Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Blackberry Daze-Horizon Theatre's Dazzling Musical


~Doc Lawrence

After  a concert at Emory University years ago, Wyntonn Marsalis offered his interpretation of the blues, observing that it is a way to defy hardship and hopelessness through the power of music. “The blues,” he said, “helps you to never give in.” Horizon Theatre’s Blackberry Daze is more than a romantic journey into the heart of the South: it is a blues and jazz musical play propelled by powerful energy rarely seen on any stage south of Broadway. 

With a soulful, original music by William Knowles, this musical features 14 storytelling songs, presented in 1920 rural Virginia, displaying the challenges of three Black women, who are either married to, loved or betrayed by a hard-drinking, gambling dandy Herman Camm, portrayed brilliantly by TC Carson who seems created for this role. 
The story is tangled web built around Camm’s deceit while showing him to be, no matter how evil, almost irresistible except when he does the unthinkable to his step-daughter. Still, Camm, described in one unforgettable line as the type of man who was “cockle-doodle-doodling in a whole lot of hen houses,” makes the show, always dapper, looking like a version of Cab Callaway, singing, dancing, prancing his way into the hearts and beds of the many women he takes a shine to.

Sultry songs like “Layin’ It Down” evoke classic music in Porgy and Bess, but are at the same time contemporary, particularly with the outstanding accompaniment of pianist S. Renee Clark and virtuoso guitarist Spencer Bean. The dancing is flawless, the jazz simmers and the blues remain defiant.

Blackberry Daze is playing in the perfect city. Atlanta has a rich history of blues, gospel and jazz. Horizon Theatre’s production absorbs and skillfully interprets this heritage that is as enjoyable today as it was during the night club heydays along Sweet Auburn. An important part of Horizon’s New South Play Festival, it showcases the extraordinary talents of two Atlanta-based writer/creators Ruth P. Watson and Thomas W. Jones II.

The set design deserves praise for authenticity. You cannot overlook the remarkable period costumes. The music is flawlessly delivered. 

If you like your musicals served up with spirit and high energy, Blackberry Daze will satisfy you. It shakes and rattles for almost two magnificent hours.

Through August 27. horizontheatre.com; (404) 584.7450


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fire on The Fourth-A Summer Soiree

~Doc Lawrence~

They gathered in the greater Stone Mountain community just outside Atlanta, bringing gifts of smiles, embraces, barbecue, fresh vegetable sides, tequila, bourbon, beer and wine. From Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, Georgia and other far away places, the assemblage included musicians-pickers, drummers and singers-doing their interpretations of Van Morrison, Allman Brothers, Hank, Willie, Merle, The Band, Bob Marley and more from the late afternoon until well beyond the midnight hour.


No nightclub or honky tonk could celebrate America better. These guys were special and this part of North Georgia rocked.

The home and yard is "my spiritual garden," said host Franki Jewell, referring to myths and fables. Magic abounds here, she revealed. The positive kind that enriches mind and body.

The party was in keeping with traditions that George Washington and other Founding Fathers encouraged. Our first president, while commanding the revolutionary army, provided extra rations of rum on July 4 at his expense to his soldiers. John Adams encouraged commemoration with "pomp and parade, guns and bonfires forever more."

In that spirit, Americans, in their own way, privately and publicly celebrated the date America was born with races, fireworks shows, concerts, parades and events draped in red, white and blue.

Here, near the gigantic granite monolith, rock, country, folk and bluegrass music synthesized, fueled by good drinks, wonderful food surrounded by boundless human kindness that would have made Thomas Jefferson very proud.





Friday, June 30, 2017

All American Feast-With A Southern Accent

~Doc Lawrence~

Thomas Jefferson entertained when he wasn't writing revolutionary documents like the Declaration of Independence. He was also a master gardener who introduced the great wines of Europe into America, dreaming that the new nation might become a major wine producing country.
Emmy winner Lara Lyn Carter accomplished a bit of a miracle with her Public TV show, "Thyme for Sharing," by earning access to Jefferson's Monticello for her first episode. Many believe that this accomplishment tipped the Emmy votes in her favor. Before reviewing her original 4th of July Holiday recipes, take a few moments and join Chef Lara Lyn at the home of our third president. It's a perfect way to celebrate the birth of our wonderful country.






The fun is just beginning. Here are the recipes in time to shop, plan and do some advance work.  The Jefferson Culinary Heritage always includes good wines and cocktails. Let's keep everything in America, another way to pay homage to arguably our best home entertainer ever.


