Where Am I To Go Now That I’ve Gone Too Far ?

I find myself at a crossroads with this post in that I’m struggling (albeit mildly) about the direction in which I should take this blog – if I should take it anywhere at all. It was originally motivated  by a self-serving need to document some of the events and perspective of the area before I forgot it all. Most of these posts are things I’ve related in conversations through the decades so I figured why not just write it all down and refer people to it just to save time ? You know – I’ll create a “FAQ for Stewart Avenue” kind of thing. What I didn’t understand is that people don’t read as much as they used to and competition for attention is at an all time high what with various social media notifications littering one’s phone. This is in addition to ongoing daily responsibilities and the inevitable vagaries of life. It’s also somewhat problematic that my posts tend be much longer than the typical blog one might encounter. For that I make no apologies because I’m always trying to get AT something with these things even as I’m attempting to be informative at a factual level. Were I a better writer, the posts might be more impactful with fewer words. As to what exactly it is I’m trying to get AT, I don’t really know. It could be something really heavy, (at least for me), though it’s probably just more of the general restlessness I’ve always felt that doesn’t allow me to feel satisfied with the various projects I pursue. I’m no tortured artist here but I know well the frustrations associated with trying to nail down a specific feeling or idea and falling short. Most work is only an approximation of a greater ideal anyway and I suppose I can be cool with that. At least for today anyway.

Pretty much true

So people prefer to hear these stories along with any comments (wry or otherwise) that I might use to punctuate the narrative. And having spent a significant amount of time in various “night life” establishments I do realize that the verbal tradition has always been more popular than the written one. And these stories will usually sound better after a few drinks though alcohol is by no means a prerequisite for enjoyment. Nonetheless, I’ve attempted to capture that verbal “saloon dynamic” in how I write these things but it’s only an approximation of how I would REALLY convey the story which might involve more grit. And it wouldn’t be at all gratuitous since the language of the time and place was in fact, on average, more primitive though infinitely more to the point than what one encounters in other parts of life. Just to say that you might suspect that what I’ve offered in these posts is a somewhat sanitized version of events…..and you would be right.

Anyway this approach has all sort of worked and I do get positive feedback although the target readership for this blog is surprisingly hard to nail down demographically. On any given day I get 15-20 visitors most of whom appear to be genuinely interested in the content but there are always a number of apparent out-of-towners who seem interested in escort style companionship as evidenced by the search terms they use and the articles they access. For example, I somewhat regret using the word “prostitute” in one of the post titles because it draws in the “wrong element” (albeit a minority) though prostitution was (and continues to be)  a big factor in the  demise of Stewart Avenue so it was reasonable to include it. In summary, I do get steady readers who are enjoying the content but I get comparatively few comments thus it remains a mystery as to what they might like to see in future posts. This is not at all to say that the “well has run dry” only that I don’t really know who the readers are so it’s hard to know what direction to pursue.  I completely understand that many are, like myself, former residents of the area but there is large variation in age with some having lived there and left before the down turn.

For some people, this IS the South

The “baby boomer” generation is supposedly those born between 1946 and 1964 which is a wide enough interval to guarantee big differences in taste, interests and motivation so what might be fascinating for me might not at all be for someone born in 1948 (although I’ve gotten interesting feedback from people as old as 90 !) As an example, I get antsy in discussions with Atlantans who aggressively praise Lewis Grizzard as a comedy genius since I never really “got him”.  Grizzard did no one any favors by trying to make a fetish of being southern combined with that over the top, “down home” humor which seemed only to turn back the clock on how southerners are perceived. Put it this way, I’ve never met someone who actually tried to make their southern accent MORE intense although comedians like Jeff Foxworthy who, with his cackling drawl, continue to perpetuate a post-modern Hee-Haw idea of what life is like in the south. He makes a lot of money so there is obviously a market for it. I make distinctions between him and someone like Jerry Clower who actually grew up in the stark rural environment he used to generate material for his act which was more akin to improvisational story telling than offering mere riffs on “redneck culture”. Clower was more organic whereas recent “southern comedians” are more contrived and glibly observational which is odd since most (if not all) of them are in fact southern ! This isn’t to say that I don’t see value in what I call “working class humor” and one the best modern examples actually comes from Canada in the form of the “Trailer Park Boys”. I relate to that show on several levels because 1) I’ve had friends like that and 2) were it not for a few lucky twists of fate, I might very well be one of them ! That show has like 10 seasons though I’ve only watched perhaps the first 5 of them. That it’s set in a Canadian trailer park is just a small detail as the set of characters is somewhat universal.

