Georgia

Alan Gilmer in Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta
Alan Gilmer
Hash Browns Waffle House

The Place: Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is not what you would call a “walking city”. Everyone, much like the in the rest of the U.S., drives everywhere. There’s little-to-no public transport, and that can seem alien to a European. A drive into the city that would have taken 20 minutes anywhere else took us an hour-and-a-half so, if you’re heading out anywhere by car, make sure to allocate a lot of extra time for gridlocked traffic.

Steeped in a fascinating history, there are plenty of sites worth visiting. At the top of my list, since I was in the South, was to visit a plantation, where you’re guided through the generations that lived in them while they were functioning. Some of it is hard to hear, but it’s something everyone should see at least once.

Naturally, as it’s an American city, there’s also the skyscrapers that dwarf those across the pond, though the Atlanta skyline has nothing on the likes of Chicago. To top it all off as an added bonus, there’s a strangely diverse array of bird life in Atlanta, especially in the suburbs. Go late enough in spring and you might lucky enough to be there for the return of the migratory hummingbirds.


Please note that we do not fact-check our interviewees, and that their views do not necessarily represent our own.

Alan Gilmer, 33 – Atlanta, Georgia (And New York, New York)

I was born and raised in the lovely city of Atlanta, where we are now, but I’ve lived in New York for 10 and a half years, since June 24th 2007. I am a recently retired interior designer turned carpet salesmen, and I’m re-carpeting America one house and building at a time. I’m an AIDS activist, and raise a lot of money for the LGBT centre of NYC, for their HIV/AIDS services and programming which they offer to the community of NYC for free. So I participate in their annual bike ride, ‘cycle for the cause’, which is a 275 mile, 3-day bike ride from Boston to NYC, to raise money and awareness to fight the AIDS epidemic and put it to an end. I’m also a weightwatchers ambassador, which is a recent thing, and I’ve recently been quoted by Oprah Winfrey, so life is good.

  1. What is home to you?

Home is a place that you enter and it rises up to meet you – you’re asking this to an interior designer.”

See Alan's Full Answer

Home is a place that you enter and it rises up to meet you – you’re asking this to an interior designer. It’s a place that should reflect the person who lives in it. So it should reflect who you are; pictures of people who matter to you, or art. But home can also be wherever you are. Like right now, I’m home even though this is not MY home – its my mom’s house – Atlanta is also my home… even though I never want to live here ever again. New York is home for now, and probably the long-term. I’m here for the Jewish holiday of Passover; paesach, cos we’re Jewish. Shalom.

 

  1. Why did you leave Atlanta to go to NYC?

“I’ve wanted to live in NYC since I was, like, 8 years old when I saw “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”…”

See Alan's Full Answer

Well, I was graduating from the university of Georgia, my course of study was interior design, and the only place that I felt would be appropriate for me to pursue that would be NYC, which is like the capital of design; where it all happens. And also I’ve wanted to live in NYC since I was, like, 8 years old when I saw “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” and I was just like “that’s it, I wanna be there, it seems amazing – Omazing – Oh yeah, I created a word called Omazing. And Oprah says she likes it a lot.

  1. What have you learned from living in Atlanta or New York? 

“…you are dealing with your phone, social media, work life, email, meetings, and all the minutia, it’s really important to be as present as possible”

See Alan's Full Answer

I was ready to leave Atlanta, so I got what I needed, needed to go, never wanna come back here aside from seeing my lovely family. I would say it’s more of a personal journey. I’ve learned to be more present, because when you live in a busy city like NYC, where you constantly have something going on every night of the week and you are dealing with your phone, social media, work life, email, meetings, and all the minutia, it’s really important to be as present as possible at every moment. If you’re somewhere and you’re giving yourself away to something else, be it your phone, or if your mind is somewhere else thinking about what you have to do, you’re not really being fair to yourself or to whatever it is that you’re doing. I know that probably sounds silly coming from someone who lives in busiest city in the world, but I think that’s important. I don’t do yoga or meditate or any of that stuff, but that’s why you don’t see me out here tweeting… I’ll be doing that later.

