Monday, April 17, 2017

Atlanta by Helicopter

Perhaps the ultimate tour of Atlanta is a helicopter tour of Atlanta! Barry and I recently treated ourselves to a Select Helicopters 45-minute tour of Atlanta, which included the destinations Stone Mountain, Midtown Atlanta, Downtown Atlanta, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the King & Queen Towers in Sandy Springs. It was spectacular!


Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I got to sit in the front seat!!! It was so exciting! 

When I was in 10th grade, I wanted nothing more than to be a helicopter pilot. That didn't work out, which is a story I'll share if I ever write an autobiography, but my love for helicopters never faded. It was fun chatting with our very entertaining pilot, Austin.

Flying over Midtown Atlanta was AMAZING! I do not currently live in Midtown (I'm about a 10-minute interstate drive away), but Midtown and Downtown are where I spend a great deal of my leisure time, so I know the areas relatively well. But I'd never seen them from this perspective.


Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I've lived in Midtown a number of times, and would love to move back at some point. One Atlantic Center (formerly known as the IBM Tower) was the newest addition to the skyline when I first moved to Atlanta in 1987. It was also Atlanta's tallest building until 1992. 

Its glowing copper roof and Gothic flourishes are unmistakable on the evening Atlanta skyline. I wish I had the words to tell you how special it was to get up close and personal with this amazing skyscraper! 


Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I grew up mostly in small towns, some quite charming. But, after living in Athens, Greece, I would forever be a "big city guy". I love visiting quaint small towns, but I love the hustle and bustle of a big city. 

I wasn't sure if we were going to get to fly around Downtown Atlanta on our tour. Depending on major sporting events and other restrictions, it's not always on the tour path. We were fortunate to have amazing weather and getting to see everything we wanted. We even flew directly over Barry's house!

If you're a local or if you've been visiting Atlanta for any period of time, you know how quickly our skyline changes. At the lower right of the above photo you'll see a big patch of Georgia red clay. That's where "Pym Technologies Headquarters" once stood (also the former Georgia Archives Building), demolished only days before our flight.  


Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I've seen many professional sports live. Baseball, Basketball, Tennis (I've met Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi, and the Bryan Twins), Soccer (I went to two soccer competitions during the 1996 Olympics), Hockey (I've sat chatting distance from Ovechkin's mother while watching the Washington Capitals), but I've never seen a professional Football game. 

That's about to change.

I've long supported the Atlanta Falcons because they're the home team, but I've never seen a live game. The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium is so alluring, I'm sure I'll see a number of Falcons games this coming season!

I've been a soccer fan since high school, when satellite TV first became popular. I'd watch games all over the world and they were on all the time. I first became a fan of Australian Rules Football, and then soccer. Super excited that Atlanta United FC is doing so well...can hardly wait to see them play in Mercedes-Benz Stadium! I'll definitely be attending games--jersey purchase coming up soon!


Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Home to the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Dream, and a host of concerts and other events, Philips Arena is an Atlanta icon--I love that they incorporated the word "ATLANTA" into the building's design. They were also home to the Atlanta Thrashers (hockey) before they moved to Canada...I loved that team! 

Today, the Arena attracts global sensations such as Lady Gaga, Chris Brown and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I've been to so many concerts there I can't keep up, but some of the best were Janet Jackson, multiple tours. Also, one time when I was there for a Hawks game, a little kid walked up to me and asked if I was Larry Bird. Adorable as the kid was, I told the truth, that I was just a fellow fan. I'm tall, but can't pass for 6'9"!


Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I've visited the Georgia Capitol Building Museum on numerous occasions (and have written about it), but have never been in Liberty Plaza, which has been open for more than two years. With a maximum capacity of more than 3,000 people, the plaza is a "major focal point for large groups to hold public rallies and assemblies both during and between legislative sessions". Call me a conspiracy theorist, but why is the space "sunken" instead of "elevated"? Hmmmm...

If you're a local and wonder where the Liberty Bell and Statue of Liberty replicas formerly located on Capitol Building grounds went, they're now in Liberty Plaza! Go visit as a tourist or come on down and protest, like we Americans do so well.

Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

This is embarrassing, but for years after the Bank of America Plaza was completed (formerly known as Nation's Bank Plaza), I kept wondering when they were going to finish the top. As it turns out, the lattice pyramid atop the skyscraper was originally planned to be glass-covered, so I wasn't totally wrong. That's what I keep telling myself anyway. 

It's been the tallest building in Atlanta since 1992 and I love that it's Art Deco design! You can't miss the eye-catching 90' spire, most of which is covered in gold leaf.


Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Did you know that Stone Mountain is Georgia's most visited tourist attraction? I'm not surprised...there's so much to do there, year-round! Actually, I'm not at all surprised because I've known that for years and years. When I first moved here in the late 80s, it was one of the first attractions I visited...and, yes, I climbed to the summit, more than once, on foot.

The view from the top of Stone Mountain is spectacular, but the view of the top of Stone Mountain from a helicopter is even better! Wow! 


Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

A staple of Atlantan summer entertainment is the Stone Mountain Laser Show, complete with popular music, fireworks, and fire effects! Bring a blanket and a picnic...it's a great evening on a gorgeous Atlanta spring/summer/autumn evening!

Get to know Stone Mountain intimately at Memorial Hall--which is so much more than a museum! And it'll totally enhance your Park experience! 


Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Helicopter Tour of Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The final "stop" on our Atlanta helicopter tour was the King & Queen Towers in Sandy Springs. You know how much I love Atlanta, but to not admit that Sandy Springs has it going on, would be totally wrong. There's a lot going on here...check out their amazing restaurants (perhaps start with this year's "Food That Rocks") and their many tourist destinations!

Aside from cutting our tour by 10 minutes, due to a scheduling error on their end, everything about our Select Helicopter tour was fantastic. I do recommend them and I'd happily go for another tour! 

Our flight departed from Peachtree-DeKalb Airport, aka PDK (they have tours originating at Lake Lanier, too). We enjoyed post-flight dinner and drinks at 57th Fighter Group, situated near PDK runways where diners can watch planes (and helicopters) take off and land.

I wish I could share better in words how fantastic it is to see you home city from above. If you have any inclination to go on a helicopter tour...do! 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Little Trouble Is Fun!

If you've not yet discovered Little Trouble, grab a fun friend—or a few—and go!


Little Trouble | Nikki, aka @atlantafoodie
Little Trouble | Nikki, aka @atlantafoodie | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

On my second visit to Little Trouble, with Nikki—on our way to Actor's Express to see a show—a couple of other theatre enthusiast friends joined us for pre-show dinner and drinks. Nikki and I just had to make snapshots next to the "Little Trouble" sign.

This "destination"—it's more than a bar and more than a restaurant—is tucked away in burgeoning West Midtown, aka Westside. And there's free parking in the parking deck adjacent to Little Trouble. 


Calamari | Little Trouble
Calamari | Little Trouble | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I fell in love with calamari when I lived in Greece and today I try it at most every restaurant I go to, if they offer it. The calamari at Little Trouble is amazing! The crispy seaweed strips are a fun garnish and the ponzu-calabrian dipping sauce is excellent! I could make this dish dinner and be perfectly happy.


Little Trouble, Atlanta
Little Trouble, Atlanta | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

I love the decor! I keep saying that it feels like I'm on the set of Blade Runner and others have likened it to Tron. It's wholly unique...I've seen nothing else in Atlanta that even approaches Little Trouble.


Daily Taco Special | Little Trouble
Daily Taco Special | Little Trouble | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

You won't see it on the online menu, but Chef offers a daily taco special! Always ask what the day's tacos are. The ones I've enjoyed so far have been amazing!


Salmon Bowl | Little Trouble
Salmon Bowl | Little Trouble | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

All their dishes are shareable, but the Salmon Bowl above was mine, all mine! Listen to this: crispy salmon, lobster broth, coconut red curry, bok choy and sticky rice. To say it's delicious would be an understatement!


