Atlanta Streets Alive – Again

ASA fall posterIf you missed it (or had a great time at) the first one, there’s another chance to stroll the center city at Atlanta Streets Alive tomorrow, October 17.

The 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. time slot is the same as in May, but the street closures are a little less ambitious this time. Activities will be centered on Woodruff Park and Hurt Park, and along Edgewood Avenue between Peachtree and Raldolph Streets. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition-led bike loop is back too, this time at 4.4 miles.

Even if you’re not into biking, skating, jumping, hula hooping, drumming or dancing, ASA will be a chance to sample the wares from several Atlanta Street Food Coalition members’ food trucks, with plenty of ensembles providing music to eat by. And all on a day when the high is expected to be around 75, rather than 95. Can’t beat that.

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Does anyone actually WANT to share the road?

Thanks CL ATL for the photo from Critical Mass a few months ago.

A friend of mine, Jim, posted yesterday about the endless bike versus car debates, sparked by the latest “SUV plows through group of cyclists” news story, this time in Augusta. (Okay, so actually that’s the first time I see a story just like this one, but in fairness, you do read about SUVs hitting single cyclists all the time).

The size of Atlanta’s cycling community apparently jumped 111% in 2009, and according to my personal anecdotal evidence, there are a lot more bikes out there than there ever were.  I see a lot more inexperienced riders flying down the sidewalks or not positioning themselves to be visible to traffic, but I also see a lot more visible, safe, cautious commuters and people just going places.  It’s an exciting time, I think, especially as the weather gets to be a more reasonable temperature for biking and people rediscover how frigging fun just running errands can be.

Jim’s concern (and honestly, the concern of anyone in the country who bikes with any regularity), is the disconnect between humans in automobiles and humans on bicycles. Both are viable means of transportation, but we tend to separate into groups and then villianize each other. As Jake the commenter in Jim’s blog points out, each side sees the worst and most egregious member of the other side as representative. The vegan jerks who blow through red lights and swerve around moving cars, with their Toms shoes and clouds of smug – those are the people I assume everyone’s up in arms about. Oh, them, or the roving bands of goo-eating spandex clad men with their clippy shoes and smooth legs. (To my friends who vaguely fit in one or the other of these categories… sorry, but you know it’s true).  And on the other hand, when I’m on a bike, just to be on the safe side, I assume that every SUV is driven by someone who is late, angry about it, drinking coffee, on the phone, and putting on makeup/shaving, all very small things that put my life in serious danger. What’s really fun is that since these are the representatives that leave comments on every news story, generally the flame wars are loud, angry, stupid, and long-lasting.

I think it’s pretty obvious that people need to show more respect to each other, but I don’t see an obvious solution to Atlanta’s (or the country’s) car-bike faceoff. I assumed it was a simple need for infrastructure – and I do still think dedicated bike lanes would encourage more people to bike, which would create more hybrid bike-car users who recognize both sides of the issues on the streets, but it clearly doesn’t stop there. What else can help?


Goodbye No. 6

Goodbye No. 6.

Almost everything that can be said about Bobby Cox has been, and by folks more articulate than me.

My first date with my wife was a Braves game in 1991 on a sweltering Friday night in July. We were married in December of ’91. Almost 19 years later, the skipper of that first date team is finally retiring.

We’re not huge sports people. We don’t have season tickets to, well, anything. Still, Bobby Cox was an unlikely constant for us. Unlikely, because we’d never consider ourselves baseball fanatics. Even more unlikely because how many managers are successful enough to stay with one team for more than two decades?

Her father might have been the biggest Braves fan I ever knew. He saw every game or listened to it on the radio. He was at the game for Hank Aaron’s 715th homerun. Tie games drove my mother-in-law nuts. Every time the two of them went to a game, there would always be extra innings.

Even when his light began to fade, and he had a hard time following the roster, he still watched and listened. He still knew Chipper and McCann. If I was at his house during baseball season, I watched or listened with him.

When he passed away, I took up the torch of watching and listening. Not quite as religiously, but as much as I could and with just as much passion.

