Posts tagged atlanta things to do
wine dinners: a great way to find good wine

When it comes to finding a wine you like, you’ve really only got a few methods to choose from.

  • you can take a recommendation from a friend or an expert,
  • you can take a wild guess based on the prettiness of the label and / or the floweriness  of the wording on the bottle as you stand scratching your head in the aisle
  • or… you can taste it.

Of those three methods, only tasting is foolproof. Friends and experts may have different palates, and we all know better than to judge a wine by its cover, don’t we? And even once you’ve chosen a wine, there’s the work of figuring out what wine goes with what.

Enter, the wine dinner. This growing trend helps experienced and budding wine connoisseurs make sense of it all. If you haven’t had the chance to go to a wine dinner yet, lemme ‘splain what you’re missing out on.


What is a Wine Dinner?

A wine dinner is multi-course meal, typically hosted by a restaurant, a winery or a combination of the two. Each course of the meal comes along with a wine that has been selected to complement the dish being served.


What’s So Great about Wine Dinners?

You get to relax – unlike wine tastings and tours where you’re sort of shuffled along between tastings, at a wine dinner you’re comfortably seated. You can even kick your shoes off if you want, I won’t tell.

You get a serious wine education – during the wine dinner, either the restaurant’s sommelier or a representative from the vineyard will provide notes on the wines you taste that you simply won’t get anywhere else. Plus, if you happen to attend a wine dinner with other ‘cork dorks’, you’ll learn even more from the conversation.

You get to eat some really great food – most of the restaurants hosting wine dinners are pretty top-notch. Often, they’ll feature special dishes for the wine dinner that aren’t on their regular menu.

You save money – during a wine dinner you’ll typically taste a minimum of four dishes, along with equal servings of wine for a much lower price than you would if you were to purchase them all at regular price.

Here’s a quick roundup of three wine dinners in Atlanta that I’ve attended recently, and how I fared at each.


Mirassou Wine Dinner

As part of a multi-city promotional tour coinciding with the 156th anniversary of Mirassou Winery, California winemaker David Mirassou hosted a series of wine dinners for local food and beverage writers, wine educators, and bloggers across the country. The Atlanta stop of the tour featured a 6-course tasting menu prepared by Chef Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill, and yours truly was invited to attend.  Each course was a perfect mouthful of local, seasonal ingredients that Chef Gillespie crafted to complement the accompanying wine. Throughout the meal, David entertained us with stories from his family’s winemaking past, and explained the unique characteristics of each wine we tasted. Needless to say, the food was amazing. The wines – a pleasant surprise.

My favorite wine of the evening: Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon – I’m not usually a big fan of Cabs, most tend to be too tannic for my tastes. But Mirassou’s Cabernet was much more drinkable, while still retaining the tannic profile. I dubbed it, ‘the softer side of Cab’. Retails for around $10



Mother’s Day Brunch at Frogtown Cellars

Craving the experience of Napa, but lacking the time or the funds? Georgia’s wine country is a suitable alternative for us Atlantans. This past Mother’s Day I decided to treat Mom and myself to our first visit to a Georgia winery. We chose Frogtown Cellars in Dahlonega, and were treated to a delicious 4-course brunch with wine pairings in a truly beautiful setting.

My favorite wine of the day: Frogtown First Convergence – East-meets-West blend of Cabernet and Malbec grapes from Russian River (66%) and Cabernet Franc grapes from Frogtown vineyard (34%). Retails for $27.99



The Generous Pour Wine Event at The Capital Grille

Did you know that there are only 173 Master Sommeliers in the entire world? So it’s a real treat when one of these esteemed wine experts hand picks 9 of his personal favorites and invites you to taste them. That’s exactly what went down this week at The Capital Grille in Buckhead. The restaurant invited several local food writers to a special preview of their summer wine event, The Generous Pour. George Miliotes, Master Sommelier and resident wine expert at The Capital Grille, joined via telecast to explain the 9 wines he chose for the event, and then answered our questions via live Twitter feed. After George’s introduction, we sampled each of the wines along with complementary dishes prepared by Chef Brad Weiderman. The unparalleled white-glove level of service at the Capital Grille made this one a real treat.

My favorites of the evening:

Tarima Hill Monastrell, 2009 – A Spanish varietal that’s not available anywhere else in the US for the next couple of months. It’s a medium-bodied red that I can only describe as ‘seductive’.

Chateau St. Jean, Belle Terre, 2008 – arguably the best Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted. Described as ‘a rich, creamy wine… with toasted almond and vanilla oak’. From the Russian River region of California. $25.



The Capital Grille’s Generous Pour Wine Event continues through September 4, and is only $25 for ample servings of all 9 wines with dinner. Do this!

To see questions and answers from The Generous Pour preview event, search for #tcgpour11 on Twitter.

Want to get personalized wine recommendations from a Master Sommelier? Follow George Miliotes (@TheWineExpert) on Twitter.

But hey – don’t just settle for his (or my) recommendations. Go out and taste for yourself.




dj kai alce remembers house in the park

For the past five years, Labor Day weekend in Atlanta has signaled the arrival of House in the Park, a family-friendly outdoor music festival for lovers of house, afrobeat, and soulful dance music. Though it continues to swell each year, House in the Park is still a largely under-the-radar event in Atlanta, mainly because it caters to such a niche audience. Loyal fans of Atlanta DJs Ramon Rawsoul, DJ Kemit, Salah Ananse, and Kai Alce – the fantastic foursome behind House in the Park – have been there since the beginning. House in the Park 2010 promises to be the largest yet, as word about the good vibes and sounds the event unfailingly delivers continues to spread beyond Atlanta’s close-knit house music family.