Liberty Bell Boston Butt  
5 pound pork Boston butt
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. seasoned salt
Combine seasoning together and rub meat with mixture. Put pork in the crock pot high for 4 hours then reduce to low setting for 4 more hours until it falls apart.


Land of the Free Chicken Marinade
1/4 cup Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse salt
4 chicken breasts

Mix all ingredients together then pour over chicken allowing the chicken to marinate 2-4 hours before grilling.


        Independence Chocolate  Mousse Pie
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups whipping cream divided
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. confectioners sugar
2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
1 chocolate cookie crust
Combine chocolate chips with 1/2 cup of the whipping cream and melt in the microwave for two minutes, stopping to stir every 30 seconds. Allow this chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature. Stir 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar and 2 tbsp. of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey into the chocolate mixture. In a mixing bowl, whip 1 cup of whipping cream until soft peaks form. With the mixer on high speed, slowly add the chocolate mixture to the mixing bowl and mix well. Spoon the mousse into the pie crust and chill for 3 hours. Whip the remaining 1/2 cup of whipping cream, 1 tbsp. confectioners sugar and 1 tsp. of Jack Daniel’s together. Slice the pie into 8 pieces and place a spoonful of whipped cream on top of slices before serving.

Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Baked Beans
1 lb. dry kidney beans
1 sweet onion quartered
4 quarts of water divided
Soak beans in 2 quarts of water overnight. Drain beans and discard the water. In a large pot, cook beans and onion in 2 quarts of water over medium-high heat for 45 minutes. Remove beans from heat, cover and allow beans to rest for 30 minutes.
Sauce
1/2 cup sorghum
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground clove
3 tbsp. Jack Daniel’s Whiskey

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sorghum, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, ginger, clove, and whiskey. Stir constantly until all of the ingredients have blended well and the sugar has dissolved. Pour beans with the water in a Dutch oven and pour sauce over beans and stir well. Cover beans and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.


Home of the Brave Vanilla Ice Cream
                                                                  1 cup sugar.
                                         3.75 ounce package of French vanilla pudding
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups half and half
2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp. Jack Daniels
4 tbsp. pecan halves
2 tbsp. butter


Combine ingredients stirring until mixed well. Pour mixture into ice cream churn and freeze according to machine directions. In a skillet toast the pecans  with the butter and Jack Daniels and drizzle the sauce and pecans over the ice cream when serving.

Wines
Cynthiana is a native American grape. Jefferson was familiar with it and it was first produced into fine red wine in Virginia. Some Southern and Midwestern wineries have truly delicious, dry and food friendly bottles. Georgia's Three Sisters, Bean's Creek in Tennessee, Virginia's Horton Vineyards and Pontchartrain Vineyards in Louisiana produce wonderful Cynthiana that would make Jefferson proud. Also called Norton, it's the state wine grape of Missouri.
Blanc Du Bois was developed in Florida and is available throughout the country. This white wine has aspects of wines from Alsace in France, but it belongs to America.





Monday, June 26, 2017

C.S. LEWIS AT GEORGIA TECH


~Doc Lawrence~


ATLANTA-The play is subtitled "the most reluctant convert," and for nearly two fast-paced hours on a Sunday afternoon Down South the theater audience was ever so close to Oxford University, being taught and entertained by the one-time college Don, author, philosopher, storyteller and inventor of fables, C. S. Lewis. Actor/playwright Max McLean created and starred in the production before a packed house at the Ferst Center for the Arts on Georgia Tech's Midtown Atlanta campus.

The play, according to McLean, was largely Lewis' own words drawn from the large body of published works, but all before Narnia and prior to his marriage to Joy Davidman. McLean, a stage veteran who has starred in "Othello" and played Stanley in "A Streetcar Named Desire," along with many other plays, offered that his Atlanta performance was an exploration of Lewis' dramatic conversion to Christianity.

The script was vintage Lewis: witty, sarcastic, irreverent and at all times simmering with charm and good humor. No road to Damascus moment for Professor Lewis. He became a committed Christian riding to the zoo on a motorcycle with a friend.

