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By Tommy Housworth, contributor
All this food looks and smells so good
But I can hardly taste it
The sense of something has been lost
There’s no way to replace it
“Thanksgiving” by Loudon Wainwright lll
I got my first 2019 Starbucks holiday cup the first week of November and I gotta say, dammit, I’m really offended by it.
It’s not because it doesn’t feature a nativity scene with the steps to salvation printed on the sleeve. No, I’m fine with all that. What bugs me is the fact that I’d barely peeled off my Halloween makeup before this cardboard tumbler, with all its yuletide iconography, was handed to me by my friendly neighborhood barista.
I should mention, as I drove home, Christmas wreaths were being placed on lampposts. Of course, November 1st is late in the game by some standards. Drop by your neighborhood Target or Walmart, where Halloween costumes were being crowded out by Christmas displays midway through October. And Christmas ads? They’ve been trickling onto our screens for a few weeks now.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. But I’ve never thought the fabricated “War” on Christmas was propagated by atheists or multiculturalists, but by Madison Avenue and Wall Street. Christmas, it seems, is no longer a time for peace, communion, and gratitude, but for chaos, noise, and greed. And what holiday has gotten gobbled up in the crossfire like so much sliced turkey? You guessed it: Thanksgiving.
I readily admit that Thanksgiving comes with its own dark shadow. Many Americans are now willing to acknowledge that it was the beginning of the end for Native Americans living and thriving in the country. In fact, like everything else, the Pilgrims even swiped Thanksgiving from the Native Americans. The original Wampanoag feast was called Nikkomosachmiawene (or “Grand Sachem’s Council Feast”). In 1621, the Wampanoag amassed their food to help the Pilgrims. This is what European settlers came to know as “Thanksgiving Day.” Soon thereafter, settlers fought the Natives on their land, forced them to abandon their beliefs, or outright killed them. Many Native Americans consider Thanksgiving to be a National Day of Mourning. Not trying to piss in your cranberry sauce, it’s just the tragic downside to yet another cheery American tradition.
But I’m not here to declare a War on Thanksgiving myself. I’m still appreciative of the notion that we have set aside a day for that oft neglected virtue of Gratitude. Gratitude to your deity of choice, to family, to community, to neighbor and friend, to nature. Pick your recipient, gratitude is hardly ever misguided.
Of course, I grew up in a home where Thanksgiving meant a big meal and family time. As I was growing up, even the now-traditional slate of football games was not part of the architecture. In fact, after a second plate of sweet potatoes and dressing, all one could do was sit and be present with other loved ones, as we all awaited the oncoming carbs coma and then, inevitably, leftovers for dinner.
“Thanksgiving,” a song written by Loudon Wainwright lll and included on his 1989 album, Therapy, goes beyond the conflicting feelings many of us have about the holiday. Wainwright is tuned into each and every unpleasant thought going through our heads as we absorb the bounty. The family is together but is every member of the family happy about it? And if all the food before us is so good, why do we eat like this only one or two days a year? And is there something said that reminds you of an old unsettled grudge?
I look around and recognize
A sister and a brother
We rarely see our parents now
We hardly see each other
On this auspicious occasion
This special family dinner
If I argue with a loved one, Lord
Please make me… The winner
Wainwright’s Therapy album was released in 1989. He was 43 at the time and cognizant of the importance of being nice in the situations he presents in “Thanksgiving.” Maybe slipping off for a nap after the dinner or sitting in front of a football game can keep the family from revisiting “that bad old feeling.” After all, this is the beginning of the holiday season. We should be of good cheer.
But in 1989, life doesn’t deliver on the promise of the ’60s. And one slips into thinking that things can only get worse. And if you’ve been paying attention, especially over the last 2-3 years, you know things have gotten worse than you ever anticipated. One mulls over that while enumerating what we’re all actually thankful for.
As the decades folded in on themselves and we stepped into the 21st century, Christmas began to knock a little more loudly on Thanksgiving’s door, until it had let itself in, taken over the head of the table, and started complaining about what was being served. Christmas – it seemed – had become the Peppermint Patty to Thanksgiving’s Charlie Brown. But rather than backing off after a thoughtful monologue from the steadfastly stoic Linus, Christmas didn’t get the message.
Thanksgiving is now eclipsed by the omnipresence of Black Friday, an aptly named day when Americans prove that they’ll buy anything if it’s on sale. Seriously, anything. And some stores apparently won’t offer refunds on those combination flat screen TV/recliner/exfoliating foot pad consoles.
Trouble was, Black Friday wasn’t good enough. People started camping out for sales on Thursday night. So, retail stores, never ones to risk letting a competitor get a perceived edge, started opening earlier and earlier on Friday morning, until it was Thursday night, until it was Thursday afternoon, until why bother even closing for Thanksgiving? All this in the name of making sure that the Christmas stockings are full of gadgets and gizmos that will be obsolete before the leftovers from the Feast of St. Stephen have spoiled.
Now, to be fair, a wondrous pushback has taken place the past few years, as many Americans have refused to shop Black Friday, or at least darken any participating store’s doors on Thanksgiving Day. There are online petitions and the alternate movements of Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. It’s still consumerism, but at least it’s more thoughtful consumerism.