I sat down with DJ Kai Alce to get some insight on how House in the Park has evolved since its genesis, and what’s on tap for House in the Park 2010.

So, how long have you been a DJ? How did you get your start? Aw, man. I bought my first turntables in ‘83. But I’ve been DJing professionally since ‘92. I’ve always been into music, though. I listen to a little bit of everything. My parents were Haitian, so I grew up listening to soca and all that. Growing up in New York at that time, it was like during the creation of hip hop and disco. My Dad was a jazz aficionado, and he was really into audio hi-fi equipment. So I guess that’s where I got an affinity for both the music and the equipment.

Was this something you always knew you wanted to do? Not really. It just sort of evolved that way. The first time I DJed for a party, it didn’t go well.

I used to work at this place called The Music Institute. I worked there at 16 years old - Chez Damier got me in there. It was like the Detroit version of Paradise Garage. Then I moved to Atlanta to go to school at Morehouse. I started getting gigs and started making money, and thought, “hey, I could do this professionally.”

Where did the idea for House in the Park originate? Ramon Rawsoul asked me about it. At that time I was working at Satellite – a record store in Little Five Points. We might have already been doing The Gathering then. The Gathering is a monthly house music event featuring DJs Kai Alce and Ramon Rawsoul. The duo has been hosting The Gathering for over 5 years. The first House in the Park was at Candler Park in 2005. There was another group called Earthtone that used to do an event out at Piedmont. They used to do it real renegade style, though. You know, they’d just go out there and they may or may not have a permit. I told Ramon that (getting a permit) was gonna be an issue. But we went through the process and got what we needed. The first year, we had about 200-300 people, just from the crowds that supported each of us.

What Atlanta DJs were involved that first year? It was me, Ramon, Kemit, and Salah. What was funny was… I think I had to DJ or promote the night before – anyway, I was out late. And you know there’s always that riff of who goes on first and who goes on last. I remember I was like, I’ll go on early. And I got there, did my set… and fell asleep. So I said - I’m definitely not doing that again.

How has House in the Park changed from that first year? Well after the first year, we moved to Perkerson Park because of better amenities. Candler was very DIY all the way. We had to bring in port-o-potties, and everything. That first year, the crowd at House in the Park was mostly people who knew us from the nighttime sets. The second year House in the Park became more family oriented. And it just took off from there.

Did you ever think House in the Park would become as big, or continue for as long as it has? No. Never. ‘Cause it’s getting bigger every year. More people, more problems. The more people you get, the more things they (city officials) ask you to have. Like ambulances, extra cops, then after a certain number of cops you have to get a police sergeant. Now we’re at the point where we’re gonna have to start getting sponsors. Whole Foods has been on as a sponsor since the first or second House in the Park - they donate water. The neighborhood is one of the sponsors. Others are people who have known us, who are blessed enough to hook us up.

What is it about House in the Park that you think makes it so popular? The good feeling and the music. The music aids in people letting go and letting down their guard. So far in the five years since House in the Park has been going, we’ve had no fights, no arguments. We’ve had a couple of lost kids, but they get found before the end of the evening. People have said that when they leave House in the Park, the positive energy they leave with rides for a while. Even some of the kids, they don’t see some of those other kids until that event. So they look forward to playing together while their parents enjoy themselves. I had one guy come up to me -his daughter is in her teenage years – and tell me that she asked her dad to dance. He says that’s the first time she ever asked him to dance with her. At House in the Park, you can see anybody from age 3 to 55. My dad’ll be here this year. He may have been here at least 4 times now. I had my whole family come out one time.

What can people expect this year? Are there any other DJs are on deck? The House in the Park lineup will stay the same until it ends. I don’t think anybody knows our town better than we do. We try to keep it amongst us here. We may have a guest DJ that shows up some years.

How many attendees do you average or are you expecting for House in the Park this year? Well, last year it was about 3,000. So we definitely hope to meet that.

Where can people get more info about House in the Park, purchase House in the Park gear, make donations, etc? They can go to People can buy CDS and House in the Park T-shirts at the event. That’s what helps us pay for the event. So be sure to bring cash with you. CDs are $5-10. Tees are $10-12.

What other projects are you working on? Where besides House in the Park can people see or hear you? Well, I have my record label – NDATL. It stands for New York, Detroit, Atlanta – three places where I’ve lived. We just released a new single called “I Got Life” by Kemetic Just. Kemetic Just is DJ Kemit and Justin Chapman, but this track is just Justin Chapman with Terrance Downs. That just got released this summer. It’s doing well in the charts here and overseas. You may even see him perform this year at House in the Park. You might also see a performance by a girl named Cayenne. She has a song called ‘Someone’, which I produced along with Phil Asher. It hit # 1 on the house charts. I’m also continuing a monthly here at The Sound Table. It’s called Distinctive. It’s usually every third Saturday, this month it will be on the fourth Saturday. We’re having Omar S as a guest in October.

And people can check out my site That will let you know about the upcoming events and projects.

House in the Park 2009 photos courtesy of John Crooms Photography.

