Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Outstanding New Book by George D. N. Coletti

Reviewed by Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-The theologian and ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr asserted that only individual men and women have the strength to hold fast to virtue when faced with the threat of death. Slavery was once an official state supported institution that when consumed by fear of extinction, swif
tly pushed those endowed with this moral courage from their ranks, almost assuring that the evil of human bondage would become obsolete and outlawed.

The Civil War was a frightening stage featuring epic struggles encompassing many differences, particularly slavery. The South was far more complex than popularly perceived and beneath the veneer of history, many very significant complexities continue to be overlooked. George D. N. Coletti, a gifted author, addresses important omissions in his engaging, instructive book, The Red Spoke (Dragonfly Creek Publishing, (2015). History embraced with good storytelling offers a rear window for pondering these mighty forces.

The Red Spoke comes with a bonus: Coletti’s compelling style and engaging characters make for some spellbinding reading enjoyment.

Not all white Southerners were sympathetic to slavery. Some were quiet abolitionists and aided the escape of slaves along the Underground Railroad. Buck Jernigan, the book's protagonist, lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia with his family and two free former slaves. Jernigan and one free man become deeply involved in the forbidden network of secret routes and safe houses used to escape, hoping to find freedom in Northern states and Canada. Legends of the Underground Railroad like Harriett Tubman meet with them. Buck and Isaac, the freed slave, become deeply submerged in the Underground Railroad. Buck and Isaac are stealth abolitionists able to free nearly fifty local slaves.

The risks for taking these actions were perilous.

Whether called the Civil War or War Between the States, the romance, drama and mystery never subside. There are many reasons why so much of the world remains fascinated by Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler and Tara.

George D.N. Coletti is uniquely positioned as an author to tell this story. Living just outside Atlanta in the Historic Village of Stone Mountain and highly active in preserving the area’s history, his perspective is advantageous and attuned to accuracy in interpretation. In fact, The Red Spoke brings us back to Buck Jernigan, the protagonist in Coletti’s well-received Stone Mountain: The Granite Sentinel. Jernigan’s role in this successor book is that of a compassionate man, loyal to family and community but at odds with human bondage. Jernigan, at all times a Southern man, stars in the story, assuming a hero's mantle.
George Coletti Signing his Book

For those who romanticize war, Coletti’s well-researched scenes of the destruction of Atlanta, the sacking of homes, smokehouses, crops, indiscriminate robbing of civilians and harassment of hospital staff and wounded patients is discomforting. Atrocities were not confined to Confederate sympathizers: Those who flew the Star and Stripes got little or no protection from criminal bummers and their mindless, wanton thievery. How all this somehow shortened the Civil War will elude the most detached reader.

Buck, along with his family and friends both white and black, are admirable folks who want nothing more than to survive. They strive not to succumb to the ravages of war even as it comes to their very doorstep in the person of General William T. Sherman, who appears as a contradiction: A ferocious warrior surprisingly receptive at times to appeals for compassion and understanding.

This tale of war and the relationships that bind us prompts tears and laughter. Here’s a gripping story that takes you back to the events that in one way or another actually happened, describing graphically the omnipresent terrifying tension fueled by the uncertainty of survival. But, like Niehbuhr’s morally grounded individuals, Buck Jernigan and his extended family stand on the right side of choices and in the end, eschew bitterness and hatred, accepting what fate has dealt them with admirable strength and dignity.

George Coletti is uniquely positioned to write this book, one firmly supported by history, both written and passed down through oral tradition. A lifelong and prominent resident of the greater Stone Mountain community, he has served as a consultant for documentaries and motion pictures filmed in the area, contributed significantly to visitor guides for Civil War tourism and is a man loaded with beneficial energy.

After enduring unconscionable loss, suffering and destruction, some of these good people survived. Their legacy is the cultural bedrock of not only Stone Mountain but also much of today’s South. The Red Spoke serves a higher purpose, a spirited testament confirming Victor Hugo’s tribute to the majesty of the human spirit: “Nothing can withstand the force of an idea whose time has come.”