Georgia Tech's Ferst Center
McLean heads the Broadway-based Fellowship For Performing Arts, a theatrical company that creates theatre from a Christian worldview. Bringing C.S. Lewis to this wonderfully busy city that honors the arts is a tribute to who we are and a challenge to extend ourselves to become even better. It is, after all, a momentous step toward a higher life.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

FATHER'S DAY MEMORIES

          ~Doc Lawrence~

"The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him."
                                  Proverbs 20:7

It’s not a big day for the fresh flower industry and most restaurants don’t expect large crowds, but Father’s Day carries a lot more importance than the window dressing of festivities. Not to discount tributes-they are important-but fatherhood carries many elements that merit pondering on the day set aside for remembering.

Dad was able to hang on to age 96.

His youth mirrored millions of other men of the era. Leaving the farm during the Depression, he found work in Atlanta and was a member of the construction crew at Bell Aircraft that built the legendary B-29. One of the giant bombers became the Enola Gay. Drafted during World War II, he fought across Europe under Gen. George Patton as a foot soldier in the legendary Third Army, later assigned to another army called the Thunderbirds and mustered out while serving as an MP in New Orleans after a spell as a bodyguard for General Jonathan Wainwright.

My mother had a boy’s army dress uniform made for me to wear when we greeted him at the station where he got off the famous train named The Crescent that connected New Orleans with Atlanta and points north.

He was movie star handsome, dressed fashionably and taught me to tie a perfect Windsor when I was eight.

Education and home ownership came through the GI Bill of Rights. Dad had a high opinion of FDR and Harry Truman and accomplished everything he could to better himself and his family during my baby days. The early years were tranquil and the only interruption was his determination to get a college education which he did taking night classes in college and graduate work in Indiana.

Healthy food was somehow always on the table. We dressed well for school and church, and the one thing he wanted for his three children was a good education. We went to college wherever we chose and honored his wish with diplomas.

He took pride in outliving almost everyone he knew or worked with except for one overbearing tragedy: the loss of his 28 year-old son, an event that nearly did what the Nazi’s could not.

My childhood memories include many fishing trips. Carrabelle, Florida where, at about 10 miles out, I got seasick and prayed for a merciful death. Freshwater fishing in Alabama on the Tennessee River. The pier in Lake Worth, Florida. Big game fishing in the Atlantic and a boatload of trout caught on the Florida’s Indian River. My preference for fresh fish has never lessened.

Baseball, whether I played or we went to see the greatest minor league team in history, the beloved Atlanta Crackers, was prime entertainment. His favorites (and mine) were Ralph “Country” Brown, a speedy centerfielder who never made to the big leagues and Eddie Mathews who did and joined Babe Ruth as the only player to hit a home over the centerfield “Baseball Magnolia” in Atlanta’s fabled Ponce de Leon ballpark.

The old tree still stands and I visit it occasionally, always thinking of the farm boy who survived war, worked hard, served his community well and gave me a jump start in life.

My father was a composite of Robert E. Lee and Billy Graham. A ferocious warrior who loathed war, a Southern gentleman and devoted Christian. A good and decent man who laughed out loud to the great stories from Jerry Clower and Lewis Grizzard.

Precious memories.





Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Father's Day Gifts



~Doc Lawrence~      

He taught me how to win graciously and when faced with loss, to accept it with dignity. Fishing, baseball, grilling, hiking, swimming, good grades and good manners were core curriculum at home. Called upon to be the protagonist in much of life’s drama, father’s teach by example. My dad was a beautifully mannered, well-groomed, elegant Southern gentleman who did not suffer fools. I had him in mind when selecting a few gift ideas.
 
Whiskey for Father’s Day?  Handcrafted small batch Bourbon and Rye whiskey are hot items. Russell’s Reserve, a magnificent creation by Wild Turkey’s legendary Master Distillers Jimmy Russell and his son Eddie Russell is a top choice for any father, a simple gift that tells a compelling father and son story. The Russell’s worked side-by-side for more than 30 years. As Jimmy approached his 45th anniversary with Wild Turkey, Eddie created Russell’s Reserve in honor of his father.

Russell’s Reserve, a 10 Year Old Bourbon is deep amber in color with a nose rich in vanilla, oak, toffee and a touch of old leather. The body is huge, and the palate is very spicy with notes of chili peppers, tamarind, almonds and cumin.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is deeply complex with flavors of caramel, licorice, and vanilla. There will be slightly different characteristics from one barrel to another.
Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye is matured in the distilleries deepest No. 4 char barrels, producing complex but smooth flavors of allspice, pepper and almonds.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye is colored rich caramel and with a balance of spicy pepper, vanilla and caramel on the nose and palate.

