Atlanta Never Ceases to Change

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It really never does. As someone who now hops back and forth between Atlanta and Tampa, I have a really hard time understanding the evolution of the city or more exactly capturing it. That’s something that never changes with Atlanta…it is always changing.

So forgive me when I try to grab hold of the past and find myself bypassing the latest and greatest for the stuff that has been here awhile.

That was the case tonight when I stopped at Woody’s on Monroe for a Cheesesteak. I don’t know how I had not been there before, and I am not really sure I’ll be going back, (see my other post on Cheeseteaks) but it is nice to know some places aren’t going anywhere…although I have always wondered how bad the city would probably like to use the right of way at Woody’s.

I looked around at the other clientele to try to figure out who the inhabitants of the neighborhood were these days. As is usual lately I was completely stymied when there was absolutely no correlation whatsoever. In the 90s it would’ve been everyone’s bet that this area would be simply full of young professional families (some people call them yuppies) who were renovating Ansley Park, Highlands, and Piedmont Park bungalows in the pursuit of being intown.

Tonight there were two hipsters, a hippy, a housewife, a guy and his three year old up way past his bedtime, and me up way past my bedtime. Combine that with the African-American and Hispanic employees and I can’t figure out one thing, except that Atlanta is a diverse place. It’s not unusual to see this hodgepodge in most old midtown Atlanta neighborhoods now. Makes it tough for a guy like me who would usually try to characterize it in someway.

But here, in Woody’s itself is a place with a menu that hasn’t changed since 1976 when they first made their name on Philly style cheesesteaks and milkshakes, no more, no less.

Here is to constant change, and the places, for my sake, that don’t.

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Great Atlanta Restaurants in 10 minutes

taste-of-Atlanta

Recently a young man who is currently a sophomore at Georgia Tech emailed me and asked me to name some of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta. I only had 10 minutes right then to reply back, and below is exactly what I came up with…unedited! $’s indicate how pricey it is.  Given more time, the list may look a bit different, but again this is what came to mind in 10 minutes:

Eats  $ has been a long time Yellow Jacket favorite for great home cooked soul food
Antico Pizza $$ We’ve talked about this one…great pizza, try to sit in kitchen
Bacchanalia $$$ some of the best food in Atlanta, pre-fixe menu in dining room, I suggest sitting at the bar where you can order a la carte $$ and save lots of money but still get a taste for it, don’t miss the chocolate soufflé
Six Feet Under $ One on the west side has a great view on the rooftop deck and yummy tacos
Douceur de France $ – best breakfast, little bit of a drive
Silver Skillet $ – I’m sure you’ve been, 2nd best breakfast in Atlanta, 1st best traditional breakfast, worth the wait if there is one
Heirloom Market $ – never tried it but hear their Spicy Korean Pork Sandwich is great
Watershed Restaurant $$ – this is a really good restaurant, their menu has changed since they got the new location
Grand China  $1/2 – absolute best Chinese in all of Atlanta, high quality wonderful flavors, suggest the family combos
Cafe Intermezzo $$ – lots of locations, European coffee house best for dessert and coffee, traditional place to take your date

Question: What would be on your short list of great Atlanta restaurants?

My Day at the GOP Convention

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Today was an eventful day for me at the RNC Convention! Since I am not a delegate, this is about as close as I was able to get to the Times Forum itself. Okay, a little closer than that as I attended a number of events that I had been invited to right at the security zone border. First let me say what a pleasant time I had. Contrary to some accounts you might hear on cable news, traffic is very calm and downtown is actually surprisingly empty other than delegates and the occasional protestor. Traffic in and out at the downtown exit was so smooth. I hear thought that on the busses at night after the convention may be another story! But during the day today and yesterday have been fine. The police, national guard, and secret service looked exhausted but vigilent, and all I spoke to were very polite. As a news reporter friend of mine today tweeted, I am very proud of Tampa…keep it up.

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I started the day by heading to Liberty Plaza, sponsored by Citizens United. There I spotted Gov. Mike Huckabee doing his radio show. I really respect the governor and the way he reaches across party lines for the good of the country, while also standing up for the principles he believes in. Then I headed into the makeshift theater to see the showing of “Reagan:Rendezvous with Destiny” produced by Newt and Callista Gingrich. The documentary on the life of President Reagan is one of the most thorough and all encompasing works on Reagan that I have seen. And I have seen a lot!

