You can’t listen to them in print, but you can hear them online
Podcasts have become a part of our daily lives, whether we listen to them at the gym, while driving a long distance, or even as a means of a brief respite from the office. They’re a way to disconnect from the grind, or to charge-up your weekend, to learn what’s going on and where.
If you’ve visited our website — www.creativeloafing.com — you know we have been producing podcasts for a while now on a wide variety of subjects: music, film, photography, local restaurants, city festivals, the legalization of marijuana, pandas at the Atlanta Zoo, you name it. For those of you who still prefer the newsprint version of CL, we thought it was time to introduce you to the feature.
This month we’ve sorted through the transcripts of some of our more popular podcasts to offer readers a few samples of what people are saying during visits to our studio or at meetings on location. These select conversations, though edited for print, cover a broad range of topics and viewpoints. For the complete podcasts, check out Creative Loafing Radio.
Isabel González-Whitaker: She passed in 2008. I wanted the city to acknowledge her legacy. What initially started as my dream of having a highway renamed after her — because I have lofty goals and ambitions — morphed into this idea of a park, which is even better because she loved parks, so it was a very appropriate tribute to her contributions to the city as a Hispanic rights, immigrant rights, and minority rights advocate and as a voice for a community in need.
And where is the park?
The park is at 2411 Coronet Way N.W., on the corner of Bolton Road near Marietta Boulevard.
There were two parks available for renaming in 2009 when we endeavored to do this project. One was by the airport, and one happened to be this little park. As it turns out, this is the very park that I played in as a child, in the neighborhood where we grew up. There’s a legacy Hispanic working-class community here and it’s also catty-corner to where my mother owned a small Cuban restaurant when she first came to this city.
It was as if the universe was saying, yes, we support this effort, and here is this park available for renaming that just happens to have all this sentimental value.
I spent most of my younger years here in Atlanta. At the time, there really wasn’t a huge Latino community. We’re talking in the 1980s. And I felt marginalized. I didn’t see a lot of representation of people who looked like me or had similar backgrounds or heritages, not that there was anything wrong with the diversity of community that I experienced at the public schools. But I definitely felt like an outsider. There were experiences of people not being able to pronounce my name, Isabel González. And of course, I definitely was called very offensive cultural stereotype names growing up. That’s an alienating and sad experience: to have to come back to your family after a day of middle school and ask what such-and-such slurs mean.
Where did you attend school?
I went to Margaret Mitchell Elementary and Sutton Middle School, and then North Fulton, which I think became North Atlanta High School.
What was your mom doing then?
She was finding her voice. She did not start out to be an advocate. She always said she had an accidental life, but it was an accidental life that was destined to be one that gave meaning and voice to the community.
She started out here in Atlanta with the small Cuban restaurant that failed after eight years of staying open at a time when people didn’t really know what black beans were. That was an achievement in and of itself. That sort of ultimate failure of the restaurant is what fueled her desire to help other immigrants find and succeed in the American dream — and to have resources available to them. I think she felt that if she had had business resources more available to her and she had known how to navigate entrepreneurial waters, that the restaurant probably would’ve done better.
She eventually went to the Latin American Association, a prominent social services organization, which, at the time was small. She was the receptionist, but she found her calling there and eventually became a very high level fundraiser and a corporate executive liaison. She did very well there, raising funds and awareness of the Hispanic community here. From there she was tapped to grow the Atlanta Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which, under her purview, eventually became the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The park is absolutely a hundred percent the right fit. She loved children, she loved families, she loved nature. She loved greenery. And so, spiritually it was meant to be. Pretty quickly we also realized that it was going to be the first park in the state of Georgia named for a Latino, which sort of elevated its level of significance. All of a sudden, it became historic.
The first thing that we established via consensus with the steering committee was that we wanted a playground that was ADA compliant and all-abilities. So we immediately made sure that all the sidewalks could accommodate wheelchairs, not only from the sense of elevating the importance of the themes of inclusion and diversity, but also really providing an opportunity and filling a need in a community that doesn’t have parks that can accommodate such a diverse group of constituents. So we have the playground that is all-abilities, which I’m very proud of. That was phase one with the community plaza.
