Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cukes and Lopes in the Peach State

I had thirty minutes to myself when I was in Atlanta and thought, wow, one great thing about having the attention span of a gnat is that I have time to take in a museum. Yes, I'm sure you've had the same thoughts, too. It's late... you're away on a business trip...and feeling a little lonely...and a little frisky... Oh, wait, scratch that! Different blog!

It might just be an urban myth, but I heard that the Atlanta Federal Reserve Museum on Peachtree Street was exhibiting the most amazing set of minutes from the first meeting of the Unified Task Force on Check Clearing. And what's more, they were typed on an original non-correcting IBM Selectric. Cool, no? Yes, the place looked that exciting. Unfortunately, I arrived at 4:30 only to find the place closed at 4:00. The guards looked at me as if I were the reincarnation of Willie Sutton. Apparently Southern hospitality clocked out at 4:00, too. I didn't linger.

So back out onto Peachtree Street I went. There are a couple of blocks in Midtown Atlanta that are reminiscent of Las Vegas' City Center. However, there are important differences between them. Atlanta has The Margaret Mitchell House (which is really an apartment) and humidity, whereas Vegas has The Atomic Testing Museum and newspaper boxes filled with free sex newspapers.

Atlanta has something else going for it, too. Next to an asparagus patch of slick high rises is Dewberry Market, the home of Georgia Farm to Table. The little vegetable stand seems to be daring some rapacious Aston-Martin driving real estate developer to demolish it on behalf of The Intergalactic Food Product Corporation. 

The place was somewhat stark on the exterior and the interior wasn't exactly a groaning board of Martha Stewart and Ina Garten-ness. However, I think that was a fact of the time and place--late summer in Georgia isn't exactly the time for quivering mounds of juicy, mouth watering, dewy melons, ready to be sampled. Oh wait, that's for that other blog again! My bad!!

However, the market did have attractive displays of eggplant, tomatoes, squash and other late summer vegetables. What the signs lack in spelling they make up in naive charm.

The market sold heirloom pumpkin varieties, including the Apple pumpkin, the Cinderella pumpkin, and the Looks As If It Were Fertilized With Contaminated Water From Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant pumpkin.

One variety of pumpkin reminded me of a punch line of my mother's, "I didn't say it had warts on it, I said it FELT like it had warts on it."  I don't remember the joke. I'm not sure that she did either. She found just the punch line to be quite amusing and threw it out there occasionally and would chuckle to herself all over again. Laughing at one's own jokes, like the knobby skin of these pumpkins, is obviously a genetic trait.

The owners of Georgia Farm to Table, Matt and Jeff Bowman, were working hard at the market that afternoon. They seemed like nice guys and chatted up the customers in that grown-up Southern frat guy sort of way that gay somewhat southern Yankees find to be so charming.

I asked if I could take a couple of photos for my blog. Obviously believing that there's no such thing as bad publicity, they said sure, take as many as you'd like.

"What's your blog about?"

"My fucked up life. Isn't that what all blogs are about?"

Guffaws all around. 

I told them that I loved the place and asked what they studied in college, thinking the answer would be sustainable agriculture or something like that.

The answer, of course, was "Partyin'".

More guffaws, this time accompanied by knowing looks. Apparently they were honor students.

In a display of G. Gordon Liddy-like willpower, I did not ask where they had gone to school. I knew that there was an extremely high likelihood that they would say UGA. And if they had said that, my involuntary response (move over Pavlov's dog) would have been to say, "I hear from a friend that if you drive through Athens real slow, with the window rolled down in your car, they throw a diploma in."

More guffaws, but this time they were silent and I kept them to myself. Even in the rarely seen (or heard) silent mode, I find myself so amusing.

The market was a great antidote to the sea of corporate anonymity surrounding it and Matt and Jeff were super ambassadors for Atlanta. Later that evening, my friend Kevin gave me a tour of the city, and lo and behold, Dewberry Market is just a few blocks from the two streets Kevin pointed out to me as the intersection of  Gay and Gay. No wonder Matt and Jeff had such a great inventory of  Cinderella pumpkins. You never know when a fairy Godmother is going to stop by.

Matt and Jeff said that they mostly lived for selling Christmas trees, and indeed they had a big front yard that must be perfect for Christmas tree lot. Their business, Tradition Trees, sounds like the place to go if you're in the market for a  Fraser Fur with no gappy parts or flat sides.  So when some E-Bay shopper finally buys your Liberace-esque aluminum tree, illuminated by the rotating multicolor light, run over to Matt and Jeff's for the real deal.