My father loved to read.  John Grisham’s Camino Island, soon to be another number one bestseller, is the latest thriller from one of America’s favorite storytellers. The plot includes a theft of the original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald classics like The Great Gatsby with much of the intrigue set on a barrier island in North Florida. Dad will find this book a wonderful accompaniment with a late afternoon Old Fashioned Cocktail.

When was the last time you wrote a letter? Ashley Davis’s poignant A Life through Letters is about his father and his letters to those he loved prior to his death. His words resonate with love and is a gift any father will treasure. Toward the end of his life, despite extreme physical challenges, he composed letters to every person who had touched his life in some way. Empathy, altruism, fellowship, and devotion radiate from the letters, a testament to a father whose legacy might be to inspire fathers to write some letters of appreciation to family and friends.

Playful and colorful Knocks Socks allow cultured, affluent professionals to express their own individuality even when wearing business attire. These visually striking socks are for the man who likes to dress with class and sophistication while telling the world that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. As a Father’s Day gift, they transform a dull gift into something extraordinary. www.knockssocks.com

Speaking of feet, bring fun to Dad’s feet with Gold Toe. Designing socks with the finest yarns for 80 years to ensure long lasting, comfortable wear, Gold Toe, one of the most recognizable brands in footwear, adds a touch of festivity with the Men’s Fashion Singles featuring styles highlighting everything from parrots to paper airplanes and funky stripes.

June is also Men's Health Month and Father’s Day might be the perfect time to kick start a path to wellness. Start with a healthy breakfast with a focus on nutrients. Smoothies are easy to prepare and if Dad isn’t getting his daily fill of greens, add The Synergy Company’s juiced powders to your blended breakfast. Try organic Kale, Barleygrass or Wheatgrass. A premier organic supplement company: www.thesynergycompany.com.

Gobble's Gourmet Dinner
There are times when elaborate dinner preparation just isn’t practical. Appropriately named Gobble features a 10-minute preparation of a gourmet meal that is delicious. Gobble offers a wonderful selection that comes to your door by online order , safely and easy to refrigerate and prepare. The menus are chef creations with a wide range of selections. Order once each week and it arrives shortly with instructions for preparations. A high quality dinner with ample servings. www.gobble.com

My love for Community Coffee goes back to undergraduate days when as a member of the Florida State ROTC Drill Team, I marched in the Mardi Gras Day Parade. Breakfast each morning included cups of Community. Since then, I’ve had a penchant for the robust, rich taste. Dad will enjoy the Red Press Duo Gift Set, featuring a brushed red stainless steel French Press and Community’s Private Reserve Louisiana Blend—a rich, bold blend made with 100% specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans.
 
Pilot Pen has some upscale selections that are stylish and useful. Toss in the meticulously designed  Metropolitan with brass barrel and stainless accents, available in three premium matte finishes and barrel designs. The Gel Roller writes like a fountain pen and is attractive.

Joseph Abboud’s label covers a lodestar of men’s luxury clothing and accessories. Dad will know you invested in quality and beauty when he gets a pair of the Java horn and matte gold metal polarized sunglasses or the supple handmade leather wallet. Add some magic dust with a few silk pocket squares. Available at Men’s Wearhouse and Joseph A. Banks.

Almost everything can be ordered online. I use Amazon, problem free. 





Sunday, June 11, 2017

Father's Day Feast-Recipes from Chef Lara Lyn Carter



~Doc Lawrence~

This meal, created especially for all fathers, radiates love. Everything from Emmy winner Lara Lyn Carter's kitchen honors family, friendship and culinary heritage. BON APPETITE!

Sweet Onion Crab Dip (This is a rich and delicious appetizer; it is hearty enough to serve as a main dish. Serve it with
toast points or crackers.)

2 cups sweet Vidalia onions chopped
½ cup red pepper chopped
½ cup green pepper chopped
2 cups of grated Swiss cheese
2 cups of mayonnaise
1 lb. lump crabmeat
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. fresh dill chopped finely
Mix all of the ingredients together and pour into a buttered baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Marinated Tomato Salad
3 ripe red tomatoes
2 yellow heirloom tomatoes
1 cup olive oil
4 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. honey
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Cut tomatoes into 6 wedges and place in a bowl. Mix all other ingredients together and pour over tomatoes. Stir the tomatoes and marinade to coat the tomatoes well and chill. Marinate for at least 1 hour.