The second phase is the creation of a learning center. With a very generous grant from the Georgia Power Foundation, we are creating a beautiful custom fabricated learning nook, and it will become the first learning nook in the city of Atlanta that will feature electricity and Wi-Fi and a semicircle where students can sit with a desk for a focused experience. It will provide the sort of educational equity that I feel that this community really de-serves. Then we have a mini soccer field that’s going to be debuting, and a community garden that will be dedicated to DeKalb County fallen police officer Edgar Flores, who was shot and killed in the line of duty last year.
BA and Ashley: This was the third year of a campaign to improve people’s attitudes about lawyers. Our client is the State Bar of Georgia. It was a really fun one to work on because our task revolved around people’s emotions, their feelings. That’s always a great playground for creativity. It’s no secret that lawyers get a bad rap, and there are a lot of bad lawyer jokes out there, but historically, being a lawyer was once a very noble calling.
It was a little daunting to present ideas representing 45,000 lawyers in Georgia. We thought for a millisecond that they might be interested in doing something funny, like lawyer jokes. We chose the course of finding real stories of what lawyers do every day.
Did that include research into the animosity people have toward lawyers?
We had done some research beforehand, and, not surprisingly, there are a lot of misperceptions and a lot of negative attitudes. Personal injury lawyers kind of take up most of the airspace and make the most noise on TV, so most people form an impression from this.
How did you approach the campaign? Did you wrestle with the creative ideas?
The path we took seemed to fall in place because these days, everybody really cares about things being truthful, real, and authentic. These are overused words, but no longer do we want to see people playacting or pretending on television. The message needs to be real people telling real stories. When we decided on this direction, we sent out inquiries to the entire 45,000 lawyers, our friends, and anybody we could talk to looking for compelling, really interesting stories that prove that lawyers go above and beyond for their clients.
What did you end up with?
We ended up with 10 total stories. The first year we used a young man who was a track star who had won the State of Georgia track championship when he was in high school, and was set to be a world class athlete. He had a very minor infection that turned into a really horrible situation that eventually required his leg to be amputated. His lawyer found the best doctors in the country to help his client regain his self-esteem and also helped him understand that he could still be a very good athlete. He is a world champion Para Olympic now. He’s from Athens, Georgia, and is a great guy.
Another story concerned a woman whose child was taken away from her when she was in the hospital. She had just given birth, and someone misread an issue with her baby as her having hurt her child. The third story involved Murray, a homeless person who had lived five years in a homeless shelter in Atlanta because he couldn’t obtain an identity. He was a Vietnam vet who couldn’t prove who he was, who didn’t have a driver’s license and couldn’t prove that he actually existed. His lawyer did in a week what Murray had been trying to do for five years — he got him into a home and got him his veterans benefits.
These stories are told in 30-second and one-minute videos. Were they picked because you could get in and out of the story effectively and quickly?
Not necessarily. Some of the stories were really complicated. It’s more important to pick stories that are truly interesting and truly unique. But the people telling their stories do make a difference. These are first-person accounts, and they need a compelling presence in front of the camera. It’s hard to talk on camera. We usually shot three hours for each person.
How does the Georgia Bar work compare to your earlier work with Grady [Hospital]? They seem similar.
Everybody’s familiar with the Grady campaign; it’s been around for quite awhile, and it’s consistent. Grady is a brave client that understands the importance of consistency — keep reiterating the message, staying on brand, and staying in the personality of what the work is. The State Bar of Georgia is similar in that “Atlanta can’t live without Grady” and “Georgia needs lawyers.” So there’s a similar story.
You are very closely identified with using Atlanta and Georgia for your inspiration. Why is that?