In addition to selling fruit, veg and Christmas trees, Jeff is a published writer and aspiring novelist and Matt is an avid outdoorsman. They're just the kind of folks to take on the challenge of bringing jaded urbanites the simple joys of fresh, local fruit, vegetables, real Christmas trees, and probably even Hanukkah bushes if that's your thing.  And the best part is, they're not straight out of a Hallmark card. They apparently know a thing or two about partyin', too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Getting There is Half The Fun

When I go to a conference in a city that has a Major League Baseball team, I like to go to a game. I know, I know, I was the last guy picked in gym class and I throw like a girl. Nevertheless, I find an evening at the ballpark to be all sorts of fun. The stadiums themselves can be visually and architecturally interesting, the fans are an endless source of amusement, and one meal a year of ballpark grub is actually pretty tasty. I'm not good at any sport (unless you count Jeopardy! and I'm not as good at that as I used to be) but I can get sucked in to the drama of a bunch of guys in tight uniforms adjusting themselves repeatedly while trying to hit a fast moving leather ball with a Louisville Slugger. What's not to like?

So when I was just in Atlanta with Carol and Pam, I was glad to see that the Braves were in town, playing the Mets. Since the Braves are in the wild card race, the game really counts and there were sure to be be a zillion people there. A few clicks on Stubhub and great seats--in the lower deck, right by Chipper Jones on third base--were in hand.

I asked the concierge at our hotel, the W in Midtown, about getting a lift to Turner Field in the hotel's courtesy van. After all, there were three of us, and in theory, hotels like making guests happy if they're spending enough money and not calling out for a steady stream of poorly dressed hookers. We had three rooms and hadn't yet dialed up a single hooker, so I figured getting ride would be no sweat.

Yes, sure we can take you to the game Mr. Bryant. All you need to do is to listen to the sales pitch for our courtesy Acura MDX. (Seriously, Acura MDX sounds like Japanese medication for jock itch. Who names cars these days?) Oh and we'll only take you there, you're on your own when it comes to getting back. In other words, it was going to be like listening to the sales pitch for a time share that gets stuck in traffic.  Quite choice. An Acura MDX? I could listen to the sales pitch forever without a chance of buying one, so I said "Great!! Where and when do we need to meet the car to be at Turner Field at 4:00 p.m.?"

So with our new best friend Deitrich at the wheel, we piled into the Acura MDX V-8. He was a large, gregarious man with great sales skills--it took him a nanosecond to commit each of our names to memory. Compared to my low rent Ford Ranger, the car really was something. It had air bags everywhere, including a built in Whoopee Cushion in the passenger seat. The design of the interior was a bit baroque for my tastes, and parts of the instrument panel were covered in something that looked like faux burled walnut, with the emphasis on the faux. The ride was nice, but at almost $50,000 it should have been. 

As we motored through Hotlanta on our way to 755 Hank Aaron Drive, we listened to both a recorded sales spiel and a soft sell from Dietrich. I filled out a form attached to a clipboard, telling Acura what I thought it wanted to hear. I indicated that I was a handsome, high income straight well-hung investor looking for an SUV that my sticks (i.e. golf clubs) and I would look great in. I also took pains to point out that while the car may get dirty (by accident) I would never take it off paved roads, even to an artisanal brie ranch with valet parking. Finally, I made it plain that I wanted a car so nondescript that my trophy wife wouldn't notice when I parked at the strip gentlemen's club where her sister worked as an ecdysiast.

In addition to the providing details on the car's navigation system, built in microwave oven, and iPad cozy in the front console, Dietrich shared tales about his wife's menopause (dual climate controls really come in handy great when the old ball and chain has a hot flash), his favorite sports teams (interestingly enough, not the Braves) and how he preferred Atlanta to New York, his former home. After we bonded over a mutual dislike of cheap shoes (he was sporting new brown suede oxfords with a cap toe), he gave us directions back to the hotel. Fortunately, these did not involve dropping bread crumbs out the window of the car and following the trail back to the the W.

The game was a bit of a pitching duel. The Braves won, 1-0, scoring in the 8th inning. The crowd did the wave and there was lots of tomahawk chopping, both of which made me feel as if I was at an Indian pow wow choreographed by Busby Berkeley and Leni Riefenstahl.

When the family next to us noticed that I was wearing a UVa hat, we became good chums since they were from Charlottesville. They assumed that I knew much more about UVa sports than I do; I tried to act butch and said things like "Definitely" a lot.

