Thursday, January 28, 2010

Graffiti is cool.

One of the first things I remember seeing when I moved here was a piece of graffiti that said "Pray for ATL."


(you can click on the images to make them larger)

Throughout the following months I saw many areas covered in graffiti and just kind of quickly glanced over them as I drove by. There are a few in particular that caught my eye.


I don't know what this is all about. I think it might have something to do with this...



There's also this...


After a few months some names began poking out at me, as I saw them all over the place.

One of such tags is a guy that goes by "Vomet."



I drive all over the city for my job and see his tag wherever I go. I've seen him on old buildings, new ones, highway overpasses, street signs, and basically anything else you can think of that is outside.

Here's one I saw on an old, shut down building where the name of the business would go.



Here are a few others spotted throughout the day.







Notice the "Hi Haterz" in the corner? Nice touch, someone else.

Another name that I've seen a lot around town is a guy/girl that goes by "Nope."



I like this guy because he tends to tag on other people's tags a lot while also tagging on places that have been painted over by "the man." Oh, you didn't like it when people wrote on your walls? Think it looks better without graffiti? Nope.



Here's another one where the tag wouldn't show up with just black paint. Solution? Put down a white base first.



Krog Street Tunnel is basically a collage of the city's graffiti artists packed into about a hundred yards of concrete. This is a view of one of the sidewalks leading through it. There is another full side like this as well as the pillars between the traffic lanes that are also filled with pictures and tags.



There are the normal tags throughout, like this giant one from Nope and another from Vomet.





There are also a plethora of random, nonsensical pictures strewn between the tags.











and some inspirational words...



There are a ton more pics of just Nope and Vomet but it would be superflous to put every one I've seen on here. There would be too many to count, since I start getting confused around the mid-thirties.

I don't know anything about graffiti. An old neighbor of mine used to do it and talked about it one night. From what I gathered from that conversation, it seems like an underground community. I picture one graffiti artist seeing another person's tag on a hard to reach spot like a highway overpass and silently nodding his head in approval. I think it's more than just some rapscallions vandalizing public property for the hell of it. I think it's a group of people with (sometimes) real artistic talent and a carefree, "fuck you" attitude. Both of which I can easily get behind.

I like seeing these pictures all over the place. Also, I saw a dead bird today in the parking lot of a grocery store. Looks like it got rocked pretty hard.



ALSO, this.

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK Day

Where I come from, Martin Luther King Day is no more important than Arbor Day. Everyone still goes to work. Everyone still goes to school. It wasn’t until I moved to Milwaukee that I realized some people take this holiday seriously. Namely, black people. Since there were, maybe, three black people in Appleton when I was growing up, MLK day was not a big deal. Milwaukee, however, has a large black population. Thus, big deal. The university was shut down, and people actually mentioned it.

Now I live in Atlanta. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where MLK was a pastor, is about a mile from my house. I was excited for the festivities of MLK day, and not just because I like large gatherings of happy people.

We drove to Ebenezer around noon. On the way there, we had the radio on. They were playing an MLK speech with a Dr. Dre beat behind it. I guess you gotta get the kids to listen somehow, right?

After parking, we walked to MLK’s tomb. It was a fairly somber atmosphere. A lot of people had their cameras and video recorders out, but there was also a large group of disinterested kids that had obviously been dragged their by their parents. It was a little weird standing in front of the tomb. Within that concrete box lay the man that everyone has loved so much that they pretty much beatified him.

I also thought about how weird tombs are. We lock dead people in boxes that will never disintegrate. Which I guess is also kinda funny since MLK was all about integration, but I digress. These revered people are forced to become a pile of mush that will never do what the pile of mush is supposed to do: Become one with the earth and contribute to new life. Whatever, I just think it’s weird. If I ever die, I want to be tossed into a hole, no coffin, so the earthworms can dig into my freshly dead flesh. Here’s to you, worms.

We left the tomb and I became annoyed. What was the first thing I saw? A table promoting light bulbs. Because that has a lot to do with civil rights and community organizing, right? The street was blocked off for a few blocks and booths had been set up all along it. There were many people hocking shoddily made MLK shirts, MLK bracelets, MLK necklaces, MLK posters, etc. Oh yeah, and deep-fried Oreos. Can’t forget about the Oreos.

After running the gauntlet of exploitation we walked to the church across the street from the tomb, where they were having the service. We had watched some of the service on TV before we left. They had a large TV and sound system set up outside the church so the people that couldn’t get inside could still hear the service. I was bored with the speakers we had seen earlier. They all pretty much said how great MLK was (which is to be expected), made a reference to Obama, and tried to sound important. No one had anything new or interesting to say.

