Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Famous Highways of the Northeast

I just returned from a Thanksgiving road trip from Atlanta to Boston and back. It's a trip of over 2,200 miles, and many of my friends are in awe that we would even consider driving on a trip of this length. But for us, it's fun to get out and see the U.S.A. at street level. Besides, without such a voyage, how could I be in the know about what's happening between here and there? Consider the following (please excuse me if you're already aware of any of these facts):

  • Dunkin' Donuts has a significantly increased presence in the Northeast, and the people get upset if you don't state your order immediately.
  • Burger King has come to the New Jersey Turnpike. Fortunately, Nathan's is still there. T-shirt/cap souvenirs are $14.99, with no sales tax.
  • Maryland charges tolls at random! Are there some signs missing or something?
  • Iced tea does not appear to be popular north of Virginia.
  • West Virginia has friendly people handing out free coffee at their rest areas.
  • McDonald's in New England sells a delicious iced coffee marketed by Newman's Own.
  • Coffee in general (even at Starbucks) appears to be weaker in the North than in the South. Is it the water?
  • The Massachusetts Turnpike apparently has no enforced speed limits, but New York state still has a speed limit of 55 mph.
  • Much of the entertaining graffiti on the Cross Bronx Expressway has been covered with brick red paint.
  • The morning mist on the Shenandoah mountains in Virginia is a thing of beauty.
  • Baseball caps appear to be even more popular in the North than in the South.
  • The world's slowest fast food service can be found at the Arby's in Newburgh, New York.
  • Many people on the Harvard campus wear black clothing. They seem quite serious.

If you don't take a good road trip now and then, how can you stay up on this stuff?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bowling for Fashion

There are certain things that I love about living in Atlanta. Last Saturday night, we went bowling with a group of friends, although what I experienced would surely have to be categorized as something more than just "bowling". The old AMF alley on Savoy Drive (the frontage road for Atlanta's I-285 on its northern leg, close to North Peachtree Road) is no more. The building has been completely renovated, and in the process, the old alley has been transformed into a bowling alley/nightclub hybrid called "300 Atlanta". It is a truly unique and refreshing take on an age-old pastime.

To begin, the ever-present smell of stale cigarette smoke has been completely eradicated from the building. When you check in for a game, you are assigned a personal attendant, sporting a headset, who is there to remedy any scoring machine errors that you might encounter and to make sure you are being served your food and beverages. You can rent shoes and a ball, of course, but the shoes are delivered on a small conveyor belt from some hidden repository within the building, and there are sample bowling balls available to make sure that you are "fitted" for the correct ball.

A beautiful bar lines one wall, stocked with premium call brands, all tastefully lit from beneath by indirect lighting. Prompt, courteous bartenders serve up anything you want...the apple martinis looked splendid, even though I opted for a refreshing light beer. The crowd is a nice mix of urban, traditional, and emo.

At 9:00 or so, the real fun begins. Instead of the customary "cosmic bowling" offered at lanes throughout the country, this place has "extreme bowling". An array of special effects lighting accompanies the heavy hip-hop/rock soundtrack being pumped from the massive sound system. The place just comes alive, and it's more like being at a trendy intown club than a bowling alley.

This is not your father's bowling alley...this is an experience. Why am I thinking that there'll be more of these popping up? Oh, wait...they already are...in Texas, New York, and California!

If you'd like to see more about 300 Atlanta, check out its virtual tour.

See ya,
Rich =:)

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Time for an Overhaul

As a person who has always been interested in politics (I remember watching the Kennedy-Nixon election when I was five years old), this year was a joy indeed! It seems that all over the country, mudslinging was in high gear...expensive TV ads, false claims, true claims, whatever...how can this not be entertaining? Except, of course, that we do have that little business of our country to run.

A number of my friends said that this year, they were tired of a Congress which does not appear to have accomplished its objectives. Actually, I'm sugar coating it; basically, they said they were tired of people who didn't do anything. It seems that for the last few years, once our representatives and senators have been elected, they rapidly lose interest. Add to this the fact that we are now so off-center with the rest of the world, and you have a recipe for true excitement down the road.

We need some smart people in Congress -- I hope we've elected them. We shall see.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Paradigm Shift"

I believe it started in the Nineties, that decade of grunge, dotcoms, and the Dow. Now, here we are, surrounded by endless gizmos which are supposed to make our lives simpler, yet we appear to be more stressed than ever. Why is this? Is it the endless drill of checking to make sure that no critical messages have arrived, responding to those we have to, and deleting all the Viagra and penny stock ads that we receive on our Bluetooth-enabled PDA's while sitting in stop-and-go traffic? What is this we have created? This ain't Nirvana -- they were in the Nineties, if you recall.

