To get downtown, I took the always eclectic Ponce de Leon avenue. I started on the western edges of Decatur, surrounded by the surburbian homes of a settled life. The houses gave way to groomed parks on either side. The road was bracketed by trees without their regular verdant dressings and softened by a mist that hovered above the ground in the damp air. The harsh rains of the previous day were drifting back to the sky in a calmer manner.
Abruptly, the parks were interrupted by the buildings of Virginia and Pouncey Highland. It was a potpourri of time periods and purposes. The Plaza Theatere's block letters displayed classics surrounded with bulbous lights. Next door, sat the Majestic. They advertised for "Food that Pleases", and I thought, "That's a good looking diner. Gotta stop sometime," Apartments, grocery stores, and gas stations were scattered block to block. A few bars sat in restful silence after their long Friday nights. The Clairmont Lounge (hotel, now turned end of career strip club) slept in picturesque disarray with tilted sign and cracked concrete. Soon enough, I arrived at the Ponce City Market behemoth. A squat sentinel, the brick shopping center marked the beginning of Old Fourth Ward and Midtown, the last remnants before downtown.
Buildings began to rise in stature and status. Apartment complexes with regal balconies and towering walls of stone. Everything was so quiet so early, and I wondered about the lives of all the occupants. "What did they do the night before? What did today have in store for them? Who were they?" Soon the buildings became canyons. The walls of downtown starting to rise above me, the lone rider below. The tops of the tallest ones were lost in the mist that daylight promised to soon banish. It was peaceful in a way skyscrapers rarely are for me. I arrived at my destination shortly, and my hopes of wrong turns to extend the journey were shut down. I took a minute to bask in the joy of new places before moving on to previously scheduled business.
It's a beautiful feeling when you start to get a sense of place. You can't truly see a city through the disconnected screen of a GPS. You have to walk the pavement or drive the roadways devoid of traffic distractions. You have to pay attention to the people, the buildings, the air as the city changes before you. Do I know Atlanta? Not even close. But yesterday's ride gave me another glimpse of her diverse and surprising landscape.