Folks will make what they want of Bobby Cox’s legacy. For me, I’ll choose gratitude. Thank you, No. 6.

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In Praise of the Arts in Atlanta

BAPS Hindu Temple

With a reasonably priced gift shop!

While largely in hibernation during my first months here, finally pushing myself out of the basement apartment house seems to be worthwhile. My latest discovery: Atlanta’s arts scene is really impressive. My own artistic aspirations waned after the paint-by-number mishap of ’89, but I still enjoy looking at interesting things.

On Thursday I stopped by a photography collection on the westside that was truly unique. It actually required special microscopes and a partnership with UGA instead of the usual bating of friends with tall cans of PBR to sit on ragged furniture in front of abandoned buildings. I know that I’ve seen that exact “exhibit” hundreds of times. And while the Atlanta Philosophy Film Festival may have been more rewarding if I was able to debate why a man chooses to drift through the woods for half an hour, I appreciate the opportunity existing for those who are into that sort of thing.

Skeeball

Not pictured: a handcrafted labyrinth

I traveled worlds away on Friday afternoon to marvel at the BAPS Hindu temple. Regardless of religion (or lack thereof), the architecture alone is definitely worth a ride up 85. Later that night I checked out the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll where every spot seemed filled with energy.

But what impressed me most was Inspire, Incite, Ignite at Eyedrum on Saturday. It wasn’t merely the girls dancing with flames, the homemade skeeball or the ad hoc circus acts — it was the people. I watched a man staple dollar bills to his forehead next to a couple in their 50s. And while there was certainly a great number of “those young, artsy types you’d expect to be here,” I turned one way to see a guy wearing Propagandhi, turned another to see what appeared to be a genuine Stanford alum sporting the non-thrift threads of his alma mater.

Good Food Truck

There was also a table selling barbecue that smelled really good

I actually smiled at those abandoned building shapshots the first few times and I understand about creating things that connect with your peers. Really, as someone whose childhood canvas was tracing paper, I’m not in a position to criticize anyone. But lacking resources (see recent DSO strike) and support (Banksy received mix reaction) and sheer manpower, it’s safe to say that innovative ideas seemed rare in Detroit. From the Good Food Truck to the mostly clean bathrooms to the emcee who kept things moving, the Eyedrum event was put together the right way. There was never fear of police busting in, impounding everyone’s cars and shutting everything down. The entire night was accessible to everyone and it showed both in its attendance and the work itself.

This was more real life “doing things” than I’ve subjected myself to in some time. I’ll likely spend the next few weeks confined to my bed, staring into the eyes of Anthony Bourdain and Tina Fey. But when I finally reemerge, it’s great to know that Atlanta offers so many original experiences. I’m fortunate to be here.


Fill In the Blanks

Remember when this was a club? “Jaguar,” I think it was called. Now it’s just a very empty building on a very prominent corner. But that’s only half of what’s wrong. The other half is what’s not there.

Thousands of people live and work a 10-minute walk from that building, and that’s leaving aside the thousands of people who pass through Arts Center Station every day. If any of them need to buy anything other than prepared food or coffee, they have to go to the Publix near Midtown Station or in Atlantic Station, or to the CVS at Peachtree and 6th. That erstwhile nightspot would be the perfect site for a Walgreens or for someone local to open a drugstore/market combo. That parcel of land is pretty small, but a two-level or slightly downsized version could fit. It wouldn’t even need to be open 24 hours..

Two blocks south is this derelict duo, West Peachtree and 13th(whose appearance is not at all enhanced by the ever-droopier power lines). The one on the left is brick, so it might be salvageable…in a few years when we’ve run through the surplus of condos. It’s hard to think of something useful to build there, given the size and position of the lots.  How about replacing these two condemnations-in-waiting with a tiny park?

Another notable nowhere is the restaurant graveyard at the corner of Piedmont and Morosgo. Corner of Piedmont and MorosgoI’ve lost count of the number of establishments that have met their doom there. Whatever occupies this site next, it obviously shouldn’t involve food. Same goes for its sister eyesore next door, the former Shoney’s.