I'm as much a gadget fan as anyone -- in fact, I've bought five iPods for the family since 2004. But iPods offer a pleasant distraction, not an intrusion, and they're not that difficult to operate. They really require very little attention other than the right-brain kind. What I'm more concerned about are those devices which inundate us with information, much of which requires left-brain attention -- you need this! -- are we late? -- get this thing ASAP! -- where are we on this? -- "24/7" -- can I get back to you? -- is this in my space? Oy, veh!

When I began working, the most common method of information dissemination in the office was the traditional memo. Writing a memo required thought, organization, then action. The action consisted of typing the thing up (or getting it typed up), then distributing it by hand to everyone's desk. If the info didn't appear in a memo, chances are it would be verbally communicated. Excuse my use of the term, but if ever we were in the midst of a paradigm shift, it is now. We have people sitting in adjacent cubes emailing each other. Truly, this is somewhat insane, or at the very least, wasteful of satellite hops.

But who am I to judge? I sit here checking my email, listening to my third generation iPod, and waiting for the next polyphonic ring tone to jolt me back into 2006. I guess it isn't all bad, as long as I can get up and walk once in a while.

Monday, October 16, 2006

AIDS Walk Atlanta 2006

Yesterday, I again participated in AIDS Walk Atlanta, and this year we were lucky to be walking in Piedmont Park on a perfect fall day. The temperature was in the mid 60's, and I got a great workout just keeping up with my friends Barb and Michael, both of whom are taller than I am! We completed the 5K walk in just over 45 minutes. From what I'm hearing, this year's walk raised just short of a million dollars for AIDS research.

For this year, AIDS Walk partnered with Atlanta ONE in an effort to spread the word about AIDS awareness and to eradicate poverty in the developing world. If you've never checked out the ONE campaign's website, you may find it interesting to see the level of support this movement has garnered in a relatively short time. Visit www.one.org for details.

Here's a special thank you to all who donated to the AIDS Walk this year.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Whole Foods 3X

Yesterday marked the grand opening of a new Whole Foods store, located next door to our office building. What a fiesta that was! WF started the day by serving up free breakfast and coffee in their parking lot, followed by a "bread-breaking" (in lieu of ribbon-cutting) ceremony to open its beautiful new 63,000 square foot store to the public.

For those of you living in areas not served by Whole Foods, let's just say that the store is a Disneyland of Food. It specializes in organically-grown fruits and vegetables but goes far past that to provide total food nirvana. There are cafes, gelato bars, and free food to taste everywhere. Visiting there is like stepping inside The Food Network.

Anyway, the "3X" in the blog entry title refers to the fact that I actually went to Whole Foods three times yesterday -- in the morning for free breakfast and coffee, at lunch just to wander around with friends who hadn't been able to make it to the breakfast, and then again on the way home to pick up this espresso martini mixer that I'd found at lunch. I have done Kroger twice in one day, but I've never visited a grocery store three times in one day (except when I worked in them back in the Seventies).

I think I may need therapy, but I want to make sure that the provider is licensed and uses only treatment methods approved by the FDA and certified as earth-friendly. You get the picture. See you at the checkout counter!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Favorite Video

Popular music videos may come and go, but a few of them seem to have remarkable staying power -- Michael Jackson's "Thriller", Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer", and Madonna's "Material Girl", to name just a few.

When this season's American Idol contestant Ace Young performed George Michael's 1988 hit "Father Figure", his odds of becoming the next Idol improved dramatically. Had he chosen another song or two like "Father Figure", and performed them equally as well, he might have gone all the way to the top.

Michael's 1987 "Faith" album, from which "Father Figure" was released, was a blockbuster hit -- it sold millions and crossed a myriad of demographics. The video for "Father Figure" was extremely popular on VH-1, even though it was generally aired late in the evening due to its somewhat risque edge. It has always been one of my personal favorites. It's well-done, classy, and the music is great.

For those of you who have never seen it or just need a refresher, check it out below. Remember where you were? =:)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mozelle Patterson's Gospel Showcase

I must admit that it's not too often that I tune in to Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting (AIB) on Comcast Channel 5. But a week ago Saturday, I had a truly religious experience while channel surfing.