We both feel strongly about where we are in this city and in this state and how fabulous it is that both have grown into such important parts of our nation. We both take huge personal pride in the state. The state is rich with storytelling possibilities and has a huge diversity of people. We have beautiful beaches, we have fabulous mountains. We have everything needed. It’s a great place to be.
Rafael Pereira: I am the CEO. Will Joyner of the Rock*A*Teens is the CFO. He’s the accountant, the lawyer, and the business partner.
Back in the day, I lived across the street from Stone Soup Kitchen. I fell in love with Grant Park. It’s so quiet — and we’re not even a mile from Downtown. When Will Joyner and I became closer friends, I said I wanted to open a coffee shop, do something different than music. He came to me and said, “Let’s check out this building.” The rest is history.
What is the concept?
The Beacon wanted us to be open all day, not just for lunch or dinner. They wanted it to be a cultural place where everybody was welcome. There are restaurants, art galleries, wine shops, and a music school in there, as well as a dentist office, a martial arts studio. They did a good job with it. You don’t see any chains here, it’s all small business owners.
Buteco means bodega in Portuguese, correct?
Yeah, the corner store that’s open all day with everything available. You see there is blue and orange in the logo — the moon and sun represent an all-day place. We’re open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and midnight on weekends. The music part of the business came later. It was never something we were thinking about. For the grand opening, I invited some friends to play. Everyone loved it! The next weekend people showed up, asking, “Where’s the music?”
Buteco is also known for its cachaça.
Yes, the Brazilian liquor. We didn’t see it here or anywhere else. If you go to a Brazilian steakhouse you may see a few cachaças, but we tasted some high-end stuff that was available in Georgia.
A cheap version of cachaça was originally introduced here. It’s used for cocktails, but separately, it’s not as approachable as a fine rum or something like that. There are other varieties of cachaça that are super fine and have well-defined flavors. We decided to introduce that option and see if people like it or think it’s weird. Grant Park is a great neighborhood for being creative with new things.
The BeltLine is just a stone’s throw from here. How will things will change for Buteco once it’s complete?
I have been renting Bird scooters, or biking from Ponce de Leon to here. I recently went all the way to Sweetwater 420 to see what’s gonna be the opening path to here, and to see what will happen to the business and the Beacon and the street. I think it’s going to be good.
One thing that I complain about is that there isn’t a lot of walking traffic here. I come from São Paulo, a city of 25 million people, and there’s a lot of foot traffic. There’s energy in the streets, and I’ve missed that. I’ve traveled around the U.S. and rarely do you see actual foot traffic: San Francisco, Chicago, New York, a little bit in Portland. I think the BeltLine being such a large concept and movement is going to be awesome. Ten years from now, traffic will be better, you’ll see more biking, more foot traffic, and people getting to places not just for leisure but going to work using the BeltLine.
What’s next for you?
I want to make this place successful. It’s working great, but it’s nine months in; one day at a time. I am super focused on this and my family right now. I want to have a story with the people who have worked with us, and with the customers. We have made so many friends here; the regulars that we know by name come back and bring people. This has become about the people, and not the selling of the product, whether it is a coffee, or a beer, or whatever.
Mitchell Silver: I’ve been to Atlanta, I’m guessing at least a dozen times. My grandchildren are here, so I do get a chance to visit.
What is the scope of your responsibilities in New York? How many parks are you responsible for?
We have about 30,000 acres and about 2,000 parks.
How much time do you spend working on Central Park versus all the other parks?
I work in Central Park, so I’m in it literally every day. And I do take lunch walks in Central Park, but it’s our flagship park and probably the most iconic park in the world — 42 million visitors every year. I make sure I get to all the other parks because it’s such a large park system.
Do you have the coolest job in the city of New York?
I do. I joke around and say I’m not just a commissioner of parks and recreation, but the commissioner of fun, health, and happiness. Running parks is somewhat unique. So I do have the coolest job in the city. Hopefully the Mayor isn’t listening but other than the Mayor, I have the coolest job in the city.
Can you elaborate on what “equity” means in the context of parks?
