[ always tell stories ]

BONUS COVERAGE: "Cutting Across Racial Lines" in The Sunday Paper

(ATLANTA & SANDY SPRINGS, GA. :: 14 April 2010) Atlanta’s own Sunday Paper just published “Cutting Across Racial Lines” - a piece I wrote on two African-American barbers with vastly different perspectives on race.

So here is some bonus coverage of the piece: George Lollar (top picture, seated, right) with
Nadine’s Triple Crown in Virginia Highlands is one of the piece’s subjects, and he says he uses emotional-intelligence skills to connect with clients. “You gotta be sensitive to everyone,” he says. “I always allow my clients to lead and I follow. You’re supporting them by listening.”

Kedar Ras (pictured top, standing, left) experiences flummoxed caucasian men and women entering his Clubhouse Barbers in Sandy Springs, only to turn around and walk out. He says customers often seek and expect a similar peer group in a barber shop; when faced with something different, they will oftentimes turn around and walk out.

“One of our biggest sins is color,” Ras says. “If we cannot get past the color thing, that’s what’s gonna separate us forever. For the majority, the color barrier is still an issue. They say, ‘I can’t get past who you are because of what you look like to me.’

“I practiced getting over the fact that everybody don’t look like me,” he adds. “Even with my kids, I teach them not to see color. When you look at color you put yourself in a box or under a glass ceiling. Look past color. Get to see the person, who they are. Then make your judgment on whether or not you’re going to allow them into your inner circle. Because, to be honest, there are more enemies that look like me than there are that don’t.”

Special thanks to Nadine’s stylist Allison Eaton (pictured here, far right) and receptionist Kira Naillieux, with apologies for getting her name wrong in the article. Also, I’ll share some feedback from a Sunday Paper reader, an African American woman, who enjoyed the article:

“I read your article “Cutting Across Racial Lines” in the Sunday Paper. I am an AA woman and I can say that this is one facet of race/culture rarely talked about in open forums. Many still do not realize that churches and barbershops/salons are two institutions that still remain heavily self-segregated. I have been on the other side in which I have unknowingly walked into a “white salon” and had the stylists look at me with “surprise, paralysis and panic”. Seeing the picture of the Caucasian gentleman in the shop chair was definitely a sign of the changing times. Good story and great article!”

To read the full article, go directly to The Sunday Paper’s Web site. Once again, great thanks to Kirsten Palladino for the opportunity to tell this story.


'Equilibrium' Is A Wish For The Election, Among Other Things

Seeking calm.

That seems to be what we're up to the past few days - both in the election and with the credit markets.

So I submit "Equilibrium" for your consideration... to help your soul know that hope is on the horizon. I submitted it to JPGmag.com in the "faith" category because we're always closer to our spiritual side in nature. Click the link to learn more.

Also, heading up wp.com for October is "Awash" - another in my Costa Rican Orchid Garden series.

This image is one of a few captures that will be featured in ARTvision 2008. More on that very soon.

Other new features this month:

- Updated
Jump pages
- New navigation, including a new tab to my
Twitter profile, the newest (and most addictive) social networking site
- Revised
bio, including new projects
- New captures loaded to my
MobileMe gallery, including the 40/70 celebration
- New vault articles

Coming soon: my first piece in
Atlanta Intown on Radial Cafe and GreenPlate.


Cheers To Radial Cafe For Going Green... Article To Follow

Check out this piece on WSB-TV that features Radial Cafe! If you haven't yet visited this Atlanta landmark, you should do so ASAP.

Similar article forthcoming from yours truly in Atlanta Intown newspaper. Radial is using biodegradable to-go materials (pictured here) and is exploring the idea of composting egg shells and coffee grounds.

For more, visit
Radial's MySpace page.

Stellar Cellar: The AJC Runs Great Piece On The Myrtle Basement

Adaptive re-users... unite! The coverage of the house renovation continues... Sick of it yet?

Thanks to Frank at WicksteadWorks for making this happen, and for being my adaptive re-use partner in crime.

Here's a link to the photo gallery, and then also, a jump to the full story by Helen Caulley.

