Saturday, September 30, 2006

Street Orphans

I woke up to the sound of a building collapsing today. Needless to say, the reality doesn't live up to the image. An old (well, 1950s-vintage) bank building was demolished, presumably for more high-end apartments. The building itself was pretty non-descript -- I've presumably seen it thousands of times, but I can't picture it at all.

Perhaps inspired by the odd beginning to the day (half-asleep, I initially thought it was a bomb) got me to go out and see something I've been meaning to for a while -- a little remnant of old Atlanta.

A while back, I was chattering about old street names in Atlanta, and mentioned that Andrew Young International Boulevard had taken over the old-timey Cain Street downtown.

Well... not completely.

A one-block stretch of Cain Street remains, for reasons unknown. It runs from Boulevard to Jackson -- two rather run-down streets. East of Boulevard, what used to be Cain later (apparently - I'm relying on a 1951 map that I'm not sure is totally accurate) became part of Houston Street (now John Wesley Dobbs). West of Jackson, no street remains -- it appears to be apartment complex parking lots now (what was Cain resumes at the interstate, and that's where Andrew Young International Boulevard begins).

I've driven past this little forgotten chunk of Cain plenty of times, mostly just noting its presence, and a rather odd building there. Today, I finally drove on over.

I'd like to say it was the land that time forgot -- "everyone was dressed like it was 1926, flappers and shit! It was free love and free beer! People were riding unicorns around!" but, uh, no. It's basically empty, a street forgotten except for those who want to get from Boulevard to Jackson. There's that one odd building on the whole block, and a section of Freedom Park, on the north side -- private empty lots on the south.

The building, though, is quite interesting:

No signs, no indication of what it is. A residence? Rather odd area for one. The surrounding neighborhood is so completely disused -- there's nothing there -- that I would presume it was just a defunct building that has escaped the wrecking ball, but it's very well kept-up. A fence around the back kept me from getting a close-up look on that side, and the front offered up no clues.

A search on the address (442 Cain St.) turns up one reference -- a notice about the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, referring to our building thus:

"442 CAIN STREET, 1929. A one-story, trapezoid-shaped, brick service station with a shed roof, stepped parapet, and skylight. Facade features a single service bay with double, cross-braced doors and a three-bay office."

That's it. A service station (presumably modified considerably), dating to 1929. Another building for the oddball unknown file. And a cool one -- the last holder of the Cain Street legacy.

The Sinister Signpost

Following up yesterday's post -- it gave a friend the courage to come out of the closet as a similar sign freak, and that friend passed on this site -- a collection of odd signs from Germany. Early on in the browsing, this one (second photo) is my favorite... I can see myself being instantly enamored if I came across that scene on my own.

It brought to mind the following inadequate photo -- which will hopefully be the blurriest thing I ever post here.

That's in Dubrovnik's old city, 16th-century graffiti carved on the side of a home -- Latin saying something to the effect of "you fuckin' kids be quiet with your ball-playing." (I paraphrase.) When I learned about it, on the trip back in 2003, I made a detour to find it -- sadly, it photographed extremely poorly, obviously. But I wonder, when some pissed-off Ragusan wrote that more than 400 years ago, if he could even have contemplated that some dork in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers t-shirt would be gawking at it centuries later.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Signing In

Not really a secret that I'm somewhat fascinated by signs. The old banners that I like photographing are, as I've probably said, holdovers that I appreciate -- relics creeping through.

But it extends past the old-school signs -- perhaps it's just an interest in printed communication in general. When I lived in West Germany briefly as a kid, I became enamored -- that may not even be strong enough -- with the European road signs. My favorite (I kid you not) was the "men at work" style of sign shown above. Somewhere in the family basement is a collection of hand-crafted miniature wooden road sign replicas, some of my favorite toys during that period of time. The men at work sign resides on my bookshelf even today. Whenever I laugh at someone for weird hobbies (the New Yorker alludes to stiletto heel collectors this week), I have to remember that present and past interests of mine include shit like road signs, books about Albania, and hockey jerseys.

The other day, idle at work, I did some internet searching in an attempt to get more information on a half-remembered anecdote from years back -- one stating that years ago, when U.S. road signs were much less standardized, symbols like the forbidding palm of a hand were used as stop signs instead of today's more familiar octagon. I didn't find any confirmation, and lost interest in the search after a bit, but stumbled across a few fun things. One is another old favorite that I'd forgotten about -- a page devoted to road signs of the world, with pithy comments throughout. There's also a section devoted to the ruins of old mills, which I always ignored before but holds some appeal. Then there's this, a few photos of old and odd street signs from London.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ripping People Off for Fun and Profit

Jerseys and Hockey Love has rapidly become one of my favorite hockey blogs -- not only because it's pretty entertaining, not only because Tapeleg has the good taste to be an Avs fan, not just because of this post (beautiful though it is), but also because he's a fellow jersey nut.

I really like a periodic feature he does, in fact -- profiling a jersey from his collection. So much so, in fact, that I'm stealing the idea. Hopefully he won't sue me; Tapeleg, I owe you a beer at Sobo 151 next time I'm back in Colorado for more than two days.

Leo Gudas late 1980s Sparta ČKD Praha road jersey

This is one of the first jerseys I ever got, for about $60 on eBay several years ago, and it remains one of my favorites. I'm pretty sure it's from the 1987-88 season, though it may be 1988-89. If it's '87-'88, that's the year that Gudas led the Czechoslovakian Extraliga in penalty minutes, which explains the condition of this jersey.

