I spent a couple of nights in an empty hostel in downtown Atlanta. It’s a strange city with two mayor highways cutting it by the middle. The distribution of businesses is odd too. You may have to walk ten blocks of administrative buildings and vacant lots to find a single convenient store. But the driving is not a nightmare as in other cities. I actually parked for free in front of my room. Locals complain about how unfriendly the city is for walkers. But it’s possible to walk. Even with the homeless infestation, it’s not as bad as it is in the West. The problem is that the walking is not that appealing unless you go to the suburbs or the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.
The most fascinating thing of the city turned out to be a couple of acquaintances I made in the hostel. One was a brilliant TV producer, book writer and human rights advocate that were alternating residences between Washington DC and Atlanta. After a brief introduction in the hostel's living room, we got engaged in an interesting conversation about socio-politics that extended up to one in the morning. We stopped because a lady upstairs complained about the noise. This guy has an almost encyclopedic knowledge on every topic he touches, and quickly I resolved to make questions instead of arguments since I was getting beaten. The fact of having to do actual research for journalistic work gave him the proficiency of a History professor. I checked one of his books and he has reasons to suspect the FBI is not very happy with his inquiries.
The other character was actually the manager of the hostel, a Jewish-American that claimed to have had a Nazi armband stained with the very blood of Adolf Hitler. The whole story was fascinating, and he claims to have been burglarized by neo-Nazis searching for the item. He actually changed his name as per his own account. I have no way to know if that’s real or fiction, but how many times you have a guy across the table telling such stories without drinks?
Those two characters and the attractive mature redhead upstairs where the only humans in the building; a Victorian wood house one hundred fifty years old that cracked at every step. You have no idea what conversations are taking place in the air if your only source of information is the Internet.
So, close this page and go to your local bar. Find a veteran, a journalist, a Holocaust survivor descendant, a priest reject... You may buy or not their stories, that’s not the point. It’s not a quest for information, it's a search for human contact.