My right is beginning to turn a slight pink from hours of resting it on the rim of the car’s windowsill. At my left, driving is my ex girlfriend. She steers the car down an eerily straight two-lane road in incremental “S” curves while the radio is tuned to a 90’s pop station, 101.9 The Heat. It’s churning out chart successes in a rapid pace. My ex seems to know the words to most, and does a fine job singing them. Her voice is better than I remembered.
I’m happy that the radio is up loud-too loud to speak and that the windows have remained open the entire time. The noise frees me from the need to say anything of substance.
I used to know her well. Shit, I used to know everything about her, what she liked—what she didn’t, but over the years we lost touch after she graduated from tech and up and moved to work at some Doctor’s office in Nashville. After that I let most of the good stuff slip away like a quick dream during an afternoon nap.
A song blares from the overexerted, assembly line speakers. I look in her direction. She tilts her head back, allowing the Midwest air to make floating chaos of her caramel strands.
During the chorus she flirts with me by jabbing her slender finger into my thigh each time it repeats, “If you want to be my baby, go ahead now”. I return a stiff, guarded smile.
I was leery about seeing her again. I guess most people in my circumstance would be. It wasn’t until last week on the phone that I’d heard from her in years. It wasn’t until out of the blue, she asked me to accompany her on this trip.
Street names honor many of our citizens long after their memories have faded. That’s the point. The patina of history, however, has allowed City Council to play favorites with well-connected contemporaries. No matter what Councilmembers might think, Atlanta’s history isn’t comprised of fictional characters that should be discarded in favor of friendship or politics.
John Harris was a man with a family who served our city, our county, and our state. No doubt he and his family took pride in their name, both before and after we named a street after him.
Harris’s cousin was one of Atlanta’s most famous citizens, Joel Chandler Harris, an associate editor of the Atlanta Constitution alongside Henry Grady. I can’t imagine he’d be thrilled if our City Council stripped his family of its honor for no particular reason.
The same goes for Joe Harris’s son, Julian Harris, a prominent Atlantan who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1926 for his “energetic fight against the Ku Klux Klan.” He in particular wouldn’t hide his displeasure with our City Council for stripping his family of its honor for no particular reason.
So too his great-grandnephew, Robin Harris, who as a State Legislator was instrumental in developing MARTA and Georgia’s current Constitution. He wouldn’t be happy about the $100,000 our cash-strapped transit agency will needlessly incur by having to change its maps and signage from “Harris Street” to “John Portman Boulevard at Historic Harris Street.”
Robin Harris’s grandson, yours truly, isn’t exactly thrilled about it either. Honor meant to outlast memory shouldn’t be stripped once someone’s contributions are forgotten.
City Council President Mitchell has said that naming a street after a citizen is “the highest honor a city can bestow.” If that’s true, we can’t leave City Council to pit the merits of great Atlantans against one another and thus erode that honor’s credibility, one street renaming after the next."
Stacey Beth SHULMAN
from "That's a Body Part!"
My second job after grad school was at Georgia Baptist Medical Center, just across the highway from Grady. When I was born there, it was called Georgia Baptist Hospital. If you are a more recent transplant, you’ll probably know this as Atlanta Medical Center.
Between spending time wandering the halls trying to have a birth memory, I was actually employed as a therapist in the rehabilitation department. It was a pretty fun job, as far as jobs go. I got to help people recovering from brain injuries and strokes connect the dots from their past to the present.
“Vagina,” she said, rather melodiously.
At that instance, our eyes met, both wide in shock. It was obvious that this was not the response that either of us expected. My patient smiled and with a sparkle in her eye and an impish grin I had never seen before, she said in her sing-song way, “That’s a body part!”