"I would not like nights so bright you could not see the stars." -- Akira Kurosawa

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Atlanta
I grew up in a family of Southern storytellers. Back in 2004, I started Whole Bean to continue the tradition in a new medium. Over the years, I've written about families and friends, peculiar situations, extended road trips, recalcitrant home appliances, and many things for which I'm truly grateful. I hope you enjoy your time here.
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It's a bright, beautiful morning in Asheville, North Carolina. SpringHill Suites has internet access, and I seem to have found a choice time to post an entry. A crowd of Girl Scouts has taken over the cafe area, but not so much that I could not enjoy a light breakfast. Their endless chatter reminds me of those days when our girls were just getting their feet wet in the social graces...a sweet time, a good time to remember.

Yesterday was our first trip to the Biltmore Estate in the evening, and the first time that we've ever taken a "candlelight" tour. The mansion was as awesome of proportion and beauty as I ever remember seeing it, perhaps even more so. Additional areas on the third and fourth floors have been renovated and opened since I last visited here, some six years ago.

Today we're off to see our good friends the Ivorys, who recently moved from Atlanta to Johnson City, Tennessee. We understand that all is going well with them, but we miss them ferociously, plus I never pass up an opportunity to re-enter Tennessee, the land of my upbringing (yes, that's the state you can blame). I'm looking out the window, and I don't see any snow, so I think we can make it up over the mountains to their new abode.

Take care, and have a wonderful weekend... =:)


Another successful trip to Pill Hill!

If you have ever been to Atlanta, you have probably been impressed, awed, and perhaps even frightened by our maze of surface streets. Unlike in many cities of the American Midwest and West, the streets of our fair city are not laid out on anything even remotely resembling a grid pattern. In fact, we are told that the major streets (many of which contain Peachtree in their names) actually follow ancient Indian trails. I believe it.

One such trail must surely have led to our northside medical center, affectionately referred to by locals as "Pill Hill", owing to its auspicious setting on a leafy hill adjacent to the I-285 Perimeter expressway. I-285 is in and of itself a work of art; labeled on incoming expressways as a "by-pass", it actually is a main artery connecting several very densely populated suburbs, and the traffic on 285 can be truly overwhelming at times, merely humorous at others. It bypasses nothing, indeed.

Pill Hill, on the other hand, is a cluster of three large metroplitan hospitals and a whole slew of doctor's office buildings connected (somewhat) by a loosely defined network of "roads" on which lanes mysteriously appear, then disappear without warning, much to the delight of visitors and locals alike. (MARTA trains run right through the complex as well.) Basically, if you have to get to one of these hospitals in a hurry, including the "Baby Factory" Northside Hospital, you will need to be blessed by some almighty being to avoid becoming hopelessly lost and/or having your car locked or "booted" in such a way that it cannot be moved without dispersal of enough money from your wallet to buy dinner for two at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

Now, that said, once you get to your destination at Pill Hill, you will find that the care is quite good, the people are attentive and friendly, and you even begin to feel that you are in your own insulated little piece of the world, that is, until you try to leave. Leaving can be just as confusing as getting there. Without the proper preparation and arduous study of a map beforehand, you can easily leave your hospital premises and within two hours unexpectedly find yourself in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Columbia, South Carolina, or Dahlonega, Georgia (a nice little mountain town which is great to visit when you're feeling up to par).

All in all, I guess we can't complain -- the places are there when you need them, and the care is great. It's a lot better than trying to get your tonsils removed in Bangladesh, and with a little looking, you can even find some excellent coffee and above average biscuits. But you may want to let someone else drive...someone who has a good sense of direc -- oh, never mind about that.

Have a nice weekend! =:)


I finally ate at Litton's! Several years ago, I saw a Food Network show highlighting some of the nation's best burgers, and one of the places featured was Litton's Market and Restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee. Since then, I've wanted to check this place out, and I finally got the chance while visiting my folks last week. If you find yourself in the Fountain City district of Knoxville, be sure to visit Litton's.