What has amazed me is that I’ve been able to travel to different parts of the world and  have a talent for finding the equivalent of Stewart Avenue in that locale. It could be that I unconsciously seek it out but it’s probably just as true that it seeks me out if that makes any sense. Perhaps I’ve been indelibly marked with a universal symbol which implies that I’m always down for some action and craziness. And maybe I am but I’ve somehow been able to put that aside long enough to get some work done now and then.  It’s been suggested  that perhaps I should making a documentary of the area what with guerrilla style, IPhone-based filming being all the rage. So it should be relatively cheap outside of personal man-hours. And while this is a possibility the question then remains “for whom would I be making it” ? Once I get a direction in mind then the compass will surely work. Your comments are welcome.

6 responses

  1. You have definitely not gone too far. Frankly, when I found you I was flabbergasted to see that your memories am mine we so intertwined. My Aunt Thelma and Uncle Gaither Grogan built a home (using their own physical labor) on Cleveland Avenue…between what is now I-75 and Stewart Avenue…where we used to go on just about every vacation my daddy had from work. My older sister and I were allowed to spend some of our summer vacation with them there.

    My Aunt Thelma (Daddy’s oldest sister and undeniable matriarch of his Smith Family) was the sweet grandmotherly type who would take us “youngin’s” to the corner to catch the trolley to Atlanta. When we came, or left, she cried. My daddy said it was because she hated to see us coming and was glad to see us going (there were six of us). I never believed that because she had plenty of hugs and kisses to pass on to us kids. Uncle Faither .. who used to be a cook in the Army .. made us a huge bowl of banana pudding.

    Because my father worked in construction, some of our trips were from far away places. I believe that we never went to the same school from one year to the next. The one exception was when we lived on Bankhead Highway and the trips were a lot more frequent.

    Back to Stewart Avenue and you. I read your articles and so many good memories flooded my mind that I closed my eyes and saw the places you were talking about. I have you to thank for that and am fairly certain that other readers feel the same as I.

    I have been waiting to see more of your writings .. I am now in Florida; but through you .. for a short while .. I was blissfully at Aunt Thelma’s house again. And, that is a little overwhelming for a 75 year old lady. Thank you for the trip.

    On Sat, Oct 27, 2018, 8:42 PM The Stewart Avenue Kid wrote:

    > Stevie P posted: “I find myself at a crossroads with this post in that I’m > struggling (albeit mildly) about the direction in which I should take this > blog – if I should take it anywhere at all. It was originally motivated by > a self-serving need to document some of the eve” >

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. I’ve got some ideas about where to go with this and I strongly suspect that once the area experiences some growth that there will be a commensurate interest in the area. It’s hard to think of an intown, near the belt line area that has not experienced resurgence so it’s only a matter of time before the area gets a reboot so to speak. Frankly, I’ve considered buying property there under the “buy low / sell high” premise but I always stop short because I think that I must be crazy. But given that East Point and Hapeville have done pretty well then where else is there to build ? As it stands now – only those of us who lived there seem to care. At the end of it all I did start the blog mostly for myself before I “lost it all” and forgot stuff. It’s drawn some people out of the wood work in a good way. Anyway, thanks for reading

