Thursday, January 29, 2004

Because people are basicly nice

Having to move this week has underlined to me how fundamentally nice people in Atlanta are.

Again and again I met people much like myself, who were inclined to help others in the same situation. People coming to look at my apartment mostly had the same story to tell; they were either fleeing bad roomie situations, or were just looking for a roommate who fit them specifically. When I gave up and started looking for a new place to live, I met people just like me who had been looking for roomies for two or three months. Everyone was terribly pleasant.

I met lots of girls out on their own in the city, with stories that paralleled mine. Amy had moved here after dropping out of a PhD program, and found that her friend from the internet was not the friend she thought. Leslie, a paralegal, found that her roomie’s partying way interfered with her need to sleep after a demanding job. Ellen, who worked two part time jobs while finishing her Graphic Design thesis, had her roomie move in with his girlfriend – and out on her.

Both Amy and Leslie decided to get apartments on their own. In this renter’s market, they could afford to. I considered moving in with Ellen, but her condo was farther away from the train than I liked. I’ve settled on moving in with Dave and Parker, who have a house just two blocks from mine in a much better spot. They were so in need of a roomie after looking for over 2 months that the landlord waived my deposit.

As I was walking to the train from work Monday, a young woman approached me. Although neither of us mentioned it, it was clear she had just been crying. She was blonde and 21ish, wearing too much makeup, and lost. She looked like she was OTP – not from inside the city.

“Do you know the way to the train station?”

“It’s right down here, follow me – I’m going there myself.”

She struck up a conversation and her story spilled out to me – just moved here, can’t find a job, her roomies are awful and smoke pot all the time. I told her about craigslist, and how she could find a much cheaper apartment right away if she needed. She had moved here to try and go to school, but had picked a place far too quickly in Midtown, the most expensive section of Atlanta.

I barely resisted the urge to hug her as she got off the train.

We’re all in this together, you know? None of us are so much different than the others. And as I showed my apartment to a mom with two kids and one on the way last night, I realized I could never be alone – I am no different than the sea of other people who have moved here just to try and make it.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

I found a place to live

Two blocks closer to Little 5 than where I am now, a place that will save me easily $300 a month in rent and bills.

Now I just have to move everything!

Saturday, January 24, 2004

In 48 hours, my life will change

I have given myself 48 hours to find a room mate or commit to moving in with someone else.

I haven't had very good luck in finding a roomie for the place I'm in now, because, well, it's priced too high for this area. Last night as I walked to look at another apartment, I counted 4 for rent signs advertising a room or a one bedroom apartment. I didn't count the signs for houses. We've got a housing glut here in Atlanta, no two ways about it.

As I called around yesterday to make visiting appointments for this weekend, I heard my story repeated to me again and again; women who have been advertising for room mates for two or three months with no avail. One girl had a story so similar to mine that even though she didn't want a roomie with a cat (she has two dogs), she kindly offered to take me in for a month or two until I find something if nothing works out. She must find someone to pay the rent, and if I don't get a roomie I must move. So at least I have a place to go here in town if I don't find something...

...but if no one calls me, I've got plenty of people to call. I'll find something nearby and cheap, because so many people are without renters.

I love this house. The location is better than anyone else's, and it's bigger than anything else I've seen or heard about, but of course that means it just costs more and so I can't find anybody. I'm having dinner tonight with a girl I met yesterday who seems to have the best set up I could ask for. She even seems to be a good personality match; she's a graphic designer finishing her thesis and working two part time jobs. She has two cats the same age as mine. She lives about 4 blocks away, farther from the train and Little 5, but still in Inman Park.

In a last ditch effort to stay where I am, I'm offering Heidi a free plane ticket to Atlanta if she'll move in with me. She just lost her internship, and she's just as likely to find a job here as NYC. Of course, if it were me, I'd stay in NYC until the last possible minute, until I just couldn't hold on any longer. That's what I did in Boston, and I know that's what Heidi will probably do. But I'm going to tempt her anyway.

The Republican has been pretty supportive in my week of terrible freak-outedness. So has everyone, really.

I had the most stressful week at work I've ever had. I briefly considered quitting, chucking everything in a moving van, and hightailing it to Nashville. This could still happen. But my boss is now planning on sending me to the Bahamas in June, so...maybe I can deal with this.

Everything is harder than you think it's going to be, but sometimes it's easier too. I know that was a non sequitur, I'm just sayin'.

