Thursday, August 23, 2007


Hello, y'all and greetings from Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

This is the site of the Maries, AKA Marie Josette and Marie Anne, more commonly known as the Maries.

In fact, this is the site of a minor miracle, the initiation of a mid-20th-century babe-uh to 21st century speed. I think I have whiplash already.

This is also the product of Josette's nephew's inspiration, that child of the Microsoft age, that person for whom, if she only knew him better, our daughter Remy would leave immediately to set up camp in Seattle with her 'way cooler kin.

I.e., Mike, and his similarly 'way cool spouse, Susan. And, I have little doubt, son Malcolm as well, whose 'pute skill are probably superior to mine.

Nonetheless! We soldier onward.

May I introduce our two girls?

This is Remy, age 12 on 6/4/07.

Oops, sorry, no -- that's more like her avatar ... and her main passion these days (drawing manga characters), a hobby only recently superceded by creating music videos on our computer. I'm sure there's a proper term for that, but.... I don't remember. Not my thing!

Here's the real girl. And yes, those are blood red streaks in her hair and yes, she's learning the electric guitar, and oh yes, she's really into tween vampire novels these days.

She's a passionate (even beyond being a tween), bright, funny, gal, entranced with all things anime and virtual world, a rapid and absorbed reader and a fearsome soccer player. Whatever she becomes in future, she'll be a force to be reckoned with.

And here's her sister Martika, AKA Tika, who was 10 on 4/15/07, with her friend Sarah. I'll post a clearer pic soon (pity the better one is of her back!). What's neat about these pix is when they were taken -- at summer's onset, just before Tika had about a foot of her looooooonnnng hair cut for the Locks of Love program, which makes wigs for kids with cancer.

Tika is an artist, already maker of many bead and crystal earrings and necklaces, and an animal lover. We used to call her our future GA Tech kid (she's always been able to figure out anything mechanical), but we also could see her as a terrific vet in future.

And of course, I must add our quadraped children, all "Society" dogs (as in, Humane):

First there came Jack, a flat-haired retriever/cocker All-American, weighing in at about 42 pounds. He's a big, thumping heart on four paws.

And in this corner!

Darla, our all-terrier-plus All American, weighing in at about 38 pounds of sheer bossiness.

And finally, our newest, Tika's own personal dog, Twinkie: Jack Russell/Chihuahua (JackChi, in the current abbreviatory parlance). Ten pounds soaking wet and well on his way after just 3 weeks here to being the world's most spoiled dog.

After a lifetime of trying to be a lap dog, one paw up at a time, poor Jack just cannot understand why this new little pipsqueak's paws barely ever touch the floor.

Please don't ask me about the fish, indoor and out-. But when I post again, I surely must add a photo of Siyhra, Remy's beloved (and surely the world's oldest) Chinese dwarf hamster.

"Home" is a vintage-1917 Craftsman with great character, but nary a right angle or level floor. However, it does have big windows and 10' ceilings, hardwood floors, two working fireplaces and two >100-year old white oaks shading the front door. It's sited in Candler Park, in intown Atlanta. For the uninitiated, I must explain: in Atlanta, the land of have-a-car or die (run over by one or from isolation and boredom), our 'hood is in walking distance of just about all you'd desire: post office, restaurants, theater, funky shops, park, tennis, public pool, and bike trails. And lately, even a shopping center with big box stores to complement the quirky little shops in our Little Five Points commercial district. This is the home of fluorescently dyed hair, piercing parlors, the Junkman's Daughter (a General Store that would surely make the Victorians blush -- and surreptitiously buy), a dozen small eateries of all kinds, several bars ... and destination of suburban kids to be cool for a day.

Perhaps best of all, Candler Park still has few McMansions. It still graced with old, well-kept or remodeled homes resting close by the street, most with porches or at least stoops to allow hospitable greetings from house to sidewalk. Behind the houses across the street from us, there's a field in the center of that block, still mowed by kind neighbors even though their kids have grown and moved on. (We really have to do something about changing the guard.) Surrounded by neighbors, it's a grassy expanse welcoming to dogs and kids, even to the rope swing hanging from a high branch. And, amazing to me in such an metropolitan setting, it meets a dirt road, which borders still a few more houses surrounding a sizable hand-dug pond. Originally built for food fish by the thrifty neighbors, it now hosts water plants, a few goldfish and gazillions of tadpoles. The latter are regularly carted off by kids to their undoubtedly appreciative parents, to be living science lessons as they shed their tails and sprout legs. The bullfrogs left behind bellow their presence on warm nights until they burrow in the mud for the winter... and their diaspora'd kin bellow singly or in pairs elsewhere in the area.

