Roti’s “Allegory of the Human City” and Its Fate inCapitolView/Pittsburgh

Shortly after we moved to Capitol View, French muralist and street artist Roti was brought to Atlanta by the Living Walls organization, to paint a legally-approved* mural on a wall on University Avenue next to the 75 freeway. Titled “An Allegory of the Human City,” the long, highly complex and detailed piece was, in my not-so-humble opinion, a delightful addition to the urban, industrial landscape. The wall, owned by the Atlanta Department of Transportation, also happened to be right next to the “Welcome to Pittsburgh–A Weed & Seed Community” sign.

The artist released a statement about his work: “Fish symbolize people in our society – the big fish eat the smaller fish. They serve as the infinite symbol because the structure of society functions as an eternal cycle. Nonetheless, the small fish are the center of the mural, as they build and feed the city. The man in the fish mask holds a clock with a keyhole. On the other side of the city, a snake holds the key to the lock. By unlocking the keyhole, the snake could stop time, allowing for the city to morph into a utopia. Ultimately, the human body holds the moon inside the cage, because we want to control things we can’t control.”

Now, again IMNSHO, any community should take greater exception to being called “A Weed & Seed Community” than it should to a fascinating and well-executed mural, but who am I to speak for Pittsburgh? Apparently a Pittsburgh-based church was opposed to the mural, with its imagery of fish, a snake, a shark and an alligator, and felt that the image was Satanic. (Here’s a good article explaining the full story.) In broad daylight these holy crusaders painted over the mural with flat gray paint. Luckily for us heathens, Capitol View residents contacted the DOT and went out with their own rags and brushes and removed the buff-out paint before it could dry. The mural is restored as best as it could be.

There was a huge amount of community furor over this inter-neighborhood conflict, but in my opinion the most interesting thing is the very imagery in Roti’s mural. You’ll notice in the center of it, his representation of the city itself is almost completely dominated by buildings with arched Gothic construction and “rose windows“–Roti’s entire city is comprised almost entirely of churches.

Churches who wanted to remove the mural, apparently.

Before condemning any single piece of work, it’s worth it to look at the body of work created by the artist, learn about what they’re trying to communicate, and question your own reactions as prompted by the artwork. Looking at Roti’s oeuvre, it seems that he uses imagery of many animals in his pieces, creating a bestiary that acts to reflect and interpret the artist’s own ideas about humanity and the world. There doesn’t appear to be any “Satanic” message in his work (and this is coming from a gal who’s seen her fair share of genuine occultist art and religious imagery). I’m mostly caught up in the genuine beauty of the piece, which manages to sweep the cityscape into an undulant sea of scales, as of a fish, light refracting from windows the way it glimmers off a vast school of fish beneath the surface of the waves. The imagery connects our own humanity and the architecture of civilization into the raw, visceral state of being possessed by Roti’s own alligators and sharks, a way of bringing humanity back to basics, our limbs to fins in the sea, our legions of people just animals, like every other creature on earth.

 
* Apparently it was NOT legally-approved, through a tweak of red tape. The mural will be painted over shortly, I have been informed. Get your photos and enjoy the imagery while you can.


What is the deal with your weird cheese?

Ok Atlantans, you’ll have to help me out here. WHAT IS UP WITH PIMIENTO CHEESE?!

This appears to be a uniquely Southern phenomenon. At least, I’d never heard of it ’til I moved here. This bizarre concoction seems, to me, to be something either (a) thought up by a total stoner or (b) having its origins in the weird better-living-through-science recipes of the 1950s, something that should be relegated to faded recipe cards along with savory jello salads containing cream and green beans. Yet here it is, in what I counted as four separate locations throughout my local Kroger. There’s even a high-rent version of it available, made with goat cheese.

