Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Sign Of The Times

Well, it’s happened again — last night I caught wind of another of my favorite Atlanta stores having to shutter its doors soon.

Last night I found out that Ella Guru will be closing in a few days. As a music lover I’m saddened to hear that another of the places I go to purchased used CDs is forced to call it quits. Blame the economy. Blame the consumer who purchases digitally. Blame piracy. Whatever you blame, nothing will change the fact that it’s leaving.

Ella Guru has been an Atlanta used CD destination for nearly ten years. Until last September it occupied a storefront in the mammoth Toco Hill Shopping Center, before picking up and moving to Inman Park where it sublet some space from the now-defunct scooter store. I questioned the move initially because within a mile of its new location there are at least two other music stores selling used CDs (namely Criminal Records and Wax-n-Facts). I reasoned that Ella Guru needed the move to survive and that they might be following the same logic as automobile dealers or piano stores who also seem to cluster together.

That section of Inman Park has seen its fair share of business changes in recent times:

  • Johnny’s Pizza changed owners.
  • The aforementioned scooter store opened and closed.
  • The Grape on Highland decided it couldn’t stay in business and closed its doors.

Ella Guru will soon join my list of Atlanta establishments that I miss (see also: Frijoleros, Tortillas, The Point, Burrito Art, Crescent Moon, Kool Korner Grocery, The French Quarter Food Market / The Stein Club, The Beer Mug (Brookwood Interchange), Bridgetown Grill, and the 1990’s version of Buckhead).

Which Atlanta establishments do you miss and would like to turn-back the clock to revisit?

Is It Enough To Feel Unsafe?

East Atlanta has had its teeth clenched for months. Its throat is raw from shouting warnings across the neighborhood. Its eyes are dry from watching crime reports come across local mailing lists and message boards.

People don’t feel safe. Groups like ATAC (Atlantans Together Against Crime) are getting the word out about it with their website and public rallies.

In contrast, this AJC article on symbolic flamingos describes the situation like this:

[Jason] Hatcher, an art director for a local weekly newspaper, and Johnny Castellic (a.k.a. “Johnny Hollywood”) have launched a campaign to raise public awareness of what they insist is a growing crime problem in their area.

[Emphases mine.]

That same article quotes APD Chief Richard Pennington from an earlier statement. He said:

“The community groups work closely together[.] […] When they hear about one crime, they e-mail their neighbors and then you get a barrage of e-mails. I think they just respond to what they hear. And a lot of times, perception to them is reality.”

Those lines about insistence and perception-as-reality made some of my neighbors real angry. The implication is that citizens are being spooked by the echo chambers of online message boards amplifying every crime — that local crime has always been like this and people used to feel safer because they used to be happily uninformed. What I think a lot of locals heard in that quote was that they shouldn’t get all worked up just because a few houses have been invaded. That he knows better than the citizenry whether we should feel safe or not.

Is that how feeling safe works?

The argument on the ground is that it’s reasonable out here to feel unsafe and call for additional protection when armed gunmen are kicking in doors for televisions. The argument upstairs, in the city offices, is that stats are trending favorably and, so, we are safer even if we don’t feel safer.

I’ve stewed on this for a while, hoping I’d have some wise breakthrough. I haven’t. What I keep coming back to, though, is this: Does it matter if the stats are up or down? That’s a separate issue — a distraction.

The issue, to the people in their homes, isn’t whether burglaries and armed robberies are technically up or down, but that they’re common and frightening. People don’t feel safe. Winning the argument that property crimes are up or down, one way or the other, isn’t going to make anyone feel safer. The APD Chief isn’t really hearing the ground-level argument and the ground-level ralliers are getting distracted into a debate that they’ll lose even if they win. But the people on the blocks getting robbed need a win somewhere, and Chief Pennington and the AJC coverage are visible targets.

And now I’ve gotten distracted in all this. It’s easy to do.

I wanted to put it to y’all and hear more opinions: What does it take to feel safe? What is safety worth if you don’t believe you’re safe? How bad is bad?

Front-Page Games

Big gamer geek, here. And when I say I’m a gamer, I don’t just mean Xbox blockbusters and flashy MMORPGs like Lord of the Rings Online, but genuine geek games like D&D. I write for and about games for a living. But hobby games — the term we use to describe board games, card games, roleplaying games, miniature games, and pretty much any other non-video game — aren’t exactly front-page news. Except for today.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a blurb about board games on the front page of the AJC this morning. Imagine my surprise exploding in slow motion when I discovered the article contained things that were actually news to me. I hadn’t heard of some of the places they mention. How the hell did that happen?

I’m glad to see Thinking Man’s Tavern get a newsprint shout-out for their ready-to-play game selection, and in that spirit I want to mention a few other places in town to find and play games. The Independent in Midtown is owned (whole or in part, I lose track) by gamers, and is thus stocked with well-worn board games and a Super NES from back in the day. Oxford Comics & Games has a nice slew of geek products of all sorts, including board games and card games you won’t find at, say, Target. Dr. No’s, way up in Marietta, had a knock-out selection the last time I was up there, plus play space. I’ve seen locals playing Scrabble everywhere from Starbucks to The Midway Pub.

