You can always tell a neighborhoods security by it's mini-marts. It's as true in 3rd World countries, as it is in the U.S.
If it has bars on the windows, slathered in cameras, and warning signs posted all over the front of a mini-mart... move your wallet to your front pocket, look tough, don't make eye contact... get in and get out.
I know the rules.
As a world traveler, you develop a certain sixth sense, that reaches beyond just being street smart.
You know when something is up.
So I asked around. I tested the locals, asking plenty of questions, "Are there places that aren't safe?" and "What do you do for personal safety" were regular parts of my discussions. I was reassured time and time again that Atlanta was perfectly safe and that I was just being paranoid. My guard slowly eroded against my better judgement... and then...
After a night of good food and great company we were heading over to a friends place to watch some Dexter. We decided that some beer was in order and pulled into a finely locked down mini-mart.
Bared, sign plastered windows, warning against entry. "Enter At Own Risk" was the only sign that could have helped me and naturally it was the only one they had neglected to post.
I walk in, and a man with sunken eyes and tattered clothing, brown with stains, turns and puts his hand on my shoulder faster then I could avoid. A waft of rot racing up to my nostrils in a full assault on my person, I pulled back! "You got some change?" he gargles loudly, spittle hitting my chest, I dodge!
"No" I mumble, unable to fully open my mouth for fear of taking in more of the aroma... I add pace to my step!
Small store, and I do a circle of it quickly, looking into the cases for libations. Zombie closing in, I'm under a time-line and I feel it ending.
Not a can of beer in the cases? I search behind the Plexiglas protected attendant for beer or bottles. Nothing there? So I ask, "Beer?", to which the attendant, weak with mental exhaustion can only muster a lift of his finger at a sign... "ALCOHOL NOT SOLD HERE".
I rush to the door and jump in the car. We race to the next mini-mart this one with neon promises of what we seek. Laden with beer signs, unwelcoming bared windows. The only notable difference is that this attendant is behind a bank teller style thick, bullet proof, Plexiglas wall with the no-touch money slide option! The only thing that could kill him in there was the smell of the customers!
I walk into the store wiser for my prior experience, aware of everything... three zombies, trajectories moving to intercept, one already starting to mouth slobber garbled words in my direction, (did he whisper "Brains?") I race to the case!
I try the door and it's stuck!
One Zombie seeing that I'm having trouble is drawn by the activity, I try the door harder this time! I fail, and look to the attendant with wide eyes!
He's amused by the show behind his smeared windows of captivity, and takes his time. "You need a key" he says in a polite East Indian sing song accent!
I dodge Zombie #2 busy poking a Frito bag with one index finger as if it might giggle in response?
I take the key and move to the case. Zombie #3 takes interest once I have the key, intent unknown, he starts to move toward me.
I place the key in the lock and it doesn't fit? I try again, I begin to perspire! A helpful sing song accent chimes in behind me and asks, "So where are you visiting from."
That's when I knew.
That's when I knew that if you can tell I'm new to town by the fact that I'm surprised that I need a key to open a beer case, and look nervous when I'm surrounded by the living dead, that I had been led astray! There are dangerous zones in Atlanta, there are things I needed to know, and not ever coming into this mini-mart was on that need to know list!
"I'm from Seattle, just arrived, so is there a trick to the key?" I ask, voice cracking as #3 positions himself behind me.
Smiling and being so friendly it was assuring the attendant strikes up a conversation, "I heard it's nice there... oh... um... just unlock all three locks the middle one is jammed, it's already open." he continues, "So you've never been to this part of town, you might want to be careful, we had three shootings this month."
(Three locks?) "Yeah." I answer, "I saw that bar shooting on the news..."
(Gads. OK, OK, so I search the case for anything drinkable and beyond the chemical based fortified wines and beers, there is one 12-pack of Heineken! Mission accomplished!) I lock the case and move to the Plexiglas box.
Get ready for it...
Then the attendant cheerfully says, "Oh no, not that bar... I meant here... in THIS store." He was so cheerful about it I almost laughed.
I put the beer up on the little ledge not knowing how he'd scan it through three inches of bullet proof material, he calmly examines the beer, then his voice's timber strengthens, he makes eye contact and sings, "That'll be $19.99".
