One of my favorite spots

(Hanish inside Anish Kapoor piece at High Museum of Art in Atlanta)

Atop The 17th Bridge

Facing South On

A Rush Hour Friday

Urbanism-Urbanism

And I Just Counted

Twenty Lanes Of Traffic

Below Me

I’m Up Above It

Walking In Rockports

With Sneaker Inserts

Never Tell Me This

City Can’t Or Ain’t

Because I Will And Do

And So Does This

Butterfly Becoming

More Than A Rap Song

About Getting Money

More Than A Punchline

For Soft-Thought Yankees

To Spew

This Town Has As Much

Energy, Almost As Much

Energy…As Me

Play it forward

Today is National Pay it Forward Day. So, I helped a temporarily homeless new friend with an application this morning before heading to the park for a shoot-around. I have hoops fever and am back to my old hard-court and gym rat ways, suddenly. Game last night netted a loss to the 6-time defending league champions and a reality check in terms of the team length required to compete in competitive basketball. My box score was this as 6th man and player/coach: 3 of 7 shooting, 2 of 3 on free throw attempts, 8 points, 3 hard fouls, 2 steals, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. I could have played better, of course, but if you extrapolate that out to a full game where the clock actually stops, I’d have had some seriously awesome stats. I actually shot a bit worse than that looks, but I was fouled on 2 of my shots (1 of which I converted into a sweet 3-point play). When you’re fouled on a shot it doesn’t count as an attempt. First time I’ve played in a league in 7 years.

I slightly sprained my ankle before the game while practicing a running behind the back pass. Notes to self: showboating is bad. Sportsmanship and the sporting life are good. Speaking of that: I saw the great poet Jon B. Goode today. Ever since UGA had a good season and made the NCAA Tourney and I went to the Hawks playoff win with my lady, I’ve been on geek for playing ball, and then my season finally started. I wanted to play again today, so I backpacked and biked it over to the park and shot a few, a few like hundred jumpers, free throws, hook shots.

I was set to leave and then decided to clean all the trash from the park. As I did, a car rolled up full of some of the top poets in the ATL – making them some of the top American poets, period. Jon and Xpj and Tommy Bottoms from the hot scene at Urban Grind and then some other good folks I believed I was meeting for the first time. I may have met that gorgeous Tasha before, or just wished I had. Anyway, Jon is getting married. I’m getting married. Life is moving forward. Pay it forward today, y’all.

We are champions, my friends

I have one ring. Well, not really a ring but one team championship. And I won it as quarterback of the Cowboys.

When I moved from the great Empire of Texas to the Southeast, Dad initially settled us into another state with great pride, South Carolina. South Carolinians, like Louisianans and Nebraskans, place value of state above most else.

Scary to think that I could’ve been a USC Cock and never a UGA DAWG. But we stayed in Carolina only one year, netting me my first little brother and Dad a YMCA basketball championship as head coach. I was around that team throughout the season and remember the oversized maroon jersey I wore to their games, and the pride I felt when the title was secured in a close final contest.

Both of my personal sports titles came the next year when we moved to a sleepy suburban Atlanta town called Marietta, GA. I hung around the Boys Club there all the time and won a basketball shooting tournament for my age group. I am and will forever be the 1976 Shooting Champion, and I still have the trophy to prove it – although the ball is no longer attached to the hand.

Before that, I played for the Cowboys. I’m a third-generation, diehard Dallas Cowboys fan, and I planned to play for them up through 8th grade, when I started exploring a few back-up options and stopped practicing twice a day year round. Wide receiver has always been my natural position, but in 1st grade the ball is not thrown much if at all, so Dad suggested I play quarterback that year in football. I did, and we ran the option and won the league. When the season started, Dad must have lobbied to get me on the Cowboys, but he never admitted it and only twinkle-eyed as he – I reckoned – lied in denial.

My best friend in the whole world and sandlot football buddy was an outrageous kid named Duke Lee Sharp Jr.; he went by Boomer. I saw him on weekends, when he visited his (practically our) Granny, in my neighborhood.

During the week, I went to Fair Oaks Elementary where I had two best school friends. A triangle of friends that were by far the top athletes in our grade. Lester Maddox was a descendant of the infamous anti-segregationist politician by the same name. Champ was the nephew of Larry Holmes, then the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world. And I was the offspring of wealthy hippies whom had only recently spent all the money my father inherited from my grandfather.

Dad asked me about my buddies at school. He knew those names and guffawed, then he sang to me: “The times, they are a changin’.” I’d never in a cognizant way heard of the champion of freedom named Bob Dylan, because my parents only listened to the Beatles and classical music. I liked that and much later became a poet myself.