Otherwise, today was a day of sunshine, but I was blue... as in "the blues"... as in I certainly had them. Lunch at Phoenix Noodle House was the highlight of the day. Browsed around Media Play and Best Buy tonight, but even that didn't help. Oh, well...


As a business matures, it should endeavor to maintain its level of service. Woo-hoo, don't I sound very Business Week here?

I visited the Avril car wash today ($20 inside and out, plus tips), a place where I've often made blog entries at the PC provided for customers to use while their cars are being washed. But today, the PC was nowhere to be found. In fact, the cashier was nowhere to be found, at least for five minutes after I arrived. This is odd, since Avril has for years been a hopping neighborhood establishment with excellent customer service and a good reputation for getting a car cleaner than most of us could on our own.

Now, I am an honest person, but it struck me how easy it would have been for someone to escape with a free car wash, no questions asked, since when a car wash is finished, you are supposed to just amble out there, get in, and drive away. For that matter, imagine how easy it would be for someone to steal your car!

Atlanta is a rapidly-growing area and has been for years, so I see this often -- a new business (restaurants are the most frequent culprit, it seems) starts up with a bang. The service is excellent, and the product is great, but over time, someone somewhere gets lazy, and the result is almost always a shutdown. Over the years, we've lost some great establishments to this tendency, many of which had no visible competition at the time.

Businesses need to become more aware of the continuity factor and how to keep track of things and, especially, people or the lack thereof. No matter how much we might fuss about red tape and paperwork, it seems that there is a time and a place for everything. I wish someone at Avril had asked if it was my car that I drove away -- of course, it was.

Ciao.


Excuse me, but I must talk about Isaac Hayes... especially for those of you who only know him as "The Chef" on South Park. Isaac Hayes literally defined the soul music movement in Memphis in the early 1970's. His 1969 release Hot Buttered Soul revved up nationwide interest in well-produced R&B and soul, and it was followed a couple of years later by the time-honored Shaft, the title track of which spawned some of the most fabulous wah-wah pedal guitar playing ever heard. Even today, when you visit Guitar Center, one of the nation's leading music stores, you'll often hear "Theme from Shaft" playing overhead.

I was fortunate enough to have had a personal connection with Isaac Hayes, in that one of my dad's good friends in Memphis, Perry Allen, was Isaac's business manager in the early 70's. Perry himself hosted a jazz/blues radio show in Memphis (a tall task, that, given the local blues scene) in the late 1970's and owned a record shop on Vance Avenue. Perry was a great guy -- quite an original. If you can recall Cab Calloway's character in The Blues Brothers, you'll have a pretty good mental picture of Perry Allen. I think Perry is on the West Coast these days, and I certainly hope that he's still connected.

This morning, as I browsed the iTunes music store, I was happy to see that almost all of Isaac Hayes' albums are now available. For those of you who may be too young to remember (after all, this music was released before many of my friends were even born), Isaac introduced a form of rap on his 70's albums, although what was produced in those days bore no resemblance to today's rap. Black Moses featured a series of "Ike's Raps", with the husky-throated singer pleading with his ladies to cut him some slack, to see what a good man he was, oh yeah, baby. Each rap segued into a soulful ballad, and whether the songs were original or covers (as many of the Black Moses tracks are), Isaac's innate ability to emote came clearly through. Even if you don't consider yourself a fan of "soul music", you owe it to yourself to browse a few of these true originals.

And with that, I must bid adieu and see what Saturday holds in store. Have fun, brothers and sisters. And y'all...I mean that in the truest way I can say.


We're having that weird fall weather again. Almost every year, generally in late October or early November, we have this extremely warm weather in Atlanta that descends on us and makes us generally ill at ease, ill of body, or some combination of both. The reason we become ill is that many of us have moved here from colder climates where this does not happen, and our systems respond negatively to the infusion of 80 degree temperatures when there are leaves all over the ground (although the smell of warm leaves is not bad). It makes for some beautiful days, and some dastardly sinus issues.

