American Culture Reporter

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Copyright 2016 HV

Hanfest

(Photo by: Han Vance)

The day I moved from Marietta proper to the more distant suburbs, a punk rocker juvenile delinquent named Chris Damico was building a small wooden skateboard ramp in the street that led to my new culdesac. Though I had never ridden a skate ramp before, I’d picked up street skating about a year earlier as the sport hit a second wave of major national popularity in the mid 1980s.

It was the heat of a Southern summer, and most of my like-aged friends were living closer to the Marietta Square. I was living way out in the vast stretching sprawl of what had been previously rural, then exurban, and finally suburban Cobb County, in what was then known to be the fastest-growing civilization in the history of mankind: greater metropolitan Atlanta.

My siblings were a good bit younger than I, and I found myself with no one cool to regularly hang out with when I was not at work as a fine-dining busboy at The Planter’s restaurant. By mid-summer, my friend Doug got a Chevy Nova and was the first to get a license. He started picking me up, and I was back hanging with my old crew of friends. Before that, I skated with Damico everyday.

We grew apart, Damico and I, but we talked from time to time. Then when I was a senior, his mom moved out of the school district, and he talked my brothers and folks into letting him ride out the school year living with us. I thought it was a terrible idea, but the decision was made before I had any input. He bunked with my brothers.

For the first time, we became truly close friends. My epic high school career was winding down, so we decided to have a huge graduation party as a last hurrah. We set a date and gathered friends from neighboring schools, like Dave Weiss, at my house for a meeting and told them to tell their friends and friends of friends from many of the schools across the county.

A week before the party my parents went out of town for one night, so we threw an impromptu gathering. Hundreds of kids from my school showed up and lined my entire street with cars and trash. I paid my brothers to clean up the mess after, but I was immensely worried. We didn’t have access to enough space for the coming big graduation party, and my folks’ plans to go out of town again were suddenly cancelled. We were screwed.

My mom and stepdad’s yard at the time led to a stretch of woods that eventually led to fields behind a huge western store called Horsetown. Damico came up with the idea to rent these fields, and in a meeting in which the outcome still baffles me to this day they agreed to lease us the property for a night. We paid them a small amount of money and assured them it would be a calm affair.

As the day approached, I distributed flyers amongst the upperclassmen at my school listing my address as the location for an “Adult Graduation Party.” A teacher found one and said I could not go on with the plan, but I scoffingly told him I was eighteen and the party was the day after school ended. It was out of his jurisdiction.

My friend Todd Smalley’s band the Wild Onions agreed to play the event, and I made him promise not to reveal the real location of the party to anyone at our school. He kept my secret at Lassiter; meanwhile we called our party planning colleagues and told them to tell everyone to be at my house by 5:00 p.m.

We hung a sign on my basketball goal on the day of the fest that said: “Go To HORSETOWN.” We were there well off the street and obscured from visibility with the rock band playing as the thousands and thousands of kids began to show up. As the sun set, the traffic continued to stream into the fields. We positioned paid parking attendants in the drive to charge admission for vehicles and made hundreds of dollars over the field rental. Interestingly, Damico and I both later worked for years in the management of the parking industry.

Of course, the cops came that night. We heard it told that for a few hours they could not find the exact party location. When they did attempt to bust the party, it still went on for over an hour as they simply directed traffic out while making very few arrests for underage drinking. When the crowd finally started to thin, we grabbed as many cute girls as would follow us and led them back through the woods to the relative safety of my house.

For weeks after, we were the reigning stars of the county. I began to commonly hear the term “Hanfest” and wondered who’d coined it. About a month later, I was hanging out with my artist friend Mike Tom. He told me he’d hand-painted a sign at the entrance of the Horsetown fields that said: “HANFESTIVAL.”

Transportation Hangover (in Greater Metro Atlanta)

Transportation Hangover:

The T-SPLOST (Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax) failed to pass across the 10-county greater metro Atlanta region on July 31st. Though it is nearly impossible to deny that Atlanta’s ability to attract new business and commerce is hampered by traffic congestion, the voices of contention around the project list were too loud for the survival of the tax. T-SPLOST was the first vote on a comprehensive regional transit plan in recent history, the only near parallel at any point since 285 was built being the vote whether or not to expand MARTA to outlying suburban counties, which too failed. The Chambers of Commerce in Dallas, Charlotte, Nashville, Orlando, etc. have fresh fuel for fire when negatively recruiting against sprawling, disconnected Atlanta for conventions, students, creative industries and rust belt big business relocations.

The leadership of Georgia may be able to cobble together a statewide transportation referendum for 2014, although nothing in the voting data signifies that it would have much chance to pass. Localizing efforts to increase mobility options is the only viable direction for citizens seeking progress, but the dollars and cents necessary to fulfill any plan is where reality meets the road.

The Atlanta BeltLine’s development will continue incrementally, but the mass transit component of the BeltLine does not currently have adequate funding in place. Regional GRTA busses may meet the scrap heap due to funding reality. MARTA continues to be the largest transit system in any American state not to receive any state funding, and only the residents of Fulton and Dekalb counties will continue to pay a sales tax so that the entire region may benefit economically from our city having a relatively large mass transit rail system. Modern streetcars will eventually connect two of our major downtown tourist attractions, but they won’t be connecting to anything else. And federal transportation funding does not flow to states that show a lack of direction.