House in the Park 2010 Sunday, September 5 ; noon – 8pm Perkerson Park - Pavilion Area 770 Deckner Ave. SW; Atlanta, GA 30310 Free. Open to the public.

atlanta's national black arts festival kicks off next week


Only a few more days before the 22nd National Black Arts Festival begins! Well, technically, the festival never ends since it's a year-round celebration of arts and culture across the African Diaspora. But from July 14-18, we'll be treated to a concentrated dose of all that the NBAF has to offer.

The NBAF is always a highlight of Atlanta's summer festival season with a myriad of music and theater performances, workshops, films, and educational programs that allow Atlantans and visitors from all around the globe to see, taste, hear, and feel the work of artists and artisans that have shaped and continue to influence Black culture.

Centennial Olympic Park will once again be the summer festival's home base of operations, with Main Stage performances by Afro-Brazilian percussion group, Olodum,  Atlanta's own DJ Kemit, and Roy Ayers with the Common Ground Collective. Several other events - film screenings, dance and theater performances, visual arts displays, and more - will occur at locations around the city. Many of the events are absolutely free to the public, while others offer some very affordable options if you're looking for things to do on a sweltering Atlanta weekend.

Visit the NBAF's website for a complete schedule of events or download this handy Excel schedule of 2010 NBAF events that you can sort by date, event type, and price (alternate link for those without Excel).

see you at the festival,


earth day turns 40 today - some gifts you can give


Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day – a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the lovely blue planet we call home (well, most of us anyway… some of y’all are clearly from the outer limits).

Haven’t thought of how you’ll celebrate the day? No worries, here’s a handy list of ways you can show Earth that you care.

  • Take a walk around your neighborhood – pick up any trash you see along your walk. Talk to any neighbors you run into and ask them to do the same.
  • For Atlanta residents, take a look at the skyline. See that slightly brown haze? Yeah, that’s not supposed to be there.  Get on the phone with your local and state representative or send them an email and ask them what they’re doing to: 1) support clean air in our city, or 2) help enhance public transportation options that reduce smog.
  • Go for a quick hike in one of Atlanta’s neighborhood, state, or national parks.
  • Visit an Atlanta-area community garden – ask how you can get involved. Don’t have a community garden in your neighborhood? Start one.
  • Check into joining a CSA (community-supported agriculture). With CSAs you get fresh produce from local farms delivered to you. Way better than the over-priced, under-fresh stuff from the grocery store that you don’t know WHERE it came from. Here’s a comprehensive list of Atlanta-area CSAs.
  • Work from home – save the miles and the emission. If you can’t do that…
  • Bike to work, carpool, take the train or bus. If you can’t do that…
  • Walk to the store in the evening instead of driving.
  • Have dinner by candlelight and save some energy. Better yet, replace your regular light bulbs with energy-efficient light bulbs. If you’re feeling really magnanimous, buy a couple of extra bulbs and gift them to your neighbor.
  • Gather your old electronics for recycling on April 24 at Turner Field. Here’s the details (PDF) .
  • Visit Atlantic Station’s Enviro Expo. For extra impact, bike there or take Marta to Arts Center Station and catch the free shuttle from there.
  • Donate or pledge to WABE - Atlanta's public radio station - today. For each pledge received today, Trees Atlanta will plant a tree in your honor.
  • Save some green with these Earth Day deals and discounts from the Atlanta Bargain Hunter – free milkshakes, discount Six Flags tickets, and free admission to the Atlanta Botanical Garden await.
  • Celebrate Our World Earth Day 2010 at Georgia Tech.
  • Support local food , local business, and Atlanta’s street food revolution at the Super Secret Underground Food Truck Extravaganza today.




v-day poll results and some unconventional v-day events in atlanta

A couple of weeks ago, I polled guys and ladies separately on what sort of gift you'd like most for Valentine's Day. Well, the results are in!


While they weren't all that surprising - women overwhelmingly prefer 'experience gifts' to stuff like flowers and candy (wait, you guys did know that already right?), and men didn't really have a preference -  what was surprising is that more women than men responded that they thought Valentine's Day was for suckas, and 10% of the ladies who responded said that they just wanted 'to be left alone'. C'mon girlfriends, it can't be that bad out there... can it? 

Whether you're single or seeing someone, here are my picks for some unconventional ways to spend this Valentine's Day in Atlanta.

Witness the Black Man-o-logues - This play by DreamCatcher Productions at the 14th Street Playhouse answers the question, "What runs through the head of a black man when he is confronted with the subject Love?" Shows Saturday and Sunday. For more info:

Take a Trip to Jeju Sauna -  A spa retreat like you've never experienced before. Just a short trip to Duluth, and you can lose yourself in another world for a whole day. Check out my review of Jeju Sauna on Trazzler.

Celebrate Valloween - A combination Halloween costume party with the sexiness of Valentine's Day for both singles and couples. Because there's "nothing better than playing dress-up to make a depressing holiday more palatable." For more info:

Hey Love: Bilal, Foreign Exchange, Jesse Boykins III - Sexy soulfulness takes Center Stage on Friday. Bring your boo or plan on finding one when you get there. Tickets at Mood's Music in Little Five Points and Ticketmaster

Bloom at Lenox Mall - Lauri Stallings, the choreographer behind the 2008 genre-blending production big, that thrust ballet dancers onto the stage with Atlanta's own Big Boi, will be taking dance to another platform this weekend at Lenox Mall. Bloom, the 3rd site-specific art installation from Atlanta-based gloATL, will feature dancers interacting with shoppers in the arteries of the mall. Spoken word artist Big Rube will also perform. It's sure to be a sight! For more info: 