Last night, I had an enlightening experience with 5.1 surround sound. I somehow lost the signal on the center speaker a few weeks ago, and only last night did I realize that I have not been able to hear what the people on TV were saying. (I have some hearing loss, so I didn't think much of it.) It finally dawned on me that the center speaker carries the frequencies most often used in human speech patterns. I was listening to the Dave Matthews Band: Listener Supported DVD, which should have been aurally perfect, but the highs were off. Anyway, after a complete reset of my "audiophile" receiver and some dangerous tweaking of exposed wires, the center signal was back, and I persuaded Dave to sing a few more tunes with his critical frequencies restored. Ahhh...so that's how it's supposed to sound.


I started using the GuitarGrid method for improving my guitar technique. I'm not sure how well this works, given that I actually have knowledge of music theory, but we shall see. Hopefully, it will provide a nice refresher upon which I can build. I have been called on to play several times recently, and although I am still comfortable performing for people, I'd like to limber up a bit and improve my scale work. More posts on this as it comes along.


There have been many nights of interesting dreams lately. Night before last was a most pleasant dream (although, for the sake of brevity and propriety, I shall omit the details) and last night's was also enjoyable, since it involved a relaxed swim in the Pacific (in warm water, nonetheless) with the Golden Gate Bridge in sight. Being somewhat curious about this recent spate of imaginary nocturnal adventures, I Googled and found the Dream Moods website at http://www.dreammoods.com, which has some interesting interpretations of various things you may experience in dreams. I explored a few of these, and I must say that the interpretations were, for the most part, accurate and telling. If you're curious, it's out there...


They say that if you're feeling frustrated, you should make lists of tasks. Ticking off items one by one as they are accomplished is supposed to make you feel better. Perhaps this is true. The broken items that I listed in my last post have now all been either corrected or are sitting in boxes awaiting installation (car radio). Of course, the refrigerator is still a beast, but that will be corrected (read replaced) in time.


It is a balmy fall day, just a little bit strange around the edges. Perhaps that is because:

1. The garage door is broken.
2. The washing machine is broken.
3. The car radio is broken.
4. A computer printer is broken.

Need I say more? Ah, well, the sun is shining and my iPod is working, at least for now. Although the battery does seem to be croaking, slowly but surely. Stay tuned...


Another dream of the Charlotte house. This must be about the tenth that I've had. Background: In 1993, we were transferred to Charlotte, North Carolina, where we built a new house (almost exactly) to our specifications. We had lived in the house for only 17 months when the news came that our company had been bought by an Atlanta firm, and by the end of that summer, we had moved back to Atlanta.

In many dreams, I have seen the house in different permutations, but generally there is a theme: the house has two distinct sides, and we have only lived in one of them. Last night's dream was no exception -- I ventured down a hallway and found a whole other side of the house that we had forgotten even existed. Three kitchens, and a group of refugee children living in one big upstairs room on "the other side". Who knows what it means?


Something is wrong with my chair. Our suburban Federated facility is quite nice -- good access to major arteries, a respectable selection of restaurants, and three Starbucks locations within one mile. Nevertheless, my ergonomically designed desk chair has recently taken a turn for the worse.

I first noticed it several months ago, when I returned to my desk after a coffee stop and found (when I sat down) that the chair had descended several inches from the position it had held when I left it some three minutes before. Since that time, I have observed the chair's aberrant behavior on at least ten occasions. It has no predisposition as to time of day -- it has happened at 9:30 AM and at 5:30 PM, Mondays through Fridays, and even a few Saturdays.

But perhaps the root cause is deeper. A few nights ago, I was sitting at one of our admittedly dilapidated kitchen chairs catching up with my mail when the entire thing came crashing to pieces, leaving me sitting on my tailbone on the floor, the natural gas bill still in my hand. And this after I spent all last winter on Weight Watchers, eventually reaching my ideal body mass index of 22.9, where I still am, by the way. (I know what you were thinking.)