Babadaba? Wha? Bastard is a Spider and I'm in his web! That's why he's smiling! That's why he's chipper! His web is built stronger then my gnat sized strength can resist!
He knows I'm not going back to that case and it's damnable locks! I'm not braving having my face eaten or shot off by a Zombie... I'm paying up and leaving him in his dark little stronghold and he knows it!
I flip a $20 into his clear plastic hole and push past the brain eater that had positioned himself between myself and the door...
The spider said something to me on the way out, and I was too focused on the car door handle to catch it.
I'm sure it was, ""I love to watch the sweat drip down the side of your face when you have nightmares about me."
Lets begin with Blue Whale. Blue Whale does not belong in soup for a multitude of reasons! Number one, and the most obvious reason, is that the baleen would sift out any other ingredients. Two, they make a horrible sound when you start eating them alive, and three, I blame you for reading this! What?
Where am I?
er... here's some pictures to distract you from all of that... enjoy!
It's been my experience that it's a good idea in an army surplus store to calmly comply with any posted signs. You know they have a Howitzer behind the counter, so it's better to do as you're told!
I just wanted to buy a compass because I keep getting lost here...
That's all I wanted.
This is what I got...
A sweet older looking couple was chatting away behind the counter. The gentleman turns to me and says something to me in Greek. So I say... "Pardon me, I don't speak Greek."
To which he replies, "Nobody does, I just like to see peoples faces when I do."
Uh... OK... so you're a wizenhiemer... I get that... next...
Then I try to hand my bag to the kindly looking woman behind the counter and she looks at me like I'm crazy, then she quickly snatches the bag... she looks it over and then says, "I think I can get $50 bucks for this, will you take $3?" She smiles and then takes the bag!
Ha... OK... so they're cute! I like it!
I walk around the store and they have a lot of great stuff. Great boots at fair prices, fun little odds and ends, and some sweet hats! Sadly I have a gigantic melon and have to special order my hats from circus supply stores, so I move to the check-out counter with my compass, when the door swings open!
Standing there is a guy in a tuxedo.
He laughs with the owners, they pull out the biggest scariest murderous knife in the counter and hand it to him... he nimbly switches it between hands, trying it out for maneuverability, and I realize....
There are few things scarier then a smiling, slightly disheveled, knife wielding guy in a tux between you and the exit of a Army Surplus store!
It's the little rushes that get me through the day in this city! It really is...
Kona makes a mean bike!
Rob doesn't use his beautiful bike, so I've been making the most of it these last two weeks and I've been busy exploring this massive city! The shocks are amazing which is great, because the roads seem to be under construction everywhere! Atlanta isn't quite as hill heavy as Seattle and tooling around is still quite a workout, but it's very dooable! I've gone five miles or more in each direction from the house, and still have a lot more exploring to do on this baby!
Piedmont park from every angle.
The fearless leader of Yelp.com in Atlanta Kathleen welcomed me to town with my first real Buttermilk Southern Fried Chicken dinner!
It was as wonderful as I could have ever dreamed!
The atmosphere was posh, the food expertly prepared and the prices were totally completely affordable! The mashed potatoes were flawless, the green-beans, blanched and lightly seasoned, the gravy was perfectly smooth and lightly peppery without being overwhelming! I loved it!
Keep it comin!
I tried to explain to them that they were landlocked, but you know pirates... they never listen to reason!
So after trying to see a show at the Starbar (any picture above that looks like a David Lynch film) and having some pizza, Rob and I parted ways for the night.
I jumped in a cab and gave the cab driver the main intersection nearest to our house. He became annoyed immediately!
I notice that he seems to be going in the wrong direction, but I really don't have the best sense of direction, so I let it slide trusting that he'd know where the main intersection of the hottest neighborhood in Atlanta is!
The meter slips past $12 which was the price to get to L5P (Little Five Points). I don't say anything... the meter gets to $20... "so, sir... I'm in Midtown, and I'm new to town... is this the right way?"
Angrily, he answers with a question, "Do you have a girlfriend?"
Oh shit... here we go again... life is coming at me full speed, do I weave, dodge, or confront?
"Excuse me?", I start, then I add..."Boy I wish!" I answer in the most chipper tone available to me!