Put those two lots together, though, and there’s enough space for a two-level gym built right on the street, with parking behind and beneath. With the Buckhead Crunch and Lindbergh Bally both sunk, there’s not a full-service fitness facility in that neighborhood any more. People who pass through Lindbergh Station could get their workouts in right before or after work without having to think about parking.(Of course what really ought to be on that corner is a stop for the light rail line that should be running the length of Piedmont from Turner Field to Roswell Road, but that’s a whole different fantasy.)

Finally, let’s not leave out everyone’s favorite conspicuous void: The Mistake Streets of Buckhead.
The whole “Rodeo Drive of the Southeast” notion might need some adjustment at this point. Obviously, some degree of fancy-ness is required to generate the “destination” aspect Ben Carter is so hot on, so you can’t stack it with stores in the vein of Forever 21. But you also can’t keep a development going on platinum yo-yos and yoga mats for teacup poodles. Even people who can buy $1000 purses aren’t going to come around for one every week.

So, what DO we need right there? Other than the MARTA station that should have been built there 20 years ago, that is.

I could go on and on (I really could) about all the nothings that ought to be somethings around here. What empty or underutilized space is bugging you? If you had several million dollars burning a hole in your pocket, what project would you put some of the metro area’s roughly 275,000 unemployed people to work on?


Yes, but precisely HOW superdangerous is Atlanta?

A list of the country’s 25 most dangerous neighborhoods includes FOUR in Atlanta??  Oh my god, Marietta Street between Georgia Tech and Philips Arena is going to have 307 violent crimes! In some unspecified time period. My chances of becoming a victim here are one in nine?! Maybe I should think about moving to the suburbs – you know, we can get so much more house for the price… Oooh, but this area is more hip and trendy than 99% of U.S. neighborhoods. I should probably turn to a realtor for help.

What scary stuff is lurking behind this innocuous, 100-year-old condo building and design studio a few blocks down from the aquarium?

This is the vital information that’s been making the rounds from what seems to be some bunk real estate website and its “exclusive crime data.” It says they use algorithms, though, so it’s probably legit.

The Atlanta PD issued a response that I thought was pretty decent – City Councilman Kwanza Hall posted it here). They point out that no one can tell what methodology is used, that their numbers don’t match up with APD stats, that the study doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that the area in question includes major venues that host hundreds of thousands of people every year, and that the author is unresponsive to inquiries.

Do you think APD is hiding crime stats behind their skepticism? Is this report just sensationalism and jerrymandering in the pursuit of wrapping things up into a top-25 list? Is my chance of becoming a victim here in one year really one in nine? Ought I be panicking?


Atlanta’s Alt Art

Matt Gilbert's Convergent Frequencies - at Flux tonight

To quote a friend of mine, Erin Roz, it’s gonna be an artsy fartsy weekend. First up, FLUX in Castleberry Hill tonight. Expect open galleries, street performances, parades, an iron pour at Elliot Street, etc.  Atlanta Bicycle Coalition will serve as bike valets so you don’t have to smoosh your bike in with four others around a street sign.

It’s a “one-night public art celebration” – I’m pretty sure it’s basically the same event as LeFlash, which was held around this time last year. Speaking from experience, make sure you stand back from the iron pour. Burnt hair smells awful and holey clothes are just not cute.

Tomorrow night is a show for Atlanta’s most awesome graphic designers, Chromatic, at the Goat Farm. Goat Farm’s a funny place – on yelp, half the reviews gush about how rustic and “real” it is – “I really hope they keep this place as sketch as it is now, because that’s what makes it unique.” Others talk up the “potential” of the venue and recommend air conditioning. Whatever your preference, it’s a great place to have a gathering in the most beautiful weather ever.

Chromatic is also pretty unique in that it’s a graphic design show – CL points out that this is an art form typically limited to an advertising or online presence. It doesn’t get hung up on walls, at least not in galleries, very often. So Chromatic (“A Tribute to Color, A Unique Graphic Arts Showcase”) is kind of cool. Plus a friend of mine is in the show, so, you know, everyone oughta swing by. Show starts at 9.


How’s the Weather Down There?

