11st 7lb (dude, where's my abs?), alcohol units 0 (organic carrot juice these days), cigarettes 6 (can do better).
The gravestone facade of Murder Kroger
Drive by shootings, carjackings, home invasions, Atlanta can be a rough city. You are never far from trouble and it pays to have some degree of situational awareness. Just the other week there was a fatal shooting in the car lot of Kroger, my local supermarket.This branch of the popular chain on Ponce de Leon Avenue is affectionately known as "Murder Kroger" by customers and residents. In 1991, a 25 year old woman was shot dead in the car lot; in 2002, a man was found dead in his car. Creative Loafing, a local hipster tabloid, called Murder Kroger "one of the city's quirky charms that Atlantans seem to both love and hate at the same time."
Murder Kroger Street Art
Until the shooting the other day, "Murder Kroger" had seemingly buried its rep and morphed into "Beltline Kroger." In 2014, a colorful mural was painted on the side facing the Atlanta BeltLine -- a network of parks, trails and transit being developed on a 22-mile former railroad corridor circling Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods. Extra lighting was added and Murder Kroger's car park was repaved. Everything was going well for the respectable forces of urban gentrification until the fatal shooting of a construction worker from Alabama in the parking lot. Beltline Kroger? I don't think. So stop with the "Beltline Kroger." It's not gonna happen.
Folklorists believe that bad things happen in sets of three. Soon after the deadly shooting at Kroger on Ponce, there was a double murder in nearby Little Five Points. Little Five, as it is known to locals, is a vibrant, diverse and tightly knit neighborhood with nooks that remind me of Portobello Road in London and crannies that remind me of Greenwich Village in New York. The two victims were gunned down behind the Vortex Bar & Grill on Moreland Avenue. CCTV shows the two men leaving the the bar smiling. Moments later, they were shot dead in the parking lot. Community members gathered last Saturday night to remember their lives and a silent auction was part of a fundraiser to help pay for the costs of the funerals.
But it's not all true crime in Midtown Atlanta. Barack Obama, the most powerful man in the world, paid a brief visit to the hood. The 44th and current President of the United States played darts at Manuel's Tavern before sitting down for an interview with Shane Smith of VICE. The bar and restaurant in Poncey-Highland is popular with journalists and politicians alike. Before he made his way to the White House, Jimmy Carter announced his first gubernatorial campaign at the bar in 1970. Bill Clinton and Al Gore made a stop at Manuel's during their 1992 presidential campaign.
The historic watering hole is soon to close for refurbishment. A pity. Day or night, the main bar area (pictured) is an amazing place to get sloshed. Closing for refurb? Let's hope they don't fuck up the interior. My old pub in Notting Hill, the Portobello Star, was never the same after they painted the walls "sun dried tomato red" and took ham and cheese toasties off the menu. Brian Maloof, the owner of Manuel's, issued a statement to allay the fears of worried drinkers: "An archivist will photograph the walls, the bars and the various rooms to document the look and location of art works, photographs, mementos and even the beer cans that have decorated Manuel's for many years. Key memorabilia will be cleaned and restored. We may even preserve some dust."
Just over the road from Manuel's Tavern is Videodrome, the only DVD rental store in Atlanta. Unable to find anything good to watch on Netflix or Amazon prime, I am a frequent customer. Open since 1999, the old school DVD rental store specializes in art house films, foreign cinema, off beat documentaries and weird ass horror flicks. All of the staff at Videodrome are film buffs and there's much more choice than Video City on Notting Hill Gate. I still live in hope that the site doesn't get sold off to property developers, but these are early days in the regeneration of Poncey-Highland.
Back home in London, there used to be a grotty Chinese takeaway on Pembridge Road called The Slow Boat. I have fond memories of young men fighting each other in the queue and drunks requesting chips and gravy ("no gravy, no chip, only Chinese food!") China Dragon, the local takeaway on Ponce de Leon, kind of reminds me of the Slow Boat. The chicken fried rice and sweet and sour pork tastes exactly the same and the waiting room area is a grim dead ringer for the Slow Boat. So, if you are not worried about health scores, hygiene and gruff staff, China Dragon is the takeaway for you.
Home sweet home: Notting Hill in the 1980s