Well, for me it’s one simple word: fairness. Are we being fair about how we care for our parks? Are we being fair about how invest in our parks? In New York City we looked at how much we invested in the past 20 years — $6 billion. Some parks were left out — they did not see any investment over those 20 years. It turned out over 200 parks had seen hardly any in-vestment. The Mayor and I didn’t think that was fair — that’s what equity is about. Everyone pays taxes, so how could 200 parks be neglected? So the Mayor put his money where his mouth is and set aside over $300 mil-lion to basically rebuild from the ground up. We’ve now completed over half of them. I can tell you that transformation and those neighborhoods will move your heart.
The BeltLine is the big story in Atlanta for the last decade and is inspired by the High Line in New York. How do those two projects relate in your mind?
Well, for the High Line, I go back to what happened at the turn of the century. New York City and other cities around the country had these industrial areas that now have been abandoned from the decline in the manufacturing sector. A lot of them were contaminated. In New York, it was the riverfront and waterfront that really need to be healed and returned back to the public. Along the West Side was this abandoned railroad and most people wanted to tear it down. These two young visionaries said, no, no, no, no. Let’s create this three-dimensional park. Everybody thought they were crazy. It has now transformed the entire West Side. An investment of a few hundred million dollars has translated to billions and billions of private development.
As an urban planner, did the success surprise you, or is this kind of textbook urban planning?
It didn’t. I’ll often say that people may eat and sleep in their apartments but people live in public space. So it doesn’t surprise me. People are coming to cities looking for experiences. Even visitors say they want an experience of New York. And very often they’ll go to our public spaces.
So as Atlanta’s BeltLine sweeps over to the west side of our city, the concern is about gentrification. How do you think about gentrification and its impact?
Well, first, it’s a very delicate subject. Let me put to you this way — the High Line was really in the meatpacking district, so it created value that did not exist before, and all the new residential, for the most part, did not displace existing residential. There were businesses that were relocated, but I don’t think it was a classic gentrification. I personally believe that in New York I do not want to hold a park hostage for fear of gentrification. The alternative is you do nothing.
You were a city planner in Raleigh before heading back to your hometown in NYC. What lessons did you pick up as [planning] relates to race relations and parks?
Well, for one, race issues come into play when people view how parks are used. Because there was fear of crime in New York, we put tall fences around all of our parks, which to me was totally unnecessary. Sometimes basketball became the issue — where do you put the basketball court? Basketball could be synonymous with crime, as it implies the park is attracting the wrong element. The other thing is the fear of who we’re bringing into the park — it sometimes leads to bringing in police to monitor parks when we could start bringing in community groups to try to break some of those barriers. In terms of racism per se, the bigger point is that certain parks in certain ethnic neighborhoods aren’t getting their fair share of investment. We’re now making sure that all parks get their fair share, and we kind of demystify what goes in those parks so that now they’ve become more parks for all. We want to make sure we design parks that are parks for all.
How about issues with the homeless?
Now this is a tough one. Parks are democratic public spaces for all. Yet some people don’t want the homeless in their parks, right? If parks are for everyone, shouldn’t the homeless be able to enjoy our park? I know it’s very difficult, but we don’t allow anyone to sleep on our benches. We don’t allow anyone to stay in our parks overnight. But we have to learn how to coexist with the homeless population. Here’s one story I’m going to share with you. We opened up and restored a park with a waterfall in partner-ship with the Women’s Club of New York. Beautiful restoration. We cut the ribbon, and when I got back to my car, one of the women from the conservancy knocked on my window and she was handing me about 33 cents. And I’m asking, “What is that?” She says, “The homeless individual that comes to this park every day says this is where he comes to feel alive. He was so thankful he wanted to donate all the money he had to say thank you.” Well, what do I do with that?
