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London Calling: Public Phone Boxes and Telephone Essentials

Photo of a red London phone booth with snow on top, in front of the iconic Big Ben.
London calling. Photo © Adrian Clark, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The country code for the United Kingdom is 44, and there are three main area code prefixes for London: 020 7, 020 8, and 020 3. Area codes are called “STD codes” (in case you’re wondering, STD stands for “subscriber trunk dialing” and means that you don’t need an operator to place the call). Originally, 020 7 was meant to cover “central London” with the 020 8 number for outer London. Of course, as it is a massive metropolis, London soon needed more phone numbers, so the 020 3 prefix was introduced.

[pullquote align=”right”]Attitudes toward receiving phone calls at night are generally a bit more conservative here than they are in the States.[/pullquote]If you are calling London from the United States, then you do not need to dial the leading 0 in the area code—just dial 011 44 20 and then the rest of the number. If you are in London and calling a number with a different area code on a landline, then you can drop the 020 and just start dialing with 7, 8, or 3, as required. With a cell phone, however, you will also need to include the 020 part of the prefix. If you are making a local call to a phone number within the same area code, you do not need to dial the area code.

Outside of London, the area code prefixes follow the National Telephone Numbering Plan, and area codes can be anything from three to six digits long. The numbering system is not geographic, so don’t expect all Scottish numbers to begin with a certain number, for example. Unlike in the United States, where all phone numbers are usually seven digits long and the area codes are three digits, the number of digits in a British telephone number and a regional STD dialing code can vary. You can even get STD dialing codes that are longer than the actual phone number.

All British cell phones start with one of the following prefixes: 074, 075, 077, 078, or 079. The prefixes for “freephone” numbers (toll-free numbers) in the United Kingdom are 0500, 0800, and 0808. (Be aware that British mobile operators may charge for calls to freephone numbers.) Numbers beginning with 09, 118, and 0871/2/3 are premium rate and cost more than the standard rate.

Attitudes toward receiving phone calls at night are generally a bit more conservative here than they are in the States. As a guide I do not tend to phone past 9 p.m. unless I know the person really, really well or it’s an emergency—I’ll send a text message or email instead. Perhaps this is a hangover from when I had younger kids that could be easily awakened by the sound of a phone ringing, but still I try to be considerate about when I use the phone here.

Public Phone Boxes in London

Even though most Londoners have cell phones, you’ll still find brightly painted red call boxes dotted around town. The ones that say “telephone” are coin operated and the ones that say “phone card” only take cards. These days the minimum cost for a call from a public phone call box is 60p (20p for the call and 40p for the connection), and it will give you up to 30 minutes for either a local or national call, though some phone numbers are excluded from this tariff. With the old-style British public phones, you should dial first and only insert your change when you hear the beeping sound (your cue to put the coins in), which means that the call has been answered. With the more modern phone boxes, you put the money in first before you dial, as you do in the States. Other ways to pay for your call from a public phone box include getting a phone card from British Telecom or using your credit/debit card and PIN number. If you are going to be making several international calls you may want to get an international phone card from your local post office. Some of the call boxes in London (as elsewhere in the United Kingdom) are very sophisticated these days and will let you send a text message, email, or fax.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Living Abroad in London.

Start Reading We Are Here by Michael Marshall

We Are Here by Michael MarshallThis week, Mulholland Books published Michael Marshall’s supernatural suspense novel, We Are Here. If you’ve been keeping up with Michael’s interviews, you’ll note he talks a lot about how this novel is about friendship, even as we’ve talked about how We Are Here features shadowy figures who may or may not be watching your every move. Curious about how the two intersect? Then read the beguiling scene that opens the book:

He drove. There were times when he stopped for gas or to empty his bladder or buy cups of poor coffee out of machines, selecting isolated and windswept gas stations where no one was doing anything except filling up and staring vacantly at their cold hand on the pump as they waited,
wanting to be back in their warm car and on the road to wherever it was they had to be. Nobody was looking or watching or caring about anyone who might happen to be doing the same thing. Nobody saw anything except another guy in bulky clothing getting into a big car and pulling
back out onto the highway.

