Home. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
I walk along Walton street, hands in my pockets. The sky is blue, the road gray, and the young morning sun has some of its rays glinting off of the chrome-bright windows set in the high buildings around me. Tall shadows leave me in shade for much of my journey along the pockmarked sidewalk. I look down at these imperfections and smile. They, like the city I'm walking in, have their personalities, their characters. Every crack, every divit, every hole is a story in-and-of itself. These imperfections have seen much, likely much more than I have myself.
I cross Spring Street and continue, noting my distance by the ever growing visage of the Olympic Park amphitheater's roof. On my right is a parking lot that, just a few months ago, was chock full of red and black streamers, screaming fans, hollering parking attendants, flag wavers, and the ever-enticing smell of grills and barbecues. The thumping bass of hip-hop can still be felt in echoes along the aging brick and concrete of the buildings I now pass.
I turn left onto Olympic Park Drive, passing a Subway that, on a gameday, would have a line out of its back door. Today though, it's mostly dead. Subway serves breakfast but no one seems to be buying. Past it is a merchandise stall that, six months ago, was the only way you could still buy a Joey Harrington jersey legally. Not that anyone would want to, but it's nice to know that someone, anyone, didn't manage to forget the ebbs that came before the flows. Today though, it's chock full of Kentucky and Indiana merchandise; say what you will about Atlanta's denizens, just be sure to acknowledge our adaptability.
Up comes Marietta Street, always busy, even at 6:30 in the morning. I wait my turn and cross over to the CNN center side of Olympic diagonally. It may not technically be legal but the nearby traffic cop doesn't pay me any mind. Why should he? There are dozens of others doing the very same thing. Welcome to Atlanta, jaywalk if you must but make sure you have accomplices.
I've walked this path dozens of times, but I always manage to find something at which to stare. Today, it's an impoverished gentleman shaking a styrofoam Wendy's cup full of coins. He's wearing a battered Braves cap and an even more battered, old-logo emblazoned Falcons sweatshirt. The CNN center isn't open and the cup looks far too old to have been bought recently. I inwardly wonder how long he's been at this post, between the CNN center's Olympic-side doors and the entrance to Don Juan. The cop that passes me knows this fellow by name. A long time, I surmise.
Phillips Arena looms on my right, a line of cop cars loom on my left. The International Plaza MARTA station blooms and bustles and creaks below me as I cross a large concrete pavilion that encapsulations Phillips Drive, the right side of International Plaza, and the MARTA station entrance. Across from me is the Georgia World Congress Center, my ultimate destination. Alas, I do not head towards it. Instead, I lilt to the left and dodge a concrete pillar. Men and women in business suits pass me on the left, looking at me as if I'm heading the wrong way. "The action," their blank stares say, "is at the GWCC, not at the Georgia Dome." I smile, as if to say "it can't be helped," and ignore their scrutiny.
And it can't be helped. A portion of my heart, not owned by my wife, my family, or things to come, has driven me to the large, oddly shaped red-black-and white striped building in front of me. It practically glows in the rising sunlight. The building is a warm, welcoming sight for me. Others call it an eyesore. A part of me calls it home, and this morning it is calling like it has never called before.
I cross Andrew Young, pass Gate D, around Gate C, and into the plaza between GWCC's C building and the Dome proper. I find a bench and sit down, staring at the large glass facade of the home of the Atlanta Falcons. It's a majestic sight, hardly any foot traffic. The beast is asleep as the rest of the world goes on around it. A few Kentucky and Indiana fans are milling about, staring at this weirdo who is in turn staring at a building.
The warmth is incredible. A few months from now, this building will be truly alive. Sure, tonight, it will come alive with the sound of basketball and roaring fans from out of state. No, it isn't truly alive. Not then. This fall it will roar to live, reverberate with the combined passion of thousands of screaming Falcoholics. These fans, much like me, will live and die with every tumultuous play. That is our passion.
And yet, something's different. I know what it is, and so does the Dome. That's why it has called me to its bosom this day. It knows I have something to share, something to present to it. I do and I will.
This fall will mark the first Falcons football season that I will share with my daughter. That's right. I'm going to be a father this year. She will be born, depending on when she decides to come, in either late July or early August. She is already my best friend, my greatest accomplishment, my crowning achievment and she's not even born yet.
I want and yearn to share everything with my forthcoming bundle of joy. I want her to know the passion I have for things: writing, music, computers, technology, and, of course, the Falcons and football in general. People say "oh, but she'll be a girl, she won't want that." Something tells me different. Something tells me that I will share this passion with her when she's ready.
She already has the appropriate baby-wear waiting on her to grow into it. It was, after all, how my wife told me she was pregnant. I came home one day and was handed a gift-bag. Not knowing the occasion, thinking I had blundered in my husbandly duty, I hesitantly opened the bag and found two Falcons baby onesies. I am to be a father. I'm already in love.
So I sit, gazing at the Dome, knowing that someday, my daughter will know this epic building and the epic battles that ensue inside. It is up to her if she lets the passion take hold of her or not, but it will not be alien to her in the least. The lights around the Dome go out; the sun is high enough to warrant their fluorescence unnecessary. I get up and start to walk away. I take one look back at the building that part of me calls home. I smile. I can't wait to share it.