Operational coal returns, recycled antique doors, a Japanese Zen garden. Who woulda thought?? All I can say is that I had a lot of help and that there is everything to be said for collaboration.


Of course, this post would be incomplete without
a photo show of my own. ARTvision 2008 has an official new home for artwork display!

'Lead Or Leave': Thomas Friedman Nails Bush's Energy Failure

In today's Times, Thomas Friedman deserves some sort of medal.

His op-ed, in the plainest terms yet, details why our sorry president deserves a failing grade in energy policy.

I was reporting and writing for MarketWatch.com when Bush took office - and when Cheney was crafting energy policy with a board that consisted of a who's who in Corporate Oil.

Since that time,
his failure to act has been widely reported by MSM and blogs, Web sites, focus groups - you name it. The corporatization of energy policy had begun.

Today, Bush is heckling Congress that if they don't act before recess, they've got the blood of $4 per gallon gas on their hands without domestic drilling. Without a formal plan for alternative energy, he's just trying to make his fat-cat buddies even fatter than they were before.

Bush is incompetent. He's an elitist scumbag who thinks he's God's gift (literally, figuratively...), which, as evidenced by the below video, is definitely not true.

It's sad that impeachment is summarily off the table basically because we're so close to him leaving. Just on energy policy alone, his grade is "F".

Of course that's just one reason for our fatigue... Embodied brilliantly by Skeeter and Jimmy Bob, watching from the sidelines, who
could give a rat's ass about Bush's arrival:


'Up With Grups': Call Me When 40 Actually Means Something

In my search for next-decade perspective - and, more importantly, to ease the stress of entering an esteemed group of elder statespersons - I found more than a few pearls of wisdom.

New York magazine reports that an "
ascendant breed of grown-ups" are reshaping perceptions of today's adulthood. Click through the link for the cool image and story.

Am I in denial? Clinging to days past by always giggling and staying in touch with youthful exuberance? Or am I really onto something here?

I will *always* prefer to wear vintage t-shirts, ripped shorts, trucker hats... all the while listening to my iPod and blogging on my laptop.

I'll probably be doing the same thing into the next decade, too.

Also, more importantly, I needed a lift today... and was combing the Internet for relief. I found this:

I don't feel much like dancing today, so I'll let this guy do it for me.

Thanks to everyone for all the well-wishes. Let this be a lesson to everyone turning 40 this year or any year - be proud, live strong, be young.


NYTimes: Once Again, A Hideous Afront To Basic Oratory

George Speaks, Badly
Published: March 15, 2008
We’re really past expecting anything much, but in times of crisis you would like to at least believe your leader has the capacity to pretend he’s in control.

go to the story

On Christmas Day, A Lesson In Getting Along In Georgia

Every once in a while we are shown a reminder of how great we are as a people - as champions of goodwill, togetherness and, eventually, prosperity for young people. The International Community School is one such example, joining refugees from some 40 countries with other families in Decatur, Ga., for a unique and enriching learning environment in Stone Mountain, Ga.

The school's story,
told today in The New York Times, shows that our best learning begins with the environment and tone we set for our young people and their instructors -- not with quotas and false, pressure-filled benchmarks. The school's "experimental" status, says the NYT, means it is

"more at risk of closing if its students fail to make adequate yearly progress, the standard by which the national education law judges public schools."

In this case, "No Child Left Behind" can actually mean "No child left out."

Take a minute and click through to the NYT article and soak up this unique example of learning, compassion and inclusion.

Merry Christmas and Happy Happy to all today.

Crusty Gives Thumbs-middle To Shaun's

A group of us, including Chris "Crusty" Haddle, went to Shaun's on Saturday night. His review on AccessAtlanta is spot on:

While I admit that Shaun Doty is a talented chef, it's too bad that talent didn't get transferred to the operation of his eponymous restaurant. I made a reservation 2 weeks in advance for 8pm on a Saturday night. It was apparent that the hostess didn't have a good handle on the seating because it took us 45 minutes to be seated, even with a reservation. She showed us the table, then walked off. Is it too much to expect a little apology for the wait? Our waiter was apathetic and only mildly efficient. The food was OK, but I was hoping to be "wow-ed," especially by a chef of Doty's caliber. The best part of the meal was the dessert of sticky toffee pudding, but even that was a small portion. Basically, Shaun's is just OK, but I would suggest going during the week. I must say it baffles me why the AJC continuously puts mediocre-to-mildly decent restaurants on their Top 50 List (see Trois...ugh!). This city has so much more to offer."