V-Day Mixology Massacre - If Valentine's day makes you want to kill something... why not make it a cocktail? The Mixology Meetup group is hosting this event at Room at Twelve on W. Peachtree. You'll learn how to make 3 V-day inspired cocktails at your own bar station. Then you can immediately drown yourself in them. For more info:

Make Sweet Chocolate Love at Cacao - If cocktails ain't your thing, how 'bout some chocolate? Make your own chocolate treats and package them up for yourself or a loved one. Might I suggest: chocolate salty balls. Cacao Atlanta in Va-Hi hosts. For more info:

To El with Valentine's Day - El Taco says, 'be glad you're single", and invites you to celebrate your solo-ness with drink specials (like $4 Hornitos Mischieve tequila shots), special prizes from the Wheel of Taco, and an in-house photo booth and tarot reader on Sunday. Get all the details here.



photo credit: Sister72

the 2009 NBAF sponsors' luncheon


The 2009 National Black Arts Sponsors Luncheon is the festival’s way of saying thank you to the corporations, NGOs, government agencies, and private individuals who provide that most vital of resources to the arts community – funding.

At this year’s luncheon, the sponsors were given three very special treats. The first was the official changing of the guard for the NBAF’s Executive Producer position. Outgoing Producer Stephanie Hughley was honored as a “22 year veteran of fighting the good fight for the arts” in Atlanta. Hughley will be returning to the Northeast for a second stint at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Assuming her role is Neal Barclay, formerly of the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

Here are some clips from the farewell presentation to Stephanie Hughley.

Next up on the luncheon agenda was a candid discussion between US Ambassador and former Atlanta mayor, Andrew Young, and Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of the Black female a capella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock. The two veterans of the Civil Rights movement shared their wisdom and experiences on topics ranging from music as protest medium to why Atlanta is THE only place where an event such as the NBAF could be born.

Since the luncheon was held at the Atlanta Civic Center, attendees were also given complimentary passes to the America I Am exhibit which will be on location at the Civic Center through September 6.

Lunch was provided by A Legendary Event, an Atlanta-based catering and special events company owned by Tony Conway. The event was planned and coordinated by Judy Hanenkrat, NBAF Special Events.

For a full list of sponsors for the 2009 NBAF, visit:


The NBAF Summer Festival goes from July 29 – August 2, 2009. The 5-day long festival highlights the artistic and cultural contributions of Africans and African-Americans in the US. For a complete schedule of events, visit To donate to the festival, visit

Behind the Scenes at the NBAF: Rebekah Jones - Production Manager


It’s a little past 8 am on Thursday morning, the second official day of the 2009 National Black Arts Festival. Several of the festival’s staff members are seated at multiple round tables on a lesser-used part of the 5th floor headquarters office. On the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows, the sun is defiantly beaming through the last of the overnight storm clouds.

The woman with cropped, spiky hair sitting at the head of the group speaks.

“Just so y’all know, we do have a weather fairy, so it’s not going to rain on the festival.”

The woman is Rebekah Jones, who wears the double title of Festival Manager and Production Manager for the NBAF. She acts as Mistress of Ceremonies for this morning’s staff meeting, quickly running down what’s going on at each of the day’s major events and venues, and double-checking to make sure everyone has their marching orders. Since a major part of the festival – the International Marketplace – will be held outside, the topic of the weather comes up again soon, this time with a bit more gravitas.

“The only reason we will shut down is if there’s lightning. Our setups are all graded for up to 40mph winds. If there is lightning, the head of security will make the call to me or Leatrice (NBAF Artistic Programming Director), and we’ll make the decision to pause the festival, and issue ‘seek shelter’ announcements to the crowd.” Before the team disperses, she makes sure everyone has a copy of the Crisis Response Plan for the festival.

When the meeting ends, Rebekah heads back to her office and settles in behind her desk. Within 30 seconds, the small office is filled with 3-4 staff members with last-minute tactical questions for her. After handling the first few questions, she shoots me a look and says, “Time for a cigarette break,” my cue that we’ll have to conduct our one-on-one interview downstairs.

Once there, we begin.

ksolo: So how long have you been with the Black Arts Festival?

RJ: Since 2000. I think. Whatever year Stephanie (Hughley)joined. We’d worked together at another festival, so when she came over here, I thought it would be good to work with her again.

ksolo: For the layperson, what exactly does the co-title Festival Manager / Production Manager mean? What are you responsible for?

RJ: Well, I’m a Project Manager. I work as a PM for several clients, Harley Davidson is one. I’ve been the Production Manager for the Atlanta Civic Center for the past 12 years.

ksolo: Wow, do you sleep?

RJ: (laughs) Sometimes, I can’t believe I get paid to do what I do. I’m about to turn 50, so I figured, ‘Forget it. I’m just gonna do what I love.’

ksolo: With the changes in this year’s festival – the reduced timeline, the central location – has it been an easier project to manage? Or are there some things that are more difficult?

RJ: Well, the coordination has definitely been less cumbersome. There are fewer moving parts. But this year, we’re shutting down a city street for four whole days. And you have to jump through a lot of hoops for that.

In a moment of candor, Rebekah uses a four-letter word to describe the frustration of the hoop-jumping, and asks me to excuse her French. I assure her that I too speak French on occasion.

ksolo: About how many staff and volunteers do you have for this year’s festival?

RJ: With contractors and all, we’ve got over 100 people. And Keith (Hill) has volunteers on a waiting list. We have a great synergy of people, a great team.

ksolo: Do you have a favorite festival memory?