He slumps over a bit, silence from him. I put my hand on the door handle... tensions rise as I try to figure out what he's doing.
Forest outside the window now... we are going deeper into oblivion...
"Ok sir, so it cost me $12 to get to L5P and the meter is at $20, is everything OK?" I say.
"So you've had girlfriends?"
Then it hits me... Midtown has gay clubs... this jerkwad is a homophobe! Ahhh! Everything makes sense! Plus he's trying to milk me for a longer fare because I had mentioned I just arrived in Atlanta! Scum!
I calmly answer, "Yeah, I've had lots of girlfriends, a couple boyfriends, and am likely to think about a relationship with the right animal is they seem like they're into me." Smile stretched across my face...
The car swerves to the side, he yells "OUT!"
Gladly. I step out without paying.
He speeds off into the inky black.
Where the fuck am I? Darkness, giant southern gated homes separated by acres of manicured lawn... cold... and then to top it all off... rain.
Cold, wet, horrible rain. My lifelong enemy has found me, and we spit at each other! I always loose.
I'm wearing a thin wool sweater.
I call a cab, and quickly discover that it's beyond difficult to tell a cab where you are, when you don't actually know!
After an hour, I finally reached my destination.
I change, grab a beer... walk up to the roof of our beautiful builng and see this...
Wrap around view, heart of the city... beautiful.
I sleep like an ancient god and dream of monsters.
I think this gives me a unique perspective on the accent. See... I've always thought of it as charming in person. On TV it can be portrayed as ignorant, which brings me to my next point... real Southerners think that having a particular Southern accent is bad!
I've spoken with around eight people, all young professionals or students, who have all told me the same thing when I mention their accent... "I'm trying to get rid of it."!
I'm sorry, but I think having an accent as smooth as a Southern accent is cool! Every time someone says "ya'll" I smile! I love it! It's sad to me that people have been shamed into thinking it makes them sound uneducated! I think when it's at it's best, it can actually sound rather dignified and even affluent!
Last week I went to a Antique expo with my good friend Peter and long time friend of Rob. He's an fine art dealer and went down to scope out the local market, so I tagged along. Not only did I get a glimpse into the lifestyle of the weathy Southerners, I also easedroped my first Southern coloquism! "Busy as a funeral home fan in July." I almost spit up my drink! Ha! Awesome!
There were litterally acres of antiques! Two huge buildings, and more outside!
Stop staring at me you little monsters!
I guess God is a white constipated dude afterall? We ARE screwed!
Everything was really expensive... these horses just found out how much their worth!
The Bronze pieces were amazing!
Maybe I'm just a clear thinker but...
personally, preteens with wings and swords scare me.
The tamborine worked!
Ancient and less effective Karate techniques demonstrated.
I made the terrible mistake of ordering my tickets at 3am and paid the price by not noticing that I had a six hour stop over in Minneapolis! I love the town don't get me wrong, but in true Scott Kick fashion, I just pulled up my trousers and went on a hunt for Deep Fried Cheese Curds!
There are signs right away that you're not in nice safe, liberal Seattle anymore...
I knew there would be adjustments, but hell, I wasn't even close to the Deep South, and there were already signs for concern!
I mean... a proactive vending machine? Are you really eating that many deep fried foods? Doubts aside...
Onward to Atlanta!
Rob picked me up from the airport and after an unexpected and welcome giant hug from my little brother, my name was announced on the loud speakers! "Scott Kick" please come to Northwest Airlines Terminal Office!"
Oh crap. Here we go.
I've had my luggage lost the last four times I've traveled. Once in Santa Barbara I was handed a toothbrush from the airline rep and told that I "might want to start buying new clothes"!
Ha! Not this time! They just had my bag in the office and sent me on my way with little ado! I didn't even have to wait!
"It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, 'as pretty as an airport.' Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort"
So Rob takes me straight to a bar called the Highlander... named after the film, and fashioned after Seattle, I loved it imediately!
That's right... they have a beer called 420, and better yet... it's freaking delicious!
After some catching up, we headed over to my new home for the next year and what was going to prove to be a minor heart attack!
I had seen some on-line video Rob had shot of the place, but it in no way captured this loft apartments true scale! I was in awe!
... I still am!
Camera Phone Picture... sorry... but you're getting the idea here!