Tuesday, August 5: Driving with my dad into Atlanta was a strange experience. I hadn’t really spent significant time there in several years. My family lives outside of the city, so I usually have just flown into the airport and then gone on to somewhere else. The intervening years (and particularly the money pumped in by the 1996 Olympics) have really changed the city a great deal.
One of the biggest changes was the completion of the Presidential Expressway, or what they now call the Freedom Parkway. For the entire time that I lived there (1985-1994), the struggle over an easy way to get from downtown to the Carter Center meant that a big chunk of the city was not being developed in any way, although some houses had been torn down and a bit of clearcutting had taken place, and the resulting stasis (and eyesore) felt sort of representative of Atlanta as a whole: on the verge of some big changes, but waiting for something to happen first.
For the Olympics, however, it just wouldn’t do to have this business unfinished, and the new parkway was completed (while I was living in Maryland) with remarkable speed. It’s a nicely landscaped, gently meandering stretch of road with a bike path alongside it and some murals and such along the way. Along with the completion of this project has come the gentrification of the northeast-of-downtown region of the city, and I’m sorry to see the sleazy elegance of Ponce de Leon Avenue be replaced with the kind of generic quality that comes from quick real estate developments. All things change, I suppose.
The Majestic Diner (where I spent many a late night eating grits) is still there, however, and the alterna-hip, ironic strip club Clermont Lounge (where I went once to see a friend’s band perform), and Fellini’s Pizza (where I ate a zillion slices of pizza, and where Chan Marshall apparently used to serve slices before her Cat Power days). But everything is a little bit cleaner, a little bit brighter, and a little bit more upscale. Well, except the Clermont Lounge, as grungy looking as ever from the street, but word is that the Clermont Hotel has been bought and perhaps changes are coming.
One change that was perhaps most startling of all was that the Krispy Kreme on Ponce was either being torn down (no!) or rebuilt. You can get KK donuts in many parts of the country now, of course; hell, you can buy stock, if you like. But, I had always thought that the Ponce location was the Krispy Kreme, the mother ship, the ur-donut shop, the place that started it all. My mom went to this Krispy Kreme when she was in high school. Turns out the company started in North Carolina, but this does not diminish my attachment to this particular location. I hope they are just rebuilding and not replacing.
Hot Donuts Now! Hot Donuts Now! Hot Donuts Now!