where ‘the part’ reflects ‘the whole’

“The purpose of life is not to be happy.
It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate,
to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is an image of young boys in Atlanta, swarming a vehicle,
while attempting to peddle water.

And the following is a recent news story regarding these “Atlanta waterboys”
I’ve cut and pasted part of the story—the full link follows.

Once you finish reading the news story, I will share a little story,
that happens to be on a more personal level,

It has become a common sight around the city of Atlanta —
groups of boys selling bottled water at intersections of busy city roads.

Recently, some of those kids have started to get violent with drivers.
Now, several victims are calling on the mayor, Atlanta City Council and
Atlanta Police Department to put a stop to what many are describing as a growing problem.

In an interview with Channel 2 Action News on Monday,
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms described some of the teens as
“up-and-coming entrepreneurs.”

She’s even created an advisory committee that’s going to come up with possible solutions
for the kids who want to continue selling water in a safe manner.

But Channel 2′s Michael Seiden has spoken with victims who say enough is enough
and that it’s time to get the kids off the streets before someone gets killed.
Antoinette Stevens said she is still in pain following a frightening encounter
with a group of teenagers selling bottled water on University Avenue in
southwest Atlanta on Friday afternoon.

She still had the black eye to prove it.
“I gave him a couple dollars, and then all the other boys ran up to my car and were like
‘Oh, give me a dollar. Give me some money,'” Stephens said.
That’s when she said one of the boys reached through her window and snatched her purse.
Stephens said she tried to chase after him,
and another teen jumped into the driver’s seat of her car and took off.
“I jumped through the window and tried to get my car.
Try to get him to stop. And he drove into oncoming traffic and crashed the car, and then ran,” Stephens said.
She said that was when she hit the ground, leaving her with a black eye.
Stephens showed Seiden photos of her damaged BMW.
She picked it up Sunday after spending several hours in the hospital.

And we’ve learned she’s not alone.

https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/atlanta/victims-attacked-by-kids-selling-water-atlanta-streets-want-them-gone-mayor-works-solution/5HQCVRJGIRDXHCD5KAMYCZCUBU/

So a couple of weeks ago, I was up in Atlanta visiting the Mayor and Sheriff.
That means that I was also visiting their parents.

Our son is working from home (who isn’t these days) and often puts in a 12 hour day.

After he got off work, it was after dark but he was wanting to just get out of
the house for a bit.
So we all loaded up in his Ford F150 truck to head to a nearby Walgreens inorder
to pick up some things for the kids, like diapers, etc.

Next he thought a nice drive through Buckhead seemed warranted.
What with all the new buildings going up and everything being lit up,
he thought the kids would enjoy seeing the big buildings and shiny lights.

He pointed out to me where, just a few weeks prior, rioters had smashed windows
and burned shops, restaurants and businesses along Atlanta’s famous Peachtree St.

Thankfully things were being lovingly put back together again.

This was the same area that my mom had grown up in both before and after the War—
long before the current boon of highrises and sky scrappers.
She and my aunt would make their way along the same sidewalk we were passing,
on their to school each day.

My dad and mom’s houses still stand on a nearby small side street.

We had made our loop and were headed home when we stopped for a red light at the large
intersection between Lenox and Phipps Malls.
There are probably 6 lanes of traffic here and it is a very busy
and a very congested area.

Suddenly, in the dark, a team of young black boys popped up on both sides of our vehicle
bamming on the windows holding up bottles of water.

My son was so taken off guard, it scared him to death.
Both my daughter-in-law and I were familiar with these “waterboys”
as we’d each encountered them…albeit in broad daylight where things
are more readily seen.

These kids had on dark clothing, the street lighting was minimal at best and they
were more than reckless as they darted in and out of the moving traffic.
Traffic that most likely did not even see them…before it would be too
late and potentially deadly.

My son kept motioning to the boys to move on as we weren’t interested in buying water
at 9 PM on a Friday night. He kept repeating through the rolled-up window
“No buddy, no thank you”…
I was in the back seat sandwiched in-between both kids in their car seats when
one of the boys tried opening the door where my 14th-month-old grandson sat.

What would have happened had the doors been unlocked?

Thankfully the light turned green and the kids quickly moved on to the car behind us as
we made a hasty retreat.

My son was so disturbed and shook up because he knew that he could have easily run over
one of the boys as they did not care that they were weaving in front of and
in between moving vehicles.

I told him that they do the same thing near the airport but I’ve only encountered them
during daylight hours.

Once home he did a little investigating and discovered that these waterboys
are also known as ‘Atlanta’s yummies’.
They are kids that gang handlers put out on the streets to see what they can hustle while
also peddling water.

Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms has made it known that she feels that these kids
are just trying to make a few dollars in order to make ends meet at home.

“Youthful entrepreneurs”, she calls them.

Entrepreneurs my foot!

This is not some sort of lemonade stand.

Just days following our incident, a motorist was gunned down by one of these boys
for refusing to buy water.

