30 May 2007

Chattanooga: More Than a Choo-choo

How memorable was your holiday weekend? Mine was grand — filled with cocktails and conversation, art and baubles, restaurants and hotel rooms, books and movies, quiet and noise — exactly how a holiday weekend should be spent.

I hope my readers to the north and across the ocean enjoyed a lovely spring weekend, even if they didn’t get Monday off for Memorial Day.

One of the highlights of the weekend was an overnight trip to Chattanooga, a couple of hours north of Atlanta. Chattanooga’s a lovely town, surrounded by mountains and the Tennessee River. The architecture is different than Atlanta — more mid-century, Rock-and-Doris buildings.

Chattanooga’s going through a bit of a renaissance, with the Arts District coming to life since my last visit (maybe 1999?). Lots of little galleries and inns overlooking the river.

Bakery in the Arts District, shot from the sculpture garden

Another photo of the Arts District, also from the sculpture garden

One cool part of Chattanooga is the pedestrian bridge across the Tennessee River. The bridge was closed to traffic years ago, and it’s cool to be able to walk across that long bridge.

The building with the glass triangles is the Tennessee Aquarium, which revitalized tourism in Chattanooga. Now you can see fishes and Rock City.

A bridge too far, from the pedestrian bridge

From the other side of the pedestrian bridge

Another funky side of Chatta-boogie: On the other side of the pedestrian bridge, Northside’s Frazier Avenue has bronze dance steps embedded in the sidewalk:

Everyone wants to copy that cool Canadian cat Dale, it seems. Grooviness knows no nationality.

Here's a photo of the aquarium, from the Street o' Dance Steps. It looks like a giant kitty is about to pounce the other side of the river.

I, of course, came home wanting to pack my dancing shoes and move to Chattanooga.

I almost forgot! On the way home, we stopped for a late lunch in White, Georgia:

I don’t care if it was a roadkill burger. That was one helluva great hand-shaped patty.

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25 May 2007

She Meets a Hero (2007 version)

My deep love and obsession for arty types isn’t reserved for R.E.M. and musicians. I also nurture crushes on writers and books. I love to curl up with a novel and read it cover to cover in a day. And, well, a man who has a way with words makes me swoon.

Last summer I saw T. Coraghessan Boyle, and I floated on a T.C. bubble for days. (He liked my necklace.)

This year: Pulitzer Prize winner (and liter-hottie) Michael Chabon.

There were many discussions among friends on how to properly pronounce Chabon’s name. He says: “Cha as in Shea Stadium, bon as in Jovi.”

I became Chabon fan after reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh in 1988. Wonder Boys, his second novel (later a great film by Curtis Hanson, starring Michael Douglas), cemented my devotion.

Still not sure who Michael Chabon is? He was on a memorable “Simpsons” this season (and he addressed his star-making turn during last night’s Q&A):

Michael Chabon was here to promote his new book, The Yiddish Policemen's Union. It was the social event of the book season — blog faves Scrivener and DJ Cayenne from Baby Got Books were spotted among the literati.

Chabon read from the new book, then opened the floor for questions. And there were decent questions this time. He was smart, he was charming, he impressed me. My only disappointment is it's too early in the a.m. to remember and share some of his interesting comments.

Yesterday was Chabon’s birthday (a cool day for birthing, huh, Randy?), and we Southeners can’t let a birthday slip by without a cake. The B&N kids were on the ball. But I didn’t get a piece of birthday cake … dammit.

We were then awarded with an audience with The Man. Chabon signed three of my books, chatted a few seconds (I gushed appropriately), and shook my hand. Here he is signing my books:

I left giddy and swooning.

Thrilled thanks go out to DJ Cayenne, who let me know about the Chabon appearance.

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22 May 2007

The Now Explosion

A newbie in my orbit has me reliving my salad days. The wannabeau and I are the same age and grew up in Atlanta, so we’ve had a lot of “Remember when Lenox was an open-air mall?” and “My first trip to Oxford Books was” and “How many times did you ride the Pink Pig?” conversations.

Yank your nasty brain out of the gutter right now. Riding the Pink Pig isn’t a euphemism for how we hit that here in Georgia. The Pink Pig was an Atlanta tradition, a rite of passage, a kiddie train at the downtown Rich’s department store during the Christmas season. Why we celebrated Christmas by riding a train that looked like a pig is beyond me … but it was special, dammit.

All these conversations about the Atlanta of the 1960s and 1970s got me thinking about some coolness from the sixth grade … so I Googled and I YouTubed … and found that the University of Georgia has archived footgage from — wait for it — The Now Explosion.

You late fortysomething kids from Atlanta and Jacksonville and other blessed cities are squealing right now, aren’t you? The rest of you? I feel sorry for your lack of Now Explosionism.

