Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Have No Real Explanation



Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward, 1/31/07.

There's a few names on the side, indicating this was a private jet shared by Coca-Cola and Delta VPs. It's also got some painting on it, indicating it's now an art project. It's on Fortune Street -- a thoroughfare I never knew existed before today. All rather odd.

Happy Birthday to Me

(get it?)

So, yes, 34. I was warned by a friend that any complaints about my age would result in my death by strangulation a good 50 years earlier than expected, so none of that. A day of pure self-indulgence is planned (aside from finishing up my taxes). Some photography, some Pynchon, and maybe, just maybe, some beer.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Waiting for the Bus Never Looked So Good

Cool stuff: Alanah passes along what must be one of the most esoteric photo collections I've seen in a long time, bus stops in the former Soviet Union. It's far more interesting than it sounds -- these creative structures must look even stranger in their desolate native element.

Actually, the whole Polar Inertia site seems pretty good -- a new one to explore.

Ah, Ohio

Headline of the year, thus far:

"Greased, Naked Student Disrupts Lunch"

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Putting Things in Order

I finally upgraded to Blogger Awesome or whatever it's called, and it comes with the ability to attach tags. "Huh," I've always said as I looked at other blogs, "Tags." It struck me as kind of neat, but not really something I cared about.

Anyway, needless to say, I've spent the last hour or so going through old posts and attaching tags. For posterity, I guess. This is what I do when I'm bored at work.

I'm trying not to think of the fact that I'm doing this on a Saturday night. Ah well. Come tomorrow, I work three days out of the next two weeks. Things are looking up.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Good Thing You Don't Tip Target Clerks

I turn 34 in a little less than a week. Come Wednesday, I will have outlived both Jesus Christ and Alexander the Great. As has been pointed out, my achievements probably don't match theirs. But I won't (presumably) be dead, either, so I've got that going for me.

Today, I stopped off at Target to pick up some Robitussin (for medical, not recreational, use) and got carded (a first for me -- I realize I was an innocent teenager, but you get carded for Robitussin?). Upon providing my DOB, the clerk said "wow, you're a lot younger than you look."

And I died a little bit inside.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Addendum

Not to take this into a week of mourning, but this Associated Press article does a great job of eulogizing Kapuscinski. Give it a read if you have a chance.

Not at all related -- in reading the voluminous "Against the Day," I've stumbled upon a Wiki site for it, here. It's pretty great reference for all the many, many, many little things I'm missing. If anyone else is taking on the book -- it's an entertaining sidekick.

Addendum to the addendum: in the comments, Nanuk passed along this article on Kapuscinski, which is fantastic. Read it too. And now I promise I'm done.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

RIP Ryszard Kapuscinski

Polish television is reporting that Ryszard Kapuscinski has died, at the age of 74.

I'm not one for heroes, but Kapuscinski is the closest thing I have to one. It's really sad to contemplate that he's never going to write another thing.

Definitely lived a full life, though.

Pynchon and Peyton

The story so far: Thomas Pynchon's "Against the Day" was a much-anticipated Christmas present, and after a bit of warm-ups (stretching, breathing exercises), this was the weekend that I was going to start reading it. I got into it a bit Friday night, but Saturday after work I got beers with a friend, and Sunday was the NFL conference championship games, which meant beer and later, god help me, Jagermeister.

So last night, after finding out that my reading buddy had read about four times as much as me, I plunged back in. I'm now a bit past the first chapter, probably about 150 pages in. The big complaint I've seen about "Against the Day" is that it doesn't really hold together -- but at least thus far, I'd say it's more cohesive and linear than anything I've read of his save "The Crying of Lot 49." Of course, that's all relative and it's still far crazier than anything anyone else writes.

The time period Pynchon chooses -- late 19th/early 20th century -- is pretty fitting for someone of his gifts, a time when rapid advances were making any scientific theory, no matter how wild, seem possible. It's pretty entertaining stuff. Half of it probably flies right by me, and there's dozens of loose ends, only a few of which will probably be tied up. But no matter -- the joy in Pynchon is just letting him take you where he will, getting dazzled by the wordplay and blown away/amused by some of the ideas.

