photo by my friend Wendy Ritchey of ArtisticallyStiched.com
I look up to see a gigantic foam structure towering over me. It’s the bust of a female gymnast obtained by my husband C. back when the Olympics came to Altanta and marriage was still something I vaguely thought I’d do when I “grew up” and completed middle school. The gymnast is flanked by weathered Blue Meanies and a Yellow Submarine crafted for a Turner Broadcasting tribute to the Beatles. Since then, these sculptures have been carted back and forth many times to and from Atlanta’s Lake Claire Community Land Trust where they’ve graced the stage at the Peace and Love Fest and other musical gatherings. It was at one of these that C. first introduced me to Candler Park and Little 5 Points, areas that have since become my homes within the city. My other more constant homes are a loft built within the same warehouse where the gymnast balances in the rafters and a wooden house my husband built right across the railroad tracks where trains pass like an industrial river through the night.
C. has been active with Atlanta’s arts underground for almost two decades. However, his recognition as a key element of this scene occurred less frequently within Atlanta than within its far rural outskirts, where the warehouse sits at a crossroads pivotal to the South’s defeat in the Civil War. When he first moved his scenery business here, he was an anomaly with long dreaded hair, tie-dyed shirts and a utility kilt. Now, locals ask him to run for mayor. He’s become a regular part of the landscape around here, like one of the hearty wild flowers that spring up beside the tracks. One of his strengths is to mine the cultural underground for seeds and then plant them in unsuspecting places and people. Communities form around my husband. They gather at the shop, as they have today, for batches of smoked vegetables and chicken. They create artwork and seek inspiration that will help them through bouts of depression, poverty and general transition. They express a spectrum of excitement, disappointment and gratitude. The latest community is stronger than any I’ve encountered to date. They have united over steel—or, more specifically, the way steel can be made to sing.
My daughter beside our "industrial river"
In my mind’s eye, I envision cultural underground communities functioning as webs rather than isolated singularities. A leader emerges who trains, both directly and indirectly, individuals to become potential leaders of their own collectives, which all remain linked in some way to the parent community. The leaders are not at the top of a hierarchy in the traditional sense. Rather, they function like spiders, resting calmly at the center of the web, gracefully weaving and re-weaving connections as needed. If my husband is one of these weavers, then Alberto Roman lives at the center of the web from which C. takes his greatest inspiration. I finally met Alberto for the first time last Tuesday. As seems to so often be the case with me, I was darting out the door. Then I changed my plans. My daughter had an apocalyptic meltdown. My son soiled his diaper. Alberto offered to go, but I insisted he stay and bear witness to the storm of which I am the eye.
According to his Facebook profile, Alberto is a Costa Rica born former substance abuse counselor, probation officer and hospital resource specialist who has also spent decades exploring humanity’s connection to the Divine via his involvement in sacred ceremonies which utilize his experience as an instrumentalist and natural healer. Alberto’s degrees in psychology and philosophy relate to his spiritual work. However, Alberto tells me that his greatest moment of inspiration struck when he was around 9 years old walking to the end of his driveway. He became filled with a pervasive sense of joy that he felt compelled to share. At this point in my blogging journey, I would like to share some of Aberto’s spirit with you. Light a candle & some incense. Prepare a pot of your favorite tea. Then listen to the interview linked below. Motivational speaker and parenting expert Bob Lancer does a fantastic job of helping Alberto articulate his vision for an emerging culture of the natural shaman. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!