Author Archives: Michelle Hiskey

About Michelle Hiskey

Michelle Hiskey is a freelance writer and writing coach based in Decatur, and her day job is senior editor on Emory University's development communications team. Michelle worked at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 22 years as a sports reporter, columnist and Sunday feature writer, and her stories of recovery and redemption bridge unexpected places and people across Atlanta. She lives in Decatur with her husband Ben Smith, also a journalist, and their two awesome daughters. She can be reached at

Astronaut’s visit, kids’ space dreams boost Fernbank and NASA

Midway through last week’s brutality and mayhem, 200 people got a radically different global perspective when astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson showed up at the Fernbank Science Center in northeast Atlanta. NASA has a mission to reach far into the universe; Fernbank’s is to spark the imaginations of children and instill a passion for science. Both are trying to preserve their missions for future generations amid an ever-present threat of budget cuts, and an Evening with an Astronaut night was their combined effort.

Dyson described peering out of the cupola of the International Space Station to the blue-marble Earth and her eyes filling with tears. But tears don’t fall in space. Hers stuck to her eyeballs. Through that film, her view of our planet and its people deepened, to greater care and hope.
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In pollen season, Kirkwood’s old-school carwash hums

Monday marked nine straight days in Atlanta of extremely high (over 1500) pollen counts. You can’t avoid the blanket of yellow green dust covering the city.

For Stuart Brady, the plague of pollen on our cars is almost a biblical call to atone through what his business serves: lots of water and your own elbow grease. At his Kirkwood Car Wash, three words preach from the shingled roof: “Honor Thy Auto.”

These days, the ka-ching of tokens in the self-serve machines is the reason Brady calls pollen “gold dust.” It also gives him hope that his slice of Americana might survive the relentless redevelopment that Atlanta is known for. Continue reading

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Rain or shine, Drive Invaders make weekly pilgrimage to outdoor movies

Every Wednesday night — even relentlessly rainy evenings like last week — a group of metro Atlantans reclaim a fun childhood memory and help preserve a piece of Americana that is rapidly disappearing from the nation’s landscape.

Last week, Suellen Germani and the rest of the Drive Invaders gathered to watch “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” at the Starlight Six Drive-In, the last outdoor movie theater in metro Atlanta. Instead of a playground, Germani and her grown-up movie companions each paid $7 to tailgate in the rain and watch the movie through wet windshields. The outdoor movie ritual reminds her of when she was around kindergarten age, at dusk on a playground at the foot of a giant movie screen. The memory always ended with her asleep in her parents’ car during the second show of the double feature.
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A vision and volunteers turn a toxic dump into Zonolite Park

A raccoon’s muddy tracks are a small shining symbol of the transformation of an asbestos-laden wetland in northeast Atlanta into an Atlanta public park, and the perseverance of volunteers who envisioned that nature could trump industrial pollution.

Zonolite Park is 12 acres near Briarcliff and Clifton Roads, where for two decades beginning in 1950, freight trains stopped at the W.R. Grace Co. plant and dumped as much as 1,225 tons of raw material for attic insulation marketed as Zonolite. The park’s reinvention also shows how a supply chain can bring in business and killer byproducts. Reversing that damage took a chain of volunteers willing to help restore the ecosystem.
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Posted in Atlanta, Ben Smith, Michelle Hiskey, Reinvention, Saporta, Transformation | 9 Comments

With guts and WordPress, Judi Knight reinvents herself and others

Judi Knight saw it coming.

Atlanta property owners were falling into quick defaults over what she saw as “crazy loans.” Her loft conversions stopped “flying off the shelves.” She had to get out of the real estate business before the bubble burst.

On top of that, she’d gotten a divorce and had even let her license to practice psychology in the state of Georgia lapse, something her friends had urged her to maintain for job security. “I knew I wanted a different life,” Knight said. “It was like Cortez burning the ships. I didn’t want something to fall back on but I didn’t know what I wanted.”
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Posted in Atlanta, Ben Smith, Career Makeover, Life Changes, Michelle Hiskey, Reinvention, Saporta | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

After 41 years of pizza-based memories, Everybody’s closing

Forty-one years of Everybody’s Pizza will end Tuesday, March 19 when the Druid Hills restaurant closes, and scores of longtime customers have been streaming in for their final fix, circling back to a place on the North Decatur roundabout that has been a hub for family milestones, and to say goodbye.

Shelly and Paul Legato drove from Athens Saturday night to pay homage to her neighborhood restaurant growing up and the spot where he proposed in 1996. From their marriage came daughter Stefanie and granddaughter Heidi; also along for the evening was their fourth generation, Shelly’s mother, Kelly McGlaun-Fields.
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In Africa, former Atlantan helps kids One World Futbol at a time

For a couple of weeks in 1996, Sandra Cress helped bring the world of soccer to Atlanta. Today she lives in Nairobi and is helping children around the world live healthier lives through one tough soccer ball that stays round when they kick it.

The standard soccer balls used across Atlanta suburbs don’t stand a chance in the thorns, glass and barbed wire of the developing world. There, kids create makeshift balls of rags or whatever they can find. Cress said she saw kids kicking a ball made of old fruit taped together.

The virtually indestructible One World Futbol, made of a hard foam similar to that in Crocs sandals, has already transformed Cress’ world and should inspire anyone with deep knowledge, contacts and enthusiasm that do not seem to fit in the present job market. The indestructible ball offered Cress an opportunity to come full circle in her passion for soccer and expertise in humanitarian aid.
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Posted in Atlanta, Ben Smith, Career Makeover, Inspiration, Life Changes, Michelle Hiskey, Transformation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

For African-American women, a hairstyle can be a tricky decision

For African-American women, unemployment is 12.3 percent nationally, 13.1 percent in Georgia. That tough reality helped draw more than 100 black women to an event last week at Georgia State University focused on one decision that each of them faces:

What to do with my hair?

For them, preparing for a job interview or the first day of work isn’t as simple as deciding whether to go with the regimental blue-striped or the red power tie. Around the country, disputes over African American female hairstyles have led to accusations of wrongful firings and discrimination lawsuits.

Atlanta is where people notice, too; for example, TV news viewers spent decades obsessing over local anchor Monica Kaufman Pearson’s changing ‘dos.
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Voice of WCLK’s “Morris Code” reveals secrets of surviving hard times

For Morris Baxter, the Great Recession hit six years before the rest of us. In 2002, he lost his six-figure salary record label job and all the perks: the prestige, the travel, the expense account, the corporate card and the national hip-hop record promotions. Bitter and negative, full of self-pity, he had to find a way to reboot his life.
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Posted in Atlanta, Inspiration, Michelle Hiskey, Reinvention, Saporta, Self-Help, Transformation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Amid loss, no tears from these Atlanta clowns

February in Atlanta is circus month, and but not all the clowns are goofing under the Big Apple and Ringling Bros. big tops.

Far from the spotlight, for all but two weeks a year, a local troupe of clowns managed to practice their craft for tiny, tough audiences: some of the sickest kids in Georgia, even some who are dying. As clowns, they’ve kept their show going on this year even after sudden loss in their own ranks.

For the surviving members of the Big Apple Clown Care Unit, creating laughter in the face of heartbreak has transformed them far more than wearing a funny hat, a fake nose and makeup ever could.
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