Our trees are our greatest treasure, aged, seemingly skyscraper tall, graceful... and an absolute blessing in the summer heat. Atlanta is a heat island, sadly, due to all the clearing done for construction as the city sprawled outward (and now, due to traffic, moves back inward). But it's on the hot summer days that the trees' value beyond beauty is crystal clear -- by several very perceptible degrees from sun to shade. The merest sighing of the leaves lifts heads for the expected breeze, with gratitude even for the slightest zephyr. It's hard to imagine living here in the days of long gowns and tight cravats.

Finally, there's the Freedom Park Path bike and walk trail, which in this immediate area proceeds from the Carter Center (home office of our homegrown national treasure, Jimmy Carter) to Ponce de Leon Avenue. It is several hundred acres (I'd guess) of a beautiful swath of grass with a central path meandering through. The path is far enough from traffic for dogs to run free (absent animal control), open enough to allow for kite flying (a bonus in this cityin the trees), and obvious enough to be a marker for jets coming in to the airport. Its origin also is a classic Candler Park neighborhood story.

In the 1980s, the path acreage was a kudzu-covered wasteland, after the homes thereon were demolished to make way for an east-west expressway. The state DOT planners saw the writing on the wall as the population pushed outward from the city center. Traffic on the east-west Interstate 20 was multiplying, as was that on Ponce de Leon Avenue, a thoroughfare that headed northeast in the general direction of Stone Mountain. The DOT concluded that another highway was needed to relieve the impending traffic, and proceeded with the inexorable bureaucratic process to make that happen.

(Well, they were right in one regard. Ponce is a parking lot between red lights at some points of the rush hours, but still manages to pour vehicles and people into and out of the city without too much anguish..

But what DOT had not counted on was the ex-hippy (or not ex-) population of Candler Park, who strongly objected to having their neighborhood sliced in two, stranding them between two expressways. These renegades banded together in an ad-hoc group called Roadbusters, and set out to do battle with a well-funded and politically connected DOT unused to any opposition from any quarter.

The battle in the 1980s is the stuff of legends. People driving into town saw the Roadbusters demonstrators walking in the beautiful parkland parallel to the Ponce corridor, designed by Olmstead and flanked by old mansions. Even in pouring rain, there they were, carrying signs inviting supporters to honk. So successful were they, in fact, that even supportive neighbors begged them for another sign of support, after which the signs asked for waves. They got waves aplenty.

Undeterred by this motley brigade, DOT proceeded. They plowed up the kudzu and cleared the strip of land, leaving their tractors behind at night. Similarly undeterred, the Roadbusters went out at night with shovels and wheelbarrows and moved as much of the dirt back into the roadway as they could overnight, to the dismay of supervisors and workers arriving the next morning.

The DOT poured the concrete footings and began building an overpass above the park next to the neighborhood tennis courts. By this time, Roadbusters had assembled a pro bono legal team under the name of Citizens Against Unwanted Thoroughfares in Old Neighborhoods (CAUTION), to help them press their cause in the courts. As the story goes, the legal eagles uncovered an old city ordinance making it illegal to cut down or remove a dogwood tree. Overnight, the footings were surrounded by hundreds of dogwood seedlings, which could not be legally removed without official relief. That held up construction some more.

The guerilla war continued thusly for quite some time (as I recall, a few years). Every time it seemed that the 'hood would be defeated and paradise would be paved over, something fortuitous would happen to save the day. Ultimately, perhaps exhausted by the bad publicity, ruined schedules and likely, cost overruns, the DOT gave up. Along came a white knight, the nonprofit Path Foundation, which pledged to landscape and maintain the acreage ... and has to this day.

So, this is home. It's has been gentrified, to the dismay of some despite soaring property values (even in the current buyers market), but it's still a singular, quirky, hospitable-to-the-eccentric part of Atlanta -- our own little Berkeley or Soho, perhaps.

It's home. Ain't it grand!