The girls handed me the remote (this almost never happens), and I scanned up and down the band, but then I abruptly stopped when I reached Channel 5. A woman who appeared to be in her seventies or eighties, dressed in a light pink suit and seated in front of an arrangement of white lilies, was hosting her own gospel video program entitled "Mozelle Patterson's Gospel Showcase.” It had started at 10:00 PM, and by the time I tuned in, there were still about twenty minutes left to go.

Mozelle featured videos going all the way back to 1983. Some of the acts had been taped at live concerts, and others were early, low-budget MTV type recordings that featured prominent gospel artists of the time. But what really made the show was Mozelle's delivery. In a tone of voice which could convince the earth to spin in reverse, she preceded each video with a bit of background on the artists, then interleaved the videos themselves with home-grown commercials for local businesses such as salons, garages, and even funeral homes. She sprinkled in more common-sense, down-to-earth advice in twenty minutes than Dr. Phil could probably issue in a week. Mozelle left you feeling like you were listening to an old friend.

Yes, it's true that I haven't been a big viewer of AIB, but now I have a reason. Mozelle is on Sundays at 3:30 AM and Saturdays at 10:00 PM. I can't wait for next week's installment.

384 Miles to Memphis

Yeah...that's right. You got a groove thing, and you may not even know it.

Lewis called me this morning to ask if I'd heard anything from North Mississippi All-Stars. They are a modern blues band from the Hill Country around Holly Springs, playing down-and-dirty juke joint blues for the new millenium. Put it on and you can taste the fried catfish and hush puppies. For a sampling, check out their "Hill Country Revue" album, recorded in 2004 at the Bonnaroo Festival.

I've also been listening to Hi Times and Top of the Stax for the last few days. It's like sitting down to a big dinner of barbecue and cold beer. You probably stay at the bar too long, but you just can't leave because the music SPEAKS to you. Stand up, dance, be counted...this is the Mid-South speaking to you. =:)

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Atlanta 1980

My first trip to Atlanta from Chicago was in 1980. Looking back, it's amazing how things have changed! Witness:

1. The present Hartsfield-Jackson airport was not yet in service. The old airport was full of cream and teal floor tiles and said "1960" out loud.

2. There was a club in Buckhead in which a magician worked behind the bar, doing cigarette and smoke tricks.

3. Lenox Square Mall was in a fairly quiet location. It looked like a suburb.

4. Perimeter Mall was somewhat dowdy, with brightly-colored pendant lights in primary colors hanging from the ceiling. A dirt road led to the Marriott hotel, and cows grazed in pastures at Ashford-Dunwoody and I-285.

5. The Fox Hotel had just been saved from demolition, but the area was fairly empty.

6. Two of the most popular restaurants in town were The Mansion and The Abbey.

7. "The Connector" as we know it (I-75/I-85) did not exist. The expressway that did go through downtown was two lanes in each direction.

8. Atlanta Underground was hanging by a thread due to rampant street crime.

9. Georgia 400 was two lanes in each direction, and there was no section between I-285 and downtown Atlanta. Holcomb Bridge Road (exit 7A now) was the end of civilization as we know it.

10. There were two Home Depot stores in existence nationwide, and both were in Atlanta.

My, how things have changed, eh?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Coincidences? I wonder...

Back in 1979 was when I think it started. My wife and I had gone to the movies to see The China Syndrome, a movie about a near-catastrophic "meltdown" at a nuclear power plant. The plot was unheard of and honestly, sounded a little far-fetched, but I awoke the next morning to the news that a similar incident had actually occurred at the now-infamous Three Mile Island complex.

One Sunday afternoon in 1981, I saw an article in the Chicago Tribune about brewing coffee. The article said that people generally make many mistakes when brewing coffee, and it described how to get that "restaurant taste" when brewing your own coffee, how you should grind your own beans, make coffee stronger, etc. In those days, there were basically three or four decent store brands of coffee, and we worked our way through all of them in search of the perfect cup. We became known as the "coffee people" to our friends. One day years later (at least in Atlanta), this thing called Starbucks appeared, and you know the rest.

In the mid-1990's, I became very interested in the Arts and Crafts style of architecture. The only problem was that there were no builders constructing this style of house anywhere. I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up books on Craftsman bungalows, visited Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio in Chicago, and checked out tons of web sites describing this appealing style of architecture in communites such as Pasadena, California, and Oak Park, Illinois. Then suddenly a few years ago, Atlanta builders began constructing new homes in a unique Arts and Crafts style. Now, they're all over town.

For years, I thought that a handheld computer-like device that could play music selected from menus would be a great idea. Hmmm...maybe I should have told someone!