* * *

As for the football portion of life, I predicted a Colts-Saints Super Bowl a few weeks back ... and I was half right. The Saints game (they'd emerged as my sentimental favorite) was pretty dispiriting, but that Colts-Patriots game -- wow. Even through the haze of Jagermeister, that second half was one for the ages. I'll be rooting for the Colts on February 4 -- this Bears team just seems kind of drab, and Peyton Manning is one of the few football players that I take real pleasure in watching.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Light in the Darkness

Not the world's greatest week, but capped off with belated fine news from a couple weeks back -- Anheuser-Busch has agreed to market and distribute Budvar/Czechvar in the U.S.

There's good and bad to this. On the bad, screw Anheuser-Busch all over the place -- I feel bad knowing that I'm going to be contributing money to them, however indirectly. But on the good, I would bet this means that ol' Greg's gonna be able to buy one of his favorite beers again. And Alanah and Jes won't be able to mock me any more.

The linked post says they're sticking with the Czechvar name here. I actually think it'd be a good move for A-B to go with Budvar or Budweiser -- people would start wondering "hey, when did this stuff turn good?"

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm

#3 -- "The Complete Sherlock Holmes, volume 1" by Arthur Conan Doyle

I haven't read ol' Sherlock since I was a kid, and this was really ripping good fun. I dragged it out after encouraging my friend the recent London transplant to read it. Good stuff, and apt on our recent miserable rainy days.

And it was a needed easy warmup before the big task: "Against the Day" is next. I'm reading it in conjunction with a friend (under the theory that the buddy system will drive us forward). Should be interesting.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Remember the Palamont

No ice storm. Just gray misery. I'm a little disappointed because I would have enjoyed the visuals, but on the other hand no one slid across three lanes of traffic to broadside me, so that's kind of awesome.

I drove down Atlanta's Auburn Avenue the other day for the first time in a long while -- a few years, I'd say. It's undergoing a pretty massive revitalization, and while I usually roll my eyes at the prospect of more condominiums around here, something was definitely needed. Auburn is one of Atlanta's signature streets, along with Peachtree, and a few years back, when I wandered around it, it was in pretty desperate shape.

Alas, the plans have claimed a building that I really liked.



The Palamont Motor Lodge was on the corner of Piedmont and Auburn (the photos in this post were taken on a similarly gray and miserable day in 2002 -- as I recall it started pouring rain, leaving me planning to come back and take better pics, which never happened) from decades ago (dates vary -- I've seen it referred to as 1950s-era, and I've seen a 1968 construction date, which sounds erroneous) until last year. It closed sometime in the 1980s, and by the time I was driving by the place, it was a wreck.

These photos (blame it on the rain!) don't show the half of it -- it was crumbling, cracked out, surrounded by fences and barbed wire in a futile attempt to keep people out, covered in graffiti. But it was still an eye-catching building, one that must have been kind of cool when it was active. And it was also a building that had significance to the surrounding community -- one of the only places that accepted African-American guests during segregation.

There was quite a battle to save it, and apparently (by the way, I should note at this point that a lot of the info in this post is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives) its fate was the hold-up in starting the overhaul of the city block. Finally, it was written off as a lost cause, and is totally gone. Happily, they're apparently going to keep the old cool facades of other buildings along the block -- including the Casino Social Club, though driving by today I couldn't see it behind the construction.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Chaos Looms

An ice storm is predicted to hit Atlanta sometime overnight -- already World War II-level preparations are under way. People were stocking up on groceries yesterday.

I've been through a few of these things since I've lived here -- I think the last severe one was January 2005. It's the one time when the phrase "Atlanta winter" isn't laugh-inducing -- my car was coated in solid ice, roads were a sheet. People can't drive in Atlanta on the best of days, and if the forecasts hold true, tomorrow's gonna be an adventure.

For a few days now, I've been joking about the possibility, and I realized something today: if the ice storm doesn't hit, I'm gonna be a little disappointed. That despite having to drive to work tomorrow.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Masquerade

I've largely quit going to live music -- not out of any sort of weird statement, but just 'cause I'm an old man. As a result, I've never been to the Masquerade, though I've driven by it a bazillion times. Never really thought much about it, to be honest. It mostly caters to the metal and mainstream punk crowds, as far as I can tell. When I first moved out here, I think it was a lot more hair metal-oriented.