Monday, January 25, 2016


Global Barbecue in Tennessee
Speaking of Travel

ASHEVILLE, NC-Travel cleanses the soul of clutter, replacing doldrums with excitement. There’s something about new faces and places that ignites inner wanderlust, the better part of us that yearns to break out.

My good friend, the remarkable travel journalist Marilyn Ball, surprised me, wanting to do an interview for her radio show/podcast about things I found on the roads of the South. How do you say no to that? I was honored, particularly because Marilyn, a super professional interviewer, sticks to a format of free-wheeling dialogue (no rules!)

Doc at Hemingway's Home
We started with Atlanta’s Gone With The Wind Trail, beginning at the Margaret Mitchell House on Peachtree Street, then over to The Atlanta History Center, finishing off half a day in Marietta before going over to Decatur to talk about Mary Gay, likely one of the influences for Scarlett O’Hara. Next, we ventured into Tennessee’s heartland with a couple of days at Jack Daniel’s fabled distillery in Lynchburg for the annual International barbecue competition, visits to nearby Bell Buckle and Parish Patch finishing at a gourmet dinner at Cortner Mill Restaurant beside the mighty Duck River.

Come on along and enjoy Marilyn’s wonderful show:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Historic Visit to Art Station and Main Street Arts Venues

By Doc Lawrence

Dr. Jane Chu
STONE MOUNTAIN, Georgia-Dr. Jane Chu, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, draws upon what she calls a “bok choy and corn dog approach,” a subtle confirmation that diversity is second nature to her. Growing up in Oklahoma and Arkansas with Chinese parents became an advantage, a beneficial background that provided a world view incorporating everything she would experience in her arts overseeing position today including the folkways and customs of rural America. This works very well for her as she ably demonstrated recently during a whirlwind tour of the arts in metro Atlanta.
Karen Paty (L) with Jane Chu and David Thomas

Topping off her visit, Dr. Chu, accompanied by Karen L. Paty, executive director of Georgia’s Council for the Arts, came to Stone Mountain’s Art Station and was welcomed by Stone Mountain Mayor Patricia Wheeler and City Council member Susan Coletti for an introduction to ART Station led by the facility’s artistic director and president David Thomas. The entourage also met with artists at two arts incubators, a project supported with a 2012 NEA Our Town grant.

Jane Chu on Stage at Art Station
The Art Station tour reviewed the heralded cultural center’s ongoing arts contributions that extend well beyond Stone Mountain’s city limits, from its impressive gallery featuring a number of works by many local artists, to the live stage where a full season includes a panoply of critically-acclaimed theatrical productions to a unique cabaret regularly showcasing big names like Atlanta’s legendary song stylist Theresa Hightower.

 President Obama, who selected Dr. Chu to head the NEA, has praised her grass-roots approach contributing to her reputation as “a powerful advocate for artists and arts education.” According to Mr. Obama, Dr. Chu “knows firsthand how art can open minds, transform lives and revitalize communities, and [she] believes deeply in the importance of the arts to our national culture.” Committed to honoring the ways different people think about the arts, Dr. Chu told the Stone Mountain gathering that “one community is just that: one community.” She believes this approach frees her to view receptively the distinctions among different people in different regions, thus avoiding any appearance of elitism.

While the NEA has just turned 50, it has evolved under Dr. Chu’s leadership into an agency where harmonious relationships are de rigueur. Congress may be hopelessly divided along party lines, but her agency works cooperatively with Congressional leadership, finding common ground of agreement that transforms into workable projects. One glowing example is the NEA Military Healing Arts Partnership, a collaboration with the Department of Defense that supports music, writing, and visual art therapy at military care facilities, a healthcare model where creative arts therapists work closely with a diverse team of healthcare professionals that include physicians, neurologists, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, and others to share information and advance patient healing. For military service members who have been affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other combat-induced psychological health conditions, this program offers new and promising treatment.

Not surprisingly, the program garners congressional praise and official support.

The NEA under Dr. Chu, has committed to other pioneer projects including a partnership between the NEA and the National Park Service and the establishment of Creativity Connects, which will demonstrate how the arts contribute to the country’s creative ecosystem; investigate the ways support systems for artists are changing; and, explore how the arts can connect with other sectors that want and utilize creativity.

