OTP? So?

I believe I’m finally tired of saying I live OTP (That’s Outside The Perimeter for the great unwashed,) as if it’s something I’ve got to apologize for. This isn’t directed at anyone in particular – it’s been percolating in my head for quite some time, to tell the truth – certainly before I ever wrote an entry for this metroblog.

It’s been fashionable for a long time now to bash suburbia; I know, having grown up in a rural setting myself I find suburbia hilarious, sad, you name it – I’ve bashed it a lot in other writings – but ever since I moved to Atlanta I’ve noticed there are certain people who speak the letters OTP as if they are describing one of the seven levels of hell. A person I’m very fond of nevertheless behaves as if they’ve got to have a travelling buddy the moment they travel OTP or it’s just too scary.

Whence cometh this strange suburbophobia? Seriously. How do you know it’s so bad if you have yet to try it? A couple I know lived downtown the first year they were married; she was working at a law firm and he was finishing at Georgia State. Within a week (or two, not sure,) of moving into midtown, which to me looks like one of the more pleasant downtown neighborhoods, he was ‘jacked while getting groceries out of his car. Gun to the face, the whole nine yards. This couple, of course, now lives in Mableton.

The area around the Atlanta Opera Center and the Atlanta Civic Center contains some gentrified condos and apartments, but I’d be lying if I said the few times I’ve had to wait longer than usual for a ride home from the Opera Center at night have not been nerve-wracking. One too many people passing looking like they really have nothing better to do than be walking Peachtree at 10:00 p.m., and paying a bit too much attention to me waiting there.

I live in Roswell, and that’s as close as I’d like to be, thank you very much. I don’t get nervous walking anywhere around here in daylight hours, and have only gotten nerved-out once at night. (When a dude I now suspect was just a drunk idiot came to the door and asked me if I wanted to ‘hang out.’ At 10:45 at night. I, of course, said no.)

I think my point here is that after a while the fact that someone cringes at the idea of going ‘OTP’ starts feeling a bit elitist. I for one do not view living downtown as a privilege. The near constant whiff of crime around the corner, the connector, fer cryin’ out loud, the downtown street system itself, where I can still easily get lost. From what I’ve observed, it’s not like Atlanta is a city like New York, where there’s something going on at all hours and even the most modest grocer stays open 24/7. Many places still shut down just like the rest of the sleepy south before 11. I’ve occasionally gotten the feeling that to hardcore folks inside the perimeter Alpharetta might as well be the moon.

I don’t pretend to understand. I mean, I like downtown, and hell, if I were single and childless, I’d probably be down there, why not?

Really, it is not that I am writing to actually criticize people who make that choice. It requires, if you look at it in a positive light, a certain amount of courage and a sense of adventure. I think I’m ranting because I don’t want to feel like a tool for consciously choosing to not enclose myself inside the boundary marked by the asphalt moat of 285.

There be not dragons out here, y’all. There be trees, and occasionally the cessation of traffic. Church bells and cotton mills and fine old homes. It doesn’t suck that bad, really.

Except for the mosquitoes.

5 Comments so far

  1. Jen (unregistered) on September 13th, 2004 @ 6:32 pm

    Just for information — The Kroger on Peachtree, just outside of Midtown, is open 24-7.

  2. Stevie (unregistered) on September 13th, 2004 @ 8:47 pm

    While I speak as an outsider from your own group of friends, I would like to state my reasons for trying to stay inside the perimiter. To me and I think a lot of my circle of friends, it’s about the architecture, the surroundings. I feel like it is all too cookie cutter in the burbs, the houses, the businesses, it all looks so corporate and generic. And coming from a city like New Orleans, where there is not nearly as much corporate influence, I do like to have all this big business support occasionally. But I also really like living in the city, and living in a house that’s older than I am, and supporting small businesses (not to say there aren’t small businesses in the suburbs).

