Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow-pocalypse 2014

Ramblings Post #251
Ah wintry morning, smile upon us and grant us the serenity of mind, the quiet of the morning, snow a blanket. Ah wintry morning, gaze upon and grant us the serenity of the soul, the quiet of the essence, snow a blessing. Ah wintry morning, I have an early meeting, so I'm sorry you can't stay. Here's a few bucks for a cab, and I'll call you. Promise.

Didn't I just do this? Oh yeah, I did.

The city of Atlanta is starting to get back to right. The Google traffic map has shifted back from a bright red halo of  I-285 to what could be a typical Wednesday, where only half the traffic is horrible. Actually it may look better than normal, since a lot of people aren't going anywhere until Friday if they can help it. I'm hunkered down, conserving my snacks and "trying to find an exit out the business."

So, what happened? What caused the city to sink into almost total gridlock, children to be stuck at school overnight, five miles commutes to last ten hours and people to have to sleep in their cars
overnight? Some of it was bad planning. No, a lot of it was bad planning. And constrained budgets. And obstinacy on the part of decision makers, private and public, thinking that it wouldn't be that bad.

First, the people in charge screwed up on this one. Governor. Mayor. Business owners. Etc. The storm was predicted over the weekend. In neighboring states, some closed schools on Monday and Tuesday in anticipation. Businesses said, take some time with the family. People got ready. That wasn't done here. It wouldn't be that bad. As Al Roker put it, the people in charge took a gamble and they lost.

Second, the city itself is ill prepared for such events. Although the city plan calls for nearly two hundred miles of streets to pretreated in case of emergency, no such pre-treating was done in this case. Again, this part of the gamble they took. But even if they had taken the initiative, two hundred miles is barely a sliver of the network of streets and roads that crisscross the city.  It was only a few years ago this same thing  occurred, and the city took steps to act like maybe they could do something. But, after spending a few million on gear and infrastructure, the cost of deployment and replenishment versus the possibility of wasted effort weighed heavily in the decision matrix. So they gambled that it wouldn't be that bad.

But it kinda was, that bad...

Third, the city of Atlanta really isn't a single city, what with the state, county and city governments all
with different agendas, added to the recent modern politics of the redivided south carving out what were previously neighborhoods into little separate cities, exactly who was in charge of what was a bit ... muddy. In some cases the same street might switch governance three times in two miles. This coupled with sending everyone home at the last minute so everyone hits the roads at the same time, the average Southern's inability to drive in snow plus the inability of most people to drive on ice, well, you see how things just kinda spiraled out of control. They quickly got...that bad.

I'm still not ready to trade this for say, Boston, where it's cold five months out of the year...but sometimes it does test me.  

So what to do? I talked with my brother, who last night was helping cars cross the bridge down the street from his house, and he came up with an idea that's been floating around my head since. Just an idea, I'm certain there are I'm missing but here it is:

Idea: Designated Local Agents; on an as needed basis for inclement conditions.

The idea is that the city of Atlanta...and it's surrounding boroughs...go ahead and buy more than few of these abundant foreclosure homes still sitting around our great city in strategic spots. Offer to pay a small fee for them, but if the banks get antsy you can always invoke eminent domain. Then, tear down the structure and build a concrete bunker. An artistic bunker. If you want, you can even landscape the area, get a local artist to paint the side. Call it infrastructure improvement or a citywide Art show. Then inside this structure, place a few hundred pounds of road salt, shovels, maybe even a plow you strap to front of a four wheel drive vehicle or two. Then take bids for the area. One or two people to hold the key. During inclement weather that contractor handles that specific area's street needs. Pay them say $2500 for their time per incident. Have a city manager check on them once a month to make sure the agents haven't moved and to inspect the bunkers. It might look costly on the front end, say an outlay of a five million dollars, but over the long run it would be more than cost effective.

And if you consider how the city responded to people in peril on the streets, I'm sure the contractors may even get a few volunteers to help out in our times of need. Neat all the way around. 

