Static and Grit

A pale January sky today, stitched up with vapor trails, but it’s not just that that tells me we’re settled into winter and, because the season’s so short in this neck of the woods, at the same time teetering on the cusp of spring.

Lady Liberty is back.

And I was so pleased to see her on the corner yesterday in front of Liberty Tax Service— or rather him, since yesterday’s Lady Liberty was a guy with dreads clad in his paid-by-the-hour work attire of the tax season of patina’d copper green gown and foam rubber liberty crown — that I realized that with time, ANYTHING is possible. I have begun having great feelings of affection for Atlanta.

Extraordinary! All it took was TEN years. Before that, the places I chose to live were always college towns: let’s call them Disneyland for Hipsters I and Disneyland for Hipsters II. Better bookstores, better public services, better dressed baristas in the coffee shops. How on earth could Atlanta hold a candle to that?

My relationship with Atlanta was pretty similar to that of two people in an arranged marriage: it made sense as far as the business of my life went (ie, it possessed the job for the Husband that allowed us to escape my childhood bedroom, where we’d been living for the past six months) but love it I did not.

For years, my motto as far as living here went was close your eyes and think of England.*

But more and more frequently, I open my eyes and look around at the Atlanta I live in, down at its heels, corrupt and urban, full of grit and static, and realize that, though my feelings for it don’t match the passion of first love and I would never dream of defending it over someplace really nice, like say, Austin, I’m glad I live here.

If I lived elsewhere, I would measure the arrival of spring by the emergence of the daffodils’ blunt green bayonet blades. Here I have the arrival of Lady Liberty, who will stand on that corner from now until April 15.

The first year we lived here, an inflatable Lady Liberty head was tethered to the top of Liberty Tax Service, a sight as post-apocalyptic as the listing statue on the beach in Planet of the Apes. Now we’ve just got Lady Liberty, who works from 8 in the morning until 8 at night, who stands on the same corner where a few years back two very large prostitutes stood soliciting business while we ate dinner in the brand-new pizza place across the street and watched them through the plate glass window. Lady Liberty, who is sometimes old, sometimes young, sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes black and sometimes white, but is always one of the most oppressed people on the planet, at least as far as their employment goes. Trucks honk their horns at them. The corner is not a particular scenic place to spend an entire day.

I loved those Disneylands for Hipsters where I came of age, oh, how passionately. But this morning after dropping off Younger Girleen at school, I stood in line at my fav coffee shop (the one that offers me my large special friend) and thought how glossy those places were (and still are). Here, on the other hand, I’ve got an unfashionable bald guy in front of me with scuffed shoes, one of the barista’s tattoos are old-prison-tattoo green, and the other barista is a little oily and probably didn’t shower before he came in to work.

Depeche Mode’s Master and Servant was playing on the sound system. Let’s play … master and servant whoever the lead singer of Depeche Mode was warbled.

Let’s NOT, the barista opined as I walked out the door.

Oh, Atlanta, you may be a lame, out-of-date city, but you’re my lame, out-of-date city.

*I’m thrilled by this opportunity to spin the arranged marriage metaphor past its breaking point.

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