Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Atlanta dispatch #2

I've spent the past few days trying to really come to an understanding of this city, at least as much as one can in a visit as short as this one. I've tried to listen to the stories that the city has to tell the attentive listener, to orient myself in this sprawling southern city, both geographically and psychically. It has been a wonderfully enriching experience. Atlanta has a lot more to offer the casual explorer than I thought it would.

This city is a bit of a mess. There are about 50 different streets named Peachtree: some are Streets, some Avenues, some Centers, some Ways. Each one of these seem to be divided up into a compass point or three, for example, Peachtree Battle Circle NW or S Peachtree Road. None of these geographic markers seem to have any particular bearing upon where in the city the stretch of road in question lies. Another confusing factor is the mutability of street names. Seemingly vital arteries fluctuate from name to name with dizzying frequency. I have been told that this is a vestige of the old color lines in the city, with Black neighborhoods using one name, and paler sorts another. Monroe becomes, simply Boulevard. Moreland becomes Briarcliff Road NE (I have yet to determine if there are truncated bits of Briarcliff Road elsewhere in the city) Capping all of this is the relative uselessness of the MARTA public transit system. A cruciform network of trains connects the cardinal axes of the city, with buses crawling out from the stations with depressing infrequency. The sum of all of these locative complexities is that each section of Atlanta feels very discrete, and travel between them seems to require mastery of a complex geographical hermeneutics, an pseudokabbalah with the Atlanta NFT as its holy text. And no matter how deep in to the intricacies of this system one gets, the shift from one neighborhood to another still feels like a something from one of Jose Luis Borges's jewel-like short stories.

More to come.

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