Friday, August 30, 2002

Atlanta needs a new ad campaign

Even when I was a tiny kid, I always knew I'd end up in Atlanta. That's sort of odd when I think about it, because I never lived there, or even visited it for an extended period of time until I was a teenager. I was born in Augusta, where my father's family lives, and my mother's family is mostly based out of Brunswick. I grew up in and around Nashville, but somehow Atlanta always called to me, as if the city had a secret underground radio system that reaches out to all the freaky little children in their sleep. Atlanta, the New York of the South, makes silent subliminal calls to all the odd ones, the people who eat their lunches alone, the ones who'd rather hide in the library than be among those left for last picks in dodgeball.

Atlanta is where you move in the South if you don't fit in wherever you came from, but hate the idea of going Yankee. Nothing underscores this truth more than Labor day weekend, when the city opens its arms to DragonCon.

DragonCon is just like Mardi Gras, only nerdier. It's four days where all the gamers, comic book geeks, rave kids, robot fighters, storm troopers, pixies, vampires, hobbits, and the generally odd all converge on downtown Atlanta to strut their stuff. There's even a parade this year, and if I don't go watch the storm troopers march with the pixies, I'll just die. I can take or leave most of DragonCon, because it's set up as a society of consumerism, but the idea of it thrills me. All these people, embracing what they like in public and not caring who frowns at them - that's fun. It's awesome, really. It took me so long to be comfortable with my own brand of nerdy freakyness that I'm still awed by the people who are unafraid to flaunt theirs. There are people who will have spent months making floats so they can show of their love for Gene Roddenberry for christ's sake.

And that makes me very, very happy.

But when most people think of Atlanta, they don't think of how it acts as a sort of haven for the socially dispossessed in Southern culture. No, they think of the Olympics, or of the many universities, or of Margaret Mitchell and her book about Scarlett's love life. Well, let me tell you, those first two ideas are fine and well, but Margaret Mitchell was black balled from the Junior League for her "unladylike" behavior. She was a true Atlantian, a dancer on table-tops, a writer and an oddball.

People need to understand what Atlanta is really all about, and so Dust and I came up with some new slogans for the town:

Atlanta: because you were the smartest kid in the trailer park.

Atlanta: if it's gay enough for Elton John, it's gay enough for you.

Atlanta: where you move to keep Bubba from beating you up.


Atlanta: where no one knows your given name is really Bubba.

Atlanta: Home of Georgia Tech. Our killer robots beat up Harvard's killer robots!


Atlanta, home of killer robots and DragonCon. Atlanta, the techno-geek paradise.

Or maybe Atlanta's slogan should just be this:

Ted Turner is a crazy-ass Atheist, and he owns this town.

Because really, that says it all for me. I love Atlanta. This weekend begins the second step of me really making it my new home.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

I have a social life

Last weekend my friend Christi came to visit me, and I was so happy to see her. We spent Saturday and Sunday catching up, cooking, recounting raunchy Murfreesboro stories and dying one another's hair. In addition to missing Christi, I had missed Murfreesboro stories. I could never live in that town again, but it's a place that breeds wild late night tales, its own mythology, and parties that people remember for the rest of their lives. Wild.

I miss those kinds of parties, making those kinds of stories. Aral and I managed to have one semi-wild thing back in Boston just before Christmas, but our social circle just wasn't that big and Aral wasn't a big party kind of person anyway. I'm really looking forward to getting my own place in town in the next few months. I'd like to have a big New Year's thing, but since I *still* don't have a job, I doubt I could get it all together by Thanksgiving, which is when you start planning for New Year's parties of that scale. Maybe I could have a big tea party in May, if it didn't clash with Tony and Andrew's annual big Spring event.

I've only been here for two whole weeks, and the fact that I don't have a job yet is freaking me out even though it shouldn't yet.

Christi and I meant to dye my hair a very dark brown, but it came out black for the first few days. This was not entirely a bad thing. I gave her blonde highlights which came out just right. I also trounced her at mancala in several straight sets. I'm glad I'm back in a place where I can see my friends more often again.

Friday, August 23, 2002

We should all be naked babies.

I went on an interview Monday with the State of Georgia Archives, which are not to be confused with the Georgia State University Archives, where I'm also looking for a job.

The State Archives in downtown Atlanta are in this super cool building six stories tall that rises like a windowless monolith next to a sad old public housing project. The marble casings and three underground floors of the archive were state of the art when it was built back in 1965, and I still think it's one of the nicest archive buildings I've ever been in. Too bad they're moving out of it in a year - after forty years of growth, the building's now too small, no matter how nice the design, and it's cheaper for the archive to build out in the suburbs than to expand their current building downtown. Which makes me sort of sigh; even the government in Atlanta would rather be out in the suburbs!