(Photo by: Han Vance)

My 1st Critical Mass

I used to be a super-sharp dressing and fast-talking parking and transportation regional operations manager, planner and staff writer. Did that relatively obscure mess for eight long years, until I suddenly walked the F out and then wandered Cali for half a summer and wrote a book about it.

I came to know and love trains in that former line of business and had always envisioned myself as this New York-San Francisco-type urbanist, who had never lived outside of the Southern United States of America and lived periodically in suburbs, country, small cities. I’d always liked the notion of not driving everywhere, never drove until I was around 25, and don’t drive now again and am simply much happier and calmer because of it. I guess you could say that I dance to the beat of a different drummer than most of y’all around here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I moved to the Classic City of Athens, GA for school in 1990, I finally found a society where I could fully thrive without getting rides. I walked or rode my bike everywhere I went, and I was constantly on the go and in the know, you know. I managed the Tate Student Center Set-Up Crew, threw epic parties, played basketball everyday, ate at T-stand, lived off campus, watched the Dawgs, met a few cute girls and Michael Stipe, made some new friends I’d always cherish, even studied some. More than anything, I had fun.

At age 40, I’ve finally seen my ATL gain some ground on the rest of the world in terms of becoming a bike-able city. I recently purchased a new-used bike myself, and on my first free Friday in, like, years, I joined up with my dear buddies Angel Poventud and Jason Jarrett and a cast of hundreds at Downtown’s Woodruff Park for my first ever Critical Mass.

My bike’s back wheel didn’t hold up as well as my rickety-old-still-an-athlete body did, as we rode long and far and saw nearly every neighborhood this urbanity has to offer. Beautiful homes, rundown shacks, smiling faces, confused stares, honks, children greeting us warmly and feeling a part of something big while watching from their yards. Happy Friday is the call and the response is universally pretty good, though some people did want us out of their always SUV automobilized wrong of way. Even that’s okay; they are getting an education at least. We are here. We care. We ride. Happy Friday, indeed.

Appliance Smashing Party

I was famous in Cobb County for my graduation party.

Hanfest was – and by all known accounts still is – the largest graduation party in county history, so I understood the spotlight a good party could shine on a host and his host committee before I ever attended the nation’s oldest state chartered public university in Athens. The spotlight has benefits.

We, my three roommates and I, lived in an old rundown grey tarpaper house simply called Chase. In Athens, GA, party houses are affectionately entitled after the streets they are on, and Chase was nothing if not a party house. Chase eventually became synonymous with a row of several houses that shared a common gravel backyard, but back then it was primarily just us: Neilma, Weiss, Boggs and me.

Over a year before, Rogers had brought me by Chase after my first day of classes at UGA and introduced me to his roommates. It turned out I’d met one of them on a previous visit to the Classic City, the former Washington DC diplomat brat Chris Boggs – still to this day one of my closest friends.

For a year, I bounced around from Nantahala to Boulevard, to back home in Marietta with an overdrawn bank account, maxed out Discover card and a myriad of minor health issues stemming from a freshman year of college noteworthy mainly for an abundance of excesses.

Two months in Marietta was more than enough to recover and return in time to collect my financial aid and start back at work with the Tate Student Center Set-Up Crew. Consistently depressed and seeking, Rogers decided he’d had enough of the roommate wars at Chase and moved out, following the lead of his longtime Statesboro friend Kevin. Two rooms had recently opened up at Chase. Mookie had claimed one and I eagerly claimed the other. Boggs and Mookie and I had a mostly good time as roomies, until the collections agents were after the Mookster so hard for his rampant purchases that he figured it best to flee the scene and change addresses.

My good buddy from Marietta, Dave Weiss, was new in town and needed a place to stay, so he took over for Mook. And his friend Neilma desperately wanted in on our fun, so he moved into a large closet behind the yellow couch in the living room. Had to knock to be let out.

That part of town, you see, what is now called the Historic Boulevard District, was full of houses with revolving doors. Roommates moved in. Roommates moved out. Rent was cheap and every situation was temporary.

Resultant, the appliances were everywhere. You weren’t sure if the old toaster worked or where it came from, but you knew it must belong to one of your roommates, so you let it be. Then a funny thing occurred to me. I was watching a video by the Art of Noise called Close (to the Edit), an old favorite where they smash up pianos musically with power tools. Great stuff. We could gather and smash some crap for fun, make a theme party of it.

So we spread the word around the neighborhood and gathered stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. Washers, dryers, toasters, microwaves, a whole wall of broken television sets. And we cleaned our house and went out and recruited an assortment of friends and casual acquaintances and hot girls to join in or at least watch, and later perhaps sleep over.

