner. We rang in the New Year at a local karaoke bar. It was amazing and we immediately decided we'd go back someday. Soon that won't be so easy.

• Bike the Silver Comet Trail. Not the whole thing, but some of it. It has a bum rap because of a sexual assault that took place a few years ago, which is a shame, because it's really a great bike trail.

• Have a last supper at Bacchanalia. I was lucky enough to accompany former CL dining critic Besha Rodell the last time she reviewed the Westside landmark. I don't think she gave them a perfect review, but to me, that meal was perfect.

But is it worth the premature bouts of nostalgia? I don't know.

Then there are the things I'm going to miss that I won't get to experience a last time even if I wanted to. I didn't know it then, but the last time I went for a bike ride in Piedmont Park during that two-week period in March when every flower in every tree is in bloom and the air is cool but the sun is just warm enough, it really was the last time. And, of course, there are the things I'll never know I'll miss because I was too lazy, snobby, whatever to just g'head and enjoy them. Eventually, I'll probably feel bad that I never went to the stupid Red Bull Soapbox Derby. Maybe I already do a little.

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