Not more than fifteen minutes ago, my desk chair again descended spotaneously. But you know something? I ain't worrying. We haven't lost power today, my feet are not sitting in water, and I plan to eat barbecue for dinner regardless. It's all good.


The dream occurred one night last week. It seems that I was engaged in piloting a small hot air balloon over different parts of the United States, jumping from city to city at will. I recall vividly that the balloon was a small portable craft that could be folded up and transported easily from place to place, even carried in a backpack. The dream sounds odd, indeed, but it was actually quite pleasurable.

On one of my stops, I flew over what was supposed to be Memphis but actually looked more like Atlanta. As with many of my dreams, a sizeable group of friends was on hand, and we all were camped out at a large timberframe lodge somewhere on the outskirts of town. Of course, the group of friends was comprised of people who I know have never met one another, but that made it all the more interesting.

I know from whence this dream stems. I have not traveled much lately, and being for the most part a person who likes being on the road, I think I am feeling a degree of frustration at being in one place for such a long time. Interesting how the mind makes up for what is not happening in real life!


Hannah started high school today! I believe she was actually ready three weeks (months, years?) ago, though. Clothes were laid out, the backpack was packed with all ancillary forms and doo-dads, and the child was set to go. Now the question is am I ready for all this?!


There are worse places to be stuck in the rain than outside Jim Williams' house. Jim Williams, you may recall, was the protagonist of John Berendt's bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, known affectionately(?) here in Savannah as "The Book". This morning I was out for my Saturday morning walk, and I got as far as JW's elegant home, which fronts leafy Monterey Square, before the rain kicked into high gear.

Here I was, stuck in what I would call a peaceful thunderstorm, with Andrea Bocelli on the iPod and a wet U2 t-shirt, probably looking somewhat reminiscent of a giddy drowned rat. But what better place to be? As I walked the ten or so blocks back to the perpetual sunny disposition and high octane air conditioning of the Marshall House, I found myself playing a game of chicken with the water pouring out of the gutters and down the alleys, across the sidewalks, into the quiet morning streets, and thence into my Nike cross-trainers.

But it could be pouring buckets and I wouldn't mind. This place suits me wonderfully. If someone asked me to plan a city, I think this is how it would materialize. I am smitten with Savannah.

Y'all make sure to have a wonderful weekend.


This post is coming from the road -- Savannah, Georgia, to be exact. The library at the Marshall House offers wireless access and voila -- one can post freely! One thing that has become obvious to me in the last twenty-four hours is that many people have weddings here, and many of these folks have come from afar (read Up Nawth), as evidenced by the good-natured cacophony and abundance of ladies going places together in sundresses.

But what a nice place it is. Beautiful architecture abounds -- in fact, it is easy to take all these spendid buildings for granted, but I'm not letting that happen. We spent yesterday afternoon and evening strolling the area between our hotel and River Street, Savannah's waterfront playground, boasting tons of fun shops and restaurants, cozy bars and bistros, and some extremely decent street musicians. Today, we headed to Fort Pulaski and Tybee Island to see that the area around the city is like. Fort Pulaski makes a nice, quiet trip, and Tybee has that funky look so common to beach towns in the Southeast.

And so, again tonight we will stroll this Southern gem, keeping our eyes and ears open!


When email first appeared, I thought it was a good thing. After all, here was a good way to keep in touch with others -- it was like being able to write notes, include pictures, etc., all in one pass. AND it was fun. But lately, it appears to me that perhaps we are all (and I include myself in this) getting lazy with the whole email thing.

I typically have over 100 unread messages in my Outlook Express Inbox, and generally over 300 (!) in my Yahoo Inbox, and that's not counting the "Bulk" folder. Of course, many of the Yahoo messages involve requests to purchase one or another of various medications which will enhance my overall health or other things, some of which apply to the wrong gender. Not to mention endless emails from places like Crate & Barrel telling me about the very latest look in ottomans. Then there are the "if you don't respond within seven days, we're going to shut this thing down and you'll NEVER again have the opportunity...for real...no kidding...we really mean it this time" kind of messages.

