Visit Your Local Arboretum, Conservatory, and Botanical Garden

To be honest, I live in Georgia but have never gone to the Atlanta Botanical Garden or Callaway Gardens. Something moves me to seek out gardens in other states and cities though. And I did just that visiting the Lincoln Park Conservancy in Chicago. A few photos:

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Visit your local garden, or when traveling anywhere in the world visit an arboretum or conservatory. Donations will also help to keep these gardens in urban places open for all to enjoy!

Photos by Dianne Glave

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Springtime: Wesley Woods in Atlanta

I am slowly tunneling out of the winter here in Atlanta. As spring comes, I find myself increasingly desiring to be outdoors.

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I traced the winding walk on the Wesley Woods, Emory Hospital Campus. Trees are blooming. Plants are budding. I too am beginning to be rejuvenated.

Photos by Dianne Glave

The Walking Dead Roadtrip: Disease, Environment, and Humanity

SPOILER ALERT

Ok, there are black people in The Walking Dead! I was glad to see the British actor Lennie James, who was fabulous in the canceled TV show Jericho. Lennie plays Morgan James who is central to the first few episodes of The Walking Dead. In ensuing episodes when the two have parted, Rick Grimes, the lead character, played by Andrew Lincoln frequently invokes Morgan, the first person he met in the new world of flesh-eating monsters.

Rick travels on leaving behind bread crumbs or sign posts (i.e. notes on cars) for Morgan to follow Rick and his rag-tag of survivors of the zombie plague. Their travels show the familiar trope of film and television of the buddy road trip–this is the horror show version–traveling across many terrains. Transforming the trope, a group and not a pair of buddies travel across the land as the group bonds and develops. I have already seen forming and storming. I am wondering if the series will get to norming, performing, forming and mourning in the midst of living dead chaos.

The backdrop to the character development is disease and the landscape.  The disease that triggers the transformation into zombies and the defunct Center for Disease Control (CDC) condemns healthcare system and perhaps even reform in the United States. The plague is winning, and modern science and medicine are losing.

In one of the first scenes is in a hospital. Rick wakes from a coma, stripping off the monitors to the machines that kept him alive; pre-plague, a suspect shot him while on duty as a police officer. He walks the corridors of the hospital stumbling about encountering the first of many zombies to come.

Looking at the environment, the telling landscapes are in the Atlanta Metro area are a grassy “plain” dotted with trees, the Bellwood Quarry, the empty streets of Atlanta, and the CDC.

One of the first times Rick kills a zombie is on a grassy slope, probably a park. I am assuming the scene is somewhere in Atlanta although I cannot name the place.  A mangled zombie drags herself, half of her body gone below the waist, seeking to chomp on a human. Rick watches the futile efforts and then kills the zombie.

Rick’s humanity slowly seeps away, as he becomes less and less human and more and more dead like the zombies he shoots and bludgeons.

That rag tag group was already forming and living near a quarry while Rick was in his coma in the first episode. The location is Bellwood Quarry in Atlanta. The  place is abandoned, unproductive, non-working–much like the people simply surviving in what is essentially a post-apocalypse. No one is planting crops. Great paintings are no longer being created. The 21st century War and Peace or Beloved are not being written. Civilization no longer exists like a quiet rock quarry that is no longer producing slate for kitchen countertops and outdoor walkways.

Before finding his new and struggling community, Rick makes his way to Atlanta in hopes of reconnecting with civilization–which ultimately serves as condemnation of Atlanta and more broadly dying urban life. The empty streets of asphalt and the sidewalks of concrete are an echo of what once was. The buildings tower, almost close in on Rick. Rather than being greeted by “society” he meets swarms of zombies during this first visit. Atlanta once Rick’s place of hope is now hopeless. The city in 2010 is full of empty condos and houses that will not move in the stagnant real estate market. Like many an American city, particularly downtowns, it is a bleak city. Atlanta is a metaphor for modern issues of poverty and crime overcoming ailing cities in the United States with more zombies than humans wandering around. Dead cities, dead people.

