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Home > Blog > What Makes a Cool Town
Out of Our Minds
Friday, March 11, 2005 9:14 AM
What Makes a Cool Town
Anita Sharpe on Life

Many people under age 40 care more about where they live than where they work, according to Worthwhile columnist Rebecca Ryan, who writes about this and identifies several 'cool communities' in the upcoming May issue of the magazine. She doesn't mention Atlanta, which I suspect isn't laid back enough to qualify as cool.
I just read Michael Lewis's entertaining book, Next, where he compares Atlanta with his hometown, New Orleans.



By the mercenary standards of the modern world, New Orleans is a failed place. In my lifetime it has ceased to be the capital of trade and commerce in the American South and become a museum city, like Venice. The new capital of the American South is Atlanta, which has made the shrewd but spiritually vacuous decision not to stand on ceremony or tradition but rather go whoring after progress. Atlanta has transformed itself.


I was mulling over the phrases 'whoring after progress' and 'spiritually vacuous' this morning as I read that the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is giving a Profile in Courage award to Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, the first African-American woman to lead a major U.S. city.

It's true that Atlanta (a solidly Blue city in a solidly Red state) abandoned Southern traditions. It built a giant airport, welcomed the world and embraced multiculturalism. And it probably confused a lot of people by blending a pro-business posture with progressive politics. But that (along with the climate) is what I love about the city. Meets my definition of cool.


5 comments

Remain Unknown - 3/13/2005 9:16:40 PM
Atlanta has so many great things going for it: Weather, Location with no natural boundaries, Travel hub, History, etc. Yet, it remains one of the most dangerous places to live with a growing crime problem (Witness this weekend), a corrupt government in Fulton County especially, and one of the worst education systems that money can buy (Georgia ranks 50th in education, we will celebrate when we slide past D.C.). Cool would not be the words I would use to describe Atlanta.
charlie - 3/11/2005 6:04:20 PM
I pastored an old traditional church in NW Atlanta for 6+ years. My people convinced me that I needed to move to the 'burbs, rather than live right in that area. I love where we live (Cherokee County), but a lot of the time, I find myself regretting that I didn't move into the kind of 'artsy' eclectic mill village that was developing behind the church. I've since changed churches. Often I still catch myself wondering why.

I grew up in podunk Southeast Georgia, so Atlanta is like the gigantic metropolis to me! I really like the city, and I'm looking at finding some ways to get re-connected.

Vital downtown area? No, not really. But as Kent said, some of the intown neighborhoods are becoming very vibrant places to live.

BTW, Anita...I'm a solidly RED guy who would thoroughly enjoy the BLUE city! Go figure!
Kent - 3/11/2005 5:33:51 PM
Atlanta is cool, at least from the perspective of an ex-Atlantan who has made three trips back in recent months to work on a Grant Park Victorian bungalow we held onto when we moved out of town 14 years ago.

Those who say Atlanta doesn't have soul must be spending too much time in its suburbs. The intown neighborhoods seemed more alive than ever, full of friendly, creative people who don't take themselves too seriously -- a refreshing change from the Washington, D.C. area, where we now live.

Plus it's got great public radio stations -- I couldn't have painted all the rooms I did without all the great jazz, blues, funk, Americana, etc., I heard on WRFG, WCLK and WREK and whatever the station formerly known as Album 88 is.

So don't buy into that old Randy Newman 'hustling around Atlanta in their alligator shoes' image. Go to Six Feet Under (across from the cemetery where Margaret Mitchell is buried), have some catfish tacos and hang out. The spirit will move you.
Chris Woodruff - 3/11/2005 11:20:42 AM
Atlanta is a city that is almost cool. Let me explain.

I lived and worked in Atlanta for a number of years before moving to Lexington Kentucky two years ago. I loved the years I lived in Atlanta but I cannot group the city with cities like NYC, Chicago, Seattle or San Francisco (All I have spent a lot time in or lived). The reason is that these cities have dynamic downtown areas where people strive to live and play in. Atlanta is not a city like these. It is a very suburban city like Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit.

The thing that keeps Atlanta from being a city like the first group I mention is that there is no history or landscape that gives it a truly great soul. The city was burned down in the Civil War so it has lost its connection with the past. It also does not have a landscape that locks it in so that it has to build it existing core. It just keeps building out diluting its image.

In the end, Atlanta might always be a second tier city due to these reasons. I agree that the city has great forward views in regards to cultural issues. I love the city and enjoy going back for work and visiting friends.
Chris Woodruff - 3/11/2005 11:20:07 AM
Atlanta is a city that is almost cool. Let me explain.

I lived and worked in Atlanta for a number of years before moving to Lexington Kentucky two years ago. I loved the years I lived in Atlanta but I cannot group the city with cities like NYC, Chicago, Seattle or San Francisco (All I have spent a lot time in or lived). The reason is that these cities have dynamic downtown areas where people strive to live and play in. Atlanta is not a city like these. It is a very suburban city like Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit.

The thing that keeps Atlanta from being a city like the first group I mention is that there is no history or landscape that gives it a truly great soul. The city was burned down in the Civil War so it has lost its connection with the past. It also does not have a landscape that locks it in so that it has to build it existing core. It just keeps building out diluting its image.

In the end, Atlanta might always be a second tier city due to these reasons. I agree that the city has great forward views in regards to cultural issues. I love the city and enjoy going back for work and visiting friends.

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