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Piedmont Park, picnics and plastic - Greg Gelpi

Weaving through the high rises of midtown, I continue to find myself surprised at finding Piedmont Park nestled serenely amongst the fields of concrete.

The stark contrast can only be paralleled with the mix of people sprawled out on the lawns of the park and those powdering their noses on the outskirts of the park.

Having the opportunity to eat in the park two consecutive weekends, I noticed the difference and am perplexed that the two can coexist so closely.

Picnicking on the side of a grassy hill, accents and languages of all kinds buzzed about as a patchwork of people blanketed the area.

Flying model airplanes, playing rugby and tossing Frisbees to Rover or Spot or whoever, people and their activities energized the park, the oasis from the hustle and bustle of city life.

A week later, eating at the Park Tavern in one corner of the rectangular park, I felt like I was dining on another planet and as if the expanse of green space was merely a mirage or an image on a television screen.

The valley of solitude and natural beauty gave way to a sort of a silicon valley of artificial beauty and artificial personalities.

The height of the buildings contrasted with the shallowness of the conversations, as those at the outdoor cafe watched from behind a steel fence as if gazing at the park with longing and hoping to be free of the material world and return to a more pastoral setting.

Still, their endless empty chatter persisted with more thought given to touching up their makeup than to the words vomiting from their mouths.

Behind the lines of the steel fence, which seemed more to be keeping people in than people out, I felt as if in the midst of a plastics factory.

Just a quick aside... The never-ending pursuit for the perfect body and face sent a couple to the hospital in November, according to the Associated Press. Getting Botox injections in their face left the two on ventilators.

I'm not sure what's more surprising: That people would actually pay to have someone inject a derivative of botulism into their face or that people are shocked that something like this could turn bad. Isn't botulism a concern as a potential biological weapon in the war on terror?

The dichotomy of the Piedmont Park scene takes me back to one of my many experiences of seeing Dave Matthews Band in open air amphitheaters.

The rain had been coming down most of the day and paths were worn into the hillside of the cheap seats, an unmarked stretch of grassy seats unprotected from the natural elements, I recall one winter day in Houston.

Those who dished out more money than my wallet could possibly hold claimed the "good" seats under the pavilion with plastic seats with a back support and all. Still, Dave made a point to sing to the hillside to his real fans.

And until I have a competition between the amount of plastic in my wallet and plastic in my face and body, I'll stick to the cheap seats and picnicking in the park, rather than observing as if royalty from the sidelines.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.