At 7am the air was muggy and dark grey clouds covered the skies of Birmingham, Alabama. I packed my backpack and requested an Uber to the airport.
The driver, James, short with a ginger goatee, was dressed in a formal shirt that was tucked into khaki trousers. He was an Alabama native who was just finishing his shift early on a Sunday morning so he could get to church.
“I’m gone meet my wife at church just as soon as I’m done dropping you off,” he said, “Now, I won’t be offended but what do you think of our current political situation?”
I had expected the question to come up at some point during my stay. I was travelling through all red states and I guessed people would naturally be curious about how their president, the man for whom the majority of the people in these states voted, was being perceived elsewhere in the world.
“Well, as an outsider, I can’t really judge on the day to day aspect, only what’s been presented in the media. I know the media can skew things but from things he has said, admitted to, and done while in office and in the campaign, I can’t say I would’ve voted for him.”
“Obama is behind ISIS, did you know that?” He took his eyes off the road and held my gaze to make sure I knew I was being let in on a huge conspiracy that might not have crossed the pond.
My first flight took me to Tampa where I waited for two hours before getting another flight to Nashville. The original plan was to drive but failure to book a rental from Birmingham sooner meant that the good (read: cheap) deals had gone, and flying worked out cheaper.
The first thing that struck me about Nashville was how beautiful and verdant it looked.
The city was currently under the thumb of a small storm – nothing like the one I’d experienced in Birmingham – but when I reached my accommodation I was greeted by something I’d been meaning to try for a long time: cronuts, provided my by host, Megan.
Cronuts are a genius mixture between a croissant and a doughnut, resulting in layers of flaky pastry filled with any number of flavoured creams, mousses, or jams.
I was presented with a chocolate moose tracks iced cronut filled with peanut butter and chocolate icing.
“I can usually only take one bite and I’m full,” Megan said by which point I was halfway to finishing.
The second cronut was a vanilla cronut filled with vanilla cream. This didn’t last long either.
“You should come by my bakery and see what else we do. I’ll hook you up with more.”
For the first time in my life, I felt an addiction building and, again for the first time, I had a dealer willing to take my money in exchange for my fix: sweet, flaky pastries.