It's been three years and one month exactly to the day since we sold our house and moved to Georgia. We arrived in Atlanta, GA July 17, 2006, after a nine year sojourn in New Jersey, Newark to be exact. As urban cities go, it doesn't get much more urban than Newark. It has everything that people think of when they think of Newark, and a whole lot they don't know about as well. We lived in a great, wonderful neighborhood in the North Ward called Forest Hill, one block from beautiful Branch Brook Park that had been designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park. Our neighborhood was hugely diverse with a significant Spanish speaking population of folks from all over Central and South America, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, with many of the original Italian and Jewish owners who didn't, wouldn't or couldn't get out when the neighborhood began to turn over, and black folks. (One of the houses on our block was the exterior used for Uncle Sonny's house in the Soprano's. I have a fond memory of sharing wine and beer with the crew one night during and after a shoot.)
We left a place where, even though it cost $6 dollars to cross the bridge or tunnels into Manhattan and we did so frequently, we could be in Manhattan within twenty minutes. Yes, that is twenty minutes with no traffic. And when was there not traffic? At 11 pm when we decided we wanted to hang out in the Village, or head uptown for a night of music and food; New York is a food lovers heaven for cuisine of any kind or ethnicity. A very very expensive densely crowded kind of heaven.
We left a state that had an Amish farmers market with fresh fabulous meat and produce, and the tiny college town of New Brunswick with six amazing restaurants within walking distance of each other, including the wonderful Makeda's for Ethiopian food that was our home away from home, our personal Cheers. Newark and surrounding communities had old line Italian bakeries that had to-live-for pastries and breads, and a gazillion diners, and community block parties galore. There was a growing downtown scene happening in Newark, and the famous Ironbound district with its historic Spanish and Portuguese community, and truly wonderful clubs and restaurants.
And then we moved to Georgia, the metro Atlanta area. My husband, Harry, and I are both big city people, born and raised in Chicago and Manhattan respectively. Southside for him, Harlem for me. We don't have dreams of a house in the woods with wide open country spaces with lots of trees to get lost in. (Besides there are creatures and critters in the woods.) That's what Central Park, or Branch Brook Park is for. When you need a tree fix, or want to see wide expanses of grass, go to the damn park. If you want flowers, I planted them in my back yard and that was more than enough, thank you very much. Very pretty, lots of work, hard on the knees, but worth the price of admission.
We are not hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, backpacking kind of folks. Thinking about camping makes me itch. Been there, done that. Got the t-shirt and a gopher under my damn sleeping bag, knocking against my head to wake me up because he wanted out for his morning potty break or something.
And I must have hot running water for a shower, and a comfortable bed. Okay, I'll spill the beans, when I travel I really am a hotel kind of gal. I love hotels, the little travel size shampoos and conditioners, room service, thick towels and comfortable beds. And did I mention room service?
See what working for a living does for you, because that's why we are living in Georgia. They made Harry an offer that we just couldn't refuse. And we would be really close to family. And there's an arts scene, and it is a fairly big affordable city. Friends frequently ask, "What is it like living in the South?" That's what this blog is for. To tell you what it feels like living here through the lens of an urban refugee, and a damn Yankee one at that.
Here's a taste for you, it is the moment I felt like we'd gone down the rabbit hole, and was being asked to believe six impossible things on an empty stomach.
Last year, in response to the deep drought situation, two years of little water that almost led to war with Alabama and Florida, coupled with an economy rapidly headed toward the ninth circle of economic hell, our illustrious governor, Sonny Perdue, (what kind of name is that for a governor, anyway?) decided that what Georgia really really needs to increase tourism, and bring money to the state, what we really really needed was...hold your hats boys and girls, a damn Trout Fishing Contest!!!!! And the state will happily invest money to facilitate this event. WTF?
I swear to goodness and God. That's what our esteemed governor announced, had a huge press conference and everything. "Governor Perdue will make a major announcement this afternoon to assist Georgia's ailing economy," intoned a serious news commentator in a deep sonorous voice. For a little bit I got interested, wanted to hear what he was going to propose for us.
So you know I was so flummoxed, so totally taken aback that my mouth hung open for fully five minutes as my brain tried to compute and make sense of what I'd heard. "Is he serious," I wondered? It would bring in millions and millions of dollars to the economy as serious fishermen from all over would come to Georgia for a chance to win, whatever the prize was. I'd stopped listening after hearing that a fishing contest was going to revive our economy.
And that is the moment that I knew for certain that I wasn't in Oz any longer, no Toto, no witches, no yellow brick road. Where are a girls ruby slippers when you need them? Not at DSW for certain.
So this blog will be about learning what it means to be a Southerner and living in the "New South."More tales and reflections to come soon.