And so now we have this most recent story about the woman who was robbed and
carjacked by these “waterboys”

There have been stories of the trash and mess the boys leave behind on various street corners.
The fact that many of the bottles are simply used bottles and refilled.
And so when police officers attempted to round up the boys, the Mayor put a stop to it
as she proclaimed these are kids trying to make a buck.

This mayor is the same mayor whose name has been floated around as a possible
VP on Biden’s shortlist of contenders.

As mayor, I would hope her first thought would be to keep the kids safe, keeping them
off the streets, especially at night.
Also, their aggressive behavior, along with the increasing stories of violence,
should be a small clue and wake up call that selling water is not exactly their
sole intent.

So when we have mayors and other elected officials content and turning a blind eye to
groups of roving kids harassing drivers and threatening violence, why then are we
so surprised that these same elected officials find that the escalating violent riots plaguing
cities across this nation, is nothing more than mere expressions of civil frustration?

62 nights of on-going violent national eruptions—while some of our legislators such as
Jerry Nadler call it all nothing but a myth.

A myth that cities burn each night and windows are smashed and businesses
and livelihoods are destroyed.
The searing images are no myth.

If our elected officials can’t be trusted to take care of the youngest citizens in
their charge… why then would we begin to think that they can take care of the adults?!

We must be willing to take back our Nation.
We must pray for our Nation.

Posterity!
You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom!
I hope you will make a good use of it.

John Adams

The power of Chocolate

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

DSC00036
(a decadent slice of chocolate heaven from Sprungli’s cafe Zurich, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2012)

For Mother, it was an icy cold Coke.
For Dad, it is chocolate, any and all sort.

Yesterday, late morning, I ran into one of my family’s favorite places in Atlanta.
Henri’s Bakery.
Henri’s is one of the oldest existing bakeries in the city, that and Rhodes Bakery. And granted there are better tasting bakeries within the city, Henri’s has long been woven into the fabric of my life starting when my mother was a little girl. I’ve never really thought much about it but I suppose having a very french sounding bakery in the middle of “old Atlanta” is a bit odd, especially to those transplant yankees and / or visitors to the city.

Henri’s is in the exact same location it’s been in since I was a little girl. Tucked away on a small unassuming little side street and now prime real-estate corner lot, lacking adequate parking, almost cowering in the shadows of high-rise office buildings, uber chic condos and the elegant St Regis Hotel. . .in an area that is at the center of what one considers to be the heart of true Atlanta or more commonly known as Buckhead.

Today’s Buckhead area is known for its posh and ultra chic shopping, Michelin Star dinning, eclectic watering holes, and 5 star hotels—a playground and shopping mecca of the famous and not so famous.
I simply just know it as the place where I spent my childhood and my growing up as both my grandmothers lived in Buckhead. It’s where my mom and dad grew up. . . walking to attend school, riding bikes to the movies, eventually meeting on a blind date and lucky for me, marrying.

Buckhead’s humble beginning was a far cry from today’s scene of upscale prestige. There once was an old general store at the crossroads of what is today’s Roswell Rd and Peachtree Rd. A single dirt road diverged into two separate dirt roads exactly at the site of the general store, with the store being the stopping point on one’s journey up either of the two roads. On the front of the old general store, up above the door, was a mounted head of a buck—hence Buckhead. This was a time long before Sherman had even set his sites on Atlanta, burning it to the ground.

Henri’s opened up in Atlanta in 1929, owned and operated by Henri Fiscus–a man who immigrated to Atlanta from France where he had been trained as a classic Chef. The original location was actually in downtown Atlanta–the location where my aunt remembers visiting every Sunday evening, along with my mom and grandmother, as they would go pick up Sunday’s quick and easy, but oh so fresh and good, supper. To this day, when she comes back to Georgia for a visit, I have to take her over to Atlanta to Henri’s for one of their famous Po Boys on the savory house made French Baguettes. I happen to be partial to the shortbread cookies. . .

I had driven over to Atlanta yesterday to run a few errands before going over to see Dad.
I had told Dad that I would pick up lunch.
“Oh no you don’t have to do that, I think we have something here”
“Dad, just ask Gloria if she’d like for me to pick up lunch.”
“GLO”
“Dad, if she’s not close by just ask her later and call me back”
I think he was afraid he’d forget to ask her as he continued hollering her name.
I suppose getting up and going to see where she was would have been too much to ask.
“GLO”
“IT’S JULIE ON THE WIRE”
Wire Dad?
Long story of yelling short, Gloria said yes, she’d like for me to pick up lunch.

After running a few errands in town, I headed over to Henri’s.
The last place my grandmother had lived was across the street from Henri’s.
Her condominiums having long since been torn down, now making room for a sprawling modern upscale living and shopping development. As I fight off the sweeping cloak of melancholy and longing that always finds me when I drive past my memories, I fretted about finding a parking spot.
Henri’s gets very very crowded at lunchtime–so much so that they have an off duty Atlanta policeman directing traffic.

Today I was lucky, a spot at the front door! Woohoo!!
Walking in the door, I immediately grab a shopping basket and head over to the shelf containing the sandwiches. There is only a limited number of the “famous” sandwiches that are made up for the day–if you’re not early, you miss out but there is now a counter where you can have your sandwiches custom made if you prefer. I grab two of the Po boys and a regular turkey on white for dad, a couple of sacks of chips as I make for the most important counter in the store. . . the beautifully displayed pastries, cakes and cookies.

