A Walk Northeast Down Euclid Avenue

(2020)   Back

I start on the corner of Euclid and Washita. The sky is flat and white. It's hard to know what time of day it is - the sun is hidden behind dense clouds.

Heading north-east up Euclid Avenue, I leave behind me the dirty white columns and long, gloomy porches Inman Park. After Washita there are two patches of rough, open land. On my side of the road it's a slope: dirty and studded with tree stumps, leading up to a large warehouse building, looking defiant as a castle, giving nothing away. Behind its ramparts a brick chimney peeks out - an old factory maybe. On the other side of the road, the open land is formless: grass, mud, an abandoned red convertible, a pile of dry branches.

I carry on along the cracked sidewalk. There are buildings across the road, this time commercial: a vape shop, a CBD boutique and a Mexican restaurant topped with terracotta tiles, California mission style. The block is bookended with graffiti; not the unwanted, defacing kind, but the trendy, commissioned kind. On one side there's a circle of monochromatic Mickey Mouse hands, gloved, reaching; on the other there's a huge mural of flowers, faces, and calavera skulls.

Separated from the Mexican restaurant by a parking lot is another huddle of shops, painted in bright, faded colours. The first is Four Corner Free Market, mustard-yellow, its windows plastered with adverts for henna and crystals. Next to it is Elmyr, another Mexican restaurant, but very different from the first one. Elmyr is doing everything it can to not look like a Mexican restaurant, but more like a bar: neon sign, blacked-out windows, more cool graffiti. Only when I look closer do I see the graffiti is of Mexican wrestlers.

I walk further into the commercial district. The castle-like building on my side of the road is revealed to be Bass Lofts, 'Authentic loft apartments'. There is only a scattering of cars in its parking lot, and no pedestrians in sight. Perhaps it is a quiet weekday. On the other side of the road is a string of eclectic buildings: two art deco theatres, separated by a coffee shop, a hookah bar and a mediterranean restaurant. The first theatre looks like an old cinema, and is now a music venue, with organ pipes above the marquee. The other one is still a theatre, its sign stepped like the Empire State building, and has an extension on one side with a façade built to look like it's falling down - a postmodern joke. Beneath the sign, sitting outside the coffee shop, a woman is staring at her phone. This is the first person I've seen, and in the doorway of the theatre I see another: a homeless man wrapped in a tartan blanket.

On my side of Euclid, next to Bass Lofts, there is a strange brick building with a very long porch and glass-brick windows. It looks like an old church hall or community space, but its doors are shut and its windows reflect the blank sky. Out front there's some weather-worn garden chairs that suggest an old people's home.

Something about it is eerie, and I turn to look at the other side, where there are more daytime businesses, and most of them are open. Rag-o-Rama is a vintage shop with racks of clothes, and nestled next to it is a juice bar, doors open and lights on, painted a mystic purple. Just behind, I see movement: an old man, walking away into the Rag-o-Rama parking lot. He wears a cowboy hat and carries a green bag. I don't see his face.

It's hard to tell whether the weather is hot or cold. I look to the sky for information, but it tells me nothing. The clouds are thick and white, sliced up by telephone wires, some of which have pairs of shoes hung from them. I continue up the road and find it packed with shops. Next to the juice bar is a bright blue bike shop and a place called Soul Village. And, on my side, there's a corrugated metal shack selling neon-coloured clothing, a tattoo parlour with more tasteful graffiti, and a restaurant selling dishes named after places (Connecticut Cheeseburger, Chicago Gyro, Florida Sandwich).

I almost trip over a scooter left on the ground, but manage to catch myself from falling into the crossing ahead. It's the first intersection I've passed since Washita. To the left there's the slope of an unnamed road, lined with two-storey houses like the ones back in Inman Park. There are no cars approaching, so I cross, walking over deep cracks in the tarmac that have broken up the white street markings.

Ahead, Euclid bends right, and the shops are closely packed now, one after the other: streetwear, wigs, mobile phones, cannabis. Two men stand chatting under the green canopy of a restaurant called the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club. A shopfront further up is painted with zebra stripes: the Pink Zebra Boutique. Distracted, I trip over another strewn scooter and this time I fall into the road, just managing to get out of the way of an oncoming truck - a big one. Six wheels, four wing mirrors, bright red with ALDRIGE written across it. It thunders past.

Recovering, I come to the end of Euclid Avenue. On my side of the road, the sidewalk widens to encompass fenced-off trees and accommodate more shopfronts. The intersection ahead is large and busy. I read the little green sign strapped to the lamppost: Moreland Avenue. Wide, four lanes. Diagonally across there's a diner called Zesto, surrounded by an empty parking lot. It looks a long way away. But here the sky is mottled blue: maybe the clouds are dispersing. Maybe the sun will show. The only question now is which direction to take.