The whole thing is slashed and trashed -- plenty of holes, highlighted by an enormous gash right under the "S". Lots of stick marks, lots of rubbing from board paint. Very little advertising on this jersey, a relic of the Communist era -- apart from two Levi's logos, there's nothing. A far cry from today's Czech jerseys.

This jersey was worn toward the start of a long and winding career -- Gudas played in Czechoslovakia (and later the Czech Republic), Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, and Sweden, in a career that ended in 2003. He also made frequent appearances on the Czech national team, including picking up a bronze at the 1992 Olympics. To add to the trivia, he was a 12th-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 1990, but I have no idea if there was ever a possibility of him coming over. Now? He's an assistant coach with Czech first division club HC Berounští Medvědi, and looks a lot like an aging version of the Beastie Boys' MCA.

(career stats at are here)

One last note -- an odd little nod to hockey history on the numbers:

Down there at the bottom of the "7" -- that's a version of the old Minnesota Fighting Saints' guy, minus wings and halo and plus a few stars coming out of his head. No idea why (all the jerseys had them, from other pics I've seen). Go figure. (A closer view is here.)

(A couple acknowledgements: thanks again to Tapeleg for the inspiration. Also, research on this and other Sparta jerseys was conducted with the help of the book, "Naše krev je Sparta" by David Soeldner -- no idea what it says, but it's great!)

* * *

Further jersey note: Brushback, who already clinched his place in hockey history this week when he coined the term "Lubomir Vacuum," has a fantastic post up on some of the ugliest jerseys around. While I like a few -- and the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees jersey, featuring the bee dressed as a cowboy and riding a broomstick horse, is inspired if insane -- there's some real eye-destroyers there. I've got some ugly jerseys, but the worst I've got isn't near some of those. Great stuff.

Ohio, You Did it Again

You thought Fatwa Fridays would cause protests? What about sending Tomáš Klouček to the AHL?? Now you're gonna see unrest.

Good job, Columbus. Good job confirming you'll MISS THE PLAYOFFS for the umpteenth straight year. And oh God, does this mean I have to buy another Syracuse Crunch jersey?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Our Ohioan Friends

I know a few people from Ohio, and I've always been entertained by this rather odd state. They celebrate a river so polluted it caught fire with a beer; their hockey teams have logos like bugs wearing Civil War uniforms and sharks wearing monocles; and now this.

Two thoughts:

1) While I really am shocked that anyone thought this was remotely appropriate, even for a minute;

2) if a bar were to start offering "Fatwa Fridays" specials, I'd be hard-pressed not to start going regularly.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sorry, Guys

A third straight sports-related post -- several friends will be canceling their subscriptions. Anyway, I was asked by SportsFan Magazine to do previews on my teams -- the Thrashers article is up, and is here. In it, I bash poor Andy Sutton, who I seriously have nothing against.

While I'm at it, a reminder that I'm still writing over at Hockey Rants (albeit intermittently), and have a NHL Southeast preview up.

More stuff coming soon, including some non-sports stuff (which will, in turn, bore my hockey fan friends).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Chris Simms, You Became A Man Today

Sweet Jesus, that broke my heart, but at least we saw some signs of life from our quarterback, who impressed me in many ways and guaranteed that my first-born will be named "Chris Simms," if he's born before next Sunday.

The thing you all care about: Greg is now beating the shit out of evil Kynan in the who-will-score-more contest (note: Raiders didn't totally play this week, or nothin', so Kynan may have a handicap). This is the only thing making me feel good about myself. I found a graphing tool, so now I can display just how much awesomer the Bucs are than the Raiders.

Notes from the sports bar. Most of the people I hang out with on a regular basis are not insane sports fans, so it's a bit odd to be around them. The gang that's sort of "adopted" me is really cool, but outside of that little island, it's all weird shit going on. There's a few other Bucs fans at this bar, led by this scary Steve Albini/marine fusion dude who looks like he's just taking a break from the serial killer life. Also, I've re-learned how much a heartbreaking loss can bring men together -- me and Kev the Steelers fan were almost hugging after our mutual failures.

Next week!

Hockey Fantasies

(going old school with the jerseys to kick off the season)

I joined a fantasy hockey league run by David at Red and Black Hockey for this year. I have mixed success with such endeavors -- I won my fantasy football league last year, this year my draft prompted some participants to ask the commissioner if I'd ever actually seen a football game. Despite being much more into hockey, I've always flamed out.

This year, I'm pretty happy with the team. Some prejudices seep through -- there's a lot of Czechs, of course, which I swear to god I didn't plan. But I guess when I need to choose between Petr Sykora and J.P. Dumont, or whoever, I just go Czech. Also a decent amount of Avs and former Avs. I thought about taking Tomas Kloucek with my final pick, but that would be sorta stupid, even as a joke.

