Dothan, Alabama is the peanut capital of the world. I am not certain the world needs a peanut capital, but the 10-foot tall peanut which stands outside of the National Peanut Festival grounds and the helicopter rides which fly over the peanut festival grounds, and the twenty acres dedicated to peanut farmers and harvest season suggest otherwise. There are boiled peanuts, salted peanuts, plain peanuts, brittled peanuts, Charles Schultz’s Peanuts, peanut butters, Peanut the Puppet, odd peanut shells which hold three, four and even five nuts, and a thousand other varieties, which you imagine could bring anaphylactic shock to a whole host of schoolchildren. Unfortunately, Southwest Airlines’ peanuts are unavailable here as the size of your nut bag is apparently pretty important. It has been very difficult for me to walk around here without laughing.
Also on Dothan’s list of do-not-miss tourist sites, is the world’s smallest city block. It consists of a small gravel triangle with a stop sign, a yield sign, a street sign and a headstone which designates its title. I’ve considered remarking on this landmark but one of the Yelp comments summed it up better than I ever could, “The memory of this place will last a lifetime, or at least until you get back to your car.”
After taking the twelve requisite minutes to cover Dothan’s tourist attractions, I returned to the tennis tournament. Today’s second round of qualifying exhibited more error-prone power than a James Comey interview. This is an $80,000 event held at a public facility which boasts green clay the color of Kermit the Frog after a bender. An upper deck looks out over the courts and several cocktail-toting locals watch the tennis and make enough “oohing and aahing” sounds that you start to wonder whether something inappropriate is happening up there. Television camera crews stalk the grounds in search of good vantage points and if you happen to stray into their camera shot, they resemble those blow-up things outside the car dealerships.
In this tournament, 32 women will battle for four qualifying spots to join the other 28 competitors in the Main Draw. Getting through qualies is a bit like driving LA’s 405 toward the airport. If you can stay mentally tough and avoid accidents, it’s possible to navigate your way there. Even if you make it though, you’ll be exhausted and sore and annoyed with the journey. Your reward is the main draw, which is akin to getting through four hours of traffic to find out you have a 19-hour flight to Brisbane.
Today’s matches had women from Israel, France, Russia, Italy, Canada, Brazil, Chinese Taipei, and the US. Tomorrow, the survivors will battle in the final round before the Main. I imagine the rest of them will go home thinking Dothan is the quintessential American experience. That should terrify all of us, but if so, I hope they take some peanuts for the ride.