Buried in this morass are messages from real people that I appreciate hearing from and try to stay in touch with. If you're one of those people, and if I haven't responded, please forgive me. Cleaning up email and getting to the important stuff is kind of like cleaning out your garage; you're in there every day, you see the problem, and you can at least get to your car, but it would be a whole lot nicer if you didn't have to turn sideways when you try to get into the driver's seat. A well-ordered email environment is like a garage where everything is put into those storage boxes along the sides of the walls. They sell those things at Home Depot and Lowe's, but I'll bet that if we were to check their email Inboxes, we'd find them messed up, too. It's an international curse.

And so, I bid adieu and a fine weekend to you all. Now let me go check my email. =:o


The Great Dust Cloud has made its way to Atlanta. This morning, as I drove Hannah to an orthodontist appointment, we saw the sun behind a haze that looked like those pictures you see of mornings in Cairo, a golden light bathing all those familiar buildings and transforming them in the process. The cloud apparently blew from the Sahara across the Atlantic, first making its U.S. landfall in Miami yesterday morning. I guess what we have here is only the residual cloud, but it is striking.


Podcasting...what fun this is! For those of you who haven't yet heard of it, podcasting is a new technology wherein people produce their own "radio shows" and make them available for others to download and listen to at a later time. It has become something of a phenomenon, to the extent that Apple's iTunes software now includes the ability to locate, subscribe to and update podcasts automatically.

Anyway, one of the most entertaining and well-produced shows out there is a program called Coverville, by one Brian Ibbott from Arvada, Colorado. This show features various covers of songs familiar to most of us, but recorded by artists who, in some cases, you would never expect to hear out of their respective elements. In one recent podcast, Brian found a Swedish Elvis imitator performing a hilariously bad rendition of "In the Ghetto". I laughed out loud at my desk at work when I heard this thing. In another show, one of the members of Marilyn Manson escaped and recorded a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused".

If you want to check out Brian's podcast, go to www.coverville.com, where you can download (in MP3 format) and listen to Brian's shows on your computer or portable music player. For a list of tons of other podcasts, check out www.podcast.net.


Today should be interesting, since every major expressway in and out of Atlanta is under construction. Georgia governor Sonny Perdue's Fast Forward construction program, coupled with tons of recent rainfall, have resulted in a situation where all major road work has landed on one weekend. We are being advised to take alternate routes and back roads "in general". To get a better idea of exactly how much construction is underway, click here for a saved link to the Georgia Navigator website diagram for today. Each little orange cone represents a construction project in progress.

If you have never been to Atlanta, this might be hard to visualize, but imagine over four million people lost all at the same time, at least half of them on cell phones, many new to the United States, and you'll get the idea. Driving in Atlanta is nothing like driving in a small Southern town -- quite the opposite, in fact. Recently, when I was in Memphis, a large city unto itself, I kept waiting for the traffic to get bad (in Atlanta terms) and for the drivers to become impatient (again, in Atlanta terms). It never happened, at least not while I was there. Now, Birmingham -- that might be another matter -- it looked confusing to me with no traffic, so I can only imagine.

Oh, well...the results should be worth it, as long as they don't mess up the interchange of GA 400 southbound onto I-85 -- that's my lifeline into the city. And look at it this way: if we ever have to chaffeur people around Tijuana, we'll be prepared!



Do we live in the tropics? Two nights ago, I was out on my deck letting the dogs out for one last pee-pass, when it struck me that this place no longer looked, smelled, or felt like Atlanta. A stiff, incredibly humid breeze was blowing, and the deck was littered with pine needles, leaves, water bugs, and other delights. Frogs croaked down in the yard, crickets and cicadas called from high in the trees, and the place was just generally a mess. Just a month or so ago, we were smelling jasmine and magnolia. How long can this weather weirdness last? =:)


Another hot, muggy day in Atlanta. It's been raining for weeks now with the aftermath from the tropical storms which have been battering the Gulf. The back yard looks like a jungle, and the bugs are out en masse. And here I sit at another car wash with free web access (Avril this time) -- it's inside, it's cool -- hey, that's enough for me.