It's not a great plan. But it's a start. And I'm fairly certain a number of people can probably spot a dozen or so flaws fairly quickly. We in Atlanta thank you, because if you can spot the flaws that means we can fix them.

Barkeep. I believe I'll have a Hot Toddy, because that one time at that party....  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Odd Quotes

The Road only goes one way
 “I guess I can’t really change the past since it’s now history and I certainly cannot change tomorrow, for I am not promised it, but I can change the way I live today. This realization in itself is the root of not only who I want to be tomorrow, but who I am working on being today. Never again do I want to fail anything without an attempt; I want push myself to my fullest potential, and if that means that I fall a few times along the way then so be it, but I will no longer allow myself to just give up. I deserve better, and it is time that I start believing that. ”
~ Nadia Kelifa

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Quick Pre-Review - The Ruckers: Southern Royalty

Ramblings Post #250
Methinks that perhaps I am running out of life. Or at least interesting life. Or life worthy of writing about at the very least. Because of my stalled efforts with the State Bar of Georgia, and a certain perverse mix of perseverance and stubbornness, my life has devolved into a repetitive mix of wake, study, eat, practice test, eat, obsess about progress with aforementioned studying and practice test, and sleep. On the plus side, I do plan on adding workout to the mix. On the downside, how interesting can the gym be? 

One of their promo pics.
I don't watch reality TV, and I don't think this show isn't even out yet, but I feel compelled to comment on this because I know, or rather knew, these people. The house of my childhood is right next door to the Rucker family home, a stately manor on the outskirts of Lancaster, SC, where as wee little kids their older brother Aaron and I played in their "tree" house, never succeeded in finding a reason to get the dirt bikes unlocked and swam in their pool to get rid of the red bugs we picked up exploring the woods...the woods we explored to get red bugs just so we could get to swim in the pool. We jumped off the garage because reasons, had pine cone fights and stopped all activity to watch Spiderman at 4pm. Childhood was kinda fun, yes? 

Now to be clear, I haven't seen the Ruckers in forever, not since I ran into one of the older sisters when she was at Spelman, so this isn't an expose of any kind. I have no secrets to impart. But my mother still talks to these girls mother regularly, so I do get updates and news from time to time.

So, what to say? When I first saw the pilot/demo tape, it was called Raising the Ruckers, and the opening included the a family portrait on the beach that looked so majestic I have already stolen it in my mind. I just need to actually have some kids. The family is who they say they are, and it would be my guess that they aren't looking for fame as much as notoriety, which at least to me is substantively different.

Watching the preview one of the things I find it hardest to wrap my head around are the accents, a distinctive southern twang that solidifies that this show isn't from anywhere you've been before. I wonder had my family stayed in Lancaster, would I have sounded like that? The twang these girls have hits the ear with vibrato that demands remembering, and wonder if I'd be the same guy. People comment that I have a continental accent, meaning I sound educated, or more like the people on TV, so the perception of me is forgiving. This accent may take some getting used to in certain parts up north. 

I can surmise with confidence this however: it will probably be the least degrading reality show on
television, more akin to a feminized version of the wholesome Duck Dynasty than anything else. There may be a little drama if it's editors cut it just right, but all the girls come from a good family, and I seriously doubt Mrs. Rucker would allow them to embarrass themselves or anybody else. Having said that I now wonder how long the program will last, as drama is what makes good reality TV, and this one highly doubts the buffoonish antics that make up so much of the genre will be repeated here. 

This being what it is, I do want to wish them well. More, I hope that television doesn't damage them, as the medium has to a tendency to do, and that the family stays family. One day I'll have stop by and see how they're doing. Off season of course, when the cameras aren't there. Wait strike that. Don't want to look like an hanger-on. Maybe I'll just have my mom to tell Mrs. Rucker I said hi.

Barkeep. A round of bright red kool-aid. Because that damn stand never made a dime.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Martin and Coretta. Class not swag.

I'm sorry sir, but we have a ways to go yet.