The Wahoo family gave us the low down on the ballpark food, which, unfortunately, wasn't that good.  I enjoyed my hotdog, but Pam's nachos featured too many colors not found in nature for my tastes.

Yes, this is a before picture.

Between two late innings they had an American Kabuki (i.e. mascot) race sponsored by Homo, I mean Home, Depot. The contestants were dressed as hot sellers at Home Depot in Atlanta....a William T. Sherman Autograph Model Gas Grille, a Bosch Weapon of Grass Destruction String Trimmer, and a Confederate flag liner for the bottom of an above ground pool. The crowd was definitely rooting for the pool liner, and with the rebel yells ringing, it carried the day.

After the game Carol, Pam, and I only stayed long enough for the traditional group picture and so missed the post game Styx concert. (Had it been Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts, I would have stayed.) We had an appointment with Destiny (no I did not call out for a hooker) at the the Thai restaurant next to the hotel. More on that later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thank You For Those Handy Reminders

Since I live near my office, I walk to work. So there are times when I get a kick out of taking public transportation. To me it's like being in an enormous train set rather than overcrowded aluminum can filled with wage slaves.

I was quite amused to see this sign in the MARTA trains in Atlanta. Do you anyone who thought of assaulting a MARTA employee ever looked at one of these signs and thought to himself, "Oh, I'd better stick to the straight and narrow?"

I didn't think so either.

Under the Big W

I went to Atlanta for a couple of days for the Zapplication conference. Zapplication is the online application service that most of the better arts festivals use to manage their application and jurying processes. It's like any conference, with fun times with colleagues, questionable food, and a few days of staying up too late and drinking too much. As is par for the course, the conference sessions range from fascinating to those that make you think pounding nails into your head would be a better use of your time.

The conference hotel was the W in Midtown. It started out as something else (a Holiday Inn or a Sheraton, perhaps) but has been re-fabbed as Starwood's hip brand. And it was so hip that I had a hard time figuring out where the light switches were, how to use to television, or even how to phone the front desk. The button on the phone doesn't say Front Desk. That would be too low concept. Instead it says Wherever/Whenever. This was completely lost on me. To which, Mr. High Concept designer would undoubtedly say "Whatever".

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jackie O, My Close Personal Friend

It's been an uneventful week. The highlight so far was dinner at Mad Mex with an old friend. I took my camera along, but left it in my pocket, since I didn't want to lose it. Keeping something in my pocket isn't a guarantee against losing it for me. I mean, I eventually lost my virginity, though that was in my pants, too.

Now that there is a  new Jackie Kennedy book accompanied by recordings of interviews she did with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., I think the world may be ready for a Jackie Kennedy GPS voice. I can just hear those breathy Miss Porter's tones:  "At the red light--reminiscent of Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage, don't you think?--turn right, but not as far right as Pat Nixon in her Republican cloth coat." It will be a hit with C-SPAN viewers everywhere.

I saw her once. Jackie O, as she was then. In the flesh. I was in New York City with was gosh, during the Reagan Administration, otherwise known as the 1980s. My chums and I were taking in the show at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I don't remember the exhibit but it was one of those Diana Vreeland blockbusters, something like The Majesty of the British Raj, or The Splendors of The Village People, or maybe even  Me Tarzan, You Jane Russell. The Met's basement galleries were quite crowded and rather dark, since direct light would damage the clothing on display.

I was wandering along in my usual daze when one of my friends whispered  "I think that's Jackie Kennedy". With my typical grace and nonchalance (i.e. less than none and then some), I looked around more quickly than if she'd she's said, "Jesus AND Amelia Earhart are in the next gallery and you have got to see what they're wearing!" Linda Blair, turning her head a full 360 degrees in The Exorcist, has nothing on me. I'm surprised I'm not still going to the chiropractor.

After the initial stage whispered "I don't see her." and "Are you sure?" there, right across the gallery was Jackie O, the most famous woman in the world . She was wearing a long black coat and black pants, with big hair and her trademark big round sunglasses, looking just the way she did in People magazine.

Considering how dark the gallery was and the tint of her glasses, she probably saw about as much of the exhibit as Stevie Wonder would have. She was by herself, with no visible bodyguards in tow, studiously checking out the frocks on exhibit. My friend Tracy and I stood next to her and made some extremely amusing comments about something we found to be extremely amusing. Jackie O didn't crack a smile or acknowledge our presence. She just floated by, presumably not realizing that we were two of the fourteen funniest people at our high school lunch table.