Walking along Main Street in the Historic Village of Stone Mountain may have recalled childhood memories for Jane Chu. The arts embrace all cultures, ideally favoring no person or group over others, and always providing the potential for transformation and betterment. One member of the group said that Dr. Chu’s visit and joining the walking tour made her see possibilities for the city she thought would take years. “Now, these are not just dreams but something we can accomplish soon.”

Historic Stone Mountain Village by Olivia Thomason

Monday, January 18, 2016


Dr. King With An Old Enemy

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-It’s one of the most fascinating stories I’ve been given. Imagine a chance meeting between a global figure, a champion of human rights, and a racist former governor of Georgia at a wine store near the state capital building in Atlanta. And all this during the heyday of segregation on the eve of the civil rights revolution. Add into this the presence of a Pulitzer-Prize winning newspaper editor and the host, wine shop owner who would become the father of fine wines in the South.

Long ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., walked into Sanders Wines in Atlanta to find a good bottle for dinner at home to celebrate his anniversary. Already there was former governor Marvin Griffin, a very public adversary and outspoken critic of King and Ralph McGill, editor of the Atlanta Constitution (now AJC.) Jim Sanders told the story in a manuscript he gave me just prior to his death in 1999.

Sanders, who had a Master’s in English from Emory University, was a friend of McGill and Griffin, and had a small room in the rear of his wine shop where a select few would be invited to sit, talk and sip, a tradition Sanders maintained without interruption until his death. Dr. King would soon join in the wine enjoyment and conversation.

After a glass or two of fine Burgundy, tension was replaced with storytelling and good humor.

The earth trembled.

I broadcast this on my radio show based completely on Sanders’ transcript, keeping the title, “Requiem for Three Wine Tasters” which you can enjoy (Youtube or iTunes).

Monday, January 11, 2016


 Bill Oberst, Jr. On Stage At Art Station

“Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is plain: adults and wise persons never speak it.”

                       -On the Decay of the Art of Lying- by Mark Twain

By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-Portraying America's best storyteller on stage would be daunting for any actor. Mark Twain, whose final volume autobiography was just released last October, remains a fresh face thanks to Hollywood, PBS, American literature classes and years of Hal Holbrook’s wildly popular stage interpretations.

“I decided it was time to reintroduce him after a 10 year hiatus,” said Bill Oberst, Jr., the accomplished actor just prior to the highly anticipated limited run of his “Mark Twain Live,” at Art Station Theatre in the Historic Village of Stone Mountain near Atlanta. Asked if the world was ready for a Mark Twain beyond Holbrook’s version, Oberst, well-known for his performance in Lewis Grizzard Tonight, where reviewers found him to be the alter ego for two hours of the Southern humorist, said that while he was influenced by Holbrook, he felt that the time was right to share Twain with today’s audiences. “Holbrook re-defined how people saw Mark Twain, making him accessible. I want to take Twain’s always fresh material and entertain audiences who might find him very relevant.”

Twain's characterization of Congress as "that grand old benevolent national asylum for the helpless" is as hilariously biting and relevant today as it was in the 19th century.

Mark Twain’s early days fascinate Oberst. “He came from an unremarkable childhood,” Oberst observed, and still managed to “pull some nuggets from his experiences. He took ordinary people and put himself into them.” The result was “a body of literature for the ages.”

America has historically called on Mark Twain to speak truths we avoid saying for ourselves. Note that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a fixture on the American Library Association’s list of most frequently banned books, a strong recommendation for occupying a seat in this cozy theater to enjoy some pure Americana. Twain brought a sensibility to bear on the kaleidoscopic spectacle of American life and we have every reason to suspect that Mr. Oberst’s portrayal will include moments where the sharp hairpin of well-positioned, brilliantly crafted words will let the air out of some human targets too full of themselves.

A native of coastal South Carolina, Bill Oberst, Jr. lives in Los Angeles. He has appeared in over 100 films and television productions. His critically acclaimed theatrical portrayals of Jesus, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy will soon include accolades for Mark Twain. Oberst has a display case filled with top awards for acting.

Mark Twain, Live runs Jan. 13-17. Tickets and more information: (770) 469.1105.

