Does it seem like I’m always posting photos of urban blight? I guess it’s because I'm a sucker for vintage design and forgotten, unloveable, semi-tragic old junk. But I’m a lousy photographer. My friend Kelso captures the kind of pictures I only wish I could. He lets me steal photos to use on this blog and he’s responsible for the portraits on Skeledog. His documentary images strike me as perfectly “southern,” but like Eggleston, he could be in Japan or Sweden and still get this spooky, wonder-filled richness out of ordinary scenes. Check out his more of his photos here.
This is so spooky and tragically beautiful: 42 acres of demolished homes, driveways that lead to crumbling foundations, flanked by rusty mailboxes, aging magnolias and crepe myrtles. The land was bought up by the City of Atlanta as some kind of airport noise abatement program (like Mountain View?) and still sits undeveloped.
There are a few surviving homes. Hard to believe you can still find scenes like this inside the perimeter. My friends told me that our local CSA is interested in cultivating a community farm here. I am so enamoured with the Southside.
It always amazes me
when departing and landing
to look down and see
all the new houses/apartments
in the flight paths.
I would think that airplane noise
being awakened by the thundering
noise of low-flying jets
would be an improvement
over gunfire and rap music.
When I’m watching TV, I have to sit
with the remote control in my hand,
to increase the volume
when the plane is coming down
and the house is shaking
and turn it back down after it’s passed over.
First the school system falls apart
and sets off car alarms
It’s inhuman to live under
for more than 30 years,
The airport has been here
far longer than the residents.
and it's someone else's fault
I can’t live there.
It's bunch ghetto crooks
living there anyway.
So much complaining,
why not just move?
Those who CHOSE to live here
have no right to complain about noise,
and vibrations that rock
their homes throughout each day
Complaining about the noise
is like complaining about flooding
Let those bottom feeders drown
in the cesspool of their poor choices.
Carter always wants to talk politics. He lives across the street, alone, and never misses an opportunity to stroll over to my driveway and school me on what’s wrong with the world. He keeps an eye on Broad Avenue from his junk-encrusted front porch, peering out from under his grimy cap and those tin awnings sagging with mildew.
The first time we met, Carter warned me that “the homosexuals” and “the blacks” were in control of everything in this part of town. That this was no longer any place for law-abiding whites like us.
This comment was the first of many of Carter’s greatest hits, including:
“Them folks with all the Halloween decorations? They must be Catholic. You know they can’t be Christian.”
“Can you believe that the people of Illinois elected a black man to be their senator?”
“Why do I need a woman when I’ve got a microwave?”
It's kind of remarkable to witness. Carter practices a form of old-school, matter-of-fact racism that's practically extinct. He’s a pitiful old coot, with his pushbroom mustache and mis-buttoned workshirts. He lives off a military pension, the proceeds of recycled scrap metal, and TV dinners. Just off-kilter and lonely and wanting to talk.
"Let me tell you something," he tells me. "I was born in Coffee County, Georgia." As if that justifies everything.
Undyingly cordial to my elders, I usually listen to him the first minute or two, becoming more curt as the topic turns to the liberals and the Chinese. “I gotta run, Carter," I say. "But I’ll bring you some grapefruit this afternoon.” I didn’t take him too seriously a few weeks ago when he started telling me about how this housing crisis was caused by lazy minorities who had no intention of paying their mortgages. Oh naturally, I thought. Blame the black people. Let's blame space aliens too.
So I was surprised to hear a kindred sentiment coming from the mouth of one of my peers at a dinner party this weekend. Four of us, young and college-educated, were gathered at a tidy suburban kitchen when the topic turned to The Economy.
“My father-in-law is real conservative," my friend began, distancing himself. "And he says that the banks changed the rules because the government was trying to encourage more minority homeowners. And those people got more house than they could afford, that's where all this started.”
I concentrated on my salad. That sounded completely wrong to me. And familiar.
I stewed over this through dessert– cinnamon rolls– and then the ride home from Gwinnett County. I could hardly wait to get home and get on the computer and google up a decent rebuttal. Who's spreading this rumor? Who's buying it? That the global financial meltdown– from Dubai to Vegas to Iceland– all this was triggered by, what? affirmative action? The culprit isn't greed but, reckless generosity?
And I found plenty of liberal articles denouncing what the conservative pundits were saying. I didn't need the Washington Post to recognize the simmering, half-formed racism beneath this explanation. It's Carter's crap, dressed up for dinner.
Last night we watched Athens, GA: Inside Out and wallowed in nostalgia. Seems like everyone I know has told me about this movie. It’s a low budget documentary about the influential ‘80s Athens music scene. There are performances and interviews with the B-52s and REM and underground icons like Pylon and Love Tractor and Limbo District. Good stuff.
Of course it was a trip to see the musicians (Michael Stipe- so young! Flat Duo Jets- totally a White Stripes prototype!), but it wasn’t the music that made me sentimental. It was the B-roll footage and the establishing shots that seem so precious now. Those grainy drivebys of cattle farms and kudzu-wrapped storefronts. Pedestrians wearing overalls, roadside BBQ stands. The film is a repository of any small town Georgia landscape during my childhood. 20 years ago, Athens was surrounded by cow fields and a lush southern landscape that is by now heavily paved over with big box stores and suburban sprawl.
I bet people all over the world have fallen in love with this movie and flocked to Athens, searching for remnants of the scene. I wonder if they find it?
We met NPR's David Greene at brunch last weekend and we were included in his report about how the recession is affecting young people. Funny that our interview was boiled down to a bit about scavenging scrap metal. I thought everyone was doing it.