Cornbread Salad (a big hit during my Canadian tour)

5 cups of cornbread cooked and cubed
3 cups of diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup Vidalia onion or sweet onion
1 cup chopped green and yellow bell pepper
12 slices of bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup whole milk
½ cup sweet pickle relish with juice
Layer the cornbread, tomato, onion, peppers, bacon, and cheese in a bowl. Mix the mayonnaise, milk and pickle relish together and pour over the top. Toss together just before serving. It can be served at room temperature or chilled. 

 

Vidalia Onion Tart

4 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. sugar
4 cups Vidalia onion sliced
½ cup white wine
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups smoked Gruyere Cheese
Pre-baked Pie Crust
Melt butter in skillet, add onions with sugar and cook until tender. Remove skillet from heat and add wine, parsley and cheese. Mix all ingredients well and pour into pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is melted.

Grilled Corn with Herb Butter
6 ears of fresh corn (Silver Queen if available)
Herb Butter
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
In a sauté pan melt butter over medium heat and add rosemary sprigs. Allow the rosemary to infuse the butter for about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and discard rosemary.
Remove husks and silk from corn and wash. Pat corn dry. Place individual ear of corn on foil and brush generously with rosemary butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap up each ear with foil and place on grill. Grill corn until tender- approximately 20 minutes depending on heat.


Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Gravy
3lb. filet of beef tenderloin
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Remove the beef from the refrigerator and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Place the beef on a baking sheet and brush the whole filet with the olive oil. Sprinkle the beef with the salt and pepper. Roast the beef in a 275-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the beef from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

For the Gravy
 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small sweet onion diced
1 clove garlic
28 oz. can of plum tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil, oregano, parsley, sugar, red pepper, and wine. Mash the tomatoes with a fork to break them apart. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. 

JACK DANIEL’S SOUTHERN TIRAMISU

 For the Mascarpone Cream
 12 egg yolks
8 tbsp. sugar
2 lbs. Mascarpone
2 tbsp. espresso cooled

For the Cake (see recipe below)
16 slices of toasted pound cake cut 1/2 inch thick

For the Dip
1 cup espresso cooled
2 tbsp. Jack Daniel's

For the Espresso Syrup
1/2 cup espresso
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Jack Daniel's
 Chocolate Shavings

In a mixer, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they are smooth and thick - about 4-5 minutes. Add the mascarpone cheese beating until smooth. Add the espresso and mix well.
Make the dip by mixing the cooled espresso and Jack Daniel’s together. 
Pour half of the dip in a 9x13 baking dish. Layer 8 slices of cake on top of the dip. Top
the cake with half of the mascarpone cream. Place the remaining cake slices atop the
cream and evenly drizzle the remaining dip over the cake. Top this layer with the
remaining mascarpone cream. Place the dish in the refrigerator for 2-6 hours before serving.
To make the syrup, combine the espresso and sugar together over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and add the Jack Daniels.  Pour the mixture in a bottle fitted with an attachment for drizzling and place the syrup in the refrigerator.

To serve, scoop 12 equal servings onto dessert plates and drizzle with espresso syrup and shaved chocolate.

Cake

1 stick margarine at room temperature
½ cup Crisco
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
Acrobat Chardonnay is Versatile
1 cup buttermilk
½ tsp. soda (dissolved in 1 tbsp. boiling water)
2 tsp. almond extract
Combine margarine, Crisco, and sugar beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each. Slowly add flour, buttermilk, soda mixture and almond extract. Beat all ingredients together for 2-3 minutes. Pour batter into a greased Bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 ½ hours or until cake tester comes out clean.

WINES: Georgia wine and restaurant pioneer Jim Sanders advised having more than one wine for special dinners. I enthusiastically recommend the 2015 Acrobat Chardonnay, food-friendly and delicious and a 2015 Domaine de la Vougeraie Gevrey-Chambertin. Aperitif: a choice of Prosecco and light cocktails.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Dancing Handkerchief-Magic in Atlanta



~Doc Lawrence~


Is it possible to gather small children, millennial parents and septuagenarians into a room and fill the space with joy? Theatrical Outfit accomplishes this with ease through the magic of a musical, the world premiere of The Dancing Handkerchief, a daring stage exercise combining music, dance, and color through the boundless wonder of imagination.

