Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chris Smith's Blog

September 4, 2008

Of All Places to Evacuate – Monroeville, Alabama

When Hurricane Gustav appeared on the Gulf horizon, little did I know that I would be heading to the very city that served as the inspiration for To Kill A Mockingbird.

It was the idea of my friend and fellow dog park companion Harriett Swift who grew up in Monroeville. Her cousin Jane-Ellen runs the tourism activities of the county (Monroe, of course) and has an office in the courthouse. Just a few steps from her office is the spectacular courtroom that served as the model for both the book and the movie.

The courtroom is kept in pristine condition. When you are in it, you cannot help but envision the courtroom scenes from the novel.

There are two rooms outside the courtroom. One is a gallery that is devoted to Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird. The second gallery is devoted to another former citizen of Monroeville – the tiny terror who would become known as Truman Capote. Each exhibition provides some great photos of the two authors as well as information about their contributions to American literature and their relationships to their Alabama home.

Despite all the literature history, there is a certain eerie feeling for an avid reader on a pilgrimage to Monroeville. After all, Harper Lee is still alive and living a few blocks away from the town square. She’s 82 years of age, has recently had a stroke, and now lives in an assisted living facility.

Lee casts a long shadow over the town. Several businesses have “mockingbird” in their title, including a great eatery called the Mockingbird Café, recently re-opened after some unknown event. A mockingbird mural appears on a car dealership. There are other references.

Leaving your home because a hurricane is bearing down on it is an unpleasant feeling – what an understatement. Going to a place where history has been recorded was a welcome though brief respite.

I have a strange feeling I will return to Monroeville, Alabama.