Anyway, for those who care about such things:

Team Post-Pessimist

C - Joe Sakic (COL)
C - Mike Modano (DAL)
C - Brendan Morrison (VAN)
LW - Ilya Kovalchuk (ATL)
LW - Andrew Brunette (COL)
LW - Martin Erat (NAS)
RW - Milan Hejduk (COL)
RW - Maxim Afinogenov (BUF)
RW - David Vyborny (CBS)
RW - Petr Sykora (EDM)
D - Marek Zidlicky (NAS)
D - Rob Blake (LA)
D - Andrej Meszaros (OTT)
D - Francois Beauchemin (ANA)
D - Duvie Westcott (CBS)
G - Tomas Vokoun (NAS)
G - Tim Thomas (BOS)
G - Pascal Leclaire (CBS)

fredoluv, if you're out there -- RATE MY TEAM!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Give Back the Key to my Heart

Live and learn: Absolut Peppar vodka and tonic is actually pretty good, strange as it sounds, and it turns me from a grumpy loner into a chatterbox. Last night I wounded up talking at length to one of the Eclipse di Sol crew, who gave me some feedback (not so good) on my recent romantic decisions.

I was already kind of ruminating on said decisions over the course of my life, and their drive toward self-destruction. The girls I get most into are the girls that are gonna fuck me up. When I was younger I sort of figured it was a phase and I'd eventually settle down, as the cliche goes. Now, in my (still early, technically!) 30s, I'm not so sure. I look at nice, sweet, sane girls and think that could be the key to a good life, and then I forget them and twist myself into a pretzel over someone else. If someone tells me "avoid her - she's a strange one," I perk up.

Other people have figured out the secret, obviously. I see people in long-term relationships, and they're all normal and healthy and so on. Me? I think maybe I just want drama. I want everything to be a movie. I want to be punching the steering wheel and saying "that song's about HER!" as the radio plays. I want to be drunk and screwed up, not sober and stable.

Naturally, this is prompted in part by a new (and hopefully short-lived) infatuation. The girl's lovely and smart. There's also roughly 10,000 reasons why I shouldn't even think about it. Care to guess which side I'm tipping toward?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Drowning in Paper

Motivated by curiosity, I just did a quick census of my book collection.

I didn't count them all -- I have to work today. I just counted those that I have never finished (either never started, or started then abandoned).


262 full-length books (not including travel guides, and not including the two books that I'm currently reading) that I've never got all the way through.

Now, I worked as a book reviewer for some years, and accumulated lots of free books that way, some of which I've kept (apparently for the day when I become rich, and can sit around and read all day) far too long (I doubt I'll ever get around to reading the scholarly history of Montreal, or the explanation of pheromones). Some I bought when I was in a genre-specific phase (I'm probably not going to bother with the unread Clive Barker or Jim Thompson books, or some of the poorly-written hockey biographies). Some of them I bought because of an interest in the subject, then found that I wasn't that interested (anyone who can read the works of Enver Hoxha is a better Albania-nut than I).

But still. 262.

There's a lot of good stuff in those 262 books, I'm sure. There's some unread F. Scott Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh. I still have two (mammoth) volumes each of Norman Sherry's Graham Greene biography, and C.L. Sulzberger's diaries (in both cases, I loved vol. 1). I have histories of Czechoslovakia. Misha Glenny's "The Balkans." Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon," which I vowed to read prior to his new book's release, a vow I'm probably gonna have to break.

I really can't justify buying any books for a while, though I'm sure I will. And I'm going to have to get to a major clean-out of this collection. This little survey turned up a lot of books I'd forgotten I had (and in a few cases, forgotten I'd ever bought).

Just for reference, I also subscribe to, at last count, five magazines. The Economist and the New Yorker, both of which I'm pretty good about reading; National Geographic, which I always get to one morning when I'm hungover on the couch; and Foreign Affairs and Conde Nast Traveler, both of which languish (I'll take some random unread issue of FA on plane trips; Conde Nast Traveler usually just ends up going to a friend after I've flipped idly through the pages).

And yesterday, I sent off a subscription form for the New York Review of Books, thinking that CNT runs out soon (it doesn't-- December 2007).

Too many damn words, and no time to read them all (especially when I go out six nights a week).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

High Voltage

Eerily reminiscent of the same day last week, I woke up with a nasty back pain today -- more localized, more painkiller-resistant. Sorta colored the whole day, and all sorts of brilliant, insightful posts I had planned were rubbed out as I lay around screaming "Why? Why?"

This made work great fun, too, as you can imagine. Afterwards I went out for a beer, and spread the joy as I explained just how much it hurt to the poor bartender.

Trudged home (figuratively -- can you trudge in a car?), and found a big-ass UPS box outside my door. I scratched my head. And opened it.

We've got us a party now.

This is both awesome, and when you consider I have four boxes of this stuff, awesomely stupid.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Technology Is Not My Friend

One of the downsides of drunken antics such as last night's is piecing together the memories the next morning. And in the process being reminded of the many ways that communication devices can screw me up.

About 20 minutes ago, I received a text message from someone I dated earlier this year (Hamas Girl, if you remember those posts) -- sort of a polite brush-off type of message. I was a tad confused at first, then horrified, as I realized I text messaged her last night. I vaguely remember reminiscing about some of her charms last night, and while I don't remember the actual message, it's not hard to trace the path of this particular car wreck.

I'm now setting out to purge my phone of various girls who've accumulated in its register. I do this about twice a year -- usually after something like this. Once, when I was in a tragically romantic fever, my friend Susanne confiscated my cell phone at a party. It was a good move, and it's obvious I need a full-time guardian angel handling tasks like that.