A little research showed my pegging it among the artful presentations of cocktail weiners, chilled celery logs and “fluffy mackerel puddings” of the 1950s was actually incorrect. Now the Cheese Of The People, pimiento cheese was once considered a delicacy, appearing in the early 20th century alongside other elite fashionable foods, served at tea parties on crustless finger sandwiches. The high cost of cheese and pimiento peppers–imported at that time from Spain–made it a costly status dish, served to special guests in parlors.  But with the advent of pasteurized processed cheese in 1915 and the cultivation of the peppers locally, pimiento cheese soon became ubiquitous in the Southern icebox–a staple grandma always had around. Its popularity was made even more democratic as textile mills and factories began providing it, along with other “cafeteria”-style foods to their workers.

Tonight at Yeah Burger in Virginia-Highlands, I tried my first pimiento cheese. Being a snobbish foodie from LA, I was ready to be horrified by such a lowly concoction, comprised of mayo, cream cheese, cheddar and, of course, pimientos, which I hadn’t eaten since accidentally ingesting them as a child, in purloined olives out of a jar. It arrived on my burger in a garish smear of artificial-looking carrot orange, grease separating from its creamier bits and running off the burger to pool in the paper wrapper. What appeared as an opaque, thick and creamy substance in containers at the grocery store, once slapped on a hot sandwich, melted into something that looked like it should be used to lube an auto engine. But it was…delicious.

Delicious.

Of course, it’s a furtive kind of pleasure I’m taking in it. This bastard love child of …what’s in it? I bought some at the store. The first ingredient is IMITATION American cheese. That’s right, the first ingredient is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. I’m not supposed to like this stuff! It’s not NATURAL! It’s origins are in a chemistry lab, not a dairy farm! But then I reflected on my obsessive love for Easter Peeps, and I realized–the housewives of the 50s, with their “Frankfurter Spectaculars” and their jellied salmon mousses, were right. Better living IS to be had through chemistry.

And the doyenne of Southern cooking herself, Ms. Paula Deen, offers up a pimiento cheese recipe that calls for actual cheese, not artificial cheese. So perhaps there’s some hope to be had. I, too, can court diabetes through the piquant zestiness of homemade pimiento cheese.

So fess up, Atlantans. Where do you find the best pimiento cheese in the South? And where is the worst?

 

 

 


Well I’ll be darned!

Lucinda here, ex-pat from Los Angeles Metblogs! Who knew that after months of tinkering under the hood of our good ole’ Metblogs jalopy, I woulda popped my head out to find I *finally* had access to the posting tools for my sister blog here in Atlanta–the city to which I have recently relocated–only to find myself back in LA for the holidays at the very time the engine does its first reluctant, full turn-over. And leave it to an LA girl to whip out an overwrought car metaphor like that one there! I suspect you’ll be hearing much more from me in the coming months, but right now I’ll sign off from this late-night (even for the west coast!) post by saying, “Thanks for visiting Atlanta Metblogs, and y’all come back now!” Thanks MUST go to Joz & Jason, who have worked so hard to keep Metblogs a viable reality,that this here site will NOT be going silent (and for doing the high-wire Internet acrobatics required to grant me posting access to this blog). We hope for this to become not only a destination for many with thoughts about the city, but a place for like-minded folk to come together and lend their voices to the multitude of human narratives that have long sought to paint at least a partial picture of Atlanta and the south, its many different realities, its transformations and its sense of place.

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Wanted: Workout novelty injection

Next month I will have been working out consistently for 15 years. In that time I’ve been to innumerable classes in at least 10 gyms in three states, run and walked about 8,000 miles and amassed more than 130 workout videos plus a small closetful of exercise equipment.

All that to say: I’m bored.

It’s not a matter of a lack of variety. If anything there might be too much variety going on. But stretched out across so many years, even a dozen types of workouts can start to get dull. I do plan to get a bike next month and maybe join a boxing gym at the beginning of next year. But I always suspect that there’s some fun, fantastic, brutal thing that I’m missing.

Has anyone stumbled across a life-changing, how-did-I-not-know-about-this-before workout somewhere in town? Taken up a sport that you started out lukewarm on but now can’t live without? Found a gym that you can’t wait to get to on your workout days?