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Afterwards, Newt and Callista were so gracious to speak with attendees and sign books and DVDs. I had been looking forward to getting Mrs. Gingrich’s book Sweet Land of Liberty that stars Ellis the Elephant as he travels American history, and simply and eloquently identifies what makes our country so great by way of history’s most inspiring moments. My kids Lyndsey and Kyle have already fallen in love with the book. Here is an excerpt:

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“Ellis read of those coming from distant shores, arriving in a country they had never seen before. Speaking different languages, they all shared a dream–to live together in a land where freedom was supreme.” I’ll let you guess from that excerpt where Ellis got his name! What a beautiful book with gorgeous illustrations.

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Citizens United was getting ready for an exciting party tonight, but I had to run! Here is a sneak peek of the dance floor.

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Now before I move on, let me just say again, these events were all open to the public, well organized, complimentary, and fully catered. I wish more people had attended! I think the bluster of press coverage over the last few days has scared off people from going into downtown. Come check it out, convention events are lots of fun, and these are valuable events. For some ideas check out this website or my post yesterday about the YG WomanUp! Pavilion at Channelside. Tomorrow I plan to attend a national security panel with KT McFarland from the Reagan administration and a film showing at The Straz Performing Arts Center, also free with lots of fun perks.

I haven’t even mentioned all the nice people from various states and media outlets that I have met including lobbyists for the International Franchise Association and writers for the Tampa Tribune. I am not much for the slimy world of politics, but these events feel nothing of the sort. Everyone is polite, respectful, and just enjoying themselves. Even if you are a Democrat here in Tampa it is worth coming down to the convention to see your city shine!

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Finally, I ended the day with my kids and our friends from the Georgia delegation at their hotel that happened to be the place where my wife and I had our rehearsal dinner island party the night before our wedding. It was only fitting that our kids goof around at their welcome table! (Sorry for the wrinkled table cloth) This beautiful place provided us with many wonderful memories…as I am sure it will for every Georgia delegate!

Question: What has your experience been like during the convention so far?

Moulthrop Studios

Fashion-plate Fridays!

Seems like everyone has a theme for Fridays, so my plan is to share local Tampa or Atlanta art, style, fashion, and home decor on Fridays. The south is full of all kinds of treasures and in my opinion some of the best artists and interior designers in the business.

To start with, today I am featuring the craftsmanship of a local Atlanta celebrity and a former classmate of mine from Georgia Tech, whose work is renowned throughout the world and especially the U.S. My buddy Matt Moulthrop has been turning wood since he was a child. You see it runs in the family! He is a third generation wood turner following in the footsteps of his grandfather Ed Moulthrop and his father Philip Moulthrop. Moulthrop vessels came along at a time when modern art and craft traditions were merging, creating the perfect opportunity for bold new work!

The family is committed to using only regional timbers, often from notable sources, and forms that best share their beauty. They’ve found an audience that ranges from leading art collectors, museum curators, and those who specialize in the field of wood turning, to your casual collector who just happens into a gallery and likes what they see.

Anyone who was anyone at Coca Cola in the 70’s and 80’s owned a Moulthrop piece. The permanent collection at the Coke world headquarters on North Avenue and at the homes of American Presidents is a testament to this! These days it is not uncommon to see them at a Miami Beach house or a rapper’s condo in LA. I was at a dinner party earlier this year at one of south Tampa’s finest homes and was pleased to see a table of over ten Moulthrop’s from all three generations prominently displayed.

The bowls come in all shapes and sizes including some of Ed’s large bowls that are 5′ tall and a person can sit in! According to Michael Shapiro, the Director of the High Museum of Art, “The Moulthrop family is an Atlanta treasure who literally have turned wood into art for three generations.” Permanent collections can be viewed in the  Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Chicago Art InstituteRenwick Gallery,Museum of American ArtSmithsonian Institution and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to name a few. Ed and Philip’s pieces were even shown in the White House Collection of American Crafts.

What I like about the bowls is that in a world that gets turned upside down with technology, this beautiful family work brings everything back down to earth. It is natural, yet it still looks modern and cool sitting in a high-rise loft on a glass table next to an i-pad! At Moulthrop Studios or a gallery near your home, you can purchase the piece that perfectly finishes off the decor in your pad, and that you will one day generously decide to donate to a local museum.