(Yeah, I'm passing up on the chance to see Agent Orange)

It's not, at first glance, a terribly interesting building -- it just seems to be a large and rather unremarkable warehouse club. But just a slightly closer look (granted, I didn't notice for six years or so) reveals it to be a pretty interesting place.

If you ignore the black facade that's closer to the street, the Masquerade building stands revealed as an old excelsior mill -- built by DuPre Manufacturing in 1901 (according to the Atlanta Preservation Center). The Masquerade's been chronically endangered -- in fact, if I recall correctly, it actually did shut down for a time -- and reportedly it's not long for this world, but the condos/restaurants that take over will keep the existing structure.

Like I said, I've never been inside the building, so I don't really know if it's all used for the concerts, or if much of it is just empty. Wandering around a bit, much of it is in poor shape -- tons of broken windows, lots of garbage and rust.

Lots of old mill equipment, too -- and it seems to be in better shape than the rest of the building. I don't have a clue what an excelsior mill produced (ok, now I sort of do) but someone has done a good job of keeping the equipment looking good.

The Masquerade lies at the bottom of a rail embankment (shown above) and has enormous grounds behind it (sorta shown below). I'm not sure what, if anything, the grounds are used for now. Poking around a bit, I saw some more equipment, a few separated buildings, and one sign for the Mellow Mushroom -- according to Wikipedia, the building was the first site for the local pizza chain, before becoming the Masquerade. Apparently the restaurant hasn't been there in 20 years, but the sign looked pretty fresh.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

On Writing

I've been writing (offline) a bit more during the still-fairly-new year, so the various difficulties inherent in it are a bit forefront in my mind. And yesterday, a chance conversation proved revealing: perhaps laying out for me the cause of a problem.

I ran into my friend Michael in a parking lot, and talked about some of his film projects -- he's done some short film work. Screenwriting and my literary aspirations came up, naturally, and somewhere in there a light went on.

I've been writing for television now for ... six years or so. I've previously noted to myself that it's affected me by hammering home the lesson of brevity. But something I haven't considered -- I've also become accustomed to writing alongside images. I'm used to not needing to put color in, not needing to describe the visuals of a scene. And that shows through in the fiction.

The novel I was writing when I moved out here was lousy, but it was very visual -- everything was described (a bit too much). Now? Just the opposite. In the most recent serious attempt, one chapter had a bit of description, the rest almost wholly without. The other day I sat down and wrote two chapters of something else that had been pushing at my mind -- not bad stuff, but absolutely no description. What do the characters look like? What sort of setting are they living in? No clue. I'm visualizing these scenes in my mind as I write -- but when they're on paper, that info stays with me.

So it's another barrier to overcome, but recognizing it feels sorta liberating. It would've been more liberating if I'd gone home last night and started writing, but you can't have everything, y'know?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I'm Sure Dr. King Would Have Approved

Ad seen on the way into work today: "Free at Last Bail Bonds"

It also had a big Christian fish. Because when you're calling a bail bondsman, you want to know he's right with God.

* * *

Plans to write more on this took a hard right turn onto Not Happening Street this week, as work's (again) been pretty exhausting. Four days off imminent, though, so some half-thought-out things will appear in full form.

In the meantime: since the Colorado trip, I've been having very vivid dreams. Not sensical dreams, mind you, but vivid.

A few nights ago, I dreamt that my friend Gretchen (I do not know a Gretchen in real life) was in deep trouble, and kept calling me for assistance, first from Turkey, then from Ukraine. Because God loves a good joke (when he's not bailing out felons, that is), this dream ended when I was awakened by a 3 a.m. phone call -- a friend mistakenly dialing me rather than someone on the Left Coast.

Then last night, this gem.

A group of us -- Fidel, me, and a third friend (someone that doesn't actually exist in waking life, apparently) were at a bar. In Mogadishu, Somalia. It was quite a nice bar, for Mogadishu, except that it had no roof. (this was rather hard to tell, since the walls were about 60 feet high)

The imaginary other friend suggested that if we got bored there, we could go to a bar called "Steve's Breasts" in Little Five Points. (Little Five Points is an Atlanta neighborhood. There is no such bar.)