But anyway, it was a nice interview. Also very, very long, from 9:30 to almost 1 o'clock. I think I've got the job, but now comes the part where I sit around waiting and waiting for a call or an e-mail, wondering if I said something wrong, but knowing they like me but what if someone knows someone? After all, nepotism is considered a virtue in the land of my birth. Well, I suppose I'm having a pretty fab time without a job right now anyway.

I'm learning how to live with family everyday. When I was small, my parents moved away from Georgia and my huge extended family. My father's job was in Nashville, so after a certain age I only had long term exposure to the family over the summer when school was out. I lived for the summer all year long, waiting, and only child until I was 10, waiting to be surrounded by my cousins. Now I see them all everyday, and it still feels like a huge vacation - even when the toddlers blow snot on me or try to bite my cat, Mr. Puck. I was isolated from children for two years while I lived in Boston, and the novelty of hanging out with them has yet to wear off again. I sort of hope it never wears off, to be honest.

There are three toddlers I see pretty much daily. Colin is Audrey and Jamie's boy, almost three, who lives with us in Acworth. He's got huge blue eyes and is very fond of Mr. Puck. The two elderly cats that belong to his dad - Snowy and Clumsy - run and hide from his sticky little hands, but Mr. Puck is a pretty patient cat, and sits still for Colin to curl up next to him, to pull his tail, to kiss on him, to pretend he's another cat. I had to shave Mr. Puck down to 1/8th of an inch of hair because Colin, when he pretends to be a cat, licks the other cats. Colin also has asthma, and takes hits from an inhaler every night before bed. The thought of him having an asthma attack because of Puck took my breath away. So Mr. Puck suffered the indignity of a home haircut with clippers. Thank god I have a forgiving cat.

Snowy and Clumsy were all ready shaved when I moved in. Here at the end of my second week in the house, the three cats are finally friendly.

The other two toddlers I see all the time are Ruel and Ellie, who belong to my Aunt Laura and Uncle Doug. Ellie is this small contrary ball of baby about 18 months old. She says NO even when she means Yes. A "No" that means no is a sharp, decisive yell, while a "No" that means yes is less sure, begins with a slight pause and ends a little unsure. I'm lucky in that Ellie likes me, and so tolerates me occasionally picking her up or driving her somewhere. Ellie favors my sisters as babies, with feathery hair and similar features. Her current favorite pastimes are reading board books and drooling while yelling No.

Ruel is four, incredibly talkative, and obsessed with trains. He has his own little boy fantasy world construct all ready, and plays by himself fairly well, and for this reason I don't know him terribly well yet other than as a small, active blur that runs around outside the house, often without clothing. And before anyone gets all judgy about that, let remind you - this is South Georgia in late August. All children under the age of 5 tend to be naked in their own yards. Have you ever tried to keep clothes on a kid when it's 95 degrees with 50% humidity? And if so, why were you bothering to ever try?

When I visit my aunt and uncle - the parents of Ellie and Ruel - everyone inevitably ends up out in the garage, where the plastic chairs are that face the front lawn and street. The garage is a huge affair with one large door, so the adults can hang out in the relative cool of the cement structure while facing where the children run around and ride their trikes. The adults talk about anything and everything here, and the children aren't listening at all, but running and yelling and fighting over gum or who pushed who. Adults in the garage are just the people who are too old to play in the yard. My cousin Karina, 16, smokes without fear of reprisal in the garage, like most of the adults after dinner.

I love sitting and talking out there. Not just because Doug and Laura foster a very open sort of casual atmosphere where anything is up for intelligent discussion, but because you can just sort of sit back and watch the kids if you want. They're pretty darn entertaining. Last week, when the air was so heavy and thick it was like a blanket that you breathe, the sky suddenly opened up into a light easy rain while the kids were in the yard. Three toddlers got naked and jumped up and down in the driveway puddles, laughing when they discovered a place where the water ran off the garage roof a little heavier, and a waterfall full of naked happy babies was right there in front of us.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

The beauty of shrimp

After arriving at my cousin's house from the two days in which I drove over 23 hours, I was beat. I was barely coherent Thursday night upon my arrival, and spent most of Friday just freaked out, trying to unpack. My youngest sister, Abigail, all of 9 years old, came over with my teen-age cousin Michele that afternoon to help me unpack a bit. Abigail spent the afternoon coloring and keeping an eye on the telephone and the cats while Michele and I ran things from the truck up a flight of stairs into the house.

My cousin Audrey's house. It's amazing to me that she and her husband Jamie, both of them 3 years younger than me, own this house. It's a split-level two-car garage affair in Acworth, one of the most distant of Atlanta suburbs. It's situated in Cobb county off of I-75 and highway 92, where the roads are sprinkled with subdivision after subdivision, one not unlike the other as they've all come to being in the past decade. The house is beautiful and just right for their small family. They've given over the room that was their office to me, no questions asked. It's my cousins who keep me from being obnoxious. Sure, I've got a grad degree, I worked for Harvard, and I'm a writer. So what? My cousins younger than me have houses, spouses, and children. I can't even begin to understand how they've managed to do all that before the age of 25.