About a month ago, again out of the blue, I decided that I'd like to see some of the old Miami Vice shows on DVD. I did, and a few days later, I found out that the Miami Vice movie was being released and along with that, we now had Miami Vice marathons on TV.

Finally, a week ago, totally out of the blue, we rented Krakatoa: East of Java from Netflix and watched it one evening. In this 1969 movie, the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano causes a tsunami that hits the island of Java. The next morning, I awoke to the news that a tsunami had hit Java.

So what does all this mean? Friends are telling me that I need to become some kind of "cultural forecaster". The incidents I've mentioned above are only a few...there have been many more, too many to count. It's gotten to the point where this is spooky.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Welcome to John(')s Creek

The residents of my community yesterday voted 2:1 in favor of incorporating ourselves into a new city to be named Johns Creek. Johns Creek wishes to pull itself out of the "clutches" of Fulton County, Georgia, home to the city of Atlanta and a few other sizeable towns. On the surface, this might appear to be a good idea. However, I do not and did not support this change. Here's why:

1. The name is messed up already. Why is there no apostrophe in Johns Creek? Was the creek named after someone named "Johns"? Shouldn't it be John's Creek?

2. Most of the people who supported this are wildly and unquestioningly conservative. I am not.

3. Fire and police protection, among other municipal services, must be started FROM SCRATCH. Yet, there will be no new taxes, at least for two years. Where have we heard this before? I can't wait to see what the taxes will be like in the third year.

4. Our area had the opportunity to vote for inclusion into the city of Roswell, which was recently rated the #3 place in the United States in which to live by Frommer's.

But who am I to judge? I'm in John(')s Creek for now. No new taxes. Yeah, right.

Monday, July 3, 2006


If you've been to Atlanta, you know that our city is encircled by the busy I-285 expressway, affectionately known to us locals as "The Perimeter". As you approach Atlanta from I-75, you'll see signs referring to it as "Atlanta Bypass", which is really quite humorous, since it goes through some very heavily traveled areas..."bypass" is a true misnomer!

Anyway, as of late, we have new terms describing where one lives, i. e. "ITP" or inside the Perimeter, or "OTP", outside the Perimeter. Think of it as Atlanta's version of Washington's Beltway. If you're ITP, you have trendy restaurants, charming neighborhoods, and high real estate prices. If you're OTP, you have mega-shopping, mega-neighborhoods, and more reasonable real estate prices (although they're still up there). We live OTP, but we do lots of stuff ITP, and there's a truly different mindset to each TP. It's fun to see where you end up.

This past weekend, from Friday night until Sunday night, I calculated that I had made no less than six trips ITP:

1. Dinner at La Tavola in Virginia-Highland with cousins.
2. Walking in Chastain Park, coffee at Caribou on Roswell Road.
3. Trip to water garden store on Cheshire Bridge Road to buy plants.
4. Evening cruise on Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Peachtree Street.
5. Crosstown cruise from Chastain Park to Avondale Estates.
6. Picnic and hiking at Murphey Candler Park.

Hmmm...perhaps this says something. Yes, it does! It says that I'm using lots of gasoline. But I'm also having fun. And note that at least two of the above activities involved exercise. There...now I feel better. Ciao!

Friday, June 9, 2006

Emergency Reponse Training...that's what it's called. It's a three-Saturday course in preparing us for what to do in case of natural or man-made disasters. It should be interesting. Stay tuned...it starts at 8:00 AM tomorrow, so Starbucks will be visited! =:)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ordinary Wednesday Chronicle

8:59 AM – …according to the PC clock, that is. Weaved through traffic at Old Alabama and 141 to get here, waved hello to Keiko and Nazima, then sat down to boot up and read email. Nice to see congratulations from Xavier…and yes, I can time the swim meet tomorrow…what happened to John, anyway? I still see his name on the list, but I’ll fill in. Heard Jeremy laugh across the floor…I’d better go make the rounds.

9:55 AM – Just had an unusual conversation with Jean about living wills, trusts, inherited property, and how my uncle was originally buried in the wrong row of the cemetery. Wonder how this day will work out?!

10:20 AM – Waiting for a query to run, so stopped the mayfairstclair.com hosting, checked domain registration.

10:49 AM – One downside of following standards is that they often don’t work. I cannot get the Logistics website home page to display properly, and no one is returning emails about it. Oy, veh! We make life so complicated for ourselves! I should never have attempted to follow the “Corporate Style Guide”! (If I’d followed standards, Whole Bean would never have been published.)