  1. Have you ever been outside of the United States?

“…to experience the culture and see how other people live and immerse yourself in it and be present in it…

See Alan's Full Answer

Yes, yes I have. Oh my. I’ve mostly been for love! No, for vacation. I’ve been to the middle east, Europe, Canada… I loved them all. I’ve loved everywhere I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to. I wish I could do it more. You can just let go, and you’re somewhere else and you don’t really have… an agenda, other than what it is you’re gonna do. When I went to Israel was to see Israel and experience that; it was on birthrite. When I went to England and spent time there, it was to see loved ones but also to experience the culture and see how other people live and immerse yourself in it and be present in it. What are they eating? What are they seeing? What are they doing?  What are they talking about? What are they wearing? You’ve gotta step outside yourself and go observe other people, cultures and countries. Because we are so much more alike than we are different, and I think you see that when you travel abroad.

  1. Can you think of a time when have you been proud of New York or Atlanta?

I can say in my lifetime that I grew up as an American without the same rights as everybody else”

See Alan's Full Answer

There’s a couple of times that could make me cry, because I was so happy and proud to be a New Yorker. The first is when gay marriage was passed on the state level in New York, and I was fortunate enough to be at stonewall, which is where the gay civil rights movement began. It’s a lovely gay bar in the west village of New York, on Christopher street. I watched them vote and pass it, and I will never forget it for the rest of my life. It was just an incredible historic moment. I’m from the South and I’m from a place where not only at that time was gay marriage not legal, but they voted on a law to make it illegal, so that was the first, and it was like “Damn, my city’s got my back. My mayor loves me, my governor loves me. I’m supported by my entire state and my entire community.” And I come from a place where I wasn’t. I walked down the street the next day and felt taller. I really, really did feel differently. It was a very strange feeling to be given a right that I should have had in the first place. Like I can say in my lifetime that I grew up as an American without the same rights as everybody else, and I was granted them first in 2011, on the state level, and then again in 2015 thanks to our president, Barack Obama and Amy Windosr, who was a plantiff in the case to sue the government because they made her pay estate tax on her wife’s estate when she passed away, and she won. That led to the United States turning it over and creating marriage equality on a national level. So those were moments when I was like “Dammit, I’m really proud to be a New Yorker. We’re setting the stage for how the rest of the country needs to be.” And it worked. It was the most magical moment ever. I was walking around high as a kite on just happiness. And it was also pride. Both times. People burst into the streets. I don’t know why, they’ve always voted on those issues at pride. We all bum-rushed down to stonewall and they closed down the streets. Everyone was celebrating. People were crying, you’ve never seen anything like it. It was INSANE. Insane. I feel like that was something really special, and something I’ll never forget. Ever.

  1. What is your main concern about the United States/New York/Atlanta?

“…I’d like him to serve time for obstructing justice, for colluding with Russia.”

See Alan's Full Answer

I mean… I would change our president. I would like it to be known and proved that he is a criminal; a crook. And I’d like him to serve time for obstructing justice, for colluding with Russia. And I think that speaks for itself. I don’t need to go into detail about what he’s done, and what it’s done to our country. That’s what needs to happen.

 

In New York, there’s things that, yeah, we need to change. The subways could be better. There’s things that annoy me that aren’t great but, as a whole, I’m gonna give New York 5 stars. I’m gonna give the United States no stars right now, but I believe, and have hope and see a pivot happening with the ‘Times Up’ and ‘Me Too’ movements; and now with the kids from Parkland, I feel like, as Oprah said, a new day is on the horizon. I see like Jon Ossof almost won in Atlanta. He got very close and that’s commendable and incredible, but he needs to carry the ball over the finish line next time. I don’t really have that much hope for Atlanta. Atlanta is on track, aside from the traffic. It’s the rest of this damn state that’s ass-backwards. There’s pockets of wonderfulness like Savannah or Athens, Georgia where I went to college, but no. If Georgia was really a wonderful place to be, I’d be here. But there’s somewhere more wonderful for me to be where I feel like I’m in alignment so I  ain’t gonna leave. Maybe I’ll come to the London. If our country doesn’t course-correct what has happened. No, we said that last time “Oh if he wins I’m gonna leave.” But you can’t leave. You have to stay here, stand up, use your voice. We’ll get it right. I think we took more than one step backwards though.