Look at it this way: this year, you’ll have 27 glorious days between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, and that’s if you ignore the days leading up to the Epiphany. That’s ample time to make your list, check in with Santa, celebrate Advent, revisit the story of a promised messiah born in Bethlehem, string lights, decorate a tree, watch Rudolph, sing some carols, hang a stocking, torment your child with a creepy, voyeuristic elf on the shelf, and cruise through a drive-thru nativity.
So, this year, let’s give Thanksgiving a little breathing room, some space to unbuckle its belt a notch and appreciate the feast of gratitude that is our lives. As a nation, we need to.
Times are strange. We are, most would agree, more divided than anytime in our recollection. We are also more disconnected: faces in phones, minds in disrepair, hearts in retreat.
Thanksgiving season is the perfect time to reflect and realign with those things that make us grateful.
It’s the kind word you weren’t expecting, the gentle gesture you found the courage to offer, the right song at the right time, an unexpected laugh, an unguarded moment with a friend, the joy of silence and solitude, the community that reinforces your faith in whomever or whatever you find holy.
And now that I think about it, it’s also a warm cup of coffee, served on November 1st, in a Starbucks cup covered in Christmas imagery.
Because if we change our perspective, we can even be grateful for the things that start rants like this one. It was, after all, a really good cup of coffee.
Report provided by The Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.
Construction is now underway for the first segment of the Northeast Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine. Georgia Power has begun construction on their maintenance access road between Ansley Mall and the Buford Spring Connector which will double as a segment of the Northeast Trail. Georgia Power will be paving approximately two-thirds of a mile of the Atlanta BeltLine multi-use trail. Their construction scope will include the fourteen-foot wide trail, an access point at Montgomery Ferry Drive, stormwater systems, retaining walls, and erosion control grassing. Completion on this project is expected to take twelve months.
At this time, the northeast corridor between Westminster Drive and the Buford Spring Connector is closed. For your safety, and to avoid disruption and delay to construction, please stay out of the corridor while work is underway.
Once Georgia Power has completed their work and Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. has identified funding, ABI will do follow-on work to complete the full Northeast Trail buildout between Westminster Drive and Mayson Street. This will include the addition of lighting, security cameras, landscaping, and connections to Westminster Avenue, Piedmont Avenue, and Mayson Street.
Concept designs for the northern and southern segments of the northeast corridor continue to advance. Over the past several months, ABI has performed alternatives analysis to identify the locally preferred alternative alignment for the northeast corridor between Ansley Golf Club and MARTA Lindbergh Station. ABI has narrowed options down to two alignments and is moving forward with studies on both. Alignment B passes through the Armour Ottley industrial area. Alignment E generally parallels the eastern side of the existing MARTA alignment.ern side of the existing MARTA alignment.
ABI held a community meeting on October 24, 2019, and presented updates on the Northeast Trail construction, Eastside Trail lighting, and interim trail conditions along Bill Kennedy Way. The presentation with maps can be downloaded here.
In addition to the Northeast Trail, two other trails will be going into construction over the next few months: the first segment of the Southside Trail and the Westside BeltLine Connector to be built by the PATH Foundation. This will be the first time in BeltLine history that three major trail projects will be underway at one time.
(photo courtesy of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.)
I’m one of the TCM viewers who got her service of TCM suddenly jerked away. I get to pay $10 per month in order to keep it. When I complained that I didn’t watch sports, never have, never will, I was told it was also “entertainment and history”—specifically what, I asked. It was a smattering of cop shows (bang, bang, car crashes, explosions, women falling down in high heels fleeing from criminals, etc. of which there are too many already) and the one “history” offering was “military history. “That doesn’t get any sales points from me,” I said, “I’m a Quaker!! (and I really am! “. I’ve been a Comcast customer since I moved to the Atlanta area in ’85. Just for perseverance I deserve better .
It didn’t help their standing with me that I have been begging them to fix a problem with channels 17, 241, 242 and 232 going out sporadically sometimes several times per week or even several time per day. Starting in January they have sent out a total of four techs to my condo and all of them did the same thing over and over alleging they would get a different result. Everything on the inside here has been changed out multiple times. I called again a couple of days ago and they wanted to send a fifth tech out! I cancelled that one, and I am now dealing with some guys who say they are an “escalation team” which includes a maintenance guy in a hard hat. After replacing a “pedestal” in the yard and running a new cable between it and my unit, the situation finally seems fixed (for now) . The escalation supervisor said he agrees with me that the problem is not a reception problem; it is in the transmission of the signal somewhere up the line and no matter how many times the techs change out everything inside my condo unit it won’t get better. I tried to tell the customer service folks that every time I called. Basically they said, “the computer is making me do it this way.”