RJ: (pauses to think for a bit) Opening day. Every year. You know, this is the oldest surviving black festival in the country? Which is great, but also sad… since it’s only the 21st year. But it’s huge. It’s such an important event. Last year, we did 273 shows in 10 days. So the number of impressions is just huge. We’re in over 20 spaces this year, between festival events and events that partner with the festival.

ksolo: That’s a pretty impressive reach, especially for a city as spread out as ours.

RJ: Yep. The Dogwood Festival and the National Black Arts Festival are the only 2 festivals remaining in Atlanta that originated in Atlanta. The Atlanta Arts Festival is gone, Montreux is on hold. But we’re not just a local festival. We’re national. People plan their family reunions to coincide with the festival.

ksolo: Wow – that’s a real testament to the impact the festival has.

RJ: Yeah, we couldn’t do it without the people we have working and volunteering. We run up against a problem, and we don’t think, ‘Oh, it can’t happen.’ We think, ‘What has to happen to make it happen?’ You have to remain very fluid.

When the river starts flowing, you can either build a dam, or… you can jump in and swim.


The NBAF Summer Festival goes from July 29 - August 2, 2009. The 5-day long festival highlights the artistic and cultural contributions of Africans and African-Americans in the US. For a complete schedule of events, visit To donate to the festival, visit

how to eat at the waffle house

I used to joke that in order to get a job at the Waffle House you had to be an ex-con. And if you looked close enough, you could actually see the leg chain that shackled the line cook to the base of the grill. Obviously that’s not true, but if you’ve gone into the ‘wrong’ Waffle House after a late night at the club, you know it ain’t completely false, either.

Still, there’s something about the place that keeps me going back every once in a while. Maybe it’s because they’re as common in Georgia as kudzu or springtime pollen. Perhaps it’s the fact that – good or bad– EVERY trip to the waffle house is an experience (Seriously, have you ever been to a Waffle House and left without an interesting story to tell?). Or it could be that it’s the perfect place to go when I’m missing mama and grandma and want somebody to call me ‘baby’ and ‘sugah’ while they serve me food that I KNOW isn’t good for me but tastes soooo right.

It’s a Saturday and I’ve foregone my usual laziness, instead opting to go out and run some early morning errands. Feeling proud that I’m up, dressed, and finished with most of my to-dos before noon, I decide to reward myself with a little breakfast. Cresting a hill, I spy that familiar sign – two simple words spelled out in garish yellow squares – and I feel an instant twinge of nostalgia. As soon as I ask myself, “Should I...?” my stomach responds with an approving grumble, and my hands comply by turning the steering wheel towards the parking lot.

I’m greeted at the door by one of the waitresses whose name I’m certain is either Flo or Gladys or Shirley or something very similar. I choose an empty seat at the counter and she hands me a menu. I’m instantly absorbed in the familiar quick-order cacophony of jangling silverware and clanking dishes, sizzling food on grill, punctuated by the shrill voices of waitresses hollering out orders in a drawling language only spoken here:

Pull! One chicken plate! Drop 2 hashbrowns! 1 scattered, covered, and diiiced, 1 scattered, covered, smothered, and chunked!”

Welcome to the House.

Immediately the grill cook – a big dude with his hair tied back in a long, Boo-Ya Tribe ponytail (leg-chain missing) gets to work. He adds a new round of oil to the griddle, and begins grabbing additional supplies from the nearby fridge, then sets to rhythmically flipping, scrambling, and shifting all the items on the grill. It’s just as much performance art as it is sheer short-order genius.

As I wait for my tried-and-true order of a waffle, a side of sausage, and hash browns – scattered, covered, and smothered, I ponder a couple of stickers positioned above the grill. Both are written in Waffle-speak. 1 reads: ‘Don’t Turn and Burn’, and the other: ‘Kill the Flame and Get in the Game’.

Soon, the meaning of the latter becomes apparent. In a 5-minute lull in the steady flow of customers and orders, the floors are swept, the waffle irons de-crusted, and napkin dispensers refilled. All the while, the staff exchanges sassy comments and witty replies. Everything here – including the banter – moves with a sort of synchronized, snappy timing.

After I finish my meal and pay the check, the waitress who served me drawls loudly from across the room, “Okay, huuun. You have a good day now!

I find myself inadvertently drawling back, “Yes ma’am, you tooooo!”

Waffle House 5565 Northside Drive NW Atlanta, GA 30327 (and many, many other locations with many, many other stories)

interview with jon goode from cnn's black in america

Jon Goode is many things: an ex-Marine, a former accountant, Emmy-nominee, and entrepreneur. What's most significant is that he's a veteran of Atlanta’s underground spoken word scene. Most recently, Jon appeared on CNN’s documentary, Black in America, introducing each of the program’s segments with his poetic flair. I sat down to chat with Jon recently about his experience with the genre and his involvement with the show.

ksolo: What was the spoken word scene like in Atlanta when you started out?

JG: There weren’t a lot of places that were doing spoken word. There was Yin Yang and Patti Hut at Rio Mall. Then Wind Down Wednesday at Kaya. Patti Hut was where you rehearsed to go to Yin Yang.

Yin Yang used to be bananas. Used to be. There’d be people everywhere. Standing, sitting on the floor. You almost had to body surf to the stage. And the artists were off the chain - Johannes, Shauna Kent, Star Pickens, Aqiyl Thomas, Spinxx. All those cats were fire.