What was The Now Explosion? Nope, not Larry Tee’s first band; my Now Explosion predates that musical marvel by about a decade. The Now Explosion was music videos. In 1970. Eleven years before MTV’s moonman and that Buggles song.

Why is that still a trivia question? Doesn’t everyone know that “Video Killed the Radio Star” by now?

The Now Explosion played locally produced videos for Top 40 hits. For several glorious months in 1970, Channel 17 — now known throughout the world as Super Station TBS, but then just a local UHF station — broadcast Now Explosion every weekend, for about twelve hours straight, Saturday and Sunday. It was a badge of honor to brag on Mondays about the number of weekend hours wasted watching Now Explosion.

The Now Explosion was just plain cool. No, not cool — groovy. Now Explosion was the epitome of groovy. Trippy, hippy graphics and dancing chicks. On TV. All weekend long. The right thing at the right time for an impressionable eleven-year-old girl already passionately in love with music. I was also fascinated with hippies in those days. A big thrill was the occasional Sunday drive down to Piedmont Park, where we’d watch the hippies. Being a complete and total dork, I used to make magazine photo collages of hippies.

Now Explosion was a beautiful moment that was of the moment. It was, as the marketing materials stated, providing television that young adults really dig. Since the videos were, for the most part, shot around Atlanta, you had the connection of a favorite song with a slice of your city. It was something just for us.

Here are snippets from some of the videos. I’ve watched this several times (more times than I want to admit) since I found it last night; I was surprised at how many of the videos I remembered. It’s well worth watching the full nine-plus minutes; some clips are brilliant, some hilarious. And now I know why I dance the way I do.

Try to stick with this video until the end, and you'll be rewarded with a non-silver-foxed Kenny Rogers singing and emoting to “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (helluva great song).

My favorite isn’t included in this clip. It was a video of a beautiful hippy girl with long hair, playing Frisbee in Piedmont Park, with Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” playing. I wanted to be that carefree hippy chick. I still want to be that carefree hippy chick.

Skinny Bobby Harper — a longtime Atlanta disc jockey, and a family fave throughout my childhood — was one of the DJs on Now Explosion (the term “veejay” had yet to be uttered). Here’s a clip of him remembering the Now Explosion days:

When The Beatles announced their breakup, Skinny Bobby played the video for “Let It Be,” which ended with the four-square photo collage from the album. As the song faded and the screen froze on the photo, he said something like “Look closely. This will be the last time you’ll see them together.”

Appropriately schwaaaaaaah.

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14 May 2007

Wordy Rappinghood

No, I haven’t been engulfed by Okefenoke wildfires, or run off with the pool boy, or “followed” R.E.M. to Vancouver to take advantage of major stalking opportunities. I’ve just been swamped at work. About 70 percent of my job involves writing, and I’ve written nearly 8,000 corporate words since May 1. I just can’t muster up the energy to blog (or read blogs) when I’m home … which, in itself, is a rarity, as my dance card is filled these days.

I’ve written some great posts … in my head. Too bad y’all can’t peek beyond the wild black locks. Maybe I’ll get them down on keyboard and screen in the next week. Maybe.

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I get a kick out of Jane Fonda. Still damn sexy, and being nearly seventy hasn’t slowed down her flirty li’l self. (Have you seen either of her sizzlin' appearances on “The Colbert Report”? I'd crawl up in his lap, too, if given the opportunity.) Plus, Jane lives in Atlanta, so she gets two more points on the Cup Coolness Chart. (And isn't her haircut adorable?)

Jane hosted the world premiere of her new movie, “Georgia Rule,” in Atlanta last week to benefit her favorite charitable organization, the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention. During the benefit auction, she bid $100,000 for a weeklong trip to her “favorite ex” Ted’s Argentinean ranch. When she won the trip, she told Turner — and the rest of the crowd at Symphony Hall — “See what I’ll do to keep other people out of your bed?”

Jane’s my flirtin’ hero.

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Have you seen the commercial for some bag o’ nuts, the one that claims when you get that 3 p.m. crash, Robert Goulet comes in and messes with your stuff? Maybe my brain is drained from the recent word output, but I giggle every damn time I see the commercial. I’ve started using Goulet as my excuse at work.

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I believe a couple of you asked for five questions during my latest e-disappearance. Promise I’ll get them to you by Wednesday, if you’re still interested in an interview.

I was in Grant Miller’s dream. I feel special ... and a little dirty ... and I kind of like that feeling. For the sordid details, read the comments to the previous post.

Thanks to those who e-mailed and checked on me. You like me, you really like me!

And now I must sign off to read the backlog of your blogs …

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