Are You Ready For Some Football?!

Apparently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't, if today is any indication. Jesus. And meanwhile the Broncos managed to eke out a 9-6 win, in a game that must have been so boring (I only saw the first half) that I've simultaneously converted to Christianity, Judaism and Islam to thank the various deities for not making me see more than the first half of the game.

There is no real way around it: I am drunk. Shitfaced, eleven-hours-of-drinking drunk. I met multiple lovely girls today: one was a Falcons fan who's appropriately insane and praised me for keeping my Buccaneers jersey on, much in the way one would praise a Special Olympics participant for a fourth place finish. One my friends didn't bother to introduce me to, even though she was lovely and I didn't have any line better than "how about Marty Straka?" One, later on, in another bar, apparently had a "boyfriend" already. Goddammit.

In the course of today's "action," if you can call it that, I called my old friend Kynan several times. Kynan is a Raiders fan, which makes him almost as sad-sack as a Bucs fan. The call cut off, apparently because God or Allah or Zoroaster or whatever can't stand the fans of two such shitty teams conversing, but I effectively made this bet: whichever of our two teams scores the most points this season, the correlating (?) fan wins something awesome. Kynan hasn't totally agreed to this, but I bet he will. (I would have invited Robb into this, but as a Saints fan, he's experienced both "touchdowns" and "victory" -- foreign concepts)

The score after week one (eventually I'll find some sort of tool that sorts this, but did I mention I'm drunk?):

Raiders 6, Bucs 3

OAK xxxxxx
TAM xxx

We're in a hole, but I'm confident we can break out.

Now I just have to let Kynan know. Go Bucs.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reclamation Project

Where I'm from out west, things don't grow so easily. So when the land is altered, the scars stay for decades, visible reminders of mining or forest fires still there years later.

Out here -- things grow. Things grow and they do it quickly. Abandon something even briefly and nature starts taking it back, tendrils snaking around, abandoned railroad tracks and buildings turning green, sidewalks overgrown with vegetation.

It's an impressive display of nature's strength, a feeling that if you ignore something for too long it's going back. Climb to the top of Stone Mountain (for non-GA residents -- oddball mountain carved with the images of Confederate leaders, once a big KKK hangout) and look back toward the city -- Atlanta looks like a momentary aberration, an island of gray in a sea of green.

above: abandoned railroad bridge, Ralph McGill Boulevard

Much of it can be attributed to our old friend kudzu, much of it to relentless planting, much of it to city government that forgets things exist, and most of it just to the fact that this is a pretty lush climate where things grow. My primary image of Atlanta the first few years I lived here was "green." I'm more accustomed to it now, but when you stop and look at it, it's all pretty amazing.

If I were of a more apocalyptic bent, I'd say that parts of Atlanta give you a preview of what the world will start looking like once we're wiped out and the cockroaches take over. But I'm not (off work today and about to go watch football and drink beer, so I'm a bit more optimistic than I have been) so I won't. Instead, nature does here what human planning often can't -- it gives a sense of charm and unpredictability to the city's streets.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Are You There, Greg? It's Me, Margaret. Update Your Damn Blog.

It's hard to come up with anything remotely notable about this week; it's a lot of staying in bed 'til noon, working, acquiring hangovers. I have vague memories of a time when I had plans to accomplish things, but it's all fallen by the wayside this week. Hardly a non-stop party -- just nothing really going on, time trudging forward.

But all's not gloomy ponderances of squandered potential and opportunities. The hints of nice weather have become full-blown reality. Since a rather impressive 18-hour rainstorm the other day, the temperature's been hovering around 75-80, the skies have been clear. The humidity has lifted and in its place, the air seems very alive, crisp and full of long-forgotten scents. This is the payoff, after months of bitching about the heat -- two months or so of near-perfection, during which time I'll forget that Atlanta's weather is more properly defined by crushing summers and ugly winters. I'm just setting myself up for a rude awakening.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Horror Business

Random teenage incident that came flooding back to me this afternoon, apropos of nothing. When I was in... seventh grade, I guess, I read Stephen King's "'Salem's Lot." I was still a ways from my ravenous horror novel consumption of a few years later, and it scared the shit out of me (for those who haven't read it, it concerns vampires taking over a small Maine town).

I finished it one Friday afternoon, then spent the night at my friend Joel's house. My Dad was at home alone; Mom, brother and sister were all out of town for some reason. After we went to bed, I freaked out. Completely and utterly. I started having nightmares as soon as I hit half-sleep, and became convinced that the vampires were gonna get Dad. Scenes from the book merged with reality, and I had visions of my world becoming overwhelmed by darkness.

The family hosting me (poor suckers) finally drove me home in the middle of the night -- I found Dad none the worse for wear, watching "Hot Dog: The Movie." No vampires. But that night still sticks with me all these years. Even safely home, I was tormented by nightmares all night, dreaming (seriously) that vampires were killing off the Chicago White Sox baseball team (I'd read a history of the ChiSox, "Who's on Third?" at roughly the same time as "'Salem's Lot"). I started a habit that night that went on for years, sleeping with a cross on a chain on my nightstand, in response to one of the more memorable scenes from the book. I was certain that I was losing my mind.

