Here’s a small collection of my first impressions of Athens, Ga., my new hometown since May 2008. I collect these jottings I made earlier now—while they’re relatively fresh—mainly because I’m interested to see how my thinking about the city will change over time. They’re not listed in any particular order. In the service of accurately recording them, any contradictions, incoherencies and superficialities have been left intact.
Exuberant, subversive vegetation. Front yard gardens invade and colonize swaths of sidewalk surface. Tree roots attack from below. If people suddenly vanished from here, the plants would overthrow the pavement within a month.
Pockmarked by poverty. Public housing projects here, there, everywhere.
At night, there’s a casual romance to the place. You see lots of couples strolling together. Strings of lights sparkle from many porches. There’s almost always music floating in the air from somewhere.
Two varieties of nonchalance are present here. 1. A pleasant informality perked with attentiveness and gently constrained by tact and patience. 2. A self-consciously cavalier attitude about promptness mixed with a distaste for precision.
You can apparently keep discovering yet another really good place to eat here.
The music of Athens itself: metallic drone of the cicadas, rumble of trains, almost inaudible trumpets of the Naval Supply Corps School, bursts of dogs barking, ambushes of party noises.
Rusty water towers. Steaming ravines choked with kudzu. Lines of tall, fat cumulus clouds moving slowly on the horizon. Reclining cats, panting.
A core of charm surrounded by yuck.
Blacks and whites live in closer proximity here than in some other places I’ve lived. Yet, even more so than other places, the two communities seem to live parallel—not intersecting—lives in the same space. Awkward.
Smart mayor. Helpful city employees. Citizens responded quickly, effectively to drought. Intelligent coverage of local issues, especially in Flagpole.
[Word cloud generated at Wordle]