Let’s hear about it!

 

 


Coffeshop Campers

Most of my coffeeshop transactions tend to be made on the run, as I’m usually there on the way to something else I’m already late for. But apparently some people

who do have time to sit down with their drinks find themselves unable to because of other patrons who virtually move in.

I didn’t realize that seeing someone taking up more than their share of real estate and electricity at a coffeeshop was such a hot-button issue, but the more than 200 comments on a post at the AJC’s News to Me blog suggest that it really gets people going.

Do some of these commenters perhaps need to lay off the caffeine, or are oblivious coffeeshop campers driving you nuts too?

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Like night and day: How commuters change population numbers

75/85 under Ralph McGillEver wonder where all the other people stop-and-going around you during your commute are on their way to? Or how many people are in town during the week versus on the weekends? No? Well, just go with me on this.

Suburb-to-suburb commuters outnumber city-to-suburb commuters in the U.S., but in a sprawling metro area like Atlanta’s, there’s a good chance your fellow commuters are on their way not just to another town, but to another county.

For their June “regional snapshot” (PDF) the ARC used 2010 census data to find out how the morning and afternoon flow of commuters affect the population of each of the 10 core metro counties by comparing daytime populations to resident populations.

“Daytime population,” by the Census Bureau’s definition, incluldes “the number of people who are present in an area during normal business hours, including workers. This is in contrast to the ‘resident’ population present during the evening and nighttime hours.”

The tricky element of that calculation is that the estimates are based on trips made only by workers, so they don’t include people coming into an area for anything other than work, like shopping, conventions, tourism or even those on business trips.

The largest daytime change occurs in Fulton Co, where the population increases by more than 32, percent to almost 1.2 million. Clayton County’s daytime population is boosted by 12.8 percent, thanks in part to the 58,000 people who work in and around the airport. Daytime population increases in Cobb and DeKalb counties are 2.3 and 0.2 percent, respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum, Paulding County’s population decreases by 25 percent during the day, and Cherokee County’s by more than 20 percent. Barrow County’s population falls by nearly 18 percent during the day, while Henry and Coweta County’s both fall by 15.7 percent.

Although it has the second largest percentage increase in daytime population for work, Clayton County also has the higest percentage of people leaving during the day for all trips combined, work and non-work. More than 51 percent of daytime trips that originate in Clayton County end somewhere else. Rockdale County was next, with about 47 precent of all daytime trips going outside the county, then DeKalb County at nearly 44 percent.

No huge surprises here, but it’s interesting to see some numbers put to the daily migrations.

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RUMOR: What’s Missing in Downtown?

I often find myself needing cheese for dinner. (Here’s a little insight into my culinary prowess: melt cheese on or into whatever it is you’re cooking, and it will taste better). I work in midtown and live just east of downtown and thus constantly curse the lack of “pick up some cheese on the way home” options. It’s tough to go a mile out of your way on a bicycle, and completely out of the question in this heat, so I plan my route meticulously. I’ve also found it’s best to minimize my “hangry” time before dinner.

Which is why I got all excited when I heard a rumor about the next tenant for the space next to the CNN Center (the now-shuttered Golden Buddha) …. a GROCERY STORE?  Fair warning: there’s a chance this rumor turns out to be someone just being wishful, but I sure have my fingers crossed. Boy would another Trader Joe’s be nice.

Anyone think a grocery store can survive here? Between tourists looking for sunscreen and snacks, GSU students, and Fairlie Poplar/downtown residents for a small, basic destination for staples? Or is it destined to leave me cheeseless on the way home?


That’ll Cost You: Atlantic Station tightens up parking policy (Updated)

Parking lot: Spring Street and Luckie Street

What Now, Atlanta? reported Tuesday that Atlantic Station will end it’s first-two-hours-free parking policy next week. Here’s the new parking policy (PDF).

