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Southern Views

So I’ve gotten some touching emails asking whether I was sick or dead because I hadn’t blogged for almost a whole week.  Well, I was sick with an unfashionable or even unnatural summer cold and then on a brief vacation at Callaway Gardens, GA with my wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson.

Callaway Gardens is really a fine resort, especially for kids.  The property is huge and lushly full of beautiful gardens.  It achieves botanical excellence and relaxing beauty without being tropical (to me, unlike, say, Jimmy Buffett, tropical ain’t relaxing).  It’s as far south as a resort can be and still not be plagued by tropical menaces such as gators.  It’s all as far south as you can be in the South and still be in midst of real mountains (friendly little mountains covered with trees). 

It has a fine fake beach on a pretty fake lake, which might only be completely satisfying for little kids.  That’s why the beach is supplemented with all manner of semi-extreme water sports, but in a safe, regulated environment that would meet with Mayor Bloomberg’s approval.

The resort is full of nicely designed swimming pools, which are usually pleasantly half full or less.

Callaway Gardens also has a lot of ecological and educational missions, and so there’s edifying stuff for kids to discover.  There’s a butterfly building in which you get surrounded by exactly the right number of diverse kinds of butterflies.  It’s generally quite amazing to consider that this combination of gardens and forests deliberately emerged from played out farmland that had become pretty close to a wasteland.

There’s also golf.  I always think golf courses are a lovely improvement on what nature gave us, but playing golf also ain’t relaxing.  It’s not even exercise when you use a cart, as you have to on these fancy courses.

Callaway Gardens has all kinds of places to stay.  It used to have the reputation of being real expensive.  But the truth is that inflation has been galloping much more quickly than increases in rates.  So it’s now a decidedly middle-class resort, with a pleasing diversity in the types of people you see around.  Lots of big families.  It’s Georgia!  And it’s only an hour from Atlanta—a city of churches and babies.

The resort has a good number of restaurants—most or all of which seem a bit overpriced and not so great.  But the town—Pine Mountain, GA—has just the right number of quirky, memorable places to eat.  The best of these are a mixture of country and bourgeois bohemian—or charming, friendly messes giving you wildly uneven culinary experiences.

I started this post with the intention of saying something about that Southern institution Chick-fil-A.  But maybe I’ll get around to that later.  Here’s one reason:  Chick-fil-A has its own campus at my Berry College.  Anything I say would be way overinterpreted, and the truth is that the recent media splash about Dan Cathy’s marriage comments didn’t tell people at Berry anything they didn’t already know.

Here’s one thing I do want to say:  The “chicken people,” as we calll them, have never had any inflence on what’s taught at Berry.  To say the least:  Berry’s curriculum and educational orientation have never been all that particularly Christian.   We manage to have students engaged in any number of forms of vibrant religious life without thinking that their religious beliefs have any kind of privileged position in the classroom. At Berry, we really can have free and open discussions on whether ROE V. WADE was rightly decided and on whether there’s a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.  How many colleges can say that?

Lots of people have emailed me about “boycotting” and “procotting” Chick-fil-A.  I prefer to judge restaurants according to the quality of the food and service, rather than by the religious views and philanthropic endeavors of their owners.  Here’s how I vote with my feet:  I eat at Chick-fil-A once in a while.  The food and service at the local “Dwarf House” or full-service version of Chick-fil-A are both quite distinctive and very good.


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