10:55 AM – To hell with it…I’m going to sync my Palm Pilot.

1:30 PM – Yes! My latest database request was completed in record time! Did a Chick-fil-A deluxe sandwich for lunch – oops, there went my Weight Watchers plan out the door. That must be 24 points right there.

1:56 PM – Off to a status meeting on the May Transition project. It’s always held in the cafeteria (oy, veh).

3:37 PM – Trying yet another iteration of the application which will not respond in under five minutes. Hope this time’s a charm. Sent a quick email off to Julie to see what’s up at Harvard. What I’d give for some chocolate about now.

3:43 PM – What is with this White Stripes band? I put the “Elephant” CD on my iPod, and it is SO weird. And the query is still timing out. Ugh!

5:25 PM – Completed weekly status, got query working (with MOD function), drank lots of water. Heading home. Wonder how much traffic is on 141? Am I going to have to cut through the Target parking lot to make a left? I'm thinking so.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Go, Taylor! The guy that I hoped would win American Idol did it this week! I came across an interview that Taylor did with WBHM, Birmingham's Public Broadcasting affiliate, back in December, 2005. I'd never watched American Idol regularly until this season, but once you start tuning in from week to week, you get hooked. I especially liked that Stevie Wonder made an appearance. Stevie's music has always been some of the most complex, yet most melodic, work in the pop repertoire, and it was nice to see him in the limelight again.

And if you were a fan of Katharine McPhee, I must say that she indeed did a remarkable job as well. Her rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" this past Tuesday night left no dry eyes, at least among the dads in the audience.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, everybody! =:)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I believe that low barometric pressure is reponsible for many of the ills of society. In addition to stirring up bad weather, it seems to engender bad vibes in general. Today was a marked example of this phenomenon -- upon arriving at the office, I noticed that everyone seemed to be just a little bit off center and possessed of a certain guardedness which could not be remedied, even with vast amounts of coffee.

Atlanta is a place where the sun shines often, and I think that we take it, and the good moods it induces, for granted. I recall that when I lived in Chicago, a wonderful city, but home to frequent prolonged low barometric pressure and a listless cloud cover, we would often have to get creative in order to make ourselves snap out of bad moods. Recovery generally involved administration of substantial portions of deep-dish pizza and/or donuts. The problem with this approach was, of course, that concomitant weight gain was an almost certain result. The weight gain would then put us again in bad moods, and the whole thing would turn into one nasty, vicious cycle. Otherwise, Chicago was cool.

So I sit here this afternoon, listening to George Strait on my iPod and trying to figure out how to emerge from the depths of less-than-ideal weather, but glad just to be up and walking around. Besides, the sun will come out, donuts or no donuts. =:o

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

There's sometimes nothing like a good road trip, especially when it takes you somewhere pretty. We just returned from a weekend trip to attend a neighbor's daughter's wedding at Ole Miss (that's the "University of Mississippi" for all you Northerners, bless your hearts) in Oxford, Mississippi. The wedding, held at the Paris-Yates Chapel on the campus, was a very special, lovely ceremony (Dickie, I'm still proud of you for holding up so well), and the reception, held at a historic home on the east side of Oxford, was simply delightful. There is indeed something so appealing about sipping yet another glass of chilled white wine on the lawn of a beautiful Southern home while taking in the scent of jasmine on the cool night air and listening to the strains of The Marshall Tucker Band. Hallelujah.

Oxford is a unique community with a style all its own -- historic, artsy, somewhat trendy, and unquestionably hospitable. It's also only 75 miles from Memphis -- far enough to be on the quiet side, but close enough to a major metropolitan area to take advantage of the services it provides. Being a book nut, I was enthralled to find three separate bookstores on the pristine town square, each with its own focus -- one specializing in signed first editions, one focused on quality bargain books, and a third devoted to children's literature. Square Books, one of the larger stores, has a special section devoted to the works of William Faulkner, certainly one of the city's most famous sons. Faulkner's home, Rowan Oak, is open to the public, and self-guided tours of the house and grounds make for a restful morning visit.

We wrapped up our brief pilgrimage with a day in Memphis, where we visited Beale Street, strolled around the Memphis Zoo (an awesome collection), and consumed large plates of pulled pork barbecue at Corky's on Poplar Avenue with my longtime friend Lewis and his wife Donna. The waitress "talked me into" eating pecan pie a la mode for dessert. It was nice to be back in Memphis, livin' on Delta Time, if only for a day.

