Having just returned from a reality check road trip to America's oldest city, I must proclaim that I find myself distraught to have left Florida - again. Although I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and the surrounding 'burbs, Florida, with it's curious mix of old Spanish, French and Indian cultures has always retained a far greater appeal to me than the box-store blandness of what Atlanta has become. As there are already far too many people who have moved into my adopted state, several of which should go back to Georgia and Texas (Please!), a sign should be erected at the state line proclaiming "Sorry, We're FULL".
While Atlanta certainly had it's heyday, probably in the early to mid '80s, it has since lost most of its appeal to me and has simply become a showplace for expansive corporate avarice. Millions of people living in total isolation from each other, surrounded by development they have no stake in, and no control over. Truly the land of the impoverished and the fuel-screws of plutocracy.
My first wake-up call as to exactly what kind of horrific place I had the misfortune of returning to were three near bone-crushing collisions on I-285, the violent road-rage confrontations on the streets of a suburban town, the total absence of anything not BORG, and the throat-stinging air which is unfit to breath. The lush forests of childhood raped and pillaged to make way for 360 more hideous, overcrowded, treeless McMansion housing projects built by non-local workers, and for non-local investors. I suddenly realized why I hate living is such places - the Exploitive Big Cities. No one knows their neighbors, and in my case, that is probably a plus, for they are mostly red-state neo-cons who cannot discuss any issue without recoiling into a defensive posture that makes any intelligible exchange of ideas impossible. They feed upon the likes of Neil Boortz, Rush Limbough, and the BushCo Kool-Aide machine. A vast collection of xenophobes, thieving corporate worms, and fortune seeking bible thumpers who contribute nothing to the livability of the area - save for fear, overdevelopment, and intolerance. The 40 mile cross city commutes, unbelievable grid-lock traffic, and idiots on cell phones absent mindedly piloting 2 ton, 12 mpg SUV's down the freeway make this an extremely unpleasant and dangerous place to live or work. One of the least successful school systems in the nation coupled with classroom overcrowding makes this a place to avoid for anyone wanting to raise a family - at least one which turns out reasonably normal.
But it wasn't always this way. In the seventies and eighties, downtown was bustling with restaurants and night-clubs, while the local colleges contributed a vibrancy that smaller Georgia towns lacked. Pine Street was home to Road Atlanta flat-six racer James Reeves, and later, Jim Downing and his Mazda Rotary powered racers added a unique and progressive feel to a city filled with Eastern, Ford, GM, Lockheed, and even IBM employees. Some manufacturing plants ran 24/7, and business was good all over. Even an activity as mundane as buying a car could lead to a new friendship with an engineer, a business owner, or industry head. I knew business owners across the entire metro area, but they have mostly since fled or died, leaving behind the mere memories of what quality customer service and personal accountability stood for. Even the aforementioned companies have mostly either shut-down their plants, or gone bankrupt - leaving a huge void in middle class jobs. Anything of retail value has been consumed by the BORG - and like a virus, they show no signs of desisting from their rampant expansion.
I can't say exactly when it happened, as I was temporarily distracted by the twisted shenanigans of a group of repugnant Georgia politicians and judges, but something in Atlanta's soul died one night and most everything good about the city fled - as I eventually did as well. But traveling back to Florida from New Jersey in 2001, my car broke down and I found myself temporarily working here again - in an unpleasant place whose corrupt power structure robbed me of meager wealth, the tools of 3 trades, and nearly my freedom and sanity. And it has been the most painfully uncomfortable and disagreeable 5 years of my life. A foul, wretched place that I vowed never to set foot in, work the soil of, nor pay its corrupt government a dime in taxes or fees. A state which apparently greatly desires the story of their misdeeds to not make it to the local library. Well, they should have had the forsight to predict this possibility before perpetuating their fraud, and should have allowed me to speak one word
in my defense - rather than engaging in underhanded manipulation, cover-up, and intimidation tactics.
But so it goes. Yet another move, another grand adventure, another collection of possessions cast to the winds. But still a far more promising future than the slow, miserable death which awaits anyone caught in the clutches of this black-hole of hope - a place which has never offered anything but unpleasantness and constant, pointless reminders of vile, corrupt experiences of the past.