As I ogle the decadent goodies through the glass, a woman behind the counter asks if she can help me.
I ask for 2 dozen of the shortbread cookies, the ones with the little colorful sugar dot in the center, with each dozen going in a separate box. One box to stay with dad, one box to go home with me.
Next I ask for the most important item of all on my list—two chocolate bombs.
A most decadent conglomeration of chocolate cake, cream, chocolate ganache, a chocolate shell covered in chocolate shavings—for I know my father’s weakness. . .Chocolate.

Dad let’s me in the house as I carry in our lunch.
Like a little kid, he can’t wait for me to pull out the magic little white boxes.
“What’s that?”
“What’s in there?”
“What’s in that box?”
“Cookies Dad.”
“Oooo, I love cookies”
“What’s in that thing?”
“That Dad is your chocolate bomb–2 of them” I proudly proclaim knowing that I have just made his day.
“Oooooo”

Dad eats only half his sandwich before he asks for a cookie.
He chooses the cookie with the chocolate dot on top, opting the eat the chocolate center while leaving the shortbread cookie part behind. At 87 I’m thinking he’s acting more like 7 but I don’t say anything.
“Can I have my bomb now” as glee filled expectancy fills the room.
“You’ve got two of them Dad, you can eat them whenever you’d like!”
“I want one now” which is more of a demand than a polite statement.
In less then 10 minutes, the only thing remaining on his plate are a few chocolate crumbs.

Happy, chatty, friendly and the most attentive and focused he’s really been in a long time, Dad has had a good day, which in turn equates to my having had a good day with Dad.
There is often no substitute for the familiar, the tried and the true.
In this case a humble little outdated bakery which is still owned and operated by the founding family, throw in a couple of sandwiches, a box of shortbread cookies, a chocolate bomb or two, and you’ve got the making of a magical moment.
May we never under estimate the power of chocolate.

We can’t go back home. . .

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
― Thomas Wolfe

DSCN2217
(kitchen window at Dad’s, my childhood home which has also changed / Julie Cook / 2013)

There is only one thing in life that is certain, other than death and taxes, and that is change.
Change is the only one true constant in life.
A constant state of flux with an undulating fluid forward motion
Growing
Shrinking
Evolving
Morphing
Changing
Nothing stays as we once knew it to be.

And yet, everything, everything that was, everything that helped to define us, that comforted us, that taught us, and nurtured us, is trapped in a static time warp buried protectively deep in the recesses of our mind.
Where it all stays nice and safe.
Safe from progress,
from age,
from growing,
from dying,
from changing

And so it is, when we travel back–back to that place where we were who we were before now. To the place that was and and to the place where everything was and in our memories remains safe.
To the place that was familiar and warm.
To the place that knew us and accepted us for who we were, for what we were, which at that time, was not very much at all.
Not like today.
Not like we are now. . .
For we are no longer that person, the person we once recognized as simply ourselves.
For we are now an important person, a busy person, an adult person, a tired person, a stressed person, a lost person, a new person, a bruised person, a broken person.
And yet all we want, all we long for, is to go back, back home.
To the place that was.
To that place that knew us and we knew it.

Yet looking around at the now grossly unfamiliar, the vaguely familiar, the surreal familiar. . .
as in. . .it all looks oddly familiar yet now oddly different. . .
as in. . .we once knew that this one particular road would take us here and that one particular road would take us there, but this road, this new road of today. . . where will it lead?
No longer will we be going where we thought we were going.
The hometown, the place where we thought we would recognize some minuscule tiny remaining fragments, there is now sadly, oddly more new than old.
The familiar has been:
Torn down.
Built up.
As in. . .
It’s all bigger
It’s all smaller
It’s moved
It’s shut down
It’s repurposed
It’s expanded
It’s grown
It’s crowded
It’s now all so complicated.
So different.

We now find ourselves sad, melancholy and aching for something that is now tangibly long gone. . . lost to the ebb and flow of the changing tides of life.
We desperately seek comfort and solace, we need to be embraced, remembered, taken in to the fold one last time–
For isn’t that what home, the hometown, the childhood is all about?
Acceptance, comfort, solace, a warm embrace, the familiar. . .
And then, as if out of no where we hear a voice, a soothing comforting voice.
A voice that is Love personified.
A voice that sounds familiar and speaks to us in tender familiar tones.
A voice that knows us.
As in knows our inner being, the good, the secret, the bad.
A voice that knew us back then and acceptingly knows us now.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
(Isaiah 43:1)

A familiar sounding voice that calls out in the now cold and unfamiliar, and tells us, tells me, that we are, that I am, claimed. We, you, I, are all acknowledged, remembered. . .in all of the unfamiliar, in all of the longing for what was and is frustratingly no longer, a voice that offers a welcome, an embrace, a welcome home, has thankfully called out to you and to me and has claimed us as His own.
Welcome Home.
Hallelujah!!