Archive for March, 2010

Getting to know Jack

Being unemployed, I’m always searching for a way to get out of town that doesn’t involve spending too much money. Funny enough, despite being so close to Tennessee, I never really go there on purpose. I’m always passing through on my way to other states. But I always swore, before I die or move out of the South (whichever happens first) I had to visit the Jack Daniel’s distillery. Kind of like a pilgrimage to Mecca… Except I worship at the altar of booze.

Because I hate being stuck in the car alone, I managed to convince my bartender friend to accompany me, citing the infinite educational value to be attained in learning about the whiskey distillation process. Early one Friday morning, we jumped in my car to make our journey to Lynchburg, TN. Now that I was actually paying attention to where I was driving, I realized: Tennessee is beautiful! Especially once you turn off the interstate for the final leg of the journey, traveling along winding country roads through dense forests and rolling hills. A blanket of fog lent the appearance of an impressionist painting with its hazy, muted colors.

Before making our way to the distillery, we made a pit stop at a liquor store. Know before you go: In a cruel twist of irony, the distillery is located in a dry county. You can buy commemorative bottles of Jack on site at the distillery, but there is nowhere in town to actually go get your drank on. However, on the bright side– the tour is 100% free. What surprised me was how far some of the other folks had come for this tour; California, Florida, even Canada… My friend and I had driven the shortest distance, and that was 3 hours!

The whole tour took about 90 minutes; it was extremely entertaining, despite the fact that we were not allowed to take photos of the most interesting parts (to keep some things a mystery, I reckon). By the end my brain was flooded with facts and trivia: For example, did you know Jack Daniel was only 5’2″? That’s my size!

Jack Daniel's distillery
(This statue was clearly modified to make Jack taller…)

At the end of the tour, we were given lemonade, which quickly became Lynchburg Lemonade after my friend busted out his flask full of JD Single Barrel. Hey– dry county or not– Jack would approve, and you know it.

Afterwards we drove into “downtown” Lynchburg… This is clearly an area that would dry up and blow away if not for the blessing of tourism. Every store in the town square was packed to the gills with Jack Daniels merchandise. If you can think of an item, it probably had the JD logo emblazoned on it: clothing, pool tables, dart boards, golf clubs, patio furniture, bar stools, barbecue grills, light switch covers…

And, of course:

Belt buckles! (In true redneck fashion, I have a collection.)

Next time you want to leave Atlanta, but don’t feel like venturing too far, get thee to Lynchburg!

Shoupade at River Line Park in Smyrna

Sometimes, the south has more in common with Europe than with the rest of the U.S. While almost any region can claim at least one major conflict, Georgia’s soil has more in common with Belgium. Here, we have the ghosts of conflicts ranging from ones that pre-date Europoean settlement (Cherokee vs. Creek vs. Seminole) through German U-Boats off the coast during World War 2.

Of course, there’s the granddaddy of all conflicts that have touched Georgia… and metro Atlanta… Sherman’s March to the Sea.

I’d never do justice to the conflict by synopsizing the history here. Suffice to say, the metro area is rife with historical markers, buildings and… most fascinating to me… earthworks.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about ad-hoc structures that have withstood encroachment from both human and nature for a few hundred years. On my first trip to Yorktown, near the Virginia coast, I was in awe of miles of still-visible trenches and the two carefully maintained redoubts (strongpoints in or near a line of trenches). Kennesaw’s battlefields had the same hold on me, particularly Cheatham Hill.

Imagine my joy when, on a whim, a jog at Smyrna’s new River Line Park yielded… earthworks!

At the back of the park, elevated above the 0.6 mile figure 8 path and the many, many soccer fields is part of a line of defense build by the Confederate defenders of Atlanta.

The name of the park, River Line, comes from the name of a series of defenses built on the north side of the Chattahoochee river, principally with slave labor from Atlanta-area plantations. At the heart of the defenses in the Smynra area are a series of emplacements that didn’t exist anywhere else in the war. They’re called “Shoupades” after their designer, Francis Shoup, a Indiana-born Confederate Brigadier General.

The Shoupade is sort of arrowhead-shaped with the business end pointed towards the advancing foe. A particular advantage is that two Shoupades could provide crossfire into an area that would typically be defended by a longer, traditional trench. Focused point defenses can, in the right terrain, be murderously effective. And it could be done with fewer defenders, meaning more would be available for flanking counterattacks.

Shoupade Detail

Detail from the marker at the park. I'm sure I should point out this is someone else's handiwork... I just snapped the picture!