A commuter tax collected at the border of 285, scrapping plans for an utterly unnecessary Atlanta Falcons outdoor football stadium, a much stronger managed campaign and a vote in Dekalb and Fulton alone to fund needed city transportation projects…ideas are free. The only good that came out of all of this is it that it did get some Atlantans thinking.

“Certain beauty to that”

After my shaded Druid Hills, I walked through Candler Park itself and the neighborhood of the same name, under intermittent sunshine, toward the train station. I saw some old wooden furniture left out for the taking or the trash. “Certain beauty to that,” I had said aloud, as I contemplated the impending summer in the South.

 

The BeltLine Is Our Destiny

What The BeltLine

Brings To Mind

Is Integration

Segregation In ATL

Is History, Ancient

And Reality, Present

The Interconnection

Of Distinct Urban Neighborhoods

Makes A Good

City, A Great City

The Perimeter Highway

285, Created The Hive

The Boom Of Growth

That Equated To My Atlanta

Once Being Dubbed:

The Fastest Growing

Civilization In

The History Of Mankind

A Wall Exists, Un-great

OTP/ITP

Outside The Perimeter Versus

Inside The Perimeter. State Versus City

Everything Out Is Suburb, Exurb

Everything In Is In-town

Downtown, Midtown, Buckhead

Remain Three Jewels

Running Up Peachtree

Peachtree Intersects

With Ponce, Representing

Another Wall

Dividing Blacks And Whites

Refuse Flows Downstream

So As In Many Cities

Landlocked Old Atlanta

Was Divided, Still Is Some

Whites North Of Ponce

Blacks South Of Ponce

Streets Change Names

There, Socioeconomics

Here Sits The Quagmire

The City Too Busy To Hate

Has Poor Infrastructure

And Some Of The Most

Stagnating Traffic

In This Great Nation

End The Racial Division

Women And Men In Full

Great Atlantans All

Must Lead Us Out Together

Of This Heart Of Darkness

Rise To The Greatest Greatness

We Can Be A Paris

A Vancouver, An NYC

Or A Birmingham

The Choice Is Obvious

Drop What Divides Us

Build The Beautiful BeltLine

Connect The Conscious Citizenry

Educate The Less Conscious

We Are Better Than

Our Current State

That’s What’s So Great

And Always Was

About Atlanta

A City Built On An Idea

That Idea Being

Movement Of The People

As Those Rocket Ship Buildings

Suggest – Striving, Ascending

Being All We Can Be

The BeltLine Is Our Destiny

(Photo by: Han Vance)

Vance

VANCE (Photo by: Jami Buck-Vance)

One of my favorite spots

(Hanish inside Anish Kapoor piece at High Museum of Art in Atlanta)

Atop The 17th Bridge

Facing South On

A Rush Hour Friday

Urbanism-Urbanism

And I Just Counted

Twenty Lanes Of Traffic

Below Me

I’m Up Above It

Walking In Rockports

With Sneaker Inserts

Never Tell Me This

City Can’t Or Ain’t

Because I Will And Do

And So Does This

Butterfly Becoming

More Than A Rap Song

About Getting Money

More Than A Punchline

For Soft-Thought Yankees

To Spew

This Town Has As Much

Energy, Almost As Much

Energy…As Me

My Last Hipster Run

(Photo by: Han Vance)

My hair was overgrown, so I took out my peanut and shaved the sides up – way up. I looked a bit like Crispin Glover as I made a deposit in my bank and quickly walked the rest of the way down Ponce to get my haircut. I wanted to make sure the sides were right, and the line was perfect. I trusted only myself. I had the rest done relatively short and usually left it product-mussed. I broke out my dad’s old cover sunglasses, as huge as any they wore in Manchester and Miami. I started wearing bright tight shirts everyday, which almost fit me, as I’d recently lost ten pounds. I longboarded as much as I could and strutted to the transit station or took cabs everywhere else, except on the weekend mornings when my curvy fiancee’ drove me to work at the Euro-cafe’ in Midtown. Those mornings, I would finish a can of Coors Light in the bath to rally. Then we would sit in her car and make out while I swayed about to the space age Athens weirdness of Of Montreal. Then I would walk inside and make myself a double espresso. I was drunk in bars with thirty-somethings, with twenty-somethings to the point of belligerent incoherence and laughed and talked too loudly. I proudly peacocked amongst fellow urbanists whom would never have my flair for extravagantly varied fashions or my honed way with words. I worked a final lunch shift, had a huge late lunch, walked back to the cafe’ and had my free birthday shot, a Strega. Shared a toast with the definitely-old-enough-to-know-how-to-live-way-better-but-still-clinging-to-it-for-some-reason bartender, had a drink with the actor Paul Walker as we discussed Hawaii and my California book and my afternoon pool party planned for the next day. Walked away and had a few drinks in various haunts with a career student. Met my love in our suite. Went out by taxi for sushi and for wine by candlelight. The city glowed around and for me, as we stumbled to the disco lounge without panic or pretense. An off night in the Southern sprawl of summer ATL, but an on one for me, I suppose. My last as a hipster. As she and I had done so many times in the old loft where we deeply fell, we sat perched atop our city as midnight neared. I counted it down like it was New Year’s Eve. Five-four-three-two-one. Suddenly, I was 40. And I went to bed.