I don’t know if what the AJC calls “the board game craze” is really anything new or not, but I can tell you that board games are great entertainment investments. Of course, I’m biased.

Has Your Car Been "Atlanta-fied?"

Driving in Atlanta is a harrowing ordeal, long commutes for some, bumper to bumper traffic and loads of accidents every day.  Yes all of that is bad but a more stealth danger has haunted me during my stay here.  That is the hit and run dent on your car while parked and flying rocks.

I’ve never been able to keep a car nice, new and dent free in this town.  That hasn’t been my fault. Once while parked at The Stacks visiting a friend, I walked to my car and noticed the hood of my Dodge Stratus was dented and scratched with white paint. It looked as if a white truck backed up and ran over the top of the hood. I asked around and no one saw anything.

The next incident happened right in front of my house. I sold the Stratus to Carmax and drive a Toyota now. I have a driveway at the house but one day I had to park in the street. I walked to my car to leave and couldn’t get the door to open. I looked down and saw that a car had backed into the door leaving a football sized dent. I yanked and got the door open. There was no note, nothing.

One day while driving the connector north, I was behind a cement truck. I was a safe distance from the truck. A small rock fell from out of the truck and cracked my windshield. I was unable to get the plates of the truck. The crack started small but eventually spread costing me $260 for a new windshield.

So I ask you readers, have you had similar experiences driving in Atlanta? Am I alone in meeting bad parkers and flying rocks? Is it possible to keep your car dent free in this city?

Signs your neighborhood has jumped the shark

I was eating breakfast at Carroll Street Cafe in Cabbagetown with a friend Sunday morning, when in quick succession I notice the following:

  • the table next to us had two nice middle aged couples
  • a 30-something woman in a lime green fuzzy running/sweat suit came into the restaurant
  • as we were leaving a couple comes in with two young children in tow
  • a woman was walking her Sheltie as we walked to the car
I looked at my friend and said, “I think Cabbagetown has jumped the shark.”  I mean, there is nothing inherintly wrong with any of the things I saw (except probably for the lime green track suit), it just wasn’t really the mental image I have in mind for Cabbagetown.  It also made me much more uncomfortable with how old I am.
I’ve got to admit that my own neighborhood, Virginia-Highland, jumped the shark years ago.  I have been surprised that Little Five has stayed relatively authentic, even if they replaced the Point with a clothing boutique.  EAV is still pretty raw, what with people getting shot in parking lots and all.  Cabbagetown still has its gritty side, but I guess it was just too cute for its own good.  (And FTR, I fully realize that I might be part of the problem, even if I do remember seeing the Vandals at the Point).

Give or Take

Given the last two weeks, I wanted to write something about the shooting in East Atlanta Village this week, even though James already covered it once. Not long before the shots were fired, I was a few blocks away, standing in the street talking with police and neighbors about the crime in our neighborhood lately. And about how nervous and how angry we are.

People want things, so they’re coming into our homes and taking them. They’re smashing down our doors. They’re pulling guns. They’re killing and dying in the pursuit of money.

I sat down to write about that, but I keep thinking about something else. A friend of mine told me about a man who stood up on a MARTA train this morning, said he was homeless, and asked the passengers for money. This happens all the time, but tonight I kept picturing it.

“I’m homeless because of a fire at my house,” the man said. He sounded a little rehearsed. “I just need nine more dollars to get set up for the night. I’m trying to get back on my feet.”

People gave him five-dollar and ten-dollar bills. People nudged each other on the train, saying “Excuse me, I just want to get by you for a second so I can give that guy a dollar.” The man made more than his nine needed bucks for sure.

We can read a lot into this moment, if we want to.

We can see a train car full of passengers suckered out of money by a guy with a well aimed sob story. We can picture the train car passengers filing out and being replaced by another car full of Midtown professionals. We can picture the man telling his story again. We can picture him holding the cash out, pinched between two knuckles, and swapping it for a baggie of yellow rocks.

Or we can picture a man standing in a public bathroom, counting his last couple of bucks and coming up nine short of the fee for his motel room. We can picture him reciting his story to himself in the mirror, getting up the nerve to out himself as homeless in front of strangers. We can picture him standing in the strobing red glow of the fire trucks, soot on his face, wearing his pajamas, staring at the soggy ashes he used to live in.

I don’t know if that man’s story was true or not. It may be a mistake to look for too much meaning in these stories. What I know is that I’ve heard two stories about people trying to get money out of strangers this week, and they have different endings.

What gives, Real World?

The granddaddy reality TV series is starting up again for season 17, this time in Brooklyn.  17 seasons, and all I really remember is San Fransisco, with Pedro and Puck.  Oh, and that all the cast members in Las Vegas were alcoholics.  Honestly, I stopped watching after San Fransisco (season 3), except for when I occasionally got sucked into some marathon viewing session.

