Tag Archives: Atlanta

Luck, hope, and the ‘Book of Mormon’ ticket lottery

The Fox Theatre sometimes releases rush tickets for popular shows. Twenty prime seats for “Book of Mormon” would go for only $25 each to ten lucky winners whose names get drawn from a box two hours before showtime.

The key word here was lucky. I don’t win anything. The ticket lottery could be a test of how truly elusive luck is for me.

I gave myself three chances to test my crappy track record against the destiny of “The Book of Mormon.” This is what happened.

“In setting these dark elements to sunny melodies, ‘The Book of Mormon’ achieves something like a miracle,” the New York Times said in a glowing 2011 review when the play opened on Broadway. The creators had found a sweet spot between ridicule and reverence of religion, and “Mormon” went on to win nine Tonys—including best musical.

I wanted to see what everyone was talking about, and I wanted to be able to tell people that I had seen it too. Continue reading

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At Beatles v. Stones, the anchoring power of music and memory

Living in uncertain times, we’re all looking for anchors. Nostalgia is a powerful one, as is music and lending a helping hand.

Friday night, more than 800 people showed up in Midtown to hear 13 bands who tried to recreate the time of peace, love and understanding known as the 1960s through the songs of two iconic bands: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The music of these bands is now timeless, but in its day it was revolutionary, and the gray heads in the audience may have flashbacked like I did to a time when rock first moved us and when some of us sought to move others.

Beatles vs. Stones reminded me of my own altruistic early rocker roots in Staunton, Va. I played with a hastily assembled band called Ravenscroft in my first gig in a church basement.
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As holiday cards grow rare, Randy Osborne sends daily letter with care

In the coming weeks, as Americans rush to shove hastily written holiday cards and form letters in mail boxes to friends and family members, Randy Osborne will still pen a letter a day to a stranger.

Osborne doesn’t care if his letters arrive before a day attached to a religious figure or public cause. More than a resolution, his Letter a Day Project is about connection through a nostalgic form of messaging. It is one man’s reply to a national nosedive in personal correspondence.

“I think people really want some kind of contact even if it’s from a stranger, something that takes time and attention,” said Osborne, 58, who teaches fiction and non-fiction writing at Emory University and co-founded Carapace, a monthly storytelling event at Manuel’s Tavern.
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Weekly potluck dinner turns Atlanta friends into family

The bonds of family and friendship can be created through the sacrament of a regular shared mealtime, and it  doesn’t have to be as seldom or elaborate as the big Thanksgiving event many of us will travel thousands of miles to celebrate this Thursday.

For several years, Owen Mathews has hosted what he calls Potluck Dinner every week at his Midtown studio. It has grown into a broad range of young to early-middle aged professionals of assorted ethnic backgrounds and experiences.

“It’s almost like we have family dinner once a week,” said Sara Le Meitour, who is engaged to another potluck regular.
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Gutsy voices of teen writers help VOX survive

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that schools could censor student newspapers, teenagers responded by creating their own uncensored and independent newspapers. Atlanta became home to VOX—Latin for “voice.”

Many of these papers folded in an era of massive cutbacks in professional journalism. But against those odds, VOX Teen Communications celebrated its 20th anniversary Saturday. Through VOX, many students launched successful college and professional careers in fields beyond journalism, earning the Gates Millenium scholarship among other awards.

In those short hours and on the weekends, VOX attracted students from all over the metro Atlanta area, who were mentored by professional journalists and other advisers. They reported, edited, photographed and designed a newspaper that publishes five times a year and a website www.voxteencommunications.org, that updates continuously, filled with work not likely to be deemed suitable by most high school administrators. Some of it is truly groundbreaking.
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A circular journey into one’s soul through an Atlanta labyrinth

Labyrinths look like circular mazes, but represent an ancient pathway into the soul. Seekers like me have boosted the number of labyrinths within 100 miles of Atlanta. In 2000 there were a half dozen; now there are about 100. Describing the simple power of the labyrinth is almost impossible.

In my pile up of job losses, family crises, health scares and a recession without end, walking the labyrinth has become more frequent and vital. People across the world and over the centuries have discovered that walking the circle path can help make sense of all the craziness life deals out. Continue reading

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For warped lives, re:loom and Spanx weave new hope

When Fred Brown’s ex-girlfriend went to prison in 2011 and left their son in his care, he knew he had to change the pattern of his life. Brown was homeless and didn’t want Damari, then only 9 months old, to grow up like he did—seeing his first dead body on the street at six years old and getting so used to the sight that it “was no big deal” by the time he was an adult.

Last week, Brown told his story from the headquarters of re:loom, where he turns recycled clothing and textiles into rugs and other items. Re:loom is nonprofit that helped him find his way back by teaching him the ancient art of weaving, and it got a big boost when another grassroots Atlanta business—Spanx—began globally promoting re:loom.
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Looking in plain sight for Atlanta’s random signs of optimism

A random shoe track on a downtown Atlanta sidewalk turned into a  “spontaneous smiley”—a feat akin to finding the face of Elvis in a piece of toast, but a whole lot easier.

People all over the world (like me) discover, photograph and post spontaneous smileys to social media as a creative challenge to others. It is tailor made for creative thinkers and distracted people in our crowded and gridlocked city. This fun scavenger hunt can be done anywhere, and a handy time-killer when you’re stuck waiting.

Looking for the most basic sign of happiness in ordinary circumstances will shift your mood and mindset. Looking for a smiling face can release positive brain chemicals like dopamine. The scientific term for this pursuit is pareidolia, when a vague and random stimulus is perceived as significant (after all, it was just a footprint…). It is an example of how mindfulness identifies the extraordinary in ordinary life.
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War and cornbread make for savory history

Samuel McKittrick’s Civil War correspondence described the food at the front line, and highlights were read last week at  “Cornbread Through the Ages,” one of 50 anniversary programs marking the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta last week.

His great-great-granddaughter Millie Huff Coleman, a dietary anthropologist and lifelong Atlantan, wore a period costume as she read from his letters. She also served up a savory taste for the audience members at the DeKalb History Center from two skillets filled with cornbread made in the style of different historical eras.

Letters and cornbread connected McKittrick's separate worlds of home and combat. From the battlefront near Marietta, he expressed his fears and expectations that he was going to die, instructions on the upkeep of the farm as well as a belief in the afterlife.
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Dripping mad from Atlanta weather’s ‘squeeze play’

This time of year is supposed to be sunny and dry enough for parades, picnics and fireworks. In June we had 9.5 inches of rain, the highest rainfall since 1996. The past 30 years, the average rainfall for June has been 3.95 inches. In a smallish ranch house with two teenaged daughters, a whiny dog and freelance deadlines, a couple of rainy days are doable. But after a month of rain, it’s the whining I can’t stand—especially the dog’s, and sometimes my own.

National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Gibbs said North Georgia has been sandwiched between high-pressure patterns in Arizona and Bermuda, resulting in an ongoing dousing of moisture from the Caribbean and the Yucatan. June was made wetter by delayed springtime storm systems that moved through the central U.S. and the Southeast. The outlook for the rest of the summer doesn’t look better, as hurricane season approaches.
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