  3. Steve (unregistered) on September 13th, 2004 @ 9:54 pm

    Honestly, though I did mention that example of the couple who moved to Mableton, I was truly being very subjective. My friend said more than once that had he not wanted to have kids he’d probably still be living in Midtown. To really clarify, I’m just puzzled when occasionally someone I know will mention that they’ve just been “Outside the Perimeter” in the hushed tones usually reserved for Marlon Brando rasping “The horror…the horror…” in Apocalypse Now. I should say too that I have perhaps an unusual sense of place compared to people who didn’t grow up like I did. I have no sense of change moving up and down Roswell road, inside and then outside the perimeter. I don’t sense the great change or see what the big deal is about either. Because to be fair, there’s plenty of suburbanites who quake in their shoes at the idea of having to spend too much time downtonw, too. I am more in favor of just dropping the whole OTP idea for Atlantans in general, as that barrier is truly imaginary, the ramparts of I 285 notwithstanding.

  4. Billy Mack (unregistered) on September 14th, 2004 @ 2:13 am

    As an import, I always sort of thought the downtown/OTP debate was only kept alive by longtime Atlantans who detested the “urban sprawl” that was spreading their beloved city to the four corners of the Earth. I always thought it was just an elitist’s way to maintain that THEY were truly in Atlanta, while those in Alpharetta, Vinings, Dunwoody, Decatur, etc, were “somewhere else” (somewhere assumedly less important).

    It’s interesting to hear this debate perpetuated by someone who’s also a relative outsider, since I always assumed the issue was only for natives.

    Not to imply that you’re being elitist, Stevie. On the contrary, you provide some very good reasons for preferring to live downtown. I can’t argue with you on the architecture thing. And I know a lot of people who like to live at a higher pace in a more populated location, which you can’t really get OTP.

    But I disagree with some of your other points. I live OTP in a thirty-five year-old house, not one of the brand new cookie-cutter suburban homes. My neighborhood has a ton of classical beauty and older architecture… just no skyscrapers. And I patronize countless independent businesses in and around my neighborhood every week.

    I know you said there are small businesses OTP, but I would bet there are actually MORE small businesses out here. I feel more of the the corporate influence downtown–where many large companies’ head offices are located, and where national chains can afford the rent better than independent stores/restaurants.

    I would think a small-time restauranteur/shop owner would have better luck finding cheap rent where there is more space, and would do better financially where the families live. That’s all OTP, my friend. And there are a MILLION small businesses out here. You just have to get off of the freeway to find them.

    I think a lot of urbanites classify any area that’s not as densely populated as their downtown home as either “rural” or “suburban.” We all know what rural denotes–cows and corn. Suburban, meanwhile, seems to have just as negative a connotation. It seems to mean cookie-cutter, two-story, pastel aluminum-sided homes lined up on a cul de sac, next to strip malls full of major brand retailers. Those do exist out here, but I can also attest to the fact that there are some great, old areas OTP that will charm and impress almost anyone.

    Unfortunately, you’ll never know until you leave the city and move out here. Until then, the allure of the ‘burbs will be as mysterious to you as life in the big city is to me. :)

  5. Josh (unregistered) on May 24th, 2005 @ 3:11 pm

    I live OTP in Buford, about 1/2 mile from Mall of GA… It is a decent locale, my only complaint being I have do drive EVERYWHERE! The main reason I would like to live in the city is because I could then walk somewhere everynow and then for fun and excercise instead of just walking around my apartment complex or up to the gas station. I do, however appreciate the cheaper rent ($679/mo for a 912sf 1B/1.5b)… I have a buddy that lives in Inmann Park in a basement apartment which is not so great but the neighborhood is awesome because it’s a nice walk to Lil 5 and there’s like a park and stuff and it’s close to nightlife. The only reason I would walk in the ‘burbs is if I absolutely had no other choice and it was an emergency or something. Otherwise, walking around here is miserable. It’s funny because to get anywhere that’s truly pedestrian friendly, I first have to drive there. DT Buford is a good 3 or so miles up Hwy-20. It’s much easier and probably less dangerous to drive there.

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