Meanwhile I have an orange cable sitting in the yard unburied with promises to come back and bury it within 10 days. Guess what? At least eight other buildings in my condo community have unburied cables sitting in the yard on the common ground, and some have been that way for TWO YEARS according to our condo board. I asked the escalation supervisor why couldn’t they have all those other cables buried at the same time along with mine. It would save Comcast a lot of money not to have to send out a truck and crew for each unburied cable and it would go a long way for making at least a dozen unhappy customers happy. Apparently the computer won’t let people do that. There has to be an application filed for each unburied cable, then a separate crew has to be scheduled for each and two weeks is the MINIMUM time it takes to get on the schedule. Meanwhile there are heavy trucks hauling heavy equipment driving all over town unnecessarily not to mention the expense of several hard hat crew men to bury only one cable at a time. If they saw another unburied cable, they don’t have a work order; so they would be unable to do anything about it.
Comcast is spewing money as if it were rainwater on this sort of pointless customer no-service. But it is costing them too much to provide loyal viewers with TCM? I don’t think so.
If I were a Comcast share holder and l knew about the horrible waste of my shareholder profits in senseless and ineffective customer non-care I would be livid!
What this company does makes no business sense. I owned my own marketing business for 20 years, and if I had treated my customers that way, I wouldn’t have had any.
And “the computer makes me do it” or “the computer won’t let me” are not answers to customers’ problems. Computers have to do what they are told to do. That is called “programming” . They can be programmed to serve customer needs. And even if reprogramming is deemed too costly there are manual over-rides and work arounds that can be taught to customer service reps. It would require some training, and yes it might cost a few dollars, but the retention rate on skilled personnel would be higher than present half-trained non-thinking personnel’s turnover rate. Retention is always less expensive than recruiting and training new people who have no experience. Not to mention it is less expensive to retain a happy customer than to fund the advertising and marketing and the hardware and tech time to add on a new a customer.
It amazes me that Comcast is in business at all. Are they somebody’s gigantic income tax write off in the loss column?
Now you may well ask why I have been their customer since 1985 and haven’t bailed out even now with the addition of the insult of the TCM debacle added to the injury of ten months of customer no service. I am a cynic and a Luddite. I don’t believe that the grass is any greener outside the Comcast fence, and even if it were, the stress and aggravation of having to change and learn more and more soon to be obsolete and increasingly expensive technology makes my blood pressure shoot up. I’m 73 years old and have two grandsons, one age six the other age two, and I want to be in this world to go their college graduations and their weddings.
Better the devil I know than the one I don’t know. Alas! ☹
Photo: Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Designed by Edward Vebell. – U.S. Postal Service; National Postal Museum: Postal Service Employees Issue
(Mohammed Ali, a 55-year-old-construction worker, right, holds a home-made sign in response to the planned U.S. withdrawal from northeastern Syria in downtown Atlanta on Oct. 13, 2019.)
By Joe Youorski, contributor
A group of Kurdish locals and supporters marched in downtown Oct. 13, holding home-made signs and singing protest chants. The rally took place near Centennial Olympic Park and the CNN Center in downtown and was organized in response to President Trump’s on-going decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.
Kurdish forces allied with the U.S. have largely driven ISIS out of the area, which is known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria or Rojava. However, their military arm is considered a hostile organization by Turkey, and U.S. withdrawal has opened the Kurds up to altercations with Turkish forces. 
“We need American support in this situation,” said Mohammed Ali, a 55-year-old construction worker present at the rally.
About 100 people walked along the sidewalk on Marietta Street in support of Kurdish struggles. The effort was put together by grassroots organizing across word-of-mouth in local Kurdish communities and on Twitter.
On the same day of the Atlanta protest was a number of similar events, such as in Seattle, San Francisco, and Toronto. Supportive posts and efforts across the events have been marked with the #RiseUpForRojava hashtag on Twitter. 
As of last survey in 2013, the U.S. Census places the number of Kurdish speakers at over 17,000. The largest population of Kurds in the southeast, and the entire country, is in Nashville, Tennessee, where another rally was held Oct. 12.
The marchers ranged in age, carrying a number of flags and banners together. Atlantans from outside the Kurdish community also marched.
Alec Desbordes, a 24-year-old union organizer, came to downtown to show support of the Kurdish struggle.
“These people have stood up against basically everything,” Desbordes said.
He said interaction along the way seemed positive, with cars honking in support or recognition. Desbordes said he thinks most people would be in support of the Kurdish cause if they knew the problems present.
“I think a lot of people are really just uneducated about these issues,” Desbordes said.
The Kurdish people are a majority Muslim group with their own language that live in a number of countries, notably Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Rojava is located across northeastern Syria, largely over three regions including the Afrin canton, the Kobane canton, and Cizre canton. 
Efforts by groups in the Rojava noted internationally have included an all-women military effort, known as the Women’s Protection Units, council-based political systems influenced by jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, and successful fights against ISIS by the People’s Protection Units, known as the YPG.
Cizre borders Iraq, where the Kurds suffered intense persecution under Saddam Hussein, and all three border Turkey, where tensions have continued to run high between Kurds living in Turkey and the state.
In Turkey, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the Turkish state have fought in decades of notable violent altercations, with nonprofit the Crisis Group tallying at least 4,686 people killed across both sides and civilians. Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has made rooting out the PKK a primary goal.
Now, with the U.S. decision to exit northeastern Syria, Erdoğan has already launched an offensive strategy into the country, viewing the areas neighboring Turkey as links to the PKK, according to the Washington Post. As of yesterday, the Syrian army has re-entered the area for the first time since leaving in 2015, the European Union has banned arms sales to Turkey, and President Trump has spoken on raising tariffs with Turkey, according to The New York Times.
