We wanted to take a family mini vacation while it was still warm enough to do stuff outside and before the end-of-the-year holiday crazy machine really got going. So my wife (aka, “The Research Department”) set about finding a vacation destination that was fun, but close enough to home that driving there with a one-year-old and a four-year-old in the car wouldn’t make us want to saw our own heads off with the edge of the seat belt.
After some deliberation, we settled on Stone Mountain, Georgia, owing to its opportunities for outdoor fun and its proximity to Atalanta, with its own multiple tourist attractions. And, since Stone Mountain is also home to an enormous monument to Confederate Civil War heroes, and the only reason for the existence of such must be the deep, racist hatred of everyone involved, I dubbed this trip #HATECATION 2015! Not to mention we were going on Columbus Day weekend, and we all know the only reason that guy came to the New World was that he hated Indians and wanted to give them all syphilis.
So how much hate could we squeeze into four days and three glorious nights? Let’s take a look.
Day 1: AirBnB is the Truth!
Since my dad was going to be accompanying us on this merry jaunt, we were going to have to rent two hotel rooms. We considered this for a minute, and then we remembered that we were poor. Any hotel where we could afford two rooms for a long weekend was likely to be blown up by Carrie Fisher.
So my wife started exploring the options on AirBnB. Up to this point, my opinion of AirBnB was that it was a cute idea, but practically speaking, renting a room in some stranger’s house just presented too many opportunities for things to go really wrong. It was like paying to be one of those people in a horror movie who says, “Hey, there’s a farmhouse over there. Let’s see if they’ll let us stay for the night.”
However, the more we looked into it, the less crazy it seemed. This is a completely unsolicited testimonial, but we got a four bed/three bath house (A house, people! A whole house!) in a nice neighborhood for considerably less than we would have paid for two rooms in a non-flophouse hotel. The lady who rented to us was very nice and never once threatened to kill us and use our innards in a stew. All in all, a good experience for everybody with no hate in sight.
Day 2: Warming Up the Hate!
We wanted to ease into #HATECATION, so for our first outing we decided to go someplace that inspired slightly less hate than a Confederate memorial: Ikea!
I had never been to an Ikea store before, so I was unprepared for the sheer labyrinthine scope of the place. It’s like a very well-appointed rat maze, carefully designed to herd you on a set path through the store so that you walk within arm’s reach of everything you could buy to make your home perfect and your life complete.
The store and the products of course have a strong Swedish vibe and design aesthetic (And names! So fun to say! We’ve got our eye on a Svarta for my son. Svarta!). But the clientele of the Atlanta store were a veritable United Nations mishmash of ethnicities, all of which I’m sure hated each other, deep down, in spite of their shared love of flat-packed furniture.
Among all the diversity, I did notice what seemed to me to be a disproportionate number of a) pregnant women and b) lesbian couples. I don’t know what that says about Ikea, but I bet those two groups have wildly different attitudes about assembling furniture themselves.
Another thing we made sure to experience during our Ikea trip: the meatballs. I know they’re legendary, but I thought there was no way they could be as good as people say. They are.
The server piled my plate high with meatballs, and I thought, “Well, there’s no way I could eat all those. I’ll just sample a few.” The next time I looked down at my plate it was empty — just smears of gravy and mashed potatoes, like a delicious crime scene. And if someone had offered me another plateful I would’ve snatched his arm off.
But this is supposed to be #HATECATION! Those Swedish furniture meatballs were way too easy to love, so we knew it was time to move on to our next stop. The Research Department excels at finding unique local attractions when we’re vacationing, and after a little searching she came up with a doozy: The Hindu Temple of Atlanta. It was close, they offered daily tours (for free!), and it was part of a strange, foreign culture dropped into the heart of the Deep South, so there was probably tons of hate in the area.
I took some pictures, but they don’t do justice to the impressiveness of the temple complex (including souvenir shop and vegetarian restaurant). The intricate, hand-carved details just go on and on, all over the inside and outside of the temple.
The inside was also full of temple acolytes, some reverently praying in the main hall, some chit-chatting in the lobby like a bunch of Southern Baptists waiting for the pot luck dinner to start. These were people I could relate to.
Everyone we spoke to was extremely friendly. Even the guy who gave us the eyeball for walking counter-clockwise around an idol when we were supposed to walk clockwise (Did they have clocks when Hinduism was invented? How did they know which way they would run?) did it in an understanding way. And they were all absolutely button-popping proud of their facility. Whether they were there to work or worship, people could not wait to run up to us (if you can picture the scene in your head, it was pretty easy to tell that we were tourists) and tell us all the details about the temple — how it was engineered, what it was made out of, how many volunteers it took to build it, what kind of meals the women of the temple cooked for the volunteers, and on and on.
And unlike a visit to a local church, nobody asked us to fill out a connection card so they could hassle us via email later.
Day 3: Stone Mountain, Y’all!
Ok, we drew a blank on hate at the Hindu temple. But that was alright, because the next day was going to be all Stone Mountain all day long! And you know what that means! That’s right! Nine-story-tall racists!
On top of that, the park featured something we all look forward to seeing this time of year: pumpkins dressed like characters from Star Wars:
Or if that’s not your cup of tea, how about pumpkins recreating the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Nazis all get their faces melted off?
(Note also the pumpkin-themed ark of the covenant. Just like the original.)
And just when we thought we’d seen all the anthropomorphized pumpkins we could ever hope to see, who do we run across but Spookley the Square Pumpkin himself! (Yes, this is an actual thing. He has a book and a cartoon special.)
In between all the pumpkins, we enjoyed the sights of Stone Mountain itself and the story behind it. Of all the giant rocks sticking up out of the ground, it’s certainly one of the more interesting ones.
The museum in the park gives you a better sense of the size of the sculpture than you could get looking at it from afar or hanging over it in a gondola. They featured a lot of life-size replicas that, though they represented just a small part of the monument, were still big enough to eat my children!
Just as fascinating is what the park didn’t have: there was no mention of the Confederacy at all and no Confederate memorabilia to be seen. The only Confederate flag on the property was one among a group of flags on flagpoles near the entrance, with the US flag on the highest pole at the center. You can feel pretty sure that if you can’t even get anybody interested in Confederate nostalgia at Stone bleeping Mountain, then it is well and truly dead.
Day 4: Golf, the Game of Hate!
Since we couldn’t find hate anywhere else, Dad and I decided to wind up #HATECATION 2015 with a round of golf. Because if you can’t find hate anywhere else, you can always find some on a golf course.
Stone Mountain park has a couple of courses on the premises, and the one we played featured some beautiful views of the mountain and surrounding lakes. It’s also close to the park’s giant carillon (which you can see a little bit in the picture above), which played a concert for us over the course of three or four holes.
The experience of hearing an enormous music box play “Chariots of Fire” while standing in the middle of that scenery with chamber-of-commerce weather was enough even to wring the hate out of golf. We enjoyed our day about as much as a day could be enjoyed.
So, that’s the wrap-up of #HATECATION 2015! Hopefully in 2016 we can do something just as great and hate-filled. They do offer tours at Chick-Fil-A headquarters.