Kyle Kessler: Good, except for the fate of 152 Nassau Street. In yesterday’s meeting, the Margaritaville developer successfully deferred their appeal of the city’s decision, which was that when they applied for the zoning permit they were told they couldn’t do what they wanted to do. Basically, they needed to go back to square one. Since 2017, this has been stuck in the board of zoning adjustment, and Margaritaville develop-ers have kept kicking the can down the road, trying to make this project happen, in spite of the city’s efforts to preserve the building. … The latest date is August 8, when they have to go back to the board of zoning ap-peals. But as the attorney for the Margaritaville developers said yester-day, they fully anticipate that the buildings will be demolished well before then, then they could just withdraw the appeal.
Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded some material there, correct?
He did. These recording sessions are best known because, on June 14, 1923, Ralph Peer and OKeh Records, a New York-based company, came to Atlanta with their newly invented portable recording equipment. This was the first time a recording company had ever ventured outside of New York to record artists where they lived and worked. Previously, if you were a musician, you had to make a long, expensive trip to New York, and lots of folks couldn’t make that happen. So the selection of artists be-ing recorded was quite small. In order to compete with radio, phonograph companies wanted to record new genres, new material, and new artists. So the first stop they made was Atlanta.
At some point they learned about a fiddler that was also popular on WSB, the South’s first radio station. Fiddlin’ John Carson had won a bunch of competitions, and was well known locally. A local phonograph dealer con-vinced the folks that had come down from New York to record John Car-son and what, at the time, we didn’t have a term for, because it hadn’t been recorded yet — old-time music or hillbilly music or country music or whatever else it was. The legend is that the New York folks didn’t think it was going to sell, but the local dealer said, “I can sell it! Manufacture 500 copies and I’ll get them sold.” They sold out those first 500 super quick and then ordered 1,000 more — or 5,000, or 50,000 more. The numbers keep changing. It’s a little bit of a fish story, but it sold well and has since led to plenty of other hillbilly country albums, whatever else you want to call it. That was the break, if you will, in country music.
The A side was “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane.” The flipside was “The Old Hen Crackled & The Rooster’s Going to Crow.” The A-side was an old minstrel song that had been recorded quite a few times before, but it had been recorded in a minstrel style, or by classically trained artists try-ing to imitate a minstrel. So what was unique about this recording was that you had someone who was playing the fiddle and singing, which had never been done on a record before. You had separate musicians and vocalists, and the recording was done in an old, for lack of a better term, backwoods style, but this is genuine to the vernacular of folk culture of Appalachia.
Mammal Gallery: We signed a lease, on the giant turquoise water tower and the warehouse next to it at the Metropolitan. We’ve got 6,100 square feet to the warehouse, a large chunk of which will be the music venue, and then off to the side will be a recording studio that’s fully inte-grated with the music venue. We’ll have a bar that’s open all the time, that’s at the bottom of the water tower. So everybody’s who’s always wondered what the inside of the water tower is like can actually just go in there any time of day and get a drink or a coffee.
You’re going to have a gallery and recording studio, a bar …
The gallery won’t immediately be a part of the space at the Met, but it won’t be like Mammal Gallery, it won’t be the same programming within the art gallery. There’s that sculpture garden that’s there, we’ve got some ideas for, but I feel like they’re phase-two kind of things.
We really want to open the tower bar first, because it’s the lighthouse — you can see it from everywhere. And then have the venue open, because that is really what we felt Mammal Gallery really provided for the commu-nity is really just the feeling of having a space to gather, a platform space and a platform for people.
So what’s next for you guys? What’s the first step?
So our first step is basically we have signed the lease and we have four months to figure out whether it is reasonable or not to believe that we can actually raise the money to build this thing properly. So we’re not home free yet. We’re about to do some crowdsource funding at the end of this month.
Crowdsource funding kind of also works as a way to let people know what we’re trying to do, and also, depending upon how many people actually engage with it, helps us to find more money later. It just helps the whole momentum of the thing. So yeah, our next goal is trying to raise the funds to do the construction because we didn’t get as lucky as we did with the first Mammal in that we just walked into a space that already had a stage already in a bar. We’re literally getting an empty warehouse that we have to build into something.