Hamtramck Disneyland

Hamtramck Disneyland

Hello, Metblogs readers! My name is Brad. As a recent Atlanta transplant (a good one, I promise) and new Metblogger, I thought I’d give the customary bit “about me.”

I’ve spent the majority of my still-hanging-on-to-mid-20s life in Detroit. From the rural cornfields of my youth to Anytown suburbia to an ethnic enclave in the heart of the city (see photo — thanks, wellohorld).

Detroit will always be my home. I’m sure I’ll someday return to the ‘burbs, have a few (truly unfortunate) kids, zip around in my Prius and long for the days of yore (i.e. today) when responsibilities were minimal and optimism abundant. My decision to leave, however, wasn’t merely due to underemployment. I’d been everywhere. The nice neighborhoods with mansions few realize exist, the frightening-in-daylight spots frequented by svelte jean urbanites, and every arterial road into the most distant of sprawl. It was time for something new.

Four months ago, I figured “ITP” was a succinct confession from a budding vandal or the typo of a Juggalo. Now, apparently, I live there — and it’s pretty neat. I’m genuinely eager to explore and become a part of what I hear is a large but close-knit community. Along the way, I hope to document some of my findings on this very blog. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly that may entail, but I can promise a surplus of bad jokes and vague references to pop culture that are more depressing than ironic.


Yumbii@Work in Smyrna

Yumbii truck at work

Yumbii truck in the parking lot at my employer

I work with a polarized group of very adventurous eaters and “gravy eaters.” The latter is a term my buddy Sam concocted to describe “meat and starch” types for whom any green stuff is verboten, let alone something with lemongrass, tamarind or saffron.

We’re working with a group of consultants who fall into the first category, and they’d heard me rave about Hankook Taqueria. They wanted to gift us a group lunch to celebrate the latest phase of our project going live, and the only request from the group was “please, no more pizza*.”

They put two and two together, somehow miraculously managed to get the less adventurous to agree to try something new and brought in the Yumbii truck (yumbii.com). Hit, I tell you, hit… and shameful, abject jealousy from the adventurous eaters in our other building across the street (we couldn’t very well invite the whole headquarters contingent of 350 people on the consultant’s dime).

I’d still note that the first folks in line in the picture are in the adventurous group. Still, we had probably 30-ish folks take the plunge, and everyone loved it.

Well done, Yumbii/Hankook folks :)

And is anyone successfully chasing the truck on Twitter? Apparently, another buddy of mine down in the Equitable building in downtown is having some luck catching them.

 

* Btw, our pizza consumption covered the Symrna-area gamut from pedestrian to awesome:
Pizza Hut–>Johnnys–>Jets–>St. Angelos


Southwest in the A

SW at Hartsfield?

Southwest Airlines, known in motivational and marketing seminars worldwide as a poster child for innovation and creativity, announced today that it’s buying out AirTran for $1.4 billion. I’m cautiously optimistic for the impact this will have on Atlanta. I like Southwest’s approach – it’s seriously no-frills, low-cost, for real. As a kid, my family would drive to Birmingham to fly Southwest. And my Atlanta allegiance, probably due to good marketing and the Skymiles program, lies much more with Delta than AirTran.

What think you guys? Optimistic about fares going down with more competition? Concerned about losing your AirTran rewards? Not a fan of waiting in line at the gate or the seat stampede? Couldn’t care less?


MARTA…not necessarily Smarta

Just a reminder…MARTA’s recent cuts go into effect tomorrow, September 25, 2010. Cuts include up to an increase of five minutes in wait time between trains, no more weekend train service before 6 am and the elimination of 2700 bus stops. For more detailed information on the cuts, you can visit the MARTA website here. In addition to these cuts, the token phase-out and pass fare increases will begin in October.

I’ll admit, as an OTPer, I only use MARTA occasionally for sporting events, conferences, etc. But, I still empathize with the thousands of ITPers who will be severely affected by these cuts. What will this do for commuters who use MARTA everyday to get to/from work? Will their jobs work with them?

When will Atlanta realize what all other big cities have? To truly be a big city you need REAL mass transit.


