You're Crossing America On That?
Atlanta -- The Unfailingly Polite City Of U-turns
The continuous grass medians result in a curious thing -- u-turns at stoplights wherever you want to go. Even if your destination is 1/4 mile down the street to the right, you can't turn left back onto the road and head home. No, you turn right, go to the next light, make a u-turn, go to the next light, make another u-turn -- and only then be able to turn into your street. If you have to go left onto the street, the sequence of left and right u-turns is reversed. And, everyone drives very fast here, in nice cars, well kept, but not ostentatious. It would be a nightmare except that everyone is unfailingly polite! No one tail-gates, there's no horn honking, burning rubber to pass you, cutting you off. Instead, the cars flow smoothly along the roadways, a kind of automotive southern waltz, which means to turn or spin.
And this behavior was everywhere. People opened doors for one another, stepped aside rather than push in front, smiled and greeted you like they actually meant it! Motionless, they are mostly ordinary looking people, although always well groomed, often understated in their dress and general demeanor. But when they spoke and moved -- well it was like being in the reception line for the colonel's spring dinner party. They all just came alive, with southern-slow charm, grace, beauty and smoother southern drawls. All the women were named Ashley or Charlotte. All the men, Ben or John. I found this everywhere, convenience stores, restaurants or even the local ACE Hardware, where John loosened my scooter oil plug with a huge wrench, checked on-line to make sure I bought the right oil, and then when I returned because my pliers still couldn't loosen the plug, he apologized for not loosening it enough! He even made arrangements with Ben for the next morning to help me if I had any more problems.
One really odd thing is that in one day, three residents asked where I came from, and upon hearing Arizona, they all said, I used to live in Mesa, Arizona. Welcome to Atlanta! It must be something in the air here, or maybe it's the u-turns that somehow bend their minds? Another Atlanta uniqueness is in asking about my scooter, which everyone did wherever I was in America. Atlantans did this without any prompting, appreciating it as a true Italian work of art. They weren't just being polite either -- these are esthetically refined folks.
A Model For The future?
But, I thought, is this truly a sustainable model for the Second Progressive Age coming in 2015. Certainly the social and cultural qualities were conducive to the cooperative and supportive needs of the future -- where who you are is defined by your achievements and how you treat others, not how big your house is, nor if you have one of those fancy entertainment centers for flat screen TVs.... If you recall the various Star Trek series and movies, those were the qualities of the future. Both Captain Kirk and Jean Luc Picard were very clear on that issue when dealing with brusque aliens and humans from the past.
I turned to my hostess and client, S.R., born in a small town south of Atlanta. She explained that although she lived on large acreage, and the community was well, backward and somewhat red neck, everyone knew everyone else. There was the wonderful sense of security and warmth living in a community where people cared about you, and you cared about them. Her parents moved to a McMansions in Smyrna in 2003, well after she had become an adult. When visiting her parents, she found an isolated lifestyle -- people backing their cars out of McMansions garages, commuting to the city into parking garages, taking elevators to their offices and repeating the sequence at days end -- a home where your neighbors were never seen, except in their cars. It was like being entombed, completely disconnected. She said that when her father, a prominent professional, passed away, not one neighbor said or did anything. Well, she said, How could they? They didn't know us, and we didn't know them!
Besides the tasteful franchise row, there were tasteful McMansions, although S.R. pointed out some were unfinished or had been turned into rentals. She also agreed that while the restaurants and shops were humming along, there was some tension -- people were maintaining their lifestyles with plastic. After all, it would be impolite not to meet with friends and not tip well.
While Atlanta's social and cultural qualities are great, the post World War II suburban sprawl, carried out to an extreme in the housing boom throughout much of America, is simply not sustainable. As S.R. e-mailed meat noon after I had moved out to Acworth -- another twenty miles beyond Smyrna, to be near the lake, Well now that you are way, way, way OTP (that's outside the perimeter), and in more southern slang- bumble f***k), I'll have to wait til traffic calms down. Rush hour seemed to be anytime in Atlanta, but then, there are just buckets of McMansions all over the area.
What she meant in distance is that I was 25 miles from Smyna. And Smyrna was another 20 miles to downtown -- a 45 mile commute from Acworth -- which is actually an exurb. Smyna is a suburb.
Stresses Behind The Facade
Besides the busy Cobb Pkwy and the noise, there was a lot of cigarette smoke and alcohol. I asked for a different room after two nights, but even the second room stunk. The high speed internet didn't have enough band width -- I had to go to Starbucks 3 miles away. Fortunately, Ashley helped jump through the ATT hoops to get on line, and I was able to post Celestial Wheels.
Below left is a Mini-McMansion development across the street from my hotel. These a pretty big houses, though, some three stories. When I took the photos, there were no people outside, and nobody said anything to me.