Dr. Allen Fromherz, director of Georgia State University’s Middle East Studies Center, said over email he does not think Turkey will halt all of its movements after the abrupt U.S. withdrawal. Erdoğan may adjust strategy in response to the Syrian government now entering the territory as negotiated by the Kurds, however.
Fromherz also said Russian military influence will likely play a bigger part in these politics.
“The real determinant here is now Russia — allied with both Turkey and the Syrian Regime,” Fromherz said.
Fromherz said this instability will mean more Syrian Kurds turned to refugee status in the short term, but what developments will come next in the Rojava is unclear.
“The US has conceded to Russia the position of power broker in the region,” Fromherz said. “It is uncertain what that will mean for the Kurds in the long term. It’s still possible Russia and Syrian regime may see it in its interests to compel Turkey to halt.”
(Following a march down Marietta Street, attendees exchange flags and signs in downtown Atlanta on Oct. 13, 2019, hoping to raise awareness of situations facing the Kurdish Rojava.)
Atlanta’s march wrapped up around 5 p.m Sunday. Ali said he’s attended five similar events to help raise awareness of what the Kurdish situation is like in Syria and across the globe.
“We would like everyone to know who the Kurds are and to support the Kurds,” Ali said. “But first, we need everyone to know where we live.”
By Tommy Housworth, contributor
When Wilco visits Atlanta’s Cadence Bank Amphitheater on October 18th, they’ll be bringing 25 years of alt-rock history with them. While ticket holders can expect to hear a generous helping of the songs that earned Jeff Tweedy and company consistent critical praise and a faithful fan base, they’ll also be sharing songs from their just released 11th studio album, Ode to Joy.
Upon first listen, the album, their first since 2016’s folksy Wilco Schmilco, might seem like anything but a musical celebration. The arrangements are deceptively understated, with only strategic hints of the ramshackle experimentation that brought them acclaim in the early 2000’s. Tweedy’s lyrics feel personal and muted, an introvert trying his best to extend a bouquet with one hand while the other guards his heart. Could it be that the band unfairly saddled as the purveyor of “dad rock” has matured into a more sonically shamanistic role?
In The New Yorker , novelist George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo) said that Tweedy once told him that he wants his audiences to know, “You’re O.K. You’re not alone. I’m singing to you, but I also hear you.” In 2019, that may be Wilco’s greatest gift: their collective ability to reassure us in the midst of personal and universal shakiness. On Ode, they do so in true Wilco fashion, digging around in the darkness to offer sparks of light and hints of warmth.
“Bright Leaves” opens Ode to Joy with what may be the slowest steady drum beat Glenn Kotche has ever pounded out, a cadence that portends a hint of dread. Not Thom Yorke/Radiohead angst, certainly, but a sense that something once stable is now askew, especially as Nels Cline adds in a static-laden guitar riff and the vocal mix drops into a reverberating echo. The lyrics feed this narrative, with lines like “I don’t like the way you’re treating me” and “Sometimes I’m just a hole for you to get in”, and yet by the song’s bridge, Tweedy proposes a hint of redemption: “Somehow we’re bright leaves, you and I beneath the old snow, being set free by the winter rain…”
The album tends to work this way, establishing a base level of melancholy or – at best – wistful wishfulness, then each song manages to offer the gentlest of respites, choosing – if not joy – at least the reassuring blanket of contentment. Given this is a band that was made unwitting spokesmen for post-9/11 America with the timing and lyricism of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it’s hard not to view Ode to Joy as a social statement about how disconnected and damaged our citizenry feels, and how finding one another again might be the balm that would begin to make us feel more whole again.
Certainly, songs like “Everyone Hides”, the album’s most radio-friendly tune (if that’s even an aspiration for Wilco), speaks to this, with its nod to our tendency to trade humble authenticity for the grand charades that social media and materialism promote. Meanwhile, “Love is Everywhere (Beware)” reminds us that “beneath the sleeping town, with the riots raining down”, love is still a quiet, driving force in our lives.
Lyrically, though still delivered in an abstract, minimalist pastiche of lines, Tweedy is more direct than he has been in some time. Coming off his confessional solo albums Warm and Warmer, both released in the past year, the shrouded songwriter who claimed to be an “American aquarium drinker” who “assassins down the avenue” is now vulnerable enough to confess on the shuffling singalong “Hold Me Anyway” that ‘I think it’s poetry and magic, something too big to have a name.’ Turns out the iconoclast has a streak of idealist in him.
Fans who rightly loved the Americana bombast of 1995’s Being There and the dissonant explorations of 2004’s Grammy winning A Ghost Is Born might wonder where the band’s bite is, but it’s minor moments of wonder that Wilco currently majors in.
With each listen to their new album, a more of those moments reveal themselves. As we careen toward our uncertain futures – both personal and collective – having a musical friend who can say “You’re O.K. You’re not alone. I’m singing to you, but I also hear you,” can be a reassuring hand on a shaky shoulder. It might even be called an Ode to Joy.
WILCO will perform at Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park on Friday, October 18th. Soccer Mommy opens.