Your message has been co-opted, by politicians who want to remind people that you sir were a Republican...but fail to mention that the party has wholly transformed since your membership. By those who want to fight what they feel is unjust power, but fail to realize that you never once shirked the consequences of your actions even if the law was unjust. By those making to make a quick buck and plaster your name on flyers and attach it to every cause they can dream up. I'd like to tell you that we remember your message, even though it seems like only in our dreams.

I'm sorry sir, but we have a ways to go yet.

Because with dawn of a new age, where the promise of my childhood that any kid could be the President came true, we uncovered a lot of repressed racism. Even those who would stand with us have touches of it that they themselves don't even recognize. Today people would tell you "You're not like other black people," not realizing it means they've stereotyped all those not in the view. Today people would tell you "When I see you I don't see black," not understanding that to not see your blackness means they'd like to forget their own history. And those are our allies.

I'm sorry sir, but we have a ways to go yet. 

There is a place in the future where a person is judged on the content of their character. Where every man has a voice in their governance. Where the dignity afforded one through hard work and self sacrifice can be achieved by anyone who sets their mind to it, without regard for race or creed. Where we are all EQUAL. 

I'm sorry sir, but we have a ways to go yet.

But we will get there.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Quick Restaurant Review - Common Quarter

Never accept a brunch invitation before you wake up. Spanky called as she sometimes does on the odd Saturday, barking into my phone, asking is the wrong term...imploring me to leap to my feet and join her somewhere.  Usually its someplace where there is an event, say a day party she doesn't want to go to alone or the like, but this morning it was the side-eye meet-up for brunch. At somewhere she either already is or on her way to. Which is like totally unfair. She's awake, dressed and on the freeway and I'm neck deep in comforter.

But because I hadn't really been out in two weeks, and I hadn't looked up the spot I grudgingly agreed. So that was my mistake.

The place she chose was a new spot she'd found on Urban Daddy called Common Quarter, which if you look on a map is located somewhere in East Cobb. I do not live anywhere near East Cobb. I knew there was an issue when I looked it up on my phone and Google Maps predicted that it was more than 30 mins away... traveling by highway! Now admittedly, at my encouragement, Spanky is supposed to be stepping outside her comfort zone, although she may have taken my wording a bit more literally than I intended. So I felt a wee bit guilty that perhaps I had induced this somehow. That feeling was temporary.

So after a brisk shower and shave, a ride up the west wall and 75 north...and Roswell Rd....I eventually arrived.

Let me describe the spot. Very modern, with the wine racks up front and local jams and other consumables right near the door. Then a space, because no matter how much you polish a concrete floor or how nice the fabric you hang over bare concrete walls it's just a space. It's arranged nicely, with a full wood bar up front and nice wood horizontal across the space, but it's still just a space. They were playing some good southern blues as accent music, which is a nice change up so kudos to them for that.

Now, normally the phrase "brunch" turns a Saturday morning in Atlanta into tizzy reminiscent a mini Black Friday opening. I've personally experienced waits up to an hour for a table at your more notable joints. But this spot was empty. Like ten people total in a space designed for a hundred kinda empty. The manager explained later it was only their second week doing brunch...but still. AND, the brunch menu lacks the basic staple - a grits or hasbrowns, scrambled egg, bacon arrangement. My logic is if you can't do a simple breakfast, I'm not going to trust you to create a Sesame Shrimp, Spinach and Mushroom egg wedge crepe draped over a pecan blueberry waffle cone drizzled with honey butter (Note: that's not on the brunch menu). Okay, a basic breakfast can be "assembled" from sides, but that shouldn't have to occur. On the plus, the sweet tea was okay.

