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A Month in a Big Cold City: Atlanta, Georgia

January 12 - February 10, 2011

Mural of Downtown Atlanta in Mary Mac’s Tea RoomAtlanta surprised me but that was pretty much because I was not really thinking. I guess I was expecting something very Gone With the Wind. You know, mustachioed gentlemen in frock coats, tailcoats and cutaways. Graceful ladies strolling about in crinolines, shiny hooped skirts and parasols.  The scent of peach blossoms and magnolias in the air...sigh.

Of course I also expected to see a white suited Muhammed Ali atop what is nowTurner Field with the Olympic Flame in his hand. 

He is one of my heros.

The Metropolitan Atlanta region is big with lots of really tall buildings. The 2008 population was 5,729,304. (Almost 3/4 the size of NYC) Atlanta also has the third highest LGBT1 population in the country. And while the neighborhoods were not very racially mixed, all the upscale sections looked to me more like Scarsdale, NY or Chevy Chase, MD than the antebellum homes on live oak/Spanish moss dripping streets that I had pictured.

The Carter Center Garden overlooks the skyline of AtlantaIn Atlanta it seems that most of the streets, drives, lanes, boulevards  avenues and roads are named Peachtree. And then there are the North, South, East and West variants on the Peachtree name. (Follow North Peachtree Street 2 miles and then right on East Peachtree Boulevard for 1 block and turn right on South Peachtree Avenue...)

Furthermore, for a place I thought of as more red than blue the other dominant street names honor such home grown liberals as Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young. In some cases the signage seems hard to decipher, unless you know your heros. For example, one sign read: “DRMLKJR Boulevard”  Honestly, they couldn’t do better than that????

It’s true, I had one more preconceived picture of Atlanta in my head. This vision had a few freight cars smoldering in the distance, raggedy gray uniformed soldiers lying amidst the rubble begging for water and lots of shabbily  dressed people hurrying to and fro on horse drawn buckboards.... With that in mind and on the recommendation of a friend who is usually totally reliable about such things we decided to visit the Margaret Mitchell House. (Bernie says I have to say she wrote Gone With the Wind).

Well maybe I could use one for something...First of all you don’t visit the beautiful house on Peachtree Street that you would expect - you visit Margaret’s apartment on the basement level,  and there you get ripped off. Thirteen dollars per person to stand in a gift shop and then see two rooms furnished as Margaret MItchell and her husband might have appointed them. No photographs were allowed, as if the rooms were made of priceless art. A wall in the back of the gift shop had a couple of pictures of Margaret and some framed book covers of Gone With the Wind in foreign languages. I think I recall a case with some household effects that were said to have been used by Peggy a fork and a hairbrush.  The evening coat Peg wore to the controversial world premiere2 in Atlanta of GWTW was also in the gallery section of the tiny museum.

The gift shop was extensive and I was temped to buy myself a GWTW lunchbox, but then I remembered I don’t carry my lunch to school anymore. (And what kid today WOULD be carrying a GWTW Lunchbox anyway?) But wait, there was more... a glazed Rhett Butler Tumbler, a Rhett and Scarlett music box, a Mammy placemat, Melanie napkins, as well as the usual assortment of local cookbooks, regional guides, collector’s plates, magnets, key chains and tee shirts. We left disappointed and headed straight for the Hudson Grill and Bar, a Block away.

So, do you think you would like to buy a stupid Lunchbox? I may be missing a great opportunity here...!


  1. Initials refer collectively to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
  2. The world premier of GWTW was held at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta on December 15, 1939.. Hattie McDaniel and the rest of the black cast were barred from attending the premier because of segregation laws. They were also excluded from being in the program. Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role GWTW.

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