Enjoying this as the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of Sergeant Pepper’s, the Beatles masterpiece, is a reminder that much of rock music is whimsical. Deborah Bowman as Adult Bastiene belts out a song as the show begins that harkens to the Rolling Stones and The Who. As the story unfolds, the delights of Narnia, Oz and Alice’s Wonderland are revisited in that part of the mind where precious memories of childhood remain.
Mysterioso the Magician

Mysterioso the Magician (Tom Key) and his curious child Bastienne (Devon Hales) journey from an epic separation back to a reunion and learn to see each other in a truer, hope-filled light. A balladeer sings delightful tunes that paint a comic and fantastical world inhabited by a beckoning handkerchief, an otherworldly suitcase, magical creatures and one gigantic, ravenous rabbit.
 
With original songs by one of the most accomplished voices in the American musical theatre, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony-winner Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon, Frozen) The Dancing Handkerchief is a beautiful fable, an entertaining hybrid theatrical extravaganza that provides a pathway to mature magically.

Through June 18.

Photography by Christopher Bartelski





Monday, May 29, 2017

A SOLDIER'S STORY-MEMORIAL DAY 2017



~Doc Lawrence~

He often responded to a television news story featuring a windbag retired general taking in big bucks as a consultant, and forcefully say that “war is terrible, the worst experience of my life.” Proud of his service as a combat foot soldier in World War II, he served with honor under various commands, including a stint as an infantryman in George Patton’s 3rd U.S. Army in Europe.

He was awarded the Bronze Star, but never mentioned it.

The Third U.S. Army
Politicians, particularly serial draft dodgers lecturing voters about remembering veterans didn’t impress him. “The only ones who love war never fought in one,” he said. During my baby days in Atlanta, I would go through his footlocker where he kept his Army paraphernalia. His Eisenhower jacket with the famous 3rd Army shoulder patch was there. I’d put it on and it swallowed me. There were pamphlets explaining what to do if captured, like tell your captors nothing more than name, rank and serial number. There was a German to English translation handbook, a bunch of combat ribbons and some spellbinding photographs of him posing in uniform.

My soldier father was as handsome as Burt Lancaster or Montgomery Clift in “From Here to Eternity.”

Dad would open up about his war experiences a little more as he got older. He would describe the horror of the concentration camps, how the local German villagers lied about having knowledge even though the stench of death hovered over the countryside for miles. Many of his friends both in Atlanta and his retirement home in South Florida were Jewish. He would speak glowingly of his regular golf games with them. They embraced each other and the meaning of that brotherhood wasn’t lost on his family.

After Germany’s surrender, my father finished soldering as an MP in New Orleans. He loved to tell stories about removing drunken soldiers from French Quarter bars and brothels. He never arrested any, taking them in his jeep safely back to their barracks. He served as a bodyguard for an American hero, General Jonathan Wainwright, living with him in the penthouse of the New Orleans Roosevelt Hotel. I found the manifest a few years ago and photographed the rooms he shared with the General.

He died peacefully in his sleep in 2015. My friends remembered him as an elegant man. He was a son of the South, a devout Christian, a retired banker and a solid citizen. He took pride in his rural roots and didn’t mind one bit if you called him a country boy.

It’s time to visit the cemetery, mount the American flag he served under, place a bouquet of flowers, and say a prayer. Precious memories, how they linger.




Sunday, May 21, 2017

Stone Mountain's Colorful Race-Fun & Friendship


 
~Doc Lawrence~

Stone Mountain, the historic village near Atlanta, hosted an estimated 3,500 visitors for a fun-filled Saturday. Color Vibe 5K, the 2017 version, brought friends and family for the race, some from far away places, for this amazing colorful event. The runners and walkers were blasted with bright colors made from harmless material while observers like me enjoyed watching from a hill on Miss Ann Hamby’s yard while devouring her homemade hot biscuits, pastries, juices and coffee.


Color Vibe, now the country’s 2nd largest, nationwide, non-traditional color 5K event production company, has become a spring tradition in this city that lies at the base of mighty Stone Mountain, the centerpiece of the park that attracts some 7 million annually.  Under the leadership of the very dynamic Kim Cumbie, a bundle of creative energy, Color Vibe is now an established local tradition, a top-tiered event for the entire region. It’s family friendly, secure and serves the greater good by introducing so many people to this city, its beautiful homes and Main Street’s granite buildings including the beautiful old railroad terminal.

John and Emily Estes were on their way to Florida from their Massillon, Ohio home and decided to see Stone Mountain, maybe even climb it. They learned of Color Vibe and walked to the park where it began. “Everyone one seems to be laughing,” John observed. “Are Southerners always this happy?” You can guess my enthusiastic and cheerful response.

