John, the author of Too Busy to Hate, has little use for embellishment. His photos are basic monochrome; the writing is sparse and to the point. But as I read through his interactions with people up and down Ponce de Leon, I get that familiar Atlanta voodoo going in my brain: this is the city I live in, yet I know almost nothing about it.
Yes, I remember Election Day. I remember the gas stations this fall that had no gas. And of course, I remember all those foolish zombies wandering around during Halloween. But this. . .is something wholly different:
Perry starts talking twenty feet before he reaches me. I make out that he is newly released from jail. He shows me bottles of shampoo and lotion he has in a torn backpack. He offers to sell me these at a much lower cost that Walgreens sells them. I decline. He counters by throwing in some AA batteries.
I cannot buy anything from anyone. Most likely it is stolen or simply written-off overstock from a dumpster. Even if I wanted to, I never carry cash on Ponce. My wallet is at home. When people ask me to give or buy a meal, I am not lying when I tell them I have no money, just a camera.
Years ago, the slogan “Atlanta, the City too Busy to Hate” was crafted as an optimistic, though quixotic response to the racial tensions of the 50s and 60s. In that cheerful, all-too-Southern manner, the phrase aimed to both address and politely circumnavigate the unsavory realities of the time.
Flash forward half a century. Where are we now?
*On a related note: this Beltline montage is wonderful.