Friday, January 8, 2016


              Gin Creek’s Fine White Wine
              Chef Lara Lyn Carter's New Recipe

By Doc Lawrence

HARTSFIELD, GEORGIA-Getting to this winery and vacation destination only adds to the wonderful memories. Far away from any large Southern city, the bucolic setting deep in South Georgia can take a writer’s breath away with natural beauty enhanced by some heavenly serenity. When wine is served here with an original creation by a renowned chef, you know love is in the air

Gin Creek is an acclaimed destination near Thomasville, Georgia that encompasses a vineyard, a peaceful lake and fully furnished cabins along with a Tuscan Pergola and Gazebo. It is also a popular location for weddings.

One of Gin Creek’s wines, Blanc du Bois, earned raves recently at my New Year’s dinner. The genuinely Southern wine has a fascinating story. It was born in Florida, nurtured and introduced at Clermont Vineyards near Orlando and named in honor of Tallahassee’s legendary wine pioneer, Emile DuBois, owner of San Luis Vineyards. (More than one wine enthusiast suspected that the wine’s name is connected to Tennessee Williams' Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Sorry.)

To better enjoy Blanc du Bois, I defer to the cooking genius of celebrity chef Lara Lyn Carter who provided her original recipe that pairs with this wine like a lovely hand in a velvet glove.

         By Chef Lara Lyn Carter

2 1/2 lbs. chicken or one whole chicken cut up
2 tbsp. Georgia Olive Farm Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup of sweet onion diced
1 tbsp. salt
4 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. tomato paste
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the salt, honey, cinnamon, and tomato paste, stirring well. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the lime zest and juice. Allow the mixture to cool. Divide the sauce in half. Place the chicken in a large plastic bag. Pour one half of the sauce over the chicken. Marinate the chicken for 6 - 8 hours or overnight. Reserve the remainder of the sauce for cooking the chicken.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange them on a greased baking sheet. Place the chicken in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Warm the remaining sauce slightly. Remove the chicken from the oven, drizzle it with the remaining sauce. Return the chicken to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy this with glass after glass of Blanc du Bois.

NOTE: Make plans to join Chef Lara Lyn Carter, one of the featured celebrities at the world-renowned South Beach Wine & Food Festival, in February. I never miss this global gourmet event! Details: lyn-carter-470

Friday, January 1, 2016


                                     Miss Carrie’s Recipe

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Every Southerner must eat certain things on New Year’s Day: Black-eyed peas and greens (collards preferred) seasoned with hog jowl. Black-eyed peas will bring luck in the coming year. Many traditions maintain that you must eat at least 365 of them. I was told during my baby days in Atlanta that the more you ate, the more luck that would come your way.

I never questioned this wisdom and cannot think of a New Year’s dinner that did not feature these staples.

Since the days of Jefferson and his revolutionary gardens at Monticello, these vegetables have been centerpieces of Southern cooking heritage

The Civil War probably fueled the tradition during the suffering inflicted by Sherman’s March to the Sea, an event that began in 1864 about two blocks from my home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Union troops moved unimpeded on their way to Savannah, confiscating pantries, smokehouses, crops, livestock, mules and more. Civilians were left with nothing except peas and greens which Union soldiers believed useful only for feeding horses and hogs. Now cherished and appreciated on the first day of the year, these dishes saved the population from starvation. Thus, the tradition continues.

 Here’s a simple recipe based on what I recall from my mother, an Alabama native who was an amazing self-taught cook.

1-pound package of dried Black-eyed Peas
Pork for seasoning: ham hocks, ham bone, or large piece of smoked ham
1 Tbs salt (will need more)
1 Tbs pepper
1 Tbs lard
1 Tbs Brown Sugar
Sort through beans and remove any stones. Place beans in a large mixing bowl or pot. Completely cover with water (with a few inches extra over the top) and soak overnight. Pour off water and place in pot. Add cured pork for seasoning. Cover with water plus several more inches. Add other seasonings. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for several hours. Remove cured pork, shred and place back in pot. Continue cooking until peas are tender. Total cooking time will take at least three to four hours.

Lagniappe: Serve with rice for Hoppin’ John.

When you begin to feel the luck, go out and purchase a Power Ball lottery ticket.