Of course, later I got over it, and once I got thoroughly into my horror phase, "'Salem's Lot" became my favorite King novel -- I probably read it at least once a year through the end of college. I also found I had a taste for novels of a similar plot -- supernatural forces taking over a small town. Peter Straub's "Ghost Story" and Ramsey Campbell's "Hungry Moon" were both favorites.

Also in that later horror freak period -- I was about 15-16 -- I decided that I was going to emulate Campbell, who first became a published horror writer at age 16 (I believe; it's been years since I've read any of this stuff). I wrote a short vampire story, centered on Boulder, Colorado's annual Halloween bash (and thus incomprehensible to anyone who didn't live in Boulder), and ripping off King's vampire elements pretty heftily. I sent it off to some intermittently-published newsprint magazine in North Carolina, and never heard another word. With good reason. It was crap.

* * *

One thing that's always bugged me, and who knows -- perhaps someone will stumble upon this and have the answer. At some point early in "'Salem's Lot," the main character muses on the quiet town and ponders the line "When the kudzu gets your fields, you will sleep like the dead." It's presented as an aphorism, not an original thought, but the source isn't provided. It's odd enough that it's stuck with me all these years, but a Google search on it turns up nothin'. Anyone have any idea where that came from?

Victim in Pain

I've been deluged with e-mails today, asking breathlessly "What does the Post-Pessimist Association think about Bush's speech? How about Rick DiPietro's contract? Is Tony Judt's "Postwar" still awesome? Are you ok about František Kaberle?"

Unfortunately, I've been ignoring everything, because something I did on this fine weekend completely ruined my back. When I woke up Monday after hazy festivities at Decatur's fine Brick Store Pub, it was a little sore; when I woke up this morning, it was incapacitating. A one-block walk left me wanting to throw up. After hours of applying heat, and taking ibuprofen, it's bearable, but my Adonis-like man-beauty is still hampered by my perpetual scowl, hunched posture and repeated involuntary use of the word "fuck."

Does everyone feel enough pity now? Send money.

* * *

My most recent dating spree seems to have come to an end through passive-aggressiveness; neither of us have formally broken things off, but we've just sort of eased into never seeing each other at all. That means it's back into the fray.

I'm hampered a bit by a combination of factors: I spend a ton of time in bars, but I'm not great at the bar scene. That's not a winning combo. I'm relatively quiet when sober, and since I normally don't like being bothered by uninvited guests when I'm out, I tend to bestow the same courtesy on others. Then once I'm drinking, there's only a very brief window before I start talking to the girls about the Hamas government or how Marty Straka's doing this year. It's a difficult situation.

Last night, luckily, it was academic, as Atlanta's pubs were completely clear of girls. They were all off watching Bush's speech or something.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Shakes

As I was finishing up yesterday's post, I noticed my coffee table vibrating; "odd," I thought. Then the couch started shaking. Then the lamp started swaying and banging against the wall. None of this is a normal occurrence around here.

I called Fidel and asked if he felt the earthquake -- he asked if I was drunk. I called MD -- she said she hadn't, but she'd been in a car. Later on in the day, I asked people at a couple of parties -- no, nay, nyet.

So I'm relieved to note that I'm not insane, and there was an earthquake, felt as far away as Atlanta. Not a big thing, but hell, it's the first one I've ever felt.

* * *

After narrowly escaping death by earthquake, I reacquainted myself with the art of drinking tons of beer, eating tons of wings and watching football. Aside from the results, it was great fun -- I rarely get to sports bars any more and I'd forgotten how enjoyable the sensory overload is. My friend Nixy and her crew have been going there for something like 14 years, since college. 14 years is an unimaginable commitment. I think I've known one person outside my family for that long.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where the Streets Have Too Many Names

Where there is a street in Atlanta, there's someone just dying to change the name. Streets change names halfway through their route as a holdover from segregationist tradition. They change names along the way as counties or districts change (DeKalb becomes Decatur becomes Marietta). They're subject to the whims of spelling-challenged signmakers ("Marietta" is misspelled on some signs; Clairmont or Claremont or Clermont changes by the block). They have their names changed to hide a bad reputation (Collins became Courtland, Stewart became Metropolitan). Or, venerable old streets have their names changed to honor recent worthies.

The last is especially common as Atlanta struggles to find a way to honor the veterans of the civil rights struggle. Thus Hunter Street became Martin Luther King Jr. Drive; Cain Street became Andrew Young International Boulevard, in honor of the Atlanta mayor, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and Wal-Mart sayer of poorly-thought-out things; Gordon Street became Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard. And, Atlanta's portion of the Bankhead Highway became Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, in honor of the civil rights attorney.

I was driving the latter yesterday, contemplating some of this. On the one hand, I can hardly disagree with the motivation; these people did courageous things, and deserve permanent honors of some sort. And in a state where Lester Maddox's name still pops up all over the place, I'm guessing many of the original inspirations for street names were perhaps not the nicest folk.

But on the other, I wonder if it's the most appropriate way to honor anyone. These aren't nice streets being chosen. MLK is a charmless industrial parkway. Andrew Young is the most aggravating street in the city; I imagine the ex-mayor himself driving it and saying "fucking Andrew Young!" as he punches the steering wheel.

And Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway is pretty awful. Extraordinarily poor area, ramshackle buildings. In the faintly disapproving and awkward words of a Wikipedia edit, now deleted: "The Bankhead neighborhood in Atlanta is noted for the abundant drugs for sale and prostitutes selling their bodies." Desperate hardened faces and signs of fly-by-night businesses, abandoned buildings looking no different from the occupied structures. What an honor for a civil rights pioneer: having your name on that for all eternity.

