Go map geeks! These maps & cartograms are totally fascinating. Also this purple states map.

Looking at these various visual aids, I see that I was wrong about being in red territory during our Southern trip. I think we actually spent much of our time in bluish-purple areas. I guess that would explain all the Kerry signs, huh? We did cross through various red & reddish-purple areas, so overall I think the trip was a pretty good mix. Could we feel the difference? Maybe. This might be coincidence, but I found Birmingham quite depressing, for no particular reason I could name at the time. If you look at the map, it's a much redder purple than you might expect for a city of its size, especially compared to the bluish-purple Memphis we had just left a couple days before.

But you know, even these relatively nuanced maps are still huge generalizations. The highlight of Birmingham was our visit to Joe Minter's sculpture garden, African Village in America. We had spent a good hour or so wandering through his amazing installations & were about to leave when he happened to come home. He very generously showed us around & talked at length about his work. I was struck by the realization that people in Birmingham who see Joe on the street with his heavily-decorated staff must think he's a total nutcase, & yet out of all the people we met & spoke with on the trip, I probably identified with him the most. Which makes sense because I'm sure a lot of people in clean-cut Birmingham think Berkeley is full of raving wackos, & I feel right at home here.

Here is Joe with his staff. He also has a big piece he wears around his neck, which I think contributes a lot to the nutjob perception, but he'd taken it off by the time I took this picture.