We hung out, talking to the bartender (an expat woman) and then Ken (a co-worker) walked in. He pointed out that right inside the front door, there was a really nice glassed-in restaurant portion.

Then, we left -- and walked through Mogadishu, which had very run-down Austro-Hungarian architecture.

Fin.

Most disturbing aspects of the dream: a bar called "Steve's Breasts," and that I'm such an Eastern Europe weirdo that I imagine Mogadishu with Habsburg architecture, despite all evidence that the reality is somewhat different.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A One and a Two...

The 2007 book diary begins:

#1 -- "A Wild Sheep Chase" by Haruki Murakami

#2 -- "Dance Dance Dance" by Haruki Murakami

I'm planning to start reading "Against the Day" next weekend, so I eased into the year with two old favorites. Like "Hard-Boiled Wonderland," I last read these about six years ago. They're loosely tied together (the main character is the same, and the plot of "DDD" picks up a loose thread from "Chase") but can be read independently without a problem.

Both are in the familiar Murakami world where very strange things happen to very normal people. "Chase" is more random -- "Dance" is more human, and darker. I would bet that when I first read these, I liked the first more; now, while I find "WSC" more enjoyable, "Dance" and its theme of loneliness is more affecting.

More to say, but it's a lovely day after a Sunday full of torrential downpours, so I'm heading out. If you haven't read Murakami yet, you really oughta. That is all.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Loose Ends

Spurred on by an e-mail from reader Randall, discussing the 442 Cain St. building, I actually did a little research on another old favorite -- this oddball building on Moreland and Eastland.

And -- I actually discovered its origins.

It's an old C&S (Citizens & Southern) Bank, built in 1965. I'm not sure it went under, but I'm guessing mid-1980s, as C&S was pretty much no longer a going concern by 1990 (history here).

In the 1990s, some property records show another owner, with a spa or therapy center of some sort having that address. But that business seems long gone, if it ever actually operated there, and now the building just sits there, empty and alone.

There's a couple sites with more in-depth photos than I was able to take out there. For your viewing pleasure:

Cached photo album

Page at Docomomo Georgia

* * *

Another loose end: remember the "bet" with my old pal Kynan, over whether the Buccaneers or Raiders would score more points this season? It sort of drifted out of my consciousness, since watching either team was like watching colorectal surgery this season. But with the NFL regular season over, it's time to tally up:



The Buccaneers are clear winners, if you can call this "winning." We never really set what exactly we were betting, and in fact I sort of instituted this challenge without asking Kynan beforehand. Nonetheless, I can't imagine that he'll argue if I say, retroactively, that we bet $1,000 on it. Cool?

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

Returning to work this week was a pretty big shock to the system, so you'll all forgive me if I indulge myself and post another jersey? Yes? You will? Thanks.



European jerseys are pretty thoroughly mocked for the amount of advertising on 'em. It doesn't really bug me, though, and there are some really nice styles from over there -- Finnish jerseys tend to be really attractive, and there's a lot of good ones in the Czech Rep., as well.

But then there's Germany.



German clubs usually look like they're getting set for Fasching. It's not just the ads, but a rather strange design sense, and some ridiculous mascots.

This jersey is rather sedate by German standards -- but even so, it's got some issues.



If you were to see this jersey with virgin eyes, you'd think "ah, this is a Rothaus jersey! And their mascot is the Blonde Chicks Serving Beer! Go, Rothaus Blonde Chicks Serving Beer!"

If that were the case, they would automatically become my favorite team ever. That's a fantastic mascot. But actually, the club is EHC Freiburg, and the mascot is this troubled-looking guy. Our blonde beer-server is actually a giant advertisement, for Rothaus beer (which, perhaps, you had already guessed). Blondie even has a name, unlike the poor Poldi Kladno girl -- she's Miss Biergit. Perhaps we're seeing a bit of globalization here, in that she's Miss Biergit and not Fraulein Biergit.