Of course, it could be worse; when former mayor Maynard Jackson died a few years ago, the city erupted in great debate over whether to rename Hartsfield Airport (named for Outspoken's guitarist -- I mean, for another old mayor) Jackson Airport. Eventually city leaders compromised and renamed it Hartsfield-Jackson, ignoring the fact that having your name attached to that monstrosity is on a par with having syphilis named after you.

Seriously, doesn't Atlanta have any more museums or stadiums to rename? A note to all of you, all ten loyal PPA readers-- if I do something really fantastic (what, I don't know -- teach ice hockey to starving Albanians or something) and then croak, don't let them name a street after me. Stick my name on something with a bit more class, a strip joint or something.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Politics Can Be Fun

I've been watching this week's festivities across the pond with no small delight -- not out of resentment for Tony Blair, though it's hard to believe I once considered him a model politician, but just because the Brits can make politics so entertaining. Secret deals, backstabbing, this is some good drama that just isn't matched over here.

It's all loud bluster in American politics, a radio talk show to Britain's Shakespearean drama. I watched George W. Bush's speech yesterday and cringed; not because I disagreed with the content (in all honesty, Bush could have been talking about ice hockey and beer the whole time; when I hear his voice now I just reflexively tune out the words, only occasionally hearing a "9/11" or "terrorists" creep past my finely-wrought defenses) but because it just has such a bludgeoning, belligerent tone. There's nothing subtle, nothing careful about it, and that seems representative of the U.S. in general right now. But then I come home and log on to the Guardian, and squeal with delight at the reports of a bunch of British parliamentarians screwing each other, denying it, and doing it all so properly.

I was in London and then Albania last year during the British elections, and I followed them ravenously, just because it was so much more interesting (as opposed to over here, where I'm just feverishly hoping that the less-bad guys beat out the more-bad guys). I'm not an Anglophile by any means -- I've had too much of their food to be really impressed -- but on this matter, the UK can teach the U.S. quite a bit.

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I sort of swore to myself that I wouldn't write anything about the upcoming 9/11 anniversary -- not because I don't care, but who gives five fucks what I, or any other blogger, thinks about the anniversary? Do you really want to read my, or any other writer's, memories of that day? Neal Pollack once wrote that one of the "least tragic, but most irritating" consequences of the attacks was an "explosion of absolutely terrible writing," and I have a feeling that's going to resume (or probably already has -- I've pulled my head inside my shell) in the coming days.

But, Simon Jenkins has a really good piece in the Guardian (them again) that's worth reading -- suggesting that the avalanche of retrospectives is not remotely a healthy thing. While certainly it won't make any difference -- you won't see any prime-time specials being scrapped as a result -- I agree with his point pretty wholeheartedly and it's always nice to see a voice of reason and sanity.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

And While We're At It

Thrashers sign Lehtonen! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Important Cereal Update

Continuing the death by a thousand cuts theme of tonight's blog posts -- remember my appreciation of blueberry-based foods? Newly-minted PPA Webelo scout Jilldeaux found a place online where one can order boxes of Boo Berry cereal (difficult to find in stores, of course). Boxes have been ordered. The site says allow 4-6 weeks, but I'm hoping that's just a very exaggerated number. We're gonna have a freakin' party. Boo Berry cereal, blueberry beer.

It's Finally Time (vol. 1)

Are you ready for some football?? Well, if you're me, you're stuck at work for another hour plus, and can only half-assedly watch the Dolphins and Steelers. But still, I'm off Sunday and plan to spend the day drowning in beer and wings and more beer.

Best line about tonight's game, from the Sadly, No! comments:

"I’m looking forward to the start of football tonight in much the same way I once looked forward to losing my virginity. I’ve actually been referring to it as Christmas."

The Art of Spruiking

I seem to be perpetually tired and out-of-it this week, and not for any fun reasons -- I've been living a relatively clean life, getting a decent amount of sleep, and all that crap. Apparently my body just thrives on alcohol, and I'm starving it.

Today an Australian friend used the word "spruiking" in a note to me, and it thoroughly befuddled me... "spruiking"? Had he started hitting the wrong keys? Burst a blood vessel as he was typing? I asked for clarification, and lo and behold, he meant "spruiking." It's an actual Australian term. So I've learned a new word today. And perhaps my next career.

It ain't much, but it's all I've got. We're approaching a three-day weekend. Well, I dunno if you are, but I am. That will hopefully provide a little spark.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Hockey Post!

Actual news about one of my teams, and Jes's blog is consumed by the Carnival of the NHL, so I'll post it here.

The Avalanche finally got around to signing Marek Svatoš today, marking one of the only things they've done right this summer. It's a one-year deal, which makes perfect sense for all involved -- the Svatoš camp can renegotiate a new deal next year, after the Trio of Crap has gone away and money is free, the Avalanche can see if Svatoš can stay healthy for more than a few weeks at a time.

And it gives me some sense of optimism that there is sanity still present in the Avalanche front office, and that they are committed to the young talented guys. It sounds silly now, but I spent much of the summer haunted by visions of Colorado trading away Svatoš for the rights to Benoit Brunet or something. That's past, and I can lose all sense of caution now. Stanley Cup or bust!