Making a purchase at any Atlantic Station store, restaurant or food truck will earn visitors two hours of parking validation. Validation at the movie theater will tack on another two free hours.

*Update*: Atlantic Station tweeted yesterday that the parking policy change will go into effect later this month.

*Second Update* Henry Unger at the AJC’s Biz Beat blog reported that Atlantic Station is now reconsidering the pay-to-park idea.

As you’ll observe by reading the more than 80 comments on the post at WNA, parking – when, how much and even whether it should cost – is a thorny subject around here. See also any Creative Loafing piece written about ParkAtlanta.

Coincidentally, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported yesterday that Atlanta is ranked among the least expensive large cities in which to park. The city’s median monthly price for parking increased 2.2 percent over last year, to $95. The median daily rate, $12, remained the same.

Why does parking get so many people so hot?

Perhaps people who don’t live in the city are less accustomed to having to pay for parking, so when they come to attend events, the cost is a bit of a surprise. It doesn’t help that the rates at parking lots close to event venues or popular restaurants are prone to sudden, triple-digit inflation.

Or perhaps a lot of people think of parking as a public utility, like street lights or traffic signals, something that should be there in sufficient quantities for everyone’s use.  There’s also the not-insignificant issue of the shortage of viable transit options for people inside and outside the city. If driving is the most efficient or only way to arrive at a destination, maybe it seems unfair that there’s a sort of penalty for bringing a car with you.

Also, is this even an Atlanta-specific complaint? Or are parking costs and restrictions like local news – everyone, in every city, thinks theirs is the absolute worst?


UPDATE Stole Cat

The super-edgy suburban mall chain clothing store, Forever 21, has a reputation for ripping off designer’s work. This pops up from time to time with Urban Outfitters, too, especially with jewelry.

 

But this time … well, this time it looks like some junky-ass knock-off store stole from a well-known Atlanta artist. Bold.

 

R. Land is the crazy cool dude who creates awesome, funny, Atlanta-centric art that you see in local businesses around town. The murals in Criminal Records and El Myr are the two that come to mind, but check out the Facebook page and you’ll say, “ohhhhhh, that guy.” He’s made some scary-funny Aqua Teen Hunger Force stuff, the poster for the L5P Halloween parade, and a street sign for Dong de Leon.

 

Speckles (the Loss Cat Himself) is just nastily, adorably endearing to me. He’s also enduring, as Land originally created him in the 90’s and is still selling it on his website. Oh, right, and on Forever 21’s website. Nowadays word is that he’s in a lawsuit with Forever 21. I would suggest a peek at R. Land’s website shop (I’m partial to the unaspeckles, myself) and consider supporting a local folk art icon.

EDIT: UPDATE and Loss Cat timeline at Creative Loafing:  http://clatl.com/culturesurfing/archives/2011/07/06/forever-21-found-rlands-loss-cat-adopted-without-asking

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Triumphant Return! And Food From a Farm

First order of business: Charlie and I are rejoining Tamra as metblogs contributors! In case you haven’t noticed, posting has been a little scant lately. We weren’t entirely sure of the site’s long-term stability following our, um, hiatus in February, but we are good to go now, in it to win it, and looking for new writers. If you are an Atlantan, live and love the city, can string together a sentence or two, and are willing to do it once or twice a week, leave a comment and we’ll track ya down!

Alright, homework’s done. Today I want to talk about food. I really like food. Georgia, that big red sea surrounding Atlanta, is just chock full of it. Farms galore. One in seven Georgians work in some sort of ag-related field. It’s what our state’s economy was built on, and yet …  well, our grocery stores don’t exactly reflect it. We have WONDERFUL options for food in the city, it’s just that the local produce, the stuff from all those farms I keep hearing about, doesn’t often show up at the Hipster Kroger or the Publix on Ponce. The DeKalb and Buford Hwy “Farmers Markets” have every kind of food you can imagine, most of it exceedingly cheap, but produce at YDFM seems to always come from Chile, California, or Mexico. 

