Atlanta is Still Burning

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Atlanta is Still Burning

Recently I relocated from Denton, Texas, to Atlanta, which I understood had a burning, and then the Olympics, and then some other stuff happened. Now it’s home to Paste magazine, where I work.

The kind of traveling most people do in America, between jobs and states, doesn’t receive a lot of coverage. Mostly that’s because it seems plebeian by comparison to doing molly in Acapulco or whatever the most streets-ahead hiplords are hitting up for fun in our Enya-inspired, Enya-loving age.

Regardless, I’ve written a list of four things I’ve noticed in the first five days since my relocation from the dry, non-smoking hills of the Lone Star State to the constantly ablaze fields of Georgia. And when I say Atlanta, I have to confess that I really mean an infinitesimally small sample size of the Peach State’s capital. These days my world mostly consists of a neighborhood, Avondale Estates, in the northeastern quadrant of the city, where I have been Airbnb-ing the entire time, and probably will commit the majority of my crimes.

So, here is a review of a small slice of Atlanta by someone who, admittedly, knows almost nothing about the city and has seen little to none of it, outside of my animes and fever dreams. Will this help you, the traveler, in any way? Highly debatable.

1. There are five things to eat in this city, and they are all pizza.

It’s wall-to-wall pizza here, except for the stores that say “Subways” and “Cafe.” I ignored those and chose to go to, and be offended by, the pizza. Like I told the people at the Medical Center who kept repeating, “Sir, this is not a restaurant,” I’m here to put the whole damn system on trial. Maybe you shouldn’t have had letters in your “business’” title which could be combined into the phrase “I EAT.”

Did I disrupt your world? Good! Get used to that. Silicon Valley and I, to quote theoretically sober pundit Dave Maney, are “America’s favorite societal pyromaniacs.”

Maney, writing for the Daily Beast, composed a thirsty love note to the Soylent-guzzling Indigo Children of the tech world, pleading with them to makeover politics using their superior thinking, or something. My project is a little different: I want to bring my bleeding-edge killer app skills to the practice of being a dine-in customer. Like politics, I feel the restaurant industry is primed for what Maney called “ripe for radical, burn-it-down, Internet-fueled disruption.”

Harder hearts than mine might insist that Maney was talking out of his complete ass, and is such an overheated weirdo that not even Zuckerberg would be seen in public with him. Personally, I see his article as a clarion call to bust a move and change up the biz.

Stealing from Maney, my mode of “disruption” in Atlanta is taking my nutritional demands to places that do not and have never dreamed of serving food: banks, pipe companies, drug houses, IKEA, the works. If they can’t get with the times, well, sorry buddy: I’m full of what Maney called “big and muscular and bristling” ideas, and I’m sick and tired of being tired and sick over what Maney calls “gigantic regulatory barriers,” like the owners of Walgreen’s insisting that they have never had a buffet section.

You don’t know what’s happening here, do you Mr. Jones?

And brother, don’t get me started about the time when I’m not eating pizza! I might as well be sleeping. Do you know what that’s like? Eight hours of unconsciousness? Do you think I do that for fun?

Well, I do.

2. There are trees and hills literally everywhere.

Was God taking a snooze cruise during geometry class? Because here’s what I don’t see while living in Atlanta: a flat, rational plane like in West Texas. Georgia looks like a bunch of puppies passed out drunk underneath a blanket. It’s nothing but undulation, verdant crest between fertile holler and valley. Well, houses inside hills are fine if you’re a Hobbit or one of those animals that hunts Hobbits for food or sport, but what about us normies who are freaked out by any non-level surface? What do we do, huh?

I’ll tell you straight up, there’s something mighty strange about this “let plants grow everywhere” agenda. Let me provide two scoops of nay-sins to that worldview.

First off all, science shows us that trees are just bushes the town fathers let grow wild and free. Hippie thinking, in other words. Second, plants don’t even talk back to you, even when you yell a lot, then cry a little.

But more to the point, trees mean elves, which, unless all of the conflicted feelings I have ever felt towards Orlando Bloom are wrong, means magic. But magic means ghosts, and let’s face facts: ghosts are pretty much the worst thing possible when you’re ten, which we all were at some point.

I guess what I’m saying is that Atlanta’s forests need to burn. Thanks to trends of all kinds, wood is now more flammable than ever before in human history, or so the Internet has told me, which is why we don’t make cars, Senators, or babies out of pine and tar anymore. Which brings me to point three.

3. Atlanta is on fire.

Not all the time, and not constantly, and not obnoxiously. But it seems like a weird fad to keep up General Sherman’s own innovations just to impress the North and international style-setters in Japan. Now, granted, word on the street has it that his has happened due to huge amounts of drought and global warming. Two days after I moved, I turned on my phone and found, in addition to all of those tiger pics I like to keep onscreen, a calm warning which read “SMOKE.” As if it was the most normal moment in the world.

Around me, I saw ordinary citizens walking around, refusing to curl up into round balls. How was I supposed to feel superior to them? Having never lived in California or any level of hell, I had no idea there existed places where flames would be a constant, clear, and present danger in the distant background of my mall-going, caffeine-guzzling lifestyle. I went from confused to bedazzled to moonstruck to Zen back to raging against the machine in about five seconds.

Someone, who was certainly not me, set everything ablaze with the fury of a thousand suns in a thousand metaphors and believe me, that person, who may have recently moved from Texas but has not left Texas in his heart, ought to be held accountable, with some kind of punishment involving hugs and money, ideally both.

4. Atlanta is not a walking city.

As I yelled at several cars as they zoomed passed me on their way to a rich, satisfying parking destiny, they can’t block these charging, marching feet forever. If my calculations are correct, “car tech” is about to go the way of the dinosaurs, by which I mean there will be an unspeakable, unfunny giant puppet sitcom about them on ABC any day now. I assume that all Pokémon hunting in Georgia is done from the back of cars, a’ la Mad Max.

Thanks to my close personal connections with the Saudi royal house and a close reading of apocalyptic texts such as The Walking Dead, The Book of Revelations, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and Good to Great, I’m fairly convinced that motors everywhere are about to break down. All of the money that up till now has gone into making flying cars will henceforth be shifted into researching how to make a flying me, Jason Rhode.

Something’s working: my bones are getting hollower and my abilities of levitating are getting stronger everyday. This may not convince you motorists out there, but it will certainly shock and awe the mountain-bike-riding teens that control this, and every city’s, coolness supply. That, and living well, is the true reward. Do better!

There you go: a list of the four big reveals from the city of Atlanta, who, if Futurama is correct, will be submerged beneath literally gallons of briny seawater sometime in the next thousand years. Other people might make concession speeches about having a good run as dry-land oxygen-breathers. Yet having seen the spirit of this very fine, very green, very airport city, I feel confident that although the land below the South will not rise again, the high spirits of this delightful town, of which I have seen roughly three blocks, will never falter, never fail, but continue forever forward to light up Atlanta.

Jason Rhode is a staff writer at Paste.

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