We used to line up for like two hours to get on stage. That’s how I met Cola Rum and those cats – from being in line together. You had to fight to get on the list and you couldn’t be on no bullshit. It was real competitive. Real…sharp. Every person was different. That’s what made them so dope. Everybody came different. Everybody was fire. That’s what made the ATL scene. That’s what used to make it.

ksolo: What was the 1st poem you performed?

JG: I did a poem that was a take on Gil Scott’s, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. I got a standing ovation. The crowd went nuts.

ksolo: What happened after that?

JG: My second performance, I got booed off because I couldn’t remember the words. That gave me a nice dose of humility right up front. After that, I took the stage much more seriously. I would go and practice and turn on the TV real loud. If I could remember the poem over the noise of the TV, then I knew I knew it.

After making a name for himself in Atlanta, Jon and his fellow ‘classmates’ hit the road, performing at venues along the East coast. In addition to performing, Jon started a company, Goode Stuff Entertainment, which served as a booking agent for some of Atlanta’s best talent, including: Amir Sulaiman, Barney Harvey, Tommy Bottoms, and Fayanna. In those days, most spoken word artists were regionally known at best. But the 2001 premiere of Def Poetry Jam on HBO expanded the genre’s reach to national and international audiences, and provided many talented spoken word artists another level of exposure for their craft.

ksolo: When did you get Def Poetry Jam?

JG: <Chuckles a bit>

The 1st season – GA Me and Abyss were on it. Then 2nd season, Malik (Salaam) was on there. I didn’t get on there until like 5th season, even though I sent them a tape 4 times.

The first time I sent ‘em the tape. I got, “They don’t like you. They need you to do a back flip and burst into flames.”

The next year, I sent ‘em the exact same tape I sent them before. This time, they wanted me to moonwalk or something.

3rd season came around. Everybody’s like, “You gone send a tape?” You know what I sent them? The exact same tape.

The 4th year, I was like, “Fuck it. I ain’t sendin’ them nothing.”

By a stroke of sheer coincidence, a representative from Atlanta-based radio station Hot 107.9 contacted Goode Stuff Entertainment to do promotions for a Def Poetry Jam contest at the Fox Theatre. The winner would get a spot on the show. On the eve of the final performance at the Fox, one of the poets had to leave to leave the country unexpectedly. So Jon stepped in. Just before he went on stage, he ran into Stan Lathan in the green room.

JG: A lot of ppl don’t know that Stan – Sanaa’s father - is behind Def Poetry Jam. You see Russell Simmons’ name all over the place, but it’s Stan’s. When I saw Stan in the green room, he asked me if I was gonna perform. I said, “Yeah, I’m about to go on stage.” Stan says, “Okay. I got my eye on you.” And I’m like, “I got my eye on you too!”

Anyway, I went on and performed. And the poem killed. It did real good.

ksolo: I’m hip to the stage lingo, Jon. I know ‘killed’ means you did good.

JG: When I do colleges. I always tell that story. Get to where you get to by being you. It might take a little longer, but you’ll get there.

ksolo: So did u ever meet or hang out with my babby daddy?

JG: Who, Mos?

ksolo: Uh. Yeah.

JG: Amir and Mos’ family are really cool. So we got to hang out with Mos. He’s a funny dude. Seriously, if Mos decided to stop rhyming / acting, he could be a comedian.

ksolo: So what was your experience like after you did Def Poetry Jam?

JG: Def Poetry was a gift and a curse. Not for me but for the genre. Before Def Poetry everybody did it ‘cause they wanted to do it. It wouldn’t make them no money. You actually lost money doing poetry. You had to pay $5 to go on stage.

After Def Poetry, people who wanted to be rappers and couldn’t, started doing it, thinking, “Oh, I’m gonna blow up!”

ksolo: How did you get involved in Black in America?

JG: I was on the road, and a contact at CNN called and told me they wanted me to send a DVD of my stuff over to the promo team.

They had three ideas for the show, and one was poetry. They told me, “We wanna take you to shoot you because we think it’d be easier to say, ‘Look at this’, versus trying to explain the concept to the show’s producer”. So we went to this warehouse in Castleberry Hills and shot me performing a few pieces.

Mark Nelson (the producer) loved it. He wanted it exactly the same way. Same outfit, everything. That’s why I was wearing a sweater in July.

ksolo: How did you come up with the pieces you performed on the show?

JG:They gave me a script for the show. And Mark told me to, “write ‘em as edgy as you can make ‘em”. I’m like, “Are you sure?" He goes, “Sorry. As edgy as we can make them.”

For each segment, I would write like 5 pieces and send them all in. Then they would read ‘em and maybe say, “change this part,” or, “We can keep this one”.

ksolo: There are a lot of mixed opinions about the show. Some people called it groundbreaking, others think it just presented stereotypes. What’s your take?

When I was reading the script, I thought, “This is solid”. I don’t know if it was truly explained that the show was supposed to cover the 40 years since King’s assassination. They had 4 hours to cover 40 years, and they chose to give you a narrative.

But I know people had complaints. This one cat called me saying that the show only presented a certain image of black men. He was like, “Me and my homeboys, we play golf two times a week. I don’t know any black guys that haven’t graduated from high school.” And I’m like, “Does that mean they don’t exist?”

I think, for real, that some cats make it, they’ve overcome, and they don’t see what others are still going through. Some cats have arrived, but they’ve yet to look back to see who hasn’t made it yet.

