Twenty years ago, about two weeks after The Husband and I moved to Atlanta, I set off one afternoon in search of the closest Baskin-Robbins (his favorite birthday cake: ice cream). This was harder back then than you’d think . For one thing, the car I drove was over 34 years old, a Ford with a metal dashboard that could be hosed off after you wrecked it, which wasn’t that unlikely, considering that the brake pedal had to be mashed a good 75 feet before I actually wanted to come to a stop. (And yes, Fords were colloquially described as “Fix or Repair Daily” for a reason.)
For another thing, finding places was different order of business back in 1998. I’m sure I used the phone book to look up addresses of Baskin-Robbins stores, am positive I used a paper map to plot my route there. What I knew about Atlanta geography at that point could’ve fit in a thimble, but I knew Memorial Drive— it wasn’t far from our apartment in Little Five Points.
Memorial was then, and is now, the east-west four-lane running roughly from downtown Atlanta eastward to Stone Mountain. Memorial rather than the Fair Street it started its life as, maybe because of a great plan never seen to fruition to create memorials to veterans of the Spanish-American and Great War all along its length, or maybe because much of the Battle of Atlanta had been fought over and around its high ridges. My sentiments the first time I drove it? That it was one of the most blighted streetscapes I’d ever had the opportunity to set foot on.
For the past two-plus years, I’ve driven it, mostly on auto-pilot, to and from work, thankfully against traffic. Like so many things about Atlanta I despised when I first moved here, I’ve grown some affection for it (although not for the light at Memorial and Moreland which is always out-of-sync).
Ground zero for tremendous amounts of development, Memorial Drive is a liminal space these days, part old Atlanta, part new, the new gaining the upper hand every day that passes.
Blink and you’ll miss it.