Since this was roughly thirty years ago, no one had a cell phone camera. Tweeting was something birds did,  and updating one's status meant buying a more expensive pair of designer jeans. Of course, my friends and I told all of our friends about seeing her. However, the Jackie O story paled in comparison to that weekend's saga of my locking the keys in the trunk of my car and how it took a Brooklyn locksmith 6 hours to get them out, and the tale of how my loud snoring kept everyone in my friends' apartment awake at night. Jackie O would have really been interested in those stories too, had she only stopped to listen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's A Jungle Out There

Last evening, after the Alabama game, I went downtown to see some friends and have a beer. While it can be a bit frightening, I like seeing what's going on in downtown State College on the Saturday night of a big football weekend. It's quite a fashion show. There are often people--both Penn State fans and those from the visiting school--wearing outlandish school spirit finery, young women wearing miniscule dresses and shoes picked out in the dominatrix department at PayLess, and young men who obviously spend a lot of time picking through the piles of wrinkled cargo shorts on the floor trying to look just the right amout of casual. Lots of kids are on their phones, either looking for the proverbial better offer, or reporting on the situation, just like Edward R. Murrow from the rooftops of London during The Blitz.

Occasionally there are people from out of town who you would think fall into the "old enough to know better" category but who clearly don't know better. Like this woman and her friend. I was standing outside Chumleys, chatting with a friend who was smoking, and Miss Hot Mess and her sister in fashion crime, Miss Scorching Mess, came up to us and asked if we were bouncers. This is the first time that anyone has ever asked me, the original picked-last-in-gym-class guy, if I escorted drunks from bars for a living.  I asked them where they were from, and the small town in western Pennsylvania they mentioned was was someplace I'd never heard of, and clearly not yet reached by fashion magazines. They were intrigued and appalled by the evangelist with the loudspeaker who had set up shop in between parking spaces, just across College Avenue from us. The evangelist was going on about Jesus, fornication, sin, and Hell, not necessarily in that order.  Had he been only been talking about the evils of bad hair, clothing several sizes too small, hooker shoes, and too much Axe Body Spray, I might have yelled back, "Amen, Brother!" 

The Mess sisters, who had had a few, said something finding a bathroom. It was difficult to hear well over the din. I said, "Are you looking for a john?", not thinking that they could be actual hookers instead of just having the shoes. They said " 'Oh, you said 'the john''re so polite. We just usually say, 'I need to take a piss.' " I thought to myself, yes, I bet you do. Then I showed them the way to the ladies room at the Allen Street Grille and took that as my cue to walk home.

Friday, September 9, 2011

See What I Mean?

"Match Wits With the Scholars!"....that was the motto of WJAC-TV's Scholastic Quiz, a program modeled on College Bowl. We did pretty well, and were the runner-up in the tournament and won over $4,000 in scholarship money for one of our classmates to attend the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.  However, we were not even in the running when it came to cool.

I think I still have my "Lamp of Learning" pin someplace. I should dig it out. It probably goes with everything.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What's In a Name?

Here I am, newbie blogger.

I thought about taking a page from David Copperfield (that is, David Copperfield the Charles Dickens novel rather than David Copperfield the creepy magician who allegedly holds eleven Guinness World Records including that for "Largest Collection of Magic Artifacts") and starting with Chapter One: I Am Born. But that's not too much better than starting with the cooling of the earth. To make a long story short, as soon as I figure out how to work the scanner at the office, I'll post my high school quiz team photo and that will tell you everything you need to know. I'm a geek. Older now (not necessarily wiser), but still geeky.  

Back to the name of the blog, the whole point of this post. Wahoo is a town in Nebraska, a Native American yell (it means "You Go Girl" in the language of Pocahontas), a fish that can allegedly drink twice its weight in rum and Cokes, and, most importantly, someone who went to the University of Virginia. In other words, me. I like the fact that Wahoo is one letter away from yahoo. The Wandering part refers not only to traveling here and there, and to my eye (I can't not look), but also to my attention span. According to some, I have the attention span of a gnat with ADHD. But they're wrong. It's more like that of a gnat with HGTV.

This blog will be a mixture of prose, and photos, and if I get run over by a tow truck (again) perhaps even some haiku. So don't count on the haiku, OK? 

Oh and one last many thanks to my chum Dana for helping me to design this. She took some of my photos and helped me to get the layout of the blog to look as I wanted it to look. Yay Dana! You're the best!