I've just finished a great little book: "Chasing Cezanne" by Peter Mayle, the author of "A Year in Provence". This book is a work of fiction, but it made for great leisure reading when I was at Myrtle Beach last weekend. As always, Mayle paints a picture of France which makes you want to board the very next jet to Paris. In this particular tale, the variety of locales (Paris, London, New York, and the Bahamas) amount to a cheap virtual vacation, while at the same time the story is populated by a colorful, somewhat racy cast of characters. I loved the book. My friend Tanya has loaned me Mayle's "Hotel Pastis", and it's next on my list as soon as I finish Lee May's "My Father's Garden". Guess I should set up camp at Barnes & Noble or something.

But I must now watch the SUV as it has its wheels polished. Stay cool, friends. =:)


Off for another walk! This has been interesting...after I started Weight Watchers in October, I successfully took myself to my goal weight by losing 35 pounds, but I knew that I still needed to exercise regularly. The solution was right in front of me, so I've taken advantage of it and have begun some serious walking. I feel great.

My friends at FSG have also re-evaulated their lifestyles and have begun using The Maker's Diet. It seems like we're now all tuned into some kind of "health frequency", and the results have been very positive.


Wow, what a birthday party! Karen surprised me by inviting a whole bunch of my nearest and dearest friends to the house on Saturday for a surprise party to celebrate my 50th birthday. To say that I had fun would be an understatement -- it was great to have all these people who mean so much to me in one place. I sincerely hope that if you were one of the people there, that you had as good a time as I did. Thanks again to everyone who helped, attended, sang show tunes, told tall tales, and in general gave me the best birthday I've ever had. I will never forget it! =:)


The Pilgrimage was a success. It was interesting to see the changes in Memphis over the last 27 years. It's all documented on the website at the Pilgrimage to the King link. And yet I can't imagine what our part of Atlanta must have looked like in 1978 -- it was probably a collection of ramshackle country houses. In fact, I know that it was.

In 1982, when we moved to Atlanta from Chicago, our immediate area was sparsely populated. Here and there was an old house. Some were more interesting than others, of course. One of my favorites featured chickens wandering around in the front yard and a rooster who would stand on the front porch and crow at the morning traffic. That same area is now home to three shopping centers on three different corners, most of which are in their second or third series of tenants. Our neighborhood is now quite crowded, in fact. Roosters on porches have given way to soccer moms dropping kids off at Montessori schools. Time waits for no one.


The day of the Pilgrimage to the King (Atlanta to Memphis) fast approaches. With each passing day, we assess our positions and consider our options. What to say to the King? How many barbecue lunches to consume during the four-day visit? How to face the juxtaposition of suburban growth with newly restored intown neighborhoods? Stay tuned...


It is Good Friday. I have just returned from one of the most moving Good Friday services that my church has ever held. Over the course of 45 minutes, we were witness to a group of members playing the parts of people who had seen Jesus in the last days of his life. Barabbas wondered why the crowd wanted him saved, a carpenter was outraged at the idea of constructing a cross for a man who didn't deserve one, and Mary pleaded with God to take his son, just as He had delivered Jesus to her. The service ended silently, and we remained as long as we wished...


I'm warming to the Stratocaster. Over the weekend, I learned the fine points of intonation, after a panic trip to Guitar Center to try to figure out why one string was not producing the correct pitch at the octave. The Stratocaster has a unique system of string adjustment which is unlike any other guitar I have seen. It allows precise control of string height -- the tiniest Allen wrench I have ever seen is provided with the guitar specifically for this purpose. Over the years, many of my friends have owned Strats, but I never played one myself. Better late than never!

Plans for the Pilgrimage to the King continue. We're now sorting through the options, deciding how much of Memphis we can see in 3-1/2 days. I am particularly curious about my old neighborhood, Highland Heights. I wonder if Frank Jackson and Enos Evans are still discussing the weather and sports out in front of Mr. Goodwin's house. When I was last in town in 1990, they were standing there talking just as they had in the 1960's. Ah, tradition!