Sherman found the defenses daunting, and had part of his army build trenches and artillery batteries opposite the River Line defenses in order to engage the River Line forces and thus pin them in their defenses. Conferderate General Johnston withdrew his forces south of the Chattahoochee before the River Line was outflanked.

More than just a Civil War relic, these earthworks represent the complexity of our shared American history. The design itself was both effective and ingenious, praised by Union and Confederate officers alike. But Shoup was a transplant from Indiana who moved to the south and supported the Confederacy because he harbored some aristocratic ambitions he thought could best be fed in the south. It was built with slave labor with the express strategic purpose of maintaining a system of government that would keep the builders of the defenses without rights, in poverty and under the yoke.

Still, and let’s set my lame attempts at a dramatic summation of “what it all means” to the side, as an Atlanta native, it’s my history.

Shoupade

Lame attempt at a panorama of the River Line Park Shoupade. This is looking from the Confederate lines toward the Union lines (which, today, would be the soccer fields).

clayton county residents to be screwed by bad government yet again.

c-tran, the beleaguered bus system of clayton county will shut its doors wednesday. it’s sad because c-tran of course serves the people who often most need access to public transportation to get to and from work (thomas wheatley adds it up in the cl fresh loaf here.

there is lots of blame to go around, and a lot of it should be directed at the people who purport to “represent” clayton county. the governor and state leaders of course did their usual disappearing act when it comes to urban commuters who live within 20 miles of the urban core.

what it really speaks to of course is a lack of a central transportation vision for the region. a governor committed to the metro could probably do it if they had the stones to. a house speaker who cared more about the people he supposedly represents could do it. a strong dot with an interest in ALL modes of transportation could probably do it.

of course, Georgia has none of these. and so c-tran riders will be stranded come Wednesday.
11 alive has some good tips here for those c-tran riders screwed once again by their elected officials.

Hooching in Atlanta

Despite some major drawbacks, and a lack of internet, the 70’s look like they were awesome, and I’m completely bummed to have missed out on a few things from that decade. See: the Ramblin Raft Race.  More than 300,000 people descended on the river in homemade rafts every Memorial Day weekend.  Official sponsors included short shorts, mustaches and Stroh’s beer.  Who knew Tech students could start something so cool?

The event was eventually shut down because it was too much fun, according to this AJC article, and Atlantans got busy dedicating a few decades to pouring chemicals directly into the water. A reasonable person would assume that one should generally avoid contact with ITP Chattahoochee “water,” right?

(more…)

Tis almost the season

Image from atlantagatoday.com

Dogwood Festival

This weather (seriously?  The snow flurries this morning?) is making me yearn for the days coming up when I constantly complain about being too hot, I pick my shirts based on what color shows the least sweat, strawberries cost $11 a flat at the market, and I have reverse-raccoon eyes from wearing sunglasses outside all the time.

It also makes me think about the ridiculous number of festivals this city holds when the sun comes out. Where else do you get to stand around clutching rapidly warming $6 beers, bitch about the crowds, develop a mild sunburn and check out garish technicolor dog art? You can also usually find fair food, which includes funnel cakes and various foods on sticks. Generally, my favorites are beer festivals within biking distance of my home (CL’s Beerfest in Woodruff, EAV’s Beerfest in, well, EAV); my least favorites are the neighborhood festivals in neighborhoods where I don’t live (why do I always end up at Summerfest in the Highlands?); and the clear standout winner isn’t even in the spring or summer, it’s Cabbagetown’s Chomp and Stomp in November (I’m acknowledging a slight bias here, but seriously, it rocks).

Coming up this weekend: BaconFest!  This one’s new to me, but Dad’s Garage is a cause I can get behind, especially with two things I also wholeheartedly support (beer and bacon).

You’ll probably also find me at 420Fest in Candler Park April 17-18.  Any readers going to Dogwood that weekend, as it’s now back in Piedmont Park?  What festivals do you look forward to every year?  Is there one that we shouldn’t miss? Why not? Can you promise me some technicolor dog art?

open thread: weekend plans?

Let the sun shine...

Since James is in transit to/from Indiana, I thought I’d see what everyone has in store for what seems to be another nice weekend (well at least a gorgeous Saturday). I, for one, will be relishing in the boyfriend’s first Sunday off (in who knows how long) and planning a fabulous Sundate for us, even if it is supposed to rain.

So what are you up to Atlanta?