By Jeff Slate, contributor
Each year it starts the same. One is driving and approaching 10th Street near Piedmont Park and there it is – the portable electric traffic sign. The message alters a bit from year to year but based on previous encounters it is this year’s inevitable message of inconvenience: “WB (westbound lanes) of 10th street will be closed from 9/6-9/19. Expect Delays.” The initial reaction is pondering for at least a split second – what could possibly require two weeks to prevent tens of thousands of motorists from not driving West on 10th Street for two weeks? It can’t be Christmas but of course, it’s everyone’s favorite contentious festival: Music Midtown.
Music Midtown (MM) began in 1994 on an 8-acre site on the corner of Peachtree and 10th, now home of the lovely white Cherokee marble building known as the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. That year music promoters Alex Cooley and Peter Conlon had the idea to make Atlanta one of the big boys in the world of music festivals, a Peach City New Orleans Jazz Festival but much more than Jazz.
Atlanta was booming. The 1996 Olympics were coming. The Falcons had moved into a brand new shiny dome. The midtown skyline was taking shape. Georgia homegrown talent was thriving – R.E.M., the B-52s. The Atlanta Braves were in the early stages of winning fourteen straight division titles.
Within a decade, Music Midtown had grown into a 3-day festival with 11 stages and over 120 acts, one of the largest if not the largest music festival in the U.S. But the music and the good times would not last. Not surprisingly, with such a massive undertaking, there were a myriad of problems. To name a few: massive overhead, weather, and securing the right location. The heat islands of streets and parking lots made things way too humid for attendees. The 42-acre setting by the Atlanta Civic Center, utilized in ’04 and ’05, was hardly compelling.
After the 2005 fest, Music Midtown closed down. But not for long. In 2011 Music Midtown came roaring back with Coldplay and the Black Keys as headliners. It was a one-day event, ticket prices at $55. And most impressively it was back at a new locale – the crown jewel of Atlanta – gorgeous, beautiful Piedmont Park. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Hello to Strawberry Fields and Saturday in the Park.
The Festival returned albeit without the affable and legendary promoter Alex Cooley. He had long parted his business association with Conlon prior to his death in 2015. Peter Conlon was now President of Live Nation Atlanta. He brought the music back.
Wasn’t this great? As boastfully stated on its city Permit Application, Music Midtown is “Atlanta’s premier music festival since 1994 featuring the biggest names in Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop and electronic from around the globe.”
But Music Midtown, shockingly coincidentally, is in Atlanta’s Midtown, a high-density commercial and residential neighborhood. There are beautiful homes in the neighborhood, homes that have been occupied by the same residents for over 50 years or longer, homes whose occupants were there long before the advent of Music Midtown and homes where the owners grew up listening to Frank Sinatra, not Cardi B, one of the headliners of the 2019 Festival.
There are businesses in the neighborhood such as the popular MetroFresh, adjacent to the park, that “uses the finest in-season ingredients, locally grown and organic when possible. People are going to come for delicious healthy food… they’ll come back because they had a great experience.” That’s owner/chef Mitchell Anderson. But many do not visit his health-food restaurant on the Beltline during the Festival. “I get nothing from Music Midtown, ” Anderson says. “My regular customers say ‘I’m not coming to Midtown’. It just makes business a lot harder. Ten days to set-up and one week of break-down. I hate it. Makes me crazy. Also makes me crazy is that it’s a for-profit event. And when it negatively affects other people’s business, I don’t think that’s fair. I understand living in Midtown; you get the good with the bad but this week (MM) in particular drives me crazy.”
Bo Martin, manager of the nearby Midtown Butcher Shoppe is not particularly thrilled either, firmly stating, “It kills our business. It just creates chaos and we don’t reap any of the benefits. The concert-goers just come in non-stop, wanting to use our bathrooms. We start out letting them use them but after a certain point, absolutely not. I see people urinating in public. Drunk people coming into our shop and making a mess. It happens to us and everybody around here. The bathrooms just get overloaded. By late morning (of the concert days) our regular customers just stay at home. They don’t come out. They don’t even try. One of our owners last year had an incident where someone just parallel parked. So he couldn’t come to work. Had to take a taxi. (But) the past two years Music Midtown has been really good about cleaning after themselves. And for some restaurants that do well, as one server aptly described it, ‘We make a lot of money but it’s still a shitshow.’
But not all businesses particularly restaurants or bars share the same feeling of dread. Woody’s Cheese Steaks’ Xavier Edwards says, “I love it. It’s a really cool experience. I’m always excited when we’re doing $500 to $1000 hours. It’s like a stress test. I love testing my limits and really enjoy feeding people. That’s why I’m in the business. We put smiles on people’s faces. You can’t do any better than that. A 12-hour shift feels like a 5-hour shift. Next thing you know it’s time to close. It’s entertaining and I get to feed you. It’s Atlanta at its finest.”