I bought a new electric guitar. Now, I know that there are already four other guitars in the house, but hey, they're all acoustic. For the last month or so, I've been reacquainting myself with guitar playing, something that used to be as natural to me as breathing. But it dawned on me, while helping Hannah build a homemade guitar for a school project, that this was something I really missed doing, and as they say, there's no time like the present. It's been 27 years since I played my very own electric guitar, so this is something pretty cool. I'll keep you posted on my "progress"...


Sometimes, dreams are so odd that you have to write them down. Witness last night, when I drifted into a peaceful sleep, a sleep accompanied by the sound of a sustained, late winter rain that fell outside the bedroom window. But the dream had nothing to do with rain.

A friend and I (and I cannot recall who the friend was, whether male or female or any details at all) were driving around West Los Angeles. It seems that this friend had never visited there and wanted me to take him/her/it on a tour of the entire West L.A. area. I headed for Hollywood, although as I recall, the scenery in the dream, punctuated by clear blues skies and the occasional cypress tree, looked very little like Hollywood and more like Monterey. Nevertheless, after a few minutes of wandering around, we took a wrong turn on a small gravel road and ended up at the door of a 1960's style ranch house.

Not knowing exactly what to do, but most likely not being of sound mind either, we got out of the car and headed into the house. The garage was open, and it led to a door into the back of the house. Once inside, we were surrounded by 1960's decor, except for one wall, which had been painted teal and pink in ostensible homage to the 1980's. The owner, a balding man in his sixties, came out and introduced himself as "Cato", and even though we had never seen him before, he seemed glad to see us.

Cato showed us his collection of rare 1960's jazz albums, each of which had been purchased from a record club for $9.95. In the collection were such greats as Skitch Henderson, Dave Brubeck, and Stan Getz. The collection itself was arranged in the form of a wallpaper sample book, and we spent some time thumbing through the vast selection.

We had refreshments, and then after a time, we decided to leave, and Cato bid us farewell. We got back in the car, and then I heard a noise -- it was the morning alarm clock, sounding 6:51 AM. Whatever the adventure had been, or wherever it was going, it was at an end, and I awoke to another gray, drizzly Atlanta morning.

What does it mean? Well, what does any dream mean, other than an amalgamation of random thoughts which coalesce at some precise moment to show you some jazz greats, purchased on the installment plan...


The decision has been made to visit The King. Elvis, that is. Several days ago, I came to the realization that I had not visited my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, in 15 years. So after careful consideration (and more than one Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi with dark rum), I decided to make a go of it. And I won't be traveling alone -- Hannah is joining me in this adventure.

I believe there is something to be said for going home. As all the pundits say, you "can't really go home" and live there without some adjustments, but it certainly should be fun just to drop in from a different perspective. Atlanta, my current place of residence, and Memphis are quite different cities, even though they belong to the same geographical region. There are parallels, I'm sure...an Alpharetta here is probably a Germantown there, complete with the requisite boutiques, pack-and-ship stores, and nail salons. But I'm certain (through long-term dietary experimentation) that barbecue, for example, is not the same animal there that it is here. It is this kind of drive for advanced knowledge that leads me onward.

And then there is The King. When I left Memphis in 1978, Graceland either was not open to the public or had been open only a short time; but regardless, I have never visited the mansion. I cannot with a clear conscience raise a child who has not witnessed the sheer beauty, grace, and splendor of The Jungle Room, and it is partly for this reason that both Hannah and I are embarking a pilgrimage of this magnitude.

Barbecue is a big factor, and there is perhaps nowhere better on Earth to sample good 'cue than in Memphis. The proper place to eat barbecue is in an establishment which has been open for at least 40 years, boasts gray formica tables with aluminum edges, and smells like a smoky, cleaned-once-in-a-blue-moon pit. If you do not emerge from the restaurant smelling like a pork shoulder yourself, something is wrong. In the days I lived in Memphis, our favorites were Tops Bar-B-Q or the more refined Leonard's. Anyway, if a place looks too clean, we probably won't stop there.