And the Butthole Surfers was heavily cranking through my open bedroom window as the melee ensued. A freak in safety goggles pushed a broken lawnmower through the crowd of exhibitionists destroying the old appliances. An empty keg found its way into the TV screens. I was kicking my thrift store wingtips into this and that hunk of junk until there was nothing left but rubble. Rubble. We smashed it all into tiny bits of rubble. It was pure poetry.

20 great things about The South:

1.Southern Girls (and other friendly folks)

2.ATL’s ROCKET SHIP Architecture

3.College Football, y’all

4.N’awlins’ Food

5.Charleston Flavor

6.”30 A” Beaches of the Florida Panhandle – especially Rosemary Beach

7.The Smoky Mountains in autumn

8.Sweet Tea, Grits, Biscuits, BBQ

9.America’s Teams: (the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Braves)

10.Southern Literary Tradition: William Faulkner, Tom Wolfe, Gone with the Wind, the Decatur Book Festival, Grisham, urban ATL poetry scene, me

11.ELVIS (Memphis, Tupelo)

12.The BeltLine (Atlanta)

13.ATL and Athens Music Scenes – from Outkast to Mastodon to Rhianna to REM to SVA to Of Montreal to the B-52s, from the Tabernacle to Chastain to the 40watt club to TI to Music Hates You, from Pylon to Black Lips to “Superman those hos.”

14.Twilight Criterium (Athens)

15.Lowtide at Tybee Island (GA)

16.The Live Music Capital of the World  (Keep Austin Weird)

17.Mommas

18.Vulcan (Birmingham)

19.Deepdene Park -of the Olmstead Linear Parks (Atlanta)

20.Taco Stand (Athens)

MetroFresh Likes You

I had a super-fresh late lunch today at MetroFresh, while I was walking around Atlanta In-town East. They’ve been open about four and a half years in the Midtown Promenade, behind Piedmont Park.

I have decided that not only shall I rise up by reverting to the previous level of niceness I had before I became jaded, I will also revert to my previous level of healthiness in diet. I was raised vegetarian by a health food caterer/gardener mom and a Chiropractor/nutritionist/deep muscle therapist dad.

Anyone that knows my siblings and I well knows that we are a seriously athletic and strong clan of handsome people that rarely get ill without provocation. This physical prowess is a result of both our healthy upbringing and our lineage: Dad was a young professional water ski jumper who also boxed and played football; Uncle Griff was the dominant SouthWest Conference football player of his day.

I slam dunked a basketball as a thirty-five year old white man who can’t palm a ball, and my three little brothers are all literally huge now and still super-athletic for their size. Your family simply could not cover or guard my family. And we can definitely out dance you – our nickname is the Dancing Vances! Even my little sister could beat many of my male friends up.

I attribute much of this to the fact that we all ate so well growing up, and we still eat our homegrown veggies. My much less health conscious friends are constantly getting sick, so I now revert.

I now digress: They change the menu daily at MetroFresh, where the slogan is “Fresh Food Fast.” It’s not cheap, but it is well worth it.

I had a Coke Zero and a deliciously melting lemon bar on the not that healthy tip. But I also had a rich and wonderful broccoli and cheddar soup; perfect soba noodles contrasted with colorful green edamame and snap peas; and an apple and cauliflower salad with crisp purple cabbage. It was almost LA-like, almost Cali-like, except the portions were American grownup-sized.

They do serve some meat dishes, but the focus is soups, salads, sandwiches.

The counter help was actually helpful … and fun to talk with.

Here is the real test of healthy food: I felt great when I was completely full from it. Full and walking, up a hill, in the heat. My mom would like this place; I loved it.

Check it out: www.metrofreshatl.com

Few things in the ‘hood

They closed down the disco, but don’t panic because it will re-open in a few months … or so. San Francisco Coffee in the Poncey-Highland hood of The ATL is easily one of my favorite hangouts, because they have good brew, show cool art, and the hilariously sardonic Christian of the super-heavy band “Whores” is amongst the quality baristas that work there. But they shut her down to move to a bigger location next store, so I’m frequenting Aurora in the Virginia-Highlands for now. I like to bust that way sometimes anyway (on my long board of course), because Bill Hallman’s shop along the way is my favorite for window shopping and stopping in to see my friend Will at Striver’s Row is always an enlightening cultural experience. Great people, great clothes, great weather for sidewalk surfing, and great coffee. (Please tip your baristas as you would a good bartender -They do notice and really love it.)

