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.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Baseball In The Afternoon: Sun Trust Park



~Doc Lawrence~

The Judge observed that it was “a day of new experiences: Sun Trust Park, the Cardinals playing the Braves and my first bison tenderloin.” Don Harris, Tennessee native and a widely admired judge in the Volunteer state, joined his wife Gayle and their Atlanta family for a glorious Sunday game at the new major league ballpark.

Judge Don Harris and wife Gayle
A lifelong Cardinals fan, Judge Harris came out the winner as the Braves lost another one in extra innings. But, the facility got some praise and a few suggestions: “Let people inside much earlier, add more directional signs and find some good pitchers.”

Despite surrendering two homers, knuckleball-thrower R.A. Dickey, a University of Tennessee product, pitched well enough for the Braves. Freddie Freeman was every bit the accomplished All-Star slugger and flawless first baseman. But, the Braves have trouble producing runs and holding onto leads. Their annual claims of rebuilding are worn and tired.

Perfect Baseball Day
I’m a Braves fan. It’s bred in the bone, part of my DNA. A stadium does not a team make. It’s the other way around.

We finished off a near-perfect spring afternoon with dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill. Here, Judge Harris enjoyed his first Bison, the Kansas City filet. A happy man with a victory to show for the day, ready to return to his Brentwood home and enjoy good weather so close to Music City.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Kentucky Derby Connection-Horses & Bourbon


Understanding the romantic appeal of the Kentucky Derby and the lure of great Bourbon  takes me to Louisville, specifically to Michael Veach, one of the top authorities on Bourbon today. A Louisville resident, the author, lecturer and Bourbon educator shares his fascinating article for our enjoyment before the big event at Churchill Downs. Michael Veach will be coming to Atlanta. Exciting details soon. ~Doc Lawrence~
 
Bourbon and Horses
By Michael Veach
            Legend has it that Kentuckians started breeding fast horses after returning from New Orleans. The trip to New Orleans was a dangerous trip that took about nine months to make. They would take flatboats filled with trade goods down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. All along the way there were Native Americans and river pirates waiting to separate them from their trade goods and their scalp. The British were paying good money for scalps in Detroit. Once in New Orleans the goods would be sold and the flatboat taken apart and sold as lumber. The Kentuckian then had a choice to make: catch ship in New Orleans and sail around Florida back to the east coast to return to Kentucky or walk back up the Natchez Trace. The land route was cheaper but much more dangerous as there were still Native Americans and bandits who would be waiting to rob and scalp the traveler returning to Kentucky. The idea was that the Kentuckian would purchase the fastest horse available in New Orleans for the trip home. If his horse was faster than anything the bandits had then he had a better chance of getting home. Once he was home he had a fast horse to breed and race. That is the legend and there is probably some truth to the legend but as all stories of this kind they tell only part of the story.
            The horse racing industry in Kentucky grew at the same time as the Bourbon industry. Many distillers were also known for their stables of thoroughbred horses. Like the Bourbon industry, Kentucky’s horse industry gained its reputation starting in the 1820s up to the Civil War. The War had a devastating effect on both industries as Kentucky was a battleground of bushwhackers stealing horses and whiskey. When the war ended both industries recovered and became even more respected.
            The Gaines family was well known as breeders of fast horses after the Civil War. They were also known for purchasing the Old Crow brand after the death of Oscar Pepper in 1867. Like many distillers they kept a herd of cattle to feed their distillery by-products to, but horse can’t eat spent mash. Horses were used in the distillery to pull wagons and such, but thoroughbred horses were more of a luxury item as far as the distillery was concerned. The horse industry had to come to pay for itself and that was done by racing them against other fast horses. Distillers began joining Jockey Clubs and investing in race tracks. The Churchill family who supplied the land for Churchill Downs were also involved with a distillery. The Jones family, who had brought Four Roses to Louisville became involved in harness racing. Distillers racing horses became a very common site in the late 19th century.
            James E. Pepper was a well-known distiller and horse breeder in Kentucky Pepper had a fine stable of horses. His horse “Miss Dixie” won the 1892 Kentucky Oaks race. In 1893 his horse “Mirage” ran in the Kentucky Derby with Isaac Murphey as the jockey. In 1896 “the Dragon” finished fifth with Monk Overton as his rider. His cousin R P Pepper had been distilling whiskey but after a fire at the distillery he gave up distilling to concentrate on horse breeding and racing.
            Old Rosebud was a whiskey brand owned by Hamilton C. Applegate who was also Treasurer at Churchill Downs. He purchased a majority interest in a horse and named him after his brand of whiskey. Old Rosebud won the 1914 Kentucky Derby with a time of 2:03 2/5 setting a record at the time.  In his career he would race in 80 races and won 40, placed in 13 and showed in 8. His career also boosted sales of Old Rosebud Bourbon.
            Prohibition would sever the ties between the two industries for many years. When Repeal is passed on December 5, 1933, many of the privately owned distilleries and brands were in the hands of larger companies like National and Schenley. There was not the strong ties between the two industries but there was still an emotional connection. The distilleries used the imagery of horses and racing in their advertising and on labels. Stitzel-Weller had the “Kentucky Oaks” label with a horse’s head surrounded by a horse shoe. Glenmore had the Kentucky Derby label with a running horse on the label. There were more indirect ties with brands like “Bashford Manor”, a well-known Jefferson County farm with a major stakes race at Churchill Downs. These labels survived up until the 1960s when the decline of Bourbon sales caused many of the smaller and regional brands to be discontinued by the distilleries.
            Advertising for Bourbon used the imagery of horses and horse farms heavily in print ads. Distilleries also used the fame of the Kentucky Derby to sell whiskey. Glenmore had a series of prints released every year in the 60s which featured the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Tavern Bourbon. Jim Beam did Kentucky Derby decanters. Early Times became the official whiskey for the Mint Julep at Churchill Downs and Brown-Forman sponsored the Early Times Stakes race there.
            In more modern times Maker’s Mark releases special bottles every year to support Keenland Racetrack. Brown Forman releases a special Woodford Reserve bottle featuring artwork for the Kentucky Derby poster every year. Most distilleries sponsor at least one stakes race at either Keenland or Churchill Downs. The distilleries are also very active in sponsoring events during the Kentucky Derby Festival. Four Roses picks a single barrel of their Bourbon to be the official Bourbon for the Great Steamboat Race. The distilleries have a booth at the Chow Wagon were people can sample Bourbons from every distillery in the State of Kentucky. All of the distilleries use the Derby as a time to bring in people to Louisville to attend the races and sell them Bourbon.
            The ties between the Kentucky Bourbon Industry and the Kentucky Horse industry are long and they are strong. It would be hard to think of attending a race in Kentucky and not have a Bourbon. It is also hard to not think about horses and racing when looking at Bourbon advertising and promotions.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Georgia's Dylan Scott Pierce-An Exceptional Artist