Local Beauties
The Color Vibe Race Series has grown to cover every region of the country. It’s a 3.1-mile fun run/walk infused with bright colors, great music, and, of course, lots of laughter. Last Saturday, runners started the race squeaky clean, then passing through four color stations to be color blasted with blue, yellow, pink, purple, and green colored paint chalk as they passed through the color zones along the course. The reward was a party in the city’s VFW Park with more color, dancing to throbbing music from a skilled DJ and tons of fun.

The Happy Crowd
According to Color Vibe officials, the event objective is to share a life experience with friends and family. Most participants have never experienced a 5K before, so Color Vibe becomes an entryway into a more active, healthier lifestyle.

It became a near perfect Saturday morning in this lovely Deep South city.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Delightful Davio's-Gourmet Italian in Atlanta



~Doc Lawrence~

According to the great Julia Child,  “people who love to eat are the best people.” Believing in this aphorism, I headed deep in the heart of upscale Buckhead to regal Phipps Plaza for dinner with friends who are guided by this belief.

The spring evening was perfect for al fresco dining on the patio at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse comfortably positioned in this Atlanta luxury mall. The Buckhead area where we gathered is renowned for high-tiered restaurants and those of us who write about food, wine and cocktails arrived with high expectations.

We were not disappointed.

Joined by esteemed wine and food expert Jane Garvey and veteran wine and travel writer Greg McCluney, the evening began with passed appetizers of feather-light crispy fried oysters, dates stuffed with blue cheese wrapped in crispy bacon and Philly Cheese Steak spring rolls served with flutes overflowing with La Marco Prosecco.

Center Cut Filet Mignon
True to Steve DiFillippo’s vision, Davio’s Spring Media Dinner menu was Northern Italian. Antipasto was Murray’s cheese burrata with cantaloupe, aged balsamic and focaccia. The 2014 Davio’s Reserve Chardonnay was subtly oaked, served chilled at the appropriate temperature.

Farinanceo became one of the more fascinating items served by Malik, our well-trained waiter, a New York City transplant, whose gentle manners and skills contrasted somewhat with his 6’6” height. (Is Malik Atlanta’s tallest waiter?) The hand-rolled potato gnocchi over morel mushrooms, spring peas with lemon butter could have been comfortable with either the Chardonnay or the 2015 Davio’s Reserve Pinot Noir. With the evening running so smoothly, no one quibbled.
Antipasto

Piatti Del Giorno included a choice of Halibut with Maine Lobster or center cut filet mignon. We opted for the steak and our instincts were soon proven brilliant. Served over a fabulously tasty parsnip puree laced with spring asparagus, the steak was trimmed and cooked to order, becoming the piece de resistance of the dinner. The 2014 Davio’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was the evening’s headliner.

Dolce consisted of vanilla bean panna cotta with fresh seasonal berries and good coffee. A sweet finish to a near-perfect evening in Buckhead. Eccezionale, a wonderfully expressive Italian word, means exceptional in English. In either language, that describes Davio's.




Saturday, May 13, 2017

Angel From Alabama



“My latest sun is sinking fast, my race is nearly run
My strongest trials now are past, my triumph has begun
Oh, come angel band come and around me stand
Oh bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home.”

                             Angel Band-Emmylou Harris


A child of the Depression and World War II, my mother represented the finest of the Deep South. Although she never said it, her role model had to be Scarlett O’Hara. Survival and accomplishment were embodied in a beautiful woman who faced fate squarely and despite unconscionable losses along the way including the death of her youngest child, moved forward relentlessly. 

Her name was Carrie and true to the good manners of her time, she was addressed as “Miss Carrie.” Poverty denied her much formal education, but she loved to read and found time to read bedtime stories to me before I was in kindergarten. Books, newspapers and magazines have been vital parts of daily living thanks to her.
 
She departed this world before my first book was published, but she is the reason it happened.

Southern boys often talk about their mother in the context of cooking and family dining. To this day, I have yet to experience staples like fried chicken, creamed corn or fried okra that compared to the quality of Mom’s. She would ask me on Saturday what I wanted for Sunday dessert and the answer was always her lemon meringue pie. When I came home from college for the holidays, the pie would be waiting to be sliced and served. No exceptions.

Big name pastry chefs have never served me anything half as delicious.