I had the chance to talk with the producers, and everybody acknowledges that they could’ve made another show with what was left out of this one. My hope is that this is the beginning. This is, at the very least, a start. At least the conversation has begun.

ksolo: Do you have any personal commentary on what it’s like to be black in America today?

JG: For me, it’s like a gift and a curse. There’s opportunities today we never had before. But it’s 2008, and we just got the first legitimate black candidate for President. Think of all these other firsts that just happened. All these first-timers in their particular area – like Denzel, Halle.

We’re making strides, yes. Overcome? Not yet.


Catch Jon Goode at Poetry, Politics, and the Polls - September 26 at 595 North.



how to do a weekend in the georgia mountains


I’m stressed, driving in gruesome holiday traffic on Roswell road, trying to keep my nostrils from flaring. I cannot believe that I locked myself outta the house! Somewhere between leaving a key for my visiting guests and numerous wardrobe and purse changes over the last couple of days, I managed to leave both my spare and my regular house key inside the house. Now I’m driving across town to pick up the spare spare when I should be headed out of town for my relaxing weekend vacation in the mountains. GRRRRR!!

Heading up to the Georgia mountains is something I’ve done at least once a year since my senior year in college. Of course the Georgia mountains are nothing like those out west, they’re more like impressively large hills by comparison. But I always relish the opportunity to leave the smog and traffic of the city behind and immerse myself in nature and a much slower pace of existence for a few days. I try to focus on this idea instead of on the cuss-words I’d like to hurl at this guy tap-dancing on his brake pedal in front of me. My inner voice pipes up, “Be easy. In only a few hours, you’ll be practicing zazen from a rocking chair on the front porch of a charming cabin”. It’s enough to keep me sane for a bit longer.

Here’s a few tips should you need an escape to sanity as well.

Finding the Perfect Spot Whenever I head north, I stay in one of many available rental cabins in the area. Most require at least a 2-night stay, and several only rent by the week. Holiday weekends book fast, so even though there are lots of choices in the area, you’d be wise to plan ahead if you want to snag something for a holiday or in late October when the fall colors are at their peak.

A quick Google search for North Georgia mountain cabins will give you plenty to choose from. You can narrow the results by focusing on specific regions or cities. Some of my favorites areas are: Nantahala (which is actually in Tennessee / North Carolina but not much further than the others), Blue Ridge, Dahlonega, and Helen. If you want more of that ‘redneck Riviera’ feel (though, dear God, I can’t imagine why), check out Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville – there’s a main drag running through both of those that hosts a slew of carnival-like attractions. Craigslist is another viable option.


Expect to pay at least $100 / night for an average cabin with standard amenities – grill, washer/dryer, kitchen with all the supplies, TV / DVD / CD player. Larger cabins, or those with more plush offerings (e.g., wireless internet, wood-burning fireplace, ping pong or pool table, hot tubs, in-cabin massages), will be a little more, with some exceeding $200 / night. But if you recruit a few friends to go on the trip with you, it can still be very affordable.

Another thing to consider is the location of the cabin itself and what that will mean for the type of vehicle you’re driving. If you’ve got a four-cylinder sedan, you might not want a cabin that’s on a secluded mountain pass – a quick call to the rental office will let you know if you can make it.

Here are some sites I’ve rented from before: Blue Ridge Mountain Cabins GA Mountain Cabins Tica Cabins Avenair Cabins Cherry Log Cabin

Getting There You can reach your mountain getaway in a little more than an hour drive from Atlanta. Just head north on I-75 and take I-575 east until you reach the Blue Ridge area. Keep the camera handy, as there are some scenic views where you can pull over and catch some good photos. If you have time to spare, turn off on one of the many back roads (most are marked with ‘scenic drive’ signs) and go for a ride. You’ll pass dilapidated old farmhouses, huge pastures with sleepy looking cows and some of the prettiest horses you’ve ever seen. The long curving roads are great for bikers, too.

What to Bring First and foremost, be sure to bring a friendly attitude. Everyone in the area either lives in the country by choice, or is like you – temporarily escaping the city for a reason. Be prepared to wave at pretty much every person that passes you by in a vehicle or on foot.

Also pack some comfy hiking shoes; camera; cash / small bills for parking or entrance fees at some of the natural attractions. Bring a collection of CDs or your MP3 player, and something to read as you while away the afternoons on the porch. It might also be a good idea to bring bug spray and a flashlight in case you arrive in the evening or

What to Do Swan Drive-In Blue RidgeIf you’re determined to get out of the cabin for some sightseeing, there’s lots to choose from – horseback riding, fishing, boating, hiking, dining and shopping are all minutes away. If nostalgia is your thing, there’s a drive-in movie theater in Blue Ridge that shows first-run flicks. Also, the downtown areas of the surrounding cities have some cute, affordable arts / craft shops and charming cafes – perfect opportunities to get some unique souvenirs and engage in casual conversation with the locals.

On this particular trip, it was all about the falls for me. On the drive in, we stopped to see Amicalola Falls – one of the more popular ones on the area due to its impressive height.

