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February 17, 2001 — 1 PM

The New South, in a word

The New South, in a word: Blech.

Atlanta is pretty much the total opposite of everything I like about living in a city. Gated communities and malls are connected by vast stretches of curvy highways which effectively ensure the segregation of rich and poor. Even though it's warm, don't even think about walking — there's no where to walk. There is no corner store. No cafe, no shops illuminated by reassuring street lamps. Well, that's not quite true. You can walk in the malls, and when you get tired of that, rather than cross the street, you can take the sheltered pedestrian crossing which connects conveniently to...another mall!

Five days and I was yearning badly for a city. A real city. With blocks, pedestrians and neighbourhoods.

Oddly, or maybe tellingly, no one is from Atlanta, at least not anyone in the weird, upper-class, tourist-friendly subculture part. It is a city with little soul, and even less heart, a city of job-seekers and the gloss and sheen their money brings. Rub that away and you're left only with the dirty, little river they destroyed to lay down another lane of the highway.

Appropriately, the moment I did discover some semblance of culture in Atlanta, it was right before I had to leave. Wandering about downtown, I found Auburn Ave., where enterprising black Atlantans once built businesses after emancipation, against the odds of white resistance and segregation. Now the "Sweet Auburn Historical District," it's trying to attract tourists with historical plaques and a cutesy public market, but I'm pretty sure I was the only white person walking down the street.

At one point, a man, with that Nothin' better to do look about him, came up to me to point out that "white folk are sometimes naughty, but we'll look out for ya man. We can see that you're just visitin'." He didn't tell me to "take a cab," like everyone at the hotel. He didn't point out the Many Fine Restaurants and Designer Shops I could find just a 20 minute drive away. It wasn't exactly tourist-friendly, but at least it was real. I stopped for lunch at a small, happy Caribbean restaurant to enjoy an excellent grilled chicken salad. The waiter at the restaurant invited me to come watch a "tee-atrickaal play" that night, which I'm quite sorry I couldn't attend.

Do poverty and oppression breed spirit? An awful lot of Atlanta seems like it's never been challenged, and what has that brought? Malls, superstores and really bad traffic.


Previously: Got home from Atlanta late

Subsequently: Ominous signs department, or, There

February 2001
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