You would think the beacon of hope would be the CDC, another of Rick’s stops. Not. They do not use the real CDC which is on Clifton Road in Atlanta. Security did not allow for access, I’m sure. Pike fences surround the real CDC, which is closed off from the street.

The small group led by Rick arrives on the edges the alternate CDC on open terrain still searching for civilization, along with answers. They find dead bodies scattered on the campus; not a good sign. And the undead are lurching about as usual.

When they get into the CDC after much drama, one man, a scientist still remains trying to figure out what went wrong. Why does this disease vector trigger an illness that transforms people into zombies? He does not have the answers sought by this band of gypsies. And the unspoken question: was the CDC responsible for the plague? There’s no answer for that question either.

Without fuel–perhaps an allegory of 21st Century reliance on fossil fuel, the CDC begins automatic shut-down and goes into self-destruct (so the cache of viruses and diseases that remain in the building are not released)  much like the survivors. When the scientist locks them in with him, locks them into his hopeless and futility, they fight to leave and survive.

The band, the cobbled community are still holding tight to their humanity in the midst of the dehumanizing plague. They still have free will, Christian theology for some, choosing to die with the scientist or continue to live on through the journey. The members of the community leave the CDC without a cure, without the answers to spoken and unspoken questions. Others stay behind choosing to die and give up on the journey, a cure, and their community. No matter the choice, there is free will.

Running across the grounds of the CDC dodging the undead, the survivors leap into the RV and other vehicles to continue their twisted frightening road trip.

What new place is next? Will the disease further strip the group of their humanity? As someone who loves show for the tortured troubled relationships, the struggle to create community, and maintain their humanity–not the zombies and many variations on clubbing and shooting them–I look forward to seeing what happens in the city, on the farm, and in the woods.

The Other Guys: Irony of the Toyota Prius and a New York Food Desert

The film The Other Guys starring two middle-aged guys who play middle aged guys is ironic in an America where we worship youth. It will be top-grossing this weekend despite ageism. Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), are the principal characters playing what is often young(ish) buff men in cop buddy films. There’s the Lethal Weapon movies: Riggs was young and buff and ok, Murtagh was middle-aged and not so buff. Some might describe all of this as buddy-cop satire.

The Other Guys opens with P. K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwanyne Johnson), caricature of super-cops so different from Gamble and Hoitz. The latter pairing is buff–ok Danson is buff. Both Highsmith and Danson are trash-talking womanizing police officers beloved by all of New York City. They also drive a gas guzzling muscle car that is destroyed twice in the movie. Oh and yeah, do you think the two men of color driving the anti-environmental car beat the stereotype of being offed early in the movie? Watch and see. Maybe they have to go because they don’t care about the environment. Ha.

Gamble and Hoitz, our middle-aged cop buddies, tool and chase around NYC in a kinder gentler vehicle: the Toyota Prius. Their car really reflects their age, that would be middle, although Hoitz is angry about being in a lady-car.

The Prius that does an average of 50 mpg is a central character much like Gamble and Hoitz. The lollipop red vehicle is in a number of scenes including a few chases. It gets dusted in cocaine: Prius owners everywhere are cringing that the car’s clean image is besmirched. When the bad guys steal the Prius by gun-point–everyone wants a Prius, I tell you–it ends up polluted but still chugging. A raccoon gives birth in the car, a mouse is found in the back, and bodily fluids spread all over the car. Hoitz even tosses litter from the passenger side of the Prius, a sacrilege from within such an energy efficient vehicle. The poor Prius is riddled with bullet holes but I bet it’s still getting high mileage to the very end even in the car chases.

That’s not the worst of it. The Other Guys turn New York City, I would argue the culinary capital of the world, into a food desert or a place where you can only get really poor quality food. A hot dog vendor selling dirty dogs from his cart offers Highsmith and Danson hot dogs for life–but no soda–in honor of the pair’s heroics early in the film. Hoitz angrily says he’s heading out for a slice, that’s pizza, probably in search of comfort food because Gamble gets on Hoitz’s nerves. In the squad room, Ritz Crackers and Oreos, product placement abounds, are set strategically behind Hoitz’s head. In the last scene of the movie, Gamble and Hoitz go to Hebrew National Hot Dogs in Coney Island to bond over their heroics. And wait for the bonus scene after the credits, which is filled with  pork fried rice and ribs at Chin Chins. I did see some lettuce in a scene with Gamble and his wife Dr. Sheila Gamble (Eva Mendes).

All of this has NYC’s urban backdrop of the Trump Tower, the Citibank Building, the George Washington Bridge, and the Empire State Building. For those of us from urban places, more specifically those who worked and/or lived in New York, it’s fun to figure out where the car chases are taking place.

Considering how folks in southern California including the film industry–all of this was tongue-in-check concerning a car and food–subsist on low carbs and farmer’s market vegetables is satiric.

Eva Mendes ugly? Ironic. Will Ferrell as Gamble as a pimp? Ironic. Mark Wahlberg liking being a traffic cop? Ironic.

All-in-all, some funny Saturday Night Live skits strung together that taken together don’t make much sense. Still it was funny.

Wonderful Fresh Food! The New Farmers Market in South Memphis

Inaugural South Memphis Farmers Market

The South Memphis Farmers Market is selling  fresh local produce to the South Memphis community. This is good news since the area is a food desert, meaning access to fresh food is not always possible. The farmers market is filling the void through the hard work of many people in the community who pushed for the passage of the South Memphis Revitalization Action Plan  (SoMe RAP). As a result, the predominantly African American community in South Memphis can benefit from fresh fruits and vegetables. Reverend Kenneth S. Robinson, pastor of St. Andrew AME Church and local politicians were on hand to mark the occasion.

Read more at the Memphis Commercial Appeal in Farmers Will Sell at Market in South Memphis. Watch on Eye Witness News: South Memphis Farmers Market Gets Set To Open. The Works has been instrumental, among many other local organizations in making the market happen. Read what The Works had to say in South Memphis Farmers Market Opens Tomorrow. Check out the White House, that would be in Washington, D.C. post titled Just Opened: The South Memphis Farmers Market.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Memphis Graffiti: Outdoor Urban Art

While in East Memphis, a more affluent retail and commercial part of the city, I look up and saw graffiti on a wall. Poplar Avenue is the main drag with upper-middle class suburban housing off either side of Poplar. The graffiti was on a street just off Poplar on the wall of a car wash. It was clear that the owners of the establishment left the art alone rather than paint over it. The only changes were when other taggers layered their work on top of existing graffiti. 

Graffiti goes back to ancient times unearthed in archeological digs of ancient Egypt and Rome. Today, the lettering and markings are illegal in cities across the US. 

Dianne, Linden Blvd, St. Albans, NY

I grew up in Queens, New York where graffiti is more common than uncommon; as a result I was drawn in by my memories of my old home and the outdoor urban art before me in Memphis. Some consider it art; others do not including the police. Generally, graffiti is a social statement or a tag by a gang member marking territory. 

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My interpretation of the graffiti in East Memphis? Taking a leap, since I am not part of graffiti culture, it was probably youth who sprayed the wall. The artists could be white, black, latino, or Asian. It’s difficult to tell although graffiti is typically in poor urban neighborhoods and often by blacks and Latinos. The words counter what surrounds it: underground culture versus the established middle-class. So the existence of the graffiti in East Memphis is a counter-cultural statement, a rejectionof middle class norms and values.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Getting to Know the Tennessee Clean Water Network

Renée and Sandra at Huey's // Photo by Dianne Glave

Last week Thursday on July the 1st, I had dinner with two people who are committed to environmentalism at the Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN): Renée Victoria Hoyos, the executive director and Sandra Upchurch, a board member. The organization started in 1998 and Renee has been the director since 2003. The TCWN is a non-profit organization “working on behalf of the environment, clean water and public health.” (http://www.tcwn.org/about)  