I paid Michele back for carrying heavy boxes in the heat with a candy bar and the loan of my entire run of Batgirl. Michele is a cousin by marriage, 17, and a classic Witch-Baby.

Saturday I spent the day with my Uncle Doug, Aunt Laura, and their children in Marietta. Well, their children, Audrey's little boy, my cousins from the Gordon side, my sister, a cousin's boyfriend's child who she was watching, a couple of kids from the neighborhood, Laura's grandmother, and some people who stopped in to say hi.

Then my Grandfather arrived with my other sister, Sara, and about 50 pounds of shrimp that he boasted had been in the river the night before. He opened the cooler and while he and my uncle Doug got to cooking, I, my cousin Connie, and several of the toddlers sat around just looking at all the shrimp on ice. They were beautiful, huge with their heads still on, and whiskers off their faces a deep dark purple. Their bodies were gray but threw off flecks of sliver, green, and lavender in the light. Their tails were dark gray but tipped in the palest green, a fading and shading of col9ors so beautiful I kept looking at them, showing them to other people. Shrimp are beautiful.

We sat down with all those shrimp boiled in seasoning with Vidalia onions and nothing else but salad, crackers, and gallons of sweet tea. Abigail sat next to me and peeled her own shrimp for the first time, and Sara sat across from us, eating shrimp the way only a teenager can. We fed a good two dozen people, at least, and my grandfather and uncle sat out at the table last, talking with a neighbor about history and food and fishing. There was ice cream at some point in little cones. As it got dark, I went out on the lawn with my aunts and cousins and we all laid on the grass and watched Sara light sparklers, ten at a time, for the toddlers, who were amazed. The smoke chased away most of the bugs, but they eventually drove us back in.

My parents arrived in from Nashville that night, and then we all sat around drinking fuzzy navels and people hugging me and patting me on the back and I was stupid exhausted still. It was a good night. One of the teen age girl cousins, Karina, got to cutting hair on the back porch, and all the girls got trims while the adults sat around drinking and talking. I was overwhelmed and just kept from letting everyone know how close I was to crying. I wasn't sad at all, but just really tired and happy and overwhelmed by how nice it all was. How beautiful the shrimp were. How nice it was to back home, in Georgia, forever, at last.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Wednesday I climbed into the cab of a ten-foot Ryder truck and drove for 10 hours, out of Boston, out of New England, down the eastern seaboard. I drove with my cat, Mr. Puck, in a wicker hamper beside me, down I-95, and listened to mix CD's from friends. I spent several hours at a crawl in New York City, where I put on my wolf's ears, glitter lip-gloss, and sunglasses and pretended I was hip while trying to get across the George Washington Bridge. The bridge scared me a little; it was one of those works of architecture on a scale that knocks you down, that isn't kidding. I battled the New Jersey Turnpike. I giggled as I passed Elizabeth, New Jersey. Then I drove and drove and drove in a vain attempt to get on the other side of DC before sundown. I gave up just outside Baltimore and collapsed at a Best Western.

I was so stupid tired in Baltimore that I called what I thought was Dust's answering machine and rambled on for 5 minutes about the old video game Oregon Trail, and how I was in my Conestoga wagon, and how it wasn't fair that the only way to win that game was to start out as the banker. Later I found out that this was, in fact, not the answering machine of my friend, but someone else who will now have my bizarre electronic ramblings.

Thursday I woke up and drugged the cat again and drove around DC in morning traffic. I stuck to I-95 until just past Richmond, where the cat staged a daring breakout from his carrier at 80 miles per hour, and after I got him settled I decided that was a sign to head inland. I then picked up I-85 into my destination city, Atlanta. Once I turned away from the coast (counter to my intuition, because all good things come from the water) I realized I was in the South. Parts of I-85 are actually an orange-pink from the red clay dirt ground into the concrete road surface.

When I hit South Carolina, I knew I was almost home, and as I crossed the river into Georgia I yelled and hollered to myself and Mr. Puck started singing. I'll never move out of Georgia again. Three hours after that we were in Atlanta, and after another hour we were in Acworth, at the new home of my cousin Audrey, her husband Jamie, and their small son Colin. I was so exhausted I was stupid, rambling, dehydrated, starved, sore and freaked out beyond belief. Also happy; the hard part was over. Now it's time for everything else…

Monday, August 05, 2002

Designs are still coming along, as is the move. I'm very pleased with myself today because I tracked the etymology of the term sea-change down to a quote in The Tempest. I'm such a dork; I love the OED.

sea-change, a change wrought by the sea; now freq. transf. with or without allusion to Shakespeare's use (quot. 1610), an alteration or metamorphosis, a radical change.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Things should be up and running here by August 15th. Until then, check out my old archives over here.