I ordered the pancakes, which came as an oddly non-uniform stack, accompanied by pecan butter and maple syrup. And that was it. Bacon had to be ordered separately. Had I been feeling charitable, I would have suggested the slight change of adding bacon to the basic order to the management since they were just getting started. But I wasn't feeling charitable. That, and the bacon was "over smoked." That or it was turkey. Ugh.  
Pancakes and bacon, with the pecan butter in the middle.
The conversation between Spanky and I was subdued because when I arrived I accidentally told her I thought that the spot was a bit far. And a bit empty. This immediately meant to her that I hated it, she was in the wrong, etc and so on. She does that sometimes, either with you're either totally with her or totally against her. Which makes me wonder why we're still friends sometimes. Anyway, because of that she spent the first half of the meal pouting. That and I only just found out she's considering getting back with her, well, this dude which I found distressing. She tried to compare her relationship to dude to my relationship with Sporty, but that fell flat. Partly because I can't really explain what me and Sporty are doing, whereas I know her's is bad.

She didn't warm up until we started talking about her job, which is love/hates much like everyone else. Once she started talking though it was back to okay between us. I kinda guess. I kept my comments about her hat to myself.

Is the spot worth a 30 min drive? Um, how much is gas? Now if you live in East Cobb and want a upscale kinda joint, this might be your spot. Service was attentive (okay, it was empty) but it seems like it has potential. Maybe on a regular night I'd get more of a feel for it. If one night I find myself up that way, it's a definite maybe. Maybe.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Odd Quotes

Denzel Washington from GQ (See. In the corner. GQ)

You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Saturday, January 11, 2014

More News from Elsewhere

Somewhere in Mongolia, atop a hillside over looking the Tuul River and what by now should a representation of his army laid before him, stands a statue of one of the greatest conquers of all time. No, not the guy who started McDonalds, the guy who ruled over half the known world in the 13th century? Ruled an empire that stretched from modern day Korea to the Black Sea in Europe? You know, the guy they named the Star Trek villain after? Genghis Khan.

He's pretty big in Mongolia.

After flying into Genghis Khan International Airport (spelled Chinggis Khaan, but you know) and
taking a moment to refresh or stopping to grab some "made in Mongolia" merchandise, you're just a hop skip and jump down the road from the statute. It's not somewhere, I made that up, it's 60 kilometers east of the capital, just north of the airport. But, don't fill up at the local Taco Bell, because the vistor center in the base has traditional horse meat and potatoes to sample and a billiard room because..., um, because reasons. The statute is done, but I'm not sure about the few thousand traditional yurts which are supposed represent his camped army. It's supposed to be spectacular when it's all done.

via Flickr - Corsin Decurtins
I see things like this and wonder when it will be known to people outside Mongolia (other than myself, Mr. Decurtins and a few other internet denizens) or if I will ever have a chance to visit. A short visit, but a visit nonetheless.  I speculate that it will have to be used a challenge prop on the Amazing Race or the guys from Top Gear will have to stop by on the way to somewhere before it gets more pub than me a few other folks pointing it out on the internet.

Damn shame too.

Barkeep, whatever is they drink in Mongolia. Show some respect.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

And we're off...did someone say, bar crawl?

Ramblings Post #249
Do something different. Start the new year off with a bang. Let's try not to make those just words and phrases. It's time to hit the gym, cut out the sugar, and focus on the next step we're taking to get where we want to go. But...changes don't just go one way. Change the things you do to enjoy yourself, or at least try. Because you never know what you might enjoy. But if involves spiders or heights, keep it to yourself.

One of my old partners from back in the day hit me up a few days ago with the idea for a start of the New Year's Bar Crawl through Castleberry Hill to start off 2014 with a bang. I reminded him that this, first, is not New Orleans and second, although Atlanta appears to be in the south it really is just less north than a lot of places, as evidenced by the cool breeze that has a tendency to pop up this time of year. He swore it would be fun, sent out an invite on FB, and low and behold the party was arranged for Friday night.

Castleberry Hill, for those not from Atlanta (and those from Atlanta who only live in the suburbs) is one of the cities hot new districts, with lots of small restaurants, bars, wine shops and lounges. Whereas most clubs in Atlanta strive to be Super clubs - with massive dance floors, vast rooms, and crowds pressing to get in, this area is at a different pace. Most of the spots are the size of large Starbucks. They are neighborhood spots, designed to attract the residents of the expensive condos and town houses that they were placed near. But, it's still developing so, for a couple of the stops planned, it was not a hop skip and jump, but a fairly long little walk.

