The following is Part One of a two-part series that focuses on some of the underserved and blighted communities in Macon and how leaders and residents of those communities are challenging each other to improve and uplift the places they call home.
By Stacey Norwood
This Picture: Jay “for the people in the community.” Top Left: Renata Nelson and Commissioner Al Tillman; Top Right: Phyllis Habersham Malone
18 APRIL 14-28, 2017
I am approaching the open door of George’s Hole in the Wall Sports Bar on Columbus Road at high noon on a beautiful spring day, wondering what or who will greet me when I cross the threshold. Located just before the inevitably clogged intersection where Columbus toggles into Mercer University Drive, I have been fascinated by this place for months now. No matter how early the hour, short-cutting from my home in Intown to the shopping areas on Eisenhower, the windowless sports bar located at 3091 Columbus Road appears to always be open. I’ve never noticed people there, however, until late afternoon. At that point in the day, the haphazardly fenced-in patio located on the far left-hand side usually has a few folks milling about, while either a row of beaten-up plastic toddlers’ trikes or a collection of what looks like little-league trophies form some sort of barrier (or invitation) between the patio, the people, and the heavily trafficked road just feet away. Every time I have driven past it, I’ve been plagued by questions (mostly about those trikes and trophies) and longed to stop – and today’s my day. As I step into the parking lot, my eye wanders from the colorful mural splashed across the front of the curious squat little building to the oversized black 8-ball painted above its entrance. Immediately, I mentally flash on Nancy Botwin’s infamous “brick dance” atop a pool table in Season 3 of Weeds, and frankly, I’m having second thoughts. Too late, now though. If the hard, quizzical looks I’m getting from at least two sets of eyes coming from my left flank are any indication, it would seem my presence has been noted. Just as I am about to step into the cavernous darkness of the interior, a young man wearing an oversized jersey and jeans steps through the open entrance, eyes widening when he sees me. Clearly, I am not who he expected to see. When I ask if he works there, he quietly indicates he does not – but very politely agrees to fetch someone who does. Something tells me to wait outside rather than follow him in, and 30 seconds later, another man appears, steps outside, coolly sizes me up for a long minute, and stares at me until I tell him why I’m here.
Jay, is his name, he says. The side-eye he gives me when I ask for his last name is so hard I can practically feel it, so I let that one go. When I tell him I am writing a story about whether “this place matters,” he perks up and readily agrees to hold the hand-drawn sign I am holding and pose for a pic. “Let me show you something,” Jay says, once I’ve gotten the picture. He leads me to an empty, littered lot adjacent to George’s Hole in the Wall Sports Bar and mostly mumbles a long sentence – the takeaway seeming to be that George’s does indeed “matter.” Because it’s “for the people,” he says, a place “in the community,” where the people “can be together.”
Intolerable Use Is the Consequence of Social Depreciation
You won’t find George’s Hole in the Wall splashed across the pages of the arts & entertainment section of any local newspaper. There is no website or even a Facebook page to be found either. Even a thorough Google search yields nothing unless you accidentally stumble across it on the street view of maps – a static image which also shows a boarded up, ramshackle white house standing - clearly not so long ago - where the empty lot Jay pointed out now sits. On the other side of George’s, heading towards Pio Nono, a funky-looking chicken and wings restaurant – which may or may not be permanently closed - is, for the moment at least, clearly deserted. And so it goes for blocks at a time on this road. The place looks like little more than a ghost-town, save for the occasional sign of life at a garage or convenience store. CONTINUED ON PAGE 28