My journey to Ecuador began in a normal enough way. I had packed weeks before in eager anticipation of this event, and so I had only to grab my carefully packed bag out of its apportioned place in the closet, take my boarding pass and passport from their place in my drawer, straighten the ruffled blankets on my already-made bed and stroll casually out the door to the airport.
Anyone who knows me should recognize this as a bold-faced lie. There was no making of beds or packing beforehand. Nay, instead I ran frantically in circles about the house attempting to find various objects and, failing to find most of them, yelling about it. Through the collective efforts of the family, however, we were remarkably able to find most of the things we were searching out.
The flight proceeded normally, until Atlanta. Upon arriving at Atlanta, I knew I would have an eighteen hour layover until my flight to Ecuador. I resolved to pass as much of it in unconsciousness as possible and slept on a great many airport-couch things. I must have looked pitiful, for a stranger offered me fried chicken. “Hey bud,” he called out, “want some chicken?” I grabbed my stuff and moved towards the Chicken Offerer. He quickly clarified I was just to accept the chicken, my stuff and I could remain at a comfortable distance away. Oh, Atlanta. The City of Conditional Chicken Friendship.
Upon completing my layover the next day, I thought to escape ‘Murica (That says America but how we ‘Muricans would say it) but reality was more complex. A bunch of people somewhere had been delayed and this caused all sorts of great problems with flights which Delta intended to solve by throwing money at people. “We need three volunteers.” they began, “who we will pay to not leave today, and leave tomorrow instead so people who clearly have better places to be than this airport can get there. As for you, we will help numb your feelings of worthlessness by throwing some aircraft ticket bones at you, putting you in a nice hotel overnight and stuffing you full of eighteen dollars of the airport food of your choice.” That is the message I got, anyways. Arriving to Ecuador sounded nice, but so did “ Tons o’ airport bones.” So I stayed an extra day.
The Marriott hotel was where I ended up. Although I looked like a bedraggled hobo, I made it past the front doors to the desk where they gave me my room key. What’s to say about this hotel? It was nice, but IMO all there is to really do at hotel is sleep in it and look at room service menus, commenting cynically on the sorry state of the world today.
“This is a nice hotel indeed” I said as I woke up amid far too many pillows. My flight left at 5:30 that afternoon, so I decided I would buy a train pass to Atlanta and have a looksee around the place since I was already there. I didn’t have to buy a train pass. A friendly South African named John gave me his rail pass, wisely noting was difficult to use it when he was back at home in Johannesburg. Thanking John, off I went into Atlanta on the subway-like train, didgeridoo in hand. What would I do with just a couple of hours? I went and found Centennial Park, a park built to commemorate the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Nearby was the World of Coca-Cola. It seemed really expensive—sixteen dollars—but the promises of fizzy beverage on a hot day were too great. Too bad, because it was a waste of money.OK. Imagine Disneyland. First, take away the roller coasters. Next, take away the Disney characters and replace them with a horrifying human-like polar bear and…some other weird things. Take away the many random things you could do. Replace the music with variations on just one melody. Add some soda—no, wait. They have soda in Disneyland. There was an entire show about finding the “vault with the secret Coca-Cola recipe,” but since it’s a “secret” they just showed us the outside and then we had to leave. As I wandered around the place, I questioned my very existence there. “Why am I in this place? I DON’T REALLY EVEN LIKE COKE!” Unfortunately, I did know what had lured me there. There is a tasting room where you can try sixty-five varieties of soda from around the world. I was jazzed for this, but learned very quickly you can only drink so many liters of soda at once before you A)get really sick of pop B)Develop diabetes on the spot. Some highlights, though:
Flavor: Like the liquid embodiment of bitterness walked up and punched you in the mouth.
DIY-Recipe: Take a grapefruit. Cut grapefruit in half. Carefully spoon out tangy, sweet flesh. Throw it in the trash. Take rind, and place in a really big blender with a gallon of club soda and a generous cup of high-fructose corn syrup. Taste as necessary, making sure to have a large sink nearby which you can spit and scream into. Sell finished product to Italians, using proceeds to move somewhere where grapefruits don’t grow.
Flavor: Sugar and Black Pepper
DIY Recipe: Blend some pepper with some orange juice. Add club soda and sugar. Sell to Italians. Move somewhere far from Italy where the authorities cannot arrest you for fraud and keep you in prison for life. Maybe you could try Tunisia.
Color: Dark Amber
Flavor: Fizzy apple juice and extract of happiness
DIY recipe: Move to Mexico. Drink Manzana Lift indefinitely. It’s worth the diabetes.
Essentially, Manzana Lift helped me feel like my life wasn’t a total waste. Some nearby Mexicans said the Chilean version wasn’t quite the same, but was “pretty good.” Good enough for me!
As I left the World of Coca-Cola/ Building Where You Pay Coke to Advertise To You and Buy Their Merchandise I got a bottle of “complimentary” souvenir coke. I was going to the airport and was really over soda, so I gave it to some guy on the subway named “Diwayjohnson” or something like that. I also played the didgeridoo for people on the train. It was a lot of fun.