Birmingham Man Released from Hospital After Drinking Unsweet Tea at Southside Restaurant

A Birmingham man was released from St. Vincent’s Hospital this morning after a touch-and-go night in the Emergency Room. Rapid responders were called to the scene of a Southside restaurant Thursday evening where Lee Hightower and his wife, Geneva, had planned to enjoy an anniversary dinner. However, the celebration ended abruptly when Mr. Hightower had an attack of the vapors after being served a large glass of unsweet tea.

“It was terrible to watch,” Geneva said. “He was thirsty and got a real big gulp of it. A real big gulp.”

Witness reports vary but all agreed that what followed was traumatic for everyone especially Melanie Grubbs, the server who brought Mr. Hightower the incorrect beverage. Grubbs was given a mild sedative and taken to the back alley for some fresh air but patrons could still hear her screaming, “You said unsweet! You said unsweet!”

During the aftermath, Mr. Hightower reportedly fell to the floor and had a good, old-fashioned hissy fit. It’s understood that, while lying on his back, shoulders pressed firmly to the ground, he wildly kicked his legs into the air which one witness said was, “really impressive when he got both them going at the same time, sort of like a Forked-tail catfish outta water.”

The Emergency Response Team reported that Mr. Hightower begged them to, “Get me a green persimmon so I can get this taste out of my mouth.”

Governor Kay Ivey has set up an Unsweet Tea Support Hotline not only for people who were at the restaurant and their families but for the wider public who may be affected by the sad state of events. She held a press conference early Friday at the time of Hightower’s release during which she issued this statement:

“Mr. Hightower and his family have asked me to thank you all for this outpouring of support. Your tweets are like gold to them. They will not pursue this matter through the Alabama Justice System. There is no evidence to suggest, nor do they believe, that there was malicious intent when Miss Grubbs presented Mr. Hightower with the bitter swill. As soon as he can speak again, Mr. Hightower will address you himself. The good doctors here at St. Vincent’s have provided excellent care and expect that Mr. Hightower’s tongue cast will be removed in approximately 4 to 6 weeks and that his taste buds will make a complete recovery. Let this be a lesson to those of us who are quick to raise a tea glass to our mouths. Pour beverages for yourself or confirm first: this is sweet tea, isn’t it? Ask before you sip and never gulp unless you are sure.”


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Has anyone ever asked you if you like poetry?

I’m curious because whenever someone asks me that question, I think to myself – a better question is: can you appreciate poetry?

Liking poetry is fine. But simply liking poetry will leave you skating along the surface.

Learn to appreciate it and you will learn to love it even if you don’t like it. Even if you find a poem disturbing, heartbreaking, traumatic… Even if you hate a poem…

If you can find a poem’s higher value and contribution to the world, recognize it’s worth, and see the wider implications, you’ll begin to feel the same tinge of passion or pain that the poet felt when they wrote it.

Today, as our ability to interpret art moves from simply ‘reading’ into other mediums, our relationship with poetry is more intimate than ever. Multimedia projects have made it possible to interact with art in a different way. In the case of poetry, to participate in the act of verse – a poem happening. Words at work.

I was recently introduced to just such a project. The idea of reading a poem in front of a camera isn’t new. But, I’ve never seen anything like what this project accomplishes.

Whitman, Alabama is the brainchild of filmmaker Jennifer Crandall, Alabama Media Group’s first Artist in Residence. Jennifer spent two years roving all parts Alabama; traversing the state with a camera and an invitation to sit a while and recite a verse or two of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.

She enlisted the help of Alabamians, from all ages and walks of life, to help bring Whitman into the 21st century living, breathing, working South. There is no posturing; no falsification. There are no regretful performances. The common man and woman, who Whitman courted so ferociously on the page, have shown up to return their love.

And there is no better poem for a project of this nature than Whitman’s Song of Myself. His message of equality, tolerance, love, sex, freedom, and democracy first exploded on the scene in an epic 70-page, a book-length poem written from the perspective of many distinct voices, varying stories, and – at times – shocking circumspection.

The idea is this… each week for the next year, a video will be released featuring a recitation of one verse from Song of Myself. At the time of posting this article, there were about sixteen videos already released. I’ve watched them all. There isn’t one of them that hasn’t made a lasting impression on me. I think you’ll feel the same and hope you’ll pass this link along to those you love, those who need their spirits lifting, those who need reminding that we are all connected beyond a shadow of a doubt, and those who need an education in human nature, tolerance, equality, and love.

Thank you, Jennifer Crandall and Team. Thank you, Alabama Media Group.