Sometimes it was raining. Sometimes there was sleet. Sometimes merely the wind coming across the great flatness. He did not listen to the radio. He did not consult a map. He didn’t know where he was going and so he did not care where he was.

He just drove.

Continue reading “Start Reading We Are Here by Michael Marshall”

The Lineup: Weekly Links

Contrasted ConfinementThis week we welcome Richard Montanari’s THE STOLEN ONES and Michael Marshall’s WE ARE HERE to the Mulholland Books family!

Michael Marshall’s WE ARE HERE was selected as a Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, and Marshall’s newest was the subject of great UK reviews, including a rave in the Guardian review which praised the novel as a “chilling” read that “posits the world as a sort of multidimensional palimpsest.”
proclaimed the novel “Marshall puts the pieces together to unsettling effect . . . a winning duo,” going on to praise the novel’s “edgy storytelling and ambition.”

Richard Montanari’s newest entry in the Byrne and Balzano series THE STOLEN ONES received a great review in Publishers Weekly, who called the novel “gripping … thrilling” and even “gothic.” Over at Pop Culture Nerd, Jen Forbus of Jen’s Book Thoughts says the novel “invokes the strongest elements of the thriller, the mystery, and the horror novel, so whether you enjoy plot, character, or scare-your-pants-off suspense, it delivers.” For more on Montanari’s latest, check out  Montanari’s conversation with Michael Marshall right here on the Mulholland Books site on their new novels and the art of crafting supernatural-tinged suspense.

Interested in hearing more from Richard Montanari and Michael Marshall? Both authors have forthcoming events: on March 5th, Montanari will participate in a public Q&A with Tess Gerritsen on Goodreads. And on March 10th, Michael Marshall will be chatting with Malinda Lo and Kaye Wells in a Google Hangout moderated by Amal El-Mohtar. Please join us for these conversations!

William Shaw’s SHE’S LEAVING HOME was released a few weeks back to excellent trade reviews, including a starred review from Library Journalwho wrote of the Shaw’s fiction debut: “This outstanding novel is a reminder of the multiple joys of a straight-ahead, by-the-numbers police procedural with quirky characters, crisp dialogue, and in this case, a healthy dose of period detail.” BookPage calls the book “highly recommended,” going on to praise Shaw’s novel as a “standout job … Shaw’s dialogue is well developed and his period detail is razor sharp, immersing the reader in the tumultuous era of swinging London with immediately relatable characters.” For the inspiration behind this historical mystery set around the hysteria of late 60’s Beatlemania in London, check out Shaw’s essay for on the Apple Scruffs, and don’t miss Shaw’s introductory post on his novel, the playlist of Tozer’s favorite songs, and the below book trailer for SHE’S LEAVING HOME right here at Mulholland.

C. J. Sansom’s DOMINION has continued to get some excellent coverage in the weeks since its late-January release. Jocelyn McClurg of USA Today praised C. J. Sansom’s DOMINION in a 3.5/4 star review, calling the book “exciting” and going on to write: “What elevates Dominion above sheer white-knuckle entertainment …  are Samson’s empathetic, complex characters and the frighteningly believable alternative world [Sansom] creates. DOMINION‘s pages fly by in a frenzy, but this is a book that lingers.” Malcolm Forbes wrote a rave review of DOMINION for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, calling the novel “a highly charged and deeply inventive literary thriller . . . An exhilarating page-turner . . . Alternative history on a grand scale.” And be sure to check out C. J. Sansom’s essay on the dangers of nationalism right here at the Mulholland Books website.