So. We turn to the myriad of little farmer’s markets that pop up in every neighborhood once a week, where I end up with ramps and an onion and a jalapeno pepper, a $7 loaf of bread and a $6 pint of blueberries, from farms with names like Gaia Gardens and Love is Love. Granted, those will be the most perfect, plump, tart-sweet, incredibly delicious blueberries I will ever eat, but it’s not exactly grocery shopping for the week.

Third option: a CSA. Georgia Organics has a pretty exhaustive run-down of what CSAs are, and where they are available. I personally have subscribed to the yuppiest, laziest, pickiest option possible: this company. They allow me to request that they never, ever include beets; they deliver a box of food to my front porch; they let me swap out what I don’t feel like eating that week; and they have options for honey, yogurt, coffee, etc. I opt for local over organic produce, and, most convenient of all – you can put a hold on your order just a few days in advance.  This is helpful when you remember that you’ll be out of town next week. Or if you just have more dining-out plans than usual. Or if you are still eating green beans and squash from last week.

Of course, there are much more cost-effective options, if you’re into it. Where do you shop for groceries? Does anyone actually use a CSA? Do you do battle at the Dekalb Market on the weekends? Or do you get your lil debbies at Kroghetto, Krogay, Disco Kroger, Murder Kroger? Finally, while we’re at it, what’s the general consensus on the clever name for the Edgewood (Hipster, in my house) Kroger?


Fill In the Blanks, Round 2: Downtown

 

Former BP station - Ponce and Piedmont

This former BP station at Ponce and Piedmont has been empty for about five years now. While the neighborhood apparently didn’t need two gas stations at the same intersection, perhaps it could use a coffee shop/sandwich shop/bakery on that corner. Ideally, it would be a place open for weeknight and weekend brunch and dinner. The building itself is pretty small, but once the gas pumps were yanked out, the areas underneath the two awnings could be used for outdoor seating in a setup like Brewhouse Cafe.

Parking? It doesn’t need it. A few thousand people live within a 15-minute walk of that building and two hotels are right around the corner. North Avenue Station is two blocks away, the route 110 bus passes one block away and the route 2 goes right by the door. The very limited parking that’s there could be reserved for employees and wheelchair-accessible spaces.

Empty lot at North Avenue and Peachtree

At the next intersection to the west is the empty lot where the white marble Wachovia building was demolished, also about five years ago. It was to be site of a Cousins condo project called Fox Plaza, but like other holdovers from the era of condo-mania, it’s still up in the air. So how about a couple of alternate uses?

  • Apartments: Fewer people are able and willing to buy condos right now than when this building was demolished, but people still want to live in the city, close to transit, restaurants and entertainment. The prospective residents of our hypothetical apartments could have their hypothetical weekday dinners and weekend coffees and brunches at the hypothetical BP Cafe.
  •  Leave it more or less as it is and make it park, just adding some lighting, seating and shade, maybe a fountain. There’s a pretty pronounced lack of public space for the residents and workers in this neighborhood. To prevent people staying in the park overnight, a tall, decorative fence could be erected where the chainlink is now and the gates locked between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Ralph McGill and Williams Street

Finally there’s this still-vacant parcel of land in Allen Plaza. There’s still a surplus of office space in the city, so another office building the size of the ones already in place might not do well.

An often-heard complaint about this development is that it just dies after 5 p.m. Whatever goes on this corner would need to give people who work in Allen Plaza a reason to stick around afterward, as well as drawing downtown residents, nearby hotel guests and maybe even people living in the newly-fashionable Westside.

This part of downtown is also lacking retail of any kind. Rarely does a week go by that a tourist or conventioneer doesn’t stop me somewhere between Peachtree Center and Civic Center to ask “Is there a drug store or grocery store anywhere around here?” If they’re still in the station, I tell them to just get back on the train and ride up to the Publix near Midtown station. If they’re out on the street, it’s a toss-up between telling them to take a taxi to North Avenue and Piedmont and saying “No, not really.”