Make a Little Trouble
Make a Little Trouble

Also on the menu is "Everything". Of course we (Nikki and I on our first visit) had to ask. The "Everything" is probably what you've said jokingly to more than one server when you see an awesome menu..."I'll have one of everything!" Yep...order an "Everything" and you get: one...of...everything! We're definitely going to do that on a future visit!

From the first visit, Little Trouble hit the top of my favorites list! Perhaps I'll see you there sometime soon!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Legend of Georgia McBride is Legendary!

Who is Georgia McBride? She's a legend! Well, he's a legend. And they're mega-fans of The King of Rock 'n' Roll. See for yourself at Actor's Express!


The Legend of Georgia McBride | Actor's Express | Photo: Christoper Bartelski
The Legend of Georgia McBride | Actor's Express | Photo: Christoper Bartelski

The Legend of Georgia McBride is epic! It's hilarious! And...it's a love story. Yes, there are drag queens, too, and pizza, and a nightclub...multiple wardrobe changes, brilliant acting, and some of the most enthusiastic singing you've ever heard. It's a musical!


The Legend of Georgia McBride | Actor's Express | Photo: Christoper Bartelski
The Legend of Georgia McBride | Actor's Express | Photo: Christoper Bartelski

I was already a fan of Nick Arapoglou (Casey) from The Toxic Avenger and Avenue Q, and he's done a bit of television, including locally filmed, The Vampire Diaries. What a treat to see him in this show! 

In The Legend of Georgia McBride, Casey is a super-dedicated entertainer who is also a mega-fan of Elvis Presley. For other reasons he's wiling to put on a dress to keep a job. Complexity ensues in his relationship with his wife and others who want the same gig.

Casey's wife, Jo (Falashay Pearson), has huge news...the catalyst for her husband's putting on a dress, but she's in the dark. Drama, drama!


The Legend of Georgia McBride | Actor's Express | Photo: Christoper Bartelski
The Legend of Georgia McBride | Actor's Express | Photo: Christoper Bartelski

Casey's former job in the nightclub is being replaced with a drag show. Miss Tracy Mills (Jeff McKerley) shows up and steals the show...in the story and onstage! But she's also a "mentor". The entire cast is going to have you laughing out loud...and don't be surprised if there's a little (innocent) audience participation.

In fact, there are tables on the floor in front of the "stage", giving the show an authentic nightclub feel. If you can snag one of those tables, you're in for a real treat, but know that there's not a bad seat in the house! 


The Legend of Georgia McBride | Actor's Express | Photo: Christoper Bartelski
The Legend of Georgia McBride | Actor's Express | Photo: Christoper Bartelski

Everyone I've talked with who has seen the show—including the three friends I went with—has raved about it and can't stop smiling when recounting their evening with Georgia McBride and Miss Tracy.

See The Legend of Georgia McBride at Actor's Express through this Sunday, April 16...don't miss this show!



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Simply Simone is Simply Spectacular

I've never seen a performance quite like Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone

Four women portray Nina Simone , each at a different "era" in her life. They're onstage together for the majority of the performance and they divinely, and with great power, sing the story of Nina Simone's life. Aside from knowing Nina personally, I don't think any biography, tribute concert, or even the Oscar-nominated documentary tells her life as magnificently as these four women.


Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Artwork: BreeAnne Cloudus
Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Artwork: BreeAnne Cloudus

I didn't know Nina Simone before this performance. I knew she was famous and a favorite of many, but I didn't know her life...her ambition to become the world's first African-American classical pianist, her contributions as a civil rights activist, her superstar fandom, or her world travels. What an introduction!

This was also my very first visit to Theatrical Outfit. It's been on my want-to-visit list for years. I'm so grateful that Simply Simone was my first experience of this wonderful theatre. And I'm absolutely aligned with its mission of "Starting the Conversations that Matter".


Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski
Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski

I find it fascinating that growing up Nina was, through her musical training—beginning at the age of three—sheltered from so much, yet she became the amazing, catalyst for action in the civil rights movement that she did. And thank goodness she did. She said she couldn't possibly be separate from it, that she couldn't not include the fight for civil rights in her music. 
"Everything that happened to me as a child involved music. It was part of everyday life, as automatic as breathing." - Nina Simone
Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski
Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski

The entire show is powerful, but the telling and music recounting the atrocious bombing of a church that killed four young girls moved me most. I'd, of course, read about that Birmingham bombing—11 days after a Federal order to integrate the Alabama school system—but "hearing" it like this...it broke my heart and brought me to tears.

Remember Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins—all 14 years old—and 11-year-old Denise McNair.

"I tell you what freedom is to me: no fear."Nina Simone
Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski
Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski

I'd had the great pleasure of seeing Marliss Amiea (Nina 4) perform in 'da Kind in my Hair just last year. I was already a fan having seen her in that musical, but now...I'm an enthusiastic fan, forever! What a magnificent actress and singer!

Keep an eye on Chelsea Reynolds (Nina 1)...she has a truly promising acting career ahead of her. All four women are absolutely amazing and they perform beautifully together.

"We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So, I think we don't have a choice. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?" - Nina Simone

Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski
Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski

The music for Simply Simone is performed by a live band, situated stage left, and they offer a few words during the performance, but it's the ladies who own the stage. They even portray the male characters—a father, a husband—a transformation convincingly accomplished by simply donning a hat.

The set, lighting, sound, wardrobe, choreography, acting, singing...this musical is perfection!

"You've got to learn to leave the table when love's no longer being served." - Nina Simone

Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski
Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone | Theatrical Outfit | Photo: Christopher Bartelski

This is the final week of Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone. See this magnificent musical by Saturday, April 15 at Theatrical Outfit
"Life is short. People are not easy to know. They're not easy to know, so if you don't tell them how you feel, you're not going to be anywhere, I feel." - Nina Simone



Saturday, April 8, 2017

Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story

"The exhibition amply illustrates how Jones transcended his sport and became an American hero at a time when the nation most needed one," said Fair Play curator Dr. Catherine Lewis, a professor at Kennesaw State University, noted Jones scholar, and long-time Atlanta History Center guest curator. "His strength of character , athletic skill, and personal accomplishments inspire us today. One of of the most compelling features of the new exhibition is a section that ponders why Bobby Jones matters."


Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center
Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center

A renewed exhibition about one of the world's most accomplished persons in the sport of golf, Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story focuses on the character and achievement of the man considered the most important golfer in the history of the sport, Georgia's own Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones.


1457: In the earliest reference to golf, King James II of Scotland bans golf and football because they interfere with military training.


Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center
Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center

As the History Center's only exhibition focused on a single person, Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story features a host of new artifacts, including a rare prgoram from the inaugural Augusta National Invitational—today known as the Masters—in 1934; a personal letter from Jones to two-time Masters winner Ben Hogan; and four first edition books authored by Jones.


1902: On March 17, 1902, Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones, Jr. is born to attorney Robert Purmedus Jones, called "Colonel", and Clara Merrick Thomas Jones.


Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center
Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center

At the height of his career, Bobby Jones retired from the sport to devote time to his family, career, and his native city of Atlanta. Afterward, he became golf's beloved ambassador and helped found the August National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, today the sport's premier tournament.


1916: Bobby Jones wins Georgia State Amateur Championship at age 14 and competes in the U.S. Amateur as the youngest competitor that year.


Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center
Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center

Jone's remarkable journey is perfectly encapsulated by an enlarged 1971 quote by sportswriter O.B. Keeler on the entrane to the Imlay Gallery exhibit: "Bobby Jones has more character than any champion in our history."


1930: Bobby Jones become the first and only golfer to win what O.B. Keeler the "Grand Slam" — British Amateur, British Open, U.S. Open, and U.S. Amateur. Two months later, Jones retires from competitive golf. 


Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center
Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story | Atlanta History Center

I wrote about Bobby Jones a few years ago; about a number of places you can visit to celebrate his life, but the "Fair Play" exhibition at the Atlanta History Center is THE place to start.


