Let me describe a dream-like sequence. First, you arrive. Then you drive through some suburbs. Then you leave. That is the magic of Atlanta.
There are many wonderful sights to see in Atlanta and environs. Beautiful suburbs, decaying stadii, wonderful roads full of boats and cars, many parks celebrating the old Olympic gods, and of course, Georgia’s most famous product: beaches. “You’re jes’ a Georgia beach, darlin’” is a common salutation that the inhabitants use on one another, owing to their proximity to the Atlantic seaboard.
Though a modern-day marvel, Atlanta possesses a fascinating history that is celebrated and revered by the locals. The city was originally established as a company town for Ted Turner’s mining operations. Following the residents’ coke-fueled decision to drive Ted Turner and his propagandistic broadsheets out of town on a rail, Atlanta briefly grew to prominence as a staging ground for the film adaptation of “Gone with the Wind.” Following another coke-fueled rampage over the depiction of their society as beholden to a slaver god, the residents burned down the city with the help of an itinerant prophet named Sherman, and slowly began rebuilding their way to being a world-class metropolis high above sea level. Most of the work was finished in 1992.
Atlanta’s neighborhoods today remain rooted in a firm sense of the past. One of the most historic areas is Buckhead, which sits at the confluence of several roads. Buckhead is named after an old mer-statue discovered during the excavation of the ancient underwater city. Its head is adorned with odd growths of coral that the original colonial settlers mistook for antlers. It so frightened the criminals that settled this area that they re-buried the extraordinary find in an attempt to prevent the continental shelf from being swamped by the vengeful gods. Fortunately, no repeat of the tragedy described by Plato has since occurred, validating the wise decisions of those sage masters.
Nowadays, Atlanta’s neighborhoods unfold across its rolling landscape like pastoral farms for the cultivation of gables. Each of these smallholder plots is adorned with pillow-like effusions of flowers from carefully sculpted dogwoods. These trees were mandated back in the 1970s as a way to give something for Tom Wolfe to wax rhapsodic about in A Man in Full in 1998. He really talks about dogwoods a lot in that book.
Atlanta also has a ring of exurbs that provide more storage space for residents’ second fishing boats and third jet-skis, as well as the trucks that move them around until such time as they are suddenly and catastrophically needed. In addition, Atlanta possesses a quaint urburb, which is a suburban area that has taller buildings than its surrounding suburbs. Urburb Atlanta has five tall buildings, all of which were designed in 1992 but remain only partially finished to this day, owing to local superstitions.
But no trip to Atlanta is complete until you visit the Georgia Dome, site of Georgia’s General Assembly, established in 1992. Every week during the fall and winter (when Atlantan temperatures outside plummet to 40 degrees, and the nearby beaches swell menacingly), thousands of plain-spoken citizens take their places in the upper or lower chamber to watch compelling legislative debates. After elaborate rituals involving singing the national anthem and a symbolic game of concussions, the legislature’s “scoreboard” displays the final vote. If the totemic “falcon” plebiscite passes, then all of the residents are granted a free day at the beach, where they are allowed to bring an apple symbolic of the state’s bounty. If the falcon shall fall, then the residents are required to spend the winter in the woods vengefully killing deer for their antlers.
You end your journey where it began—at Atlanta’s Hartfield Airport, site of the historic and bloody winter deer hunt of 1991 (the falcon fell 11 times in the preceding months). Fortunately, the people rebounded by building the world’s largest airport by passenger volume. You won’t be surprised to discover that the people that fly through there are, in fact, pretty large. Hartfield has many interesting features, such as an underground cavern mimicking the catastrophic flood that led to the evolution of the gill-people and their oddly shaped pitchforks. To heighten the eerie sense of history, these underground tunnels play Alison Krauss’s hit “Oh, Atlanta” on repeat—a haunting ode to a lost civilization. As you leave, you begin to reflect: traveling to Atlanta is almost like traveling to another country—a place where you can marvel at sprawling beltlines, listen to the gentle roar of cars by the road-shore, and wonder if places like these will ever really change.