Josh, a bartender at Blake’s on 10th, also finds the festival “great, great for the community, for locally owned business. I don’t how anyone could not like it. Brings more people into the city, this neighborhood, a wide variety of people, a wide variety of music. It’s always safe. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
“A win-win for everyone” is not the most common expression heard by many that call Midtown home. Rather “massive inconvenience,” “public urination,” “trash, parking and road closures and blockades for two weeks” are terms more frequently heard on the streets and sidewalks of Midtown Atlanta. Sexton, a property manager on 10th street, doesn’t hold back, saying, “It’s really an inconvenience now since they don’t give tickets to people who live on 10th like they use to. All the people, the tenants who live here are hampered by the traffic, the noise, and they don’t get anything from it now. I know it brings a lot of money to the city, but at least take care of the people who it’s obstructing…Since I work and stay on the property, I keep people away from vandalizing and urinating. But you can’t have a cop every minute here to catch somebody. They’re urinating all over in the alleyways. During the event I clean up the trash myself. My tenants who have to get to work complain about where they can park, where they can drive, so we have to park off-site. And they use to have two lanes, now only one (on 10th). It’s a huge inconvenience and all we get is a little flyer or little paper (from Live Nation) telling us about all the inconveniences we’re going to have (and) we get nothing from the Festival. We shouldn’t get penalized because we live near the park.”
Rob Brown shares many of Sexton’s sentiments “I loathe it (Music Midtown). I live in this high-rise (Piedmont & 12th). It disrupts our lifestyle for not just two days but for (2) weeks. There’s the destruction it does to the park. People just dump their trash, their cigarettes all over the building. Some throw up and vomit in front of the building and rip the landscape. The (people at the) building are cleaning up, not Music Midtown. We could use more
trash cans (but) I hope they have a great time, everyone is safe, that it doesn’t rain, that the park doesn’t get destroyed. Every year they have gotten better. But there has to be a balance. My taxes bring a lot to this city. I pay a premium amount of taxes to live here (in Midtown).”
Not all residents are unhappy to see Music Midtown roll around each and every year. Many enjoy listening to a “free concert” from their porch. Consider the sentiments of Shannara Rimmey: “Listen, when you live in the city, in Midtown, you get the good with the bad. You live in Midtown. A lot of people can’t even afford to come here or to have a drink in Midtown. I love the Festival. It brings a lot of money into this area. This area wouldn’t be as
valuable if it wasn’t for the bars and the festivals and all that. I have no sympathy (for those that complain). It’s one paid festival out of hundreds of free festivals we have. Two weeks out of 365 days? You can take 14. You’ll live to see another day. Get over it.”
The students at Grady School also welcome the 2-Day Festival, at least the many this reporter talked to. An overwhelming majority attend. A Grady teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, also added, “We handle it pretty well as a school. We got it pretty down pat. We carpool. We want to make sure all our families feel like they know how to navigate.” In addition, the school received a $1000.00 donation from the Midtown Neighborhood
Association for their technology fund.
The President of the Midtown Neighborhood Association (MNA) is Courtney Smith. She is probably not Sexton’s favorite individual. Live Nation used to distribute 200 tickets to those most directly affected by the traffic, the blockades and all the other inconveniences. In other words, those living on 10th Street. Unfortunately the distribution of the complimentary tickets was not without its problems. Some tickets landed in the hands of people not even living in Midtown or tickets were scalped. Live Nation wanted out. Beginning last year the music giant simply gave the 200 free tickets over to the MNA. One less problem for Live Nation but maybe one more for Smith. Those on 10th Street, who previously had received their complimentary tickets, were not pleased when the MNA decided to have a raffle — one that cost $20 to enter. “We wanted to use the tickets to benefit the neighborhood. The ability to win a $20 ticket that’s normally $150 is still a benefit for the residents and also for fundraising so we can have a long-term benefit that lives well beyond Music Midtown,” Smith said. “(But it’s) a gift not quid pro quo for us to then ignore incompatible behavior… We appreciate their (MM) gift but we did vote to oppose their festival this year just like we did last year.”
Smith continues: “The biggest issue is Midtown residents, aka MNA, need to be considered a permanent stakeholder in pre-planning discussions. Music Midtown’s planning starts back in April. We need to weigh in on logistics, lane closures, timing, security, sanitation. We were not included in pre-planning this year.”
One issue that almost all parties agree on, including the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, was the new 2-way bike and scooter lanes in the middle of the 10th Street. In the past there was no access. Daniel Mane, a passionate cyclist and owner of Aurora Coffee in Little Five Points expressed the opinion of many, “This is absolutely perfect, considering the past. You get a wider lane and they (Music Midtown) get to set up their behemoth festival. They’re making a concession of having us drive down in the middle of the lane and as long as I don’t get hit by a forklift, what could be better? There’s more cyclists than ever in Atlanta. I find this safer than the cycle track during a normal day.” The Coalition, in a press release, was also quite pleased: “This outcome sets a new standard for temporary bicycle and pedestrian accommodations during the festival.”
But, as in everything, there are dissenters such as Ilene Brown, who states, “I would be more accepting if it didn’t start so early. Two weeks is just ridiculous. When you put the bike lane in the middle I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for a lot of people. You have massive trucks passing by you. We walk our dog through here and it’s frightening for her because of all the noise.”