They really did seem to be in over their heads... but I still think the joint has a lot of potential.

In The Electronic Age, Always Remember The Personal Touch

Great piece in the Sunday Times about how e-mail can be misinterpreted... and how a phone call or a drop-by can be the best cure-all.

E-mail, the article reads, might be behind much of the miscommunication we have with one another:

"This is becoming more apparent with the emergence of social neuroscience, the study of what happens in the brains of people as they interact. New findings have uncovered a design flaw at the interface where the brain encounters a computer screen: there are no online channels for the multiple signals the brain uses to calibrate emotions."

Shows the irony of the "reach out and touch someone"
ads of the past... although I still think that e-communication can be just as powerful, thoughtful and effective when done with care.

(Illustration by Stuart Goldenberg for the NYTimes.)


Dude, Where's My Slap? Thigh Sparks A Guest Slap Of Seann

Many of you know of my longstanding issue with V.A.S., or "Violent Affection Syndrome," where you get so aggravated by someone being cute that you want to squeeze them until their eyeballs pop out. (VAS is never anything you'd ever really do, it's just a feeling/surge you get from, say, nieces and nephews.)

The affliction started with Penny's dog
Petey, who was just so hideously ugly that he was, consequently, irresistibly cute -- hence the V.A.S. frustration. For example, you'll often hear me say: "that one is so cute, you just want to slap him/her." It's a natural reaction.

Henceforthwith, for those of you not in the know, V.A.S. has spawned another very important (and entirely popular) Web feature called "
The Daily Slap," a section of BentBlog run by my pal Rob. Yesterday I did a "guest slap" of actor Seann William Scott, who, according to recent birthday boy Mattie "Thigh" Moore, turned up at a party with the same affable demeanor we all see in his movies. (SWS has got five flicks in development as of this writing.)

Thigh, pictured at left, with Seann on the right and Joanna Scholl as the "meat in the man sandwich." The photo was snapped at a
GQ Fashion Show after party that had all the blogs buzzing. Thanks to Joanna for supplying the picture.

I'm looking into V.A.S. rehab now...

Seriously? Is A Censored America The Country In Which We Want To Live?

OK, this is basically Twirl Factor 10... I have been absolutely twirling about these last few instances of morality trumping expression, and excessive force trumping judgment. To wit:

-- Student Tasered in Florida for acting up at a Kerry rally:

Question: why didn't Kerry step in and at least ask the police to stop? he just kept on droning. Did the "officers" need to taser the guy when he was down and cuffed? I don't think so.

Sadly, it's not the first incident of tasering at a U.S. college campus.
See another one here.

Sally Field censored by Fox at the Emmys. (PS: Fox should not be allowed to broadcast awards shows -- guys, stick to sports.) So, given their penchant for censorship, let's look at the full, uncut version here:

Question: Did Fox do this to protect against fines from the post-Powel FCC, or because of Field's statement against war? Neither reasoning passes the smell test, and I'm twirling. Talk me down from the ledge!

Aside from the fact that I 110% agree with her, I love the fact that Sally is nutty, speaking as a fellow nutty person. I'm going to start watching that show for that reason -- and because they have a few decent gay characters on there as well.


Seriously? Piedmont Park, A Car Deck And No Transparency

Have you been reading the series of editorials in the AJC about the Botanical Garden's parking-deck? The project has been sold to us as a boon for business, OK for the environment and a help to congested neighborhoods. I'm not convinced. Since I can't get anyone to publish such a long editorial, here it is.

