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 michelle.hiskey@gmail.com.

Krog Tunnel’s avant garde shows celebrate history, music and art

In Atlanta last Wednesday, an eclectic homage to the “Rite of Spring” ballet unfolded in the century-old Krog Street tunnel, best known as an elaborately graffiti’d passageway between Inman Park and Cabbagetown. Dance, jazz and movies projected onto the bright painted artwork celebrated Igor Stravinsky and his transformation of modern dance.

Billed as “Le Sacre du Krog,” the cacophonous performance was the latest incarnation of a monthly series of performances on the edge of DeKalb Avenue leading to Cabbagetown. Beginning next week, creators Brian Bannon and Bill Taft are scheduled to debut “Krog!,” a “best of” their Krog Street performances at Theatrical Outfit in the Atlanta Fringe Festival.

“It gives us a chance to present stories, photos and music from a year-and-a-half of Krog shows at a more comfortable theatre setting,” said Bannon. “With bathrooms and everything.”
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Mormons, African-Americans reconcile to seek family roots

Sarah Jackson of Duluth was among hundreds of African-Americans who attended Atlanta’s Family History Conference, which emphasized African-American research, held May 18 at the Atlanta History Center. The event represented an ongoing reconciliation between African-Americans and the Church of Latter Day Saints through a common ground valued by both: family research.

Throughout much of the church’s history, Mormons considered African-Americans inferior to whites. In the mid-19th century Mormon leader Brigham Young said black people were marked by the “Curse of Cain.” It wasn’t until 1978—the year after Jackson’s visit—that the church reversed bans on African-Americans taking part in temple ceremonies and black men entering the Mormon priesthood. Continue reading

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Cicadas to pervade eastern U.S., but not Atlanta

All that buzz about locusts descending soon is just that.

The Brood II cicada infestation is starting to emerge as billions of the creatures make their every-17-year appearance. What USA Today and others call “Swarmageddon” is reminiscent of the Biblical plague of locusts.

They aren’t coming here, the experts say, because Atlanta has cut down too many trees and laid down too many parking lots. Our city’s growth has further separated us from what some entomologists call an “amazing natural phenomenon.”

“We’re having a lot of cicada envy right now. A lot of people want to see them again, but here in Georgia, I’m afraid it’s not to going to happen,” said Nancy Hinkle, a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia. “At least not in the vast majority of the state.” Continue reading

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A brain injury, a bike and the Ryan Boyle comeback story

After Ryan Boyle, 9, got hit by a speeding pickup truck driver hit while riding a Big Wheel,  his brain was so severely injured that he wasn’t supposed to stand or talk or walk, much less ride a bike — his favorite thing. He had to re-learn how to breathe, swallow and eat.

On a recent evening, Boyle showed up at the Emory University Barnes & Noble bookstore recently to sign copies of his autobiography, “When the Lights Go Out: A Boy Given a Second Chance” (Westbow Press). Today he is a graduate of Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, a freshman at Berry College, a motivational speaker, cyclist and aspiring Paralympian.

His long struggle to climb back on a bicycle led him to the Shepherd Center and ultimately saved him. Continue reading

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Standing up for DeKalb’s homeless animals, they wear and see red

Fritz the rescue dog got shooed from last week’s DeKalb County Board of Commissioners meeting, marking yet another bad day for homeless animals in DeKalb and the humans who are rabid for an $8 million new county shelter.

Fritz was rescued by a group that helps find homes for animals from the existing shelter near I-285 and Memorial Drive.  A citizens task force in early 2012 called the facility a filthy, smelly, bug- and rat-infested, understaffed “chamber of horrors.” Out of every ten animals that go there, seven die. It has the highest “kill rate” of any animal shelter in metro Atlanta, the task force reported.

“Animals are suffering and dying in a horrible, horrible condition in our shelter,” said activist Heidi Pollyea to the board. “If you have a minute to go down there I think you’d say, ‘Let’s get busy. Let’s get this approved.” We have the opportunity today to make a difference. Please do not delay. This cannot wait.”
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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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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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