The Rothaus-centric images continue on the back, where ANOTHER Rothaus ad overshadows the player's name. The player in question is Bedřich Ščerban, a Czech player since the mid-'80s -- don't know much about him, other than that he's played all over the place, won the Extraliga "Fair Play" award in 1990-91 (at least according to Eurohockey.net), is still active with SK Horácká Slavia Třebíč at an age when most hockey players are selling real estate, and also works in some capacity with Dominik Hasek's "Dominator" line ("if you aren't wearing Dominator, you aren't wearing anything at all").

All that -- and for a few glorious years, he got to wear a hockey jersey with a chick serving beer on the front. All this has had one lasting effect on me -- I really want to try Rothaus now. We can only hope that it's imported to Atlanta.

(You'll be happy to know that Miss Biergit still plays a big part in EHC Freiburg's hockey -- here's their webpage, and last season's team photo. As always, props to Tapeleg, who originated the jersey profile idea.)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Reminder to Carry Camera

There's a big Christian convention in town right now, and the daily drive into work has been clogged by pedestrian traffic.

Not sure if it motivated one guy to come out: outside the Hooters on Peachtree the other day, this little old man was brandishing a sign on a pole, reading "97% of churchgoers go to Hell anyway" or something to that effect.

In itself, not so remarkable -- this is Georgia, after all. But this little wizened old dude was wearing a flamboyant purple hat and an even more flamboyant (flamboyanter?) pair of purple pants.

Draped over his arm, looking dreamily into his ear, was one of the Hooters girls.

I'll never know the full story of what was going on at that corner, and I'm a little poorer for it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Hello, 2007

Prior to this morning, I don't believe I'd seen the sun since Christmas day -- several days of snow in Colorado, and then torrential rain once I got back here, had obliterated it. So to wake today to not just a sunny day, but a really gorgeous day, seems to bode well for ought-seven. Of course, that implies that 2006 was a metaphorical year of rain and gloom, and it really wasn't. So just ignore everything, eh?

Against all odds, I took it pretty easy last night. Nonetheless, I took up the neighborhood bar on its offer of "Hair of the Dog specials," and trompted a dozen feet or so to get some Bloody Marys, read, and watch a bit of Auburn-Nebraska on TV. It's a good thing I did, too, because I got to eavesdrop on the following conversation, which highlighted just how quiet my New Year's Eve really was:

Dipshitty guy, describing party that girl missed: "yeah, so-and-so pissed on his girlfriend."

Girl: "Oh my God! That's horrible!"

Guy: "Well, at least it wasn't shit."

Words we can all live by, as we enter this new year. The bar provided some good people-watching -- while the booths were all populated by clean-cut, normal people enjoying a New Year's brunch, the bar itself was a testament to debauchery. The above characters were part of a group of bartenders, of that peculiarly Atlanta stripe that combine jockishness, metalheadism, redneckery, and all sorts of bad tattoos and sports goatees. Down the bar was an emaciated, likely-still-drunk Peyton Manning-lookalike who was hitting on an obvious lesbian. Another guy sported the wraparound shades, goatee and upturned polo shirt collar. In the midst was the quiet, vaguely brooding guy, reading. And being strikingly handsome, I'd like to think.

* * *

Filled with vim and vigor, as one often is on New Year's Day, I went out shooting a few photos early this morning. First I went down to see Scottdale, Georgia, a suburb so small it doesn't even appear on most printed maps. I'm not even sure it even technically exists -- it may actually be a part of Decatur. A friend suggested a while back I go to Scottdale to look for old buildings, but I had no clue. Eventually, though, I noticed this sign -- on a building that I've passed several hundred times while living in Atlanta:



So that's where it is.

The area -- and it seems to be more of a single street -- seems to be centered around that old steel mill. Not sure if it's still going -- while it's listed in the phone book, there were a bunch of signs up indicating that the lot was for sale. Because Atlanta needs more condos.

I drove around for a bit, quickly finding myself within the "Avondale Estates" (another little suburb) city limits, and then finding the road blocked off by some rather brusque police. Frankly, there wasn't a ton to see -- plenty of churches, plenty of repair lots. Next to the steel mill was something I don't see a whole ton -- an out-of-business church:



How does a church go out of business, anyhow?

Happy New Year!