With no-bid contracts, waste and corruption causing all sorts of embarrassment here and around the world (New Orleans, Iraq), a "trust us, you'll see" approach is lame. Enjoy. And stay informed!

(Thumb courtesy of
Jupiter Images)

The Garden, Parking Deck & Conservancy: Of Two Minds In Midtown

(ATLANTA – 14 September 2007) I’m following the debate over the
Botanical Garden’s parking deck, as I hope many city residents are. The work of the Piedmont Park Conservancy has benefited me -- as an investor at Piedmont Crest, a new Park-side condominium development off of 12th street; as an ALTA player out of Piedmont Park Tennis Center; and as a frequent visitor to Park events such as Screen on the Green, the Dogwood Festival and the Dave Matthews Concert.

I am also a paid member of the Conservancy. Their work has, without question, brought this great park of ours forward – and has made it greener, cleaner and more full of life. We are the better for it.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I question the defensive and self-promoting editorial by Debbie McCown, the Conservancy’s Executive Director (“
Conservancy openly takes park from blight to bright,” @issue, 22 August). This stuffy piece was the second of the one-two punch I read in the AJC, after a gaggle of attorneys wrote in defense of the Botanical Garden’s independence from city affairs and state Sunshine laws (“Plan will be a boon; Garden has nothing to hide,” Saturday Talk, 25 August 2007). Why are we rehashing this stuff?

Both McCown and Team McBeal are missing the point. We are on a slippery slope when we as a city give ourselves wholly over to the private sector. It’s one thing to source corporate assistance to help create a commercial thoroughfare such as the
Midtown Mile; but quite another to give over a natural jewel such as Piedmont Park. Not only have our city planners ceded control of that treasured asset – we are, in many ways, relinquishing the spirit that our residents, our Mayor, our visitors and our city council members have worked so hard to build. As an activist, property owner, journalist and business manager here in Atlanta, I stand firmly behind Mike King’s plainly worded editorial (“Park groups should let sun shine in,” 17 August 2007). It asks, in simple language: Now that the Botanical Garden’s Grecian Army of lawyers has snake-charmed the presiding judge to toss many of the claims brought by Friends of Piedmont Park, just come clean.

Show us how you’ve awarded contracts, to whom, and why; disclose your finances and balance sheets; and give us less lip when we ask you to comply with Georgia’s Sunshine laws. You’re doing the city’s work, the people’s work, even if it’s not coming directly from City Hall. If you’ve given no-bid contracts to friends of the Conservancy, as is rumored, then I want to know about it. And so do a lot of other folks.

Doug Abramson, principal of Friends of Piedmont Park, the advocacy group leading the legal opposition to the parking deck, also says our great gains in beautification have come at a price.

“The Garden and the Conservancy do some good work in the Park, but when questioned about their decisions and their practices they respond that they have raised millions of dollars over the years and somehow that should insulate them from public scrutiny and accountability,” he says. “As stewards of our public park and as representatives of the City, they should act transparently and disclose how and where money is spent, and otherwise conduct their affairs publicly.”

Actually, the current parking arrangement works pretty well. Piedmont Park Tennis Center – one of the last units of the park still managed by the City of Atlanta, run expertly by Sharon Lester and her team – enjoys regular access off Park Drive to the modest yet ultimately convenient parking lot adjacent to
Magnolia Hall and, yes, the Botanical Garden. We have managed with this arrangement because the unpretentious parking area provides a small, controllable yet effective resource when these great events happen (including our home tennis matches). My teammates and I use this lot frequently and do not want to see it torn up. Rather, it should be maintained and used as is. What about eco-friendly asphalt? Low-water landscaping? More restricted access? Other creative uses? This area could be a testing ground for new environmentally friendly landscaping products, but all we ever hear about is how this mammoth car deck is going to be our savior, an expansive car heaven that will alleviate Midtown’s parking woes.

Let’s also remember how royally the private sector can fumble the public ball. After mulling this issue, I kept having nightmare reminders of Iraq reconstruction getting handed over to the likes of Halliburton, Parsons Corp. and others -- only to have billions wasted. Do we need such a profound example of alleged no-bid private contracts gone awry? I don’t think so. Privatization, in some weird way, seems to absolve officials from the personal care and obligation that comes with public management. And since secrecy breeds skepticism and mistrust, here we are.