  1. How would you convince a tourist to visit Atlanta or New York?

“I don’t care who you are or what you like, you’ll find it and you’re going to love it.”

See Alan's Full Answer

Atlanta is a great place, I would definitely tell people to come visit Atlanta. There’s soul, and sass, and class. And a loooot of traffic. But I’m not gonna sell you on Atlanta because that’s not where I am any more. I would sell you on New York because if you’re interested in coming to the most omazing city in the entire world, there’s nothing like it anywhere else. You can go to any kind of urban metropolis city around the world and see omazing things, but you’re never ever gonna experience anything like New York. The food, the people, Broadway- just everything. There’s something for everybody in New York. I don’t care who you are or what you like, you’ll find it and you’re going to love it. If you want quietness, there’s a place in Manhatten where you can be very still and quiet. If you like the hustle and bustle, there’s that too. But there’s such high energy in New York, it’s literally tangible.

  1. What are your thoughts about New York stereotypes?

“…we’re just edgier, busier and more direct. So you better be able to handle it.”

See Alan's Full Answer

I’m gonna stay focused on New York. A stereotype would be that New Yorkers are mean and impatient, and it’s totally not true. We’re just busy. Would you like it if someone came up and knocked on your car window on the way to work all the time every day? It can get annoying, but you know what? All you have to do is just stop a New Yorker and ask for directions. They’ll tell you where to go, but they’ll just be direct with you. They’re not gonna hold your hand. But we’re also super friendly. We’re just like everybody else in the country, but we’re a little more straightforward. I have conversations with the people in the grocery store just like the people here (in Atlanta). Now people here are a little more forward. You’re more likely to talk to somebody – a stranger – I think maybe in the South more than in New York, but I have conversations with strangers all the time in New York City. We are just as friendly as everybody else, we’re just edgier, busier and more direct. So you better be able to handle it. Don’t get offended, we’re lovely. Another thing that you’ll hear is that people who come to New York for the first time after hearing all about it will come away and say “wow, everyone was so friendly and so lovely and nice.” It’s true.

 

Something that’s true about New York…? It’s dirty. But not everywhere. But that’s not a good thing, I should have said a good thing that’s true. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful when it snows; you’ll never see anything like it. Like, central park after a fresh snow is gorgeous. It’s gorgeous in the summer, I mean we have such dramatic weather. Yes, we’ve had hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards and 2 feet of snow, but, come to New York in the Summer – Oh. My god. You can go to the beach, you can take the Long Island rail, you can go to long Island and be at a beach in NYC within 45 minutes and come back and be all refreshed and tanned and go for a nice glass of rosé or a mojito or whatever it is your hear desires. Oh my god, yes.

  1. What’s the best thing ever to come out of New York or Atlanta?

“…it’s the concrete jungle where dreams are made. Dreams come true in New York.”

See Alan's Full Answer

Me. I think the best thing to come out of New York is – to quote my girlfriend O-leisha Keys – is to say that it’s the concrete jungle where dreams are made. Dreams come true in New York. It’s where you can go to chase your passion, chase your dreams. And yes, with hard work you can make them come true. Even if you’re just a tourist. Some people, all they wanted to do their whole lives was to come and see the statue of liberty, because that means something to them. Or some people wanted to come to New York and become a mogul, and become a talkshow host, or the CEO of something… and you can do it. So that would be the most omzaing thing to come out of New York. O-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Omazing.

  1. What is your favourite local dish?

“…if you want the best Greek food, I can tell you where to go in Queens and you’ll think you’re in Greece.”

See Alan's Full Answer

New York is known for food. You could say “oh, the best pizza is in New York”. Listen, I can direct you somewhere where you will – I hope you have your socks on – where you will have pizza that will knock your socks off. But oh my God I recently just came across the place that has the MOST incredible bagel I’ve ever had. They make it on the premises and its fresh.

