I don’t remember exactly when during our tenure living south of Interstate 20 the passionate debate about Confederate Avenue first became so — well, passionate — but I do remember the first time I ran across the street name.

We’d been living in Atlanta for about nine months and I was house-hunting. I came across a listing for a house in southeast Atlanta on Confederate Avenue, and though the better story would be that I elected not to take a look at it because of the name of the street it sat on, the reality was that I passed it by because it had trey ceilings in its living room.

Confederate Avenue.

For years, whenever something really bad happened in the wide world, people in Grant and Ormewood Parks, the neighborhoods Confederate runs through, would use the Nextdoor online forum to debate whether or not the name should be changed. “Considerate Avenue” was suggested as a replacement. So was “United Avenue,” referring more to Atlanta’s soccer team, the Atlanta United, than to any meeting of the minds about a potential name change or even for the need for one.

The online debate would ebb, and it would flow. Occasionally, when I took a walk through the neighborhood, I’d notice that one of the street signs would be spraypainted out. Once, a home-made sign — “Considerate Ave” — had been duct-taped over the more official one.

Then, Charlottesville happened. Sentiment that the street name should be changed, while still not unanimous, grew. Discussions about it became more organized and jumped off-line and into real life.

After meetings, after listening sessions, after straw polls taken over new name ideas, after A.P. wire stories were picked up and nationally run, the Atlanta City Council voted unanimously this past October that the name of Confederate Avenue should be changed to United Avenue.

Confederate Avenue, so named because it ran in front of the Confederate Soldiers’ Home built in 1900. Dig a little deeper, and you discover that construction of the Home, one of Henry W. Grady’s pet projects, may have been at least in part a sop thrown to disaffected rural farmers who felt that the urban “silk-hats” in Atlanta didn’t have their interests at heart. If those farmers, many of whom were veterans, (because the Civil War was, above all, “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”) became too disgruntled, they might form a third political party, which in turn might allow the Republican party — whom newly-franchised African-Americans might vote for — to influence, if not, throw, elections.

There’s a story behind every story.

Dig deeper still and you learn that the Old Soldiers’ Home cornerstone contained “Confederate currency, some minie balls, letters from Jefferson and Varina Davis… and a copy of Lee’s plans on how to use blacks in the war.”

This morning, intent on the music spilling from my earbuds and the to-do list running through my head, I walked past an idling City of Atlanta Public Works truck and just happened to look up.

Y’all putting up the new street signs? I blurted out, surprised.

Yes, one of the workers said.  Cautiously, it seemed to me, or was I reading into things?

—I’m so happy to see them! I said.  Full of pride in my adopted city, I was.

—It’s a beautiful day in Atlanta, the worker said, smiling, a beautiful day.

It was in fact a gray day, one promising rain, but I agreed wholeheartedly, and the two of us grinned at each other, and then I walked on.


Pubs, Fall Version


My story, “Dirty South,” is now out in the spring/fall issue (volume 38.2) of Mid-American Review!  Though it’s not available online, single issue copies are available for purchase here.

All of us were all from somewhere else.

Although more and more often, the somewhere else we were from hardly existed. It had been swallowed up. By what? We hardly even knew ourselves. All the same, that somewhere else was still our template.

There had been cul-de-sacs there, we thought (a dim memory), and newspapers tossed onto lawns at four o’clock each afternoon, by a boy older than us who had had a good bike and a pitcher’s squint.

There had been nothing to do.

There had been sprinklers.

We had rushed from that somewhere else to this place, and on our way we’d sped past billboards advertising things that were just up the road, and eroded red-clay gullies, and mare’s nests of barbed wire and discarded tires. All knit together by a green tangle of vegetation that had gotten out of hand.

The lumpy green blanket of kudzu that covered everything was our birthright. We had read our James Dickey back at Georgia and Auburn and Tech and Alabama, and we knew about the land we’d inherited. We knew it was a falsehood, that if you opened your windows at night (a thing none of us had done since we had lived in the unair-conditioned somewhere else of our childhoods), you could hear it growing. It was a falsehood that its broad, handed leaves smelled of the Kool-aid we hadn’t drunk since then either. Or that in the dark it sent questing fingers over the blacktop of county-maintained roads.