Devon wrote me that she'd like to visit. I wouldn't mind seeing her at all. Maybe that will work out. Maybe I won't have to move. Maybe one day I'll stop getting myself into these sorts of messes, dreaming dreams too big to be contained by my financial situation. Maybe next year the President will be Edwards with Carol Mosley-Braun as VP. Maybe monkeys will fly out of my ass.

There is nothing to do but make it all work. And I will. It's just going to be a bigger job than I signed up for. So of course, nothing has really changed at all.

Monday, January 19, 2004

So, I have a boyfriend

So, I'll get through it.

I have been criticized in the past for being less than forthcoming about problems. Some of you are going to yell at me later. Sorry about that. But I'm not a big whiner, or at least I try not to be. I live in fear of being the sort of person who makes her problems other people's problems. In that spirit, and with that warning, this post is only about good things. Yeah, there's some pretty crappy things going down right now. But if focused just on the bad, I wouldn't be able to enjoy my life. And it is a pretty good life, all things considered. For instance:

The Republican showed up Saturday early afternoon, a box of Krispy Kremes in one hand, a sackful of comics in the other. He was full of kisses and warmth and reassurance. And as we curled around each other, I laughed because often I lament to myself that I am not as pretty as I was at 16, or 18, or 19. And like every fool, I feel very alone. But if at 27 I can convince a man to drive 4 hours to see me, and he walks in bearing doughnuts and comics...I must be doing something right.

It's MLK weekend in Atlanta, and no one does anything in celebration of the city's most famous son. There are parades and a procession and community events. Many of my co-workers took days off and stretched the three day weekend into a week long holiday. The gas man would not be bothered to come fix a problem with my heat. The Republican brought me his space heater. We did a decent job of keeping the place warm.

Nothing is settled; the temperature commits itself to 30 degree swings each day, highs in the 60's, lows near 30. So go my emotions, feeling a midwinter tide that pulls on other people as well. Devon has given up on writing. Alestar posts an odd reply to this lament, and I haven given up too. Kati and Heidi write me, don't give up, don't go over, keep running, you are better. Dust despairs because as Devon and I give up, his 20 year old companion declares her intention to be a published poet.

The Republican and I wrestle one morning. Neither of us really wants to hurt the other; it's all in fun. I'm trying to leave the bed, and he doesn't want me too, so I start a fight. Through dread trickery, I end up caught fast. I ask to be let go, and he says I have to promise not to leave for 5 or 6 years. We wrestle for a good half hour before I give up, and I actually say it I give up and he kisses me and nicer things follow and he actually says See how nice it is when you surrender?

And it is nice. I can't lie about that. It's better than nice. I have quit fighting. I never thought I'd say that. But then, I haven't, really; I've written it, and in some ways that's worse.

Of course, just because I've quit fighting doesn't mean I've lost anything; The Republican is just as caught as I am. And for him I bet it's more horrible, because he's never been in love before.

"Isn't this the worst thing ever? Doesn't being in love suck?"

He nodded quietly, and squeezed his eyes shut more tightly, and as he curled around me and I could hear him swallow. I'm afraid we're quite doomed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Friday, January 09, 2004

New for 2004.

Everything is different now.

Bars in Atlanta are no longer allowed to stay open all night. No more 24 hour parties, no more wild club kids staggering around Star Bar or Backstreets on the wrong side of dawn, glitter gorgeous. It’s not that I went out late and was part of that whole scene; it’s just that I enjoyed living in a town where it existed. Somehow the 24 hour bars made Atlanta the sort of town I like to live in. Should I randomly wake up at 4am with insomnia, I like the idea of being able to pull on some leather pants and take a taxi down to see some drag.

Not that the situation is ever likely to happen. I’m just pointing out that I liked having the option, at 4 in the morning, of watching someone else throw up on the sidewalk in front of me. Those sort of things keep life interesting. Last call is now legally 2:30. How dull is that? The taxi cab drivers and barkeeps are protesting. I hope they can remember to vote for a change…

There’s a bridge connecting Spring street to the Tech campus right across 17th street now. Not that I drive, but it’s nice to know that it’s there.

The Republican’s eyelashes are blonde. I have never woken up next to someone with blonde eyelashes before. We live too far apart, and so this doesn’t happen often; still, I like to think about how he looks asleep. This admission shocks me almost as much as it shocks other people I know. I think about him when he’s not around. I feel as if I have been modified, altered by blonde eyelashes and his careful ways. This is strange and different.