I came back to Atlanta a happy camper, well-rested, but still clinging to the scent of magnolia blossoms, dreaming of groves of oak and cedar, and listening to Faith Hill just a little more often. Oh, by the way, dea-ah, if you don't mind, would you please pass me that little ol' glass of bourbon I left settin' over the-ah? Thank you kindly, ma'am.


Sunday, April 9, 2006

There's a new Coke product on the market -- Coca-Cola Blak, it's called. It is advertised as "Coke Effervescence with Coffee Essence". Now, if all this sounds a bit strange to you, keep in mind that probably no one short of Coke could have blended these two disparate flavors into something palatable, but they've done it, and done it with style.

Blak tastes like -- well, I don't know -- you see, there's nothing to compare it to. If you like espresso or caffe americano (espresso with hot water, also sometimes served iced), you'll probably like Blak. Imagine espresso with a cola zing and you've got the idea. And at only 45 calories per 8-ounce bottle, it's great for people on a diet.

My wife and daughter bought me a four-pack two days ago, and I'm addicted. I need therapy.

Check it out at www.coca-colablak.com...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Atlanta was blanketed by fog this morning. This is not unusual for many cities, but for us, it's something of a treat. People get all wiggy and put on their fog lights...when else do you get to use them, after all? At any rate, one of the local TV stations posted a nice picture of downtown at the height of the coverage, and I thought it was worth including here. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I just read that the official Metro Atlanta population (as of 2004) is 4,708,297. Until yesterday afternoon, I did not know where all these people lived.

Although the city of Atlanta recorded an official 2004 population of only 429,500, the metropolitan area of Atlanta is comprised of 28 counties, 110 municipalities and 8,376 square miles. (See http://www.metroatlantachamber.com/macoc/home/atlantafacts.shtml for more metro factoids.)

Yesterday, I had to pick up a coffee table at a furniture distribution center which was to my (and I'm sure other people's) sensibilities, a long way out of town. But when I got there, I found a road full of traffic backed up at numerous lights that all seemed to be red at the same time. Where does it stop? Well, it's hard to say. Atlanta has no natural geographical barriers -- there is no (gigantic) lake, ocean, or unscalable mountain range within a day's drive, so it may go on forever.

A recent article I read claimed that Metro Atlanta has gone down in history as the fastest-growing settlement anywhere on the planet. As I limped back home with my table, I surely believed that. But it was somehow comforting to know that I could have stopped anywhere along the way for a Moon Pie, single or double-decker.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

I think we can safely call it Tour de Pizza.

I am one of those people who loves to drive around, exploring things and places. This has been a habit of mine for as long as I can remember, but last night, I believe I took the term "cruising" to a whole new level. My wife and some of her girlfriends were out for the evening, so my younger daughter, 14 years old and a true adventurer, embarked with me on what was to become a true Tour de France of pizza. We didn't know it when we started, but it turned into an odyssey.

Since our lunch had filled us for quite a while, Hannah and I waited until about 7:30 to head out for dinner. Finally, we were ready to depart. The destination: in town. (In Atlanta, I-285, the Perimeter Expressway, divides the city into what is affectionately(?) known as "ITP" (inside the Perimeter) and "OTP" (outside the Perimeter). We live OTP, but we spend a lot of time ITP, because, in Hannah's words, "there's so much cool stuff there".

We left home with the best of intentions. We were headed for a place call Maharaja, an Indian restaurant on La Vista Road, just slightly ITP on the east side. We arrived at the intended location, but alas, the place had changed hands and now looked way too sleepy for our tastes. I then remembered a place called Zyka, also Indian, which I thought was almost next door, but as we drove along La Vista, it was nowhere to be found, and we continued our journey until we reached North Druid Hills Road, passing along the way a Fellini's Pizza place that looked, OK, pretty cool.

We took a left on North Druid Hills, passed the Toco Hills shopping center (pretty hard to miss), then emerged into a kind of undeveloped area until we reached Lawrenceville Highway, where we took a right turn, then headed down Lawrenceville Highway until we ran into Church Street, where we took a left. I had decided by this time that we would just head down to Decatur, a part of town which is known for trendy eateries and as the home of the Indigo Girls. But lo, just as we turned onto Church Street, we stumbled upon what else but ZYKA, in a totally different part of town from where I thought it had been. So we decided to check it out.