Something in the Air

It's still hot as hell down here, but there's little hints that something else is around the corner. There've been periods of cool, the effects of a rainstorm linger a bit longer, the sun is rising perceptibly later and the morning light is a bit thinner.

I love fall down here; I first moved to Atlanta in late October and was amazed by the beauty. The rich colors, the crisp air. You can imagine my disappointment to find that this was countered by pissy damp winters and suicide-inducing summers.

We're entering into what is prime sports season for me, too. The two sports I give my heart to are hockey (really!) and pro football. The latter's regular season starts this week, and at the risk of sounding sappy, that marks a milestone in each year. I don't follow football as much as I used to (as those who are in my fantasy league can attest), but there's a certain ritual surrounding it that I find reassuring and comforting.

Perhaps more than any other sport, people who aren't football fans hate it. Maybe it's the overinflated machismo, maybe it's the stop-start pace, maybe it's the often non-intuitive rules. It was never an issue for me; starting early in childhood, Sunday found me in front of the TV with Dad, watching intently.

I think that once-a-week thing is what set football apart -- you've got the entire week to build up to the game, and then on the day of rest, you sit down and watch. From childhood (church then football¹) to Colorado-adulthood (roller hockey then beer and football at the Hungry Toad), it's given a certain order, an anchor to the week.

This is the first fall in years that I've had Sundays off -- you're damn right I'm excited (at least until they change my schedule). This Sunday, I'll be parked in front of the TV, gorging myself on beer and wings. Weird that it's taken this long for me to need to research Atlanta's sports bars.

Soon after football, of course, comes hockey. Looking at the Thrasher's schedule and my days off, it's looking like if I want to see a game in the first two months of the season, it's gonna have to be in Russia or the Czech Republic. Feh.

¹ When the Broncos were in the playoffs during the '80s, the church I attended would often have special prayers for the Broncos, or cut sermons short so that we could go home early and watch the games. Given the Broncos' Super Bowl futility in that decade, it's no wonder I turned away from religion.

Monday, September 04, 2006

I'll Take That Order With Extra Symbolism

Despite those lunchtime beers (and bratwurst -- the Commitment to Health is not in effect on Mondays), I've managed to stay on my feet, and actually go see something I've only heard about before.

Atlanta's Bridge to Nowhere is muttered about, but 'til today, I had no idea where it was. But Deputy PPA Finder of Things Coco came through and gave me the location, and I traipsed out to see it; I always appreciate anything that I can later use as a labored, tragic metaphor.

Dunno if the pictures capture how truly weird it is; a bridge that just stops, 100 feet above a parking lot. As far as I can tell from old maps, it used to be a bridge connecting the Bankhead Highway (now known as Donald Lee Hollowell Boulevard, due to some civic ordinance requiring that Atlanta street names be cumbersome and long whenever possible) to Means Street. Now, DLHB just stops, and the bridge is fenced off. It woulda been pretty easy to get to it from the west, but I wasn't really dressed for trekking through mud and five-foot-high weeds (frilly waistcoat and all that), so I passed.

And from the other side:

Labor Day

I believe this is the first Labor Day I've had off since college, and I'm celebrating by doing fuck all. I'm meeting a friend for a barroom lunch in about an hour, and I presume things will only go downhill from there.

Apropos of nothing, I give you the PPA playlist of late:

The Delgados "Hate": I dig the soaring thing once in a while. That said, I'm surprised I like this, and even more surprised at how good it sounds the rare times I put it on. Why don't I listen to it more? I know not.

Jay Farrar "Sebastopol": Been listening to this since the Colorado trip; something about this album always screams "Colorado" at me, a concept I've been trying to get across in a repeatedly-aborted post (every time I start writing it, it sounds like I'm on a steady diet of psilocybin). But yeah, the first Farrar album and the first couple Son Volt albums are really Coloradoish.

Kiss It Goodbye "She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not": Sparked by rumors of their reunification (rumors that have been going on for about a year, I think). Nasty stuff. Always technically perfect, never quite exactly what I wanted, but great stuff, which brings me to...

Deadguy "Fixation on a Co-Worker": The band that spawned KitG. I'm amazed at how great this sounds, long past my angry 21-year-old days. And while we're in the mean stuff, how about...

Integrity "Systems Overload": I'm all about the early-'90s metalcore! I hated Integrity when I first heard them, then grew to love them like no other. After this album came out, I interviewed vocalist "Dwid" for a Tucson hardcore 'zine -- I got 20 minutes of monosyllabic answers, a large blank spot on the tape when he put down the phone to tend to some metalwork, and then some innocent question or other sparked an insanely angry rant about some Italian guys that he was going to kill. Fuck, I loved Integrity.

Creedence Clearwater Revival "Chronicles vol. 1 and 2": Hadn't dug these out in years, felt the need to hear "Wrote A Song for Everyone."

Miles Davis and John Coltrane "The Complete Columbia Recordings": Mood music.

Hot Snakes "Audit in Progress": So many bad bands go on existing and these guys flamed out. My favorite of their three albums, just 'cause the rhythm section sounded so much more insane.

Born Against "The Rebel Sound of Shit and Failure": Early '90s! Dug out because I wanted to hear the "Battle Hymns of the Race War" ep, only to belatedly remember it's on the other CD. Ooops.