 Know this, cold as it is had there been as much as 1 mph of wind, I would have stayed home.

Instead I dressed semi-warmly, on the idea that I would be in and out all night, found some gloves I knew I had and headed out to the first stop, a spot called Smoke Ring. It's a chic little BBQ spot at the north end of the district, all woods and rustic, but very open and bright. And bereft of any revelers. I was the first to arrive. Please note that at this point I was twenty minutes late. I contemplated the idea that if nobody showed up by the time we were scheduled to move onto the next spot, I would simply order dinner and go home.

A few minutes later people started showing up, in droves. What I thought might be ten people at best
quickly turned into a group of twenty to twenty five. Spanky popped up, as well as few Game Night originals, and some shots were quickly ordered. The original plan was to show up at the various spots, well, invade might have been a better term at this point, get a libation and move on forty five minutes later. Although late starting, the crawl proceeded right on schedule, pulling out in a long line of chilly participants at eight forty five sharp.

The next stop was a little burger+sushi spot called Bottle Rocket, a brisk two block stroll south. It's a perfect little neighborhood spot, if say, you're hanging out with a friend or want a quick jaunt out with the significant other. If you're in bar crawl, the previous use of the word "little" is very appropriate. After stepping in for a few minutes and getting a feel for the place, I decided that my time would be better spent on the sidewalk, meeting people not with our party. While a few of crawl members who had missed out on a drink at the first stop got a quick one, I met with members of the band who had just played and few other fun characters.

Because of the growing crowd, a newly met trio and I decided to, scout ahead, yes, that's it, scout ahead at our next stop - The Pearl - to check things out. This is was probably the best spot on the route to eat, as a delicious aroma of seafood greeted us upon entering. We got some drinks, and then settled into the semi-private room in the back to wait for our comrades, who when they arrived a few minutes later now probably numbered closer to forty. We caroused, we met new revelers, we probably all told multiple lies.

Now, more closely bonded, my trio and I made our way south one door to the 255 Tapas Lounge, the spot where many years ago I figured out that there is no such thing as a quick jaunt out.  This another spot that was ready for us on arrival, opening a second bar in the back in preparation. Moments after my arrival, the bulk of us finally swarmed inside a large warm tent keeping the back patio habitable. 

Blu Cantina, formerly M Bar was the next locale, and it was conveniently located right next door.  Upon entering I realized that they'd only changed the name, and nothing else. It was and still is the about the size of a two bedroom apartment. And since it was already kind of full, our arrival only cranked things up to crazy. It was here Spanky found some guy...I have no idea of his name...some guy willing to buy shots to infinity. At one point I think he bought fifteen shots, one for everybody she pointed out of the crowd. This meant it was time for me to move away from the bar. Because the place was so small and our crowd now so large, the atmosphere suddenly seemed a bit more "rowdy" for some reason. This is the one spot I was happy to move on from.

Our last stop was next door at the Spinning Pie, a spot that looked for all intents and purposes like a scene from a old school rap video. All that were missing were bomber jackets and rope gold chains. Seriously, two dancers on the bar and camera and we would have all been on BET. Maybe it's just a Friday night thing, I don't know. Here though, I dialed it back and shared a pizza with some fellow revelers - old school FAMUans - to get my mind right. And because we it was the last stop, then, in the small space near the door, Spanky and her gang of friends made a dance floor appear. Ah, grand attempts at recaptured youth. I finally abandoned them to their grooving the night away probably around 1am or so, which is not to shabby for an old man.

I like stuff like this, new and different things, which involved exercise and camaraderie, with the nip with new friends and old serving as the carrot to entice us all. When I have more time in the Spring hopefully I'll be able to do this all again.