Oh, my! Zyka is a large no-frills fast-food/dining hall of what appeared to be some of the best Indian food in town. The place smelled like heaven! But it was a bit chaotic, so we decided that we'd move on. So we got back in the car and headed on down Church Street to Decatur. At the intersection of Church and Commerce Drive, we made a left, and there on our right was another Fellini's Pizza, right across the street from the new Ice House Lofts. So, OK, by this time it was almost 8:30 -- time to eat. And eat we did...the pizza was fantastic, the wait staff pleasant and humorous, just an all around good place.

All along in this odyssey, Hannah had wanted to head downtown. Well, at this point, we were almost there. Heading out of Fellini's, we got back on (stay with me here) East Ponce de Leon, which turns into West Ponce de Leon, which then turns into Ponce de Leon. We took PDL to Peachtree Road (yes, THE Peachtree), passing another Fellini's Pizza on the way, then headed north on Peachtree, cruising through the heart of downtown. We took Peachtree up through the Arts Center area, then took a left on quiet Deering Road to Northside Drive, where we turned left and headed back down to 17th Street and the Atlantic Station development, a sort of mini-city within the city.

We cruised through Atlantic Station and cam back out to 17th, where we headed over to Peachtree, then north (passing yet another Fellini's) through the Lenox Square area to Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. We then took Peachtree-Dunwoody north to Windsor Parkway, making a right on Windsor Parkway (in the Oglethorpe University area), and took it to Ashford-Dunwoody Road. At one time, there had been a bunch of hoboes who hung out on Windsor Parkway, and I wanted to see if they were still there. They weren't.

We made a left on Ashford-Dunwoody, then took it north (once again becoming OTP) until Mount Vernon Road, where we made a left and headed for GA 400, the expressway which took us home. We pulled into the driveway at 11:10, having passed four Fellini's locations in the process (I had passed a fifth one earlier in the day). We were tired, but happy in the knowledge that we now know where to go for some of the best pizza in town. And oh, by the way, we now know where Zyka is as well. Maybe we'll go there next time!

Thursday, March 2, 2006

I've been behaving since 1975, and I'm over it. Bring on the Simon Stinger, Rocky Horror, the all night music, the masks, and the Celtic rituals. Build a bonfire. Knock down a brick wall. It's all out there.

I want to spend time in a coffee shop in Budapest, a place where I can write in the early morning or late at night. I want to see the color of life.

The new green is anything but serene!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Yes -- I'm one of those people who remembers music from the Sixties and Seventies. I was there! And who do I find myself listening to today? Why, Yes, of course. Yes.

Perhaps the definitive art-rock band of the Seventies, Yes still makes for refreshing listening, even if their lyrics are so far out there that most of us will never catch up with them. (Michael Stipe says that he doesn't understand many of R.E.M.'s lyrics, either, and it's his own band.) Abandoning the traditional 4/4 hammer of so many rock songs of that era, Yes took off in a totally different direction, composing and performing stylistic mood pieces, many of which caused the needle to traverse entire LP sides. But even with the length of the songs, they were the perfect accompaniment to long nights of studying, whether it was organic chemistry, Soviet Literature of the Twentieth Century, or second-quarter neurobiology.

Being an iTunes addict, I ventured into Steve Jobs' eminent digital domain this past weekend and was wowed by the depth of the Yes collection. Albums such as "Tormato", which I never saw sold for the original price, were duly represented and reviewed on iTunes, as were the releases of Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Do you remember "The Six Wives of Henry VIII"? How about "Journey to the Centre of the Earth"? They're out there.

It's outstanding that in this era, we can dive into the depths, promulgate the strains of Yes and make it available to iPods anywhere on the planet. Far out. Hey...I never said that in the Seventies, man. =:)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Since I can't watch much TV without falling asleep, driving around town seems to have become my way to relax. (If you live in Atlanta, you may find this very hard to believe, but I'm talking about non-rush hour here.) In a peculiar turn of events, Atlantans seem to be increasingly turning to the city to find a place to live. Twenty years ago, some 70,000 people fled the city (about 450,000 at the time) for the increasingly far-flung suburbs, but with commute times to many areas now the longest of any city in America (according to statistics released in 2004), people are taking a second look at living so far out. The problem is that with some 4.5 million people in the metropolitan area, not everyone can move in, and the prices are skyrocketing.