Steve Earle "I Feel Alright," "Jerusalem" and "The Revolution Starts Now": At least two frequent readers here would start voting Republican if G.W. Bush promised to take Earle's guitar away, but screw you guys. I love it. Motivated by the need to hear "The Gringo's Lament" (another Colorado-ish song) off the latter album, then the first two followed suit because I hadn't heard them in a long while.

Anyway, off to drink, soon. Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Let's All Visit Uzbekistan

I'd largely forgotten about this story until today's Washington Post -- the tale of Craig Murray, the Brit diplomat who found himself on the outs for calling attention to human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. Looks like he's got a book coming out, which oughta be interesting.

* * *

I loathe short posts, so I'll call your attention to a few new links. I'm not much of a fan of domestic political blogs; for the most part, regardless of viewpoint, they strike me as self-serving, reductive, insane or all three. But since a friend directed me to Sadly, No!, I've been reading it four or five times daily. It's a relief to see that my people can, indeed, be funny.

I've mentioned Juan Cole before but forgotten to add a permanent link. That's rectified now. If you care about the Middle East, you oughta be reading him.

May I be frank? I may? I don't really know what The Angry Red Planet is all about. But it's Atlanta-based, interesting, and those behind it also have an interest in the Lake Chiropractic building. That's good enough for me.

Spaghetti Junction

Most American cities I've spent much time in adhere to a pretty strict grid system when it comes to streets. Denver, DC, Chicago, St. Louis, Tucson -- all parallel layouts, all reassuring right angles.

If those cities are Mondrians, Atlanta's a Pollock. A bird's-eye view makes it look as if the city was laid out by a maddened child. Where other cities have straightaways Atlanta has curves. Streets change name seemingly at random (I've been told by several natives that it's because the city's white population didn't want to be said to live on the same streets as the city's black population; I've never found official confirmation of it, but I'm inclined to believe it). Streets stop only to resume a mile away. Orphaned blocks of once-important streets lead nowhere, strangled by development.

I'm not sure what created this chaos. Could be the need to rebuild the city after past disasters, the hilly topography of the land, the viaduct system put in place early in the 20th century, ill-conceived and aborted highway plans that left scars on the city's landscape, or just the heat driving city planners to insanity.

When I was a teenage sociopath, reading every horror novel I could get my hot little hands on, I read a bunch of novels by a fellow named Charles L. Grant. I couldn't relate the titles to you if you held a gun to my head (I'm not suggesting you do that, by the way), but one detail has stuck with me all these years: the town in which these books took place was a Lovecraftian place of horrors, one that played evil tricks on residents' minds, and one character was left crawling along the town line, disoriented, unable to figure out how to proceed homeward. While I'm not suggesting Atlanta is evil, it plays similar tricks. You'll run into things that you've mentally placed a block or a mile away. Remember our friend, the mystery tower? I first ran into that on a journey that took me south and a little east of where I live. Today I went south and west -- and ran into it again. These things are common. Things aren't where you think they are.

That's part of the purpose of these walks -- to help me get a grasp on the geography that surrounds me. As may be obvious, it's not totally helping.

* * *

On this morning's walk, I came across this really cool and really decrepit house. Nothing to add to it, really, so I'll just present the photos:

Saturday, September 02, 2006

In Praise of Chris Morris

I don't watch a lot of television -- not out of some big moral stand (the two things I can be counted on to watch are hockey and football, for chrissakes), but more because a) I work evenings, and b) I have a television screen a foot from my head my entire time at work, which tends to dampen one's enthusiasm. As a result I'm woefully out of touch on shows that might actually be interesting to me -- I've never seen "24" or "Lost," and I'm still getting around to seeing this "Sopranos" show that everyone's talking about.

Perversely, there is one television artiste whose work I'd go out of my way to see -- but it's basically unavailable in this country. If you're a perceptive headline-reader, yeah, we're talking about the one and only Chris Morris here.

A friend introduced me to "The Day Today" a few years ago, passing on the episode with the war news parody during the real-life Iraq war. "TDT" is an absurdist satire of television news, and that war send-up is a dead-on skewering of the field. Hilarious and uncomfortably real. The sketch anthology format of the show meant a the quality was often uneven, but anything with Morris in it (and some other things - Alan Partidge's sports segments) was pretty great.

"TDT" was really just a warm-up, though, and if it was absurdist, "Brass Eye" changed course to simply fucking with people. A parody of investigative "issues" shows, here's just a sampling of the pranks Morris and co. pulled off:

* convincing British celebrities and politicians that English youth were under threat from a deadly Czech party drug called "cake"

* getting publicity for an anti-drug group called "FUKD AND BOMBD" and an anti-pedophile group called "Nonce Sense" (getting Phil Collins to wear a t-shirt for the latter)

* a brilliant scene in which an undercover Morris harasses a poor drug dealer, asking for made-up drugs

* getting celebrities to help publicize the case of an elephant that had stuck its head up its rectum

and so on. It pissed a lot of people off -- generally those who were fooled -- and led to lawsuits, and it's some of the best satire I've ever seen.

On this side of the Atlantic, Morris's work is pretty much impossible to find; if you have a multi-region DVD player, sets of both "The Day Today" and "Brass Eye" are available from Amazon UK. If not, clips can be found in various locations around the web. Below -- the famous "Cake" sketch: