The Millennial Generation and Communal Living

An interesting piece in The New York Times profiles how a certain subset of the millennial generation is choosing to live in a communal apartment. While your credit history doesn’t matter, you have to pass an interview to get accepted to live in one of these places:

[A] few companies are assembling bundles of apartments in New York with plans to fill them with cherry-picked inhabitants. Promising “a modern, urban lifestyle that values openness, collaboration and relationship building,” Common has entered into agreements with developers to renovate properties in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. This fall, it will begin renting 19 rooms at a Crown Heights property.

“We live in a super-disconnected city that has tons and tons of people, but it can feel really lonely here,” said Harrison Iuliano, who until last week worked as the programming director of Pure House, which rents out rooms to about 40 people in nine apartments in various buildings around Williamsburg. “Our goal is to make that a nonissue.”

Russell Jackson relinquished a studio six months ago to live in a six-bedroom Pure House apartment with a rotating cast (he presently has three flat mates). “I’m getting exposure to stuff and things that I would not have had sequestered on the Upper West Side,” said Mr. Jackson, a 52-year-old chef.

“Laundry services and cleaners and masseuses — all of that is icing,” he said. The real perks are the people he has met along the way. “How cool is it that I walk in the door and they ask me, ‘How’s your day?’ And I am genuinely interested in hearing from them,” said Mr. Jackson, who considers himself the Den Dad to the other tenants, who generally are two or three decades his junior and stay a month or two at a time.

Mr. Jackson, who has appeared on “Iron Chef America,” also orchestrates Pure House’s food events, including its pop-up dinner parties. At one such party, none of the 30 guests knew one another, but most embraced when the night was over…

I think this kind of thing can take off in large urban center like NYC and San Francisco. I’m less convinced that it could take off in larger, spread out cities like Atlanta.

Atlanta is the Worst Metropolitan City in America for Upward Mobility

A troubling new report summarizes the trends for upward mobility in the United States, and is summarized in The New York Times. Atlanta is the largest metropolitan city with the worst upward mobility, both for the black and white population in the city:

The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas.

Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.

Income mobility was also higher in areas with more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.

Regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates. But the researchers’ analysis suggested that this was not primarily because of their race. Both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility, for instance.

The authors emphasize that their data allowed them to identify only correlation, not causation. Other economists said that future studies will be important for sorting through the patterns in this new data.

Still, earlier studies have already found that education and family structure have a large effect on the chances that children escape poverty. Other researchers, including the political scientist Robert D. Putnam, author of “Bowling Alone,” have previously argued that social connections play an important role in a community’s success. Income mobility has become one of the hottest topics in economics, as both liberals and conservatives have grown worried about diminished opportunities following more than a decade of disappointing economic growth. After years of focusing more on inequality at a moment in time, economists have more recently turned their attention to people’s paths over their lifetimes.

A child who grows up in a family making $50,000 annually (42nd percentile ) is likely to end up, on average, in the 43rd percentile of income at working age of 30. Click through the article and play with the data set in the middle of the article to see how your city compares.

The Onion Makes Fun of an Atlanta Social Media Rock Star

This is the first The Onion post I’ve ever linked to, and damn, if it isn’t a great one. Titled “Social Media Rock Star Makes $28,000 Per Year,” it’s chock-full of awesome one-liners and non sequiturs:

Sources confirmed that Wasserman, who is paid $13 per hour and is not eligible for overtime, appears regularly on the FavStar daily leaderboard and is frequently featured in “Must Follow” lists from the Huffington Post, CNN, andTIME. Influential Twitter users such as musician Questlove, actress Olivia Wilde, Mashable founder Pete Cashmore, and NBA star Blake Griffin also follow Wasserman’s tweets, which the high-profile social media icon reportedly writes on the iPhone his parents bought him and still keep on their family plan.

Moreover, experts say the swift ascent of the 28-year-old entry-level employee into the upper echelons of internet superstardom is showing no signs of slowing down.

I wonder why they chose to pick on an Atlanta suburbanite. Anyway, you have to click through the article to watch the video. HILARIOUS.


(Oddly, the Twitter account in the article is one that belongs to Erika of Chicago).

The Atlanta Food Truck Scene

As part of their 2012 Fall Dining Guide, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution rounds up the dozen best food trucks in and around Atlanta. A lot of these names were new to me:


The owners of this relative newcomer to the truck scene got their start catering on movie sets, and then decided to bring their food to the rest of us with their truck, Grilldabeast. Dishes like the smoked-then-fried wings with mango Thai chili glaze or the panko-fried avocado with eel sauce are not to be missed. Regularly seen for dinner Thursdays and lunch Saturdays at the Atlanta Food Truck Park. 404-719-6563

Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen

With a strong focus on local ingredients, this “farm-to-street” truck is a great spot for distinctive sandwiches, salads, and pasta. Powering the kitchen is an on-board Big Green Egg, giving each of their dishes that fresh-from-the-backyard smokiness you can only get on a charcoal grill. Regularly seen at dinner Tuesdays at the Taylor Brawner Park in Smyrna (3180 Atlanta Road, 6-9 p.m.), lunch Thursdays at 12th and Peachtree streets in Midtown (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) and lunch Sundays at the Atlanta Food Truck Park. 404-719-3257

Honeysuckle Gelato

Combining his Southern roots with his training at the hands of legendary gelato maker Jon Snyder, Jackson Smith has crafted a dessert truck definitely worth checking out. With more than 100 flavors to date, like ginger molasses or mint julep, the prolific team at Honeysuckle constantly changes up the menu, but many of its staple flavors can also be found at restaurants like La Tavola, Atlanta Fish Market and STG Trattoria. Regularly seen for dinner Thursdays and Fridays at the Atlanta Food Truck Park. 404-228-7825

Ibiza Bites

This truck serves “SoLa” cuisine, a blend of Latin American and Southern food that shines through best with dishes like Lola’s coconut fried chicken, served with a mango chili glaze atop a bed of fresh jicama, pineapple, mango and basil slaw. Regularly seen for dinner Tuesdays at Taylor Brawner Park in Smyrna and Fridays for lunch at Atlantic Station in Midtown (17 1/2 St., 11 a.m.-2 p.m.). 404-857-9308

Mix’D UP

The mobile truck of the Cuzine Chef catering company, Mix’D UP is a rock-‘n’-roll inspired truck that serves up some pretty serious burgers. Go for the Rockin’ Hero, a lamb burger topped with tzatziki sauce, spinach, tomatoes and feta served on a ciabatta bun, or the super-sloppy open-faced Texan, an Angus patty topped with bacon, cheddar, pulled pork and slaw. Regularly seen for dinner on Tuesdays at Taylor Brawner Park in Smyrna, dinner on Wednesdays in Virginia Highlands in Atlanta (841 N. Highland Ave., 6-9 p.m.) and lunch on Thursdays at 12th and Peachtree streets in Midtown. 404-822-6758

I wish more of these trucks stationed near Buckhead rather than Midtown/Downtown.

The New International Terminal at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

The new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta will open on May 16, 2012. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has some details about the “dry run” that took place to test the terminal:

More than 1,600 volunteers streamed into the new $1.4 billion complex bright and early for the dry run. Hundreds had signed up to participate within hours of the airport’s call for helpers in March.

Many were eager to get a sneak peek at the gleaming 1.2 million square-foot terminal and 12-gate concourse — and give some constructive criticism.

The airport gave each volunteer a trip itinerary and script, which they used to get to the new terminal off I-75, check in for a flight, get a fake boarding pass and check bags, pass through security, report to a gate and go through boarding.

Arriving test passengers went through Customs and immigration checks and claimed bags at the new terminal. They were also directed to look for restrooms, duty-free shops, concessions, the information desk, baggage office, taxi stand, shuttles or other amenities.

The terminal is almost four years in the making and comes with a $1.4 billion price tag. The 1.2 million square foot terminal and concourse will facilitate direct flights to 45 countries

I think the biggest benefit of the new international terminal will be the elimination of the need for arriving Atlanta-bound travelers to recheck bags upon arrival (and having to go through security after clearing Customs).

Still, it’s amazing the huge turnout this practice run had. One person interviewed in the story has been following the terminal for ten years and took a vacation day from work to participate.

The Woes of Atlanta’s Housing Market

The New York Times has a story on Atlanta’s depressed housing market. It paints a dire picture of my hometown:

The reasons for Atlanta’s housing woes are both representative of the nation’s troubles and special to this former boomtown, where housing appreciated handsomely, though not to the lofty heights of Las Vegas, Miami and New York.

Where the region once attracted thousands of prospective home buyers drawn by plentiful jobs and more affordable living, that influx has dwindled. Local unemployment, at 9.2 percent, is slightly higher than the national rate, in part because one in every four jobs lost was connected to real estate, a much higher rate than in the rest of the country. Those jobs have yet to return, while even people with work are having trouble qualifying for loans.

The region, plagued by mortgage fraud and developers who dotted the exurban landscape with large luxury homes that never sold, is inundated with foreclosed properties. In fact, Atlanta has the most government-owned foreclosed properties for sale of any large city, according to the Federal Reserve.

Quite simply, it’s a buyer’s market right now:

Atlanta has suffered greatly from a contracting pool of home buyers. The number of people moving from within the United States to Atlanta peaked at 100,000 in 2006 and plunged to just 17,000 by 2009, the latest census figures available.

Are Southern Manners on the Decline?

For those of you living in the South, would you agree that the Southern charm is fading? Today’s piece in The New York Times asserts so:

The Tavern at Phipps case, and a growing portfolio of examples of personal and political behavior that belies a traditional code of gentility, has scholars of Southern culture and Southerners themselves wondering if civility in the south is dead, or at least wounded.