Get Excited Again about Roadtripping

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There is nothing I like much more than embarking on a road trip…except maybe planning it! Maybe it was all the summer vacations across America that my fearless mother took us kids on, that endeared me to road travel. More likely, it is the many many trips back and forth between Tampa and Atlanta. I often prefer driving the 7 hours to Atlanta over the quick Delta flight. I’ve got my car, and I’ve got the freedom to stop wherever I want, whenever I want, and even go off the beaten track.

I often wonder why Google hasn’t let me be more creative with my maps for travel purposes. I am always hearing about or web-surfing places I would like to explore in Florida, Georgia, and across the country. But until now, I hadn’t found an intuitive tool for me to discover hidden gems and then save them to a route for the future. Enter Roadtrippers.com!

I Stumbled Upon the Roadtrippers website in June. It is actually how I found my dream lodging destination The 1842 Inn for my next stopover in Macon. Roadtrippers is a simple, intuitive road trip planner, powered by local experts and travel writers. I just plugged in my starting point and my destination, and I could customize my route and build my own travel plan around incredible historical sites, restaurants, hotels, and attractions many of which I had never heard of.

These are the top features of the website:

Explore the best independent places in America. Browse by distance from your trip or explore everything on the map.

• Create “Bucket Lists” of your favorite places.
• Create road trips using the most powerful route planning features online, including instant fuel cost estimation. • Save your trips for quick access and further editing later.
• Share your trips with friends and family on email, Twitter or Facebook. They can even edit and share them back. • Become a guide and display your bucket lists and favorite trips to the world!
• Follow your friends or favorite writers/brands and see their curated trips and bucket lists.
• Print your itinerary or driving directions and hit the road!

http://www.roadtrippers.com

I hear Roadtrippers is also coming out with an incredible app shortly that will revolutionize how you travel. Imagine being able to book hotels from your map!

For me, road trips are a great metaphor for life. We are all on a journey, I have a destination where I want to end up; I set milestones along the way, and sometimes I take some detours. My goal is to savor the ride, treasure the lives of the people riding with me, and make a positive lasting impact on the people in the places where I stop along the way.

Question: Where are you going on your next road trip?

1996 Centennial Olympic Games – A Look Back in Pictures

It started with Sydney, and about this time every four years, I start to get sentimental and reminisce about the magic that was the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games. According to readtiger.com ” The 1996 Summer Olympics, known officially as the Games of the XXVI Olympiad and unofficially as the Centennial Olympics, took place in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, from July 19 to August 4, 1996. A record 197 nations, all current IOC member nations, took part in the Games, comprising 10,318 athletes. Atlanta became the fifth American city to host the Olympic Games and the third to hold a Summer Olympic Games.

Atlanta was selected on September 18, 1990, in Tokyo, Japan, over Athens, Belgrade, Manchester, Melbourne, and Toronto at the 96th IOC Session. Atlanta’s bid to host the Summer Games that began in 1987 was considered a long-shot! The event ended up costing $3.8 billion in 2009 dollars and made a profit of $10 million.”

Here is a quick look back, in pictures:

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Question: What is your favorite Olympic memory?

Get Rid of Gridlock? Part 2 – Case Study Tampa

courtesy of Beltline.org

On July 31st, Atlantans will vote on the Atlanta Beltline and Transportation Referendum mentioned in Part 1 of my post Get Rid of Gridlock. We struck down a similar measure in Tampa/Hillsborough County over a year ago. There are many who criticize Tampa residents for not being forward thinking and not caring about mass-transit. I’m not one of those, I think everyone in Florida realizes how useful a regional transit system would be, they just want it to make common sense first and be done right. Here are four reasons in my opinion why the pitch for a tax might work in Atlanta and didn’t work for Tampa:

1) The BeltLine is truly visionary, they have done a great job with videos, renderings, and maps communicating what the BeltLine will be. Progress is already being made. They are turning vacant land into parks along the BeltLine so people can begin to imagine the possibilities. Runners are already having races along the BeltLine. The project is also very innovative, and a fascinating reuse of existing infrastructure that yearns for revitalization.

2) As mentioned above, Atlanta has been able to collaborate across 10 counties to come up with a plan and a referendum. The Tampa Bay Area has not been able to do that, with authorities in every county butting heads against each other and regional authorities that couldn’t get consensus from the counties. On Hillsborough County alone there were at least 4 groups involved in the lobbying for the tax and they did a pathetic job of creating one coherent vision with one common set of renderings/maps. And that was just Hillsborough County.