As spring approaches, I'll probably be continuing to cruise the streets to post some interesting finds. One which I recently came across is the historic (they have a newer facility) Scottish Rite Hospital complex in the Oakhurst district of Atlanta. For you locals, that's south of Decatur and north of Memorial Drive. I snapped a few pictures of the complex, and tell me, does this look like a hospital? If so, check me in!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Oh the noise, the noise...the noise, noise, noise, noise! I understand how Mr. Grinch feels! There is so much noise in my office today that I have had to crank up the iPod just to drown it out so I can think about how to fix an Oracle issue. Add this to no sleep and we have quite a day going here! Oy, veh!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Here's a chance to help a worthy cause, and get two great downloads at the same time. Peter Gabriel is offering two tracks for one pound sterling. Proceeds benefit earthquake relief efforts in India and Pakistan. Featured is the late legendary Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. If you've never heard his music, you owe it to yourself! South East Asia Earthquake Appeal

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Skiing! Ah, what a wonderful sport indeed! I made my first attempt at downhill skiing this past weekend at Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. I say "attempt" because I believe that most aptly describes what I accomplished: some four hours of skiing in a "training area" (also known as "Wolf Creek Hollow"), followed by a descent of a "beginner" slope. After some five or six tries, I had the hang of the rope tow at the training area, so I spent the morning repeating this over and over and over and over. Finally, breaking for lunch, I had a chance to rest and take stock of my accomplishments, which I deemed were very limited.

After lunch, we attempted the beginner slope, known as "Easy Way", and on its lower elevations, "Rabbit Hill". Ha! Two major misnomers. Easy Way looked great from down on the ground, but not so good from above. After some four or five zigzag paths down the hill, much of which was spent sitting on the ground, I finally took my skis off at the bottom and walked the last thirty feet, a feeling of disgust and sadness overcoming me. But not to be daunted, I took a short break, then once again stepped into the cruel straits of fiberglass for yet another try at the training area.

Throughout this whole ordeal, Karen had been trying to teach me something -- anything. Many times, I plunged the poles into the ground and tried in vain to raise myself up again to a standing position. On occasion, I could actually get myself up and ponder what to do next. Oh, the anguish!

But then after it was all done, I headed to the lodge bar and had (in fairly rapid succession) two Jack Daniels and Cokes. After that, the ski area seemed to mellow a bit -- the whole idea no longer had the feel of doom that it had possessed earlier in the day but now appeared to be a fulfilling, relaxing activity. Yes, I thought, I might do this again.

And now, as I gaze at the wallpaper I have downloaded from the Snowmass web site, I realize that I have been pulled into a strangely addictive endeavor, one which is not without risk, but which holds out the promise of making one look pretty good while turning from side to side, swooshing down a mountain. Of course, for me, that might be a while!

Monday, January 9, 2006

It was 1973, the year in which more interesting things happened to me than all my other years put together. My bass player friend David and I were on a choir tour with our Memphis church. We were in Toronto and, as with many choir tours, we were booked to stay with a host family when out of the crowd stepped a long-haired man who volunteered to have us stay with him instead. When he did this, all the local people at the church agreed that it was a good idea, and David and I were simply too interested not to accept his invitation. See, this guy was a guitar player like us, only a few years older, and his name was Joe Probst.

The evening with Joe turned out to be one of the most curious and interesting in my life. Joe was a mail carrier who had a humble third-floor apartment in the town of Brampton, just outside Toronto. When we got to the apartment, Joe lit a couple of candles and mounted them on the horns of a moose head which hung on the wall. We talked, played guitar, and sang most of the evening. Joe was a very decent guitar player who had recently released an album entitled "The Lion and the Lady", and his record producer dropped in for a while later in the evening. We drank Oktoberfest beer, perhaps a little late for the season but ice cold and illicitly good nevertheless. When we turned in for the evening, Joe instructed us on how to operate the electrical appliances the next morning so as not to blow a fuse (he would be off to work by the time we awakened).

Joe Probst was a sincere, funny, and talented guy, and although his album was never a commercial success, it remains as one of the most listenable in my collection. A few years ago, I located the CD online. If you are a fan of Harry Chapin or the softer ballads of Bruce Springsteen, you will probably like Joe's music. I wish him well and hope that wherever he finds himself tonight, there are candles on a moose head close at hand.

Here's the link to Joe's CD:

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Happy New Year, even though it's the second week and all. Last year, I posted my resolutions on my blog and, as a result, I managed to keep all of them. I attribute this at least in part to the fact that when everything is right out there, you feel an obligation to try to keep your resolutions. In the same spirit, I am again listing those things which I hope to accomplish this year:

  • Stop repeating myself. Is this early Alzheimer's or what?
  • Stop sweating the small stuff. I can be pretty bad about this at times.
  • Get together with friends more often. Some of you I've found in the past year, and I want to make sure that I don't lose touch again.
Here's hoping that 2006 brings happiness, peace, and prosperity to you all!