 ~Doc Lawrence~


Walk into the gallery and the amazing paintings draw you to them. The human eye has an existential connection that enables interpretations of life: a validation of powers not fully understood, but you know it when you see it. “It” happens to be the amazing oils and watercolors of Dylan Scott Pierce.

A native of Marietta, Georgia, the still young artist has won enough recognition that would likely exceed the biographies of other artists twice his age. The old saw says you can’t contain talent. In Pierce’s case, his work with subjects ranging from children to elephants and strangers in a strange land, display a connection between his right brain and the powerfully interpretative forces of the universe.

A Legacy of Hope is the theme of Mr. Pierce’s exhibition at Art Station Gallery in Historic Stone Mountain Village, the heralded theatre, gallery and cabaret adjacent to the giant granite monolith and popular state park. It is a continuation of his travels across the country exhibiting his impressive watercolors and oils that depict in great detail wildlife, portraits of people and scenes of faraway places like Africa.

Dylan Scott Pierce ‘s exhibits total a staggering 40 shows a year including the International ArtExpo in New York City and the Safari Club International in Reno, Nevada. He has already won numerous awards including Best of Show (watercolor), Merit Awards and People's Choice. He regularly attracts praise from local and national media including National Geographic Today, Wildlife Art Magazine, QVC, and Teen People Magazine. His award-winning paintings include the watercolor "Feed My Lambs," that won 1st place and Peoples Choice award in the Portrait Society of Atlanta fall juried exhibition 2016. Another watercolor, "Beholding," earned the 2017 National Award of Excellence in the Alabama Watercolor Society Exhibition.

This Art Station exhibition is slated to close in mid-May. Few galleries have works of such magnitude. His paintings serve not only as a testament to his talent but also confirm the overriding importance of the arts in Georgia and elsewhere.