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New digs

July 22, 2010

Now that it’s pretty much official, I can talk about where I’ll be living next month.

First, let’s review where I’ve been since January. My apartment at the Lodge of Athens is a nice place but completely without character, one of these apartment complexes that sprung up as the Athens real estate market went nuts over the past decade and a half. It’s innocuous and anti-septic, and it’s just far enough from downtown that I always have to drive. I feel sequestered here.

On July 31, I’m moving into the Landfill, a house hallowed in Athens music lore. It was the location of some of the first Elephant 6 shows as well as numerous pot lucks. Perhaps more importantly, though, it’s the current home of Will Hart, one of the main subjects of my book.

A few weeks ago, Will asked me how much longer I’d be in Athens. I told him my sublease ran to the end of July, but if I could find somewhere to crash for another month, I’d like to stay through August. Without hesitating, he offered me a room in his house that had until recently been occupied by his nephew.

The rent is super cheap, and it will give me great access to both Will and the countless Elephant 6 folks who drop by regularly. Still, I didn’t jump at the idea right away.

The journalism major in me screamed “conflict of interest” from the moment Will made the offer. How am I supposed to write an objective account of a roommate?

I thought long and hard about this, and I conferred with no small number of journalistic mentors. It’s a sticky issue to be sure, but my decision ultimately comes down to one thing: which choice will make the best book? Taking the room will obviously grant me dramatically increased access, but how much will it cost me on the objectivity front?

Not much, I’ve reasoned. As I’ve mentioned before, I came to this project as an Elephant 6 fan, and I’ve worked from the start to mitigate my admiration for the people I’m writing about. Moreover, I moved to Athens to completely immerse myself in the community here. I hang out at the same bars and go to the same shows as these people, so I don’t think living with one will tip the scales too much.

Still, this doesn’t come with no strings attached. For one thing, I need to work even harder to maintain impartiality. I’m a fan, sure, but I don’t want this book to be some fawning, overly romantic half-narrative. I also need to make sure Will continues to trust me, and from an ethical standpoint, I need to make sure he and everyone else who comes by the house are aware of what is on and off the record.

Overall, this is a big get, one I approach with both trepidation and excitement.

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