I returned to Atlanta in August of 1979, after going back to Chicago in April when my father passed. During those four months in Chicago, I assisted my mother in cleaning out his with personal effects and made money by subbing at a school and working as a payroll supervisor at my old summer job at the YMCA. I was determined to return to Atlanta because I felt that we had some unfinished business.
My friend that lived across the lake from me in College Park was marrying her Prince Charming and heading to the Pacific Northwest. While at the wedding, I was able to sublet an apartment located in Buckhead, from one of her friends. I moved into the one-bedroom which was right off of Peachtree Street. Actually, there are several Peachtrees in Atlanta such as roads, streets, circles, avenues, etc to truly confuse any driver new to the area.
I was off the main one at 25th Street not far from where I-75 and I-85 come together. The partying days of Cedarwoods were long over as life had truly taken on a more serious tone. I slowed down and thought things through more carefully. I turned off the disco songs and evolved into enjoying smooth jazz radio stations. I mellowed a bit and took life more easily.
I again worked as a temp at my old reliable TempForce Agency that I had used in the past. I was working at an insurance company that I sometimes walked to when either gas was low or if I just wanted to have a meditative walk. And, one day I was getting on the elevator at work and poof, there stood Charlotte. She was one of my sister’s best childhood friends from Memphis.
Our mouths fell open and yes, she was my proverbial ‘ram in the bush.” She worked in the building too and had a nice, steady job with the Department of Agriculture. From that point on, we bonded, hung out together and supported each other during my second act in Atlanta. She even lived about five minutes away and eventually moved on up to Sandy Springs; but we remained close during my stay in Atlanta.
Life was relatively calm and here are a few highlights from living on the north end of town. I took a Gregg Shorthand class at Georgia Tech to stay busy. I found the wonderful Oxford Bookstore where the books of the Florence Scovel Shinn fell into my lap. Her, The Game of Life and How to Play It was my study guide, along with her other writings.
I enjoyed driving up to Lenox Square where I once found some really soft leather walking shoes. Across the street at Phipps Plaza, which was more high-end, I splurged and bought some green suede open-toe low heels. They were the bomb, so to speak, and I kept them for years!
Around November of that same year, I was led to a temp agency called Temporary Talent. They were looking for proofreaders and I was an English major, so I applied. I was hired and to my astonishment, I was a proofreader for the Georgia Legislative Counsel. I held on to the name tag for years. There, I met Alisha from Cleveland and Bea from Rochester, New York. We were all Northern women of color and up to that point, they had not been able to keep any proofreaders.
The hours may have been a factor because we reported at 8 or 9 in the morning at the gold-domed Georgia Capitol Building and did not leave until 11 pm or even midnight. We played Scrabble until legislation was over and then the typed bills came over for us to proof starting around 5 pm in the evening. Alisha and I were single with no kids and Bea’s kids were older and her husband was very supportive. Thus, we made it to the finish line of the 1980 Session in June. That experience alone could easily be a novella!
Around that time the political scene became troubling. because of the Atlanta Child Murders. It was a national story and an old friend from my journalism job contacted me to say that James Baldwin was coming to Atlanta. His arrival from France was in the headlines, but she gave me a heads-up and we rushed out to Emory University to at least get a glimpse of him.
When we arrived, there were only about 15 to 20 of us in a small lounge. He sat on a couch with large twinkling eyes. He was diminutive, yet powerful. We sat at his feet on the carpet just staring up at him as if he was a mini god. I don’t remember him saying anything, but I will never forget being in his presence. I did get his autograph which I held onto for years but lost during my many moves.
His publicist said that he rarely went to the American South because seeing the condition of his people made him ill for a period of time upon his return to France. But, he had been commissioned to write an article on the topic and I believe it was later published in The Esquire Magazine. I am honored to have seen him before his passing in 1987, some seven years later.
The proofreading job ended and I was able to get a position with Upward Bound in Ohio through Twiggy, another writer-friend. It was time to move on so I put my things in storage, went to my friend Marty’s house and we partied at a club like it was 1999 (Prince) with her Bahamian friends. Me and Atlanta ended on a good note and I felt that I had left my mark and it definitely left its mark on me!
June 25, 2022