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University towns are special places

By Walter Geiger I got to spend some time in God’s country last week. The eldest had her rising senior tour of UGA. She has been going to football games in Athens since she was three but had toyed with the idea of going to college out of state. The tour, however, sealed the deal for her and she wants to follow in her parents’ footsteps and be a Dawg. The great news is she already has the qualifying SAT score and grades so she will hopefully make the cut. The youngest was also in Athens for the week, living in a dorm and attending the excellently run Georgia Soccer Camp. Dorms have come a long way. No more gang showers and bathrooms where she stayed. While in Athens we took in some sights. The most impressive thing I saw was the Ramsey Center – the huge student recreational building. It had two Olympic pools, indoor rock climbing walls, basketball, volleyball, tennis, badminton and tennis courts and, I would guess, $5 million worth of weight equipment. It featured competition venues for swimming, diving and volleyball and even had a boxing ring where guys were taping up getting ready to duke it out. It was simply amazing. University towns are special. I’ve been to big cities like New York, Chicago and Boston and they are fine in small doses. University towns are better and, in my book, Athens is the cream of the crop. There is just a feeling of electricity in the air. I guess it comes from all those young, smart and energetic kids being concentrated in one place. It is also a great place to people watch. In downtown Athens, I saw a woman with a high-stacked, red do rag sporting orange sunglasses parading down the street inviting stares. Nearby, a man was unloading gallon after gallon of milk from an SUV. Turned out he had been shopping at Sam’s Club and preparing for a big night of making white Russians at his bar. Apparently that drink is back in a big way in Athens. At Herschel’s Famous Pub, I had a hamburger with lump crab meat on top. Only in a college town would somebody attempt that and it was great. While waiting for a scrimmage to start at the soccer complex, I was watching the cyclists, runners and walkers getting in their workouts. I noticed a jerky movement out of the corner my eye and along came a guy in knee pads on a unicycle. He rides the device usually seen only at the circus for exercise everyday. I can recall my own arrival in Athens over 40 years ago as an 18-year-old freshman. It was overwhelming at first but soon my apprehension was replaced by amazement as I met new people and opened new vistas. Every day brought new information and unique experiences to process. I fell in love with the place and that romance is rekindled on each return visit. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of the Herald Gazette.

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