She enjoyed working, earning some extra cash to keep her three children a little ahead with occasional extras. While I was a skinny teenager, she worked in the record shop at Rich’s, a legendary department store in Atlanta. She brought home promotional sample records, and I was introduced to then obscure names like Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson, Bo Diddly, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Patsy Cline and Elvis. A new world of rhythm and harmony opened and I became a rocker with a party band in college, following in her footsteps by earning some money through music.

I was never happier.

I believe she attended all of Elvis’ concerts in Atlanta. One morning during the Dog Days of August, Mom called and informed me of his death. I still remember the pain in her voice.

A devoted Atlanta Braves fan, Mom would not die during baseball season. Her time on earth ended during the December holidays while her beloved Braves were in recess.

Like Emmylou Harris, Zelda Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Helen Keller, Tallulah Bankhead and Truman Capote’s Aunt Sook, Mom was an Alabama girl. Born and raised in Sulphur Springs in the northeast corner of the state, Lookout Mountain forms a spectacular backdrop. I always thought it would be a wonderful place for a child.

I’ll visit her grave early Sunday morning to place roses. As the Georgia sun peeks through the pines, sometimes the air stirs a little. During moments of great peace, I listen carefully for the flutter of angel wings.


                                                     Doc Lawrence


Friday, May 12, 2017

Women Who Lead-The Stone Mountain Woman's Club



~Doc Lawrence~

It was a prelude to Mother’s Day. Before a room filled with members of the distinguished Stone Mountain Woman’s Club, a discussion centered around some exceptional places to visit for either a day trip or a wonderful weekend. The list is long, but two came to mind.

Some aspects of the gathering remain gently fixed in that part of memory where precious memories are recorded. In an era when folks seem to be a little more bellicose, these gentle and lovely ladies conducted their important business with good humor, precision and thoroughness.

Koinonia Farms near Jimmy Carter’s home in Plains, Georgia is a destination qualifying as a pilgrimage. A working farm that began in 1942 as a refuge for the oppressed, it is the historic birthplace of Habitat for Humanity. Founded by the legendary Reverend Clarence Jordan, Koinonia is a living and functional example of the power of the Beatitudes. Often called Georgia’s version of the Garden of Eden, it begs to be experienced and honored.

Women Who Lead Us
For the many thousands throughout the world who have enjoyed Tom Key and Harry Chapin’s glorious musical “Cotton Patch Gospel,” which is based on the works of Rev. Jordan and inspired by the spiritual meaning of Koinonia Farms, the motivation to visit the birthplace of these wonders is profound. We marvel at how this little place on earth has made our world a better place.

A perfect Sunday Down South: Sunday School led by President Carter followed by a tour of Koinonia Farms. dinner on the grounds while singing traditional hymns.

Despite being frail, Reverend Howard Finster was a genuine Georgia giant. His stated mission was to share the word of God through his natural talent of painting and constructing art. Paradise Gardens in Summerville remains his vision of heaven. With the combined efforts of state and private help, this marvel will be preserved for today and future generations. You don’t simply enjoy the artwork of Rev. Finster, you behold everything.
"My Father's House" by Rev. Howard Finster

At the time of his death, Rev. Howard Finster was the world’s most exhibited folk artist. Some of his most acclaimed works are in Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. “In My Father’s House,” the minister’s construction made of found glass is his vision of heaven. To see this is to believe that the artist from rural Northwest Georgia fully served the word of God with devotion.

One of the most useful instructions I received from a very wise father encouraged me to travel far and near. It is the most interesting way to broaden knowledge. The cultural and spiritual rewards are endless and there is the very real possibility of making new friends. It’s not necessary to plan expensive, exotic trips. The treasures close by offer more than just casual surprises. During my visits to Paradise Gardens, I’ve met good people from faraway places including Japan and Ireland who knew about Rev. Finster and were more like pilgrims than tourists. Some told me that they had visions encouraging the trip to this Georgia destination.

Koinonia Farm has an international following with visitors from other countries regularly walking through the pecan groves, fields of crops, bowing in prayer at the farm cemetery and visiting the facilities.

Bring your favorite camera. Both destinations showcase remarkable people and scenes you’ll treasure and be eager to share.
Koinonia's People

Koinonia Farm and Paradise Gardens represent the grass-roots glory of Georgia where love of land and people are celebrated with gratitude. These destinations are ideally suited for visits from esteemed organizations like the Stone Mountain Woman’s Club who serve the greater good.