Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Atlanta Lessons

Atlanta scared me. Crime, water shortages, and parking issues seemed the only news I heard from the place when I lived in the burbs. Aside from theatrical visits to the Fox and the Shakespeare Tavern, concerts at large, well-publicized venues, or a quick foray into the Highlands, I knew little of the city I orbited. It had two streets dubbed Peachtree and I couldn't afford anything on either of them. 85 proved elusive every time I wanted to get home. I liked the coffee at San Francisco. That's about it.

Then I re-met Ben, the man I'm going to marry (a story for another time). He lives in the Old Fourth Ward, a part of Atlanta I had never visited. Heck, who knew Atlanta had neighborhoods beside Midtown and Virginia-Highlands? The more time I spent with him and the more areas of town he showed me, the more his affection for our mess of a hometown rubbed off on me. So I moved. To be honest, my relocation owed about a quarter to interest in the city and the rest to Ben. But, since moving, I've fallen increasingly in love with this place. It's impacted me far deeper than I'd imagined. I've grown to see I need these people, these viewpoints, these challenges. They rub away my self-delusions. For each issue I see around me, I find the rank black mold in my own heart, the areas my Lord would cleanse if I would but ask.

And I've learned, among other things, all that follows:

1. If leaving a generous tip feels beyond my means, I should stay in for dinner. It's not my server's fault I didn't monitor my bank account for the week.

2. Try biking your way through your errands. You'll become aware of any cyclists you may pass and your gas bill goes way down.

3. Atlanta, like any compilation of people, is multi-faceted. Downtown and Midtown do not reflect the whole of the place. In fact, they mis-represent most of it.

4. Run or walk through Druid Hills. You will thank me.

5. Scoutmob.

6. Over-sized, neon-colored, non-prescription frames and Chuck Taylors do not make you any more inventive or complex than do Hollister polos.

7. All that "support local" hype is more than a bunch of tree-huggin' buzz.

8. The city has no shortage beautiful, giving people. Take a moment and listen before you assume a tattoo or a smoke denotes a filthy lifestyle.

9. Street art highlights a city's character. Visit Krog. Or Irwin.

10. The West Coast ain't alone in excellent coffee.

11. Don't write off Piedmont Park simply because everyone seems to go there. That's a silly reason to avoid something anyways.

12. Parallel parking isn't as daunting as I feared. I still have a ways to go, though.

13. Wear sunscreen to Brave's games.

14. Pray for your city. Love your city. Serve your city. Don't simply leech off its cultural energy.

15. Eat out for breakfast on the East Side. Ria's, Stone Soup, Carroll Street, Highland Bakery, Candi's--go! Try!