Another yuppie ITP snob joins metblogs

Hi y’all. Abby here, new metblogs contributor, previous frequent commenter (see? you, too, can be an Author!). I’m a rabid reader of Atlanta food news; eat and drink out entirely too often for someone who loves to cook; am a regular (albeit totally fair-weather) bicycle commuter; live in Cabbagetown; work in Midtown; get mildly up in arms about state transportation and local crime issues; and think that Atlanta just needs a lil bit more transit, density, street food, bike cops, and beaches. Also have a penchant for the parenthetical and make too many lists.

I grew up in the Atlanta burbs and am still a little bitter about it, to the point that my coworkers know that it’s going to take a serious draw for me to meet them anywhere north of 14th. I grew up with a big Cajun family and am really, really picky about gumbo. Went to New Orleans for school, came back to Atlanta 7 years ago, living downtown, on Ponce, and now in c-town. I do love this city, but it’s a love that has grown on me. Unlike everybody on the internets, I don’t have a blog, so my full online attention will be directed here! Hooray!

I like food.

Christine Lauterbach, I am not. However, I like food. I eat food. So I feel I’m qualified to talk about food.

Last week, I was invited to sample Applebees’ new “Unbelievably Great Tasting and Under 550 Calories” menu. So, I dragged the boyfriend out in the rainy weather to check out the new menu. And, I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised.

As someone who has constantly struggled with their weight for most of their life (but is finally winning the battle), I’m used to the promise of great taste, with fewer calories, and the disappointment that generally follows. I was already familiar with Applebee’s Weight Watchers selections (being a successful WW member myself) so I was curious to see what else they had to offer.

There are five selections on the menu: two shrimp entrees, one chicken entree, one steak entree and a salad. I selected the Asian Crunch Salad and the boyfriend chose the Asiago Peppercorn Steak. Let me just say, my salad was definitely a complete and full meal. In fact, the boyfriend even finished it off for me because I was just, well, full. The combination of grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, sugar snap peas and a teriyaki-based vinaigrette were, in a word, yummy. Although, I did leave room for a bite of his steak and steamed herb potatoes which did not disappoint. In fact, he cleaned his plate. The shrimp entrees looked appetizing but as a non-seafood eater I did not try them.

With prices ranging from $9-$12, you definitely get your money’s worth for still under 550 calories. While I know that the ITPers of the group probably don’t know where to find a local Applebee’s (or even care to*), for those of us who either live OTP or dare to venture OTP, the new Under 550 Calories menu is a good choice for those watching both their wallets and their waistlines.

*But if you do care, the only one ITP is on Lawrenceville Hwy in Decatur.

is am radio where it’s at?

i am not sure how the existence of am 1690 atlanta’s voice of the arts has escaped me for so long. the other week when my friend adam and i went to see spring awakening, adam picked me up and of all things he was listening to am radio. as we drove along from north ormewood toward the willy’s at edgewood where dinner was going to be consumed, i was blown away by an eclectic mix of bluegrass, soul and even some indie rock.

so apparently out there on am radio, am 1690 has been playing the most interesting mix of music, interviews, book reviews and more for years and i have just missed it.

the other day on the way back from the marta station i listened to a great interview with jeff garland about his new book my footprint. it was long and rambling and perfect.

anyway, my radio has barely left it since then and i have to recommend checking it out.

Renters’ Revenge

You know that new apartment building that went up in your neighborhood not long ago? The “luxury” one with the Wi-Fi, workout room and granite countertops? The one you pass and think “I’d really like to live there, but I bet the rent is insane”?

Even if you’ve checked online to see how much they’re charging, go in and ask what the rent is. Chances are it’s less than you think, and maybe less than you’re paying in an older, smaller place.

I’m finally about to start working again, which means the end of my stay OTP isn’t far off. So, clutching my folder of apartment profiles from Promove, I spent a couple of days last week looking at apartments in Midtown, Buckhead, Downtown and Inman Park. The prices I was quoted by the leasing staff were uniformly at least 29 percent less than what their Web sites or expensive-looking brochures listed.

Those “administrative fees,” “leasing fees” and $300 deposits that used to be so common? Mysteriously absent. Rent concessions abound and application fees are shrinking like a pair of H&M pants in a hot dryer.

Maybe this is old news to ya’ll. But I just spent three years right outside DC, looking forward to annual rent increases on a 521-square foot apartment in a complex that was built when Eisenhower was president. The four violent deaths within 100 yards of my door during that time did nothing to keep the rent from shooting (Ha!) past $900 by the time I moved out. Things really are different “inside the Beltway” I guess.

So, if your lease is about to expire, check out some places that look like they’re out of your price range. Prices will probably go up as the economy improves (whenever that’s going to happen), but in the meantime, enjoy that rooftop pool this summer.

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