Lastly, there is the river. I remember biking down to the bluff of the Mississippi as the summer days drew to a close, watching old men fishing as the sun went down, and wondering where all those barges and tugs were headed. Even though the Mississippi River is the color of mud, there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in America.

So the planning is underway. When we return, we'll post pictures of some of the places we've seen on the Whole Bean web site. It should be fun, to say the least.


It all started this morning when I saw a sprinkler system watering a vast field of dead, brown weeds on Medlock Bridge Road. The ambient temperature, according to my car thermometer, was 41°, and the sky was overcast. The day progressed downhill from there -- in short, it has been a series of unanswered questions, with one exception -- our trip to The Clay Oven.

The Clay Oven is a little Indian restaurant in the north Atlanta suburb of Duluth. We decided to head there for lunch, then drop over to the Indian market next door, where we were to help our friend Geeta select spices for her next culinary creation. While Geeta was making her final decisions, Keith, David and I headed over to the video rental section, where we perused such titles as "Freaky Chakra". At the checkout counter, we purchased a pan leaf, also known as Piper betle, for twenty cents from a small tray which was sitting there. According to Geeta, her grandfather had often chewed pan leaves to achieve a nice feeling of calm nirvana. She said that it also left a reddish color in his mouth. Given the day and week we'd all been having, it sounded like a good idea. The cashier told us that the pan leaf was often used in prayers or mixed with rose petals and fennel seeds.

When we got back to the car, Geeta said that she might be thinking of something else, and it wasn't the pan leaf after all, but rather a type of nut from the plant that her grandfather had chewed. Unfortunately, by this point Keith and I had already chewed up small sections of the leaf, leaving us with bad tastes in our mouths, no red discoloration, and a strong essence within Geeta's vehicle -- there was no recognizable feeling of calm nirvana.

After returning to the office, we did a little research on the Internet and found that the Piper betle plant is actually quite popular in parts of Asia, and is widely believed to have medicinal value. The list of afflictions which old Piper addresses is staggering: throat ailments, boils, bronchitis, elephantiasis...some even say it's an aphrodisiac and a laxative. Go figure.

But what is life if not a series of discoveries? We found on this trip that there are certain things best left on the shelf or on the tree. Namaste.


Did I say "cocoon"? I'm reporting from the ice storm front today. Yep, it was a swift change from "top down" weather. I could feel it in the Kroger parking lot -- that biting, damp wind that characterizes the worst days and nights of winter in the South. True, we don't have snow to any measurable degree, but when ice packs in, it brings every rolling, walking and flying thing to a standstill. And remember that summer humidity? Well, it turns into something of a monster come January.

Nevertheless, I see from the weather forecast that we may be back into the 60's by the end of this coming week. Ah, the strange beauty of the Southern winter!


Hannah and I put the convertible top down today, even though it is still technically January. You can do this kind of thing in Atlanta from time to time without fear of meterological recrimination (although we do have snow and ice in the forecast for the weekend). But, just to hedge my bets, my Netflix movies are here and Amazon books are on the way. Who knows? We might have to cocoon for a while yet.


Happy New Year! So what are your resolutions? This year, I found myself setting some goals without thinking about it. My theory is that if you have to think too hard about your resolutions, they're probably not worth it. To be fair, the goals are little things, easily attainable for the most part. Here are a few of them:
  • I resolve to continue my healthy eating and basic exercise regimen.

  • I resolve not to go nuts when I (or other people) lose things around the house.

  • I resolve to limit my iTunes purchases to ten songs a month (unless I have a gift card).

  • I resolve to continue twice daily flossing, so Dr. Golsen will not be mad at me.

  • I resolve to travel to at least one place this year that I've never visited.

There. Now I feel much better. I hope it is a great new year for everyone!