Yesterday, on my last day in Atlanta, I took a ride through Southwest Atlanta. This quadrant of the city is my home and the setting for all my novels so far and I like to take a quiet tour just to say thank you to the place that has nurtured me and my creativity.
Atlanta has undergone many changes over the last twenty years. In my second novel, The Untelling, I wrote about a neighborhood in the West End that is in the middle of gentrification. It’s a tricky this, this turning over of neighborhoods. But what I was seeing this time was neighborhoods in that same zip code that are not being “renewed.”
Paschal’s Motor Inn has been declared a historic landmark. After all, it was a regular meeting place for the titans of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Kind, Andy Young, etc regularly met there to discuss plans and just to enjoy the legendary fried chicken dinners. During segregation there were no other places that black folks could go and be treated with respect. After segregation ended, Paschal’s went into a decline as did the neighborhood. I think this is because that many black folks failed to realize that places like Paschal’s were nice places, not just places we went because we were not welcome elsewhere.
Paschal’s is a location that looms large in my imagination. You will find it mentioned several times in Silver Sparrow. It’s where Gwen goes on that fateful date with her ex-husband. (“If it’s good enough for Dr. King, it’s good enough for us.” It’s also where Raleigh and James go to enjoy jazz and cocktails. To see it now, you wouldn’t have the slightest clue that this used to be a special place.
I am pleased to note that there is a new Paschal’s restaurant– a lovely red-brick building about a mile a way from the old site. Pearl and I sometimes go there for brunch. But sill, it doesn’t ease the sting of driving by the historic building and see it boarded up and to see the buildings around it in similar states of disrepair.
Much of the southwest side of Atlanta is in a state of neglect that breaks my heart. It’s a shame and I don’t know what can be done about it.
Read the NYT Obit of James V. Paschal