However, the final speaker, Dr. Cornell West, the one that was speaking when we were there, was really good. He effortlessly spoke in the “important” tone that the other speakers were trying to imitate. He was animated, funny (at one point he discussed moral constipation and the need for moral diarrhea), clever, and did a great job of referencing MLK while also extrapolating from his teachings. At one point, we walked over to the church while he was on and looked through the windows. We couldn’t hear what he was saying while doing this but we could see his body language. Even a deaf person would have enjoyed his whole speech.

After he finished, we drove home and I grabbed my bike to head back downtown for the march. About ten blocks of Peachtree were sectioned off and there were people everywhere. I got there before it started so I walked on the sidewalk from the starting point to the end.



People were everywhere. Some were chanting, some were singing, some were beating drums and dancing. Everyone was in great spirits. One thing I found a little strange were the protesters. They weren’t protesting MLK or anything like that. They were protesting completely unrelated topics like health care and unemployment. I’m all for organizing like this, but what did they hope to accomplish? Yelling, “more jobs!” at someone that works at Walgreen’s isn’t going to further your cause at all. Good try, maybe next time.



The whole atmosphere had a sense of comradery to it that, I guess, MLK hoped we would have every day. It was great to see, but also a little disheartening. I knew that January 19th would be the same as January 17th. People will still be mugging each other, people will still be ignored. Luckily, I missed the news because I probably would have kicked a hole in it if there were any robberies today. I’m sure there were, that’s why I’m not looking at the websites.

When the march started, I was near the beginning in front of the Hooters restaurant. It wasn’t intentional, just a happy accident. As the groups went past me, I got to see all the adolescent males notice the Hooters, tap their friends on the shoulder, and laugh/yell/wave at the girls watching from the window. Amusing.

This was the first MLK day that I thought anything beyond, “Shit, the post office is closed.” Watching the speeches, well, I guess just Dr. West’s speech, actually had an impact on me. This was not expected. I think it’s because the goal they have, the world they want to live in (as do I), would be very easy to reach if people weren’t such jackasses. The solutions are very simple. It basically boils down to, “don’t be an asshole.” That’s it. Don’t be an asshole and we can have parades where everyone’s smiling and kids wave at Hooters girls every day. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shut ‘em down, open up shop.

The first time we saw DMX, we were horrified. We were parking near a grocery store to enter the liquor store while he was stalking the parking lot. He was taller than us, stronger than us, and had a look on face that basically said, “Don’t FUCK with me. I will not hesitate to rip your heads off with my teeth.” The blue bandana wrapped around his head and horrible expression of anger reminded us of DMX. Therefore, his name became DMX.

We continued to have DMX sightings since, but have been able to avoid contact with him until this week. We parked at the grocery store and then noticed him patrolling the parking lot again.

“Oh shit, it’s DMX,” said Ted.

We carefully got out of the car and started power walking towards the entrance of Kroeger. He noticed us immediately.

“Oh shit! Oh hell naw!” he said. “I can’t fuck with y’all! Ya’ll some bad mother fuckers!”

We laughed and continued walking towards the store. Who knows what this man is capable of. He just might throw a car at us and take our wallets at any minute. However, he continued walking towards the store as well.

“I knew as soon as I saw you guys get out the car that you were some bad mother fuckers,” he told me as we stood side-by-side. “Hey man,” handshake, doesn’t let go, “I love y’all. Ima do something real special for y’all. How long you gonna be in there?”

“Uh, ten minutes or so.”

“Ten minutes,” still holding my hand. It was like we he was proposing to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about the man we had seen the day before at the bus stop. He had his shirt off and was maniacally scratching his shoulders and back. His skin looked dry and chalky, covered in some sort of fucked up skin irritation. As DMX held my hand, I thought about that man’s skin, and how whatever was wrong with him could be slowly transferring itself to me. “Alright, I got a surprise for y’all when you come back out. I used to do this all the time in New York. I got a surprise for you.”

We walked inside and immediately began freaking out.

“Should we tell the security guard?”

“Should we ask for an escort?”

“What the hell kind of surprise could he possibly have?”

“It’s either his dick or a gun. He is for sure going to show us either his dick or his gun.”

“He said he did it all the time in New York. Great. He’s a professional mugger.”

We gathered our items and proceeded through the checkout. We stood before the door with our bags and looked back and forth at each other.

