Things are always better in the morning

By Gary Lloyd

Remember that episode of Seinfeld, the one where George drives so fast on the way to the Bubble Boy’s house that he leaves Jerry in the dust?

“We’re making incredible time here!” George exclaims.

That’s typically me on a road trip.

Fast food? I can wait.

Rest area? I can wait.

Priester’s Pecans? OK, I have only so much willpower.

The sculpture of three Depression-era children reading To Kill a Mockingbird (photo by Gary Lloyd)

I recently drove back to Trussville from Gulf Shores and made a 9 a.m. stop in Monroeville, not for a McDonald’s or a bathroom, but for a memory. I had always wanted to see the small town that produced author Harper Lee and her masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, and to a smaller though not insignificant degree fellow author Truman Capote. I planned to see a couple historic markers and the Old Courthouse Museum’s exterior, perhaps a 20-minute detour.

I stayed for over an hour. I parked at The Faulk Building, which includes four types of lofts: the Scout, Atticus, Harper and Capote. I crossed Alabama Avenue to find the stately Old Courthouse Museum, the most famous courtroom in literature. I walked around it twice. I saw a rock monument to Atticus Finch, Mockingbird-themed birdhouses big as Yeti coolers, a sculpture of three Depression-era children reading the novel, and a Literary Landmarks Register marker dedicated to Truman Capote. Chirping birds overwhelmed any low rumble of nearby traffic.

Monroeville was near impossible to leave. I parked at a bank and walked to the former home location of Capote’s family, where he spent summer vacations. I pulled in at the Monroe County Public Library and read a historic marker about Lucas’ Raiders dashing through Monroeville during the Civil War. I drove a half mile to Pineville Cemetery, where I encountered a Greyhound full of tourists visiting Lee’s modest gravesite. Her full name, Nelle Harper Lee, was encircled by 39 pennies, one seashell, numerous rocks, a pair of Mardi Gras beads, a couple potted plants, white flowers, and a ceramic dinner plate.

I returned to downtown Monroeville to snag every leaflet and trifold the town could offer me. Maybe some day I’ll rent one of those lofts. I preferred the Harper, personally. I walked the downtown streets to discover just how impactful that Pulitzer Prize-winning novel published in 1960 still is. It, along with other books by Lee, Capote and more, are painted on one building. A mockingbird is painted on the side of Lee Motor Co. Autographed copies of the novel were available at Johnson Jewelers. A title company next door was called Mockingbird Title, LLC.

As I made my way up North Mt. Pleasant Avenue toward where my truck was parked on Pineville Road, because I had three more hours to drive without stopping at Priester’s Pecans this time, some orange and red banners caught my eye. I guess they hadn’t stood when I had first arrived, when that courthouse was my sole focus. I approached an orange one, several feet above my head, and squinted in the morning sun.

On the bottom, “Monroeville Main Street.”

Above that in white cursive, “Write your chapter here.”

In Monroeville, I believe I could.

Gary Lloyd is the author of six books and is a contributing writer to the Cahaba Sun.

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