Just a block away was an older, very established neighborhood, and this little house on the right under big old trees is representative. You can't see the truck in the driveway.
After I took two pictures and got ready to ride away, a fellow called out from across the street, Mind if I ask you what you're taking pictures for?, he asked, not unkindly. I answered, I'm doing a travelogue of my trip across the country, and thank you for asking me. You have a sense of community in this neighorhood. I like that. He became interested and took my card when I told him he could read some of the entries free on the web. The conversation turned to his neighborhood being sustainable, local folks working locally in reasonable homes and caring about their neighbors -- but the Mini-McMansion folks dirivng 50 miles to Atlanta -- well that probably won't work out for too long, he said. I replied, Neighborhoods like yours are what we need, not the Mini-Mcmansions around the corner where nobody asked me anything when I took pictures.. He really, really appreciated that. I mentioned homes here probably didn't have any mortgages, but those Mini=McMansions must all have big mortgages. He agreed, A heavy load for them to carry in tough times. We'll be fine here.
I ask about Asheville, NC, and he said I would like that because it's in the mountains, similar to Arizona. I told him that Atlanta folks were so polite and friendly, I may stay here. We would welcome you here, he replied. I thanked him and in closing, said, By the way, is your wife's name, Charlotte? (It was on the mailbox -- Ben and Charlotte.) Yes he said, not surprised, But sometimes we call her Ashley cause that's her middle name.
And I thought Texas was a State of mind!
In the midst of this discussion, the neighbor whose house I had photographed came out, listened in and agreed. Then he said, The difference here is God! He was a little wild-eyed. There are a lot of Confederate flags around, and Deliverance was about Georgia. When some of the real red necks, hillbillies or whatever they are called, asked me about my scooter, What kind of mileage do you get on that?, it came out something like, Wa ki miles yu ge on thaa? Still, they seemed to like the scooter a lot.
These country people thought Goldman Sachs was a fancy downtown suit store. But that didn't matter because their economic lives don't involve banksters, though the MiniMcMansion folks certainly bought into the cycle of greed and downfall.
In closing, my epic journey of transformation across America on my scooter took longer than I had thought, exposing me to much more Mars virulence. May has been one hair-raising challenge to overcome after another. However, there are always benefits. I certainly gained experience in confronting my own fears, especially as Greenville, SC didn't work out, Atlanta didn't either and, Asheville, NC wasn't a good fit. It wasn't until earlier this week that I found home in Hendersonville, NC.
I'll write more about this, especially my encounter with Yoda in the North Carolina river rafting mecca, in the next Celestial Wheel. Yoda reminded me that success in life requires the absence of kama and the courage to think.
Dialogue With Yoda Overlooking The Chaos
Following are some thoughts Yoda shared with me, Overlooking The Chaos,
Yoda, tell me about your view of having a good attitude during these darkening days.
My young American Jotishi (Indian Astrologer), I will tell you this. Those who can and do actually think, and thereby have at least a glimmer of realism, would naturally have a good attitude -- contrary as this thought may first appear. Of course, there's a real truth here, for those are the folks who will live through the bad times.
Yoda, I had a friend in Florida who as 100 when I left there. I used to help him clean out his gutters and mow his lawn because his second wife, just 92 years old, didn't like him on a ladder. I used to wag my finger at him, saying, Ralph, you suffer from a good attitude. He is so old, he remembers as a boy in CT going to the neighborhood well to fill and bucket and meeting Mark Twain.
Mark Twain and I have the same hair, my boy.
Nothing more on this Yoda?
Well, it is true that Mark Twain had a good attitude too. He was the ultimate realist, you know, poked fun at just about anyone to reveal their vanities and hypocrisies.
What about Einstein, Yoda?
Same hair again, my boy!
What does that mean, Yoda?
Nothing -- except when you overlook the chaos, there are coincidences, which are not coincidences.
Is it true, Yoda, that Einstein once said, Inspiration comes only to the prepared mind?
No, I said that.
Well, then, why did Einstein claim he said that, Yoda?
It's very simple, by boy. Einstein never had an original idea in his life until I told him that rather most basic truth, while overlooking the chaos. When he was only later able to come up with the theory of relativity, well, even Einstein could be jealous. After all, without me, Einstein was a patent clerk.
And Thomas Edison, Yoda? Would I be right that he too had the same hair?
Yes, my boy. You do learn, though you could speed it up a little.
('Buddha' means 'Awakened One', someone who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and sees things as they really are.... With nothing left to obscure his mind, he sees all phenomena throughout the universe as clearly as he sees a jewel held in the palm of his hand.)
Republished from The Yoda Dialogues
So, here's the scooter horn, one last time (maybe),