Doug Dorst sat down with the Daily Beast for an insightful conversation on Dorst’s writing process, both in general and with specifics on the challenges of writing S. Elsewhere, i09 picked up the story of an enigmatic blogger named Jen Heyward (from where do we know that name?) appears to have discovered and translated an alternate final chapter of the illusive, legendary author’s final novel The Ship of Theseus. Some tanatalizing screengrabs of the chapter in full here….

Savannah Nightlife: A Guide to the Top Bars, Clubs, and Live Music

Photo of Savannah, Georgia at night featuring a docked riverboat.
Savannah by night. Photo © Jeffery Turner, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

If you like to have a good time, you’re in the right place. Savannah is known for its heavy year-round schedule of festivals, many of them outdoors, as well as its copious variety of watering holes hosting a diverse range of local residents and adventurous visitors.

[pullquote align=”right”]The ability to legally walk downtown streets with beer, wine, or a cocktail in hand also contributes to the overall joie de vivre.[/pullquote]

Savannah is a hard-drinking town, and not just on St. Patrick’s Day. Visitors expecting a Bible Belt atmosphere are sometimes surprised— often, it must be said, pleasantly so—at Savannah’s high tolerance for intoxication and its associated behavior patterns. A few years ago a city councilman decided he’d had a few too many and simply got a ride home from an on-duty cop. The ability to legally walk downtown streets with beer, wine, or a cocktail in hand also contributes to the overall joie de vivre.

A party here is never far away any night of the week, so it makes sense to begin this section with a close, loving look at the bars, pubs, and taverns that are the heart of Savannah’s social scene and really make it tick. Bars close in Savannah at 3 a.m., a full hour later than in Charleston. One catch: Due to Georgia’s notorious blue laws, establishments that serve alcohol that do not derive at least 50 percent of their revenue from food may not open on Sundays. A city-wide indoor smoking ban is in effect and you may not smoke cigarettes in any bar in Savannah.

Bars and Pubs in Savannah

Uncharacteristically, Savannah now sports several good hotel bars, and chief among them is no doubt Rocks on the Roof (102 W. Bay St., 912/721-3800, daily 11 a.m.–3 p.m.) atop the Bohemian Hotel Savannah on the waterfront. In good weather the exterior walls are opened up to reveal a large wraparound seating area with stunning views of downtown on one side and of the Savannah River on the other. The crowd is a fun mix of locals and visitors.

Savannah’s best dive—and I mean that in the nicest way—is Pinkie Masters (318 Drayton St., 912/238-0447, Mon.–Fri. 4 p.m.–3 a.m., Sat. 5 p.m.–3 a.m.). Named for a legendary local political kingmaker, Pinkie’s is a favorite not only with students, artists, and professors but also with lawyers, journalists, and grizzled war vets. This is where Jimmy Carter, ironically a teetotaler, stood on the bar and announced his candidacy for Georgia governor. The service is very informal; bartenders often finish their shift and simply take their place on a barstool with the customers. Think of Hang Fire (27 Whitaker St., 912/443-9956, Mon.–Sat. 5 p.m.–3 a.m.) as Pinkie’s, the new generation. Only a few years old, this Whitaker Street haunt, occupying the site of downtown’s last strip bar, is already one of the most popular bars in town and, like Pinkie’s, caters to a wide range of people who seem to get along in more or less perfect harmony. Trivia nights on Tuesdays are a hoot.

One of the hottest hangouts downtown is The Distillery (416 W. Liberty St., 912/236- 1772), located in, yes, a former distillery. As such, the atmosphere isn’t exactly dark and romantic—it’s sort of one big open room—but the excellent location at the corner of MLK Jr. Boulevard and Liberty Street, the long vintage bar, and the great selection of beers on tap combine to make this a happening spot. The real hipsters hang out in ironic fashion drinking PBRs at the American Legion Bar (1108 Bull St., 912/233-9277), located in, yes, an actual American Legion post. While the Legionnaires themselves are a straight-laced patriotic bunch, the patrons of “the Legion,” as the bar is colloquially known, tend toward the counterculture. The drinks are some of the cheapest in town. Fun historical fact: The building housing the Legion was the birthplace of the U.S. 8th Air Force during World War II.

The main landmark on the west end of River Street is the famous (or infamous, depending on which side of “The Troubles” you’re on) Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub (117 W. River St., 912/233-9626, daily 11 a.m.–3 a.m.), one of Savannah’s most beloved establishments. KB’s keeps alive the spirit of Irish independence. It’s open seven days a week, with evenings seeing performances by a number of Irish troubadours, all veterans of the East Coast trad circuit. An eclectic mix of travelers, local Irish, military, and sailors keeps this place always interesting and alive. While no one in their right mind goes to an Irish pub for the food, Kevin Barry’s offers a good, solid range of typical fare, including serviceable corned beef and cabbage. Check out the view of the river from the second-floor “Hall of Heroes,” featuring tons of military memorabilia and 9/11 tributes.

Don’t get too excited about the “rooftop dining” advertised at Churchill’s Pub & Restaurant (13–17 W. Bay St., 912/232- 8501, Mon.–Fri. 5 p.m.–3 a.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–3 a.m., kitchen until 10 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 11 p.m. Fri.–Sat.), unless you enjoy looking at the sides of other buildings. The fish-and-chips here are among the best in town. The “other” English pub in town, Six Pence Pub (245 Bull St., 912/233- 3151, daily 11:30 a.m.–midnight), is centrally located off Chippewa Square downtown, and though more popular with visitors than with locals, it is still a good place to stop in for a pint on a rainy day. Look for the big red London telephone booth out front.

The only brewpub in Savannah, Moon River Brewing Company (21 W. Bay St., 912/447-0943, Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–midnight, Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.) directly across from the Hyatt Regency, offers half a dozen handcrafted beers—from a pale ale to a stout and all points between.

Gay and Lesbian Bars in Savannah

Any examination of gay and lesbian nightlife in Savannah must, of course, begin with Club One Jefferson (1 Jefferson St., 912/232-0200) of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, with its famous drag shows, including the notorious Lady Chablis, upstairs in the cabaret, and its rockin’ 1,000-square-foot dance floor downstairs. Cabaret showtimes are Thursday–Saturday 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., Sunday 10:30 p.m., and Monday 11:30 p.m. Call for Lady Chablis’s showtimes. As with all local gay nightclubs, straights are more than welcome. A friendly, kitschy little tavern at the far west end of River Street near the Jefferson Street ramp, Chuck’s Bar (301 W. River St., 912/232- 1005, Mon.– Wed. 8 p.m.–3 a.m., Thurs.–Sat. 7 p.m.–3 a.m.) is a great place to relax and see some interesting local characters. Karaoke at Chuck’s is especially a hoot, and they keep the Christmas lights up all year.

Live Music and Karaoke in Savannah

Despite its high-volume offerings, the hardcore and heavy metal club The Jinx (127 W. Congress St., 912/236-2281, Mon.–Sat. 4 p.m.–3 a.m.) is a friendly watering hole and probably the closest thing Savannah has to a full-on Athens, Georgia, music club. Shows start very late here, never before 11 p.m. and often later than that. If you’re here for the show, bring earplugs. The other live rock club of note in Savannah is Live Wire Music Hall (307 W. River St., 912/233-1192, Mon.–Thurs. 4 p.m.–3 a.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–3 a.m.). The music is on the ground floor, while the second floor has a bar and a few pool tables.

Savannah’s undisputed karaoke champion is McDonough’s (21 E. McDonough St., 912/233-6136, Mon.–Sat. 8 p.m.–3 a.m., Sun. 8 p.m.–2 a.m.), an advantage compounded by the fact that a lot more goes on here than karaoke. The kitchen at McDonough’s is quite capable, and many locals swear you can get the best burger in town. Despite the sports bar atmosphere, the emphasis here is on the karaoke, which ramps up every night at 9:30 p.m., and a very competent group of regulars never fails to entertain. The crowd here is surprisingly diverse, racially and socioeconomically mixed, featuring lawyers and students, rural folks and Rangers in equal numbers.

Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Charleston & Savannah.

David Baldacci on King & Maxwell

Created over a decade ago, David Baldacci’s King & Maxwell series has been adapted for television, and the 10-part series will start on the UK’s Alibi TV on Wednesday, 5th March. We’re excited to say that we conducted an interview with David a few weeks ago and asked him to tell us a bit more about the series. Read the full interview here.

A Brief History of Nome, Alaska

An antique sepia tone photo of Nome, Alaska from September 1899.
Nome, Alaska in September 1899. Photo sourced by Snapshots of the Past, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.
In 1898 the “three lucky Swedes,” Jafet Lindberg, Erik Lindblom, and John Brynteson, discovered fabulous deposits of gold in Anvil Creek above present-day Nome. Word reached Dawson the next spring, and by fall 10,000 stampeders had arrived and set up tents on the beach, only to have them blown away by a fierce September storm that prompted a migration inland. There, more gold was found; in fact, placer deposits were carried by most streams that emptied into the Bering Sea.

[pullquote align=”right”]Twenty thousand prospectors crowded the coast by 1900, fully one-third of the white population in Alaska at the time.[/pullquote]Twenty thousand prospectors crowded the coast by 1900, fully one-third of the white population in Alaska at the time. For a time it was the territory’s largest city. A railroad had been built to Anvil Creek, which produced several dozen million-dollar claims. Some became rich, but many people who had bought one-way passage to the gold fields found themselves destitute, and the Army had to be brought in to get them home before the winter of 1901. Judge James Wickersham brought law and order to Nome in 1902 after the first judge was convicted of corruption. Several devastating fires and storms have destroyed most of Nome’s historic downtown buildings, but a few of the original buildings survive.

In 1925 a diphtheria epidemic required emergency delivery of serum from Nenana, 650 miles overland by dogsled. Through the heroic efforts of mushers and dogs, the serum arrived in time to save many lives. This event is commemorated today in the famous Iditarod Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome. The race takes place every March and turns Nome into a late-winter carnival.

During World War II, Nome was a major transfer point for lend-lease aircraft being sent to Russia from the United States. The planes were flown up to Alaska from the Lower 48 states, transferred to Russian pilots in Fairbanks, and then flown on to Nome and the Soviet Union. Almost 8,000 planes came through Nome 1942–1945, with most making it to the front for use in the war against Germany.

Today, Nome survives on small-scale gold mining, tourism, and as a regional center for the Seward Peninsula. Many visitors try their luck at panning for gold along the beaches here. Nome is a good place to buy ivory and other artwork in the various gift shops, along with imported crafts from Russia. Of course, the Iditarod Race focuses international attention on Nome every March.

Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Alaska.

Map of Nome, Alaska

Richard Montanari and Michael Marshall in Conversation

The Stolen Ones by Richard MontanariToday Mulholland Books has the great pleasure of publishing two chilling, supernatural-tinged thrillers: The Stolen Ones by Richard Montanari and We Are Here by Michael Marshall. While the two novels make for complementary reading, they couldn’t be more different. The Stolen Ones centers on killers who haunt forgotten catacombs and our dreams; We Are Here ventures that some of us really are being followed, but not by anyone we could imagine.

In the exchange that follows, Michael Marshall and Richard Montanari discuss their new novels and question each other about setting, genre, the writing process, and that all-important question for any writer: “How do I start?”

Michael Marshall: What was the genesis moment for The Stolen Ones? The idea that, in retrospect, caused the book to eventually exist? Was it recent—kind of like “This is what the next book’s going to be about”? Or did this book have to wait its turn to be ready to be written?

Richard Montanari: All my books begin with a “what if?” The Stolen Ones began with “What if the dreams of a killer could be implanted in another human being?” I put the idea on a shelf for a while, until I was able to gather together some of the shadowy research that has gone on in this area.  The dream therapies in The Stolen Ones can happen.  Once I was satisfied with that, the story took off.

We Are Here by Michael MarshallWe Are Here moves effortlessly between first and third person. Did you know from the start that John would be a first person character? What are the challenges of writing a novel from alternating points of view?

Marshall: I started using the combination of first and third back with The Straw Men, purely because I thought it might be interesting. I hoped to combine the intimacy of the first person with the broader perspective and freedom of the third person, and I’ve been doing it so long now that to be honest I’ve stopped noticing I’m even doing it — except when it comes to selecting the first person voice for a particular novel.

John was the obvious choice for We Are Here, partly because he’d been the first person voice in a previous novel, Bad Things (though it might have be interesting to switch him to third, precisely because of that), and also because he and Kristina form the backbone of the novel as a whole. The first person needs to be the person inside the book, the mainspring of the story’s action. John’s that guy.

Continue reading “Richard Montanari and Michael Marshall in Conversation”

Religion in Guatemala: Mayan Spirituality, Catholicism, and Christianity

A wooden cross and figurines of saints in orange robes propped against a wall.
Saints displayed in Santiago de Atitlan’s Catholic church. Photo © Valery Shanin/123rf.

Religion in Guatemala is fairly complex, with traditional Mayan spirituality still very much a presence, particularly in the highlands, along with Catholicism and the more recent incursions of Evangelical Christianity. In much smaller numbers, Guatemala’s Jewish population is centered in Guatemala City. There is also a small Muslim population with at least one mosque in Guatemala City.

Mayan Spirituality

[pullquote align=”right”]The Mayan calendar is still in use in parts of Guatemala today, particularly in the Western Highlands, and is pegged closely to the agricultural cycle.[/pullquote]Mayan spirituality has its origins in pre-Columbian religious practices and a cosmology that venerated natural phenomena, including rivers, mountains, and caves. The soaring temples built by the Mayan and other Mesoamerican civilizations were built to mimic mountains and were usually built in alignment with the cardinal directions. The solstices were very important in this regard and many of their temple pyramids and observatories were built in precise fashion so as to mark these events. Caves were also sacred to the Mayans and believed to be passages to the underworld, a belief that persists to this day. Archaeologists speculate that at least one powerful economic center, Cancuén, lacked buildings of strictly religious significance because of its proximity to the massive Candelaria cave network nearby.

The Mayan calendar is still in use in parts of Guatemala today, particularly in the Western Highlands, and is pegged closely to the agricultural cycle. Maize is a sacred crop and is believed to have been the basis for the modern formation of man by the gods, as told in the K’iche’ book of myths and legends, the Popol Vuh, discovered by a Spanish priest in Chichicastenango in the 18th century. Although the vast majority of the Mayans’ sacred writings were burned by Bishop Diego de Landa in a 16th-century Yucatán bonfire, three Mayan texts, known as codices, survive in European museums. The Chilam Balam is another sacred book based on partially salvaged Yucatecan documents from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Modern-day Mayan religious practices, also known as costumbre, often take place in caves, archaeological sites, and volcanic summits. They often include offerings of candles, flowers, and liquor with the sacrifice of a chicken or other small animal thrown in for good measure.

Another curiosity of the Western Highlands is the veneration of a folk saint known alternatively as Maximón or San Simón, with a particularly persistent following in Santiago Atitlán and Zunil. The cigar-smoking, liquor-drinking idol is a thorn in the side of many Catholic and Evangelical groups, whose followers sometimes profess conversion to Christianity but often still hold allegiance to Maximón, who is thought to represent Judas or Pedro de Alvarado. Syncretism, combining Mayan religious beliefs and Catholicism, is a major player in highland Mayan spirituality.

The cult following of folk saints is also tied to the presence of cofradías, a form of Mayan community leadership with roots in Catholic lay brotherhoods wielding religious and political influences. The cofradías are responsible for organizing religious festivities in relation to particular folk saints and a different member of the cofradía harbors the Maximón idol in his home every year.

The Catholic Church

Catholicism has played an important role in Guatemala ever since colonial times, though the state increasingly took measures to limit its power starting in the late 19th century, when liberal reformers confiscated church property and secularized education. More recently, the Church wrestled with its official mandate of saving souls and its moral obligation to alleviate the misery and injustice experienced by many of its subjects, particularly the Mayans. Many parish priests, faced with the atrocities and injustices of the civil war, adopted the tenets of Liberation Theology, seeking a more just life in the here and now and officially opposing the military’s scorched-earth campaign throughout the highlands. Many clergy paid for their beliefs with their lives or were forced into exile. Even after the civil war ended, Bishop Juan Gerardi was murdered in the days after his issuance of a scathing report on civil war atrocities perpetrated mostly by the military. The Church remains a watchdog and defender of the poor, which is evident in the ongoing work of the Archbishop’s Human Rights Office.

Although there are many churches throughout the country, the Catholic Church often has trouble finding priests to fill them, a factor that has contributed to the explosive growth of Evangelical Christianity. Pope John Paul II visited Guatemala three times during his term at the helm of the Vatican; the last visit was for the purpose of canonizing Antigua’s beloved Hermano Pedro de San José Betancur.

Catholicism can still draw a big crowd, though, most noticeably during Holy Week, with its elaborate processions reenacting Christ’s crucifixion, and the annual pilgrimage to Esquipulas on January 16 to pay homage to the Black Christ in the town’s basilica.

Evangelical Christianity

According to some estimates, a third of Guatemala now claims adherence to Protestantism and, more specif ically, Evangelical Christianity. The growth of this sect will become obvious as you travel around the country and hear the sounds of loud evening worship services, known as cultos, emanating from numerous churches, particularly in the highlands. The trend toward Evangelical Christianity dates to the aftermath of the 1975 earthquake, which destroyed several villages throughout the highlands. International aid agencies, several of them overtly Christian, rushed in to Guatemala at a time of great need and gained many grateful converts in the process. During the worst of the civil war violence of the 1980s, many Guatemalans sought comfort in the belief of a better life despite the hardships of the present. Other factors making Evangelical Christianity attractive to Guatemalans include the tendency toward vibrant expressions of faith, spontaneity, and the lack of a hierarchy, which makes spiritual leaders more accessible to common people.

A notorious legacy of Guatemala’s trend toward Protestantism was the dictatorship of Efraín Ríos Montt, a prominent member of Guatemala City’s Iglesia El Verbo (Church of the Word), who sermonized Guatemalans on subjects including morality, Christian virtues, and the evils of communism via weekly TV broadcasts. Meanwhile, a scorched-earth campaign aimed at exterminating the guerrilla presence raged in the highlands, though violence in the cities was widely curtailed and order somewhat restored. He faces charges of genocide in a Spanish court, though it’s doubtful he will ever be brought to justice. Also disturbing was the brief presidency of Jorge Serrano Elías, another self-proclaimed Evangelical now exiled in Panama after he dissolved congress in a failed autocoup, which ended in his ouster a few days later. His government faced widespread corruption charges.

On a more promising note, it is a well-documented fact that some Guatemalan villages have converted to Evangelical Christianity almost in their entirety with astounding results. The town of Almolonga, near Quetzaltenango, is a particular case in point. Alcoholism, which once ran rampant (as in other parts of the highlands), is now virtually unheard of and the city jail has been closed for years. It is hailed as a “miracle city” by Evangelical leaders, who like to point out that it was once a hotbed of cult worship for the folk idol Maximón. The town exports its fantastic fruits and vegetables to El Salvador, including carrots the size of a human arm, making it very prosperous.

Evangelicals these days, while still adhering to the belief in a better afterlife, are also very much focused on making things better in the here and now. There is a growing movement toward producing a generation of morally grounded political leaders with a vision to develop the country along inclusive lines that address Guatemala’s substantial needs and challenges, though it remains to be seen if they can overcome the unfortunate legacy handed to them by the substandard Christian leadership experienced by Guatemalans thus far.

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Guatemala.

Spectator Sports in Atlanta, Georgia

The sun and clouds over Turner baseball field in Atlanta, Georgia.
Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo © David Berkowitz, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.
The term “fair weather fan” may have been coined with Atlantans in mind. Atlanta sports fans are among the most lukewarm in the United States, at least with regards to professional sports. College football, on the other hand…

[pullquote align=”right”] A day at The Ted is an iconic Atlanta experience, both because of the ballpark’s own charms (including above-average food) as well as the fact that Braves fans tend to be very well behaved.[/pullquote]

The major league baseball Atlanta Braves (Turner Field, 755 Hank Aaron Dr. SE) play at Turner Field, aka “The Ted,” and are quite popular by Atlanta standards. But you can usually score tickets ($30-80) since the games rarely sell out, with average attendance hovering around 30,000. A day at The Ted is an iconic Atlanta experience, both because of the ballpark’s own charms (including above-average food) as well as the fact that Braves fans tend to be very well behaved. Unlike many metro area ballparks, there are plenty of pay-parking areas within a quick walk, about $10 per car. The closest MARTA stop is Five Points Station, which isn’t close to the stadium at all, but every game day special Braves shuttles run from Underground Atlanta right across from Five Points directly to Turner Field and back again. The Braves shuttle is free with a MARTA transfer ticket; alternatively you can buy a Breeze card ($5.50) at Underground Atlanta. Shuttles begin 90 minutes before game time.

The NFL Atlanta Falcons (1 Georgia Dome Dr., 404/223-8444) play at the Georgia Dome just down the road from Turner Field. There is a Georgia Dome MARTA stop, but the Vine City Station is about as close. Tickets run anywhere from $60-180.

The NBA Atlanta Hawks (1 Philips Dr., 404/878-3000) play in the newish Philips Arena next to the CNN Center Downtown. While the team is much better these days than in some eras past, the games almost never sell out and single game tickets are quite affordable considering the upscale experience in “The Phil” (even the restrooms are nice). There’s a Philips Arena MARTA Station that drops you off right here, so transportation and parking are no excuses not to go.

The Atlanta Silverbacks (3200 Silverbacks Way, 404/969-4900) play professional soccer at the second-tier level in the North American Soccer League. Their home pitch is the soccer-specific Silverbacks Park in Chamblee, just outside town, which once hosted an Adidas commercial featuring David Beckham.

Atlanta has had two professional hockey teams in the past, the Atlanta Flames (which departed for Calgary in 1980) and the Atlanta Thrashers (who moved to Winnipeg in 2011). Currently the only pro action on the ice is from the Gwinnett Gladiators (Arena at Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Pkwy., 770/497-5100), who play in Duluth.

Autumn in the South means college football. Like most Georgians, Atlanta mostly roots for the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, but in-town the hottest ticket is for Georgia Tech home football games. The Yellow Jackets play Downtown at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field at North Avenue and Techwood Drive on the corner of campus (the Yellow Jackets’ chief rivals, the Georgia Bulldogs, jokingly refer to Tech as the “North Avenue Trade School”).

For years Georgia State University was primarily known as an urban commuter school, but the addition of a high-level football program in 2010 immediately made the Georgia State Panthers (1 Georgia Dome Dr.) a high-profile enterprise. They play in the Georgia Dome.

Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Georgia.

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