“We should try to find a group to walk out with.”

“He’s going to show us his dick or his gun. God damn it.”

We took a deep breath and stepped outside, power-walking to the car. We both did a quick scan of the parking lot: DMX was nowhere to be seen.

“Alright, get your keys out. He could be anywhere.”

As we walked around the van that was between the car and us, we thought we were home free. As I started putting the key in the door, Ted stopped and pointed to the passenger-side door. DMX was bent over and doing something to the door. Of course, I immediately suspected he was trying to break in.

He noticed we were back and popped up with a smile on his face. “I told y’all I’d have a surprise for you. I’m almost done.”

He walked around the car to my side and I noticed he had a rag in his hand. He was wiping all the dirt off of my car. His surprise was to clean my car by the time we got out of the store. Holy shit.

As he finished up, I threw the keys to Ted to unlock his door so we could make a quick getaway if necessary. Sure, he was doing something nice and was acting nice, but these things can go sour in a second. I’ve dealt with a lot of bums and beggars. I’ve seen them get angry for no reason.

While he was wiping down the windshield, he started telling us about life. We learned his name is Andre. We learned he’s from Long Island. We learned that John Gotti was a real gangster. We learned how the drug dealers in Atlanta are doing it all wrong. We learned he was hungry for chicken.

He completed his task and we gave him a handful of change and a couple of dollars. He thanked us a billion times, gave me a fist-bump, and then another handshake that turned into us simply holding hands again. He rambled on about nothing and we eventually managed to close the car doors, which was not easy.

As we drove away, I was shaking. I was nervous the whole time we were talking to him. I didn’t think we would do anything to us but, like I said, you never know. In all, I’d say it was a successful adventure. Horrifying DMX is now in love with us and my car got its dirt pushed around for a little while.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's snowing. HOLY SHIT.

It’s snowing. Here. In Atlanta. Wtf. I moved south to avoid things like this. Twenty degree weather? What the hell?

When I say it’s snowing, I mean it’s the southern version of snowing. In Wisconsin it would be referred to as a “dusting,” or a light flurry with no accumulation. To anyone from above the Mason-Dixon Line, this is no big deal. In Georgia, however, the sky might as well be on fire.

I refuse to leave my house. If people don’t know how to drive when the conditions are perfect, I’m not going to risk it in the snow. I’m sure no one will know to slow down before coming to a stop, or take corners slow, or anything useful like that. “What’s this white shit? Fuck it, who cares?" Vrrrrrrroooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmm…..

And then someone dies. Or gets hurt. Or gets into an accident, making someone mad, and then someone dies. I think I’ll pass on that whole scene.

This is a picture from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When snow comes people think they won't be able to leave their houses for weeks so they stock up on the essentials. Seriously. Better get five gallons. There's no telling when this blizzard will let up.



The snow didn’t show up until the middle of the afternoon. The forecast said it would come around four o’clock. That’s right, four o’clock in the afternoon. You may be asking, why is this important? Because schools were already closed last night. Yeah. Schools closed down on the possibility of snow arriving in the late afternoon. It’s understandable, though. I mean, you can’t expect someone to drive their kid to school through a blizzard that dumps a whole zero inches of snow all over the city while said kid is safe at home anyways. And it’s not like education is really all that important. It’s the south.

On the bottom of the television screen right now they have the news ticker of the school closings for tomorrow. The snow is supposed to clear up by midnight. If schools closed for this type of snowfall in the north, the kids would never have a full day of school. They might as well close the schools when there’s a heavy downpour, or thick fog, or a leap year, or an asteroid. It all makes the same amount of sense.

I understand that they don’t have the snow removal capabilities that we did in Wisconsin. I understand that it’s a rare event around here. But to close school for two days because of a light snow shower that occurred during off-hours and will be gone by the time school would have started tomorrow? That’s fucking ridiculous.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year's resolutions are stupid.

If anybody actually stuck to their resolutions there would be no fat people, no smokers, everyone would play an instrument, and everyone would be happy. However, everyone’s fat, smokers are everywhere, and everyone hates their lives. Admit it. You do.

If you make a resolution you might as well throw a penny in a fountain and make a wish. It’s the same hopeful optimism that drives both activities. We all want to believe that if you find a penny, people will give you high-fives for the rest of the day. This, however, doesn’t happen. Ever.