Anyway, they have some funny, cool baristas at Aurora (Krystal, James, etc). And they play a wild mix of music that today included the Flight of the Conchords’ better stuff and some smooth alt-rock I’d never heard before. I once had an office across the street and ate a scone dunked in a cap daily back then, so my nostalgia is palpable. Plus, the sun shines in, and they display and sell local independent art.

I bought a groovy owl magnet there recently, which gives a hoot on my fridge amongst the Cali, NYC, Mexico and Vancouver travel magnets and my collection of DAWGS and Texas Native magnets. I also have a 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympics magnet proudly displayed; a brand new Elvis Hawaii magnet which excites me on several levels; and fun art magnets by my oldest son, my oldest nephew and several more-acclaimed artists

The artist Jeffree Lerner created my owl magnet, and he has other magnets and small paintings displayed at Aurora, all for sale at very reasonable prices (well under $100, some around $10). I would describe his style as modern primitive tribal, with an emphasis on animal iconography and positive messages. Great stuff.

My positive message to y’all this Good Friday is just that: In every way possible: Live Love and Be Good!

Painting by Jeffree Lerner:

(Photo by: Han Vance)

World’s Longest Oyster Po-Boy

Marietta-native and chef, Rob Vance of La Bayou restaurant, worked with many others to build the World’s Longest Oyster Po-Boy on March 27th in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOLA is home to the aptly-named New Orleans Oyster Fest, after all.  The 340-foot sub extended down Bourbon Street in yet another indication of the strong culture of New Orleans, the South … and America as a whole

When staying in NOLA, I highly recommend Hotel Monteleone for its location and ambient charm, Brennan’s for the best breakfast, and Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for the strongest fresh Hurricanes. Jean Lafitte’s is the oldest bar in the USA (1772) and one of the few bars older than my alma mater, the University of Georgia (1785).

Seven Atlanta Favorites:

1. Deepdene Park – The last of the Olmstead Linear Parks to be finished, it offers a duality of coin to the other parks in this chain, which are pastoral in park type and on the opposite side of Ponce de Leon Avenue. Deepdene is walking through the woods, and in the Deep South of The ATL that is a truly gorgeous thing. Frederick Law Olmstead designed Central Park in NYC and Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Olmstead Linear Parks was incomplete at the time of Frederick’s passing. However, his descendants and strong neighborhood and community support ensured that the task saw completion. This is what an Atlanta park can be at its best.

2. Flux (in Castleberry Hill) – Rock out to this most important of all ATL art neighborhoods, all done up in light, for one night per year. Previously entitled Le Flash, Jami and I vow not to miss this annual event.

3. HAWKS games – See and be seen amongst the Atlanta elite in the floor seats; catch a drink at the Absolut bar and Headliners. Then watch 6th-man-of-the-year-Jamal Crawford score at will off the bench, Joe Johnson be unstoppable on offense, Josh Smith (“J-Smoove”) soar and dunk and swat, Marvin for “3” and steady vet Mike Bibby running the floor. Throw in a Za Za for good measure – he is from the country of Georgia and also owns wine and food spot Eno (Midtown on Peachtree Street), now called Eno by Za Za. The Playoffs Are Coming. Take MARTA directly to the arena, 2nd stop on the westbound trains from Five Point’s Station. My girl is into it too.

4. COLLEGE FOOTBALL – From watching the SEC Championship Game live to sitting at home and watching on our TV sets, Atlanta is the undeniable world headquarters of American College Football and a short drive to ATHENS, home of the Georgia Dawgs and my alma mater, UGA, the oldest public college in the USA. My fellow alum girlfriend is really getting into it.

5. FOOD – Atlanta has become a major foodie restaurant scene – and I love to eat out, with my girl, of course.

6. LongBoarding Freedom Trail – Thank you, President Carter and MLK Jr. – You built this road and trail with your words. When I’m flying free on the trail, I feel so alive and awake and in love with life in Atlanta, y’all.

7. Pub Crawls on Ponce – See my boy Ed at El Bar for a shake-shake-shake after a few pops at Righteous Room, maybe a grilled cheese with sprouts and a side for $5 at the Righteous and a PBR with lime or mixed adult beverage while I play Joy division on the jukebox. After El Bar gets too crowded to dance, The Local and Bookhouse Pub can both be good hangs. Friends is probably the best gay hangout for straight people to gain education via jukeboxation. MJQ is still a great Wednesday dance spot for the best DJs. Dugans has great wings if you want them. And the Clermont Lounge is still open, although they finally closed the Clermont Hotel itself to the public. Still hungry as I walk home after maybe skipping those wings? The Majestic has been open 24-hours a day since 1929.

(Photo by: Han Vance)