Renée left Knoxville that same day, stopping in Fredonia, the latter in western Tennessee, before meeting Sandra and me for dinner. Some community members in Fredonia contacted TCWN in 2005 for help: “the TVA Megasite Certification program had just certified 3800 acres of prime farmland for the I-40 Advantage facility.” (The Current: Newsletter of the TCWN, vol. 11, issue 1, Winter 2010, 3) The controversy over land use clearly inpacts Fredonia, a community in which many of the members  are descendents of enslaved people; yet the community was and still has not been consulted.

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When Renee arrived in Memphis, the three of us shared a meal at Huey’s in midtown. The restaurant is known for their hamburgers. The Hearth Healthy Huey Burger, one of four healthy options on the menu, was great! The conversation about the environmental justice in Tennessee was also enlightening. 

Both Renee and Sandra serve impoverished people who lack legal representation when it comes to the environment.  Personally, I am excited about the much-needed work Renée, Sandra, the staff, and board members are doing in Tennessee to protect the water and the people who base their very existence and life on the rivers, creeks,and lakes in the state.

I look forward to learning more in the near future. 

Unless Otherwise Noted, Images Courtesy of 

The Hatchling: Struggling . . . Action

Hatchling on a Memphis Sidewalk

 Action expresses priorities.     

~ Mohandas Gandhi 

Walking in Memphis along a tree-lined street, I noticed a hatchling on the ground. That baby bird had some big feet disproportionate to its body. I stopped. Of course, I stopped. Frightened with three people hovering over it, the bird kept moving and hopping. It was directionless, lost, and vulnerable. 

I wondered if a cat would ultimately get my bird. Some wild animals like foxes make their way into downtown Memphis so who knows what else awaited the hatchling. 

Eventually, I walked away looking back several times at the bird. We reached Methodist Hospital, our destination, but I was still thinking about that bird. Maybe I should have tried to grab it, find the nest, and put it back. 

At  the hospital, I took the elevator with an elderly woman who reminded me of my grandmother. She got off at her floor and looked around lost hauling her oxygen tank. I said to my colleagues as the doors closed, I should have gotten off and helped her. Another moment, another chance missed. She reminded me of the bird–directionless, lost, and vulnerable.

Gandhi Finger Puppet

In the hospital finally at a meeting, I was in a pensive mood. The colleague we were visiting had a pile of little finger puppet on his desk. Someone picked one up. Another said something about the puppets. My colleague, the host of the meeting, picked up the Gandhi finger puppet and said, “That’s for you.” I held it in my hand. Put it on my finger. I said, “Why Gandhi?” He said, “You know, environment . . . justice . . . the thing you do.” 

Description on Gandhi Finger Puppet

Stepping  out the building the grandmotherly woman was waiting by the door probably for her ride. She was making it through ok.  My colleagues and I walked back to work and the hatchling was gone. Who knows what happened to my baby bird. Maybe it made it.

I shoulda. I coulda. I am certainly no Gandhi but in the struggle, I need to move from thinking to acting like the great man. That thing I do responding to the bird, the woman, to creatures, to people.

Photographs by Dianne Glave

Pittsburgh: Where the City Meets Nature

Pittsburgh is a walking city. I love that kind of city. Washington, D. C., Philadelphia, and Chicago are much the same. Even Los Angeles has pockets of great walking including beach cities like Venice and Santa Monica. Downtown Los Angeles has some wonderful spots for strolling–Chinatown the garment and business districts, Little Tokyo, Pueblo, and the Staples Center to name a few places–though some might disagree because of crime and safety issues.

Back to Pittsburgh. I traveled there for the weekend and realized I had left my trusty digital camera behind at home. I made due learning how to use my Samsung Eclipse camera phone:

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City→(Earth to water to sky to vegetation to food to animals to people)←City.

Photos by Dianne Glave