You may be saying to yourself, “WTF?  This is the Atlanta Metblog.  Atlanta Metblog. What does the Real World have to do with Atlanta?”  Well, I for one, want to know how out of 17 seasons, MTV never decided that Atlanta was a good location.  Atlanta is regularly listed as a top location for young people, singles, college grads – the same folks who grow up watching the Real World.  It is prime real estate for showcasing your city!  All the show does is follow a bunch of twenty somethings around as they go to bars and clubs, and maybe they’ll throw in some socially conscious “job”.  Well, we have great bars and clubs (just not downtown).

Seriously, look at some of the place the Real World has shot.  Obviously I’m not delusional, and I don’t think Atlanta is as neat as London, Paris, Sydney, or New York.  But San Diego, Austin, and Denver?  Aren’t we at least that interesting?  They’ve now done New York three times, and LA twice.  Some on-line sleuthing suggestst that a Midtown loft may have almost made the cut for Season 16, and was on the short list for Season 19.  What happened?  Give us some love!

One thing that Atlanta is missing that the Real World needs to work is a pedestrian environment.  IIRC, for the most part, the cast is denied cars and they spend their time walking to and from the many bars.  There are plenty of neighborhoods that would work, though.  Put our ardent potential alcoholics in a Castleberry loft with a view of downtown, or in a penthouse in a Midtown condo building like they planned to five years ago.  This shouldn’t be that hard.

Hey Man, Let’s Get The Band Back Together

I’ve lived in Atlanta for fourteen years, nearly ten of those have been in East Atlanta. When I moved to my neighborhood I never realized that I’d be able to relive my teens/early-twenties a mere handful of blocks from my house. The time machine into which I step is also know as The EARL.

At The EARL I’ve seen performances by Dick Dale, two-thirds of Hüsker Dü (namely Bob Mould and Grant Hart performing solo shows), Mission of Burma, as well as others. And this weekend I’ll be at there twice, to catch both performances put on by The Long Ryders. Here’s the kicker about this… these shows will be the first United States shows put on by The Long Ryders in over twenty years, they are likely be their only performances in the United States, and there is a chance that they may never get back together again.

For those of you not as old as me, The Long Ryders were up-and-coming “alternative” music stars back when “alternative” music was in its infancy. In those days The Long Ryders toured the globe headling shows and were scheduled to tour with bands such as U2. However, their path to rock stardom was interrupted when some of the band members chose other paths and the band broke up in 1987.

Tickets for the shows can either be purchased via Ticket Alternative; or at The EARL on the day of the show.

The Clock? Really?

James’ last post about the variable multi-county metro Atlanta area reminded me about an exchange I overhead with old co-workers about a year ago:

“Well I’m looking for a new apartment, probably in the twelve-to-three area.”
“Twelve-to-three?”
“Yeah. Like if I-285 is a clock and the other highways are hands on a clock, the twelve-to-three area is like North Druid Hills and stuff.”
“Oh ok…I gotcha. Well, just don’t look anywhere in the three-to-nine area. Twelve-to-three is pretty good, Nine-to-twelve is kind of expensive though.”

Hands on a clock? Really? AtlantaGeorgia.com gives a similar explanation for explaning how to get around the ATL:

The thing you have to understand is that “inside the perimeter” can mean any direction depending on where you are at the time. Another trick is to imagine that the perimeter is the face of a clock and find out if you need to go to “six o’clock” to get to the airport or “eleven o’clock” to get to Smyrna.

Then there is the inner and there is the outer loop. What do I need to say about these? The inner loop is 285 going clockwise if you are looking at the city from the south with the city center as the middle of the clock and GA 400 as twelve o’clock–and the outer loop goes counterclockwise on the same clockface? Both loops go in all directions (but only one direction at a time) depending on whether you are at 6 o’clock or 12 etc.

I mean, I get the concept, however remedial it sounds, but have you heard it before? Where are you? (I’m in the 6:30 area.)

metro area?

atlanta msa

atlanta msa

this weekend i was driving home from picking the kiddo up. she lives in indiana so we approach the metro area from the north on i-75.

i had the same question i always do? when am i back in atlanta? i know the actual atlanta metropolitan statistical area is the 28 counties in that map, so technically i am back in atlanta when i cross the border into bartow county?

but am i really?

i know plenty of itp’ers who would say no. i think most people that live in canton in cherokee would say yes. but what about cartersville? as i mentioned bartow county is in the altanta msa, but is cartersville really part of atlanta?

for me at least, when i am driving i consider myself “in atlanta” when i cross into cobb county on 75 and when i cross into gwinnett on 85. this certainly puts me at odds with the msa but that is how i see it.

what about you. what is the metro area? does it go all the way to south carolina these days? has it made its way all the way up to dalton?

and what about the southside? i don’t go down there much, but i know plenty of atlantans have made their way to newnan and peacthree city.

it seems to me that the metro area is growing, but the sense of identiity that goes with the city is too. i work with plenty of people that live in cherokee or forsyth, work in alpharetta and never venture south of holcomb bridge road.

food for thought anyway.

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