Atlanta will begin a 500 million dollar new sewer system this year. Every time I see something in the news about the sewer, I hear Mr. Croup from Neverwhere saying “With cities, just as with people, Mr. Vandemar, the condition of the bowels is all important.”

I had a lovely series of dinners over the holidays. IHOP with Heidi, Devon, Aisling and assorted company; Waffle House with Skeet, Virgil and Serena; Indian food and later sushi with Jeff and company; Taste of Tokyo with my mother and sisters; Melting Pot with The Republican; Dessert with Underdown, The Republican, and Skeet; other nights and times and dinners that blur, two weeks of parties and conversations and more that blend together and are gone, one smooth string of time that made me forget the days of the week.

I came home tired to a cat that now has a big scar across her nose, a parting gift from cats less kind.

I came home to changed plans, a relaxing and happy house, and the disturbing knowledge that now, more than ever, I shape my own world and destiny, and affect all others around me as they affect my world and reality as well.

It is twelve months from where I was last, and I haven’t the energy to reconnect with where I was a year ago (two years ago, three years ago, four). In an 18 month race, I have run out of steam in a year. I have had to sit down so close to the end of a three year marathon. I just quit. I quit. I quit for now. Why was I running?

Should I move to Nashville? Should I get a regular old librarian job? What would it matter? Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me I belong in a bigger city, with a bigger tub, that I belong in the top of my field. Tell me to keep fighting. Tell me to never give in, never give up, that the person I want to be is better than a mediocre position in a badly governed state with low educational values. Tell me that all my plans were not flawed from the beginning, tell me I’m an artist, tell me to be better than the forces around me. Tell me that I will always be a fighter, that I will never rest, that I have not gotten worn down and tired. Tellme that love does not win when my main fuel, for decades, has been discontent.

Friday, January 02, 2004


Three views of Nashville at Christmas

the fourth set of threes

The Republican's parents are older than mine, and from a different social class than mine. This means that they are from the last generation to grow up during segregation, and that they were affected greatly by the social change that followed the legal defeat of that system. They are good people, kind to others, present at charity events like many of their contemporaries, and generally regarded well by their peers.

They also own Nashville's only albino lawn jockey.

The Republican's parents had always had a lawn jockey. A lawn jockey (for those of you who didn't grow up in the South, or are too young to have ever seen one) is a small statue generally about two and a half feet high. It's a black man or boy dressed in riding gear or a caddy outfit, and he's got one arm to his side and one arm outstretched, often holding a brass ring. When people rode horses still, this is where your visitors would tie their horses when stopping in to say hello. Lawn jockeys are usually made of concrete or cast iron, and often they are caricatures of black men or boys falling under the category of Sambo or Uncle Tom.

Lawn jockeys became redundant decades before desegregation and political correctness, but people still enjoyed them in a nostalgia sort of way. I remember the first time I ever saw one as a little girl in Augusta, I remarked to my mother about the large ugly garden gnome. My mom explained what it was, and that most people found them offensive nowadays, and that personally she thought it was rather tacky but if people wanted lawn jockeys by their mail boxes or in their rose beds no one could do much about it. People once had affection for their lawn jockeys. They named them. And The Republican's parents were of that generation that owned a lawn jockey for decades, and probably never thought anything negative about it.

Until one day not too many years ago, when The Republican's parents had a black businessman friend coming over for dinner. Suddenly the realized their landscaping might offend. So his dad, short on time, and in a move that would only make sense to other men from his time and place, simply painted the jockey's hands and face white. Not flesh colored "white", but rather a stark, ghostly wall flat white that he probably had laying around in his basement. The businessman friend made fun and light (what the hell would you do?) and it was all considered well, this literal whitewashing of the lawn jockey.

As I went up the steps to greet The Republican's father for the first time, a kind older gentleman who was happy to meet me and showed nothing but affection towards his wife and son in my presence, the albino lawn jockey stared at me, his face and hands catching every hint of light in the December night.

My sister is sixteen, and into musicians. My parents love that she hangs out with musicians; everyone wants their child to end up with someone like themselves, and Sara's current guy-friend-that-she-hangs-out-with-but-who-is-not-her-
boyfriend could not be a better match in their eyes. A is a second generation professional musician, and at 16 is already playing venues in town with some degree of success. When he's not drumming he works in the cafeteria of an elderly home. I like him, and Sara wanted me to take her to one of his shows last week. I didn't want to go, but she persuaded and I folded. After all, it had been a few years since I had been out to see a band play in Nashville, and it's almost always worth my time.