I write this, clearly, of two minds, because again, I know full well the benefits we’ve seen in the Park. I may be a Conservancy member, but remain a dissenting voice, hoping the air around this project is cleared. But this nose-thumbing, redundant, “look what we’ve done for you lately” approach is maddening and makes me want to scream – and it should bring all Atlanta residents to their front porches, too, to do the same. McCown earned nearly $115,000 in annual salary in 2005, which has most certainly increased since then; in that year, the Conservancy, a non-profit, paid more than $100,000 to an external PR firm. Are these needed expenditures or extravagant usage of donors’ generosity? And that’s only the stuff we know about.

Simply singing one’s own praises does not magically immunize you from public speculation – particularly when you have people in the city who enjoy the park set-up as is, and would rather not indulge the Botanical Garden’s desire to give their members in Alpharetta a more convenient place to park in the city. I use the tennis center proudly, along with its parking area, knowing the recently updated clubhouse and courts there are the last bastion of municipal-managerial excellence that the park has.

I am a traditionalist and would prefer to see the park’s car-management system kept the same while still have the park expanded and enhanced. However, if the parking deck is our savior, show us how. If any of our private partners must stand on a pedestal to claim grand success, and continue to move us forward in this great city of ours, let us peek behind your curtain so we’re all on the same page. Without that, it’s a mystery too great to accept. -
Will Pollock

# # #

Let the AJC
know how you feel.

Update: Atlanta Business Chronicle reporting that the Botanical Garden and its parking deck project are not subject to Georgia Sunshine Laws. Pending further appeal, it looks like the project will proceed.

'Welcome Home': Rev. Paul Beats Back 'Wave of Hate' At Atlanta Pride

By Will Pollock

(ATLANTA :: 24 June 2007) Amidst the angry shouts of hellfire and wished damnation from protestors at Piedmont Park yesterday,
one lone voice stood up at Atlanta Pride and declared, “Welcome Home.”

Rev. Paul Graetz, an eight-year pastor at First Metropolitan Community Church of Atlanta, was manning his church’s booth at the largest gay and lesbian Pride event in the southeast. He became fed up with signs that read, “JESUS THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE CONDEMNS YOU TO ETERNAL HELL,” and stormed out to the park's entrance to counterprotest.

“They’re lying to my parishioners,” Graetz said, holding his lone sign. “It’s just an unacceptable wave of hate as you approach the park. Georgia doesn’t tolerate hate. Hate speech is not free speech.”

The religious objectors’ words blared over a bullhorn as they manned numerous entrances to
Piedmont Park as well as the 10th and Piedmont intersection in Midtown. Rev. Graetz questioned their purpose.

“Why are they here? They’re adamant about their homophobia, their fear. Radical groups need someone to hate, yet the bible’s message is one of love. There’s no room for hate. God said he did not give us a spirit of fear. God’s love is here for all.”

For their part, Pridegoers proceeded past the protestors peacefully, with one woman entering at 14
th street calmly saying to a protestor, “Have a nice day, Sir.”

“I am having a great day,” the protestor retorted. “Y’all think about eternal life, it might be right around the corner.”

Despite their somewhat sordid welcome, thousands of visitors to Pride were undaunted and enjoyed the many vendors and other attractions at the event.

But for Rev. Graetz, the angry language is a stark reminder.

“This is really a symbol for the type of world gays and lesbians face,” he said. “We have to walk through hatred to get home, just like people have to walk through these people’s hate to get to Pride.

“So I’m welcoming people here in love,” he added. “The hate was just too overwhelming as you approached the park. Jesus would be saying, ‘Happy Pride!’”
(Additional reporting by Thom Anderson)


Digital Maître d': OpenTable Lands In The NYTimes

The NY Times reports on a phenomenon that we Atlantans know all too well: OpenTable.com. How else would one lock in a night of ice jimmies at Repast?

Click here for the story.