1971: On December 17, 1971, Bobby Jones died and is buried in Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery. His plot is a "putting green" and many visitors leave golf balls at his final resting place.


While the photographs in this post are my own, the majority of the copy is courtesy of the Atlanta History Center. If you're a golfer, a fan, or merely an enthusiast like myself, I highly recommend this magnificently presented exhibition

Friday, April 7, 2017

Grease is the Word!

When was the last time you went to the drive-in? NOW is the time to resurrect that long-lost tradition or treat yourself to it for the first time. Grease, now playing at Serenbe Playhouse, is a most magnificent rendition of the beloved musical and movie by the same title...it's the one that you want!


Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

I'd never seen the musical on stage, but I love the movie. In talking with friends who have seen both, this production, as I understand it, follows the movie more closely...thus the magnificent drive-in set design. 

Upon arrival—when parking your car—you're enthusiastically welcomed to the first day of school at "Rydell High". 

One of the things that I love about Serenbe Playhouse is that the "support" staff you meet before the show and during intermission are the actors you'll see onstage. If it's your first time to a Serenbe Playhouse performance you might not get that—I didn't—but the giveaway is that they're in costume and in character. Such great fun!

This show felt like a family reunion! So many of the cast I've met and seen perform at Serenbe Playhouse and other Atlanta theatres. The show has a huge cast, and is a colossal collection of talent! 

Opening the show is a personal favorite, Julissa Sabino (Rizzo), who gives a rhapsodic performance of "Grease is the Word". Rizzo is my favorite character in the movie, so it was super exciting to see Julissa in that role! 


"Oh, double doo-doo! One of my diamonds just fell in the macaroni." - Marty


Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

Hands down, the best numbers in the show were the group numbers. This cast performs like greased lightning! The show is fast and their energy high...pay attention or you might miss an important line, or worse, you might miss a punch line! 

Also, they're family...theatre family, which is a bond unlike any other that I've ever seen. The whole of the Atlanta theatre family is close.

"Men are rats, listen to me, they're fleas on rats, worse than that, they're amoebas on fleas on rats." - Frenchy

Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

If you've not been to a Serenbe Playhouse performance before, know that it's an outdoor theatre, and each new play is in a different location. Grease is set in a "drive-in", the front row being classic convertibles and a truck! Those VIP "seats" get car-side service, too! 

The GIANT movie screen was part of the performance. In many scenes there were graphics, classic drive-in animation, or pre-recorded scenes that nestled perfectly into scenes playing out on stage. The choreography and editing between live actors and on-screen performance is truly brilliant.

Oh, and there will be a full "moon", or two, every performance.


"My 25-cent insurance policy." - Kenickie


Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

Michael Stiggers (Danny Zuko) is brilliant! He's not only a wonderful actor, his voice became exponentially impressive and wholly magnificent throughout the performance. I met him at an industry event earlier this week...what a delightful human being!

Randi Garza (Sandy Dumbrowski) sings as beautifully as she is gorgeous. Of the solo performances, Randi's mesmerizes the audience...she's spellbinding. I also had the pleasure of meeting her and she too is delightful.

"You’ll find it hard to resist breaking the rules with Rydell High’s spirited class of gum-chewing, hub-cap- stealing, hot-rod- loving boys in leather jackets and their wise-cracking girls in poodle skirts. Step back in time in a unique setting that will evoke memories of a drive-in movie..."
"Why, this car is Auto-matic. It's System-matic. It's Hyyyyydro-matic. Why, it's Greased Lightning!" - Danny


Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Grease | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

I've had the great pleasure of seeing more than half the cast perform in other shows, many of them award-winning! I've also met quite a few of them—at opening night receptions, industry events and at the theatre seeing each other's shows—and every single one of them is personable, friendly, appreciative...wonderful people! 

Grease will be playing at Serenbe Playhouse through Sunday, April 16, and there's an American Sign Language interpreted show on Friday, April 14. Performances are Wednesday through Sunday at 8:00 p.m.


"Tell me about it, stud." - Sandy