We knew all these things. But none of us had ever seen what lay underneath it.

Pubs, Summer Version



My story “Sunshine” has just gone live at, which has a lovely layout and  the hands-down best tagline of the literary web:

Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.  —Beckett

“Sunshine” is set in the Rio Grande Valley, circa about 2012, which was the last time I was down there.  I’d probably have to write a different story if I used the Valley as a setting right now — borders conjure up different things now than they did  just five years ago.  I’m glad I caught it at the moment I did.

Taking care. It seems like such an innocuous statement. Take care, Glory had said before Tina hung up this morning. Tina is taking care of things for now, down in the Valley. Take care. Such an acquisitive phrase, as if care is something you have to reach out and grab.

Glory calls twice a day. Once, for the real report relayed by Tina, and once, when she talks to their mother. How is she eating? Sleeping? Is the weather nice? Glory seems to have forgotten the wind incessantly rustling the palm trees, the sky so pale it has stopped being blue. Mami is taking care, greedily, with both hands, because care, as it turns out, is something the world only stingily parcels out.

Blink and You’ll Miss It


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.


Moreland and Memorial


Maynard Terrace and Memorial, in the convenience store parking lot.


—How long you had your stand here? —Bout 12 years.  —People buy stuff?  —’Course.  I wouldn’t be sitting out here if they didn’t. 





Abandoned apartment complex, Memorial and Moreland.


You can’t keep a good kudzu patch down.


Yard Art.


Wyatt’s, Maynard Terrace and Memorial


Franken-Pine Cell Tower, Candler and Memorial




Signs of the times.


Memorial at the Beltline:  The future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades. 




Old School > (is less than) Old Hat > (is less than) Passe.

But the bald truth about this place right here  where your eyes landed is greater than the sum of all of those. It equals —it is — pretty close to useless.  There might have been a brief shining moment about ten years ago (about the time I wrote the first post on this site as a matter of fact) , when we weren’t  sure what a blog was actually for, but now we know.

It’s all about selling, of course!  How could we not have seen this?

So just to cut to the chase:  there’s nothing to see here, just move along.

Friends tell me there’s a Facebook group devoted  to the cares and frettings of women to the north of 40 —What Would Virginia Woolf Do? — and this is my cohort, for all that I’ve deactivated Facebook and can’t read it.

What would Virginia Woolf do?

My guess — she would either be scanning the ground for more and better stones with which to weigh down her pockets, or, and this is a pretty big or,  it would be the inverse of that, and she would be seeing the commonplace, the everyday, fringed with—radiating — joy.

At least, my Virginia Woolf would.

So here I sit.  The past few weeks, the offspring I once called Elder Girleen has been trying to absorb a year’s worth of Pre-Calculus.  (Online, of course.)  The lecturer’s voice is so sonorous, she might deserve an A just for staying awake. Using sines and cosines and such, she’s learning how to figure out how far a cruise ship is from a jetty (I think; I’m two rooms away.)

The trajectory I’m trying to calculate is othewise: from the skinned knees of one’s children to the long-term care insurance (or lack thereof) of one’s parents.

Nobody’ll pay you for that one.





Pubs, Summer 2016


The new issue of Cold Mountain Review, which includes my story “Forage,” has just gone live. 

A “mountain story” inspired by morel-hunting on Cold Mountain in North Carolina, for a mountain journal, out of Appalachian State, in Boone:

Clare looks at the slant of the rusty tin roof and the white paint that peels in strips from the siding. The house is the same sort of place that usually sits at the edge of somebody’s grandparents’ land, about to fall back into scrap, jammed, from the scarred pine floor to the 12-foot ceilings, with stored bales of hay: the old place. Whenever there is a newer one, it’s a ranch-style set a little farther back from the road or backed up to a cowpond. Propane tank tethered close; the well out front turned into a planter. They drove past half a dozen like that just on the way here.