Barkeep, I'll need some hair dye and the address of a good barber. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Philip Banks, father.... RIP James Avery

Every dad is not Heathcliff Huxtable. Sometimes your dad needs to be Philip Banks.

In an age of television where the successful black male was the rule and not the exception, James Avery's interpretation might have come across as a bully, as mean, and maybe even a little brash. But then he was supposed to be a father...not a friend. And sometimes your father can't just love you, but has to lay down the law, hold you in check and get you ready for the world outside the four walls you were raised in. Yes, we all thought Carlton was a joke, but Carlton more than held his own when the chips were down.

James Avery was more than just Philip Banks. With a career that spanned more than thirty years, he was everything, appearing on classic shows like the Jeffersons, through the mid nighties on shows like L.A. Law, and up to a character in the Star Trek Universe in the 2000s. Yes, we remember him as Uncle Phil, because every great actor has a signature role, but that's like saying James Earl Jones was only ever Darth Vader's voice.

Good night Uncle Phil.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What I learned in 2013

A few years ago, I started over. At a time when most of the people I knew were moving onto the next great phase of life, I pressed the reset button and went all in, returning to school even as the grey hairs (premature gray hairs!) started to outnumber the black ones.  And although it hasn't quite gone as planned, I'm a lot further down the path to a new kind of future than if I'd just kept imagining it. And as I look back through some of my past musings at this time of the year, trying to see how many of them I took to heart, I realize that self renovation is like home renovation on television - it always seems so easy when you're just watching.

It's the start of the new year, and so I think we all stop to take a few minutes to reflect and recognize a few truths. For me, I realize I'm not gonna make it to billionaire status this year, yet again. It's still on my to do list, but I got a couple of other things I need to get straight first. And while eating healthier and gym time are in the mix, it seems I won't be starting my own country, setting foot on the moon, or reinventing how we slice bread anytime soon. Well, at least not before this fall. But that's all okay, as long as I keep trying to get there. The honest effort, the trying, the making the changes, that's what's important. Change on my schedule, not random chance. So the question becomes, where exactly is your 'there'? And what are you doing, what are you changing, to get 'there'?

Do something. Even if it seems unrelated, do something just to get you started doing things. Write some poetry. Write a book. Stop at that restaurant you keep meaning to go to. Apply for that new job. Call that old friend. Go dancing. Start a garden. So hi to your neighbor. Shoot a movie with your phone's camera. Try some new spices. Coach a little league team. Start your own side business. Take a road trip. Learn that new language you were supposed to learn last year. Start walking in the morning. Do something, anything. I say that every year, and every year I mean it. Because when we keep doing the same old thing, we stagnate. Then we end up just concerned with staying alive, and not with actually living. And really living your life is so much better.

It won't be easy. Change never is. And what you choose might not even be worth it. But it will be something, and if you start with something, then getting your thing just becomes a matter of redirecting your focus.

What did I learn in 2013?

Take a little time each day and enjoy yourself. Have an ice cream sandwich, listen to your favorite song, dance in the elevator. Because life is way too short not to do so. 

Structure is important. If only so you have a starting point for change.  

The internet is a thing, not a place. Remember that it is just a tool, and go outside every once and while.  

The time was going to pass anyway.

If you love someone, tell them. Do it without expecting a response...just let them know. Because life happens.  

Remember the basics. Sometimes a good book, tea and some peace is just what is needed.

When its quiet, stop, take a deep breath and let it out. Feel that? That's you.  

You are better than the worst thing that has ever happened to you, because you made it past that.  

The other person might have a better handle on it than you, so always be prepared to at least listen with an open mind.

Feelings and self image are two different things, and hurt feelings shouldn't change your self image.

Arguments start most times not because you disagree, but because of how you approach it.

How you look in the mirror is not as important as how you feel, but you need to feel healthy.  

An honest conversation is priceless.  

You cannot reward someone in currency that they don't value.  

All the planning in the world loses its value without self discipline.

The phrase "I love you" is still the sweetest sound in the world. Even when its just written down.