Finally, although there’s a transit station barely two blocks away from this lot, there’s no rental housing anywhere nearby. Condos aren’t a sure bet any more, but there are still a lot of people who’d like to live a five minute walk from a transit station and right across from access to the expressways.

So, maybe this hole could be filled with a low-rise apartment building with a market on one side of the ground floor and a small, Churchill Grounds-sized live music venue on the other.

Are there any parking lots, dead spaces or derelict buildings in or around downtown that just annoy you every time you pass them? What would you put there?


Atlanta Streets Alive returns

ASA Edgewood Ave. street scene

The first of Atlanta Streets Alive’s two June events is today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This year’s ASA will take place along 20 blocks of what will become the first segment of the downtown streetcar’s route.  Guided bike tours will cover the entire route.

Stilt walkers

 

No bike? No problem. You can take a free ride along the route in one of ATL Cruzers‘ open-air electric cars.

The event is scheduled for some of the hottest hours of the day (although they’re all hot lately), but that just means more business for the ice cream and paleta vendors  at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market’s “Urban Picnic.”

The kick-off is at Woodruff park at 10 a.m., so get out there and run, ride, hoop, dance and get yourself some new tan lines.

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What do you want in Midtown?

Remember the Midtown Mile?

Like the Streets of Buckhead, it’s said to be just sleeping, not dead. But, some of the project’s developers are said to be reigning in their ambitions, leaning toward something a little less Dean & Deluca and a little more Trader Joe’s.

The scaling down isn’t just in fancy-ness but also in volume. The project’s planned retail component has been scaled back to about 610,000 square feet from the original 1,000,000. Luxury condos, once a must-have for new development, are likely to feature less prominently in the new design as well.

But at least one developer isn’t buying into the new vision.

Shirley Gouffon is a senior vice president with Selig Enterprises, the company that’s developing 12th & Midtown with Daniel Corp. In an e-mail to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Gouffon said that Selig and Daniel “have not bought into these ideas and are in total disagreement with many of the positions outlined.”

The Mile’s developers are in a difficult position, trying to create an area that will appeal to three very different groups:

  • People from out of town who stay in Midtown’s expensive hotels and would like to walk to shopping, restaurants and entertainment
  • People who live in the suburbs and come into the city for events at the Fox Theater, the High Museum and Woodruff Arts Center and want things to do before and/or after, preferably things that aren’t available where they live
  • People who live and work in and around Midtown and want things like a grocery store on Peachtree, interesting but reasonably-priced restaurants and some walkable everyday shopping

Do you live, work or hang out in Midtown? What do you think is missing there?

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All dressed up…

Coca-Cola headquarters draped in white

 

If you’re wondering why the Coke HQ building is decked out as if it’s about to walk down the aisle, CL has some explanation.

The white drape on the the 29-story building will be used as a screen to project images on during an event commemorating Coca-Cola’s 125th anniversary this weekend.

That’s not just any 350-foot, semi-opaque white sheet, by the way. If this permit application is to be believed, that’s about $600,000 worth of Odwalla, Vitamin Water and Simply Lemonade hanging up there.

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Getting what we pay for

Speaking of the transportation tax, there’s a brief transportation priorities survey on the Atlanta Regional Roundtable’s site, available to take until May 15. (If that link doesn’t work, there’s another one at the top of the front page of the ARR site)

The Atlanta Regional Roundtable is the group of 21 officials from the 10-county Atlanta region that will choose the roster of transportation projects to be funded by the one percent sales tax we’ll vote on next year. Since the tax will be voted up or down based at least partially on the content of the list of projects, the Roundtable wants to assemble a list that reflects things that people really care about seeing get built.

So, when you have a spare five minutes, take the survey, and then check out the interactive map that can tell you the cost, time frame, purpose and requesting agency for prospective transportation projects in your neighborhood.


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