If you make a resolution you might as well resolve to admit that you don’t have the ability to change what you want about yourself. If you really wanted those changes to happen, they would have happened already. Unless you have a near death experience on December 31st that gives you a new outlook on life, stop bullshitting yourself. It’s okay to admit this. No one has the ability to change everything. Sometimes you just are how you are. Think you should stop lying to people all the time? Well, if you have to make a resolution to stop doing it, chances are you won’t be able to stop. You’re a liar. Sorry. Accept it. Same thing goes for working out or dieting or any of the other cliché resolutions.

If you need a calendar day to tell you to do it, you’re just going to devolve to how you were in December, or November, or the rest of your life up until this point. Once the New Year becomes a thing of the past, so will your desire to better yourself. If you are going to try to better yourself, you should be doing it year-round. It should be a constant goal, not something you mark on a calendar. I know that these things need to start at some point. Might as well be January 1st, right? Bullshit. You’re just getting caught up in an annual fad that will dissipate as time moves on. Get back to the Cheetos and video games. Life’s much better that way, anyways.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Starting the year out with a bang.

Sometimes people hang out. Sometimes people celebrate a new year. Sometimes people get hit by cars. Guess how many of these I did last night?

I don’t really remember it happening; I’m going to blame a concussion instead of the alcohol, so this is pieced together through stories from my roommate and a few foggy memories. I’ve definitely learned something from this experience though: Getting hit by a car is exactly as cool as is sounds.

A few years ago I saw a woman get hit by a car. It was nuts. This lady got rocked quite a bit harder than I did, though. I was driving down Capital Drive in Milwaukee and saw a women standing on the side of the street. The street has two lanes of traffic going each way with a boulevard in the middle. I watched as the lady looked both ways and stepped into traffic. All four lanes of traffic were packed with cars going around 35 miles per hour. The lady Froggered her way across the first lane of traffic before she got lit up. She slid up the hood, slammed her head on the windshield and flew in the air. Flew. Up. Before crashing back down onto the concrete. I got out, called the police and watched as the stupid woman screamed in Russian while people came to help her. It sucks that she got hit, but, in all honesty, it was her fault.

I’m not exactly sure if my little run-in with the front of a car was my fault or not. I was crossing in the cross walk on a busy bar street with people jaywalking all over the place. It’s very possible that I crossed against the light, but, again, I’m not sure. Ted tells me that he saw it happen without knowing it was me. He stood on the sidewalk talking to his girlfriend and saw it happen over her shoulder. I guess I got hit hard enough for him to go, “Oh, shit! That guy just got smoked!”

The car hit me on my right side. I hit my head on the hood and slid up a little bit before the car stopped and I was thrown onto the concrete. People came to see if I was okay and the car took off. This is what makes me think the driver was at least as guilty as me in this transaction. The guy had to be drunk otherwise he would have gotten out like a normal person. Either that or he/she was the biggest asshole in the world.

I stood up, dusted myself off, and walked over to Ted on the sidewalk.

“Hey dude. I just got hit by a fucking car.”

I wasn’t hurt. I have a tiny cut on my head that looks like it could have happened shaving, if I shaved the side of my head. Someone walked up to me and told me there was a cop around the corner, and that I should go speak with him. I shrugged, said okay, and followed them.

The officer was nice and looked at me like I was a crazy person.

“Are you hurt?” he asked.

“Nope. I’m okay.”

“Do you want to go to the hospital?”

“Nope. I don’t have insurance. I could use another drink, though.”

One of the bystanders happened to get the car’s license plate number so they gave that to the cop. My interview ended there because there’s not really much more I could say. “I got hit by a car. It sucked. Whatever.”

I woke up today with a pretty well-developed headache. This could be due to my head hitting the hood of the car/concrete, or it could be from alcohol. I’m going to say it was the car/concrete. Throughout the day I noticed new aches and pains. A sore wrist, hip, and back are like the sprinkles on top of the headache sundae. Getting hit by a car rules.

We drove to Taco Bell for breakfast since no one wanted to go to Waffle House. On the way there, someone else forgot how to drive their car. We first watched as the guy drove through a red light. A couple blocks later we found ourselves driving in the adjacent lane to him, just a little behind. He, however, didn’t notice us. He decided to switch lanes without checking his mirrors or blindspot or just pulling his head out of his ass in general. He almost hit us, I got to give him a good blast of the horn, and then we gave him a pretty hardcore middle-finger session. It felt good.

As we drove away from the psycho, I realized that if that had happened, I would have gotten hit by two cars on the first day of the year. 2009 was a pretty shitty year and 2010 doesn’t seem to be off to a great start. Let’s hope I can stop getting hit by cars long enough to find a goddamn job.