After entering the state park, it’s a short drive and a small parking fee to pay to gain access to the top of the falls. You can enjoy the view from the top, or walk down the stairs to a bridge that’s right in front of the falls for some close-up photo opps. But be sure you’re really committed before you descend those stairs. With a total of 425 steps, it’s a piece of cake on the way down, but it’s absolutely no joke on the way back up. My calves were still sore the next day. 425-steps_sm.JPG amicalola2.jpg amicalola3.jpgAnother falls I visited on this trip was Long Creek Falls. Though not as visually impressive as Amicalola, I liked this one better. Mainly because you can really get up close and personal. Instead of just taking pictures from a bridge, you can actually stick your toes into the icy cold water, climb out onto the rocks and lay out listening to the rushing waters rinse all your troubles away. longcreek2.JPG    longcreek1.jpgHere’s some links to other activities in the area: Self-Guided Tours: Sample Itineraries: N. Georgia Falls: Fishing Sites:

Tasty Vittles Of course, there are plenty of BBQ restaurants in the area – most of which are better than what you can find anywhere in the city of Atlantis. But I honestly can’t recommend any, as I usually bring my own food since – in case you haven’t noticed – I actually like to cook.If you decide to bring your own as well…keep it simple. There are grocery stores in the towns you’ll pass: think Food Lion and Super WalMart; not Kroger / Publix / Whole Foods. Bring only the food items and kitchen tools that are absolutely essential or might not be available at the aforementioned grocery chains or in the kitchen of the cabin you’ve rented.

It’s also a good idea to stock up on the sauce – not béarnaise, I’m talking the chest-warming kind. There are some major liquor depots on the way in, but many of the counties in the area are dry, so make sure you’re prepared for whatever cocktails you might wanna sip on.And speaking of cocktails…what mountain getaway would be complete without a signature cocktail? Here’s a quick recipe for the drink that was inspired by (and copiously consumed on) this trip. I’ve named it, The Appalachian Sarong, since my sarong was the primary component of my wardrobe for the entire weekend.The Appalachian Sarong 1 part Ketel One vodka 2 parts pineapple juice Wedge of lime, juiced Splash of tonic water or club sodacheers, k

atlanta day trip: sapelo island's annual culture day

Unspoiled natural beauty, rural relaxation, a unique blend of African and Southern traditions, a step back in time - this is Sapelo Island. I was first introduced to Sapelo by my cuzzin Miko almost 2 years ago. She and her husband Fred were regular volunteers with SICARS – the Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society – and were then planning to have their nuptial celebration on the island. She invited me and a few other friends to go down to camp out and explore the island for a weekend and ultimately to understand why she and her husband considered the place special enough to be the location for their wedding. After that first trip, I was smitten; and since then I’ve been absolutely head over heels in love with Sapelo.

Sapelo is not your typical island destination and it’s decidedly different from the other, more popular tourist-trap islands off the Georgia coast. It’s completely unplugged from both the conveniences and hassles of city life. There are no hospitals, traffic lights, or police stations (and no need for them, thank you very much). Getting around on the island requires that you rent a bike, or chat up some of the residents to see who might be headed the direction you’re going. The only shopping to be done is at the corner store that carries everything from gum to fishing line. The luxury accommodations consist of a smattering of double-wide trailers turned boarding houses – the most well-known of those being the Wallow, which is run by local residents Julius and Cornelia Bailey . For the more budget-conscious traveler, the Baileys also accept ‘reservations’ for use of the Comyam campground (comyam is geechee speak describing non-residents, Beenyam being the term used for island descendants), where the amenities include flush toilets and hot water showers – a steal at only $10 per person/night. For a night on the town, The Trough – conveniently located on the back-side of the aforementioned store – is the place to see and be seen. You can grab a beer, shoot the shit or play some cards while listening to some down-home blues from Mr. Bailey’s collection. And if you’re lucky, you might be able to score a taste of one of Sapelo’s specialty foods – smoked mullet or low-country boil.

Each year, on the third weekend of October, Sapelo residents and SICARS volunteers host the annual Cultural Day celebration. It’s a day-long festival of food, music, vendors, and island history and culture presentations. When Miko called to inform me that she and Fred were planning on attending this year, I quickly accepted the invite. We arrived just before 8am and spent the first half of the day fulfilling our volunteer duties. The only way on or off the island is by ferry, and our job was to organize and direct the large crowds that converged on the small dock to attend the festival. Once our shift was over, we caught the ferry ourselves and spent time relaxing among the Spanish moss-draped trees, enjoying the music performances and perusing the many craft vendors. We filled our bellies with several samples of the home-cooked fare prepared by Sapelo residents - barbecue ribs and collards, fish and grits, gumbo and fresh squeezed lemonade. We sated our spirits with leisurely conversations and enthusiastic smiles and hugs traded with some new and old friends. During a momentary lull in the on-stage action, we hitched a ride with another group of regular volunteers over to Cabretta Beach, which is more secluded and less-frequented than Nannygoat Beach, but far more accessible than the beach at Chocolate Plantation on the north side of the island. We spent little over an hour enjoying the early-Fall sunshine and taking in the beauty of the white sand, sea oats and grasses, while scouting (near-perfect) seashells by the seashore. Then it was back to the festival to help break-down the site before heading off to set up camp for the evening. As the sun began to set and the mosquitoes grew more aggressive, we retired to our respective tents to rest a bit before heading over to the Trough to recount the day’s adventures over a few cold ones, some smoked mullet and several hands of blackjack. If Sapelo doesn’t sound like the kind of place that equals vacation for you – good. If you never take the time to go down for a visit – even better. I know it sounds strange, but I have to be honest with you: the love I have for this little-known jewel of the South is a jealous one. While I feel compelled to share the joys of it with you, I really just want to keep it all to myself.



Spend US$40 at the Lonely Planet Shop and receive free delivery and a free gift

For more pics of Sapelo (sorry none of ‘em feature yours truly), check out this site.