Grow up, Atlanta 

Friend-to-friend, girl, you gotta take care of yourself now

You've been racing around in a sports car for a little too long.

Always on to the next party – Olympic this, Super Bowl that. Too busy to hate, too busy to wait, too busy for anything but the next hustle.

And rebellious, too. Well, anybody would be if she had to live in the state of Georgia. I mean, here you are, the hippest hottie on the block, and you have to put up with your nasty old backward uncle. Who tries to take credit for every cool thing you ever did. Who robs your spare change to build drag strips for his buddies on the back 40. Who – hey, let's lay it all out in the open, we're friends, aren't we? – who keeps molesting you! Tries to make it hard to vote if you're black. Tries to kick you around if you're gay. Saddles you with pollution, predatory lenders and – worst of all, every January – the Georgia Legislature.

I hate to say it, but starting now, you need to get past all that. No more defining yourself by what you're not. You're not racist, not stupid, not stuck in the 19th century. We know that.

Now, move forward, Atlanta, to what you really want to be when you grow up.

Seems like just yesterday, you were a 400,000-person whippersnapper. Once you get up to 600,000 people – yeah, that's what we're expecting from you, 600,000 by around 2020! – once you get up to around 600,000, you think people are going to let you just blame your shortcomings on your nasty old Uncle Sonny?

Look, I don't want you to flame out like Detroit or Houston or Buffalo, N.Y. If you want to hang out with the really, really cool cities – the Seattles, the Chicagos, the Londons, the Pragues, the places that don't just attract people but also make 'em happy to hang out for a long time, the places that people remember – then you gotta clear your head of all the baggage from your past and aim a whole lot higher.

We're talking quality of life, baby. We're talking about cleaning up your own act on cultural efforts, like quality festivals and green initiatives. Why in the world aren't you tapping into the money you supposedly set aside for public art? You think that wouldn't be money well spent on making a good impression?

We're talking about following through on commitments to people, like affordable housing – not making a bunch of promises and then forgetting them. People are going to judge you on that sort of thing, baby.

We're talking about getting this whole bureaucracy thing under control. You've got too many projects to get done to be tossing away money the way you've been doing.

And when it comes to the fast crowd that throws around campaign contributions and jobs in hopes that you'll let them put up some cheap strip centers and apartments, you gotta recognize something: You are fine, baby. You have got to believe in yourself. These developers need you a lot more than you need them. Hold out for quality. Ain't nothing wrong with playing hard to get for the right reasons.

Don't get me wrong. You are doing a lot of the right things. Shirley's a damn sight better than Bill Campbell. The Beltline, the Peachtree Trolley – stay focused on those visionary ideas and figure out how to make them happen!

And to stay focused, just walk past that nasty old Uncle Sonny. By all means, stand up for your rights. If he tries to pick your pocket, hold onto your wallet. If he fucks with your rights, slap him – maybe, with a lawsuit. But don't fixate on him.

One other thing, though (and with everything that's happened, this may be tough to hear): If your nasty old uncle says he's sorry, be open to forgiving him. I'm not suggesting you jump at the first hint of an apology. You got your pride. Make him grovel for it: He's gotta give help to Grady. He's gotta stop building these roads to nowhere – and start helping out with your get-around-town projects. He's gotta show some sign that he'll try to reform when it comes to just being decent to people. But if he's sincere, forgive him.

After all, families really are stronger when they stand together.

Ken Edelstein is editor of Creative Loafing-Atlanta.

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