 

I can tell you the places to go for the best of the best of the best. The place to go to have the most incredible mac and cheese ever… aside from Grandma’s cos Grandma’s mac and cheese is in its own category and is still on fleek to this day. So yeah, New York would be known for its bagels, pizza, hot dogs. Once a year I have a hinkering for a hot dog from, like, a street car and I’ll go and I’ll have it and it satisfies something. But we do also have the best street food. In the rest of America now you’re seeing street food, street cars where they do these little food trucks… but that came all out of New York. We started the food truck revolution, and it’s been going on for years and years and years.

 

You can have, like, incredible fresh food. Very international, very diverse cuisine and from really reputable chefs. Oh, and delis. We have the second avenue deli. You can have the most ridiculous cornbeef sandwich or matzoball soup and it will blow you away and you won’t be able to eat for a week. Pickles, lower East Side: known for pickles. There’s a pickle day, a pickle festival. Food is insane in New York. Doesn’t matter where in the world it is, we have it. If you want Ethiopian, I can tell you the best Ethiopian to get, if you want the best Greek food, I can tell you where to go in Queens and you’ll think you’re in Greece. And I know people from Italy who have Italian food and are like “this tastes better than it did over there.”

 

  1. What do you eat during holidays here? 

“…I’ve found a new mac and cheese recipe which I shared with Oprah actually.”

See Alan's Full Answer

Can we just talk about thanksgiving because that’s my favourite? My birthday is around thanksgiving and I holiday here on thanksgiving. So obviously there’s a turkey involved. And twice baked potatoes. And stuffing. Ohh and that challah stuffing is really good. This year I mastered a really good mac and cheese recipe because I’ve tried to make Grandma’s. And it’s the simplest recipe ever yet I can never get to come out… so I’ve just given up and I’m moving on. I can’t do it. And it is so simple. You can’t mess it up. It comes out, it tastes fine, but it’s nothing like the way she makes it. The crust is burned just right, it’s crusty and it’s still creamy, I love it. So I’ve found a new mac and cheese recipe which I shared with Oprah actually. And that was so good! Cos I’ve made many a bad mac and cheese. Many. And if your next question is, or anywhere on there, what is my favourite food? It’s mac and cheese. Hands down. I saw that coming. I’ve seen these things before. I watch Oprah.

  1. Is cuisine a big part of American culture?

“…the great part at least about New York is you can get any culture you want from anywhere around the world.”

See Alan's Full Answer

Yes. Tremendously yes. It is culture. Food is culture. And that’s the great part at least about New York is you can get any culture you want from anywhere around the world. Whatever it is: Indian, Chinese, Korean, Southern… I love a biscuit just as much as the next ‘bloke’. I know my words.

Life According to Locals #Atlanta #Georgia #USA #InterviewsWithLocals Click To Tweet

 


 The Plate: Hash Browns and Waffles at Waffle House

Alan recommended we go to Waffle House while we were in the south, saying we’d regret it if we didn’t and that if I came home saying I’d been to the South but not to Waffle House, people would question whether I’d really been at all. So, terrified by that prospect, we followed his advice and ordered hash browns and buttermilk pancakes.

Waffle House reminded me of any other chain American diner- cheap, buttery, and fast. American pancakes, done right, are a satisfying consistency; fluffy but not too rich. But Europeans, be warned: if you order hash browns in the U.S., you won’t get the ones you’re used to back home. Instead, they’re made of potato that has been grated and then fried, before being clumped together and served as a mass of carbohydrate goodness with a variety of toppings. I went for cheese and onion, not too out there and a reliably tasty option. Obviously, with American portions, they’re going to fill you up, so one trip here means you’re good food-wise for the rest of the day.

If you’re at ANY diner in America, you wash your food down with a mug of rich coffee (mixed with lots of cream and sugar for people like me who can’t handle it that strong). And the best thing about the coffee? Free refills.


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Attempting to cycle from Tromsø in Northern Norway to Baku, Azerbaijan while interviewing locals en route. Despite my chequered history with bikes, here’s to me returning home with an intact facial structure and at least as many body parts as I left with.

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