(Ashley Trice, Co-Publisher and Editor of The Lagniappe)
I have been a longtime fan of Mobile, but I’ve also become one of its biggest critics. My criticism of the city has come with my travels to other cities and what I’ve experienced. I lived in Atlanta, GA for two years, enjoying the entertainment and restaurants that go along with big cities. I attended several Braves games at Turner Field. I saw some great plays in local playhouses. Van Gogh’s Starry Night came to the High Museum. I saw my first Cirque du Soleil show under the big tent where Fulton County Stadium once stood. My girlfriend described it as “a circus without animals”, which fell way short of what I witnessed and I fell in love with. I went to the Underground, I’m not sure what I was expecting. Big cities like Atlanta bring millions of tourists and their dollars to town to experience their old and new attractions, like, Stone Mountain, the Civil Rights Museum, President Jimmy Carter’s Library, the Atlanta Falcons, the Atlanta Braves and the Georgia Aquarium. Those are some of the attractions that Atlanta has to offer. It would be unfair to compare Mobile to Atlanta or to San Francisco, another great city. However, I finally understood Mobile’s problem when I made my first trip to Charleston, SC (1999).
That same girlfriend and I drove from Atlanta to Charleston one Friday morning for a long weekend. This was our first time to visit Historic Charleston. As we entered Charleston Proper with no real itinerary, I expressed an interest in finding The Citadel. We probably stopped somewhere and got a city map. Having gotten oriented we made our way west away from downtown Charleston and the Battery. It was almost 3 o’clock when we drove onto the campus. A few cadets were seen running across the campus. I think my interest in the Citadel went back to when Shannon Faulkner was the first female cadet admitted to the school. We drove around until we noticed some cars parked hap-hazardous along a chain link fence. We decided to stop and check it out. As we got out of the car, we could see the school’s band in their uniforms, holding their instruments, standing in formation and quickly at attention on the other side of the fence. We walked through an opening and out to their quad. There were a few spectators standing along the edge of the field.
At the 50 yard line was a set of small bleachers facing the field. No sooner had we crossed the field the band began to play and a line of cadets from two barracks marched straight out of the building, into the field before coming to a stop. One group at a time went through their drills in front of the school’s leadership and its one special guest. At the far end of the field was a Howitzer “gun” that was facing this end of the field with several cadets standing beside it. After going through the drills, the school’s president got up and spoke for a few minutes. He made a presentation before this small audience. Their special guest was a Citadel alumni invited back to school for the first time since graduating when this now famous writer (now deceased) wrote a book about a Southern military school and the hell his characters experienced as cadets. This story was picked up by Hollywood and made into a movie starring Patrick Swayze. The author was blackballed from The Citadel for his literary efforts [The Lords of Discipline] until the very day we showed up. The world would come to know him and his many books (including The Prince of Tides) which was also made into a movie starring Nick Nolte and Barbara Streisand as Pat Conroy.
The ceremony ended with the firing of the Howitzer, several times. (The review of the cadets is held every Friday at 3 o’clock when school is in session. Check it out!). Where can you stumble into something like this in Mobile? This event set the stage for the rest of our vacation in Charleston. It only got better from there. For example: While they catch and cook the same seafood as our restaurants of crab, fish and shrimp their New York chefs do so much more than simply fry everything. We left Monday for Atlanta. I felt a total sadness for Mobile, what our city lacks and what we’re missing out on. I had similar feelings after visiting St. Augustine, FL (2012). Mobile has a lot of work to [do] if it wants to ever enjoy annual tourism numbers that are in the millions, which put cities on the top ten list to visit.
500 Lincoln St. Suite B-105
Daphne, AL 36526 USA