Car Free? Car Lite?

Are you guys “car-free” today?  I thought I saw a few more bikes than usual on the way in this morning!

If you agree to give your car the day off one day this week, Clark Howard will give you a free Chick-fil-A sammich. Just don’t make an extra trip and drive there.

Apparently Atlantans spend an average of nearly $500 a month driving back and forth to work. That is completely nuts when you add in the value of lost time spent in the car, too. And the cumulative stress it generates– it raises the hairs on the back of my neck thinking about sitting in the parking lot of the connector every day. I picture a big black ball of Angry sparking and hovering over Spaghetti Junction.

A good resource for anyone even considering carpooling, MARTA, biking, or other transportation options is the Clean Air Campaign. I “log my commute” with them every week and occasionally win an Amazon gift card, plus get pretty annoyingly smug when I use their online calculators to see how much money I save by biking to work instead of driving. They can pair you up with carpool partners, and you get up to $100 or more just for starting an alternative commute.


Think you could hack it?

Remember when... Thirty metro Atlantans started Zipcar’s Low-Car Diet yesterday. The 30 participants, chosen from 100 local applicants, got a free one-year Zipcar membership in exchange for agreeing to give up using their respective personal vehicles for one month and instead walk, bike, take transit or use Zipcar.

The free Zipcar membership (usually $50) is nice, but I think they could have made it a bit more interesting. Perhaps asking the participants to give up their cars for three months and giving them 10 or 12 hours of Zipcar driving credits each month. This would be the perfect time of year for it. Fall  (is it EVER going to be fall?) and our very mild early winter are about the best time of year for commuting al fresco.

Most of the people quoted in the AJC story sound like city-dwellers who aren’t particularly wedded to driving anyway. How about you? Could you make it for a month without your own car? How well (or badly) do you think you’d do? How would $60 (soon to be $68) per month for an unlimited MARTA pass, plus the cost of a few Zipcar trips per week – $7 to $10.25 per hour – compare with what you’re spending to get around every month now?


21st Century Atlanta Scholars

Though I sometimes question my qualifications for this sort of thing, I volunteer as a mentor for a program that works with Atlanta Public School high schoolers. The program, called 21st Century Atlanta Scholars, requires that students endure a rigorous application process to the program itself, then endure the rigorous college application process itself, and finally, if they are admitted to and decide to attend one of the program’s “partner” universities, they get a full ride to college. Yep. A full ride. Partner universities include about a dozen schools, including Amherst, Bowdoin, Holy Cross, Middlebury and Wellesley.

I got involved with the program a year ago, after I spent some time grumping about how 18-year-old Abby would have liked a full ride to one of the “Little Ivies” and put on my big-girl pants.

21st Century Scholars is a relatively new program—their first class of high school seniors graduated from college this spring.  It came about because a few teachers and administrators got together with Beverly Hall, superintendent for APS, to discuss the fact that their highest-performing and highest-potential students were not going any farther than Atlanta, maybe Athens. The program was created to help these students realize how widely varied their college options could be.

The kids aren’t limited just in terms of coming up with tuition – most of them have a lot more going on. They might have to take care of siblings while single parents work long hours. They might be juggling work and school themselves. They don’t generally have the resources to visit a campus. There are also often psychological issues at hand, both on the part of the parents and the students. College is kind of intimidating, frankly, without throwing in the fact that they could be going from a school full of black kids in the south to a school full of white kids in the north. They have to think of the academic pressures that will be present at Tufts that are just not there at Carver. These kids also may not all have the support of their parents, who picture their child going off to college and leaving them behind.

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Park(ing) Day at GT

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/6853213[/vimeo]

Sorry for the late, notice, but I just heard about this today.

Georgia Tech College of Architecture’s School of City and Regional Planning is reclaiming a bit of midtown street for pedestrians during Park(ing) Day 2010 on Sept. 17.

Park(ing) Day is an international day of temporary neighborhood improvement in which urban parking spaces are transformed into tiny, temporary parks. GT’s site is on 5th Street near Spring Street. The park opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m.

I think I’ll just barely have time to make it there after work before the park gets packed up.

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