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  2. I’m 66 and came to the Hills of Sylvan at ten, 5th grade, we lived two miles west of the Avenue. There were, of course, the parental warnings of the dives and dens of the Avenue but the intrigue was usually too much to remain obedient to said warnings. You write in real time of your past and mine, and having lived it, it doesn’t come off as made up or fantasy, although going through it at times sure seem surreal. I don’t have a direction for you. I have been writing myself of adventures of my teens and twenties mostly with my freak family the Crowes of Perkerson Park and the Hills. I don’t know if any would be interested except the ones who were involved but your blog seems to cover a wider span of times and people. The Avenue has been a gathering place for the rowdy crowds from the early 1900’s on, and any given night a past partyer might make his or her way back on that seen. So the age barrier was never an issue unless you were dumb enough to think you were the “BADDEST” dude on the Avenue. You would usually run into someone from the earlier days that truly was the baddest on that day. My motto for the Avenue was “It’s a good day to die”. Living so close to there for fifteen years brought a few close calls and I know I’m lucky to have lived through them but it seems enjoyable to read and hear about others experiences so please keep up your good work, I still read.

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    1. Yea – I think you are right. The interest level is probably only gonna come from those who were there or had relatives who lived in the area. I remember my first year at Georgia State when I told a girl I wanted to date where it was that I worked. When I mentioned “Stewart Avenue” she looked at me like I was a lunatic and more or less stopped talking to me. Not everyone felt that way thank god although I learned that I probably should NOT share such information early on when dating. On the other hand it was because I grew up around so many colorful characters (that’s putting it nicely) I had much more of a personality and sense of humor than the typical “northside drone” whose formative years were very sanitized and benign by comparison. In short, I could weave a story even then courtesy of my “training” so I had that going for me…. And you mention the “BADDEST” dude syndrome. Yea, that was ongoing battle with guys endlessly fighting for things I could never imagine. There was always this air of discontent in the bars clubs especially when the liquor was flowing late in the evening. Guys who had no other way to prove themselves would start fights although if they thought they were impressing anyone they were wrong. There were some pretty wicked biker fights now and then with the chains and bats and only a few would break out the guns although, over time, that became more common. The Sandwich Shop in West End had a pretty ugly rep for violence of this type. Once weapons and guns entered the picture then it doesn’t matter how big you are – anyone can be a “badass”. Manslaughter charges were not uncommon after a certain point.

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  3. I believe, but I am old (76), that many who enjoy your memories might enjoy –

    What has changed now that impacts “your” memories. Examples are:

    Atlanta srteet name changes that impact things like “how would I find old places like Fun Town today”.

    What has taken over on the old Stewart Avenue corridor? Like the impact of freeways on street access (can’t get there anymore) or “I used to park there with my girl (be sure to rxplain what “park” with a girl leans) but now I can’t find it anymore.

    Chain restaurants, malls, sub-divisions that took over land where you used to ????? Or is the impact good/bad for the old “hood”

    Schools. What has changed and what you remember about people or school events that impacted your life

    1950’s and 60’s events, fashion, technology back them that survived or didn’t and how it changed by using some people you knew back then. Tell how these changes would impact them today if they were, or still, alive.

    I hope this makes sense. You are great at taking me “back”. Now take me forward.

    The only other subjects I would like to see you explore are other neighborhoods or even downtown Atlanta (eithr back then or changes now). Maybe, and this could get tricky, would be for you to do in-depth character studies on family or friends that impacted your life in a major way.

    I love your writing “style” the humor, and charcter descriptions. Tell me more.

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  4. My suggestion would be to turn off your internal filter and write from your gut and throw in some heart. Whatever you are hesitant to write for offending a perceived audience should be written so that you maintain your authenticity and the audience you deserve will find you.
    Oh by the way, I’m 45, a native to the Atlanta metro and I’ve enjoyed what you have written here thus far. Keep at it.
    P.S. Grizzard was a two-bit, conservative hack writer. Deacon Lunchbox was right about Lewis. RIP Deacon.

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