Since it restarted at Piedmont Park in 2011, Midtown Music has made enormous improvements regarding the concerns of the residents and the welfare of the park. Even those that despise the festival concede there has been progress in addressing the disruption it causes. In addition to the opening of 10th Street for bicyclists and scooters, porta-potties were placed outside the event at Charles Allen Drive, the Midtown Marta Station and Grady
High School for the first time. Clean-up crews were working day and night before, during and after the event inside and outside the park. The event staffers continued their efforts in being far more courteous and sensitive to the residents than in years past.
But there will always be discontent, understandably, with the two weeks it takes to load-in and load-out. Cliff, from the Tactical Production team, offers an explanation: “Building four huge stages it’s not what like everyone thinks. You have so many stages of this. You got the permit people, the OSHA people, the city liaison, the park people, all the investors. We try our best not to hurt the land. And on the first day, they pump into your head – safety, safety, safety. We’re set up to withstand 50 to 60 mile per hour winds. We got to keep the crowds safe, the public safe and naturally the multi-millionaire superstars safe. We are riggers. That’s what we do. We bring on the heavy machines, laying the foundation…the really very heavy steel or some kind of weighted ballast. We build the pieces on the ground and hanging motors for all the lighting… A lot of stuff goes into it. A lot of people put a lot of work into it. It takes so long because again, you got to be safe.”
So congratulations to Live Nation for creating a world-classic music festival. The weather cooperated despite the sweltering heat. With no rain, no chance of anything like the 2013 deluge which caused great damage to the park and general outrage among park-lovers. There also were no major incidents or criminal activity reported. By all accounts, an impressively run festival.
One can only assume Music Midtown will be back in 2020 along with the same inconveniences imposed on the residents of Midtown. There will be legitimate complaints and valid concerns. Live Nation, in its own interest, will undoubtedly continue to work with the residents to address those concerns. But basic questions remain. Should a multi-national corporation be permitted to utilize a public park, particularly Piedmont, for its own economic enrichment? Music Midtown is the only ticketed-gated event at Piedmont Park. The cost of the permit fee is $400,000. The City of Atlanta may be severely undervaluing itself. Despite using a public park Live Nation does not disclose any financial information regarding the profits it receives from the Festival. The books are closed. Live Nation Atlanta runs a tight ship. Information is not easy — it’s virtually impossible — to obtain. We reached out to them but they did not get back to us.
Live Nation should have returned our calls. They could have claimed bragging rights for previous donations they’ve made toward the upkeep of the park they occupy each September. According to a 2017 column in Saporta Report, Live Nation had made annual donations of $100,000.00 from 2013 through 2015 to the Piedmont Park Conservancy and then gave the same amount to the city’s parks department in 2016. Also, Amy Han Dietrich, the Director of Marketing, Communications and PR for the Piedmont Park Conservancy, informs us the conservancy “received $41,007 from Live Nation in late 2017.”
Next year there will be a new slate of entertainers and again there will be no consensus regarding Music Midtown and its impact on the residents of Midtown. And assuredly some residents will be enormously inconvenienced and some businesses will be negatively impacted. So get ready. As you approach 10th Street near Piedmont Park, with the sun rising in the east, those adorable black rectangle electric traffic messages will majestically appear informing everyone we can’t ride West. EXPECT DELAYS.
By Darryl Rhoades, contributor
9/11 will always be one of those “where were you” dates. Most everyone has a story or connection from that day. Mine wasn’t any deeper than most. I saw what was happening on TV as I was preparing to leave for Myrtle Beach to do a show and decided to call to see if the club would be open. The thought from the club-owner was that people could probably use a break from the news that day but it was my call. Since I agreed I kept packing and left while listening more than I could take all day on the radio. That night I advised the other two performers on the bill to keep away from the news topic but left it to them. Both thought it a good idea. At the end of my show I simply noted that today was painful for all of us and we hoped this show helped some get thru it even if only for a few minutes.
After the show several came up and shook all of our hands and thanked us and commented that they needed the distraction.
It was the many stories, and even more recent ones, coming from that day that have stayed with me.
(Cascade pools named Reflecting Absence by architect Michael Arad are located on the footprints of the original World Trade Center towers, June 2012.)
My wife was an international flight attendant for Delta getting ready to go on a trip that got cancelled. A flight attendant friend of hers was stranded on layover in Atlanta since the flights were all suspended so she stayed at our house for several days.
The people in Newfoundland, Canada opened up their houses to the many who were stranded coming back over the pond from Europe and unable to fly into the U.S.
The documentary about 9/11 and the firefighters narrated by Robert De Niro should be shown on this day every year along with the names of politicians who remained inactive when it came to funding the treatments from the illnesses those fire fighters incurred from that day.
I never fail to become emotional when they read the names of the victims and see the pain on the faces of friends and families because they are the living victims.
I will forever have disdain for those who made up stories to attack Muslims and further divide this country.
When I see a bumper sticker that reads “9/11 Never Forget,” I agree. I’ll never forget those who talked about supporting the firefighters and then did the opposite. I’ll never forget that a story was made up about hundreds (or was it thousands) of Muslims dancing in the streets of New Jersey to celebrate the towers falling. I’ll never forget that this event was used as a political maneuver supported by members from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Most of all I will always remember that innocent people from all different races and religions died that day, leaving behind many who will relive all of this for the rest of their lives.