The band was very good. I had expected a bunch of teenagers who didn't practice enough; instead I found their sound far more polished than many college bands. Of course, being 17 years old, they called themselves Money Shot.

"Oh good god." I mumbled, head in hand, as one of Sara's friends told me the name of the band. I started laughing.

"What?" asked my little sister. "Why are you laughing?"

I explained the porn terminology to Sara and she just looked puzzled; I kept laughing for the rest of the night because I was surrounded by drunk 17 year olds. This club, which I'll call 3L to avoid libel, wasn't carding anybody. The kids were very young, between 15 and 19 but most under 18. And they drank a lot, and they were stupid.

As we got in the car to go, I put on my crotchety old lady voice. "You know, back in my day, we had to hide our underage drinking! There was none of this out in the open, in bars! WE had shame! And hiding! We had to sneak our drinking like decent folks!"

Sara just shrugged. "Those drinking were mostly the rich kids. You know my friends and I can't afford to drink in bars."

I sighed, and knew she was safe, because it was true. I like this drummer boy, A. I told my parents Sara should go to more shows because all the girls are there for the guitarists, and none for A, who is really a decent guy and should have his own little table of friends and followers.


I was going to write about the village here, but I'll save that story for unlucky number 13.

Instead, let me tell you about East Nashville. With one story about desegregation already on this page, I might as well put up another.

In the 1960's, the idea of desegregation and interstates happened to Nashville at about the same time. The answer to city planners seemed quite clear; they used the new interstate to neatly bisect the black part of the city from the white. And with a great roaring of machinery and black asphalt, East Nashville (which is rather sort of north of town, but never mind the vernacular) was cut off from most city dweller's everyday experience. One could now live in Nashville for decades - and indeed many did - without ever driving or walking the streets across the Cumberland river, just within eyesight of the state capitol.

Consider the interstate a river that is 20 times harder to cross. One hundred years ago, there were ferries from one part of Nashville to another, back and forth across the Cumberland, which even back then was something of a biological dump full of factory pollution. Now think of an interstate, which can only be crossed by one of two bridges in your car, bridges most impractical for walking. Big concrete walls - sound barriers - went up along this divide, for the good of people living on
either side.

Get the picture?

Things had changed for the better when I was in Nashville last though. The stadium (which is horribly ugly) now lies just across the river from the 2nd avenue district, down where the Shelby Street bridge used to be. Since the stadium is there, the neighborhoods have picked up some respect; young professionals are moving into East Nashville and (whisper it) they are white. East Nashville is "the new Hillsboro", and neighborhoods full of gently rotting Victorian architecture got a
boost a few years ago when a tornado ripped through, injecting wads of insurance money into the streets it left wrecked. City officials were able to use this wreckage as an excuse to get out there and rip up a lot of old shacks that were unstable before the natural disaster, and were now at precarious angles in the aftermath.

Of course, bereft of attention for years, East Nashville has its problems; it's very easy to get lost on roads planned out for a streetcar city. I had to be careful as I drove out there one night to pick up my friend Skeet. I was proud that I did not get lost on the way there. We did get lost trying to get back over the river. Confident in
my knowledge of Nashville streets, I told Skeet I knew how to get downtown faster than he did.

"We'll just take the Shelby Street bridge" I said. I knew this bridge was right beside the stadium. You could even see it in the night. I even knew where it came out on the other side of the river.

When we got there, the bridge was closed. A quick stop at the gas station had the attendant laughing at us. "Shelby Street Bridge has been closed for a few years now. Opens back up in April, but I'm not counting on it."

"So it's the Jefferson Street Bridge or the interstate or nothing?"

"Yup" said the man, smiling, all teeth, laughing.

Navigating to the Jefferson Street Bridge would be a pickle for me with no map. Did I mention how easy it is to get lost in East Nashville? Skeet and I sighed and got back on the interstate. Skeet lives in East Nashville, and knows no other entrance or exit to the rest of the city.

But they are opening old bridges, up in Nashville. Things are changing. And everyone will move, and shift, and with any luck welcome back a piece of the city cut off by bad decisions so long ago. After all, the stadium is in East Nashville, and most of the city's champions who play there would be able to tell you how important it is, this exchange and release of old restrictions, and they would laugh hard at the idea of an all white game of any sort at all.