3) Atlanta already has the experience of MARTA and its citizens rally around mass-transit in theory especially due to Atlanta traffic. Atlanta sees the future and wants to grasp it. It is part of the culture. There seems to be less of a concern for frivolous spending in Atlanta and more of a sense of trust in local government and public/private partnerships. Recently, local media and government cracked down on the spending/accounting of the BeltLine team before anything egregious happened. All parties are working together on transparency, and that will be critical.

4) None of the plans for light rail in Tampa Bay made any sense financially, although no public transportation plans ever really do in terms of dollars and cents. The value of course are in the long term intangible benefits for future development and economic growth that can only be estimated, and in my opinion this was not done effectively by the agencies involved in Hillsborough County.

I think Tampa has a lot to learn from cities like Atlanta about collaboration, innovation, and planning. In this case though, I think the team in Atlanta could learn some good lessons from what did not work here in Tampa.

Question: What else is holding Tampa back?

Get Rid of Gridlock? Part 1

Atlanta Beltline – courtesy of BeltLine.org

Sound familiar Tampa? In just 11 days, Atlanta will be voting on a public transportation referendum that proposes a regional 1% sales tax across 10 counties. This sounds similar to the recent Hillsborough county tax referendum that we voted down last year…or does it?

The Atlanta BeltLine is the 1999 brainchild of Georgia Institute of Technology graduate student Ryan Gravel from his master’s thesis, a plan for a 22-mile loop that would connect 45 historic Atlanta neighborhoods, promoting in each greater access to mass transit, public parks and recreational trails. Much of the BeltLine makes use of abandoned track from previous local railroads. Ambitious in its scope, the BeltLine project hopes to grow the local economy by $20 billion dollars, create some 30,000 jobs, reclaim 1,100 acres of brownfields, and develop more than 5,000 affordable housing units for working families over the next 25 years. For more information, check out the BeltLine Tour or Maps of the Project.

Here is a video from the Referendum website from the BeltLine as well as a brochure from the Opposition so you can make an informed vote. According to the Beltline website, if the referendum passes, it would build roughly five miles of new transit on the east and west sides of Atlanta BeltLine and another five miles across midtown and downtown on city streets, connecting to MARTA rail in three locations. It would also connect transit to the existing West End Trail and run transit alongside the Eastside Trail, now under construction.

Question: What are your concerns about the Atlanta BeltLine Referendum?

Atlanta Chef Joe Rego on Chopped

Joe Rego of Opera, courtesy of Atlanta Eater

The Executive Chef of Opera, Joe Rego, formerly of South City Kitchen, Sotto SottoFritti, and Allegro, will be featured tomorrow in the Food Network show Chopped . According to EaterWire author Carly Cooper, Joe explained that “it was a very intense competition, and hopefully I will make Atlanta proud. However, after the competition airs, nothing will change the way I cook or work in Atlanta. It just inspires me to do better in my culinary profession. It’s a learning process every day.”

I really enjoyed Joe’s work at South City Kitchen and look forward to going dancing at Opera sometime soon…remember the days as 1150, but first let’s see the showdown on Chopped. I find it to be the most respectable cooking challenge on TV these days.

Question: What’s your favorite cooking show these days?

Keep Your Shoes On

Airside C Terminal at Tampa International Airp...

Airside C Terminal at Tampa International Airport (Wikipedia)

As anyone who has traveled through Tampa Airport knows, it is one of the top ranked airports in the entire world. Anyone who has traveled through Atlanta Hartsfield knows that it has the most domestic flights. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced earlier this week that Tampa International Airport will now join Hartsfield as one of the 18 airports that has implemented TSA Pre✓™, a passenger prescreening initiative, used to make frequent travelers’ lives easier and focus resources on the travelers that the agency is much less familiar with. In Tampa, select Delta Air Lines frequent flyers and members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs are now eligible to participate in the initiative when traveling domestically. Airlines currently participating in other airports include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and US Airways.

According to TSA, “if TSA determines a passenger qualifies for TSA Pre✓™, information is embedded in the barcode on the passenger’s boarding pass. TSA reads the barcode at the designated checkpoint, and the passenger may be referred to the TSA Pre✓™ lane to undergo expedited screening, which could include being able to leave on shoes, light outerwear and belts, and allowing laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bags to remain inside carry-on baggage.” That said, TSA always incorporates random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and no passenger is guaranteed expedited screening.

To learn more, and sign up for the program, check out the TSA Website. I love the Tampa Airport Facebook Page!

Question: Will this initiative be valuable to you? What are some innovative ways they can make occasional travelers’ trips through the security lines even smoother?