By George Chidi, contributor
A small army of social workers, cops and public works people descended under the Bell Street bridge near Grady just before dawn, to have one last conversation with people living there. Please come with us. You can’t stay here.
It is the culmination of three months of daily outreach that began with Intown Collaborative Ministries, an Atlanta nonprofit with expertise in street outreach to people with mental illness. “The answer to chronic homelessness is a Housing First approach and Permanent Supportive Housing, where people transitioning off the streets move into an apartment with wrap-around services,” said Brad Schweers, ICM’s executive director. “Right now case managers work hard to engage often-distrustful clients on the streets and navigate them through the process towards housing. But the line is long and the beds are few.”
Atlanta has a $50 million pool set aside to build supportive housing and offer services. It is going to take time to build the units — a few dozen here, a few hundred there — to dent the 3,200 or so count in homelessness here. Atlanta had a slight uptick in homelessness this year, for the first time since the recession, and the visibility of homelessness has been increasing in ways that have neighborhood groups and business leaders howling.
The answers take time and patience, and patience has been wearing thin. This summer, the city started to become more aggressive about managing encampments, even as it prepares to disburse the first of that $50 million for construction.
“We know the answer,” Schweers said. But there’s currently not enough of the answer. The city has been working to address the deficit, but it takes time to build the stock.”
In one case, outreach teams talked with a man who had been homeless for five years. He will be moving into an apartment Thursday. “Meanwhile we’re putting him up at a hotel for two nights, for $200, until he can move in.
It is, perhaps, one of the great ironies of homelessness work that there is no shortage of people visiting the bridge with food and water, but organizations working long term to build relationships can struggle for spot resources in a moment like this.
(To help, contributions can be made at www.intowncm.org/donate).
A month ago, the city’s homelessness organization Partners for Home, began coordinating Intown’s outreach with HOPE Atlanta, Project Community Connections and other social services agencies, as the countdown to a sweep began. Many mornings at 6 a.m., Ashlee Starr from Partners from Home would work with social services agents, going through cases one by one.
Conditions under the bridge had begun to evoke memories of the Peachtree and Pine shelter in midtown, which had deteriorated into cacophony and disease.
When social services providers (including, in full disclosure, myself when I was with Central Atlanta Progress) shut down the shelter, everyone present was offered housing. Most accepted and remain connected to services. Some refused help. At least four of those who had been offered services at Peachtree and Pine were among those being approached by social services workers over the last month, social workers said.
Homelessness is a complicated problem. “Willingness to accept services is the wrong way to look at this,” Schweers said. “That inaccuracy is intuitive to lots of people. It’s based on the old ‘housing readiness’ model, not Housing First.”
About 60 people had been staying under the bridge Tuesday morning. Case workers took on 69 people who had been there over the last month, according to an after-action report Tuesday. As the police and public works crews approached, 15 agreed to go to shelter. Five received permanently supportive housing on the spot, given the severity of their illnesses and needs. Another 20 were assigned permanently supportive housing, and are briefly in transitional shelter.
The number of people going to housing — an apartment or a care facility — will climb over the next 24 hours as case managers work the system.
No one working to alleviate homelessness in the city views a sweep with particular joy, but the conditions under the bridge had begun to deteriorate. “This was a public health problem for the people on the street and also for the community,” said Jimiyu Evans. Co-CEO of Project Community Connections, Inc., an agency serving people experiencing homelessness since 1998 here in Metro, Atlanta. “As providers, we’re trying to coordinate seamless services that haven’t always been easy to deliver.”
Sweeps like this are sensitive, both politically and practically. The public perception of police breaking up an encampment can draw jeers from the public, regardless of how much messaging and outreach precede it. And social workers know that the appearance of working with police can harm hard-won relationships with people living with mental illness, who may begin to view social workers as an arm of the authorities and dig deeper into resistance to help.
“A dozen of our clients were under this bridge,” said Tracy Woodard, another social service outreach worker, with Intown Collaborative Ministries. “If you’re going to do this, this is how it should work.”
Police on the scene said no arrests had been made. A street cleaning crew from the city sprayed the broad, empty sidewalk down with bleach Tuesday morning. Later, they will put up a barricade to prevent pedestrian access — and public sleeping — similar to one recently erected under the bridge at Edgewood Avenue.
And for a few, it wasn’t enough. A handful of people simply moved their belongings one bridge over, to the well-graffitied underpass at Hill Street on the other side of Decatur Street. Homelessness is complicated even under the best circumstances.
Jonathan Wright, 37, has been homeless on again and off again for five years, he said. He uses a wheelchair, and lives with a psychiatric disorder and alcoholism, he said. He is working with Janika Robinson of HOPE Atlanta to find housing, but for the moment the sweep meant a move to a different bridge up the street.
He is on the street with his sister, who has bipolar disorder. And he won’t leave without her. Some people will end up where he is. Others may migrate to Hurt Park near Georgia State, or elsewhere.
“They think everybody who is homeless is on crack,” he said. “I’m sticking with my sister. We don’t separate. It’s us against the world.”
(Photo by Tracy Woodard)