But what is the reason for the decline in Southern manners?

Newcomers still get much of the blame. In the past decade the South has seen an unprecedented influx of immigrants from both other states and other countries. The population in the south grew by 14.3 percent from 2000 to 2010, making it the fastest growing region in the country.

But there is more behind the social shift, scholars say. Digital communication and globalization have conspired to make many parts of the South less insular. Couple that with a political climate as contentious as anyone can remember and a wave of economic insecurity rolling across the region, and you’ve got a situation where saying “thank you, ma’am” isn’t good enough anymore.

Anecdotally speaking, I would agree (living in Atlanta) that living in the South is less about “Yes, sir” and “Thank you, ma’am” than it used to be. However, since there is no stringent way to test this assertion, your experience will probably vary.

Atlanta, Zombie Capital of the World

How fast can you say “Braaaains”? My hometown, is getting some nice press coverage in The New York TimesNamely, Atlanta is the zombie capital of the world!

That, at least, is what Atlanta Magazine, the glossy monthly, has dubbed this Southern city [editor’s note: the feature in Atlanta Magazine is really worth your time].

It’s not only that “The Walking Dead,” the hit zombie show that began its second season on AMC on Sunday, is filmed and set here. Or that Atlanta holds some of the nation’s largest zombie film festivalszombie paradesand zombie haunted houses. Or that even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that staid Atlanta-based federal agency, joined in the fun with a tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving a zombie apocalypse.

So why Atlanta as the setting for The Walking Dead?

Robert Kirkman, the Kentucky native who wrote the graphic novel on which “The Walking Dead” is based, wanted the story set in a large Southern city. One of the largest annual gathering of zombies, DragonCon, a fantasy and science fiction convention, happened to be founded by an Atlanta resident. And this sprawling city, with swatches of foreclosed or abandoned property, is easy to make look spooky.

I’ve watched the first season of The Walking Dead. Personally, I think it’s an okay show, but nowhere near as good as, say, Breaking Bad or LOST.

What do you think of The Walking Dead? Is it just a big hype of a show or does it have something special going for it?

On Living in Atlanta

Atlanta has been my home for most of my life. It’s a massive, sprawling city unlike any I’ve lived or visited in the world.

In the latest issue of More Intelligent Life, a correspondent for The Economist, Jon Fasman, reminisces about living in Atlanta, after having lived in New York City, Washington D.C., Hong Kong, London, and Moscow (Russia). It’s a great read.

Ah, the big ice storm in February of this year which shut the city down:

The weekend after we moved down, it snowed. Not much—an inch or two over a full day—but it shut the city down. Something similar but worse happened this year: a three-inch storm coupled with a week of below-freezing temperatures shut the city down for nearly a week.

I like this comparison:

Different cities are suited to different seasons: a few years back I was posted to Moscow, which blooms in the winter and wilts in summer. New York’s summer days are repulsive—walking outside feels like swimming through garbage soup—but there is no place I’d rather spend a summer evening. Atlanta is built for spring and fall—the pleasant seasons, and Atlanta is a profoundly pleasant city. 

Vivid descriptions in this paragraph. Though I suspect you can extend the relaxation into the weekends in Atlanta (at least, in my view, more so than you would in New York City):

That is not as easy as it seems. New York is thrilling, Hong Kong a marvel of density, Moscow the closest a city can get to a cocaine level of jitteriness and excitement, London endless: I love all four places, but I would never describe them as pleasant. They are none of them as comfortable and human-scaled as Atlanta. Social life just sort of happens here. In New York and London my calendar filled up weeks in advance; here it is not unusual to look forward to a relaxing, empty weekend on Thursday and then find that Saturday and Sunday are frantic.

Lastly, I have to agree with the author’s assessment here. Atlanta has terrible traffic (I believe Atlantans spend more time in traffic getting to their jobs than anywhere else in the country), our public transportation system (MARTA) is severely limited, and schools ITP aren’t on the same level as those OTP.

 Atlantans divide the area into “ITP” and “OTP”—Inside the Perimeter and Outside the Perimeter, the highway that rings the city and its closest suburbs. Most of the area’s population is O; most of its charms are decidedly I. One quirk of Atlanta’s development is that urban areas like mine feel rather rustic, while suburbs that were rural 30 years ago are now strip-malled, parking-lotted and planned-communitied into blacktopped uniformity. For all its charms, Atlanta provides an object lesson for mid-sized cities today in how not to grow. It sprawls, it really does have bad traffic, and thanks to a befuddling stew of overlapping city and county governments, it has negligible public transport and dysfunctional state schools. Better to treat the perimeter as a national border, and cross it only on trips abroad.

Do read the whole article and don’t miss the solid recommendations on what to do/see at the bottom of the piece.

If you’re a native to Atlanta, what’s your opinion on the author’s take of Atlanta? If you’ve only visited Atlanta, how does it differ from other cities you’ve visited?